This story starts many moons before I was born. The elders tell stories how the sun became unbearably hot, so hot that right away, many cats died. They died of everything from dehydration to overheation to diseases so complex the medicine cats could not heal them. At least the cats at the beginning had medicine cats to take care of them. The medicine cats were no more immune to the scorching heat than the warriors were.
But some cats were unaffected by the heat. They walked among the dying, bowing their heads and screaming in fear with the others. But you could tell that they knew they were safe. For moons, as the heat began to die off, the pure and untouched cats led the clans, basking in their despair. All of the diseased cats hated them, the cats who once were their clanmates, twisted by power. But no one did anything about it. The leader of the pure and untouched, the most twisted and corrupt of them all, began leading lectures on how the diseased should stay far off from the pure. The diseased cats, only an small number now, were at the back of the crowd, held back by the pure cats' glares. Dissention between the two groups rose, but no one took action. But one day, after a nasty fight between a pure cat and diseased cat, the undiseased leaders passed a motion decreeing the removal of diseased cats from the clan.
And so diseased cats were driven out of society. The smart ones fled, but the slower ones and the ones too tired to run were either killed or forced out with many claws and sharp words. They were driven to live off the scraps the other cats deemed to disgusting and poor to eat, and remain that way to this day. But that is not my story. My story is made up of the things of the things other cats miss, the simple highs and lows of life, the darkness of a single day and the brightness of an elderly cat's kindness. My name is Stormshine, and I am 17 moons old. This is my story.
One of my earliest memories is as a young kit, probably a two moons old at the most. My mother Starhaze was taking care of me along with my siblings, Frostkit and Hollykit. I was the smallest of the three, and as my mother was quick to remind me, the most likely to be with the Plague. We were born during leaf-bare, so naturally we played in the snow.
"Stormkit, this isn't fair!", Hollykit squealed. Her bright red fur stood out brightly against the cold snow. "Your fur is short! The snow doesn't stick to it like my long fur does." I pushed her into the snow again, and she pushed me back. We collapsed into giggles just as Starhaze and Frostkit came out of our den, both looking angry. I hold my breath, waiting for them both to explode. Starhaze speaks first, with a cold look in her eyes.
"Have you two forgotten what day it is?" Of course we haven't forgotten. How could we forget Evaluation Day? It is the day the medicine cats check us to determine if we should be allowed to live into Apprenticehood. If we do, we will be evaluated again right befor we become warriors. If we fail our evaluations, well, I don't want to think about that.
We mutter our apologies like good little kittens, and that seems to calm Starhaze down. She turns away and stalks back into the nursery. But before she goes back in, she turns and looks over her shoulder. "Oh, and Stormkit?" she says with a trace of mirth in her voice. "Good luck with Evaluations." And with that she settles back into her nest.
I turn and prepare to face the wrath of Frostkit now. She trembles lie a volcano ready to explode. "You...played in the snow.....without me....." She screams. I genuinely felt bad for her in that instant. "And...", she says, now sounding more mean, "Starhaze thinks you're going to fail Evaluations. And guess what? I DON'T CARE!" She yells the last words, sounding more and more like she means it.
I turn away so Hollykit and Frostkit don't see the tears in my eyes. Deep down in my heart, I know she is right. "I think I want to go visit the elders right now", I say, fighting to keep my voice calm.The snow, which used to feel so inviting, was beginning to feel very cold. "Does anyone want to come with me?" Frostkit and Hollykit shake their heads no. Frostkit still looks fired up, but Hollykit looks sympathetic. I guess she thinks I will fail Evaluations too, but she will miss me when I'm gone. Hollykit doesn't have to worry about failing Evaluations. Lucky her. I hope she has a nice life.
Well, so far Evaluation Day has gone well. I have been told by my mother and sister that I will fail Evaluations, been basically told by my other sister to have good luck in Starclan, and spent an hour being groomed for Evaluations. Only problem is, I have yet to be Evaluated. It is already sunhigh, and the medicine cats are still preparing the tests, whatever that means. I only hope they let me say goodbye to Hollykit before they kill me.
