Leader; Shiningstar- golden brown tabby tom with blue eyes.
Deputy; Shimmerfish- silver tabby she-cat with green eyes
Medicine cat; Larkwing- black-and-white tom
Mistleaf- silvery-white she-cat with amber eyes. Apprentice, Stonepaw.
Reedfoot-pale brown tabby tom with white feet
Quickbird- wiry grey tom with yellow eyes. Apprentice, Flashpaw.
Shadefur- black-and-white tom with blue eyes
Dapplewhisker- ginger-and-grey she-cat. Apprentice, Petalpaw.
Oakstorm- light brown she-cat with blue eyes.
Rushingfall- grey-and-white she-cat with green eyes
Grassfur- grey tom with green eyes
Troutleap- cream-colored tom with amber eyes. Apprentice, Cinderpaw.
Cloudnose- white tom.
Stonepaw- slender tabby-and-white she-cat with blue eyes.
Petalpaw- small ginger-and-black she-cat with blue eyes
Cinderpaw- bulky mottled grey she-cat with orange eyes.
Flashpaw- handsome dark red tom.
Brightfur- ginger-and-white she-cat ( Mother to Fleckkit- brown tom with white spots)
Wolfsnout- grey-and-white she-cat
Frogleap- ash-colored tom.
Other Clans; coming soon when I feel like it!
Cats outside Clans:
Frost Fang- broad-shouldered grey tom with white patches and icy blue eyes.
Snowy Bird- young white she-cat with green eyes
Yellow Tooth: silver tabby she-cat with gnarled yellow fangs
Falling Oak- brown tabby tom with dark eyes
Tabby Tail- white tom with a grey striped tail.
Cloudy Sun- black tom with hazy yellow eyes
Robin's Song- dark ginger she-cat with blue eyes.
Running Hare: wiry tabby tom, amber eyes.
Calm River: Tortoiseshell-and-black she-cat with pale blue eyes.
Shaded Muzzle: pale tabby tom with a darker muzzle.
Dry Leaf: Small tortoiseshell she-kit with green eyes
Crackling Leaf: Pale tortoiseshell she-kit with green eyes.
Floating Leaf: Tortoiseshell she-kit with green eyes
Russet Leaf: Black-white-and-ginger tom-kit with green eyes.
Leader: Lilystar- pale-grey tending to silver she-cat. Slender and lithe build, white paws, light underbelly and cool blue eyes.
Deputy: Furtuft- ginger tom with a fluffy head. Apprentice, Volepaw.
Medicine Cat: Swiftwater- milky-grey she-cat with amber eyes.
Cinderpaw quickly bit the flapping fish's spine and watched with satisfaction as it fell lifeless under her claws. She sat back on her haunches, letting out a purr. It's huge! Much bigger than the ones Flashpaw caught, and everyone knows he's the best fisher in the Clan. Eager to show the rest of the patrol her catch, Cinderpaw picked it up and trotted back through the reeds. She felt them brush her spine, tickling her. The reeds then gave way to a section of muddy grass. Small red mushrooms sprouted inbetween stalks. Cinderpaw stayed away from them. She knew they were poisonuss. Quickly, she hurried across them, searching for the patrol. She was relieved when she saw their pelt flashing in front of her, like a shoal of minnows. Cinderpaw puffed out her chest and strode up to them, thrusting the fish out in front of her. Troutleap was the first to notice it. His eyes widened and he flicked his tail and Flashpaw's mentor, Quickbird. " See? I told you Flashpaw's not the only fisher around!" Troutleap teased. Quickbird's yellow eyes twinkled in good humor. He shoved Flashpaw with his muzzle.
" Looks like Cinderpaw'll be given you some competition!" Flashpaw purred at his mentors taunting. He gave Cinderpaw's fish a good sniff.
" Awesome catch, Cinderpaw! How'd you do it?" Flashpaw commented. Heat flooded through her pelt as the handsome red tom addressed her.
" It wasn't that hard, really. I just shredded a few leaves at waited for the fish to come. The fat ones come quickly because they eat a lot," Cinderpaw explained, trying for modesty. She looked into Flashpaw's eyes and found a new glimmer of respect in their green depths. A sneer jolted her out of her musings and into reality.
" Come on! It's not even that great. Who care about a fish?" Cinderpaw recognized the high-pitched voice of Petalpaw. Cinderpaw had watched in horror as Shiningstar gave Dapplewhisker Petalpaw as an apprentice. Dapplewhisker was Cinderpaw's mother. She didn't deserve to mentor such a foul cat. Stonepaw, the tough sister of Petalpaw, joined her. She wrinkled her snout, then batted her eyelashes at Flashpaw.
" You could have caught much better, couldn't you?" she purred. Flashpaw gave his chest a few embarassded licks.
" Uh, I guess. I mean, Cinderpaw's was great, but uh-"
" Don't pay attention to Petalpaw," a warm meow came from behind her. Cinderpaw felt a warm pelt brush her flank and recognized the sweet scent of her mother, Dapplewhisker. The ginger-and-grey she-cat watched her with prideful yellow eyes. But how can I not? She and Stonepaw are always a burrs in my tail, digging deeper with every mistake I make. What have I ever done to them? She was in awe of the two she-cats. Stonepaw was pretty and skillful, while Petalpaw was also beautiful and sly. Cinderpaw was none of those things. Her frame was wide as well as bulky, making her clumsy and awkward. Her fur was stiff, dry even. She hated the orange shade of her eyes. It made her look so… different. " They're not as great as you. That's why they try and put you down," Dapplewhisker continued. Cinderpaw shrugged. Her catch didn't feel so great anymore.
" I say we head to the WindClan border. There has bit quite some activity there, border patrols have reported," Troutleap announced, giving his pelt a shake. The air was moist and humid. Cinderpaw felt a droplet of rain spatter onto her nose. She sneezed, causing every other cat in the patrol to look at her. Stonepaw curled her lip. Her tabby pelt was a smooth as stone.
" Cinderpaw… gross. You'll scare away WindClan by yourself, you can be so disgusting!" Stonepaw jeered, eyes cold. Shame burned through Cinderpaw's pelt, followed by anger.
" What about you? Your words are uglier than-" Cinderpaw began. At once, Petalpaw darted in front of Stonepaw and glared at Cinderpaw.
" Don't you dare be mean to my sister! Don't you say another word, because I'll shred you! Go away!" Petalpaw growled, her high voice so intense it broke. Shocked, Cinderpaw backed away. Petalpaw spat at her feet, then went to join her sister. They bent their heads close together, whispering. Cinderpaw looked down, feeling the other cats gazes burn through her pelt. Troutleap, Quickbird, Dapplewhisker and Mistleaf- all senior warriors-could this get any worse? She dropped back from the patrol, letting them go on without her. She focused on the stony path that wound upwards to the gorge. It was slick with water, forcing her to unsheathe her claws for a grip. I bet Stonepaw and Petalpaw wish I would slip, Cinderpaw thought glumly to herself.
" Cinderpaw," she jumped, not aware that Dapplewhisker had joined her. " You need to stand up for yourself when cats insult you, but don't overreact."
" Overreact?" Cinderpaw hissed.
" You didn't need to yell at them like that," Dapplewhisker said calmly. Rage broke out inside Cinderpaw.
" I didn't? Stonepaw called me disgusting, Petalpaw humiliated me! And you- you just stood by and watched everything?"
" Stonepaw was joking! Don't be mean to her!"
" Joking!" That was the last straw for Cinderpaw. Her mother defending a cat that had bullied her for her whole life. Stonepaw had picked on her as a kit, and Petalpaw had joined in when she became an apprentice. " Oh, now I see. You prefer your apprentice over your own daughter!" Dapplewhisker's eyes narrowed.
" Stonepaw is a wonderful apprentice. You should try and understand-"
" Understand what? You? You're a horrible mother! Get away from me! I never want to talk to you again! Ever!" Cinderpaw howled, tears stinging at the back of her mind. Dapplewhisker favors Stonepaw over me! She knew it was true now. Cinderpaw had begun to suspect it when Dapplewhisker kept coming back to the nursery late, sharing fresh-kill with Stonepaw and talking to her late at night. She had brushed off Cinderkit's worries, instead heading out to train her apprentice. And now, she didn't even defend her daughter. Cinderpaw picked up her fish and streaked away after the patrol, leaving Dapplewhisker behind. She skidded to a halt. The stones beneath her paws were dry now, strangely. Cinderpaw halted beside the thundering waterfall, screwing her eyes up against the spray. Suddenly, she spotted two figures slinking through the mist, using it as cover. She turned to tell the nearest cat, which unfortunately was Petalpaw.
" Look, two cats are-"
" Mistleaf! I noticed two cats coming through the mist!" Petalpaw abruptly turned away from Cinderpaw and called out to her mentor. Cinderpaw wasn't surprised she'd expected Petalpaw to do that. Mistleaf narrowed her eyes into slits.
" Oh! They-" a face loomed out of the gloom. Two blue eyes gleamed at Mistleaf and a figure launched itself at her throat.
" No!" Cinderpaw yowled, flashing out a paw to swipe at the tom. She missed, but managed to get his attention. He smelled strongly of WindClan, so Cinderpaw was guessing he had just crossed the border. His fur was thin and his frame was skinny. A wild desperation was in his eyes, as well as a foul stench rolling off him. The WindClan cat dropped his gaze and spotted her fish. Eyes gleaming, he darted for it and picked it up before Cinderpaw could say a word. " Prey-stealer!" she yowled, pounding her paws on the earth and beginning to chase after him. The wind roared in her ears. Even though he was a WindClan cat, this warrior was obviously sick. Cinderpaw soon caught up with him, so she launched herself at his hindquarters, managing to snag hold of his tail. The tom yowled in fright, dropping the fish. Cinderpaw ran to pick it up, but the second tom- a tabby- got it first. His eyes were crazy with hunger. The tabby turned tail and fled. Meanwhile, the first tom slammed his shoulder against Cinderpaw, throwing her dangerously close to the gorge. While she struggled to get up, he pounced, curling his lips to reveal vicious white fangs. StarClan, help me! Cinderpaw began to squeal like a kit in her terror. The tom opened his jaws as if to bite...
" Let my daughter go!" Dapplewhisker howled. She hauled the tom off Cinderpaw and bared her teeth. However, he was unfazed. The tom leapt over onto her back, scrabbling at her spine with his hindquarters. Dapplewhisker howled in pain. Cinderpaw could only watched in sheer horror as the two cats attacked her mother. The tabby had joined and began to slice at her belly with his claws. Another furious howl rang out and a pale slender shape shot out of the gloom.
" Stonepaw!" Cinderpaw breathed in relief. Limbs still shaking, she managed to get to her feet and hobble towards the WindClan cats.
" Stonepaw! Oh thank StarClan you are here!" Dapplewhisker whispered, grimacing in pain. The apprentice knocked the tabby of his feet, sending him away with a furious snarl. The other tom, taking one look at the two cats, turned and fled as well. Caterwauling in rage, the two cats pursued them.
Two RiverClan cats chased the WindClan cats back to their territory.
Only the apprentice returned.
Flanks heaving, pelt streaked with blood, Stonepaw collapsed at the patrols feet. Cinderpaw looked around for her mother, but Dappelwhisker's mottled pelt did not appear. Heart beginning to pound, she bent down and thrust her muzzle close to Stonepaw's.
" Where is she?" Cinderpaw growled, unsheathing her claws. Slowly, painfully, Stonepaw raised her head. The slender tabby's blue eyes were dull and pained. She looked away. " Where is she!" Cinderpaw shrieked. Panic was threatening to overwhelm her. What was I thinking? Why didn't I chase after Dapplewhisker? A numbness was spreading through her body. She wanted Stonepaw to answer, but yet she didn't.
" I tried…" Stonepaw croaked. " There was another patrol waiting… they attacked…" she broke off and let out a heartbroken whimper. Petalpaw curled around her sister and glared up and Cinderpaw.
" Go away! Leave my sister alone," Petalpaw hissed. Cinderpaw didn't need to be told twice. She stepped past them and began to climb up the slope that lead to the moor.
" Where are you going?" Troutleap called. His own eyes were whirling with emotion.
" To find my mother," Cinderpaw called back. Surely he will come with me? But Troutleap didn't move.
" WindClan will return the body, Cinderpaw. We can't risk you going up there alone," Toadleap said. WindClan will return the body… The body… body.. Images of her mother lying stretched out on the ground, blood coating her fur flashed in front of Cinderpaw's eyes. She snarled at Toadleap.
" What body? What body? Dapplewhisker is alive. She is a good warrior!" Cinderpaw cried. Suddenly, the realization struck her. Her mother was dead. Cinderpaw sank to the ground, wailing in agony. Meanwhile, Stonepaw let out another cry of heartbreak. All the cats were clustered around the other apprentice, licking her fur, whispering comforting words in her ear. " She was a good warrior," Cinderpaw whipsered. Troutleap bounded down to Stonepaw and touched his muzzle to her ear. Bitterness rose in Cinderpaw's heart. They care for her more than me. Does everyone think that Dapplewhisker cared for Stonepaw more than me? Brimming with hurt, Cinderpaw stood up and headed back down, veering away from the cluster of cats. Her head felt as heavy as stone. She wanted nothing more than to curl up in her warm, soft nest of moss...
" Cinderpaw!" came a gasp. Stonepaw bounded to Cinderpaw's side. Surprised, Cinderpaw looked up and met the tabby's gaze. It was sorrowful, but true empathy was there. " Cinderpaw, I understand how sad you are. Do you know what her last words were to me?" Cinderpaw said nothing, but Stonepaw went on. " She told me to tell you something. She said ' Stonepaw, get back to Cinderpaw. Tell her she will always be my daughter.' That's what she said, Cinderpaw," Stonepaw pressed. She said that… she remembered me in her last moments. But what did I say to her? The words echoed in her head. Get away from me! I never want to talk to you again! Ever! Her mother had died thinking that Cinderpaw didn't care for her. Ignoring the concerned Stonepaw, Cinderpaw let out a cry of horror and stormed away. Shame, guilt and torment burned in her stomach, spreading out and filling her blood. She began to shake, sobs escaping her throat, wracking her body. Dapplewhisker! I didn't mean it! I promise! For the second time that day, Cinderpaw sank to the floor.
" Cinderpaw," another gentle meow broke her thoughts. Mistleaf stood over her, face understanding. " Let's go see your father." It took Cinderpaw a moment to realize they were right outside the camp entrance. She shoved her muzzle deeper into her paws. Cinderpaw didn't want to enter camp. A camp without Dapplewhisker, a world without Dapplewhisker, just didn't seem right. " Please." Mistleaf pleaded. Letting out a sigh of fatigue, Cinderpaw climbed to her paws and hobbled back towards the camp entrance. The grass of the sedge entrance looked forbidding and strange. Cinderpaw could almost not think that the last time she had seen it, her biggest worry had been managing to repair her nest before leaf-bare. Now, things were so different she could hardly recognize the world. Cinderpaw's patrol members jostled her through the camp entrance. She looked upon the merry world spread out below her in disbelief. Rushingfall, a grey-and-white she-cat was sharing tongues with her sister Brightfur. Fleckkit, Brightfur's son, was playing with a reed stalk. The two elders were sharing tongues underneath a large, shady leaf. And lastly… Cinderpaw gulped. Her pwn father, Shiningstar, was conversing with his deputy Shimmerfish. Shimmerfish was also Petalpaw and Stonepaw's mother. Shiningstar noticed the patrol and bounded down to greet them. A look of confusion passed over his face.
