The blue-grey she-cat settled herself on a rock, staring intently for the familiar bracken-colored tabby pelt. The breeze ruffled her long fur, and she sneezed as a drifting feather tickled her nose. Her fur sparkled dimly, fluffing up as she sneezed. She shook her head, then swept her icy-blue gaze over the underbrush, searching for whoever she was waiting for.
A flash of auburn caught her eye. "Evening, Oakheart." she greeted curtly. She swept her tail from side-to-side. "Sit." She watched as the bracken-colored tom stepped up to her, his ears pricked with some emotion the blue-grey she-cat couldn't read.
Oakheart nodded and mewed, "Bluestar." He sat down on a flat stone less than a tail-length away from the blue-grey leader's paws.
A third pelt - a ragged, dark-grey one - slipped past and hissed, "What am I needed for?" She sounded irritated, as if she'd just been awakened from a deep sleep. Bluestar knew the cat wearing the matted grey pelt and its voice only too well.
Bluestar flicked her thick-furred tail. "It's a prophecy, Yellowfang. You know that." she pointed out calmly, wrapping her tail around her small silvery paws. Yellowfang's fiery orange eyes narrowed and stared into Bluestar's icy-blue ones.
Finally the annoyed she-cat looked down at her paws, obviously angry. She snorted. "Too many prophecies!" She turned and nibbled at her tail, searching for a tick.
"This one's important!" Bluestar snapped. She lashed her tail, then sat, calming down slightly. "Flame will drown our skies. The lake will dry, and the trees will burn. A journey will be taken in order to save the Clans."
Oakheart cocked his head. "Which cat?" the auburn tabby asked quietly, his soft amber eyes wide.
Bluestar shook her head, feeling a bit defeated. "I've no idea yet. Perhaps we will find out sooner or later..."
Yellowfang sniffed. Rudely, loudly, she announced, "If you ask me, I thi--"
"You think that the Clans don't stand a chance!" hissed Oakheart, obviously startling Yellowfang. His fur was fluffed up and his tail was straight out. "No one invited you, anyway, Yellowfang! If you don't think that she can do this, then feel free to leave, because no one wants you here!"
Bluestar yowled, "Silence!" She sprang to her paws while the two quarreling cats stared in surprise. Normally Bluestar was quiet and agreeable. "The prophecy has been announced. Now we must send it to someone."
Oakheart shifted his paws, and said nothing. He swept his tabby-striped tail over the stone he sat on. He glared sideways at Yellowfang with a cold glare.
Yellowfang, however, didn't seem to care as she stood and rasped, "And you're sure about her competence?" She didn't sound too rude this time; her tone was truly questioning.
Bluestar nodded to the medicine cat. Staring her straight in the eyes, she said, "I've got complete confidence in her."
Sunpaw padded into camp, her soft ginger fur sparkling with water and a silver fish in her teeth. The fish was limp, unlike how it was when Solarpaw had caught it at first. Where it had slapped her with its tail still stung.
"And this, Sunpaw, is why you claw fish, not bite them." Her mentor had meowed evenly.
She dropped the fish onto the fresh-kill pile, then stretched. The apprentice sat up and yawned. Hearing pawsteps, she flicked an ear as her sister, Moonpaw, trotted over, her silvery fur practically glowing from all the grooming it received.
Moonpaw had two toms flanking her. As always, Sunpaw thought bitterly. Sunpaw wasn't jealous of her sister, no; she was just tired of toms obsessing over her stuck-up sister. The toms, as always, happened to be Darkpaw and Ripplepaw. Ripplepaw, the light blue-grey one, fretted, "Are you sure you don't want anything?"
Darkpaw drowned him out with a loud meow. "Anything at all?" the black-furred apprentice insisted. He shoved Ripplepaw to the side with his shoulder. Ripplepaw retaliated with an impatient push, and the two toms started shoving each other back and forth.
Moonpaw was obviously enjoying the attention. As always. Giving Sunpaw a sly glance, she purred, "I'm sure, you two. Now can you go and be a use to the Clan? Hunting would be nice."
