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From Generation To Generation

by brams

for firey's prompt challenge

The following story is rated Worse.



these stories are ones from the past
ones connected by those before
or sometimes after them

these are the stories
that go down
from generation to generation


one

the fallen rose

The half-moon was rising.

As a result, like every half-moon, the gray-and-white she-cat found herself heading to the medicine cats’ gathering. The so-called all-important meeting, as she thought of it.

Important… yeah, right, she thought. It’s just medicine cats talking, doing medicine-y things. At the thought, she scowled. Stupid meeting.

Huffing irritably, she narrowed her eyes. Ahead, she could see the end of the rise she was climbing: to where, she knew, she and the other medicine cats would gather. Much to her annoyance, she heard voices. Great, the other medicine cats are here already. Ugh.

She hated these meetings. She wasn’t going to deny it. If she had a choice, she wouldn’t go… but she was forced to. The earth beneath her paws lost its constant rise, and in relief she breathed out. Thank StarClan that I climbed this stupid hill. As she paused to catch her breath, however, she heard another cat call her:

“Rosethorn! You’re here at last! Come over.”

A surge of annoyance went through Rosethorn at that moment, and she bit her tongue to stop her saying an irritable remark. Instead, she padded over to join the cat that had asked her to come.

Her gaze barely registered the Moonpond – the pond where, soon, she would speak to StarClan. Rosethorn, rather, looked around her. The two medicine cats from the other Clans were here – she was the last to arrive.

“Evening, Rosethorn.” The second cat spoke, her tail flicking slightly in panic. “Listen, I have a favour to ask of you.”

A favour? A favour? What’s the big deal this time? Rosethorn held the scathing remark in her head. Instead, she replied evenly: “What is it this time, Robinfur?”

Robinfur’s tail flicked again. “Well, in WaterClan, we’ve got several cats struck down with greencough. Unfortunately, my stocks of catmint are running extremely low. Can you spare some catmint?”

Rosethorn snorted irritably. Can’t you find enough catmint to get by? “Did you ask Littlefoot already?”

The other medicine cat, Littlefoot, spoke up. “Yes, but I can’t help. SwampClan’s getting greencough too, and I only have enough supplies to deal with my Clan.” The small tom, at this, shook out his fur. “MoorClan’s been spared so far, I hope?”

Reluctantly, Rosethorn nodded. No, we haven’t got greencough yet, because MoorClan is strong! “No greencough here, fortunately.”

“That’s great!” Robinfur mewed. “It’s only the beginning of leaf-bare, and having greencough this early…” The pale brown she-cat shuddered slightly. “But please, Rosethorn, can you give my Clan some catmint?”

No, because you need to get your own supplies! Rosethorn had to bite her tongue (again) to stop herself from hissing. Why should her Clan have to give WaterClan some catmint? However, she knew that she couldn’t deny her request. “Fine, I’ll give you some catmint.”

“Thank you so much, Rosethorn!” Robinfur mewed, happiness in her voice. “I’ll get a warrior to come to the MoorClan border tomorrow to collect that from you.”

“Okay.” You’re not welcome, Robinfur. I don’t want to give away my supplies.

~

As she reached the WaterClan border, Rosethorn dropped the bundle of catmint she was carrying on the ground. Raising her head, she looked around, wondering if WaterClan’s representative was here yet.

No cat was there. Good. They’re not here yet. The longer they stay away, the better. The gray-and-white she-cat huffed, her gaze flicking down to the catmint bundle.

Stupid WaterClan, getting not enough catmint. Next time, I won’t give them any. Robinfur needs to get better at –

Splash!

Suddenly cut off from her thoughts, Rosethorn looked up. A WaterClan cat had appeared, and had clumsily managed to end up in the stream that separated them.

Rosefall felt some droplets from the stream land on her. Clumsy, stupid WaterClan cat! she thought, hissing angrily as she shook off the water that landed on her. “Look where you leap, clumsy!” she growled.

The WaterClan cat shot an apologetic look at her as he made his way out of the stream. “Sorry, Rosethorn. Wow, your tongue really is as sharp as your name.”

At that, she hissed again. What an annoying cat! “And who might you be, Mr. Clumsy?” she mewed sourly.

The tom, whose dark brown-and-white pelt was drenched, raised his chin at this. “My name is Shrewwhisker, Miss Medicine Cat. I have come to get that catmint that my Clan needs. Can you please give it to me?”

Shrewwhisker, huh? What a stupid name. Also, no, I won’t give you the catmint, as your dumb name obviously affects your personality too! Rosethorn wished she could tell this Shrewwhisker that, but she dare didn’t. “Yes, here is your Clan’s catmint. Don’t waste it.” With one gray paw, she neatly rolled over the catmint bundle to the WaterClan warrior.

“Thank you very much.” As the bundle came towards him, Shrewwhisker outstretched his paw, bringing the bundle to his feet. He then lowered his wet heat, to pick it up, but he hesitated. “…Rosethorn?”

Annoyed, Rosethorn snorted. “Yes?” What is it, you mouse-brain?

Shrewwhisker tilted his head up. “Can you meet me tomorrow at the border?”

Rosethorn hissed irritably. “Why in the name of StarClan would I want to meet you at the border?” What stupid idea do you have planned?

“It’s important, I swear.” Shrewwhisker mewed. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t ask.”

Rosethorn snorted again. She didn’t like Shrewwhisker, but if it was important… “Fine then, I’ll come to this stupid meeting. Now, I have business to attend to back at my own Clan. Goodbye.” Without waiting for a reply, she turned her back on the WaterClan warrior and started to head back home.

As she walked back, however, one thought was nagging at her:

Why in the name of StarClan did I say yes to that stupid Shrewwhisker?

~

From that day on, the meetings didn’t stop.

They started off badly, in the beginning. “You said it was important! I didn’t expect this! That’s not important at all!”

A quarter-moon passed since that day. “I’m sorry, Rosethorn, I thought that it was important!”

A half-moon. “I accept your apology this time, Shrewwhisker… but I sure as StarClan won’t accept it next time.”

Part of her wanted to break off contact, but she knew that Shrewwhisker would not be pleased. Also… he wasn’t as bad as she thought. Still, she wondered: why hadn’t she stopped?

One moon. “Maybe you’re not a jerk like I thought you were.”

Two moons. “Mmhmm. Your tongue is still like a thorn, though! Fitting name, Rosethorn.”

Three moons. “Shut up, you mouse-brain.”

And slowly, ever so slowly, Rosethorn had to fight to hide her relationship with Shrewwhisker. Part of her knew… part of her felt it starting to spin out of control.

Four moons. “Friends. We’re just friends, okay?”

Five moons. “Are you sure about that?”

Six moons. “…I don’t know, Shrewwhisker, I don’t know.”

It was out of control, all right. Out of control.

Seven moons. “I don’t know how to hide this.”

Eight moons. “Yes, we can hide it! We’ll see… we’ll –”

Nine moons. Nine moons since the day…

“It’s too late, Shrewwhisker. We can’t hide it anymore.”

~

“What do you mean, Rosethorn, ‘we can’t hide it anymore’?”

This was the reaction that she’d been expecting. StarClan, Rosethorn knew that Shrewwhisker would be furious with her. They’d kept this up for nine moons, hiding their ‘meetings’ from their Clanmates.

However, no. As much as she loved Shrewwhisker… she had to end it. They’d gone too far. Way too far.

Too, too far… why hadn’t she stopped it earlier, when she’d had the chance to?

“It’s… too late, Shrewwhisker,” she breathed. Her paws shuffled in an almost nervous manner at this. “We should never have done this in the first place. We’ve gone too far!”

Rosethorn swore she could see Shrewwhisker’s amber eyes darken. The brown-and-white tom hissed angrily. “I thought we could keep this up! Why stop now?”