" Where's Dapplewhisker?" he asked. Silence hung in the air. No one wanted to confess the news of his mate's death. Shiningstar's mad rages were infamous. " Well?" the golden tabby tom demanded. I have to tell him. She stepped forwards, pelt fluffed up in anxiety.
" Shiningstar…" Cinderpaw paused, avoiding his sharp gaze. " Dapplewhisker… is dead."
" Dead?" Shiningstar's eyes narrowed. Cinderpaw shrank back. The muscles visibly tightened under his pelt. Shiningstar unsheathed his claws, threw back his head and let out a yowl. " Dead! How did this happen?" Cinderpaw noticed Brightfur herding her kit back into the nursery. Shiningstar growled and ran at the nearby warriors den, ripping off the top. His eyes were livid with rage, Oh no. He shredded the remains with his claws and bounded over to the fresh-kill pile, throwing fish and voles everywhere while howling in distress. Suddenly, he stopped and turned to the patrol. " And who's fault was this?" Stonepaw began to step forwards, but Petalpaw blocked her path. Eyes dancing with malice, she pointed her tail at Cinderpaw.
" I can explain, Shiningstar. It was Cinderpaw's fault!"
" Cinderpaw?" Shiningstar halted. He turned her blue gaze on his daughter. " Dapplewhisker is her mother!"
"Maybe so, but Cinderpaw was mad. She pushed her mother off the gorge, but Stonepaw saved her. Then the WindClan cats attacked, but the cowardly Cinderpaw fled!" Petalpaw finished her outrageous tale with a smirk. Cinderpaw felt her heart almost stop. Dizzy with shock, she could only turn her head towards the ginger-and-black she-cat in disbelief. Petalpaw was intently watching Shiningstar, waiting for his reaction. Desperate now, Cinderpaw searched for Stonepaw's gaze. The tabby she-cat obliged, but any empathy she had was gone. It had been chased away with the delight of being able to bully Cinderpaw again.
" I'm sure that isn't true," Troutleap said carefully. Cinderpaw could only let out a feeble bleat of agreement. At first I wasn't sure that this day could get any worse. Now, I'm not so sure. StarClan, why does it always have to be me? Cinderpaw dropped her gaze not being able to believe the extent of Petalpaw's purgatory.
" See! She doesn't even try to defend herself. Your own daughter!" Petalpaw pressed. Shiningstar had not erupted into a rage yet. Instead, he was cold and dangerously calm.
" Well, what do you have to say for yourself?" Shiningstar's voice was wavering in his wrath. Legs beginning to shake again, Cinderpaw forced herself to raise her head and meet her furious father's eye. There was silence, and Petalpaw's smug face loomed in the background. Abruptly, rage exploded inside Cinderpaw. She leapt into a crouch, feeling all her anger rush to her head making her giddy.
" Why don't you ask Petalpaw what she has to say for herself? Does anyone have proof of her tale? She is insulting Dapplewhisker's memory by suggesting I killed her! It is absurd!" Cinderpaw burst. There was dead silence in the camp. Shiningstar deliberately turned his massive head to look at Petalpaw. She ducked away behind Stonepaw, while the latter looked around in panic. Hesitantly, almost reluctantly, Troutleap stepped forwards and looked sheepishly at Cinderpaw.
" Just pointing out, Cinderpaw… no one has proof of your story either," Troutleap meowed awkwardly. Cinderpaw widened her eyes. Oh yes. This day is definitely get much worse! Tail-tip waving in annoyance, she met her father's gaze again.
" So who are you going to believe? Your daughter, or an apprentice?" Cinderpaw said. Shiningstar backed away, shifting his paws as if in discomfort. Petalpaw's intense gaze burned brighter.
" Yes, Shiningstar, who are you going to believe? The murderer, or the witness?" She said softly. Surely I have one loyal parent? Cinderpaw wished with all her heart that Shiningstar would believe her. He had to. He had to love her. "I am only trying to do the right thing," Petalpaw persisted. Her meow was laced with sorrow and pity. " Please don't shame me. I trust your judgement, but I…I don't want to be shamed for doing the right thing," Petalpaw purred. Shiningstar had closed his eyes and began swaying side to side. Cinderpaw looked around her in skepticism. Everyone else was nodding slowly as they looked at Petalpaw. They believe her. The apprentice shot Cinderpaw another smug glance. She wondered why they didn't stick on her face. At last. Shiningstar opened his eyes. They were unfriendly and cool. He bared his teeth at Cinderpaw, and she shrank back in dismay.
" I'll see to you later," Shiningstar snorted, the strutted away. " Let's organize the vigil," he called to the senior warriors. Cinderpaw was frozen in horror as cats began to move again.
" See, Cinderpaw?" Petalpaw hissed. " That's what you get when you mess with me."
" Really, Petalpaw?" Cinderpaw snarled half-heartedly. But what did I do? Petalpaw always has reasons to pick on me. Cinderpaw stomped away, ducking through the sedge. It whispered, the sounds seemed like taunting to Cinderpaw. She didn't want to be around for her mother's burial when everyone thought she was a killer.
The grey moon shone in the dark night sky. It turned the clear water silver and cast soft shadows on the sand below. Only one figure, that of a cat crouched beside the water, was dark. It was as if someone had scraped a cat-shaped hole in the beautiful scene and forgotten to fill it in. It's much better to mourn like this. It feels much more personal than when I'm surrounded by my Clanmates. Cinderpaw squinted at the water, seeing the faint forms of minnows under the surface. Dapplewhisker liked nothing more than freshly caught minnow. She said it 'tasted like the river'. Cinderpaw sighed and rested her head on her paws. There was too much grief and pain. She needed to rest, it felt like she needed eternity. " It's nice out here." a deep meow rumbled from behind her. A warm pelt pressed against hers. Surprised and a bit annoyed, Cinderpaw lifted her head and found herself staring into the depths of Flashpaw's gaze. Feeling heat spread up through her fur, Cinderpaw quickly looked away. " I-I heard what Petalpaw said," Flashpaw stammered, looking away.
" Oh really?" Cinderpaw got to her feet and glared at him. " And, of course, you believe her."
" No, I don't!" Flashpaw shot up and glared at her back.
" You don't?" Cinderpaw asked, incredulous. Flashpaw shook his head earnestly.
" It's obviously a lie! You would never do that, Cinderpaw," she loved the warmth in his voice. Flashpaw leaned over and touched his nose to her ear. " You are a good cat." Cinderpaw leaned against him, feeling for the first time that day warmth spread through her body. " I'll leave you to grieve in peace." Cinderpaw watched him go, feeling that she'd found a friend.
The next morning, Cinderpaw was asked to visit Shiningstar in his den. Reluctant to do so, she milled around camp for a bit until Shiningstar himself came to her. His eyes were unreadable and he shepherded her into his den.
" You know we have to talk," Shiningstar began. His eyes gleamed in the dark. Cinderpaw pressed against the wall and nodded though she wasn't sure he could see her.
" I know. You think I killed Dapplewhisker," Cinderpaw said bluntly.
" Petalpaw says so-"
" If Petalpaw told you I could fly, would you believe her?" Cinderpaw snarled. Shiningstar's eyes widened.
" Of course not!"
" But you think I could kill Dapplewhisker. Is that what you think of me?" Cinderpaw growled. Flashpaw had said she was a good cat. Petalpaw wasn't going to change. Shiningstar suddenly dropped his head. Concerned, Cinderpaw leaned closer. She could hear his labored breathing and felt as though he had just aged. Shiningstar lifted his head wearily and sighed again.
" Cinderpaw, what do I believe anymore? Dapplewhisker is gone. My world has gone," he said in an anguished whisper. " Leave me be." Shiningstar turned away from her and curled up in his nest. Heart nearly breaking for her father, Cinderpaw emerged from the den and squinted at the bright sunlight.
" How was it?" a soft sneer echoed from behind her. Petalpaw. Every instinct told her to turn around and give the she-cat a good beating, but she made herself keep walking. " Oh, are you mad? I'm ever so sorry. But you see, we can't allow Shiningstar to get close to another cat. It's not allowed," Petalpaw continued. What does she mean? Cinderpaw forced her ears not to perk up. She didn't want to look interested. Although Cinderpaw could not see Petalpaw's face, she knew that it was in a cruel sneer. A brook babbled nearby so Cinderpaw shouldered aside the ferns to lap at the cool water. Petalpaw's patched pelt halted beside her. "Don't you want to know why?" she said quietly. Cinderpaw tried to brush past her, but Petalpaw barred her way. The apprentice's eyes were menacing. " I'm sure you want to know."
" Spill it, then," Cinderpaw growled. Petalpaw sat down calmly and drew a paw over her face. Every instinct told Cinderpaw to run. This can't be good. The apprentice turned her sharp eyes onto Cinderpaw's face and narrowed. Then she purred and stood up.
" Well, mother ordered us to make Shiningstar hate you. She said it was part of a plan. But she just told us today what it meant," Petalpaw said.
" Hurry!" Cinderpaw lashed her tail. Petalpaw shrugged.
" Well, okay. Shimmerfish told us that her scheme was to get Shiningstar as a mate. Imagine the power she'd have! Imagine the power I'd have," Petalpaw hissed. " But Shiningstar can't be close to another cat. So I apologize Cinderpaw, but that's the way things have to be. I'm such a charming cat, who would believe you over me?" Petalpaw's meow was oily. Disgust raging up inside Cinderpaw, she slammed the she-cat sideways. Petalpaw shrieked as she fell on her side, then dramatically rolled into the pool. Eyes glinting, she hauled herself out, holding one paw up and staggered up the clearing as if she were injured. " Oh you'll pay for this," she hissed out of the corner of her mouth. " Cinderpaw attacked me! Help!" Petalpaw wailed.
" Cinderpaw!" Troutleap appeared, staring at her in horror. Cinderpaw hurried past him, no longer feeling sorry for herself. I've got to tell Shiningstar. I have to stop Petalpaw before its too late!
" Nonsense, Cinderpaw! Shimmerfish would do no such thing!" Shiningstar growled. Panting, Cinderpaw had stuttered out the tale to her father. He didn't believe her, not one bit.
" But it's true-"
" I know you and Petalpaw have had some rivalry in the past, but that's no reason to tell lies about her. Does she do that do you?" Shiningstar demanded. Yes. Cinderpaw nodded feebly. Shiningstar snorted. " Sure. Lie."
" But I'm not!" Cinderpaw was desperate. Why didn't anyone believe her?
" Yes you are. My deputy is loyal, and her daughters are not capable of such cruelty. I suggest that you get a hold of yourself and deal with Dapplewhisker's death appropriately," Shiningstar shot back coldly. Speechless with rage, Cinderpaw stormed away. She dared not say more because the last time she had done so, Dapplewhisker had died. Her legs trampled the grass while she shouldered leaves and branches out of her path. What have I done to receive such mistrust? Suddenly, a strange scent hit her nostrils. Curious, Cinderpaw perked up her ears. It was coming in on a breeze blowing in from the west. Cinderpaw sniffed again. It was stronger this time, and she could definitely hear voices. They were followed by the sound of stones rubbing against each other. Tail erect, Cinderpaw crouched down and parted the ferns in front of her. She stiffened with shock.
Four well muscles cats were fishing at a pond in the middle of the territory, looking as calm as anything. One even stretched out lazily and began to snore. Rage began to build up inside of Cinderpaw. How dare they! She wanted to leap out and confront them, but instinct told her to hold back. The bushes to the left of the pond trembled as two cats emerged and sat beside the other four.
" Good hunting here," one of them rumbled, dropping a vole down by the other's feet. The first speaker was a pale tabby tom with a black muzzle. The one who was eating the vole was also a tabby but dark brown.
" Yes, Shaded Muzzle," the brown tabby said. "Now I am beginning to agree with Frost Fang. He was right."
" Of course, Falling Oak. Frost Fang has always been right. It was wise of you to join us. We will bring honor to our ancestors, can that be wrong?" Ancestors? What… Suddenly, a black tom with pale yellow eyes shot to his feet and glared at the ferns where Cinderpaw was hiding.
" Falling Oak! Shaded Muzzle! There's something in that bush!" he screeched. The two toms whirled around. The other three cats stood up as well and curled their lips. Frozen with fear, Cinderpaw forced herself to back away. The ferns moved and all six cats pounced. A muffled yelp escaped her jaws while Falling Oak grabbed her by her scruff and dragged her into the clearing. He let go, spitting tufts of her fur out between his teeth. Cinderpaw shook out her pelt and glared at the cats before her.
" What are you doing here? This is my territory!" Cinderpaw snarled. The cats exchanged disgusted looks and contemptouss snorts.
" One of those dratted clan cats. We can deal with her," Shaded Muzzle slowly slid out his claws. Cinderpaw whimpered and backed away, then stood up and scowled. She was not going to be intimidated on her own land! Letting out a furious snarl, she launched herself at Shaded Muzzle. He reacted fast, but not quick enough. Cinderpaw tore his ears and landed at his back, scrabbling furiously at his spine with her hind quarters. Shaded Muzzle growled, then rolled over. Cinderpaw saw the trick coming and leapt free just in time. While he lay on the ground, she pounced and posed to slice his vulnerable belly. Teeth fastened into her shoulder and hauled her off, a little less gentle this time. They drew blood. Falling Oak threw her aside again, but a new respect gleamed in his eyes. Shaded Muzzle stood up, but he only looked amused. Surprised, Cinderpaw glared at him. He didn't move and locked gazes with her until she was forced to look away.
" You've got nerve," Shaded Muzzle spoke after a long silence. Falling Oak nodded.
" She fought bravely, but not skillfully. Snowy Bird can fight better, and she's half this cats size!"
" Excuse me?" Cinderpaw had never met this Snowy Bird, but she felt insulted. Falling Oak ignored her. He had a strange thoughtful look in his eyes. Twisting his head, Falling Oak began to whisper into Shaded Muzzle's ear. Until now, Cinderpaw hadn't asked herself why she hadn't run away. She realized… she didn't want to. Falling Oak turned around and regarded her impassively. Then he beckoned her closer with his tail.
" Clan Cat, I have come to a decision. You will go blabbering to your Clanmates about us, something I do not want. I could kill you, but you have a stubbornness and bravery, both of which I find preciously rare skills. I am going to make you an offer. Listen," he said sternly. Cinderpaw nodded. " Here is my offer. You can come live with us. We will teach you our ways. You will be accepted, I assure you and grow into one of the finest fighters in the forest. Or, you could refuse and I would have to kill you," Falling Oak said. Cinderpaw was surprised. No one had ever asked her to join them, or really praised her for the matter. She closed her eyes and began to think. Death did not seem very bad right now. She could be with her mother again and escape her problems for eternity. But these cats… they were intriguing. Deep down in her heart, Cinderpaw knew she wanted to be with them. Troutleap, Shiningstar, Petalpaw and Stonepaw's faces loomed in her head. Their dislike seemed to form a wall between her and them, a wall which Cinderpaw would gladly help build. I'm leaving you. Will you grieve? The faces shook their heads. Cinderpaw opened her eyes.
" Yes, I will join you. I'm coming with you!" she bounded after the six cats as they padded away into the rustling ferns.
" So what are your names?" Cinderpaw asked. She had fallen in beside a small. dark ginger she-cat with blue eyes. Shaded Muzzle, the black tom and two other cats walked on the other side of her. Falling Oak took the lead.
" My name is Robin's Song," the dark ginger replied. Her voice was deep and intense, while energy sparked in her blue eyes.
" This is Cloudy Sun," Shaded Muzzle gestured towards the black tom. " You already know Falling Oak and me. This is Yellow Tooth," he nodded towards a silver she-cat. The cat bared her fangs and Cinderpaw nearly yelped. Two long, twisted fangs jutted from her upper lip. Yellow Tooth looked pleased at her fright, trotting ahead with her head held high. " Let's rest for a bit," Shaded Muzzle proposed. Falling Oak nodded so the tom settled down on and sat on his haunches.