Ripplepaw nodded vigorously. He quickly meowed, "Can do, Moonpaw!"
Darkpaw quickly agreed, again shoving his fellow apprentice to the side. Sunpaw rolled her eyes.
The two toms trotted off, mewing about how beautiful and glamorous Moonpaw was, and how one loved her more than the other. Sunpaw snorted. Moonpaw was only a stuck-up jerk who charms toms into doing her work. Sunpaw lay down and ignored her sister's sweeping plume of a tail brushing her shoulders.
Sunpaw shook off the feathery tail, bitterly glaring away from her sister.
Moonpaw's smooth voice sounded beside her, laced with false worry. "Oh, Sunpaw? Sad knowing you'll never be as pretty as I am? Hah! You're right!" She grabbed a water vole and started to pluck at it delicately, as if she completely forgot Sunpaw was even there.
Sunpaw, not wanting to put up with her annoying sister, got up and headed over to the apprentices' den. She heard Moonpaw say something behind her, but the ginger tabby ignored it. It was probably an insult, an uncreative as always. She curled up in her mossy nest, hoping to have a dream - the only place where her sister wasn't.
Sunpaw stalked a mouse, keeping her long tail still as a stick. The mouse had no idea it would be fresh-kill in a moment. She grinned and leaped, her claws unsheathed.
Suddenly, Sunpaw's pelt felt like it was burning. The mouse had scuttled away, and she growled in frustration as she landed with a thud on the leaves. But the mouse was the least of her worries. The sky had turned a bright orange, with yellow waves rolling from it.
The sky suddenly jolted to a harsh scarlet, like actual fire. Sunpaw backed away from a tree that had erupted into flames. A branch crashed down, and a piercing shriek came from someone. Sunpaw saw a black pelt and yowled in horror, her eyes wide.
"Darkpaw!" she screamed, reaching for the dark-furred apprentice with her small paw. But Darkpaw was gone.
A solemn voice rang in her head. Flames will consume the sky.
Sunpaw jolted awake, her head spinning. Darkpaw's scream still echoed in her head. She breathed heavily, her vision blurred. Her claws were digging into her nest and her bright ginger fur was bristling.
When her vision cleared, the speckled grey pelt of Stormpaw stood over her. "Sunpaw!" he exclaimed, his tone worried. "You're finally awake!" He sighed, looking relieved.
Sunpaw glanced around, on the edge of a panic attack. But she saw no flames. She heard no screams of pain.
Stormpaw continued, "You were yowling in your sleep. I got so worried! I had to wake you." He purred happily. "But since you're okay, I don't have to worry now!" He flicked his tail.
Sunpaw sat up, still breathing hard. "I had a horrible dream..." She shook herself. "More like a nightmare. Or a daymare. I-I don't know." She scrambled to her paws and shook each one to make sure they hadn't been burned off.
Stormpaw fluffed out his speckled fur nervously. "I couldn't leave you to stay in that dream, then." He relaxed. "Want to hunt? To get your mind off of it?" he added quickly.
"Sure." Sunpaw responded, nodding. Even thought she'd just been hunting, maybe doing it again would take her mind off it. She followed him out of the apprentices' den. Before they reached the exit, a voice callled, "Hey!"
It was Sunpaw's mentor, Crowfur. Crowfur trotted over to them and gave Sunpaw a loathing glance. "Where do you two think you're going?" he asked angrily.
Stormpaw hissed, "None of your business, Crowfur." He lashed his tail. He was always defending Sunpaw from her mentor, who despised her for whatever reason.
Crowfur advanced on Stormpaw. "Going out of camp, now, are we? I'll see about that!" He turned to go to Dawnstar's den.
Sunpaw boldly snarled, "We're going to go hunting, Crowfur!" She fluffed out her fur. "And Dawnstar sure would like to see the fresh-kill pile empty!" He nodded toward the pitiful pile of prey, flicking her tail in triumph.