For once, Rosethorn’s usually-sharp tongue failed her. Instead, in an almost unlike manner, she backed away. “I –” she choked, her breath halting on the words. “Shrewwhisker, we never should’ve gone this far. Now… now my Clanmates are going to find out. It’s inevitable. What have I done?”

“How will they notice, without you –” Shrewwhisker was cut off mid-sentence, as something occurred to him. Rosethorn could see it, his face turning to shock, and then anger. “Great StarClan, I’m done for. I never wanted this!”

Apologetically, Rosethorn ducked her head. “…Sorry.”

However, Shrewwhisker shook his head. “I can’t accept this. We’re over, Rosethorn! I can’t deal with having kits in my life.” The WaterClan warrior turned his back on Rosethorn, and made his way over to his side of the border, not looking back.

Shocked, all Rosethorn could do was stare. Everything was over… everything. A wail escaped her, and all she wanted to do was grieve.

She was so busy with this, as well, that she didn’t notice the rustling from the gorse bush nearby – and then two small shapes running across the moor, away from the medicine cat.

~

Here I am. Almost at camp… finally, I can get back to my den and sleep for the next five moons.

She could see the camp entrance up ahead, with its gorsy surrounds. Inside and out, she ached. Rosethorn just felt like hiding and never coming out… but as a result of her role, she knew it couldn’t happen.

I wish I didn’t have to stay strong for my Clan right now.

Reaching the camp entrance, Rosethorn slowly padded in. Hazily, she looked around camp. She registered a few cats looking at her – why are you staring at me? Stare at someone else! – but nothing else peculiar. She started to lead herself to the medicine den.

“Rosethorn! Can you see me in my den now, please.”

A stern voice made Rosethorn jump, and look to the side. A wiry yellow tom was standing there, eyes narrowed. Confusion ran through her. What does Honeystar want now?

Mutely, Rosethorn nodded, and followed him over. More cats were staring at her now, and at this she could sense that something was wrong.

Something, she felt, was very wrong.

Honeystar led the gray-and-white she-cat into his den. For a moment, Rosethorn thought they were alone, until she spotted a gray she-cat and a small black tom sitting in there as well. Her eyes narrowed. What’re they doing in here?

“Sit,” Honeystar ordered to Rosethorn, and she obeyed obligingly. After that, Honeystar cleared his throat. “Well, Rosethorn… we’ve had some interesting things being said about you today.”

What do you mean, ‘interesting things’? Rosethorn cocked her head in confusion.

“Okay, then, I’ll explain.” Honeystar shuffled his paws, and his yellow gaze shifted to the two other cats sitting in the den. “Now, Featherleaf and Stoatswift have told me that they saw you today. They said that you were talking with a WaterClan tom, and… you told him that you were expecting kits. His kits.”

Rosethorn felt her blood run cold. They… how did they know!? Angrily, she turned on Featherleaf and Stoatswift. “Did you follow me!?” she hissed furiously to the two young warriors, who backed away. “You nosey warriors… keep to your own business!”

“It’s true…” Rosethorn was so busy lashing out at the two cats that she barely registered the shocked words, and a gasp from Honeystar.

“Featherleaf noticed,” Stoatswift stated, matter-of-factly. “She’s been looking for you, and you weren’t there… it happened often, so we thought we’d follow you and see what you were doing.”

Blasted, blasted young warriors! I knew I should’ve ended it with stupid Shrewwhisker earlier! Rosefall hissed furiously, and then turned towards Honeystar, who looked incredibly annoyed.

“I trusted you, Rosethorn,” he mewed, fury in his tone. “You were trusted. You broke the medicine cat code… and the warrior code. I am ashamed to have a medicine cat who would break it in this way.”

Rosethorn ducked her head. “So…?”

Honeystar’s gaze hardened. “From now on, you are no longer MoorClan’s medicine cat. You’ve broken that trust, forever. You are not going to be exiled, however – consider yourself lucky for that. You are all dismissed, and I am going to be telling the Clan of this at once.”

Without another word, the yellow tom exited the den. Stoatswift and Featherleaf followed: Stoatswift’s black fur rising in excitement. Rosethorn heard the young cat’s excited whisper: “He listened to us! Good job, Featherleaf.”

Rosethorn, meanwhile, stayed. Her head was bowed. In one day… she’d lost everything. Her role, the trust of everyone in her Clan, and the one she thought she loved.

She’d fallen from one of the most influential cats to a traitor.

She’d fallen from grace.

She was the fallen rose.

two

iridescent

“Three, two, one, start!”

Grasspaw raised his head at the call, watching as Quailpaw and Whitepaw leapt towards each other, eager to showcase the latest move that they’d been taught. They seemed more eager than what he was at the moment.

Well, I love battle training. Best part of my day, he thought sarcastically. Having to fight others was, Grasspaw thought, unusual. Plus, he was hopeless at it.

Hopeless, hopeless, hopeless. He knew he was going to fail, lose all the mock battles he fought today. Thank goodness to the fact they weren’t real.

He wished he had the skill of the other apprentices. At the moment, he admired Whitepaw’s. His sister was the opposite of him in the art of fighting – she was talented. Blinking, Grasspaw saw his white sister dodge a blow from Quailpaw, the slightly larger but younger apprentice.

“Mouse-dung!” Quailpaw hissed, shaking his gray head in frustration as he missed the blow.

Whitepaw, however, took this opportunity. In the gray tom’s moment of distraction, she leapt at him, hitting him in the side. Grasspaw heard Quailpaw grunt as he lost his balance, falling to the ground. Whitepaw, as a result, came and pinned the tom down.

“Got you!” she mewed triumphantly at Quailpaw.

“Okay, Whitepaw, you win.” Storkwing, Whitepaw’s mentor, spoke. At this, Whitepaw gleefully hopped off Quailpaw and sidled off, while Quailpaw scrabbled back onto his paws, huffing. “Good work. Quailpaw, don’t get so distracted when you miss blows next time.”

Quailpaw nodded in response, before moving off as well.

“Crowpaw and – uh, Grasspaw are up next.” Chervilfoot, Grasspaw’s mentor, mewed.

Grasspaw groaned. Oh, great! Crowpaw… watch me fail! Slowly, he rose to his paws and made his way over. He could see Crowpaw sauntering over as well: the wiry black tom’s eyes narrowed as he saw him.

As they both arrived, Chervilfoot flicked his tail. “Get into position.”

Grasspaw got into a crouch, and in front of him, Crowpaw did the same.

“Three.” Grasspaw shuffled his paws nervously. Time to fail.

“Two.” He saw Crowpaw shifting his paws as well.

“One.” Grasspaw felt sick to the stomach as he got ready to leap.

“Go!”

Suddenly, at that word, Grasspaw hesitated. He saw Crowpaw leap at him at once, and fear flooded through him. He tried to take a step back, but he was hit by the black apprentice, who sneered.

Grasspaw felt himself going off-balance – and in his attempt to regain it he fell over. “This is easy!” he heard Crowpaw mew at that. Before he could try to get onto his paws, the black apprentice had ended up on him.

Grasspaw fidgeted, trying to get back up, but he failed. Crowpaw had pinned him down. The wiry tom triumphantly eyed up him up, before hissing lowly: “See, half-Clan? You really are rotten fox-dung.”

Hurt flooded through Grasspaw. He’s right. I’m rotten fox dung. I’m half-Clan, and I can’t do anything to save myself. At least Whitepaw’s important.

“Crowpaw, get off him.” Chervilfoot mewed sternly. Slowly, the apprentice obeyed, slowly getting off Grasspaw as to make his torture as long as possible. “You did well. As for you, Grasspaw, you need to try harder.”

Now, anger flooded through Grasspaw. “I am trying hard!” he hissed. “I’m just not good at fighting.” I’m never going to get good at fighting. StarClan, I feel like a failure.

Well, maybe you need to try harder!” Chervilfoot growled. “At this rate, you’ll have your apprenticeship extended, and you’ll be a MoorClan apprentice for longer.”