" What is your name?" Robin's Song asked.
" Cinderpaw," Cinderpaw replied, finding it awkward to share her Clan name with these cats.
" We'll call you Cinder Paw, then," Shaded Muzzle said. Cinderpaw felt a purr rise in her throat. This name felt more special than any other, because is showed she truly belonged. Shaded Muzzle let out a deep purr and stood up again. " Come on. I can't wait for you to meet Calm River!"
" Who's Calm River?" Cinder Paw said, walking next to Robin's Song again. These cats are so friendly. Clan cats are so hostile. What have they been missing out on?
" Calm River is the mate of Shaded Muzzle. They have four kits," Robin's Song replied. Cinder Paw nodded politely.
" Where is your… camp?" Cinder Paw asked, stumbling over the word.
" We do not have a camp. We have a home," Robin's Song said bluntly. She regarded Cinder Paw with narrowed eyes. " Clan cats think all of life is a battle. It is not. We fight what needs to be fought, but why keep on fighting when there is nothing to fight?" Robin's Song continued. Cinder Paw stopped, feeling stunned. She's right. Can the views of a rogue rival all the wisdom in the Clan? They traveled the rest of the way in silence. Cinder Paw did not know where they were in the forest. Currently, they were treading on a long section of soft dirt, surrounded by a thick tangle of trees on either side. Cinder Paw could glimpse chunks of blue that were not covered by the thick foliage. She longed to feel the sky again. At last, the cats came to a halt. They were staring at a wall of thick green ivy that grew from the branch of a tree and fell to teh ground in a curtain. Falling Oak darted inwards, then jerked his head for the others to hollow. Feeling nervous, Cinder Paw squeezed through the ivy and gasped.
It was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. The trees abruptly ended, the dirt falling away to soft sand. The sand covered the floor of a small dip in the ground. It was protected from all sides by walls of smooth rock. The top was covered by countless green trees. RiverClan cats may have passed over this and not noticed, Cinder Paw realized. In the center of the dip was a pool of clear water and sitting on a rock nearby was a small tortoiseshell and four kits. Shaded Muzzle purred and bounded over to them. Cinder Paw guessed that they were Calm River and her kits. Something rushed past her and Cinder Paw spotted Cloudy Sun launching himself across the clearing, kicking up sand in his wake. A startled squeal filled the air and Cloudy Sun returned with a mouse in his jaws. Cinder Paw waited for him to give it to Calm River, but Cloudy Sun sat down and ate it himself. Feeling scandalized, Cinder Paw turned away and continued to gaze around in awe.
" Who's that?" a bright meow came from beside her. A white she-cat with twinkling green eyes stood watching her. She tipped her head to one side like a bright-eyed bird.
" This is Cinder Paw," Falling Oak told the cat. " She's a Clan cat who's come to join us."
" Whoa! That's awesome!" the white cat purred. " Don't worry. Nothing worse will happen to you than me talking you to death," she purred again, an endless sound that seemed to come from her throat. Warmth spreading through her, Cinder Paw purred as well. " My name's Snowy Bird!" she offered. So this is Snowy Bird.The she-cat was tiny. Her head was up to Cinder Paw's shoulder. But Cinder Paw could see hard muscle beneath the downy pelt.
" I can take you to Calm River. She'll give you a place to sleep. You can share my den!" Snowy Bird chattered, gesturing towards the mother cat. " It'll be so great to have a friend in this dull old place!" Cinder Paw began to warm to the lively she-cat.
" Calm River, Shaded Muzzle, Snowy Bird… you have funny names," Cinder Paw observed.
" We are all descendants of the rogue One Eye and his daughter, Star Flower. Calm River is as well," Snowy Bird explained.
" All of you?" Cinder Paw looked around dubiously.
" Well, maybe not all," Snowy Bird admitted. " But most. Falling Oak used to be a loner, and Tabby Tail- that tom over there- used to be a rogue. Frost Fang is strictly against taking in kittypets," Snowy Bird finished. That sounds like a leader. Isn't Falling Oak theirs? Suddenly, Snowy Bird stiffened.
" What?" Cinder Paw said.
" Maybe me talking you to death is not the worst thing that could happen…" Snowy Bird muttered darkly. Slowly, Cinder Paw turned around and widened her eyes. A massive grey-and-white tom stood in the center of cats, glaring at her with frigid blue eyes. His lips curled, revealing shiny and sharp white fangs. The murmur of the camp hushed as the tom strode into the middle. Cats quickly shrank back, ears flat with fear. The only cat to approach him was Falling Oak. The brown tom dipped his head to the grey cat, looking not the least bit afraid.
" Greetings, Frost Fang," Falling Oak muttered. His eyes as clear as a stormlesss sky, Falling Oak point at Cinder Paw with his tail. " We found a clan cat spying on us, so I offered for her to come here to live."
" Clan cats!" Frost Fang meowed. It was a deep sound like thunder rumbling across the sky. " What good are they?"
" This one nearly beat Shaded Muzzle," Falling Oak replied evenly. " Maybe she cannot be trusted for the first leaf-change, but I think she can be." At Cinder Paw's surprised look, he added " I don't believe in the practice of whispering. It is not noble."
" Is this true?" Frost Fang turned his gigantic head to look at Shaded Muzzle. The grey tom nodded.
" She took me completely by surprise. I would have been shredded if it wasn't for Falling Oak."
" Oh?" Frost Fang turned his gaze on Cinder Paw. She forced herself to meet it. Frost Fang let out a disgusted snort. " Fine then. Let her stay here for a leaf-change, but if she does not prove herself worthy, send her away." With that, the huge tom padded back into the dark cave that made his den. At once, the chatter resumed.
" Good job!" Snowy Bird looked up at Cinder Paw with a new respect. She dipped her head to the white cat, privately feeling that none of these cats liked their leader. " Come on, I'll introduce you to everybody." she began to walk away and pointed her muzzle towards a group of she-cats talking quietly. " You've probably met Yellow Tooth. She loves her teeth, and loves frightening kits with them equally. She is very ferocious, so she is often chosen to be on night watch." Snowy Bird flicked a red ant away with her claws. " Robin's Song is… interesting. I've known her for all my life, but I could never quite figure her out. She has purely rogue blood, unlike Yellow Tooth, whose father was a kittypet. Robin's Song's mother was Dawn Song," the sadness in Snowy Bird's eyes told Cinder Paw not to pry. She shook herself, then began talking again. "Cloudy Sun is her brother. He is also quiet, but friendly with those who know him. Shaded Muzzle was is also descended from Star Flower. Shaded Muzzle is a pretty good fighter, but he's our best tracker. He is also Calm River's mate, as you probablu know, and has four kits. They are over there," Snowy Bird nodded to the four bundles of fur. Cinder Paw nodded wisely, trying to keep up. " So now for Calm River. Her father was a Star Flower descendant as well, and her mother was a loner who joined our group as well. Calm River's newest litter are Shaded Muzzles, but before she had another mate. Her older kit is Running Hare. He's that silver-and-black tom over there. I don't know him very well, but he's got good eyesight. Tabby Tail and Falling Oak are our newest. They were found abandoned in a Twoleg nest, but they had been captured against their will. So know they are with us," Snowy Bird finished.
" I see," Cinder Paw said. " But there are two cats you haven't talked about."
" Who?" Snowy Bird sounded puzzled.
" You and Frost Fang."
"Oh…" Snowy Bird sighed, then looked up grimly. " There's not much to say… except the fact that Frost Fang is my father."
" Oh…" Cinder Paw meowed awkwardly. Suddenly, Snowy Bird's friendly eyes turned cold.
" You don't like him do you? No one does," Snowy Bird growled.
" I don't know, I mean, I've only known him for-" Cinder Paw stopped talking as Snowy Bird stalked away. Unsure wether to follow or not, Cinder Paw chose the first option. Snowy Bird was making her way to Calm River, still sitting on the rock that lay close to the river. Upon closer inspection, Cinder Paw found that Calm River really was a beautiful cat. She looked up and sleepily blinked serene blue eyes, and any tension immediately vanished like morning dew.
" Hello," Calm River purred warmly " are you Cinder Paw?"
" Yes," Cinder Paw dipped her head to Calm River, who let out another purr. It reminded Cinder Paw of water gently slapping the stones on the riverbank. " You are Calm River, aren't you?"
" Correct. Meet my little ones," Calm River proposed, curling her fluffy tail around the fur mewling bodies. Three were tortoiseshell she-kit, but one was a black-white-and-ginger tom. All surveyed her with round, soft eyes. Snowy Bird crouched down beside them and blew on their ears. They squealed and wriggled with delight. The tom climbed up on her back and shrieked happily.
" Me wanna go on ride, Snow Bird! Please!" he begged.
" Of course, Russet Leaf," Snowy Bird laughed. She began to walk in slow circles, causing the small kit to purr in delight. Calm River watched them affectionately for a moment, then got up and shook her thick pelt out. She arched her back and stretched, then let out a contented sigh.
" So you nearly beat Shaded Muzzle? That's what my mate needs, someone to put him in place," Calm River teased. Shaded Muzzle twitched his whiskers good-naturedly from the other side of the dip. She rested her soft gaze on Cinder Paw again. " You look tired. Why don't you share my den for tonight? Use my old nest; I should really get to making a new one."
" Okay," Cinder Paw meowed, beginning to feel a bit overwhelmed. Calm River lapped at her gently between the ears.
" I'll get you a nice piece of prey, alright? My kits can show you where we sleep. Dry Leaf! Crackling Leaf! Floating Leaf! Russet Leaf!" four kits scrambled towards their mother, rolling around at her feet. Calm River tapped them with her tail and they straightened. " Show Cinder Paw where our den is, please." the four kits nodded enthusiastically and nearly made Cinder Paw trip in their excitement. They half-shoved her into a wide hole that was filled with medium light. The floor was covered with a soft fur. Cinder Paw found a nest and curled up inside of it, feeling her eyes begin to close. Calm River came in and dropped a fat mouse by her muzzle. Cinder Paw twitched her nose, but was to tired to eat. The last thing she was aware of was Calm River stroking her spine with her fluffy tail.
When Cinder Paw awoke, she was momentarily confused at her surroundings. Since when did I live in a cave? Then all the days happenings came rushing back. I'm not with RiverClan anymore! She felt a massive weight lift from her shoulders and purred. Feeling lighter than ever, Cinder Paw burst into the dip and squinted at the sunlight.
" You're awake! Great! We can go practice some battle moves now, if you like," Snowy Bird chirped. Cinder Paw blinked, then her stomach cramped with hunger pains. Snowy Bird seemed to understand, for she shot of and returned with two voles momentarily. Cinder Paw wasn't surprised when she got one for herself, but when Snowy Bird ate one, she was shocked.
" Umm, Snowy Bird? Aren't you going to give that to Calm River?" Cinder Paw stammered.
" Should I?" Snowy Bird looked up from her vole, surprised. " Calm River catches her own prey. Does she need mine?"
" Uh, no. I don't think so," Cinder Paw said. Their ways are so different! She gulped down her prey and waited for Snowy Bird to finish before walked to the entrance. They were met by the formidable Yellow Tooth. Cinder Paw made a huge effort not to cringe at her teeth, but Yellow Tooth didn't seem bothered.
" Where are you going?" she hissed. Snowy Bird regarded her calmly.
" I'm going to train Cinder Paw," Snowy Bird replied. Yellow Tooth shrugged and stepped aside, allowing them to pass through the ivy. Snowy Bird leaned closer to Cinder Paw and whispered in her ear.
" Yellow Tooth's not so bad when you get to know her." Yellow Tooth, Shaded Muzzle, Falling Oak… I've met so many cats today, all ranging from mysterious Frost Fang to gentle Calm River.
" I didn't see many old cats," Cinder Paw noticed. Snowy Bird leapt up to swipe at a butterfly before replying.
" We don't keep old cats. The last one, Sparkling Moon, left a few moons ago. They get sent out with some prey to find a quiet place to die. Why would we prolong their confinements in an old body when they can be free, wherever they go?" Snowy Bird meowed. Startled, Cinder Paw didn't say anything. Maybe its true. I've begun to question the clans quite a bit since I've left. Shaking her head in wonder, Cinder Paw followed Snowy Bird to a shady spot in the middle of a maple grove.
" Are we doing battle practice?" Cinder Paw asked. Snowy Bird surveyed her quizzically.
" No. I'm going to test you," she replied. Snowy Bird sat down a few tail-lengths from Cinder Paw and regarded her unemotionally. It's so weird to me mentored by a younger cat. " Cinder Paw imagine you are fighting two cats. One is white and the other is ginger, and you are fighting at dusk. Where would be an ideal spot to fight them?" Huh? Color matters? Time matters? Cinder Paw glanced helplessly at Snowy Bird in confusion.
" Umm… in the middle?" Cinder Paw winced. She sounded like a kit. Snowy Bird shook her head.
" In the shadows! White and ginger will stand out, so you have a very clear idea of where both are," Snowy Bird rolled her eyes. It's not that obvious. Cinder Paw grumbled to herself. " Okay, next. You are fighting a large bird like a hawk. Name two moves that would work against it." This is the oddest assessment ever.
" You could jump up and try and grab it, or pretend to be injured to fool it," Cinder Paw answered.
" Both might work, but not the best. Essentially, allowed space for a hawk to grab you is bad. Exposing your back is made. Exposing your belly is bad. Turning your back on the hawk… really bad!" Snowy Bird exclaimed.
" Okay, okay," Cinder Paw muttered, feeling interested despite herself. So the assessment went on in this way until at last, Snowy Bird seemed satisfied. She got up and circled Cinder Paw, ears pricked thoughtfully.
" Let's take a break and go down the river to fish. I want to see what you can do," Snowy Bird decided, bounding away without warning. Cinder Paw scrambled to her feet, darting after the white she-cat. She found her waiting by a small stream, gazing at it intently. " So when you fish-" Unable to resist, Cinder Paw scooped up a pawful of water and flung it at Snowy Bird. The white cat screeched in shock as the freezing water splashed onto her fur. Cinder Paw purred, she had been unable to deal with the serious mood. Snowy Bird's eyes gleamed playfully. " You are going to pay for that!"
" No I'm not!" Cinder Paw squealed, darting away from Snowy Bird's claws.
" Fox-face!" Snowy Bird purred, buffeting Cinder Paw's muzzle.
" Fox- face yourself!" Cinder Paw retorted, shoving Snowy Bird sideways so that she fell into the stream. Gasping and spluttering, Snowy Bird resurface and grabbed Cinder Paw's tail. Cinder Paw yowled as she was tugged in beside Snowy Bird. Purring, they both dragged themselves out. Welt pelts pressed against each other's, they padded back towards the dip after Snowy Bird declared fishing off for today. There was silence for a moment, before Snowy Bird asked softly.
" Don't you miss your mother?"
" My mother?" up until now, Cinder Paw had never thought of Dapplewhisker. The old pain rushed back to her, but Cinder Paw managed to shake it away. " I have no mother. She died, saving me from another cat," Cinder Paw said bitterly. Suddenly, she was fueled with the sudden desire to tell Snowy Bird everything, but she refrained.
" I know this doesn't help, but I'm sorry," Snowy Bird whispered, pressing her cheek against Cinder Paw's.
" Thank you," that helps more than you can imagine. " What about your mother?"
" She's dead," Snowy Bird suddenly drew away and growled. " Don't you dare say you're sorry!"