It is not exactly a secret on what they do to cats if they fail the Evaluations, even though it is supposed to be a clan secret. Starclan, Frostkit even went as far to remind me how they kill you. As she was so kind to tell me, they gather the clan around the leader and the cat who failed Evaluations. Everyone shouts insults at you, as Ashstar sharpens his claws on the ceremonial stones. The leader calls for a moment of silence and he asks the cat if they have any last words. Regardless of if they say anything or not, he silences them with a slit neck. He then concludes the ceremony with a feast in the cat's honor. What a sick joke.
The medicine cats reapear from where the examinations will take place. There are four of them, none of which has introduced themselves. One of them, an older she-cat with grey fur and boring brown eyes walks right up to the three of us and says without introduction,"Which one of you is Frostkit?" Frostkit, who looks perfectly at ease in the large sterile cave we are waiting in, raises a paw. The older she-cat motions with her tail for Frostkit to follow her, and she leads her off into one of the four corridors. Frostkit doesn't look back.
Time passes. I don't want to know how long. Ten, fifteen minutes? All I can think about is Frostkit's descriptions of how they kill the diseased cats. Starclan, I don't want to die. I don't want Frostkit and Hollykit to grow up and become warriors without so much a thought to the sister they left behind in kithood. I don't want to die, I don't want to die, I don't want to die....
But would I really want to grow up in this society? The thought strikes me suddenly and surprisingly. I never thought about that. Would I really want to grow up in a society that taught my mother to neglect and hate her own daughter just for being the smallest and weakest at birth? The truth is, I don't know, and if it came to it, I don't want to know what I would choose. I get the feeling that if I chose, I would always regret the choice I made.
"Stormkit?" I snap my head up in surprise. The grey she-cat is back. I was so wrapped up in my thoughts, I'd forgotten my Evaluation was minutes away. She leads me through the same corridor Frostkit entered, but unlike Frostkit, I did not enter with my head held high and without looking back. I ducked my head down and snuck several glances back to where Hollykit was left waiting. She didn't look nervous at all. On the contrary, she looked almost excited, and gave me an encouraging nod. I took a deep breath and allowed myself to be lead down the dark hallway.
Let the Evaluations begin.
The room is filled with lots of things, from a fresh moss nest to piles of herbs neatly stacked up on one side of the cave. I guess this is just a regular medicine cat's den when it is not being used for Evaluations. The four medicine cats from earlier are in here. They introduce themselves as Grayspot, Darkleaf, Amberdrop and Blackpaw. Grayspot, the older she-cat who lead Frostkit away, cuts to the chase.
"Stormkit, we are going to start off your examination with a series of questions," she says without a pause. "Climb into the nest and we'll begin." This startles me. I didn't know what to expect for Evaluations, but I sure didn't think it would be a bunch of questions.And why do I have to be in a nest to answer a bunch of stupid questions? But I might as well get it over with. So I climb into the nest.
Blackpaw looks to Amberdrop, a tabby she-cat who looks many moons younger than Grayspot, if you know what I mean. She nods, and he starts questioning me. The questions begin simply enough. Who was my mother? Who was my father? What was Hollykit like? What were Frostkit's interests? But then the questions begin to come in harder, faster. And it wasn't just Blackpaw asking me. All four cats began to ask questions all at once, demanding four answers at once. The mood shifted from relaxed to tense to full out explosive. They stopped asking about my siblings, and focused on me. What did I do on a day to day basis? What did I know about the clan's history? Who was friends with me? Did anyone think I would fail Evaluations? (I didn't answer immediately)
The questions just kept on coming, one after another, piling ontop of one another, sinking together, stacking up for hours on end.
As I answered question after question, my mind was wondering why they would ask such things.They were almost pointless, and almost all of my answers were short, stripped of any useful information. I am 5 moons old, for Starclan's sake. I don't have the knowledge of a warrior and I don't try to. I never bothered to try, what with Frostkit and Starhaze periodically reminding me of the failures I've achieved by being the smallest and weakest.