At this comment from his mentor, Grasspaw heard a couple of jeers. He could see Crowpaw and Quailpaw nearby, flicking and eyeing him. He knew that they were the two that had done that. He knew they hated him – for being a useless fighter for one, but also being a half-Clan cat.

Why won’t any cat leave me alone?

Chervilfoot sighed, frustrated. “Why can’t you give more effort, Grasspaw? I’d like you to think about that. Meanwhile, you can go sit down.”

“Yes, Chervilfoot,” Grasspaw choked, feeling miserable. He went and sat down, a weight now in his chest. Why is my life so miserable? I should never have been born, and now I suck at everything. I hate my mother. I hate my father. Even Whitepaw’s more important than me.

Grasspaw felt furious. He just wanted to hide, and hide forever. StarClan, I need to get out of here.

“I need to go to the dirtplace,” Grasspaw mewed, staggering to his paws. He padded out of the training area, in the direction leading towards the dirtplace.

When he couldn’t see them anymore he ran. He ran away, away from the training area, as far away as he could.

I have to get out of here!

~

Grasspaw only stopped when his lungs burnt, his muscles hurt, and he knew he couldn’t run further.

He knew he was beyond MoorClan’s territory now. He’d gone past the border – he’d smelt the scent as he passed it. He was in the unknown now – away from his Clan, away from everyone he knew.

He sat down on the ground, and lowered his head. Now that he was gone, the anger flooded back. I can’t fight. My parents are stupid. Stupid, stupid Rosethorn. Stupid, stupid Shrewwhisker. Why did –

“Hey, what’re you doing here?”

Grasspaw jumped, blinking. A brown tabby with a paler chest had appeared, and he was staring at him. “What – what do you mean?” the apprentice stammered.

The larger tom frowned. “You smell like you’re far from home! You smell like one of those Clan cats over the way there. What’re you doing far away from them, young one?”

Grasspaw flinched. “I don’t want to talk about it,” he mewed flatly. “They all hate me.”

The tom shook his head. “I bet they don’t. Some cat cares about you over there. Those groups are like one big family, I’ve heard.” He then paused. “What’s your name, young one?”

“It’s Grasspaw, not that it’s important to you,” Grasspaw replied bluntly. “And stop calling me young one, it’s super annoying.”

“Fine then, Grasspaw,” the brown tom replied. ‘My name’s Hawke, although I don’t think you’d find that very important either.” He paused, and then added: “What’s the big deal about running away? I’m sure they care about you. What’s happened?”

Everyone thinks that I’m the greatest loser around. It’s always going to be that way. You can’t help, Hawke. Grasspaw held back a bitter remark. “Everyone’s better than me,” he mewed quietly. “Everyone’s good at life, and I’m not.”

“Hush, don’t say that.” Grasspaw saw Hawke frown. “Everyone’s important.”

Yeah, right! “Everyone’s got good characteristics. I have none.”

Hawke sighed. “You need to accept yourself, young Grasspaw. That’s how you become happy.” He sighed. “Everyone has a desire to fit in. Everyone has desirable characteristics too, Grasspaw. Some are attractive, iridescent. You have to find those qualities.”

To fit in… StarClan knew how much Grasspaw wanted to fit in. However much he’d tried, however… he always seemed to stick out. His parentage didn’t help. Neither did his poor skill set. However, at Hawke’s words, he felt hopeful. Maybe he could find something good about him.

“Thanks, Hawke,” he mumbled awkwardly. “That… is useful.”

“No problem, young one.” Hawke mewed. “You know, you should get back to your Clan. If they’re anything like I know of them, they’re probably worrying about you right now.”

“Yeah.” Yes, they’ll be worrying… no matter how much I dislike some of them. “Thanks again.” Grasspaw rose to his paws and gazed back in the direction he came from, warmth spreading through him.

I am important.

~

“Grasspaw! You said you were going to the dirtplace! Where in the name of StarClan did you go off to?”

When he returned back to camp, just as night was falling, he was met with cries from his Clanmates. Whitepaw was the cat that had come up to him, her amber eyes wide. “Everyone was worried, even Rosethorn. For once she looked like she actually cared.”

So the heartless Rosethorn finally shows emotion. Great. Grasspaw thought bitterly. At the mention of Rosethorn, though, she came up to join them as well. Her green eyes were wide. “Grasspaw, where in the name of StarClan did you go? Don’t do that again, or I swear I’ll claw off all your fur.” The tone in her voice was unusually light – Grasspaw thought that she usually sounded icy.

“Sor-ree,” he mewed sarcastically, brushing past his sister and mother. He couldn’t help but think about how Rosethorn sounded so different. She’s always been so sour… and according to all the warriors, she was nicer before Honeystar demoted her and she had us. For some reason, it made him happy.

Maybe they do care. They care... Hawke was right.

Grasspaw felt like smiling. He could see the moon shining down on camp, bathing itself in strong silver light. The colour changed slightly as he moved to the apprentices’ den, to get some rest, but it wasn’t enough to make a difference. Before he headed in, however, he paused.

It definitely wasn’t iridescent, rainbow-coloured. It definitely wasn’t attractive either. The silver light, however, gave him new hope.

He now knew he had to forge a destiny for himself.

And he would find it, no matter what.

three

"i will have you without armor, whitefall, or i will not have you at all"

“Crowpelt! Grassfoot! Quailheart! Whitefall!”

The cheers echoed around the clearing as the four new warriors’ names were announced. Whitefall, at the sound of the cheers, felt excitement and pride run through her. Finally, a warrior!

She’d worked hard for this, and to finally see her work come to fruition… it was a great feeling to have.

A shoulder nudged her at that very moment, as Whitefall heard the cheers dying away. “We did it!” Grassfoot mewed, his brown tabby tail flicked. “We did it, Whitefall, we’re finally warriors!”

“I know – it’s rewarding right?” Whitefall replied, vaguely noticing Crowpelt and Quailheart going off to see the rest of their family. “Nice to see my training to pay off for once.”

“Yeah,” Grassfoot agreed. He then paused. “Want to see Rosethorn? I sense that she won’t be a grouch for once.”

Whitefall nodded, and she let Grassfoot lead the way in finding their mother – the cat who probably didn’t make the wisest decision in bringing her to the world in the first place. StarClan, she shouldn’t even be here right now – twice over. She didn’t want to make the same mistakes as Rosethorn had.

I can’t get hurt, not like my mother did.

“Congrats, you two.” Rosethorn’s voice broke Whitefall out from her thoughts. The gray-and-white she-cat looked somewhat pleased – which Whitefall considered to be good, considering her usual nature. “I suppose we might be patrolling together now, huh?”

Whitefall nodded. “Maybe,” she mewed, only half paying attention.

Had Rosethorn kept to the laws she should've, she would never have patrolled. Had she kept to them, she shouldn't have existed. Whitefall knew that her illicit relationship with Shrewwhisker - the WaterClan cat who was apparently her father - cost her that.

She knew that, at heart, Rosethorn wasn’t a warrior. She was the medicine cat – until Honeystar demoted her, that was, after he found out of her expecting Whitefall and Grassfoot. After they became apprentices, she took up warrior duties, as she had no other option.

Rosethorn and Grassfoot both left, and Whitefall found herself alone. Alone, alone, in the MoorClan camp. Sighing, she sat down, drifting back into thought.

After she found out the truth about her birth… Whitefall couldn’t bear to get hurt by others. She, admittedly, wished she could get past it… as she watched Crowpelt and Quailheart, the other two siblings who’d just become warriors, a little bit of loneliness ran though her.

Whitefall knew she was one guarded cat, that was for sure.

~

“Chervilfoot! Take Stoatswift, Quailheart and Whitefall on the SwampClan border patrol, please.”

One moon had passed since Whitefall’s warrior ceremony – a rather uneventful moon. Now, as she heard Flameblaze’s call, she padded over to join the rest of the patrol, not really feeling super enthusiastic.