" I-I never did!" Cinder Paw gasped. Snowy Bird narrowed her eyes, but began to calm down. When she seemed stable, Cinder Paw asked " How did it-"
" Shut up! Stop your nosy prying! Shut up!" Snowy Bird snarled. Appalled, Cinder Paw stepped back.
" I never-"
" Yeah, you never! It was a mistake ever trying to be your friend!" Snowy Bird yowled, streaking away. Cinder Paw halted, shell-shocked and hurt. Is there more to Snowy Bird than what meets the eye?
The next morning, Cinder Paw exited Calm River's den warily. She didn't know if Snowy Bird would still be angry or not. Cinder Paw bent down to lap at the cool pond, then looked up as Shaded Muzzle approached her. He's going to tell me off. Cinder Paw's tail-tip twitched apprehensively.
" Cinder Paw, I heard about yesterday-" Shaded Muzzle began.
" Yeah, okay. I'm sorry!" Cinder Paw grumbled. Shaded Muzzle let out a patient sigh.
" Cinder Paw, it's okay. We all have learnt how to deal with Snowy Bird, but you don't know. She's a sweet cat, very friendly and hard-working, but she's emotionally unstable. She doesn't speak of it, however, we know its something to do with the death of her mother. She's very traumatized. You have to be careful, understand?" Shaded Muzzle meowed. My mother died, but you don't see me running around screaming my head off.
" Sure," Cinder Paw dipped her head to Shaded Muzzle, then walked away. She spotted a grey mouse huddling in a shade of rock. Tail stiff, crouching low, Cinder Paw snuck up on the mouse and killed it with a quick bite to the spine.
" Good catch!" Snowy Bird appeared at her side, eyes sparkling. " After this, do you want to go fishing?" Cinder Paw searched the she-cats gaze for her former coldness, but there was nothing. " Do you?"
" Y-yes," Cinder Paw stammered, glad the old Snowy Bird was back. " Let's go!" The two cats set out side-by-side. On the way to the entrance, Cinder Paw noticed Calm River frisking about with her four kits. She kept holding her tail higher and higher, so the kits kept jumping up to reach it. One fastened her tiny claws into it with a triumphant squeal.
" Got it!"
" Cheater, Crackling Leaf!" another she-kit cried, bowling Crackling Lead over.
" Get away, Floating Leaf!" the two of them shrieked, rolling around the sand in a flurry of claws. Calm River padded over to separate the two, but not before Frost Fang jumped out of his den, making the kits howl in shock. Calm River ran forwards, fur bristling in rage.
" What are you doing?" she gasped.
" Buzz off," Frost Fang snarled, baring his teeth in her face. Shocked, Calm River scrambled backwards. He turned to the two trembling kits. Frost Fang bent down and suddenly rammed his shoulder into their sides. The kits fell with flailing paws. Frost Fang snorted. " Weak and feeble. If I were you, I'd kill them before sun-high." Frost Fang growled again at the two kits, then stalked away. Cinder Paw felt Snowy Bird turn rigid at her side. The cruel tom halted, staring at the two she-cats in disgust. " And what are you two doing today?" There was no answer. Snowy Bird hung back, a defiant but fearful gleam in her eyes. I've got to stand up for her. Taking a deep breath, Cinder Paw looked up to confront Frost Fang.
" Snowy Bird is taking me hunting," she meowed. Frost Fang curled his lip.
" Are you sure she knows how to hunt?" he growled. Cinder Paw narrowed her eyes in a scowl.
" Are you sure you do? Is that why you hang around camp like a fat bully?" Cinder Paw snarled. Frost Fang's eyes widened in shock.
" If you can't respect me, you'd better get out of here and run back to your 'warrior' friends."
" Maybe I will, then!" Cinder Paw shot back. Frost Fang growled, but she didn't stop glaring until he returned into his den. Snowy Bird at once shot to her feet, a wrathful look on her face.
" You're right. Frost Fang is just a great big bully. Follow me!" Snowy Bird hissed, stalking away. Cinder Paw hurried after her. She turned sharply and burst into a small cave. Crouching in the gloom was Falling Oak.
" Falling Oak!" Snowy Bird growled, announcing her presence.
" Yes?" he replied.
" Remember that Uprising you talked about? The one I refused to join?
" What about it?" Falling Oak said cautiously.
" I'm going to join it. And I'll be leading!" Snowy Bird hissed. " It's time someone taught Frost Fang a lesson." Cinder Paw stared at her friend in wonder. Her father picked on her Clanmates, so she's rising up against him. That's loyalty! " What about you?" Snowy Bird asked.
" Me? I'll join you!" Cinder Paw replied. She didn't like the way Frost Fang treated everyone.
" Good choice," Snowy Bird meowed, eyes flaming with a new fire. " Let's get people. We can hold the meeting outside. Frost Fang won't stand a chance!"
Later that day, Cinder Paw watched Snowy Bird scramble up on a large rock to look at the assembled cats. They were sitting in the shadows, looking uncomfortable but determindd.
" Cats of the Uprising!" Snowy Bird hissed, soft enough so that no one else could hear. " You know why we are gathered here. Do you promise on your life to support this cause?"
" I do!" Cinder Paw replied, lashing her tail.
" As do I! Anyone who hurts my kits deserves death!" Calm River snarled. She reared up in her excitement. Shaded Muzzle nodded as gravely as she spoke, gathering his son and daughters in his paws.
" He hurt my family!" Running Hare agreed, pressing close to Calm River.
" Frost Fang killed Dawn Song!" Robin's Song howled, unsheathing her claws and shredding the grass. " We will avenge our mother!" she and Cloudy Sun pounded their paws on the ground in anger.
" He has been tormenting cats for too long!" Yellow Tooth called out. Falling Oak looked up at Snowy Bird meaningfully.
" We will make him pay, don't worry. Falling Oak will take his place!" she said. Cheers rang out again. Cinder Paw glanced around her in amazement. These are truly united cats. I will help them!
In the next moon, Cinder Paw adapted to her new life. She trained with Snowy Bird and attended the Uprising meetings. So far, nothing had happened but a bunch of discarded plans and complains over Frost Fang. The tom must have suspected something, for he was now not below stealing prey from cats. Today he'd scratched Dry Leaf's muzzle, then yesterday he'd denied Yellow Tooth prey. Cinder Paw trotted up the slope to the clearing where they usually met. Snowy Bird squeezed through the crowd to meet her.
"I've finally got a plan!" she exclaimed. Cinder Paw purred.
" That's great!" Yet inside, she wondered how a cat could be so happy about defeating her father. She searched the white she-cats gaze and found remorse and torment in the depths. Snowy Bird's whiskers quivered. She turned away and padded back into the clearing.
" Don't question me. I'm doing it for the best," she called. Leaving Snowy Bird alone, Cinder Paw hurried to sit down beside Calm River. The tortoiseshell she-cat was deep in conversation with Robin's Song. Calm River looked up and nodded to her politely.
" I don't suppose you saw this happen much in the Clans!" Calm River observed wryly.
" No, we didn't. A leader's word was law," Cinder Paw recited the warrior code she'd been learning since she was kit, feeling a twinge in her heart. That may have cause seasons of unhappiness. These cats are putting that to a stop.
" What do you think about-" Calm River began before Snowy Bird let out a yowl.
" Cats of the Uprising! Today, I have a plan," Snowy Bird called. Excited murmurs swept through the crowd. Cinder Paw noticed Robin's Song watching Snowy Bird with a look of grim satisfaction on her face. " We are all familiar with this clearing, right? So why not lure Frost Fang here?"
" Who's going to do that?" some cat murmured. Cinder Paw twitched her ears. No cat still wants to risk Frost Fang's wrath.
" Cinder Paw? Will you do it?" Snowy Bird asked. A chill rippled down Cinder Paw's spine.
" Yes, you. You're the last cat Frost Fang would suspect of warning him of an uprising. You've got so many reasons to hate him… why would you prevent him from being killed?"
"Killed?" Cinder Paw gasped. Snowy Bird looked away.
" What other way is there?"
Later that day, back at the rogue's home, Cinder Paw was sharing a mouse with Snowy Bird. The white cat was silent. She will kill her father today, Cinder Paw realized with a jolt. As if on cue, Frost Fang walked out from the shelter of his den. Shaded Muzzle was dozing in his path. Frost Fang kicked him angrily and drew blood that speckled the pale toms pelt. Snowy Bird spat on the ground.
" Do it!" she hissed. Cinder Paw was ready. He's got no right to treat cats like this! Cinder Paw raced across the sand to meet Frost Fang.
"Frost Fang!" she growled urgently. He turned to face her, blue eyes snapping in annoyance.
" What in-"
"Snowy Bird is planning to kill you," Cinder Paw made her eyes widen.
" My daughter! When?" Frost Fang unsheathed his claws, scoring deep grooves in the sand.
" I can show you now," Cinder Paw said. Frost Fang nodded.
" Show the way," there was a hard glint in his eye that Cinder Paw didn't like. However, she nodded and stumbled out of camp. Snowy Bird was gone from the place Cinder Paw left her, probably heading for the same place. Cinder Paw led Frost Fang along the well worn dirt track, heart jumping into her mouth the whole way. Her own breath rasped in her throat. What if it all goes wrong? Who will Frost Fang kill? Her heart turned cold in her throat. Before she knew it, Cinder Paw had arrived at the clearing. Frost Fang halted beside her and sniffed the air. To her surprise, his eyes lit with satisfaction. Suddenly, Frost Fang turned and slammed his paw down on Cinder Paw's side. She yelped and hit the ground, the wind knocked out of her lungs.
" What are you doing?" Cinder Paw wheezed, writhing under his grasp. It tightened.
" Do you think I didn't know what you were up to?" Frost Fang growls. " Answer!"
" I don't know!" Cinder Paw cried. We were wrong! Frost Fang knew, and I'm going to die. We're all going to die!
" Let her go!" a challenging call rang out from the trees. A lone figure stepped into the center, small but sure. The sun lit her fur and blazed in her eyes. The wind blowed and ruffled her fur. The cat was ready.
" Snowy Bird," Frost Fang turned his head to face his daughter. "Are you blind, stupid or both? Did you think you could beat me alone?"
" Alone?" Snowy Bird whispered. " I've brought friends." Shaded Muzzle and Falling Oak stepped out beside her. Frost Fang looked stunned. His most trusted cats had turned agains him. Cinder Paw managed to wriggle free of his grasp and stood beside Snowy Bird.
" You've given cats a reason to hate them for too long," Cinder Paw said.
" Dawn's Song died beneath your claws," Robin's Song growled, slipping from the shadows.
" You scarred Floating Leaf," Calm River squeezed in beside Shaded Muzzle.
" Would you care to explain the mysterious disappearance of my father?" Yellow Tooth hissed. Frost Fang shrugged, a cold look in his eyes.
" I've brought reinforcements too," he flicked his tail. Cinder Paw felt Snowy Bird stiffen. Other rogues poured out of the shadows. They had menacing eyes, thorn-sharp claws and wiry bodies. Frost Fang let out a wild purr. " Oh yes, I've made friends. I knew something like this was going to happen." We're outnumbered, Cinder Paw knew Snowy Bird was thinking the same things.
" Atta-" Frost Fang began.
" Stop!" Snowy Bird yowled. Frost Fang curled his lip. " Fight me, one on one. If you loose, your rogues will disband. If you win, you can kill everyone here." Snowy Bird said. Cinder Paw was shocked at her recklesnesss. Frost Fang shrugged.
" You're causing lots of death, but I'll fight you."
" Good," Snowy Bird stepped forwards and unsheathed her claws. " Let the battle begin!"
Cinder Paw had never seen the vicious side of Snowy Bird before.
Father and daughter began to circle each other. Their eyes were cold and calculating, watching every move the other made. Frost Fang faked a lunge to one side. Snowy Bird tore up the grass as she changed direction, only to be lunged at again by her father. She leapt clear, leaving his jaws to snap shut on thin air. That was the last bit of action for quite some time. The air was thick with tension. Cinder Paw's heart was beating furiously, How can Snowy Bird win? She leaned against Calm River. The tortoiseshell licked her comfortingly, but her own eyes were anxious. Suddenly, there was a furious screech. Cinder Paw whipped around. Snowy Bird's shoulder was gushing blood, her eyes glazed over in pain. "Snowy Bird!" Cinder Paw wailed. Frost Fang bared his teeth in a ferocious snarl and lunged at his kin. She flung herself to the ground, then pushed off and slammed her weight onto his belly. Frost Fang yowled as he flipped over, spine hitting the ground with a loud thud. The sun was still shining. It was such a beautiful day, but such an ugly battle was taking place. Snowy Bird let out a guttural snarl.
" I was just playing, Father. Let the real fight begin!" Snowy Bird yowled. She reared up, and Cinder Paw heard a rumble of thunder from behind her. Frost Fang stood on his hind legs and met her swipes. They lashed out at the other faces, then fell to the ground shrieking and snarling. Snowy Bird ripped Frost Fang's ears, then did an practically impossible flip backwards to avoid his claws. The sky darkened and Snowy Bird leapt onto his back and dug her claws around his eyes. Frost Fang groaned, shook his head, bucked, but nothing worked. Blood mixed with the rain, and soon in was pouring blood tears. Snowy Bird tipped back her head and howled in a mad rage. Frost Fang rolled onto his back and she leapt off. Cinder Paw gasped. Frost Fang was blind in one eye. Snowy Bird bit down hard on his muzzle. Frost Fang clouted her ears, but he looked beaten. His body seemed small, and Snowy Bird reared above him again. Lightning flashed in the sky, illuminating her fierce expression. " You're dead." Snowy Bird hissed, and raised her claws. Then, in a flash, Frost Fang pushed off from the ground and pinned her down. She gnashed her teeth, flailing her paws, but her weight was to small next to that of the larger tom.
" Coward!" Robin's Song spat from beside Cinder Paw.
" Let's see who's a coward after this!" Frost Fang yowled. His meow called the rogues from the shadow and they rushed at the cats in a tide of death.
" No!" Cinder Paw howled as they swallowed Snowy Bird from her sight. A mangy yellow tom blocked her path. Cinder Paw knocked him aside with a hefty blow and fought her way to Snowy Bird. Suddenly, a grey tom threw her to the ground. Cinder Paw screeched and pummeled at him with her hind paw, but he refused to back off. His claws dug into her shoulder and Cinder Paw whimpered in pain.
" I will help you get revenge," a husky meow sounded. Ginger fur flashed across Cinder Paw's vision and the tom was thrown off. Cinder Paw got to her feet and chased after them. Robin's Song was wrestling with the grey tom, fighting furiously. She rolled around in the mud, rain pouring down on the two fighting cats. Of course. Her mother died. Cinder Paw rushed in to help, but then there was a sickening crack. The tom howled in triumph. No… oh, let this be a dream! Robin's Song was stretched out, her neck horribly twisted. And then, in that horrible moment, she realized the tom was Tabby Tail.
" You killed her!" Cinder Paw wailed. The blood roared into her head. " You betrayed us!"
" I'll take him," Cloudy Sun hissed. " You will pay for murdering my sister!" Feeling sick and numb with grief, Cinder Paw turned to find Snowy Bird. We have to stop this! Suddenly, she heard a low growl.
" You will die like your mother," Frost Fang hissed. He had backed Snowy Bird up against a tree. She yowled and screeched, but at the mention of her mother, she silenced. Cinder Paw plunged through the sea of cats and barged into Frost Fang. While he lay spluttering in the mud, Cinder Paw turned to Snowy Bird.
" Tabby Tail killed Robin's Song."
"No! No, no, no!" Snowy Bird cried. Instead of fighting back, she slowly sank to the ground. There was no fight left in her. Snowy Bird let out a heart broken wail. " No, no no!"
