Sometimes, the only way to change the future is to go back to the past.
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This page contains a fan fiction written by SmudgyHollz.
This page contains the opinions of the original author(s), and is not patrolled for factual accuracy.
Remember that this story is non-canon. It may contain false characters, plots, or locations.
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As I have stated many, many times before, I'm going through a severe case ofWarrior Cats writers block. In an attempt to cure myself of this dreadful disease, I began to look through all of my old fanfictions. That's when I re-discovered River Journey, a collab set up by RedWillow, but never finished. So, I've decided to finish it. I've taken a fresh new page and a fresh new idea, but am using the first few chapters of Blazing Fire as a sort of template. RedWillow, tell me if you don't want me to do this and I'll stop straight away! Don't worry, I'm leaving the original series untouched!



Allegiances

ThunderClan



ShadowClan



WindClan



RiverClan


Prologue

Clouds gathered in the sky, swallowing the stars in their murky folds. A brisk breeze swept across the hollow, stirring the twigs and pine needles that littered the ground and collecting the dying leaves from the branches of the nearby trees. Leaf-bare was fast approaching, preparing to unleash its unforgiving chill upon the cats of StarClan.

"I told you it was bad," Dovewing was saying. Her eyes were wide and worried as she studied the grim expressions of the two toms beside her, her tail flicking from side to side in agitation.

"I didn't realise it was so serious," Lionblaze muttered. "I always knew that something like this would happen to the Clans when they chose Yewberry to lead them, but I expected them to be able to work out a way to save themselves."

"Obviously not," Jayfeather tom replied. Unlike the other two, he had not looked up once the images in the pool had disappeared. His eyes, blue and staring, stayed focused on the shimmering waters. "It looks like we're going to have to interfere. Again."

Icy cold rain began to spit down from above, pattering onto the three cats that sat huddled in the clearing. Lionblaze shivered, fluffing out his fur in an attempt to keep the cold out.

"But how can we interfere, Jayfeather?" he asked. "There's nothing that can be done now that will change the events to come."

"And if we somebody into the future, they won't stand a chance," Dovewing continued on in agreement. "They'd be lucky if they lasted a day."

"So we send somebody to the past," Jayfeather suggested, although his tone implied that he didn't want to be argued with.

Lionblaze twitched his ear. "That won't be simple. We'll have to make sure that they won't give anything away about the future. And they'll have to figure out who can be trusted and who can't."

"We can give them hints," Jayfeather told him. "StarClan gave us a lot of help when we were fulfilling our prophecy."

"I suppose. But how is one cat going to convice four whole Clans not to choose Yewberry as their leader?"

"We can send more than just one cat."

"Well who do you suggest we send?"

Jayfeather did not reply. Instead, he nodded to the pool that lay in front of his paws. The waters had stirred, clouded and then calmed to reveal the faces of four cats.

Her tail flicked first to the slender pale grey she-cat, to the brown tabby tom, then long-legged black tom and finally rested on the small spiky-furred ginger tom. "Why them?"

"We'll just have to find out," Jayfeather meowed. "For the moment, all we can do is trust them."


Chapter One

Willowpaw ran. Flames lapped at her heels, scortching her fur and the heat on either side of her was unbearable. All around her she could hear the shrieks of her friends and family, but she couldn’t see them. The thick smoke that wreathed around her was clouding his vision, making it almost impossible to see more than a few tail-lengths.

She leaped forwards through the burning undergrowth, following the distant howls of her Clanmates. They had overtaken her, she was sure of that, as the echoes of their terrified wails were fading.

Charred ferns brushed her sides as she plunged forwards. Willowpaw didn’t know where she was or where she was going, only that she had to get away. Away from the forest fire that raged all around her. She had no idea if she had crossed the ShadowClan border, nor did she care. They wouldn’t know now, and even if they did, it wouldn't matter. The fire was tearing through their territory as well, just as it had taken over RiverClan's. They were all in this together and they would all get out of this together. All of them. She was determined of that. They all had to get out of the burning forest.