Chervilfoot, her brother’s former mentor – a cat that Whitefall didn’t really like. Quailheart, the cat she’d trained with, but didn’t know well. Then there was Stoatswift – one of the cats that had caught Rosethorn’s act. She didn’t know him at all, and didn’t really want to know him.

“We’re all here?” Chervilfoot queried, as Whitefall joined the patrol. At that, she looked around – black Stoatswift, gray Quailheart, brown Chervilfoot, and of course white her. They were all there.

Chervilfoot has also noticed this, as he mewed: “Okay, let’s go.” With a flick of his tail, he led the patrol out of camp.

As they left, the patrol rearranged itself. Chervilfoot took the heat, Stoatswift beside him. Whitefall found herself at the back with Quailheart, much to her relief. He’s the one I’d want to get stuck with, out of those three.

She looked at Quailheart, and he returned the glare. “So I’m stuck on a patrol with you,” he began, as they padded along.

Whitefall didn’t reply to this. Confusion ran through her. You’re hinting at something.

“You know, I’ve always wanted to ask,” Quailheart continued, his lead lowering. “Why’re you always so… distant? You’re always there, but I barely know you.”

Whitefall winced. Yes, she knew she was… distant. She didn’t reply to this as well.

A moment of silence followed this, where she just stared at the white-chested tom defiantly.

Another moment passed. Whitefall dropped her gaze.

Another moment. She heard Quailheart grunt frustratedly. “You should open up, Whitefall, talk to someone,” he mewed finally, breaking it. “You’re interesting. I’d like to get to know you better. Why don’t you talk with me sometime?”

Nervousness flooded through Whitefall at this. She didn’t really want to open up to anyone – Quailheart included. However, the part of her that wanted her to do it was urging her on. This is your chance, Whitefall! Gain some confidence for once. Not every cat will hurt you. The cat that your mother… he just didn’t realize what she felt, that’s all.

Slowly, she dipped her head. “Fine, Quailheart,” she mewed quietly. “I… we should get to know each other a little better.”

Quailheart nodded in return, and Whitefall felt a little bit of weight lifted off of her. She had an opportunity to do something now… although she was sure that it wouldn’t progress too far.

I’m still too scared, too scared to open up. Plus, I barely know Quailheart. How in the name of StarClan will I be able to give him a chance?

~

In the next two moons, Whitefall felt her confidence grow a little. It was only a little bit… but it made much of a difference.

She’d found herself talking to her Clanmates more than she ever had. It wasn’t just for Clan-related business, either. Occasionally she’d find herself talking with some other cat about something that had happened.

However, she still felt she was lacking something… something. She felt as though something was missing. Whitefall couldn’t place her paw on what it was.

I… just don’t feel right. What is it that I don’t have?

Her white fur fluffed up as a chilly wind blew by: it was not warm, considering it was the middle of leaf-bare. She was sitting outside the warriors’ den, looking at what was happening around camp – which wasn’t much.

The gorse barrier rustled, and Whitefall’s gaze flicked towards it. A patrol of four cats entered, bringing what they could find from MoorClan’s hunting grounds. Crowpelt, leading his first patrol, dropped a rabbit on the pile: he was followed by Cypressheart and her young apprentice Doepaw, who also carried prey. Finally, Quailheart brought up the rear: he, like the others, contributed food.

Whitepaw watched Quailheart pause by the fresh-kill pile, looking around. Then, he saw him meet his gaze, and make his way over.

“Hi, Whitefall,” he mewed, as he approached. “Do you mind talking for a moment? It’s kind of important.”

“Uh –” A wave of nervousness spread over Whitefall. Something’s up. This is not right.

“I promise, Whitefall, that it’s not bad,” Quailheart added quickly, seeing the look on her face. “It’s just… I feel as though we could make a good friendship together, but you’re holding us back.”

A wave of hope hit Whitefall at this. StarClan, he actually thought that she was alright! However, it only confirmed what she knew already – that there was something lacking, something that was missing. “Holding us back? How?”

Quailheart sighed. “You can talk to others,” he mewed. “That’s good, but… you’ve still got a guard up. I can feel it. There’s stuff you’re hiding, not willing to share with anyone else.”

Whitefall nodded. This was not new information: she knew this already. “…I know, Quailheart, but how do I –”

Guessing what she was about to ask, Quailheart interrupted her. “Let your guard down? You need to relax. Just let yourself go. You need to be yourself. That’s the only way to form friendships.”

Relax. Relax? I’m so used to… not relaxing, Whitefall thought. “But what if –”

Quailheart looked frustrated at this. “You just need to try.” At that moment, he came closer to her, and his gaze locked with hers. “This isn’t going to work if you don’t try. As a friend, I will have you without armor, Whitefall, or I will not have you at all.”

And in that moment, as he said that, Whitefall realised what she had missed. I just need to relax! Maybe that’s what I’m missing! I guess I could try… She sighed. “Okay, Quailheart, you win. I’ll lose my ‘armor’, just so we can give this friendship a chance.”

For a heartbeat, Whitefall swore that she heard Quailheart purr. The gray tom then meowed: “We have a deal then, huh? So I guess it starts now.”

Whitefall nodded. “Yes… I guess it does.” As she said that, she felt a mix of emotions running through her head. Finally, she’d done it… and she wasn’t going to blow this opportunity.

She’d lost her armor in her bid for friendship.

four

the pretty two-faced fox

The rabbit took off along the rise, sensing that it was threatened.

The orange tabby she-cat pursued it, not wanting this prey to escape from her grasp. I will get you, rabbit! She’d already missed twice today, and she was hoping that it would be third time lucky.

Her strides were lengthening the harder she pushed herself, the faster she went. She could see herself closing in on her prey, and the thought of food urged her on. She was so close now that she could almost taste it now… I can’t miss now, surely?

She took a running leap at the rabbit, almost at full speed. Her claws unsheathed as she made contact with the animal. Feeling satisfied as it made a high-pitched squealing noise, the orange tabby went towards its throat while it hesitated.

She nipped the rabbit’s throat, and she felt it go limp beneath her paws.

Triumph spread through the she-cat. Yes! It really was third time lucky! She got the rabbit off her claws: where she’d struck it with the first blow. She then sheathed them, and picked up the now-fresh-kill in her jaws.

“Nice catch, Renard!” The orange tabby she-cat looked around, wondering who had called her name, when a ginger-and-white she-cat appeared. “I would’ve gone for that rabbit myself, but when I saw you going for it I thought it was best that I’d leave you to it.”

Renard, dropping the rabbit at her paws so she could speak, nodded. “Thanks, Fiere,” she mewed. “It was a difficult catch.”

“Mmhmm,” Fiere responded. Renard could tell that she was only half-listening. Fiere’s gaze was intently looking at the rabbit, as if she wished she caught it herself.

“Why’re you staring?” she mewed bluntly, as the ginger-and-white cat couldn’t stop looking.

At this, Fiere finally seemed as though she’d jolted back into reality: she blinked a few times, as if she was mildly startled. “Oops, sorry Renard,” she mewed apologetically. “I was just wondering – could I have a little bit of rabbit? I’m really hungry, and you won’t be able to eat it on your own.”

A little bit of annoyance went through Renard at that. Are you trying to steal my prey or something? However, it was a fair request – the rabbit that she had caught was rather large. “Fine, you can have a little bit,” she mewed.

Fiere’s amber eyes brightened. “Thanks!”

Renard grunted a response, before gently pawing the rabbit in Fiere’s direction. She tore off some of it – that’s a little bit more than a little bit, she’d thought as she saw how large the piece was – and then brought it back to her.

“Okay, that was generous. No more,” Renard insisted. “I said a little bit, not grab a whole massive part.” She gestured to the large part of the rabbit’s flank that Fiere had taken.

“Whatever,” Fiere replied. She then lowered her head, and Renard could tell she was thinking of something. She didn’t have long to question it, though, as she quickly raised her head again. “Hey, Renard?”