" Grieving, daughter?" Frost Fang growled. " I'll send you to grieve with your mother."
" Kill me, then." Snowy Bird's head drooped. " I can't go on like this."
" What do you mean?" Cinder Paw asked, concerned. Snowy Bird's gaze met hers and Cinder Paw felt her vision spiral.
Where is my mama? Snowy Bird peeped out of the entrance to her bramble den. She said she'd be back soon, but she's gone. So is papa. Maybe I should go outside. But her mother had told her not to. There were bad creatures out there, like Foxes, Badgers and cats. Other cats can be bad too… like papa. Snowy Bird knew that her father was a bad cat. He killed her other siblings, the ugly ones. Her mother said one had no fur and the other was deaf, so her father killed them. Suddenly, Snowy Bird was afraid. What if her papa thought her mama was ugly and killed her too? Snowy Bird padded out of the den. Voices could be heard from beyond the thicket. Warily, Snowy Bird crept forwards and peered through the branches.
" You either listen to me, Briar, or else…" Snowy Bird stiffened. That was the voice of her mean papa!
" Or what? I saw you, Frost Fang. I saw you murder that she-cat!" Briar hissed. Snowy Bird whimpered.
" So? Dawn's Song was poking her snout where it wasn't wanted. And if you do the same, you'll end up like her." Frost Fang snarled.
" I don't care," Briar said, though her voice wavered " as long as you don't hurt my daughter."
" Hurt that kit? She's hardly more helpless than a fly!" Frost Fang snorted. There was an angry yowl, and a thump. Snowy Bird trembled. Papa's hurting mama! She prepared to run, but something grabbed her scuff. Frost Fang hauled her into the clearing and threw her at Briar's paws. Frost Fang then stepped over Briar and shook her.
" Snowy Bird…" Briar whispered. Snowy Bird wailed.
" Mama! What are you doing to her? Stop!" Frost Fang ignored her. He rammed Briar's head against a tree, again and again until she bled. Snowy Bird cried out, but he didn't listen. Frost Fang clawed at her eyes. He made her bleed. Her blinded Briar. Snowy Bird's white paws were washed with a wave of red blood as Frost Fang sliced open Briar's neck. Her cries cut through the air until Frost Fang muffled them with his tail.
" You're mine, Snowy Bird. Remember this as a lesson. Never mess with Frost Fang." He bared his teeth and stalked away. Snowy Bird tried to follow him, but her head was hurting too badly. She collapsed, drowning in the sea of her mother's blood….
Cinder Paw spun away from Snowy Bird, horrified. Now she knew why the she-cat had been so sensitive, so agitated and distressed. She's seen things no kit should have seen. Cinder Paw glared at the horrible tom in front of her. She pressed against Snowy Bird's flank and growled.
" Let's make him pay," she hissed.
" Together?" Snowy Bird got to her feet, eyes hard with determination.
" Together." Cinder Paw replied. With that, they leapt in unison. Cinder Paw knocked his hind quarters down, and Snowy Bird got his head.
" Leave him to me," she snarled. Cinder Paw nodded and backed away. Snowy Bird rammed Frost Fang's head into a tree until he bled. She clawed his eyes. She blinded Frost Fang. Her paws were washed with a wave of red blood as she sliced open his neck. " That was for my mother," she hissed. His eyes rolled back into his head. He breathed no more.
So much death.
Among the dead were Tabby Tail, Robin's Song, Calm River and a few other rogues. Cinder Paw wanted to wail out loud, but she had to stay strong for Snowy Bird. The white she-cat looked old and haggard, all the youth sucked from her soul. Falling Oak stepped forwards and called out to the assembled cats.
" We have endured much grief today, but as your new leader, I will-"
" No." Snowy Bird limped forwards and met his gaze. " I will."
" You what?" Falling Oak flattened his ears.
" I will lead! I killed Frost Fang. Let me make up for these deaths, Falling Oak. Please," Snowy Bird cried.
" Let her." Cinder Paw stepped forwards. Falling Oak frowned.
" But I-"
" Let her!" Cinder Paw hissed. Falling Oak backed away and allowed Snowy Bird to step forwards.
" Frost Fang is dead. All his rogues, leave us alone. You've seen what we can do," Snowy Bird bared her bloodstained teeth for effect. The rogues widened their eyes and scrambled away, not even bothering to take their dead with them. " Let us all grieve for the lives we have lost today. We should bury them here, where they died defending us from Frost Fang."
" Very well." Falling Oak led the cats as they picked their way amongst the corpses. Robin's Song… Cloudy Sun halted beside his sister and buried his muzzle in her fur. Cinder Paw felt like a branch had been jabbed in her chest. She turned around and let out a sob. Shaded Muzzle was curled around Calm River's body, eyes shut in agony. Her head spun. How could his happen? What is this cruelty? She padded to the toms side and swept her tail over the body. Calm River's eyes were wide with terror. Her legs were stiff and her claws were unsheathed. Oh, Calm River. She had felt warmth and love coming from the she-cat. She was so kind, and now she's dead. A horrible numbness was spreading up through her chest. Shaded Muzzle lifted his head, then dropped it as if it were too heavy.
" She was a mother to everyone," he said hoarsely. " And I loved her because of that. How can I live without her?"
" She's safe, Shaded Muzzle. Have hope," Cinder Paw spoke half to herself. StarClan, take this honorable cat. Movement caught on the corner of her eye. A flash of white fur disappeared into the foliage. Snowy Bird. Cinder Paw darted after the she-cat. She found her friend by hearing a series of deep sobs and pained wails coming from behind a crumbling oak. Who knows what horrors her mind has replayed today? Cinder Paw scrambled around the oak and settled down beside her friend. She is grieving for the friends she lost today, the lives she took today, but mostly for the father she never had. Cinder Paw curled her tail around the small cats side. Snowy Bird stiffened, but then relaxed and rested her head on Cinder Paw's shoulder.
" He didn't have do die," she said in a cracked whisper " I should have given him a chance!"
" Frost Fang had his chances, Snowy Bird." Cinder Paw looked her deep in the eye. " You sent him away from a horrible life and spared him in a way."
" But where is he now? Where do Clan cats go?" Snowy Bird asked.
" They go up to the stars and watch over their Clanmates," Cinder Paw explained.
" Frost Fang would like that," Snowy Bird mused, " being up there in the stars." I don't have the heart to tell her where bad cats go. " Cinder Paw, I have to tell you something. Can I trust you?"
" With anything," Cinder Paw vowed " you are as dear as a sister to me." Snowy Bird's eyes glowed.
" Then let me tell you about my plan. We have to attack the Clans!" she crowed. Cinder Paw stepped back. Her breath caught in her throat. Attack the Clans?
" W-why?" she stammered. Snowy Bird let out a purr.
" No need to be shocked. It's been a plan for countless seasons. We were the ones destined to rule the forest. Our ancestor, One-Eye, was cruelly killed beneath the claws of your ancestors. He should have taken over the forest. Now it is our turn, instead of the weak Clan cats. Hey, where are you going?" Snowy Bird yowled. Cinder Paw spun away and raced through the trees. A mixture of betrayal and horror were racing through her chest. How can she think of something like that? I've got to protect my Clan! Cinder Paw realized that in all the seasons she'd been away, she had never forgotten her Clan.
The faces of her father, mother and Clanmates whisked through her head. A lump formed in her throat. How could I have left you? She remembered Petalpaw's cruel jibes and Stonepaw's tough words. They didn't sting as much. The wounds had healed. I can stand up to them now. And then, she remembered Flashpaw. A strange emotion, half-sorrow-half-longing, coursed through her. There was nothing between us. But there might have been… Cinder Paw didn't know where she was heading, but soon she found herself standing on the hill where Snowy Bird had first taught her about fighting. The side dropped away sharply, leaving a clear vision of the lands beyond. Cinder Paw peered forwards and breathed into the wind. There's Sunningrocks… a pale lump of brown. A strip of blue. Dense woods. A grey shore. The river! The gorge! Camp! Cinder Paw felt herself breathe faster. Her vision spun as she looked at the beautiful landscape. She saw the true glamour of her home. I'm coming back. I'm ready now. Cinder Paw charged back down the way she had come. Suddenly, she halted.
" They won't believe me," she found herself speaking aloud. " If I try and warn them, they won't believe me. How could they? I ran away, and to them I'm still weak and clumsy Cinderpaw." And deep down inside, a horrible guilt was eating away at her. I thought they were my friends. Snowy Bird, Cloudy Sun, Robin's Song… Most of them are dead, and the trust I placed in those who live is gone. Cinder Paw dropped her head. How was she going to do anything? It's not fair! She sat down and frowned, back tickled by the purple heads of thistle flowers. Suddenly, the air in front of her began to shimmer. Cinder Paw inhaled sharply and hopped back. It seemed to waver. Is it heat? But then a cat materialized in front of her, she knew different.
Mottled fur. Bright orange. Pale grey. Yellow Eyes. A lifetime of sorrow. Mouth full of words that she should have said.
"Dapplewhisker!" Cinder Paw whispered. Her mother's spirit stood before her, eyes full of love and sorrow.
" My daughter," Dapplewhisker's meow was no more than a whisper on the breeze. " Can you forgive me?" Cinder Paw was speechless. " You have come far, daughter. I see happiness that was not there before."
" They betrayed me," Cinder Paw sulked "I trusted them!"
" How could they betray you, when that was what they planned from the start?" Dapplewhisker asked calmly. " Oh, Cinderpaw. You have endured so much. I am here to give you your wish."
" My wish?" Cinder Paw stammered, still in shock. " You mean, wanting to warn RiverClan?" Dapplewhisker nodded.
" As you know, you cannot go there as Cinderpaw…" Dapplewhisker looked around. Then her eyes brightened. " You shall be another cat. Come closer," Dapplewhisker beckoned her with her tail. Slowly, Cinder Paw stepped forwards. Dapplewhisker bent down and scooped a paw full of thistle material off the bush. She pressed it against Cinder Paw's fur. She widened her eyes and nearly shrieked. The thorn on the stem began to melt into her fur. She watched as her grey pelt grew wavy. The dark grey was quickly washed over by pale silver. Her spine tingled as the strange power swept across her like a wave. Cinder Paw sniffed. I even smell like the flowers on it! Dapplewhisker surveyed her, eyes twinkling.
" Not quiet," she dipped a paw into a nearby pool and dripped the water into Cinder Paw's eyes. Cinder Paw was afraid they would burn, but instead she experienced a calm sensation. Dapplewhisker purred. She broke off a yew branch and held it to Cinder Paw's claws. She widened her eyes as they melted into the branch.
" What are you doing to me?" Cinder Paw chocked. In response, Dapplewhisker pointed her tail at a nearby pond. Cinder Paw padded over to it and looked at the surface. It shimmered, then magically became smooth. She saw a cat looking back at her. It could only be herself… but it wasn't. This cat had long, silky fur that was silver. Her eyes were no longer their horrible shade of orange. Instead, they were the softest blue. Her claws were elegantly curved, and her frame was no longer wide. I am beautiful. Half-numb with shock, she turned to gaze at her mother. Dapplewhisker nudged her flank, urging her towards the reeds.
" Go back to your Clan, Cinderpaw. They need you," she began to fade. " But this disguise will only last until midnight!" she continued to disappear, until all that was left were the impressions of eyes filled with warmth. Soon, they faded away as well. Cinder Paw left her place at the pool and took a deep breath. It's time for me to return to my Clan. She pushed through the reeds, relishing the feeling of them stroking her spine. River water lapped at her paws. Cinder Paw- no, now she was Cinderpaw-had never felt more alive. Her mouth watered at the thought of fresh, plump fish. And now that Dapplewhisker had visited her, the shadow of her death didn't linger over her home anymore. Suddenly, Cinderpaw heard voices. They were followed by paws crunching loudly on the ground. A patrol! Cinderpaw looked around wildly. Wait. I don't need to hide. I want them to find me! Still, it went against all her instincts. Cinder Paw squeezed her eyes shut, waiting for the cats to find her.
" Hey!" a loud meow made her jump so high she fell onto her side. Heart thumping, she looked up to see a wide red heard over hers. Then, her heart nearly stopped. That tom. That tom… it's Flashpaw! Three more shapes joined him. Her head was plunged into a whirlwind of memories. Troutleap. He had treated her badly in those moons, but she had experienced enough love from the rogues to patch up that wound. Rushingfall… the grey-and-white she-cat had taught her how to swim. And next to her was a brown tom with white flecks. Cinderpaw felt her jaw drop. That's little Fleckkit! This huge tom was scrawny Fleckkit! The patrol seemed as astonished as her. There were a few moments of silence, then Flashpaw grabbed her by the scruff and tried tp haul her up. Cinderpaw pushed him off and scrambled to her feet by herself. I can stand on my own. She looked up to glare at Flashpaw. To her surprise, his gaze danced with amusement. Troutleap cleared his throat.
"W-who are you?"
"Thistle." Cinderpaw blurted out. " Yeah, I'm Thistle." My voice! Her voice was softer, but with a tougher edge that suggested moons of hard life.
" Well, Thistle, this is Clan territory," Rushingfall butted in. Her voice sounded like it was telling a kit the color of the sky.
" I know that!" Cinderpaw spat. " What do I look like, a kit?"
"Then, why are you here?" Fleckkit- she doubted he was called that anymore- said.
" I want to join your Clan." Cinderpaw said, meeting every cats gaze. They dropped their own. Cinderpaw was shocked. I'm no longer the timid cat I once was.
" You-you what?" Troutleap gaped. Cinderpaw let out a huff.
" I said I would like to join your Clan. If you don't want me…" Cinderpaw deliberately turned and began to walk away.
" No, wait!" Flashpaw yowled. He darted in front of her. " Stay. We'll take her to Petalshine."
" Petalshine." Cinderpaw whispered. So that's Petalpaw's name now? My old enemy. Suddenly, she remembered Petalpaw's scheme to use Shiningstar to her advantage. How much power does she have now?
" And Shiningstar." Troutleap added. " Very well. You can come with us. Come on, Flashstrike." he turned and began to shoulder his way back through the reeds. Cinderpaw waited respectfully until all the other cats had gone, then she padded forwards in their wake. They were heading through a swampy area. Most cats hissed in annoyance at the mud between her claws, but after moons of living in a sandy hollow, Cinderpaw was used to that kind of stuff. The territory is so different. Cinderpaw marveled. The trees are taller, and I don't remember there being any sparrows here. She saw a flash of grey. Rushingfall joined them, one of the birds in her jaws. Cinderpaw felt her eyes widen.
" We eat birds too, now," Rushingfall explained. Cinderpaw shook her head in wonder. Who would have thought?
" I hate mud," a grumble came from behind her. Flashpaw, Flashstrike, was the owner. " You don't seem to be having a hard time."
" I've learnt," Cinderpaw shrugged. Flashstrike cocked his head to one side, then hopped up to join her.
" My name's Flashstrike," he said. Cinderpaw nodded. He looked at her, then back at his paws. What is he doing? " Nice day?"
" Sure." Cinderpaw craned her neck, trying to see the entrance. What awaits me there?
" Your name is Thistle, right?" Flashstrike asked.
" Yes!" Cinderpaw exclaimed, annoyance beginning to tingle in her fur. Flashstrike cringed. Cinderpaw muttered and apology. She and Flashstrike continued walking in an uncomfortable silence.
" We're here," Rushingfall suddenly, announced. Cinderpaw halted in terror, leaving Flashstrike to crash into her rump. All of a sudden, she was passionately afraid of what she'd find inside. Rushingfall, Fleckpaw and Troutleap bounded ahead, probably to warn Shimmerfish and Shiningstar of what was coming.