Willowpaw's eyes watered as she sprinted forwards into the dark grey clouds that led to who-knows-where. The smoke was blinding her, stinging her eyes, causing tears to tumble uncontrollably down her cheeks. Though even if she hadn’t been crying, she still wouldn’t have been able to make anything out. The haze of smoke she was moving through was so thick and heavy she couldn’t even spot her own paws.

She gave a small sigh of relief when she tumbled out of the cloud. Finally. She could see. Although there wasn’t much to see except for the fire. All around her, flames danced high up into the sky. They flickered and swayed in the wind, but they were always growing taller. Without even stopping to hesitate, Willowpaw began to run again, charging forwards into the seemingly endless amount of trees and undergrowth. The sizzling pine needles burnt her paws, but she found that if she lifted her legs up high, her pads didn’t get so red and raw.

Leaping over a fallen tree in a single bound, she emerged into the clearing, only to find herself encircled by fire.

Willowpaw gasped and spun around but saw nothing but angry flames, eating away the undergrowth, creeping in towards her... Maybe I could- she soon realised that there was nothing. She was stuck. There was no way out of this, the fire would destroy her. She knew then that she was going to die.

Willowpaw squeezed her eyes tight shut and pressed herself to the ground, bracing herself. Her heart pounded hard in her chest as she waited; waited for the hotness to creep over her body, waited for her fur to go alight...

“Hey!”

Willowpaw opened her eyes again, just in time to see three figures emerging from a dense cloud of smoke. They were so dirty with soot and ash that he couldn’t tell who they were. She couldn’t even tell if they were from RiverClan or not.

“Who are you?” Willowpaw demanded.

One of the three cats opened his mouth to reply but the tom next to him gulped in a deep breath, eyes rolling into his head, and collapsed onto the scalding ground. The larger tom who had been about to speak gasped and prodded him with a paw.

“Is he dead?” he tried to keep his voice calm, but Willowpaw could tell that he was badly shaken.

Willowpaw crept forwards and sniffed the small unconscious tom's side. He smelt of ashes and smoke and as she breathed it in, she began to cough violently.

However, the tom seemed to be fine, his sides rising and falling rhythmically.

“I think he just breathed in too much smoke,” she decided once she had caught her breath again. “But if we don’t get him out soon, he may die...."

“Well how do we get him out?” the large tom hissed. “We're trapped!” A smaller slender she-cat suddenly began to skirt the edges of the clearing, eyes searching and ears pricked.

“Look!” she called over to them. “If can see the river!” Leaving the unconscious tom's side, the others leaped to the tree that the she-cat had settled beside.

Sure enough, as Willowpaw peered over the flames, she could see rushing water. She clawed her way up the trunk of the tree and onto a low branch.

“Come on!” she cried. “Let’s go!”

The cats in the clearing below followed hurriedly, the large tom lifting the unconscious cat from the ground. Willowpaw scrabbled around the trunk and onto another branch. From here, she could reach the river. And as she peered closer she could see a huge log caught in some rocks. If they climbed on to it, they could float down the river, away from the fire...

Willpwpaw crawled along the branch that she was on, well aware of the creaking beneath her. The branch bent right down as she neared the edge, but she easily managed to leap onto the trapped log. The other she-cat climbed up onto the log beside her, shortly followed by the tom who was carrying the unconscious cat and soon the five cats were bobbing up and down, travelling along the river, being pulled along by the fast flowing current...

Willowpaw's thoughts flew back to her Clan, who were still trapped in the middle of the raging fire. By escaping, they had abandoned them and now, looking back at the roaring flames, she doubted that he would ever see any of her Clanmates again.

I'm so sorry, Snowdrop. Willowpaw tried to stop herself from picturing her mother's burnt body curled up in the debris of the fire.

Choking back the tears that were threatening to fall, the RiverClan apprentice curled up on the damp log. The others were falling asleep now, she could hear it in their breathing. Willowpaw rested her head on her paws, suddenly exhausted, and let the rushing water soothe her into a deep and well-earned sleep...