“What is it?” Renard answered sharply, half-wondering what Fiere’s question was – and if it would be half-sensible for once. For once, can it actually be sensible?

“…I’m annoyed,” Fiere began. “Those stupid Clan cats that live nearby… have been super annoying.”

The Clan cats? Ugh. Renard found them to be super annoying as well – with their territory that they claimed to be theirs, prey they claimed to be theirs… pretty much everything they claimed, they said, was theirs. “I know – they’re super annoying. What have they done this time?”

Fiere hissed in response to Renard’s question. “Don’t get me started! I accidentally stepped into their territory again and this gray smoke she-cat saw me. I swear, she looked as though she wanted to claw my fur out when she told me to get out!”

Renard sighed in frustration. Fiere, you really do need to look where you’re going, she thought. The ginger-and-white she-cat was someone prone to not paying attention where she was going. However, she also felt annoyed at the Clan cat. “Typical Clan scum, being territory hogs.”

Fiere nodded in agreement. “Yeah! Wish I could drive them insane with something. Maybe that would teach them.”

Silently, Renard agreed. They needed to learn a lesson – and that was that the rogues wanted them to stop being stupid hogs.

But how would I – wait a minute…

An idea was forming in Renard’s head – a great idea, she thought. With it, she could drive those Clan cats insane…

I’ll teach MoorClan not to mess with us rogues!

~

Grassfoot was restless.

He felt in no mood to rest, even though the sun had set. Night had fallen, yes – usually a peaceful time for the three Clans. However, at the moment, night had been a time where havoc had been wrecked on MoorClan.

Some rogue – always the same one – had been trespassing. They’d never appeared in camp, but they’d been leaving dead prey around the territory, much to the annoyance of the whole Clan.

Doing that is a waste of food. It’s bad. Who in the name of StarClan would do such a thing?

Suddenly, an urge tugged at him. He wanted this to stop. Perhaps if he found this rogue… he could ask them to stop. After all, his Clan didn’t bother the rogues – so why should they bother them?

Grassfoot looked towards the gorse barrier, making up his mind. Yes, I’ll try finding this… intruder. Rising to his paws, the brown tabby exited camp, and headed out onto the moor.

It was weird, being alone on the moor. He’d only really been like this once before – when, as an apprentice, he’d run off as a result of how he felt about himself. He’d changed a lot since then, though. That was twelve moons ago – when he was eight moons old, only an apprentice.

Grassfoot’s pawsteps slowed after a while, and he paused to taste the air. He could smell himself, of course, as well as the faint scents of prey and his Clanmates. However, there was something else there. Is that…?

He then looked to his side, and saw a cat that he hadn’t seen before pelting across the more nearby. That’s the intruder – surely?

“Stop right there, rogue!” he called, as he started to sprint after the cat. “This is MoorClan territory, and you’re not welcome.”

At his call, the cat immediately slowed, then stopped. They turned towards Grassfoot, staring.

He padded up to meet them. He was right about the fact that he hadn’t seen this cat – this she-cat – before. “You should probably get out of here.”

The rogue, however, gave a defiant response. She stuck her nose up in the air. “Clan cat, I can do what I like. You can’t stop me from coming onto your land every night, leaving rotting rabbit carcasses everywhere. So why are you trying to stop me?”

Grassfoot hissed. This is one rather stuck-up rogue! She’s also the intruder… hmm… “We leave you alone, so why can’t you leave us?” he growled.

The she-cat twitched her tail in response. “I, Renard, can do what I like,” she mewed icily. “I told you that. Stop trying to stop me. Your Clan won’t win.” At this, Grassfoot saw her raise her paw…

…and unsheathe her claws.

Before Grassfoot could move back, the rogue – Renard – had taken aim at him. Her paw lashed towards his face, landing on his cheek. Grassfoot grunted as he felt the skin cut on his cheek.

“What was that for!?” he hissed at Renard, who had backed off. However, before he could say anything else, she disappeared from sight.

Now, he was furious. This rogue had attacked him, for StarClan’s sake! His Clan – especially Honeystar – would be hearing about this.

No rogue hurts a Clan cat and gets away from it, he thought as he turned and made his way back to camp.

~

Another night, another chance to cause more grief for MoorClan.

A half-moon had passed since Renard had come across the MoorClan warrior and attacked him while she was on her nightly havoc-run. She’d continued with her runs, but she-d decided to make them worse – leaving more prey littered around.

She was intent on making these Clan cats’ lives miserable. Why should they have to be hogs? There was no way she was going to stop – not until they learnt to share.

Renard stepped into MoorClan territory, and then started to pick up the pace. She was heading deeper into the Clan’s territory, and she knew it. Every day, she went deeper.

She was getting close to the centre of their territory now, as well. Soon, she would reach their camp… and she was really looking forward to that. What better way to cause mayhem, Renard thought, than to barge into the camp?

Part of Renard thought that was stupid. They could kill me. The other half of her thought it was great. But I’m smart. I can get away without them laying a paw on me.

Renard saw a flicker of something interesting nearby, and she suddenly stopped. Pausing, she looked in the direction where she’d seen the flicker.

As she realized what it was, a feeling of excitement and dread ran through her. Another cat!

The cat was not staring in her direction – that was good. Renard hoped that she didn’t realize that she was there. Eyeing them up, she broke into a sprint, going to attack.

The cat only realized that she was there when she’d leapt into the air to flight, her claws already unsheathed. They had no time to dodge – Renard slammed into their flank, and they yowled as her claws sank into their skin. Good, good…

She could do better than this, however. She knew that.

The Clan cat weakly tried to fight back. Renard, sensing that this cat was a poor fighter, managed to dodge their weak blows. She hit some too, making the cat screech in pain.

She knew she was weakening them. That was good. Now… she had to go further than that. I need to do something that will leave my impression on them.

So that was why Renard aimed for the cat’s throat.

Her jaws nipped the cat’s neck first, then she hit it with unsheathed claws. The cat gave a weak screech.

Renard retreated, knowing that she’d won. The cat fell to the ground, limp. She was certain that she’d killed them.

Let’s hope they’ll learn their lesson now, she thought, kicking the body once before abandoning it. They… will not win.

~

The wailing outside was what Quailheart woke up to.

Something’s wrong, was the first thought that came to the warrior’s mind. Something has to be terribly wrong. He sat up in his nest, blinking up sleep as he saw a cat enter the den, wailing.

A cold feeling ran through Quailheart at this. Whitefall had entered the den… Whitefall. Quiet, usually-unemotional Whitefall was losing it. At once, he exited his nest and came up to his friend.

“What’s going on?” he mewed quietly, as he approached.

Whitefall sniffed. She tried to say something, but she ended up choking on the words. Quailheart rested his tail on the she-cat for a moment, but she continued to wail.

“You’d –” she finally choked out. “You’d probably be best if you saw it y-yourself.”

A pit of dread entered Quailheart’s stomach. Slowly, he padded outside, bracing himself.

He padded over to the group of cats, wondering who it was. As he saw it… he gasped. StarClan, why? he thought, as his gaze set on the body. She wasn’t the best cat in the world, but she didn’t deserve to die like this…

Rosethorn had been killed. This was no accident – Quailheart could tell, by the wound on her neck as well as various others.

I will pay back whoever in the name of StarClan did this! No cat kills one of my Clanmates and gets away with it!

“No Clan cat did this.” Spottedpatch, Rosethorn’s successor in the medicine cat position, mewed. “It was a rogue. Rosethorn had orange tabby fur in her claws… which smelt heavily of rogue.”

“So keep an eye out for rogues,” the deputy, Flameblaze, added. The ginger tabby looked around at his Clanmates, then mewed: “We’ll be having extra guards, that is for sure.”

As other cats started talking about what was happening now, Quailheart backed away. He didn’t really want to talk about this now. Now… he had to help Whitefall, as he was worried for her.