" It'll be okay," Flashstrike assured her. Cinderpaw sighed. If only he knew. She gulped, then stepped forwards. Now or never. Before she could enter, Flashstrike interrupted her with a meow.
" You smell nice."
"What!" Cinderpaw whirled around and stared at him in a mixture of horror and bewilderment. Flashstrike looked equally mollified, suggesting that the words had slipped from his mouth against his will. Cinderpaw was suddenly furious. How dare he? Her old bitterness rose up in her throat. You hurt me, and then try this?
" Never talk to me again!" she hissed and stalked into the clearing. And at first glance, she knew that Petalshine's scheme had worked.
Petalshine was laying under the shade of a fern plant. She growled at a few apprentice that cowered nearby, then flicked her tail at the fresh kill pile. They scuttled to it and brought her back a few fish. Petalshine practically inhaled them, then spit the bones at each. They fled. Petalshine looked amused. Then, she curled her lip and stalked away to join a pale silver tabby with dark blue eyes. Stonepaw! Cinderpaw gaped at Petalpaw's sidekick. It seemed that now, Stonepaw was the better-looking one. I hate to admit it. She is pretty. Stonepaw suddenly lunged at a nearby warrior, trapping him between her claws. She was obviously not on the same on the inside. Shadefur! She recognized the black-and-white tom.
" Get me some more moss for my nest," Stonepaw growled in her husky voice. " On the double!"
" You too. And catch me some vole!" Petalshine bared her teeth at a ginger-and-white she-cat Cinderpaw knew was Brightfur. Brightfur is her senior! Cinderpaw shook her head in disbelief. Petalshine was practically in charge of the Clan.
" Nice," Stonepaw hissed.
" Thank you, Stonedapple. Oh, hey. Look!" Petalshine pointed her tail at Cinderpaw. Is she going to pick on me? Cinderpaw bared her teeth. She can try!
" Stop it," Cinderpaw heard Flashstrike's voice. What is he doing?
" Hello, Flashstrike," Petalshine batted her eyelashes. Cinderpaw was overcome by a certain jealousy. Stop being stupid, Cinderpaw! There's nothing to be jealous about! Before anything could happen more, a familiar scent washed over her. A golden pelt leapt into the midst of them, and green eyes met Cinderpaw's. The pain and anger were too great, surging up into her chest and nearly choking her. Shiningstar. The cat I used to call father. Now, all she felt was contempt. Dithering fool. Could he not see what Petalshine was doing? But Petalshine was clever. She would have found a way to make him believe it was right.
" Shiningstar?" a soft meow sounded, followed by the mewling of kits. Cinderpaw saw the black head of Shimmerfish poking out from the entrance of the nursery.
" Go back inside, Shimmerfish. I'll take care of this, and you look after our kits," Shiningstar called back. Cinderpaw felt like she had been hit with a tidal wave. Kits. Shimmerfish. She took a step back in shock. What had Shiningstar done? Had he forgotten Dapplewhisker? In that moment, Cinderpaw wanted nothing more than to run back to the rogues' home. That was a place where she felt safe from all these lies and betrayals around her now.
"So, Thistle," Shiningstar began, curling his tail regally around his paws. " I am Shiningstar, the leader of RiverClan. Since my mate and deputy, Shimmerfish, is in the nursery with my kits, Petalshine is acting deputy." Not trusting herself to speak without raging at him, Cinderpaw nodded. " You want to join RiverClan?"
" Yes." Cinderpaw said, shifting her paws impatiently.
" What do you have to offer?" his question startled her. Offer? I don't have any special skills.
" Uh, well, I can fight? And hunt? Oh yeah, I hunt really well in the sand. I can flush out things like voles and stuff. And I was trained by some rogues, and I've lived alone for most of my life. Did you know that voles like mallow?" Cinderpaw winced. She was blabbering like an idiot. Petalshine snorted.
" You forgot to add your exceptional skill at meaningless chatter," she said snidely. And you-Cinderpaw had to force herself not to give back a stinging retort. Shiningstar looked deep in thought.
" So you can hunt well on sand…" his voice tapered off. " How well can you fight?"
" Pretty good, I guess?"
" I'd like a demonstration of 'pretty good'."
" Excuse me?"
" Thistle, I would like you to choose one cat to fight. Show me how you fight, your tactics, everything. Pick a warrior," he said calmly. Cinderpaw nearly jumped up in eagerness. I was trained by Snowy Bird! There's no finer fighter in the forest! She immediately sought out Petalshine.
" Her." Cinderpaw flicked her tail at the ginger-and-black she-cat. Petalshine growled.
" You sure? Your fur couldn't use more hair falling out."
" It's you that's going to have to worry about that," Cinderpaw shot back. Eyes gleaming, Petalshine looked at Shiningstar. He shrugged.
" If you wish."
" Thistle needs someone to put her in their place." Petalshine shook out her fur and stepped up close to Cinderpaw. Her green eyes narrowed as she scanned her, head to tail-tip. Petalshine slowly unsheathed her claws. Cinderpaw did the same. A crowd had gathered around them, murmuring and glancing darkly at Petalshine. They don't want her to win. If I do, I gain their support and it will make it easier for me to convey my message. Cinderpaw saw Stonedapple slink into the shadows to watch her sister. The tabby's expression was unreadable.
" Ready?" Shiningstar asked. Both she-cats nodded. " Then go!" Cinderpaw didn't expect any direct reaction. She was right. Petalshine preferred to take her time, analyzing the enemy and making them sick with nerves. Tail-tip leaving lines on the ground, Petalshine circled Cinderpaw. She lunged forwards and experimentally bit the ait close to Cinderpaw a few times. Cinderpaw knew she meant no harm, so she stood perfectly still. Shiningstar sat beside Shimmerfish who had recently joined. They watched Cinderpaw out of cold eyes. For some reason, she remembered Snowy Bird's question. …Imagine you are fighting two cats. One is white and the other is ginger, and you are fighting at dusk. Where would be an ideal spot to fight them? She had to choose the right place to fight Petalshine. I don't want to be near the shade, because she is part black. Her orange is softer, so in the sun would be better. Cinderpaw dashed out into the center of the clearing that was free of all bushes. The sun beat harshly down on Petalshine's fur as the cat raced back towards her.
" Running away?" she sneered.
" You wish."
Petalshine began to circle again. Leaping up is the worst sneak move. Snowy Bird's advice rang in her ears. Cinderpaw could see why. She heard the sound of dirt moving as Petalshine groped for a grip. Cinderpaw was ready when she leapt. Her belly was exposed. Cinderpaw reared up and rammed her head into it. Shrieking, Petalshine fell onto her side and gasped. Let the opponent recover. It makes them mad. Cinderpaw remembered what Snowy Bird has also said. She calmly waited for Petalshine to dust herself off and recover her breath. The mottled cat's eyes lit with rage. Yowling, she launched herself at Cinderpaw. Cinderpaw ducked, but felt something burn and there was a ripping sound. Petalshine held a clump of Cinderpaw's fur in her jaws. Cinderpaw winced. Her fur was longer then usual, because of Dapplewhisker's magic.
" You remind me of a she-cat I knew. She was arrogant and strong headed. She crossed the border one day and never came back. Stonedapple was with her." She means Dapplewhisker. Cinderpaw was filled with raw and scary rage. She charged at Petalshine and flung her to the ground. The next moments were a blur of blood, screeching and snarls. At last, Cinderpaw had Petalshine pinned to the ground with her face in a mud puddle. She looked up defiantly at Shiningstar and wiped the blood from her face with a paw. The golden tom slowly approached her. He looked down at Petalshine, then up at her. Shimmerfish darted to his side. She glared at Cinderpaw. I won. Let me stay. But Shiningstar looked doubtful as his mate raged.
" Let her stay." Cinderpaw recognized Flashstrike's deep meow.
" Why?" Shiningstar meowed. Flashstrike gestured behind him. All the cats who had been bullied by Petalshine- that was a majority- were cheering wildly. Feeling elated, Cinderpaw glared at Shiningstar defiantly again.
" Very well, Thistle," he sighed in defeat. " You can stay."
" Thank you." she dipped her head to the leader. He helped Petalshine to her feet, then began to help her walk to her den. The she-cat shot a venomous glare at Cinderpaw before shaking off her leader and heading to Stonedapple's side. Shiningstar began to pad to his den, then he halted.
" You need a mentor, Thistlepaw."
" Someone who can train you…" his gaze swept over the Clan. Troutleap, maybe? I hope its Oakstorm. She's pretty experienced. But StarClan forbid it be Flashstrike. He's so annoying… " Aha!"
" I've got the perfect mentor! How would you like to be trained by Petalshine?"
Chapter 13 ( Full credit to Brams for Waspkit!)
If Cinderpaw hadn't been a former Clan cat, she would have deemed all cats spiteful foxes.
That's what she got from Petalshine, at least.
The mottled she-cat hissed and grumbled the whole way, and proved herself not below pushing Cinderpaw into the stream. When they stalked towards the camp entrance on their way back, Petalshine's eyes lit up. "You'll regret besting me," she snarled. Cinderpaw flattened her ears. What's she up to? Petalshine barged past warriors, heading for Shiningstar's den.
" Oh no, you don't," Cinderpaw growled and charged after her. She squeezed through a group of cats, most likely a hunting patrol.
" Watch it," one of the cats, a tom name Cloudnose, hissed.
" Sorry!" Cinderpaw apologized. What she thought was a stick had been his tail. Emerging from the crowd, she had just enough time to register Petalshine's tail disappearing into the leader's den. Cinderpaw raced across the muddy ground, then ducked into the warm cave that Shiningstar lived in. Both cats looked up from the dim light as Cinderpaw appeared. Petalshine curled her lip.
" What do you want?"
" Go on with your tale, Petalshine. I"m sure it was interesting," Cinderpaw goaded. She languidly sat down on the moss covered floor and narrowed her eyes at the she-cat. Shiningstar looked confused.
" So… how was the training, Petalshine?"
" Awful!" Petalshine pouted. Her eyes turned from furious to grieved. " Thistlepaw is the worst apprentice a cat could wish for."
" And why is that?" Shiningstar's voice became dangerous. Cinderpaw stiffened. She remembered the persuasion powers Petalshine had over her leader.
" She made it so miserable for me! I was adjusting her paw, to show her the right crouch, and she scratched me!" Petalshine whimpered. Shiningstar bristled, and turned to glare at Cinderpaw. I'm not taking her nonsense anymore. Cinderpaw shoot to her feet and scowled at the she-cat.
" If so, can you please show Shiningstar the scratches I supposedly gave you?"
" I-I…" Petalshine stammered. Shiningstar's eyes lost their fury, and his expression became coldly interested.
" Yes, show me," Shiningstar hissed. Petalshine flattened her ears and bared her teeth.
" They… aren't very noticeable. Thistlepaw was clever. She didn't scratch me deep enough for them to show, so I would appear a liar." Petalshine's eyes darted to the entrance, then from Cinderpaw to Shiningstar.
" But then they must not have been harmful, or hurtful, if they were not deep," Cinderpaw pointed out.
" Well… yes, but-"
" -but, Petalshine, you're fur is as well groomed as ever. That hardly suggests a fight. And, while you are dry, Thistlepaw is wet. I suppose you pushed her in the river?" Shiningstar rumbled. Cinderpaw felt triumph blossom in her chest. Petalshine has payed for what she's done. " I am disgusted with you. Get out of my sight!" Shiningstar spat. Petalshine cowered like cornered trout, but then slunk out of the den. Shiningstar sighed, then turned to Cinderpaw. She thought she saw a new respect in his eyes. " Sorry about that, Thistlepaw."
" It's fine," Cinderpaw promised, feeling a bit more forgiving towards her father.
" Well, you still need a mentor. How about… Stonedapple?"
" Stonedapple!" Cinderpaw exclaimed, then shrugged " sure." My life's going to by miserable anyways. I've got Petalshine on my tail now.
" Good," Shiningstar beckoned her with his tail and ducked out of his den. Cinderpaw blinked at the bright sunlight. Shiningstar jerked his head, and moments later a beautiful tabby appeared at his feet. " Stonedapple, do you mind mentoring Thistlepaw?"
" I'd be glad to," the she-cat dipped her head, but she shot Cinderpaw an odd look out of the corner of her eye.
" Fantastic! I'll leave you two to it," Shiningstar bounded away to meet Shimmerfish and Cinderpaw's half-siblings. Then, realizations struck her like a wave. Stonedapple, Petalshine and I are half-sisters.
" You okay?" Stonedapple murmured. Cinderpaw shook herself at blinked.
" Yeah. So, I suppose we're going to do basic stuff?" Cinderpaw almost felt like yawning at the thought of learning how to swim. Stonedapple shot her a sideways glance.
" No. I think… you are ready for more advanced." What does she mean? Suddenly, movement caught at the corner of her eye. Two small shapes were padding closer to the reed-bed. A warning from Dapplewhisker rang in her ears. Don't go too close to the reed-bed, Cinderkit. A wave might come up and swallow you! Shiningstar and Shimmerfish were to busy looking at each other to watch their kits. The little monsters had taken that to their advantage. And they're my half-siblings. " Where are you going?" Stonedapple exclaimed. Cinderpaw bounded away, towards the kits. StarClan, please…
" Help!" one kit wailed. Cinderpaw watched in horror as a sudden rush of dirty blue water swept up the ground under one kit ( a black-and-golden). It dragged the ground from under her paws, and her light body went with it.
" Waspkit!" the other kit wailed. It raced up the shore, as close to the shoreline as it dared. " Help!" The other cats in the Clan had begun to notice, but Cinderpaw was already there. Fast as a trout, she launched herself into the water. She gasped as the frigid water lapped around her shoulders. Churning her legs furiously, she searched the pool for a sign of Waspkit. Nothing. She must be underwater. Heart cold with terror, Cinderpaw took a deep breath plunged her head underwater. With a dull roar, the water closed over her head. Cinderpaw opened her eyes a crack and kicked down towards the ground. Frantically, she felt along the ground. At last she felt her claws snag something hard. Triumphant, Cinderpaw kicked upwards. She held the thing up and… it was a rock. Oh no. Cinderpaw blinked, trying to clear the water from her vision. She reached out a paw, heart heavy. It was too late for Waspkit now. Dumb reeds. Cinderpaw pushed harder. Then, she realized the thing in front of her wasn't a reed. It was the body of a kit. Cinderpaw scooped the black-and-gol shape into her mouth and began to swim towards shore.
" Waspkit!" Shimmerfish wailed as Cinderpaw dragged herself up the bank. The black she-cat barged past Cinderpaw and curled up around her kit, sobbing.
" Make way for the medicine cat!" some cat hissed. A black-and-white tom nudged Shimmerfish away and began to massage Waspkit's chest. The little tom wailed as water spewed from his mouth. Cinderpaw felt dizzy with relief. He's alive! Larkwing, the medicine cat, began to pump more water from the kits' mouth. Soon, Waspkit stopped coughing up water. Larkwing gently picked up the limp shape.
" He's okay now, but very cold. I'm going to take him to my den," he reassured the Clan cats. Shiningstar got up to follow him, but Shimmerfish stayed behind.
" Who saved my son?" she breathed, her eyes wide. Cats murmured softly, forgetting who had done so in the confusion. Cinderpaw saw a flash of red fur, and Flashstrike pushed his way to the fornt of the crowd.
" Thistlepaw did it, Shimmerfish, " he said. Cinderpaw met his gaze, shocked. His eyes were soft and loving. I forgive you, she thought. He nodded, as if to say he understood.
" Thank you so much!" Shimmerfish purred and licked Cinderpaw's cheek. The distress had begun to fade from her wide green eyes. Cinderpaw nodded to her, feeling heat beneath her pelt as call cats turned to stare at her.