Chapter Two

Nettlekit opened his eyes. His fur began to rise as he felt an icy dribble of wetness run down his spine. Rushing water gushed around him, violently rocking whatever he was laying on. Claws digging deep into the thing that was underneath him, he dared to get to my paws and look around.

The thing that he was standing on was a log and all around him was sleeping cats. They were smothered grey and stank of smoke and ash. The only one that he could recognise was the she-cat curled next to him. Patches in his ember stained fur betrayed only hints of her silver tabby pelt and her amber eyes were cold and refined as ever.

“Swiftstep,” Nettlekit whispered, prodding her side with a paw. The ShadowClan she-cat flinched and then, coming to her senses, turned to look up at him.

“Nettlekit!” she exclaimed, sighing in relief. “I was worried you weren't going to wake.” Nettlekit's brown eyes narrowed slightly.

“You won't get rid of me that easy,” he replied jokingly. Looking around, he came out with a string of questions, “Why are we on a log? How did we escape the fire? Is the rest of the Clan okay?” Swiftstep gestured to a small apprentice-sized cat nearest the edge of the log. If her one pale grey ear had not been showing then there would have been no way of telling what her true colour was.

“She figured out that if we climbed this tree, we could reach the river,” Swiftstep explained. “Lucky enough there was this branch caught in the rocks and it started to move once we were all on it. We’ve been floating ever since.” She tactfully chose to avoid the smaller tom's last question.

Nettlekit nodded, suddenly dizzy with shock.

He was floating down a fast-flowing river with some unknown cats, having just escaped a forest fire that had probably destroyed all of his family and friends. His heart was aching for his sisters, Honeykit and Brindlekit. Although he hadn’t even left them for a day he still missed them, and although he was still only a kit he wasn’t stupid. By escaping he had left them both forever.

“It will be okay,” Swiftstep whispered, touching her nose to Nettlekit's fur, comforting him. Nettlekit was slightly taken aback by the Clan deputy's sudden show of affection. He was also shocked at how quickly Swiftstep had been able to guess what had been on his mind. Do my thoughts really show that clearly on my face? “We will find them again.”

Although she had meant to reassure him, Swiftstep's last line had brought Nettlepaw nothing but cold dread. She had spoken as if she were trying to convince both him and herself, and by saying it the spark of hope inside of Nettlekit, the spark he hadn’t even known had been burning, was extinguished. There was no way any of them would ever see any of their Clanmates ever again, and that was definite. There was no way round it, no way of escaping it.

“But we won’t, will we?” Nettlekit growled, anger boiling up inside of him, replacing the heart wrenching grief. “We’re stuck here on this log in the middle of a river! We’ve left them, Swiftstep! Even if we do make it back, they will all be dead! All of them!” Swiftstep took a step away from him, shocked by his sudden rage. Disapproval clouded her eyes.

“Nettlekit,” she meowed warningly. “Don’t talk to me like that. I know you're tired and upset and a lot has happened, but I am still your Clan deputy. Have some respect.”

Nettlekit hissed angrily, his tail lashing back and forth and his claws working furiously on the water-laden wood. All he wanted was to be on his own for a bit. And that certainly wasn’t possible; trapped on a stupid piece of log with three other cats.

"Fine,” he spat, settling back down. "I'm sorry. Just leave me alone."

Nettlekit hid his face with his paws to hide the tears that were spilling. He wasn’t going to let Swiftstep see him cry, and not just because it would make him seem weak to the Clan deputy. These were tears of self-pity as well as anger and grief, and he was ashamed of that. He knew he shouldn’t be feeling sorry for himself, that he should be thinking up a plan to get off of the log before they were completely lost and out of reach of the lake.

He must have fallen asleep, for when he opened his eyes again, the sun was setting, the light so dim that he could barely see. However, he could make out three pairs of glowing eyes. That meant the others were awake now.