"Well," Crowfur growled, "I want you both back here by sunfall!" He turned, flicked his tail, and padded off to join Dappleshadow and Shadedpetal by the warriors' den.
Stormpaw grinned smugly and headed out of camp. Sunpaw, stifling purrs of laughter, followed.
The two apprentices padded up to the Twoleg dock near the lake. "This is a good spot for fishing." Stormpaw decided. He crouched on the edge of the dock and waited for a fish to swim under him.
Sunpaw did the same a little farther away. She flashed a paw into the water and out came a shiny silver fish, flopping around on the grass. Solarpaw held it down, then picked it up in her jaws. Stormpaw came back over with three pitifully small fish. He dropped them, commenting, "Fish aren't too big now, huh?"
Sunpaw agreed. "Maybe a mouse or something would be better." She sniffed the air for prey. All she could smell was the fish she'd caught, so she pushed it to the side and sniffed again.
* * *
After a while, when the sun was starting to go down, the two apprentices had caught a squirrel each, three mice, and a small vole, adding it to the four fish from earlier.
Stormpaw's fur suddenly bristled. Sunpaw mewed worriedly, "Something wro--"
"Shh!" Stormpaw hissed. He pushed the prey back and slowly backed away. "Get the prey out of here." he whispered.
Sunpaw, wondering what was wrong, shoved the prey under a thorn bush and delicately pushed the thorns over them.
Stormpaw growled as two ShadowClan apprentices stepped out of the trees. "ShadowClan furballs!" Stormpaw spat.
The two apprentices glanced at each other. One, a brown tabby tom, snickered. He mewed to his companion, "Hey, Rowanpaw? This RiverClan fishface thinks he can beat a couple of strong ShadowClan apprentices. Let's teach him and his little friend over there-" he added, nodding toward Sunpaw- "a lesson, shall we?"
The cat he'd called Rowanpaw, a russet tom, nodded. "Yes, Barkpaw." He unsheathed his claws.
Sunpaw snarled defiantly, "Before you fight a losing battle, consider if you'll live!"
The two ShadowClan toms laughed. Rowanpaw growled, "Yeah, right!"
Stormpaw leaped at Barkpaw, a yowl rising in his throat. Barkpaw, unprepared, was thrown off his paws. Rowanpaw lunged toward Stormpaw, but before he could even raise his claws, Sunpaw bowled him over. Rowanpaw was thrown off his paws, and Sunpaw slashed at his flanks.
Earlier than Sunpaw had expected, Barkpaw kicked Stormpaw away and yowled, "Rowanpaw, we're being beaten! We have to go!" The ShadowClan apprentice waited for Rowanpaw, but he continued to fight Sunpaw.
Rowanpaw protested, raking his claws down Sunpaw's face. "No! RiverClan furballs won't beat us any day!" He grimaced in pain as Sunpaw clawed his chest. "We will win!"
Sunpaw hissed in anger. We'll see about that! She bit down hard into his forepaw.
"Okay, we'll leave!" Rowanpaw howled. He pushed Sunpaw away and, ignoring his sore paw, fled into the bushes, followed by closely by Barkpaw.
Stormpaw shook himself, cringing as he put pressure on one of his hindpaws. "We showed them, huh?"
"Yeah! Did you see them running off?" Sunpaw purred. She nuzzled Stormpaw and looked at the prey she'd hidden. Then she glanced at the orange sky. The setting sun was a ball of flame, shielded by the trees. "We'd better get this stuff back to camp before Crowfur chews us out." She took a couple of the fish and the vole and her squirrel. Stormpaw took the other two fish, his squirrel, and the three mice in his jaws and started back to camp. Sunpaw padded alongside him, her ginger fur glowing in the light.
The two apprentices arrived at camp when the sun was nearly down. The dusk patrol was getting ready to leave.
The leader of the patrol, Mistyheart, mewed, "Hm? And where have you two been?"
Stormpaw dropped his prey and replied, "Hunting."
Another in the patrol, Cloudnose, fretted. "What happened to you!?" She flicked her fluffy, pale ginger tail at Sunpaw's cheeck, which had near-dry blood crusted around the scratch.