She’s lost her mother… a mother who wasn’t the most loving or the most perfect, but one who never should’ve died the way she did.

~

Renard let the thrumming of her paws try and calm her as she ran through MoorClan’s territory.

It was only the night after she’d gone and killed that MoorClan warrior… and, of course, she’d found herself back in MoorClan’s territory. Part of her felt invincible, as if she couldn’t be stopped.

I’ve killed one of those MoorClan cats – I could do it again.

However, a small part of her now felt guilty. Renard never would’ve killed any of her rogue friends outside of these borders. If that cat… if she’d been a rogue, would she have found herself under Renard’s claws? Part of her knew that she’d gone… a little too far.

That cat has a family. I… damaged that. If someone killed my family, I’d –

The thoughts made Renard feel incredibly guilty for her actions. The part of her that cared knew she shouldn’t have done it. It was too late now to change it though.

The scent of MoorClan grew very strong, and Renard slowed. She guessed that she was near the centre of the territory: close to the camp.

Should she turn back? Part of her told her to do so. However, the other part of Renard egged her on, telling her to do it. You only have one life.

She listened to the latter, and sped up her pawsteps again.

It didn’t take much longer: she could smell them much strong now. However, as she turned a corner… she saw two cats standing there, guarding what lay beyond.

One of the guards stepped forward at that, hissing. Renard couldn’t see exactly what they looked like, but she could see they had a paler chest. “You! You’re the rogue who killed my best friend’s mother!” he spat angrily. He then took two steps forward, and lunged at her.

“Quailheart –” The other guard made a comment as Renard braced herself for the attack. She attempted to dodge but missed: she grunted as she felt the cat make a blow near her back.

“I’ve got this, Featherleaf,” the cat – Quailheart – mewed. He backed off slightly, while Renard tried to attack him back. She jumped at him – but Quailheart managed to dodge her blow, leaving her to crash into the ground.

Renard then felt the tom hit another blow. Oh… now I regret my decisions, she thought as the blow connected. Pain spread through her again: more painful than before.

She managed to scrabble back onto her paws, though her strength was diminished. Deciding to try another attack, she leapt, and felt herself connect this time. Quailheart grunted in pain as she hit him: but he managed to get a blow back at her.

Grunting, she lost some of her balance, and felt her tummy getting exposed. She tried to roll away, but Renard was too slow: she found Quailheart on top of her after a few heartbeats.

“You didn’t stop,” he mewed lowly at her. “You’ve alarmed my Clan for a while… you need to be stopped.”

Guilt twisted through Renard as she squirmed weakly under his paws. It was over, it was over. She knew what would happen now. At least, she thought.

Quailheart raised a paw. “Goodbye, pretty two-faced fox,” he whispered, before the blow connected.

Renard felt pain for a moment, and then she felt the last of her strength going away. I’m done for now. It’s all over. I knew it…

And with that, she submitted herself into blackness.

five

cold

“What’s that white stuff outside?”

Although he was inside, Ravenkit’s fur fluffed up: he could feel an icy wind blowing past him, coming into the nursery. He knew this was cold, but it was colder than what he had felt before.

He too could see the ‘white stuff’ that Dovekit had mentioned. It was littered all over the floor of the MoorClan camp, and all the warriors didn’t seem to care much for it.

“Is the white stuff normal?” Ravenkit added, worrying about whether it was a bad thing.

“Oh, you two!” His mother’s voice rang through the air. Ravenkit thought she sounded half-amused. “No, Ravenkit, it won’t hurt you! And Dovekit, that’s snow. It falls in leaf-bare.”

Okay, not dangerous. Good, he thought, looking outside. He didn’t really feel like going in the snow right now – he was content right here. His gaze then flicked to his right as he heard some noise: Dovekit was jumping in excitement.

“I want to go in the snow! Can I? Can I?” she mewed loudly at their mother.

Ravenkit’s ears flattened at his sister’s loud voice. Don’t need to be so loud, he thought, irritated. Dovekit was the annoying sister of the litter – the noisy one, Ravenkit believed.

“Yes, but only if I come out with you,” Ravenkit’s mother mewed. “That means, Ravenkit and Heronkit, you need to come outside as well.”

“Okay.” Heronkit, Ravenkit’s other sister, spoke: the gray tabby she-cat rose to her paws. Ravenkit, meanwhile, stayed put.

“I don’t want to go outside, though,” he complained. “I want to stay in here where it’s –”

“Ravenkit, calm down. Once you’re out there, you’ll enjoy it. Plus, you’re too young to leave on your own,” his mother interrupted. “You don’t have to go in the snow, but you will come outside for a bit.”

Ravenkit snorted. “Fine, but only if it’s for a little bit,” he mewed coldly as he got his paws and started to shoulder his way outside.

Ravenkit –” his mother sighed as the four of them exited the nursery.

While Dovekit and Heronkit chased each other into a large pile of snow nearby, Ravenkit didn’t bother to go and join them. One, he wasn’t in the mood. Two, it was cold. Three, if snow fell when it was leaf-bare, then wouldn’t it be –

“That’s cold!” he heard Dovekit announce loudly at that moment. Ravenkit narrowed his eyes, turning his gaze towards his pale gray sister in the snow pile. Heronkit was close behind, but as her fur was darker than Dovekit’s she was more noticeable.

Okay, snow is cold. I was right.

And four, he would stick out in the snow. Ravenkit’s pelt was black – almost the opposite colour to the white snow. He’d stick out more that Heronkit in the snow, that was for sure.

“I see the kits have found snow, hmm?”

A deep voice rumbled, cutting Ravenkit away from his thoughts: looking up, he saw his father. Snow dusted his back, and Ravenkit guessed he’d been out on patrol somewhere. After all, warriors didn’t roll around camp playing with snow. Not like Heronkit and Dovekit.

“Heronkit and Dovekit have found it, Quailheart,” his mother replied. “Ravenkit doesn’t want to go in. Don’t know why. I thought all kits loved snow.”

Well, you were wrong. I most definitely do not like snow, Ravenkit thought in response to his mother’s comment.

“You just wait, Whitefall. He’ll get into the snow at some point and he’ll love it,” Quailheart mewed in reply.

Yeah right, boring parents. Ravenkit scowled, and padded a small distance away, just to give himself some space. No, he didn’t like the cold snow. What was the big deal, anyway? It was just cold white stuff.

Just cold white stuff. Not important, right?

~

“Okay, Ravenpaw. Remember: keep your eyes on the rabbit as you go after it, and don’t trip over yourself. That’s how you lose prey.”

I know that, Storkwing. Ravenpaw felt annoyed at his mentor’s comments. Come on, I know what I’m doing.

It was the middle of greenleaf, and Ravenpaw had completed two moons of training. However, there were still four moons to go… which was why he found himself with mentor, doing hunting practice once again.

“Okay,” he mewed, deciding not to give Storkwing a piece of his mind. He tasted the air, checking for prey: he was pleased when he managed to detect a rabbit nearby. He turned in the direction of it: he could see it – and it was distracted. Good.

The black apprentice crouched, his eyes looking at it. He crept closer – one step, two steps, three. As he got closer, he felt his stomach rumble hungrily. This’ll feed MoorClan for a day and a half!

Then, he got up and ran.

Before he could reach it, the rabbit sensed Ravenpaw’s presence. It started to sprint as well, and now Ravenpaw found himself chasing it. Mouse-dung! This makes catching it more difficult.

He continued to pursue it, although he felt his muscles starting to burn a little, to ache. He was slowly gaining on it… if he continued, he would get it!

For a moment, Ravenpaw swivelled his head to look back. He could barely see Storkwing – this chase had been a long. Hopefully it wouldn’t be –

Suddenly, Ravenpaw found himself flying as he bumped into something by his paw. For a moment, all four paws were mid-air: he then went and plummeted into the ground. Pain shot through him: nothing bad, just the impact of the landing, he realized quickly.