“Are you okay, Nettlekit?” Swiftstep asked coolly, obviously still irritated by his earlier outburst.

“Fine,” Nettlekit replied gruffly, suddenly feeling a wave of embarrassment rush over him. Why did he have to act the way he did in from of the deputy?

A grey she-cat shuffled over towards him so that their fur was brushing.

“I’m Willowpaw,” she introduced herself. “I’m from RiverClan.” Nettlekit glanced at her. She was very pretty with her pale fur and wide blue eyes. Although she was still smaller than himself, she had a sturdy build and Nettlekit guessed that she would be a pretty decent fighter.

“I’m Pineneedle of WindClan,” the tom resting furthest away announced. He had a rough gravelly voice and dark grey fur. Unlike the the other three cats, he did not look muscular. Instead he had a very thin frame and a long skinny tail that rested on his spindly legs. However, the nicks in his ears and patches of missing fur identified him as an experienced warrior.

“I’m Nettlekit,” Nettlekit told them.

“Swiftstep told us,” Willowpaw mewed gently. “We were just thinking of a way to get off of this log.”

“I thought of-“ Swiftstep was cut off as the log gave a sudden lurch. Nettlekit cried out in surprise and dug all of his claws into the wet and slimy bark.

Waves sloshed over the sides, drenching him to the bone and it took all of his might to cling on. The branch continued to rock and sway wildly and Swiftstep gave a screech. Nettlekit watched in horror as she was thrown into the river. Her silver body writhed and squirmed under the surface. Nettlekit squeezed his eyes shut, waiting...

But Silverstep didn’t emerge. Willowpaw dived into the roaring waves.

Nettlekit didn’t have time to see if they dragged her up because his claws slipped and he slid down the log, straight into Pineneedle. The dark grey tom clawed desperately but he couldn’t stop himself. He slipped down into the river. Nettlekit followed him a heartbeat later, joining him in certain death.

Chapter Three

Waves tugged at her fur and the deep water sucked her in, swallowing her under its murky folds. Swiftstep's hind legs churned, her front paws digging furiously as she pushed herself - forced herself - upwards. As she was preparing to launch herself to the surface, a violent wave swept her further into the river. Her lungs were aching for air, screaming at her to breathe, but she couldn't. She couldn't!

Icy liquid filled Swiftstep's mouth and she had no choice but to swallow, gagging. The need for air did not become any more pressing, instead getting rapidly more intense. Her limbs were too tired to fight as the water threw her this way and that, driving her deeper and deeper into the seemingly endless river. Dizzying blackness was chewing at the corners of her mind, threatening to take over, when teeth pierced the scruff of her neck and she was pulled upwards.

Swiftstep soon found herself sprawled across the riverbank, Mossfur standing over her. Except... Swiftstep peered closer, trying to get her eyes to come back to focus. No, it wasn't Mossfur who was next to her. It couldn't be. The old Shadowclan medicine cat had passed away seasons ago. This cat was much smaller, much younger. She had the same clear blue eyes and pale grey pelt, but her fur was much sleeker and she had a slightly plump build.

"Swiftstep?" the strange ghost of young Mossfur spoke up. "Can you hear me?"

The ShadowClan deputy tried to reply, but no sound came from her mouth. Then, out of nowhere, Swiftstep felt a heavy blow to her side and she began to choke, water spilling from her mouth.

Her world gradually grew sharper, the fuzziness in her head fading.

"Thanks," Swiftstep rasped, looking up at the young Mossfur ghost beside her. Willowpaw. That was her name. Willowpaw of RiverClan. "You saved my life."

The pale-furred apprentice shrugged modestly. "No problem. At least now you'll know to stay out of the water!" Her joke was weak, but it broke the awkwardness between the two she-cats.

Swiftstep struggled to her paws. Her legs felt weak and shaky, but she managed to stay upright. As she glanced around, she could catch a glimpse of nothing but open land. There were no trees, no hills, not even a bush. Just acres and acres of flat fields for as far as the eye could see. With a start, she realised that she felt strangely naked without the cover of the undergrowth; like a kit who had just left camp for the first time.