Sunpaw blurted, "We ran into a couple of ShadowClan apprentices! We showed them how RiverClan fights!" She swatted a paw through the air.
Cloudstep and Mistyheart seemed unamused. Mistyheart, flicking her pale silver tail, ordered, "Go to Pebblegaze's den and get cleaned up. I can't have bloody apprentices running around and scaring kits!" She shook her head and watched them make their way across the Clearing and go inside the medicine den.
Sunpaw heard the senior warrior Runningleap meow, "Let's go now. Cats could be trespassing and we wouldn't even know it!"
Sunpaw whispered to Stormpaw, "I don't see why we couldn't lick our wounds and be healed."
The quite old medicine cat, named Birchleaf, was no where to be seen. Her apprentice, Pebblegaze, was always trusted by the other cats. He hurried up to them, his pelt smelling of the herbs he'd been sorting.
"I see your problem." he yawned. "Nothing more than a few scratches and bites. Here," Pebblegaze picked up some soaked moss. "Hold these to the wounds." He went back to sorting herbs.
Stormpaw picked up a piece of the moss in his jaws and held it to his foreleg.
Sunpaw lay down and wrapped a piece of moss around her own foreleg. "Well, hunting was good." she mewed.
"Yeah." Stormpaw agreed. "I bet Darkpaw and Ripplepaw couldn't catch that much even for Moonpaw!" he added, amused. He shook himself.
When the apprentices got their wounds clean, they headed back to the apprentices' den. Moonpaw was already curled up in her nest, fast asleep. Darkpaw and Ripplepaw were close by.
Sunpaw lay down beside Stormpaw and dozed off.
Solarpaw stood in a circle of fire. She looked around, her heart racing. She saw Cloudstep running from a burning tree which threatened to crash down upon her. Mistyheart dragged the dead body of Pebblegaze away from a scorched bush, and Shadefrost leaped away from a flaming branch, his tail on fire.
"Help!" Sunpaw wailed, but no one seemed to hear her. They just ran by, like she was a ghost.
The shrill cry from her other dream sounded again, more vivid and clear than last time.
Sunpaw looked around for the cat that screamed. But smoke filled her vision, and deafened her senses. Dark reddish-grey filled her vision, slowly going black...
"Sunpaw!? SUNPAW!" Stormpaw's voice made her stop. His speckled grey fur was fluffed up in panic.
"What!? Where-" Sunpaw shrieked, until her eyes cleared of red-grey, and she was staring into Stormpaw's panicked face. Ripplepaw looked terrified, ready to bolt to the medicine cat's den if Sunpaw yelled again. Darkpaw was looking surprised and rather afraid. Moonpaw was not in the den.
Sunpaw's quick, shallow breathing slowed, and she let out a soft wail and buried her muzzle into Stormpaw's fur, tears staining it.
Ripplepaw gasped, "Sunpaw, what happened?" His black-and-white striped fur bristled, and the older apprentice looked panicky.
Darkpaw nodded wordlessly.
Sunpaw managed to choke out, "Fire everywhere... screams of agony... death...." She cried out again and pressed against Stormpaw.
Stormpaw murmered comfortingly in her ear.
Darkpaw ran his tail over Sunpaw's shoulder, sympathy in his hazel eyes. Ripplepaw mumbled, "Nightmares happen, but this one seems to have been a bad one..."
A voice called, "Hey, what's going on?" Raintail's head poked through the entrance. "We heard yowling from the warriors' den." His mate and kit, Dapplepelt and Dewkit, were standing beside him, their expressions concerned.
"Is something wrong?" Dapplepelt asked quietly, wrapping her tail around her kit.
Dewkit pressed against her mother.
Sunpaw shivered as Stormpaw spoke. "She had a nightmare. A bad one, at that."
"A nightmare?" Raintail mewed. He looked surprised. "Surely it wasn't that bad of one!"