Soon after that, anger shot through him. His chance at getting the rabbit was gone. Mouse dung, stupid rock thing! he cursed inside his head. That rabbit could’ve been good prey! I’ve failed.

The cold feeling of doing something bad now swept through Ravenpaw, and he felt a little embarrassed and ashamed. I’ve failed. I’ve failed. I’ve failed. Storkwing will eat me whole now! I did exactly what she said not to do.

“Oh, Ravenpaw, I told you to look where you were going.”

Ravenpaw grunted in frustration as he heard Storkwing’s voice. He scrambled back onto his paws, huffing in annoyance.

“You were close to getting it, too,” the black-and-white she-cat continued. “If you’d just listened to me, you would’ve got it.”

Ravenpaw bit back a bitter response. I know! I know! Another wave of anger crashed through him, and he hissed. “Stupid, blasted –”

“This is why you listen,” Storkwing pointed out.

He had listened to her – he’d just forgotten for a split second! Now, Ravenpaw couldn’t stand it anymore. He rolled her eyes at his mentor. “Tell me something that I don’t know,” he mewed, his voice cold.

At this comment, Storkwing looked shocked. “Excuse me, Ravenpaw –” she began, but he cut her off.

“If you don’t have something useful to say, I’ll be off,” he added bluntly, before padding off and getting into a sprint.

He felt cold inside. I… Storkwing, stop bossing me around. I don’t need you to repeat everything.

However, he also felt cold in guilt. Now she's really going to eat me whole.

~

In the first snow of leaf-bare, Ravenspirit found himself outside of MoorClan’s camp.

The freezing cold white stuff landed on him, making him feel like he was turning to ice. He shivered, shaking off the flakes, before padding a few steps further.

Part of him questioned his decision, to stay out in the cold. The other half of him embraced it. It was freezing out there, after all – he’d be much warmer back at camp, with his Clan. However… he felt like part of him was there, in the icy weather.

Ravenspirit stopped, and sat down in the snow, looking out onto the white expanse. It was white… so white. There was white everywhere, as far as he could see.

Just white, white, and more white.

He curled his tail around his paws, sighing, watching his breath spiral up above him as mist.

Ravenspirit felt the snowstorm getting heavier: the snow was pelting down heavier now, heavier than before. He shivered. I should go back.

He looked behind him as he thought, looking behind him. He blinked as he saw a cat step out from behind him – Ravenspirit huffed in response to this. He hadn’t seen them due to the reduced visibility.

“Ravenspirit, it’s cold. Shouldn’t we be back at camp?”

It was his sister. Heronwhisker was shaking the snow off her pelt as he watched her, and he cocked his head. “What are you doing out here?” he mewed icily. She sounds like she’s been out there for a while.

Heronwhisker looked taken aback. “Uh,” she mewed slowly. “I just saw you leave camp, and I thought I’d tell you that it wasn’t a good idea…”

Ravenspirit snorted. Heronwhisker was hiding something - and he didn't recall her being in camp when he left. “Whatever,” he mewed unconvincingly, not really believing her but not willing to question it. “Let’s get back before Honeystar claws our fur off.”

Heronwhisker nodded, and waited for him to get back onto his paws. The two of them then wandered back silently, without word.

Ravenspirit had nothing to say to her, after all. However, he was thinking.

He knew Heronwhisker… something was up. Why would she be out by herself? She was never the cat that would wander – unlike him, who had a tendency to go astray. He felt himself getting colder – both inside as well as outside – as he thought.

I will find out what you’re hiding, Heronwhisker. Why would you be out in the cold by yourself?

six

"i will strip away all that you know, all that you love, until you have no shelter but mine"

“I do.”

Heronpaw spoke the two words: the two words that, she knew, would confirm her fate as a new warrior of MoorClan. Excitement burst through the tabby. It’s finally time… I wonder what my name will be?

“I do.” Heronpaw’s siblings, Dovepaw and Ravenpaw, echoed the call. She could see that Dovepaw’s fur was fluffed up in excitement: while Ravenpaw seemed more calm and collected. The black tom started up calmly at Honeystar, waiting like Heronpaw was.

“Then by the power of StarClan, I grant you your warrior names.” Honeystar’s voice echoed from where he sat on the Gorserock. The ageing tom’s gaze flickered to Heronpaw’s right, to Dovepaw; she gave an excited bounce.

“Dovepaw, from this moment you shall be known as Dovetail. StarClan honours your enthusiasm and kindness, and we welcome you as a full warrior of MoorClan.”

Heronpaw could see pride in the newly-named Dovetail’s eyes as she stepped back. Who’s next? she wondered curiously.

She was given an answer a couple of heartbeats later, when Honeystar’s gaze flicked to Ravenpaw. His dark chin raised in pride as the leader spoke: “Ravenpaw, from this moment on you shall be known as Ravenspirit. StarClan honours your determination and courage, and we welcome you as a full warrior of MoorClan.”

Judging by the puffing-out of his chest after his name was announced, Heronpaw knew that her brother obviously liked his new name. Now, her excitement and nerves increased as Honeystar’s gaze set on her. It was time for her to receive her new name.

Here it comes, she thought, as she saw Honeystar’s mouth open to speak, to announce it.

“Finally, Heronpaw. From this moment on, you shall be known as Heronwhisker. StarClan honours your intelligence and dedication, and we welcome you as a warrior of MoorClan.”

Heronwhisker nodded. That was not the name that I expected, but… I like it. She looked backwards, at her Clan, as they started to cheer their new names:

“Dovetail! Ravenspirit! Heronwhisker!”

Pride surged through Heronwhisker again. Now that she was a warrior, she would make her Clan proud.

I will make sure that they are proud of me!

~

Heronwhisker padded along the border between the rogues and MoorClan alone.

A moon has passed since her warrior ceremony, and she was enjoying her new role. Although part of her missed training with her now-former mentor Doestep, part of her didn’t miss it. Part of it had been arduous, that was for sure.

Battle training was so tiring, she recalled. Shaking the thought away, she focused back onto the task at hand. Right, border. Anything interesting nearby?

Heronwhisker, for a moment, stopped in her tracks. Tasting the air, she listed the things she could smell in her head. Strong MoorClan scent – that’s typical. There’s some rabbits nearby, and – huh, rogue scent. Fresh too.

The rogue scent worried her a little bit. If this cat… this rogue stepped into MoorClan territory, It could mean trouble. She’d heard the stories of this happening before – especially the one about the pretty two-faced fox, when a rogue terrorized the Clan before Heronwhisker's father killed her.

She knew she wouldn’t let that happening again.

Heronwhisker padded forward a few steps. She looked behind her, at her Clan’s territory – no rogue there, thankfully. She then looked out beyond the border, and she saw them.

A gray cat was sitting close to the border. They weren’t on it, just nearby. At the moment, they don’t threaten me, so I’ll leave them, Heronwhisker thought as she tried to go past them.

However, they saw her. She saw them move, turn in her direction. “Oh, hello there.”

Heronwhisker didn’t reply as the rogue got to his feet. He was a big cat – bigger than her – and his ears were rather nicked. It made her nervous, and she crouched. He didn’t look very friendly.

Seeing her stance, the rogue was suddenly amused. “Oh, calm down, I won’t hurt you,” he mewed, tone half-amused. “My name’s Cye. I live around here. And who may you be?”

Heronwhisker still felt a little defensive. This cat was a rogue, after all – not one of her Clanmates. He couldn’t trust her as much as them – but it wouldn’t hurt to tell him her name, right? “Heronwhisker,” she mewed slowly, not meeting Cye’s gaze.

Cye’s nicked ears flicked at that. “Oh, you’re a Clan cat,” he mewed. He then looked around. “I didn’t step in your border, right? I hear you guys don’t like that.”

Sounds like your rogue buddies know some stuff about the Clans, huh? “No, you didn’t go in, lucky for you,” Heronwhisker replied. “Don’t even step beyond this marker. Otherwise I have permission to claw half your fur off.”