" You're a hero!" Cloudnose gasped.
" You saved Waspkit!" Surprisingly, that came from Stonedapple. Cinderpaw purred as one by one, her Clanmates came to congratulate her. Only Petalshine hung back, scowling. But who cares about her? She's nothing more than a mean snob.
Evening had fallen over the forest. A lull had affected Clan activity. Some cats shares tongues, while others snagged minnows from the fresh-kill pile. Shimmerfish and Shiningstar were in the medicine den with their son. Maybe now I can get away, before my disguise wears away. She crept away to the entrance, unnoticed. At once, she felt tension fall away from her shoulders. No cats washing her, no burn of Petalshine's stare. Cinderpaw purred and ran up the well-worn path that led to the camp entrance. She needed to find a place to rest, before next dawn. They trust me, now that I've saved Waspkit. It'll be easier to warn them of Snowy Bird. A twinge of sadness pricked her heart as she thought of the cat she'd become to regard as a sister.
" Thistlepaw?" a soft voice sounded. Jolted out of her thoughts. Cinderpaw glanced around. A wide head emerged from the reeds.
" Flashstrike?" she whispered. The tom nodded to her.
" Aren't you going back to camp? It's almost nightfall," he said. Cinderpaw shrugged, torn between making a quick getaway or staying with her friend.
" I like to sleep alone," she said and turned, walking back the way she'd come. The ferns crunched as Flashstrike followed. Cinderpaw followed the sound of a chattering brook until she found it. Curling up on the bank, she dipped her paws in the cool water. It massaged the aching pads and she felt her eyelids droop. A warm pelt brushed hers as Flashstrike settled beside her. Cinderpaw did her best to ignore him, but she couldn't. Flashstrikee began conversing amiably.
" You know, my mentor always told me that fast-flowing streams sometimes have the most fish. I bet there's some in here."
" That's not right," Cinderpaw shook off her sleepiness. " Snowy Bird told me that fish gathered in lakes."
" Who's Snowy Bird?" Flashstrike asked, dabbing a paw in the current. Cinderpaw cringed inwardly.
" A friend," she said, trying not to sound evasive. " A very good friend." Flashstrike nodded.
" You know, I-I never really had friends," he said quietly. Cinderpaw pricked her ears.
" You didn't? I thought..." the words were stuck in her throat like a fishbone. " I thought you liked Petalshine."
" Petalshine?" Flashstrike snorted in amuesement. " Oh, that kithood liking disappeared long ago. I think it was after a she-cat died. She drove the dead cats' daughter away, I think. One day she went out, and never came back." Cinderpaw felt shock tremble through her whiskers. He's talking about me! When Cinderpaw didn't say anything, the tom continued. " She was a brave cat. It was a pity she left, though. I'd kind of liked her."
" I knew her," Cinderpaw whispered softly, heart pounding. He liked me!
" You did?" Flashstrike turned to face her, eyes widening. " Where is she?"
" She's gone," Cinderpaw murmured. " You wouldn't find her, wherever you looked." Flashstrike lashed his tail and gasped.
" Is she dead?"
" I didn't say she was dead," Cinderpaw replied " I said you wouldn't find her."
" Okay?" Flashstrike unsheathed his claws. " If she's in danger, I have to find her!"
" She's not in dang-" Cinderpaw stopped in horror. The moonlight was reflecting off of Flashstrike's claws. Time passed so quickly! Hastily, she scrambled up and raced towards a clump of ferns. Behind her, she was aware of her fur tingling. It's happening! Flashstrike's paws pounded on the ground behind her. Cinderpaw threw herself into a clump of watermintt, crouching deep in the stems. " Go away," she sobbed in terror. He can't find out. He can't find out. He can't...
" Thistlepaw? Where are you?" she heard him sniffing the air, and could lamost imagine the confusion passing over his face. " Cinderpaw?"
" Yes," Cinderpaw said miserably. " I'm Cinderpaw." she whirled around in the watermintt and charged in the opposite direction. She heard Flashstrike calling to her, but she ignored him. The ground flew under her feet as she raced to the place that had offered her comfort and friendship, hope and love. She was running to the rogue's home.
Cinder Paw's feet led her along the curvy, twisty path that led to the hollow. The green hill where they had fought Frost Fang zoomed by her, the pond where she and Snowy Bird had played gurgled happily. Why did I ever want to leave? Soon, the green carpet of ivy draping across the lichen was in front of her. Something in the back of her mind began to yowl warningly. There's no one guarding it. Cinder Paw brushed the thought away. She was happy to be home.
" Hello?" Cinder Paw called. She poked her muzzle through the curtains and sniffed the air. " Hello!" The scents of the cats she knew and loved washed over her, but they were... distant. Worry began to tighten in her chest. She shouldered through the leaves. Cinder Paw blinked.
The camp was deserted.
Hal-eaten voles lay strewn about the place, as though the cats had left in a hurry. The pale gold sand was scuffed, as though there was fighting. Cinder Paw could see no blood, but that wasn't saying anything. The surface of the pool in the center rippled in the wind.
" Cinder Paw?" a soft voice called. Cinder Paw whirled around and saw Yellow Tooth crouching in the shadow of a cave. The she-cat's eyes looked round and frightened.
" Yes?" Cinder Paw stumbled through the sand to get to the she-cat.
" Thank the spirits, you are here!" the tough she-cat let out an uncharacteristic purr. " They all left, and I-"
" Mama?" Cinder Paw's eyes widened in shock as a tiny kit with ruffled grey fur peered out beside its mother. " Who dat?"
" That, my dear, is Cinder Paw," Yellow Tooth soothed. She looked up and caught Cinder Paw's eyes. " They're Shaded Muzzle's." Two other tiny shapes huddled around her, all grey tabbies with dark eyes.
" Oh," Cinder Paw said, not sure wether to be happy, or sad that Calm River had been replaced. " Where is everyone?"
" They went to fight," Yellow Tooth replied, quickly smoothing down the first kit's- a tom- fluffy head fur. " Pine Whisper, go inside with your sisters. Play a game or something, I'll be right there." Pine Whisper squeaked and disappeared, followed by the two she-kits. " Russet Leaf died a moon ago, Cinder Paw. We need the space the Clans' have. They've been pushing our boundaries, and Snowy Bird went to attack-"
" When did they leave?" Cinder Paw interrupted. Her legs began to shake. Yellow Tooth flattened her ears.
" In the time between you leaving and them getting here, a mouse could have crossed the hollow," the she-cat replied. Oh no. She whirled around and raced back the way she'd come, kicking up sand in her wake. Yellow Tooth called out after her, but Cinder Paw did not listen. They're attacking camp. Who knows how many will die today? I have to get there on time! But deep down inside herself, Cinder Paw knew she would be too late.
Flanks heaving, chest burning, Cinder Paw reached the entrance. Yowls of fury and screeches of anger rang out from inside. Cinder Paw shook her head in dismay, then took a deep breath and burst into the camp. The air was hot because of the battling cats. The tang of blood tainted the atmosphere. The black night sky was fading rapidly into dawn. Cinderpaw could make out the writhing shapes in the watery light.
" Snowy Biiiird!"
The battle cries of both groups rang out and clashed together in the fray. Suddenly, with a burst of colour, the sun seemed to shoot up into the sky. Cinder Paw saw the wreckage for the first time. Dens were smashed. Fresh-kill was everywhere. And most painful of all..
" Snowy Bird," Cinder Paw murmured. The white she-cat was fighting in the center, her eyes blazing with a passionate fire. Her limbs flailed and her tail lashed, her formidable fighting skills making her a death field.
" Death to them all! This was our land before the stinking mountain cats arrived!"
" Mountain cats?" Cinder Paw turned and spotted the cream-coloured shape of Troutleap beside her. He looked up at her out of glazed and fatigued eyes. " Oh hello, Thistlepaw."
" Hello Troutleap," she replied and unsheathed her claws. Stop dithering like a fool. Start fighting! But Cinder Paw hesitated. Who do I fight? Suddenly, Troutleap let out a grunt. Cloudy Sun! The black tom had pinned down Troutleap, holding the tom down in his iron grasp. Cloudy Sun curled his lip, yellow eyes flashing triumphantly. Troutleap was cruel to you. He allowed Petalpaw to bully you. Does he really deserve saving? The cream tom sank his fangs into his opponent's paw. Cloudy Sun yowled and reared back, allowing Troutleap to break free. Before Cinderpaw could say anything, the tom had already hared away, Cloudy Sun hot on his heels. Cinderpaw broke into a run after them. She leapt and landed on Cloudy Sun's back. The black tom fell as his legs crumpled beneath him. Troutleap stopped, panting. He gave her a grateful nod and sped away.
" I forgive you," she whispered, though she could not hear her. I cannot hold grudges like this for so long, and really, it was the fault of Petalshine, not his. At once, she felt as though a weight had lifted off of her shoulders. Cinderpaw felt as light as a bird. Yowling, she spun around and leapt back into battle. The rogues aren't going to steal my home.
Cinderpaw soon realized that it wasn't just the rogues she knew attacking the clans. There were others. Cinderpaw barged into a tortoiseshell, sending her flying into the reed bed. The tortoiseshell yowled as her head went under. Teeth bared, Cinderpaw was prepared to dive in and give the tortoiseshell a piece of her mind when the cat erupted out of the water and hauled herself up on the bank. The cat's fur was plastered to her side, but her yellow eyes glowed in hatred. She met Cinderpaw's gaze and crouched down, snarling.
" Hey, Sun Dapple! I found kits!" a deep voice growled. The tortoiseshell whirled away from Cinderpaw and began racing away. They've found the nursery, and they are going to attack defenseless kits! Rage began building up inside of her. Cinderpaw began to run after Sun Dapple, every hair quivering with fury. When she found them, a black tom had a claw placed warningly on Shimmerfish's throat.
" Help!" the queen squeaked, green eyes wide with distress. The tom snarled and pressed his claws harder into her neck.
" Say anything, prissy, and you're brood's as good as fish food."
" Mama!" Waspkit wailed from his position under Sun Dapple's foot. The tortoiseshell dealt him a nasty blow and he silenced, whimpering softly. It was the sight of her half-siblings captive that spurred Cinderpaw into action.
" Cowards," Cinderpaw spat, lashing her tail. She stalked to the place between the rogues, fixing each with a frigid stare. " Harming kits and queens! Have you no honour?"
" If we had any honour, we wouldn't be here right now," Sun Dapple snorted. She thrust her mottled muzzle into Cinderpaw's face. " Listen, cat. We will spare your life if you let us kill these and leave them here as a warning, okay?" Cinderpaw's blood began to boil. Hissing in rage, she swiped at the cat's nose. The she-cat wailed as blood spouted from her muzzle.
" No, you listen. I am a Clan cat! I do not leave my Clanmates to die. My life is nothing compared to those in my Clan, and I will die saving them." Howling, she rammed her head into Sun Dapple's chest and sent her sprawling again. Waspkit and his sister lay there, shocked. Cinderpaw gave them a nudge with her claws. " Get out of here, go! Hide in those bushes by the reed bed. Go! I will bring your mother. Go!" the kits picked themselves up and staggered off.
" What do you say, Sun Dapple?" the black tom growled as the she-cat stood up. " Do we kill her?"
" Not we. Let me finish this one off," Sun Dapple bared her teeth, a maniacal glint in her eye. Cinderpaw crouched down, tail swishing over the paw-scuffed ground.
" You're asking for your own death!" she howled. Sun Dapple hissed and lunged. Cinderpaw felt seasons of learning under Snowy Bird flash through her mind. She threw herself flat on the ground and pushed up as Sun Dapple sailed overhead. The tortoiseshell landed in an undignified heap. At once, Cinderpaw was racing towards the tom who held Shimmerfish. He looked up just in time to spot her leaping, claws glinting in the sun. As Cinderpaw landed on his back, he flashed out his claws. Blood stained the ground as Shimmerfish's head slumped to the side.
" Got what you were in for, didn't you?" Sun Dapple smirked. She kicked at the silver body, flattening her ears in disgust. " Snake Shadow never lets anyone down." the blood roared in Cinderpaw's head.
" You killed Shimerfish! How could you?" Cinderpaw howled. Claws whirling, teeth gnashing, she drove both cats back. Panting, sobbing, she stopped. Sun Dapple and Snake Shadow stood belly deep in the reed bed, blood pooling in the water around them. Defiance sparked in their eyes.
" We did because we live by no code," Snake Shadow growled. " The tabby couldn't even fight for her kits."
" Then I'll fight for her!" Cinderpaw raised her claws, preparing for the fatal strike.
" Get off Sun Dapple!" something sharp hit Cinderpaw's side. She stumbled, but something was there to break her fall. As soon as she hit it, the thing pushed up and tossed her into the dirt. Cinderpaw gasped as hot pain filled her nostrils and grit filled her mouth. Spluttering and gasping, she looked up to see a pair of glinting green eyes staring down at her.
" S-snowy Bird," Cinderpaw gasped. The white cat dug Cinderpaw free of the earth and shoved her upright. Once small, the cat now stood eye-to-eye with her.
" Brave, aren't you? Killing my comrades, just because they put an end to some wimp."
" That some wimp was my friend," Cinderpaw hissed. Sun Dapple and Snake Shadow scoffed in the background.
" Kill her, Snow," Sun Dapple hissed. Snowy Bird shook her head.
" No, we'll let her run back to her 'Clanmates' and tell them what we did. Rage will make them foolish. Git!" Snowy Bird made as if to lunge at her throat. Heart brimming with sorrow, Cinderpaw turned and slunk away. She closed her eyes, Shimmerfish's sightless eyes and Snowy Bird's sneering face looming in her vision. I have to put an end to this! She saw bodies duck and roll, the camp a sea of blood and war. And I can. I am Cinderpaw, or Cinder Paw. Shiningstar will listen to me, and he can convince the Clan cats. Snowy Bird knows me. Even though she's changed, I believe she will listen. Cinderpaw took a deep breath and scanned the fighting cats. All I have to do now is find Shiningstar.
And then she saw it. A flash of golden fur.
" Shiningstar!" Cinderpaw called out to her father. He was a few fox-lengths away. Beneath his claws lay Falling Oak. The brown tom twisted and turned, but he could not break free of Shiningstar's grasp. With a disgusted howl, the golden brown leader flung his opponent away and glared around, looking for a new enemy. Cinderpaw skirted around the remains of the fresh kill pile. Before he could leap back into battle, Cinderpaw touched her tail-tip to his shoulder.
" What is it, Thistlepaw?" Shiningstar turned around, eyes narrowed. Suddenly, they became panicked. " Have you seen Shimmerfish?" Cinderpaw's throat turned dry.
" Y-yes," Cinderpaw stammered. I have seen her.
" Is she safe?" Shiningstar breathed.
" Yes," in StarClan, Cinderpaw added silently. Shiningstar let out a sigh and nodded.
" What were you saying?"
" Shiningstar, I can stop this," Cinderpaw said urgently. " I know how to stop the battle."
" How?" Shiningstar gave an approaching tom a kick, and turned to face her. " I'd do anything to."
" The rogues..." Cinderpaw sucked in a nervous breath, " they...they know me."
" Know you?" Shiningstar's gaze sharpened with cold interest.
" They knew me, because..." Cinderpaw took a deep breath. " They know me because I lived with them. They know me because I'm-I'm... Cinderpaw," she whispered. A look of disbelief crossed her father's face.
" That's not possible," he said in a flat voice " My daughter is dead."
