The tom stared at the she-cat with hate and anger. "I don't want to do this." He hissed. 

She smirked. "Do you have a choice?"

"No..." He murmured. 

"Well then." 

He glared at her. "I don't have a choice, yet."

She stared at him, her eyes widening slightly.

"Caught you off guard, didn't I?" He asked, unsheathing his claws. 

She cackled. "It's not that easy."

"Or is it?" He asked, his eyes gleaming craftily.

"What are you thinking?" She asked suspiciously.

"Nothing! Why would you think I'm plotting anything?" He asked, teasing her cruelly. 

She snarled. "How dare you?"

He crouched. "How dare you threaten me and blackmail me?"

She smirked. "I dared because I dared."

He laughed coldly. "That goes both ways, my dear."

Chapter 1

The two kits tussled on the nursery floor. The lighter one sat up, chest heaving. "That was fun!" She squeaked.

The slighty darker one nodded. "Yeah. Oh, mom's coming! Quickly, do your fur!"

Both kits scrambled to lick their tangled and dusty fur. "Ivykit! Swankit! Your fur is a mess!" Their mother, Beetail, snapped.

She quickly cleaned their pelts, she was shocked at how little her daughters cared about their appearance.

Her two daughters, one dewy gray, and one snowy white, looked up at her with admiration in their eyes. "When I become a warrior-"

Ivykit began. Beetail cut her off with a purr of amusement. "You'll have to get through being an apprentice first, little one."

Swankit stood up. "Aspenstar's about to start the ceremony!"

Beetail smiled. "I have something for you two." She gave them each a small shell. "This one belonged to me," she pointed to Ivykit's. "And this was my sister's." She pointed to Swankit's shell. Ivykit gasped. "Thank you!" Swankit smiled too. "Thanks so much!"

Aspenstar gave the summons. Beetail gave her kits one last, proud look, before walking out of the nursery. Swankit nudged Ivykit playfully. "I can't believe we're almost apprentices!"Ivykit nodded. "Yeah, it's so exciting!"

Aspenstar began the ceremony. The two she-kits began walking out of the nursery.

"Today, two kits are ready to become apprentices." Step, one for each word. They moved in rhythm. Everyone had difficulty telling them apart at night, or in the early morning. They were quite similar. Similar body shapes, similar eye shapes, similar voices.

"Ivykit, step forward." Ivykit glanced at Swankit and walked up to the leader's rock.

"Do you promise to devote your life to our thriving clan?" Aspenstar asked. Ivykit nodded eagerly.

"Then, from this day forward, until you receive your warrior name, you shall be known as Ivypaw. Your mentor will be Daisyflight."

Daisyflight stepped up to Ivypaw, pressing her nose to Ivypaw's. Ivypaw's eyes shone with anticipation. She had dreamed of this moment for moons. Something was off, though. Why did Swankit look so scared? And when Aspenstar called her name... why did she avoid Ivypaw's encouraging gaze? Was she mad? Had Ivypaw done something?

"Swankit, step forward." Swankit padded towards the leader's rock, and was about to sit down next to Ivypaw when she veered to the left and instead sat down next to Beetail.

"Do you promise to devote your life to our clan, curing their sicknesses, guiding them through recovery?" Aspenstar asked.

Ivypaw didn't understand. Why hadn't Aspenstar said that when it was her turn?

Swankit nodded. "Then, from this day forward, until you receive your medicine cat name, you will be known as Swanpaw. Your mentor will be Birchlily."

Ivypaw's mind was reeling. Medicine cat? Why hadn't Swanpaw told her? Why was Swanpaw now avoiding her?

Swanpaw got up and touched noses with Birchlily. Without glancing at Ivypaw, she walked over to where Birchlily had been sitting before, by the medicine den.

The clan cheered. "Ivypaw! Swanpaw! Ivypaw! Swanpaw!"

Aspenstar held up a paw for silence. "I have bad news."

Murmuring broke out.

"A group of rogues calling themselves 'Cats of Shadows' have recently taken over the marsh territory. Unfortunately, they are not pleased with what they have and want the forest territory."

Aspenstar's eyes glinted like diamonds. Flames danced in them, a roaring fire of anger. Of disgust, contempt, and fear. Fear for the safety of his clan.

"If you catch any strange cats on the territory..." The cats present held their breaths.

"Kill them all."

Chapter 2

"Okay, marigold helps infection and soothes burns." Swanpaw recited.

Birchlily nodded. "Correct!" She purred.

Swanpaw smiled. She knew the herbs by sight, smell, and taste, and she never forgot the herbs.

Two moons since her ceremony. She hadn't talked to Ivypaw, but she didn't really want to.

She was jarred out of her thoughts by Birchlily's question. "What do you do if somecat ingests poison?"

"Feed them yarrow and get them to vomit it out." Swanpaw replied without thinking.

"Very good!" Birchlily purred. She peered at the herb stocks. "Speaking of yarrow, it seems we're out. Could you fetch some, please?"

Swanpaw nodded eagerly.

She dashed out of the den, not looking where she was going. She accidentally bumped into someone, and stumbled back a few pawsteps.

"Hey, watch it!" The voice hissed. Swanpaw looked up to see Ivypaw.

Swanpaw stood up. "Sorry."

Ivypaw glared at her, before stalking over to join the other apprentices.

She felt a pit in her stomach, but continued on her way to the yarrow gardens.

She picked a few stalks of yarrow, thinking about the look of loathing on her sister's face. It wasn't her fault... or was it?

Swanpaw knew it was her fault about not telling her, but Ivypaw didn't have to act so angry about it! But... Swanpaw had been avoiding her for the past two moons... Maybe Ivypaw took it personally?

Well. It didn't seem like Ivypaw had any cause to complain. Swanpaw had been watching her sister. She had two she-cat friends, and a tom mooning over her. Please.

Swanpaw had been the one isolated from the rest of the apprentices! Her only visitor was Sparrowpaw.

She sighed. Sparrowpaw. Stupid medicine cat rule. Sparrowpaw was one of her best friends, and it would have to stay that way.

Swanpaw groaned. Her sister hated her. The tom she loved wasn't allowed to love her back. Life was so complicated.

She picked up the herbs and walked back to camp.

Chapter 3

Ivypaw glared at her sister's receding pelt in the barrier.

She turned to her friends, Cloverpaw, Maplepaw and Whitepaw.

Whitepaw smiled at her. "Just ignore her. Things will get better." He reassured her.

Ivypaw nodded. Cloverpaw put her paw over Ivypaw's sympathetically. "It's okay."

Maplepaw nodded. "It'll be fine."

Ivypaw smiled at them. "Thanks, guys."

(Work In Progress)

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