Sunpaw sobbed, "N-no. It was t-too r-r-real. I-I w-was s-surrounded b-by fire, and no one would s-stop to help me, a-a-and..." She realized she was just talking nonstop when Dapplepelt hushed her.
"It will be okay. Pebblegaze will know what to do." she soothed. Her long, soft tortoiseshell fur looked like snow.
Cringing, Sunpaw whimpered, "Pebblegaze was dead in the dream..." She buried her muzzle in her paws, refusing to speak anymore.
Stormpaw mewed worriedly, "Can't any of you help her?"
Raintail shook his head. "Pebblegaze knows this better than we do." The three cats parted to let the apprentices slip past. "You two," he mewed, flicking his tail at Dapplepelt and Dewkit. "Go back to the nursery, please."
The two obeyed. Raintail followed the apprentices to Pebblegaze's den, where the young medicine cat was sorting herbs, his back to the entrance. He was muttering something under his breath. Sunpaw looked up, tears stinging her eyes, to see that he was looking tired, and his fur was ungroomed. As he turned to face the cats, Sunpaw squeezed her eyes shut when she imagined his scorching body, flames engulfing the young tom's fur... She wailed again.
"Nightmares?" Pebblegaze growled inquisitively.
Raintail nodded worriedly. "She was screaming in her sleep. Can you do anything to help her?"
Pebblegaze shook his head. "No, no, no. I can't do anything to decrease nightmares. I think she might be training to much. Decrease her training. Maybe some poppy seeds'll--"
"No!" Sunpaw screamed; she knew poppy seeds made cats sleep, and that was the last thing she wanted to do right now.
Raintail sighed as his name was called from outside. "You take care of her, Pebblegaze. I-I have to go on patrol." The grey warrior turned and, glancing back once, slipped out of the den like a shadow.
Sunpaw glanced sideways at Stormpaw.
Pebblegaze flicked his tail at Stormpaw. "You. Leave." he growled, authority thick in his voice.
"Now!" the young medicine cat ordered.
Frightened by the sudden anger in the other tom's voice, Stormpaw whirled around and exited the den quickly. Pebblegaze flattened his ears, muttering, before saying to Solarpaw, "I know of your dreams."
Sunpaw widened her eyes. "Wh-what?"
"I have the same dreams as you. Fire, retreating cats, the scorching sky, it's all there." Pebblegaze mewed, curling his tail around his paws. His bristling fur slowly flattened. When Sunpaw didn't respond, he went on. "I am frightened by this. But, unlike your dreams, someone appeared in my dream."
Sunpaw blinked. "Who?"
"An ancient ThunderClan leader. His name was Firestar. Bluestar, another leader, and Yellowfang, a ThunderClan medicine cat, were with him. They told me something that will change your life forever." Pebblegaze's blue eyes danced with mixed emotions.
"What!? What did they tell you!?"
"Flame will consume the sky. The lake will dry, and the trees will burn. A journey will be taken to save the Clans." Pebblegaze paused.
"Who's the cat?"
Pebblegaze hesitated before breathing one word: "You."
Sleep wouldn't come to Sunpaw that night.
She tossed and turned in her nest, the bedding making faint rustling noises. The young apprentice sighed. "What did he mean? I'm the one to save the Clans? B-but I'm only an apprentice!" she whispered to no one in particular. She rolled on her back and tucked her paws onto her chest, looking up at the den's ceiling. "StarClan, give me answers..."
"Sunpaw?" a voice asked worriedly.
Sunaw turned in alarm, but relaxed when Darkpaw was looking at her with wide green eyes. "What is it, Darkpaw," she asked softly, gazing at him intently.
Darkpaw thrusted his head toward the den's exit, where Moonpaw was sleeping a few pawsteps away. "Can't talk here." He pushed himself to his paws and started toward the exit. When Sunpaw didn't move, he looked back at her with a sense of urgency. "Well?" he whispered quickly.
Sunpaw blinked a couple times, then whispered, "What is it, anyway?"
"I said we have to say outside!" Darkpaw's eyes became pleading. "Please!"
More coming soon!