"Where are the other two?" Swiftstep demanded. She straightened up and returned back to deputy mode. There was no point in moping around and feeling sorry for herself; she had a duty to protect these cats until they were safely back with their Clans.

Willowpaw seemed taken aback at the silver tabby she-cat's sudden curtness, but flicked her tail towards where Pineneedle and Nettlekit were making their way towards them from further down the bank. Now that they had been stripped of soot and smoke, Pineneedle could be identified as skinny and dark grey while Nettlekit was a brown tabby. As the two toms walked side by side, Swiftstep was surprised at just how much Nettlekit had grown. He was almost as tall as the senior WindClan warrior next to him and already a lot sturdier.

He should be an apprentice, Swiftstep reminded herself. Nettlekit's ceremony had been put off because of the ongoing border skirmishes with ThunderClan and now because of the fire. He was already a moon overdue his apprentice name.

"Everybody all still in one piece?" Pineneedle asked, settling down beside beside Willowpaw and turning to untangle a bur from his shoulder.

Swiftstep flicked her ear in annoyance at the dark tom's sarcastic tone. The two of them had never got on very well with each other, not even when they had been apprentices. She had always found him too arrogant and prickly, thinking his barbed-tongue and wide range of foul volcabulary completely inappropriate.

Trying to ignore him, Swiftstep took control of the situation.

"So, we escaped the fire and - due to Willowpaw's quick thinking - have been travelling safely down this river for a day or two. It is now almost sunrise. I suggest we hunt what we can and then rest until sunset. Then we can then follow the river back the way we came under the cover of darkness."

Swiftstep looked around at her surroundings again. She was at loss as to where they could find any decent prey, and once they had eaten, where could they shelter? She knew that she would rever be able to get any sleep completely out in the open with absaloutely no place to hide.

"Let's split into two groups," Swiftstep decided finally. "Nettlekit and I will stay here and Pineneedle and Willowpaw can hunt further down the river. Don't go onto the grass and stay within sight of each other; we can see if we can find any voles or frogs."

Chapter Four

Pineneedle stalked down the riverbank, his tail lashing back and forth angrily. He longed to be out on the moorland, the wind ruffling his fur, feeling the great sense of satisfaction and pride as his claws hooked into the rabbit's flesh after a long and tiring chase. Instead, he was knee-deep in sludge, scavanging for whatever had washed up on the waterfront on the orders of the mangy ShadowClan deputy.

"Voles and frogs," Pineneedle muttered angrily. "Do they even count as prey?"

He found himself mildly suprised when the apprentice she-cat that he had ended up with nodded. Didn't RiverClan cats live off of crow-food like frogs?

"We'd have to catch about twenty to fill us up," she agreed.

Pineneedle struggled to pull his paw from a particularly squelchy patch of sticky mud. "What do you suggest we eat then?"

The pale grey she-cat flicked her ear. "There are plenty of other options. Rabbits and birds for example. Personally, I would like fish. I saw some nice big salmon in the river when I was rescuing Swiftstep."

Pineneedle felt a rush of admiration towards the RiverClan cat. At first he had assumed that she was just the average air-head apprentice, but now he was beginning to see that she was much more than that. She certainly had a lot more brains than Swiftstep and was much easier on the eye too. Muscles rippled beneath her pale, glossy pelt as she glided easily she over the marshy ground.

This must be like an average day for her, Pineneedle thought. She had been brought up hunting on the wet ground.

"Come on," he spoke up sudddenly. He lead her quickly around a sharp corner, out of sight of the two ShadowClan cats. "This way!"

"What are we doing?" Willowpaw hissed, shocked.

"You're going to get your fish," he replied. "And I'm going to get my rabbit."