At this point I guessed it was sundown, because my stomach was rumbling, and I was tired and ready for my nice comfy nest. The nest I had been sitting in for the past few hours was laced with brambles, and they were digging into my fur. It was deeply uncomfortable. This was starting to feel more and more like an interrogation than a civilized Evaluation. But an interrogation hadn't been used since those very last moons of war between the four clans, before they combined to stop the bloodshed.
The medicine cats- or as I've begun to think of them, interrogators- just keep firing questions at me, but their voices blur together into the background. After all that has happened today, from Snowkit to Grayspot to Starhaze to Hollykit, all I want to do is rest. And despite the medicine cats best efforts to keep me awake, sleep pulls away. Hope this hurts my Evaluations. Because I never had a chance anyway.
I open my eyes to blinding white light, nothing like the dark cave I had been in previously. I am in the nursery, looking up at the hole in the bramble ceiling that I'd complained of multiple times. Somehow the hole never got fixed. But I bet that the next kit to sleep there will get their mother to fix it ASAP. Huh, funny how that works.
I roll over and get up. Hollykit is lying in her own nest, but when she notices that I'm awake, she rushes over. "You're awake!" she practically shrieks. "Oh my Starclan, I was so worried, and you were out for two days, and Starhaze came back and said you had fallen asleep during your Evaluations, and I was already worried because your Evaluations were taking so long and-"
I cut her off. I had some questions of my own. "What do you mean my Evaluations took so long?"
She gives me a puzzled look. "You were in there until moonhigh."
I can't hide the shocked look on my face. Moonhigh? I know it felt like forever, but I was in there from Sunhigh to Moonhigh. I struggle to bring together my composure. "How long were you in there?"
She shrugs, looking disinterested. "Ten, fifteen minutes tops." What? Did they not grill her, searching for any signs of weakness?
"But...what happened during your Evaluations?" I ask, trying to seem merely curious.
Hollykit apears to be losing all interest in this conversation."Oh, they just pricked my blood, and put it on a leaf I guess they were going to run some tests on it. Hey, guess what?" She doesn;t pause for an answer. "Starhaze told me that Frostkit got in and out of Evaluations in less than five minutes."
I try not to growl. Of course perfect little Frostkit got out of the Evaluations in record time. I guess if its good to have a shorter Evaluation, I know where I fall, scoring-wise. I turn and pad away, swept up in my own thoughts until Hollykit calls after me. "Stormkit...the results are just after dusk."
I swallow nervously, and nod, unable to speak. I pad off to find a suitable bush to hide myself in, to cry in, until I have to go out and face the world. The stupid, miserable world. I'm just a kit. I don't want to die.
Looking back on it, I realize that I was really mature as a kit. I was nothing like the kits today, who spent their days tumbling around their mothers, their worst moments being when they weren't alowed to play, or go outside camp. Me, I was constantly worried about everything, and spent my best days playing for ten minutes with Hollykit, before Starhaze pulled her away from me, making some sorry excuse about how, I had a cold and Hollykit shouldn't be near me, or how Hollykit needed to eat. We both knew she was lying. My worst days were spent far away from camp, curled up in some forgotten hollow, or feigning deafness and trying not to cry when Starhaze made loud, scalding remarks about me. But lets face it. My worst days happened way too often. But Result Day, that had to take the cake for worst day. Even now, years later, as I roam Starclan, it still ranks first. But you'll see.
I hate dusk.
I don't care about how some cats, (mostly Starhaze) love dusk, or how the way the sun leaves just one fiery reminder of its glory just above the horizon. I hate the way the camp is at its peak, with all of the cats outside socializing, and the way you can barely see your clanmates, but somehow they can see you, and- well, you get the point. I hate dusk simply because it is a point of the day when I am pointedly left out of the socialization, and well, that hurts.
I clamber out of the hollow log I'd taken refuge in for the past several hours. Normally, most kits would not be allowed past the camp borders, but I'm pretty sure they don't count me as a kit, and are past caring about my welfare. What a surprise.