" No!" Cinderpaw put out her tail to restrain him as he began to walk away. " I am Cinderpaw. I ran away after Dapplewhisker died, and the rogues took me in. When I learn they were going to attack, I ran back. Dapplewhisker worked a spell on me that made me look like Thistlepaw. You-"
" I don't believe you!" Shiningstar gasped, trembling. He saw the desperation in her gaze. " But- can you prove it?"
" Yes!" Cinderpaw cried. Flashstrike! He saw me transform! " Wait, I'll prove it to you!" she dashed away, tasting the air for the scent of her friend.
Flashstrike, Flashstrike, where are you? Cinderpaw felt as though she had been searching for ages. Everywhere she looked, she found snarling cats, but no Flashstrike. Worry began to set in. What if something had happened to him? Cinderpaw took a deep sniff again, and recoiled. The stench of blood and cats filled her nose and made her gag. But along with it was...
" Flashstrike!" she yowled, but the red tom didn't hear her. He was battling with Shaded Muzzle, blood streaked across his face and making his paws slippery. She ran forwards to reach him. Suddenly, something slammed into her. Pain shot up through her muzzle. As her vision swam, she could make out a black-and-orange shape. " Petalshine," she croaked.
" Yes, Petalshine," the she-cat sneered. Something sharp dug into her exposed belly and Cinderpaw whimpered. Suddenly, she felt like the helpless apprentice she had once been, with Petalshine looming over her like a shadow. She remembered every heartless jeer, every moment of pain and grief caused by the mottled warrior.
" What do you want with me?" Cinderpaw cried, feeling anger begin to build up inside of her. " I'm trying to stop this!"
" I know you are," her meow was heavy with sarcasm. She dug her claws deeper. " But that's not allowed."
" Why not?" Cinderpaw growled. With a burst of strength, she knocked Petalshine away and stood, glaring at her. She attempted to barge past her, but Petalshine calmly moved in front of her path.
" Because you can't be the hero," Petalshine snarled. " Ever since you've come here, I've been shamed. I lost to you in battle. You saved my half-brother. And worst of all, you stole Flashstrike from me."
" He was never yours!" Cinderpaw hissed and craned her neck to see where the tom was. " You've always been a coward and a fool. No wonder he doesn't love you!" Petalshine's eyes lit with anger.
" He was always mine! Why would he ever love someone like you?" she hissed. " I'm going to get Flashstrike to save the Clan. And you, my pretty, are going to watch it all... form StarClan." The moment Petalshine lunged, Cinderpaw knew it was too late. Dapplewhisker, I tried.
But then there was grey. A grey shape hurtled out in front of her. As it passed, Cinderpaw caught a whiff of its scent. Stonedapple! Her mind went blank with shock.
Petalshine's claws buried themselves in Stonedapple's throat as the she-cat jumped in front of Cinderpaw. Stonedapple crumpled to the ground, blood spouting from her neck. Slowly, Cinderpaw looked down. Stonedapple lay spread-eagled on the mud, her glossy fur catching the last rays of the sun. The tabby's eyes were becoming dull and she feebly scratched at the ground.
Stonedapple saved my life.
Petalshine let out a low keen and sank to the ground beside her sister. She glanced at her own paws, which were soaked in her sister's blood.
" Stonedapple," she cried. " Get up!"
" Cinderpaw..." Stonedapple gasped. Cinderpaw widened her eyes. " Yes... I always...knew..." the she-cat let out a horrible cough, blood coming from her mouth. " Dapple...whisker. told..mmmme..." her voice began to rasp. The she-cat heaved her head up and stared at Cinderpaw. It was the most terrifying thing that had ever happened to Cinderpaw, but her mind wasn't registering that. " An'...I... took... care... of you... like...prom'sd..."
" Thank you," Cinderpaw chocked. Stonedapple's head slumped back onto the ground.
" Try an' be a bet'r cat... Petal...shine..." with her sister's name on her tongue, Stonedapple sighed and her breathing stilled.
" Stonedapple!" Petalshine wailed. Her gaze met Cinderpaw's, and it was full of remorse and horror. " I killed-" she let out a strangled sob and curled herself around the body. Head bowed, Cinderpaw walked away. Petalshine's sobs echoed in her ears, and Cinderpaw risked a glance back. Her heart beat with pity for the poor cat, for there was nothing worse than having to live with the knowledge that her claws took the life of her own sister.
That was why she didn't warn Petalshine of Shaded Muzzle's approach. As the tom bit her neck, she could have sworn she heard the mottled warrior let out a contended sigh.
Cinderpaw raced to where she saw Flashstrike crouching by the reed bed. His flanks heaved, and his fur was clogged with blood. He looked up as she approached and let out a feeble purr. In the fading light, his pelt looked like it was caked with mud.
" Petalshine and Stonedapple are dead," Cinderpaw blurted out. Flashstrike's eyes widened.
" Dead?" he echoed hoarsely. Cinderpaw bowed her head, overcome by grief. Flashstrike curled his tail around her. It felt warm and comforting, like shelter on a cold and snowy day.
" Flashstrike, I need your help," Cinderpaw said. " You see, I know these rogues. When I... ran away, they cared for me. When I learnt they were attacking, I wanted to come back here and warn you. Dapplewhisker put a spell on me that made me Thistlepaw, because I didn't think you'd trust me. If I could convince Shiningstar, he would convince the warriors, which would help them stop fighting. All I need is proof, and you've seen me, right?"
" I have, but how will that make the rogues stop fighting?" Flashstrike questioned.
" Their leader, Snowy Bird, and I were good friends... once," Cinderpaw sighed. " But I think she'll listen to me."
" Okay, then," Flashstrike meowed and stiffly rose to his paws. " Where is Shiningstar?" Cinderpaw quickly scanned the battle. Her heart sank.
" Over there," she pointed with her tail to where the body of Shimmerfish lay. They broke into a run, halting when they reached the heartbreaking scene. Gold body curled around black, agonized wails echoing into the dark night. Flashstrike stifled a cry of horror.
" She's dead!" Shiningstar wailed. " She's dead. She's dead, she's dead, she's dead." Cinderpaw cautiously approached her father. Peering into the reeds, she made out two pairs of glowing eyes. She flicked her tail, and they neared. Two frightened, skinny shapes slunk out.
" You still have your kits," Cinderpaw whispered. Waspkit reached out a muzzle to sniff Shimmerfish's body, but jumped back.
" Mama's stinky!" he complained. His sister, a pale grey, flattened her ears.
" She's asleep, stupid. Cats are stinky when they're asleep, don't you know that?" Shiningstar prevented further squabbiling by drawing his kits close to him with a tail. He looked as if he would never let them go.
" You're squeezing too tight!" the pale grey kit squealed.
" Sorry, Skykit," Shiningstar lightened his grip. He raised his head and looked up at the starless night, then sighed and lowered his head. " I know you are my daughter, Cinderpaw. When you left, I saw Dapplewhisker. She told me." He raised his eyes, and a new fire was burning in them. " Let's stop this once and for all."
Flashstrike and Cinderpaw followed Shiningstar as he led them up to the Highrock. The fighting below had slowed as exhaustion began to drag at each cat. With obvious effort, Shiningstar hauled himself up on the large stone. Using the moss and cracks as footholds, Cinderpaw joined him. She took a moment to admire the view, but it was spoilt by the scene of carnage below. Shiningstar tipped his head back and yowled.
" Stop!" To Cinderpaw's surprise, most of the cats did. They seemed too glad to release their opponents, stopping to clean fur or inspect wounds. Cinderpaw gulped as the cats turned their heads up to look at her. Taking a deeo breath, she strode forwards.
" Look at you!" she spat. " Fighting like a pack of dogs. Fighting. Killing. Is that all you can do?" Murmurs rang out from below, and Cinderpaw was started by the bitterness and hate in her own voice. She glared down at the cats. Warriors who ducked their heads, others who met her stare. The rogues who stared at her sullenly, and in particular, Snowy Bird.
" I know what you want," Cinderpaw continued. " The rogues, they just want territory. They want-"
" What do you know?" a voice growled. Snowy Bird stood up, shadows dancing on her fur. " You've never met us. You're just a cat who doesn't even smell like the Clans!"
" Don't tell me what I am!" Cinderpaw growled. Snowy Bird's words sparked something deep inside of her. " I've been bullied, rejected, betrayed and lied to..." she paused for breath, then turned and met Flashstrike's stare. " But I've also been loved and respected. I know who I am, and I know why you're here. I know why we're fighting, and I want it to stop. I know, because..." she gazed up at a small crescent moon in the sky. Her fur began to tingle and cats gasped. A sudden weight fell away from her shoulders, and she tipped her head back as the magic coating of Thistlepaw left her once and for all.
" I know because I am Cinderpaw."
" Cinder Paw?"
" You lied to us!" someone spat. Cinderpaw looked down and met Troutleap's gaze. The warrior arched his back.
" I never lied to you!" she yowled out over the voices. Dropping her voice to a calmer tone, she continued. "I've always been Cinderpaw, but I just looked different. Yes, hated, ignored, useless apprentice Cinderpaw. I ran away because after my mother died, everyone seemed to hate me. You all believed I was responsible for Dapplewhisker's death, and no one would listen, so I ran away. These rogues helped me and loved me, and healed my heart. But I was always loyal to this Clan, so when I learnt they were attacking, I ran here."
Shocked murmurs rippled through the crowd. She met Snowy Bird's blank stare and sighed.
" I know some of you feel like I betrayed you, and I'm sorry. But I was just trying to prevent this all," she swept her tail in an arc, indicating the battle scene. A sudden burst of rage overtook her. " Look what we've done! Rogues, you killed a mother nursing kits. How does that feel, Shaded Muzzle? You have inflicted your pain on my father. How does that feel?" the dark grey tom lowered his head in shame. Sun Dapple and Snake Shadow exchanged glances. " And we killed a young cat trying to defend her Clan," Cinderpaw said, seeing Dry Leaf's body on the ground. " How does that feel? What if they killed Fleckpaw?" Brightfur flattened her ears.
" Snowy Bird, you're fighting for a lost cause. Our ancestors defeated yours a long time ago. And if you take over RiverClan, the other Clans will come after you. We will let you go in peace, as to prevent further bloodshed. Please, leave." Cinderpaw meowed. Snowy Bird, face impassive, flicked her tail. Like a shoal of minnows, they disappeared out of the entrance. Left alone with her Clanmates, Cinderpaw felt her pelt burn. Ducking her head, she stepped back. Flashstrike brushed his pelt against hers and they twined tails. Shiningstar then took her place, claws clinking against the stone.
" Clanmates, before we bury our dead, I believe there is something to be done. Today, Cinderpaw stopped the battle. She returned to save us, despite all we did to her as apprentice. Therefore, I hope none of you will object, I will make her a warrior of RiverClan!"
" A warrior!" Cinderpaw whispered to Flashstrike. I haven't wanted to be one for so long, but it means so much now. The red tom purred and licked her ear. Shiningstar beckoned her forwards with his tail and waited for the cheering to stop.
"I, Shiningstar, leader of RiverClan, call upon my warrior ancestors to look upon this apprentice. She have trained hard to understand the ways of your noble code, and I commend her to you as a warrior in her turn. Cinderpaw, do you promise to uphold the warrior code and to protect and defend your Clan, even at the cost of your life?"
" I do," Cinderpaw whispered.
" Then by the powers of StarClan, I give you your warrior name. You have served us like a flame, always burning, never dying. Thus, I name you Cinderflame. May StarClan always honour your loyalty and courage."
" Cinderflame! Cinderflame! Cinderflame!" the Clan roared. Heart singing, Cinderflame licked her father's shoulder and stepped back. She and Flashstrike began to head down the rock, but Shiningstar stopped them.
" Flashstrike, come here please," mystified, the red tom scrambled up beside his leader. " Flashstrike, you showed courage and bravery today. My beloved deputy and mate. Shimmerfish, has passed on to StarClan. I say these words before StarClan, so that she may hear and approve of my choice. The new deputy of RiverClan is Flashstrike."
" Flashstrike!" the Clan cats called. Cinderflame felt happiness rise in her chest. She dashed up beside Flashstrike and touched her nose to his. The tom's eyes were shining.
" Deputy, me?" he purred. Shiningstar nodded, looking sorrowful and joyous at the same time. Up on the Highrock, with her father and loved one, Cinderflame had never felt so happy. She closed her eyes, reveling in the cheers of her Clanmates.
Now I truly belong.
Cinderflame stretched her stiff limbs as the sun rose. She had just finished her warrior vigil... but something wasn't right. She sighed and dropped her head on her paws. I just want to be back with Snowy Bird, for some reason. There are just too many memories here... and the rogues gave me something I never had, a home. Suddenly, she shot upright. I can go back to them! Her heart began to thump wildly, but it sank quickly. What about Flashstrike? He'll never leave, he's deputy. But her heart was beating to furiously to stay behind. She cast a glance at the ruined entrance, and was suddenly overcome by fond memories. I'm leaving with a light heart, this time. I will always look back to my Clan with love. She then began to trot silently down the path, birdsong in her ears.
" Cinderflame?" a voice came from behind her.
" Flashstrike?" Cinderflame gasped. She paused and allowed the tom to catch up with her. " What are you doing here?"
" I knew you weren't happy," he said, wrapping his tail around her shoulders. " So I decided to come with you."
" Come with me? But you're deputy!" she gasped. Flashstrike shrugged.
" I'd rather be with you," he purred. Warmth spreading through her chest, Cinderflame began to walk down the path. Flashstrike joined her, and they followed the path to the rogue's home.
The sun beat shone down on two figures that trotted across pebbly shores, crossed rivers, and followed a well-worn dirt track that led toward a dip in the ground. They were met by a silver cat with long yellow teeth. The grey she-cat called her Yellow Tooth. The two cast were led inside.
Rogues were everywhere. Kits were mewling, and it appeared that they were trying to leave. The silver cat led them through the tumult and into a cave. They entered, and in front of them sat a pure white she-cat.
" Cinder Paw," the cat said, her tone unsure.
" You should call me Cinder Flame now," the she-cat said, shuffling her paws. The white cat turned her gaze to the red tom.
" Who is this?"
" Flashstrike, a friend. Snowy Bird, I-"
" We'll call him Flash Strike, then," the white cat dipped her head and brushed past them. Cinder Flame and Flash Strike exchanged a glance.
" Does that mean I can stay?"
" I think so."
The two cats padded outside, into the world that lay ahead of them, into the world they would face together.
Wow. My first story (non- fanfic and fanfic) that's ever been completed. I thoroughly enjoyed writing this, and special thanks to everyone who read this and took the time to comment.
I tried to keep it close to the real Cinderella story. For example, Cinderflame and Flashstrike's romance. In fairytales, there's no real depth to the romance, so I tried to make Cinder and Flash a bit sudden.
I don't know if any of you noticed, but Cinderpaw's name changed rapidly from Cinderpaw to Cinder Paw whenever she was with the rogues or her Clan. The deeper meaning to this story was really something to do with identity, because I know some people feel left out or 'different', and I just wanted to show there's nothing wrong with that, and you'll eventually find yourself.
lol, deep stuff.
Also, there's going to be a sequel. I know that Brams has Waspkit, and that Whit has a cat coming in the sequel. If any of you would like one, you can leave me a message on my talk or tell me on a blog I'm about to put up.
Lastly, thank you so much for reading and supporting me with this. I love you all :)
Fans? Sign here!
I am totally a fan! Can't wait for the sequel! <3333 I keep forgetting to use Classic Editor.......
OMG BLAZEY THIS STORY IS EPIC!! I TOTALLY LOVE IT (and yes, u da cliffy master) *waits for sequel* So this is how liberty dies. With thunderous applause ~Padme 19:32, February 15, 2015 (UTC)