Willowpaw's blue eyes grew round in shock and as she hesitated, Pineneedle was sure that she was going to rat him out to Swiftstep. He unsheathed his claws, working them into the slimy ground beneath him and wondered how he could have been so mouse-brained to have thought that the goody-two-shoes apprentice would go along with his idea. However, just as he was about to give up on on his rabbit, Willowpaw dipped her head to him in thanks and bounded off in the direction of the river.

Pineneedle felt a purr rise from deep in his throat as he scrambled up over the side of the bank and was finally, finally out of the mud. He shook his fur dry and pressed himself flat to ground, hiding amongst the long grass. Pricking his ears and keeping his eyes wide and alert, he began to move forwards, searching for any trace of prey. As he crawled further out into the field, he picked up movement and sure enough, he could scent - no... not rabbit. Hare.

A few tree-lengths away, he could spot the brown animal, nibbling away at the grass. His stomach less than inch from the ground, he bunches his muscles and sprang silently forwards. Fortunately, the wind was on his side and he soon found himself being propelled forwards, sprinting towards the hare at a rapidly increasing speed.

The hare noticed him at the last second and began to run away. But he had the headstart. Stretching his front legs out, he caught it with one final leap and captured the struggling creature beneath his body. He slashed the hare's throat with a thorn-sharp claw and watched as the life left it's beady eyes.

Satisfied with his catch, Pineneedle collected the limp body in his jaws and began to make his way back to the river bank. He soon reached Willowpaw's side, just in time to see her lash her paw out and reel in an impressive sized fish. The silver, scaley body writhed and squirmed, coating itself in mud before Willowpaw gave it's neck a quick nip and it fell still.

"Nice," he complimented her. "Can't wait to see the look on Swiftstep's face when she sees that."

The look on Swiftstep's face did not disappoint. When Pineneedle and Willowpaw lay their catches down in front of her, her amber eyes looked close to popping from her face and her jaw dropped open in a mixture of amazement and fury.

"I - I thought I told you to stick to the riverbank," she spluttered angrily.

"We couldn't find anything decent there," Pineneedle shrugged. He flicked his tail over to the small pile of ShadowClan prey that was half a vole and a couple of frogs, "Looks like you didn't have much luck either."

"How dare you," Swiftstep spat. "First you deliberately go against my orders and now you insult a deputy!"

"Deputy?" Pineneedle scoffed. "How can you call yourself a deputy when your Clan consists of a single kit?"

Swiftstep hissed furiously, every hair on her pelt rising and she squared herself up to tower over Pineneedle. The WindClan tom settled into a similar position, itching to sink his claws into the annoying, stuck-up she-cat. Just because she was made deputy, didn't mean that she ruled over everybody!

Pineneedle was a heartbeat away from attacking when Willowpaw and Nettlekit leaped in front of him.

"Stop!" Willowpaw shrieked. "How can you be fighting at a time like this?"

Pineneedle stepped back reluctantly, watching through narrowed eyes as Swiftstep licked her fur flat and carried on barking out orders as if nothing had happened.

"Come on, let's share out the food!"

"No," Pineneedle retorted, swiping the she-cat's nose away from his prey. "That's okay. You don't have to have the prey you disapprove so much of. Go eat your precious frogs." With that, Pineneedle picked up the still-warm body of the hare and went to eat on his own.

Chapter Five

The outside was buzzing with life. The Clan was going about its day to day duties and Emrys longed to join in. Instead, he was in the nursery den, lying on the soft feather nest that his mother had made him. His siblings, Niamh and Reuben, were sprawled out on either side him; their soft snores rumbling around the whole cave. Emrys snuggled closer to them. Since Morwenna had gone out to hunt, his brother and sister were Emrys's only other heat sources. Thankfully for him, his brother was as scolding hot as the sun on a summer afternoon. Pressing hard against Reuben's soft side, Emrys turned his attention to the world outside of the nursery.

Through the entrance, came soft and playful mewls, telling him that Brahm was playing one of his usual games. Straining his ears, he listened for some sign that Elen was also there. The gentle she-cat had taken a great liking to Brahm ever since his mother had been killed in a hunting accident. She treated his as if he were her own kit and rarely ever left his side.