When I arrive back in camp, I can see that cats are already clustering in the courtyard, gossiping over the to-be apprentices, or in my case, the to-be dead. I spot Frostkit in the middle of a group of apprentices, purring and chatting up a storm. I feel a huge wave of jealousy come over me. She's not even a freaking apprentice yet! How in the name of Starclan did she manage to be able to talk to the most popular apprentices in the clan with aparent ease? I hate her sometimes, I really do.
As soon as I fully emerge out of the tunnel, I can feel the instant gazes of warriors and elders alike, staring at me as I cross over to sit near Hollykit. I can hear the whispers, see the stares my clanmates don't even try to hide. Of course. Starhaze must have gossiped up a storm in her empty days as a queen. I spot her over on the opposite side of the clearing. She is talking with the other queens, and I can tell it's obviously about me and Frostkit. The groups eyes flicker back and forth from looking at Frostkit, to looking at me, to looking back at Starhaze in interest. I wonder what they're saying about us.
Before I can contemplate this further, however, my attention flickers to Icestar, a beautiful and muscular she-cat with white fur and blue eyes. She is the epitemy of everything this clan stands for: beauty, strength, and lies. She clambers onto the central rock, and motions with her tail for silence.
"Today," she pauses dramatically. "Is the day three kits enter Apprenticehood, start training, and become the warriors our ancestors intended for them to be." She stops there, surveying the crowd, looking for someone. Her eyes come to a rest on me. Her lip curls.
"They will become the warriors our ancestors intended for them to be of course," she repeats, breaking contact with my eyes. The crowd stiffens at this, preparing for the moment they had been waiting for since we'd been born. "If they passed Evaluations."
The crowd says nothing, but you can practically feel the anticipation coursing through the air.
"And with that in mind", Icestar says, turning to a medicine cat behind her. "Let us hear the Results."
The medine cat steps up onto the rock to meet her. It is the same elderly she-cat from my Evaluations. In a calm, clear voice she says, "Frostkit had her Evalutions done first, so therefore it is only fitting that she recieve her Results first." The she-cat, Grayspot, motions with her tail for Frostkit to come up onto the rock. She does, with her head held high and eyes shining with excitement.
"Frostkit", Snowstar continues. "You passed Evaluations with the purest blood we have ever seen. You shall be given full Apprenticeship, and given all of the rights of a senior warrior as soon as you become a warrior. Congratulations." Frostkit beams and sits to the side of the rock, waiting. After me and Hollykit are done with our Results, she will become a full apprentice, ceremony and all. I want to glare at her, but something stops me. She looks so happy, sitting there, with the other apprentices rushing over to welcome her. This is all she's ever wanted, all she ever dreamed for. She may be my evil, brat-angel of a sister, but don't I want her to be happy?
The evil part of me screams to let her feel the full force of my anger, but I just can't. Maybe this makes me a weak, soft-hearted fool, but I'd rather be that than an angry, heartless she-cat with no friends. Granted, right now I am friendless, but let me have a moment where I can decieve myself into thinking that maybe, just maybe, if I live to see tomorrow, maybe tomorrow wouldn't be too bad. It isn't the happiest of thoughts, but it's all I've got.
"And now....." Snowstar's lip curls. "Stormkit."
I tremble visibly, and walk up to the rock. I'm so small, I can't leap lightly onto the rock like Frostkit did. There are chuckles throught the crowd until a large tom takes mercy on me and lifts me up. I thank him, and turn to face Snowstar. She smirks slightly, and we both look at Grayspot.
Grayspot clears her throat nervously. Here it comes. "Stormkit, you passed Evaluations." What? I think I'm going deaf. I passed? I'm not the only one who was surprised. The crowd below starts muttering, and over with her friends, Starhaze's face is a mask of blank shock. How did I pass?
Grayspot yells to be overheard, and soon the crowd quiets down. There are over 500 cats in our large camp, and over half of them are here. All of their eyes pierce my fur. Grayspot continues, "You, however, did not have quite the outstanding performance your sister did." I spot Frostkit smirking, and her little friends giggling along. "However, you too shall be granted a full apprenticeship." The crowd goes wild after this, so they don't hear me thanking Grayspot and Snowstar. I slip off the rock and go to sit alone near the apprentices. One of them leaves Frostkit's group, and joins me.