Sure enough, Emrys could hear her rasping breaths from somewhere near the mouth of the den.

Farther into the centre of the cave, Alpin was giving orders to the older protectors. His growling voice echoed around the stone walls. Tegan was rounding up some hunters to go and gather The Clan's next meal. Apart from the voices from all around the cave, Emrys could hear the rush of running water. It roared and rumbled as it tumbled down to slam against the stone ground. This, along with the faraway chirping of birds, made up the usual mountaintop chorus.

Emrys was suddenly aware of another warmth pressing against his small body, and a moment later Morwenna's familiar smell wreathed around him. He let out a small mew to let his mother know that he was awake. Morwenna licked his cheek in return.

"Hush now, little one," she whispered. "In a few days, you will be a moon old. Your time will come soon. But for now, let the sound of the waterfall soothe you to sleep."

Chapter Six

As the last rays of late afternoon sunlight slowly but surely diminished, Willowpaw crept out from her hiding place. The only shelter that they had been able to find was a pile of driftwood and debris that had collected beneath an overhang in the riverbank. It had been cramped and uncomfortable; so much so that she had awoken feeling if not more tired than she had been before she had gone to sleep.

Stretching the stiffness out of her hind legs, the silver she-cat craned her neck to remove the wads of moss that had become entangled in her pelt. Beside her, Nettlekit seemed to be in a similar rough state. His dark fur stuck out in all directions and he could barely keep his eyes open.

"Good sleep?" Willowpaw teased.

"Oh yeah," Nettlekit replied, yawning widely. "Fantastic. I think I managed to get a full ten heartbeats."

Willowpaw snorted with laughter, before following the tabby tom over to where they had left last night's prey. Settling down on the muddy ground, she began to wolf down the remains of her salmon. It was just as good as it had been after she had caught it and she sighed happily as she felt food in her belly once more.

It was only once Willowpaw had finished all of the fish that she could eat, that she noticed Nettlekit. He was crouching awkwardly across from her, picking at the last morsels of a skinny vole. Even from where she sat, Willowpaw could hear his stomach growling.

"Here," Willowpaw offered, pushing the last half of her salmon towards him with her paw.

"Are you sure?" Nettlekit seemed taken aback.

The RiverClan apprentice nodded. "Of course. Couldn't have you going hungry."

She watched as Nettlekit examined the salmon suspiciously, flipping it over to check the other side. After giving it a good sniff, he licked the juicy meat tentatively. Then hunger overshadowed caution and he began to devour the last of the fish, purring in satisfaction as his appetite was finally subdued.

"See," Willowpaw meowed, her tail twitching in amusement. "I wasn't trying to poison you."

His eyes widened in horror, but before he was able to protest, Swiftstep spoke up from behind.

"That's enough gossiping you two," she snapped. "We have to get going."

With that, the slender she-cat took the lead up the river bank. The two youngest Clan cats followed obediently after her, and Pineneedle, who was still sulking after last night's quarrel, trailed behind at some distance.


Chapter Seven

This routine would continue for days to come. The four cats would walk and walk until they could no longer move a paw step further. As the sun peeked over the distant hills and washed the felines with milky light, they would find somewhere to rest along the riverbank, before continuing their journey the following night. They would survive on as little food as possible and most of their excursion would be spent in stony silence. Each Clan cat was impatient to get home to their friends and family, and growing gradually more and more frustrated that the river they were following seemed to be taking them nowhere. That is, until the time came that they had to make the big decision.

"Which way do we go?" Willowpaw wondered, peering through the half-light at the fork in the river.

"This way, obviously," Swiftstep decided quickly, barging through the group of cats to the front.

Pineneedle hissed in annoyance, "No. There's no way we travelled over the mountains to get here; we would have noticed! Let's just keep going the way that we're going."

"This way doesn't lead over the mountains, it leads around the mountains. Anyway, your way just leads to more bare land."

"Mouse-brained she-cat!"

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