"Hey." she says simply. She is a blue-gray she cat with blue eyes, a perfect example of beauty and grace in the clan. Yet she seems so unlike the other apprentices I've met. "I'm Mistpaw."
I nod, hoping she doesn't notice my social-awkwardness. "I'm Stormkit." She laughs.
"Well, obviously. You just were up there!" She nods towards the big rock I was just on.
"Oh." I say simply, and we leave it at that. I think I maybe, just maybe, made a friend.
I hadn't been paying attention to Hollykit's ceremony up until this point, but the I hear a shocked gasp run through the crowd. What? I jerk my head up in time to see Hollykit looking beyond scared, and thats when I realize that Snowstar isn't even facing her. A tremor passes through me. Snowstar is sharpening her claws on a stone. I glance at Mistpaw, and she sees my look of terror instantly. She doesn't say anything though, but just gives me a look that conveys that we are of the same mind.
"Hey, look over there", she says quickly, trying to distract me, pointing a paw towards the forest. I am so gullible. I look over into the forest to see a fleeting image of a russet tom about my size. I can't think about this right now though. Hollykit is about to d-
Cheers ring out throughout the crowd. My head snaps back to see Snowstar standing triumphantly over a small collapsed form. I choke down a sob.
Hollykit is dead.
"-And by the powers of Starclan, I name you two Frostpaw and Stormpaw." Snowstar finishes triumphantly. She turns away, and dismisses the clan with a flick of her tail. Just another ceremony.
The clan slowly disperses, chatting animatedly over the strange turn of events, forgetting instantly Hollykit's crumpled body. Things are happening so quickly that I can't process it. Hollykit being murdered. Me passing Evaluations. Hollykit dying. Hollykit, who has- no, had been my best and only friend since forever. Hollykit. Dead. No.
I sob, and turn away to find a new nest in the apprentice den. Maybe then, I can hide from the clan that let Snowstar get away with murder.
Maybe Hollykit is in Starclan now.
Maybe there really is a Starclan.
"Alright, Stormpaw," my mentor, Rockgaze, says briskly. "Let's see what you got. Show me your best fighting moves."
I snort, unthinking. Best hunting moves? Give me a break. I never bothered with trying to accelerate my training. Thus, I am extremly likely to fail at it. What a surprise.
Rockgaze raises his eyebrows, but says nothing. I guess Stargaze had filled him in on my.... attitude, I guess? Well, in case you didn't know, living for six moons, being constantly tormented by your family can cause you to become a harsh, sarcastic she-cat who never will amount to anything. That's a surprise.
He hesitates, if deciding if he should follow through. Finally, he decides."Um, Stormpaw, whatever you have, whenever you're ready," he says uncertainly.
I smile, sitting down. Now that I have the prospect of life, maybe, just maybe, I'm going to enjoy it. After all, what's life without a little fun?
"No," I say defiantly, curling my tail around my paws neatly. "I don't think so."
He looks surprised, so I smirk and plow on. "I'm not going to, because I don't want to."
He glares at me, all fake smiles forgotten, and stalks over to me. "Listen up, kit," he hisses in my ear. "I didn't want to get stuck training you of all cats. You're pathetic, and weak, and I doubt you'll live past you're first battle." He stomps away.
Hmm, maybe he and Stargaze should have a club. The I-hate-Stormkit Club. Exept, Starhaze hated me from birth. I made Rockpelt hate me. Feels nice for a change.
I turn to leave, because obviously, my training's over. But once again, I see a two green eyes staring back at me through the forest. I am startled. Normally, cats in our clan have blue or brown eyes. I don't know a single cat whose eyes are green. But I remember those eyes, I think. They were at my apprentice ceremony, right before Hollykit... got killed.
Before I can get any closer, though, he disapears. A flash of red fur, one last look at me with those green eyes, and he is gone.