“Oh really?” Cye looked amused again, tail flicking.

Heronwhisker rolled her eyes. “Yes, it’s true,” she mewed, half-hissing. “Don’t you ever –”

“Okay, okay, Heronwhisker… just pulling your tail, chill.” Cye grumbled, and then straightened up. “Hey, you’re interesting. You should come meet me again some time.”

…Ew. Heronwhisker suddenly felt a little creeped out. “And why would I do that?”

Don’t do it, Heronwhisker told herself. You’ve heard the story of Rosethorn! When she said yes to an unknown cat… look what happened to her! However, she withheld from saying anything, waiting for Cye’s reply.

“Well,” Cye mewed. “I can teach you a lot, Heronwhisker. I could strip away all that you know, and give you some new insight. There’s a lot to this world, and I can show you it.”

Heronwhisker felt even more creeped out at that. Strip away all that you know… why? She opened her mouth to say no… but what she said was the opposite of what she actually wanted. “Uh, yeah, I’ll come again. When?”

“Meet here at the first snowfall of leaf-bare,” Cye mewed. “Until then… see you, Heronwhisker.” Without another word, the gray tom stood up and padded away.

Under her breath, Heronwhisker cursed. Why in the name of StarClan did I say that for!? Now she had to go. Fuming, the gray tabby made her own way back to camp, as she wished she could’ve said no.

I can’t take back what I said… I have to go back and see Cye again now.

~

Every time she stepped out of camp alone from then on, every time that she went to see Cye, Heronwhisker felt herself getting racked with guilt.

StarClan, she knew the risks. She… didn’t want to make the mistakes that the cats before her had made. The only reason she still did it was because, for some reason, she couldn’t just turn down Cye. She just… couldn’t.

Now, Heronwhisker found herself on the border again, doing the very deed that made her feel guilty. She sat down, and waited. Hopefully, no cat would see her.

Thank goodness no cat’s seen me with him. However… Ravenspirit knows that I’ve been sneaking out – or, at least, been doing something.

After she’d met Cye for the second time, she was on her way back to camp – and it was just Heronwhisker’s luck that she managed to bump into her black-furred brother having a wander by himself. He’d questioned her about it, and Ravenspirit had been rather unconvinced with her response.

She didn’t know how much Ravenspirit knew, but it wasn’t good. He could find out. Then what would happen? Would I get demoted, just like Rosethorn had, or –

“Heronwhisker! It’s great to see you.”

Cye’s husky voice jolted Heronwhisker out of her thoughts, and she blinked at the gray tom. One of his nicked ears flicked as she turned and saw him.

“Hi,” she mewed shortly in reply, her tail twitching slightly.

Cye sat down in front of her. “You’re quiet today,” he mewed, and then he added: “You know what we were talking about last time?”

Heronwhisker nodded. “I do.” The last time they’d met, Cye had gone on and on about rogues and their stories, and why some of them liked (or hated) the Clans. She’d found it to be very unusual, but she hadn’t questioned it. He’s just… weird.

“Well,” Cye continued, “that’s a side you don’t hear in the Clans, right?”

Heronwhisker nodded again. “Yes. It’s because we don’t care much for rogues. If you lived in my Clan, you wouldn’t hear the stories of rogues, just like you don’t hear stories of us.”

“Good point,” Cye mewed smoothly, his front paws moving slightly on the ground. “I haven’t heard any of your Clan’s stories. Why don’t you share them?”

At once, Heronwhisker got defensive. Why in the name of StarClan would I want to share my stories about my Clan with you? “They are my Clan’s stories and my Clan’s own. I’m not sharing them with a rogue like you,” she hissed.

Cye shrugged. “Okay. Share them now, share them later, I don’t care.” He curled his tail around his paws.

More like share them never, Heronwhisker thought sourly. I don’t trust you.

“You know, Heronwhisker,” Cye continued, “just be patient. I can tell you don’t trust me. Give it time. I’ll change all that you know, all that you love. Just wait and see.”

Change all that I know? All that I love? Those words made Heronwhisker feel a little creeped out, and it gave her the impression that Cye was being creepy. “Okay, now you’re getting weird. That’s enough talk for today: I’ve heard enough.”

At this, the gray tabby saw that Cye looked a little dejected. “Okay, then,” he mewed. “See you soon, Heronwhisker.” He got to his paws and padded off, and she did the same.

She felt haunted on the way back. She felt bad. She felt as if she was to continue this… something would happen.

StarClan, what do I do? Is this a bad thing to be doing… or not?

~

Another day, another meeting. Another day that had a meeting with Cye.

Heronwhisker had grown to dread the meetings: they were gradually getting more and more bizarre. She was starting to question why she hadn’t stopped already; now, she was really considering not bothering to turn up.

There’s no point. These talks are getting weirder by the day, and I could be spending my time much more wisely than this. I could be helping my Clan.

She stopped at the usual place, beside the border. Just as she was about to sit down, Cye appeared, his blue eyes looking unfocused. “Hello there, Heronwhisker. Nice to see you,” he mewed.

Putting on an impression that sounded as though she was enjoying the talks, Heronwhisker mewed cheerfully: “Nice to see you too, Cye! How are you?” Can you get out of my sight? You’re annoying.

“Good,” Cye mewed, his gaze flicking from Heronwhisker to somewhere nearby. “Say… who are those cats, coming this –”

“Heronwhisker! What in the name of StarClan are you doing?” a familiar voice called.

Surprised, Heronwhisker turned, her blood running cold. Two cats – Dovetail, and her friend Dognose – were standing there, surprised.

“Who’s that creepy cat?” Dognose asked, his brown tail rising in interest. “And Heronwhisker, why are you with him? He looks like trouble.”

“…Oh, are these some of your Clanmates, Heronwhisker?” Cye mewed, looking interested as he stared at Dovetail and Dognose. “And who may you be, Clan cats?”

Dovetail didn’t suspect anything by giving her name. “The name’s Dovetail,” she mewed, tail flicking. “Heronwhisker’s my sister. Why are you with her?”

At Dovetail’s comment, Heronwhisker felt a surge of irritation run through her. Too much information, Dovetail, she thought, annoyed.

“Oh, so you’re Heronwhisker’s sister, hmm?” For the first time, Heronwhisker saw Cye step over the border. It was only a paw… but a paw nonetheless. “Well, I’d assume that you’d be just as naïve as her. She’s listened to me talk for the last two moons.”

Cye’s comments hurt Heronwhisker. He’d been trying to… do something with her! She knew she never should’ve trusted him! However, it was replaced by anger as he leapt at Dovetail, lunging for the throat.

Heronwhisker was frozen in shock. No! What in the name of StarClan are you doing to my sister!? Dognose, meanwhile, tried to leap at Cye once he realized what was going on.

Dovetail, meanwhile, had no time to react. None of them could’ve done anything. The blow connected at the throat, and there was a sickening snapping noise. Cye moved backwards: while Dovetail, limp, fell to the ground.

While Dognose looked towards the pale gray she-cat, Heronwhisker turned on Cye, furious. “What have you done!?” she screeched angrily. “What did you do to my sister!?”

Shortly, Cye replied: “I killed her. Heronwhisker, I told you… I will strip away all that you love.”

No! Heronwhisker let out a wail of grief. She heard Dognose do the same, pressing his nose into his friend’s pale gray fur. “You cannot do that –”

“Oh, yes I can,” Cye mewed smoothly. “Heronwhisker, I will strip away all that you know, all that you love, until you have no shelter but mine.”

Heronwhisker shrieked. This cat really was crazy! “No,” she hissed. “I most definitely will not shelter under you, especially after what you just did to my sister!” Anger flooded through her… so much anger. She felt as though she would burst.

And finally, in this anger, she finally found the courage to say what she should’ve said all along.

“I’m not coming back, Cye. You’re filthy rogue scum. You’ve hurt me, Cye, and I can never trust you for that,” she hissed. Slowly, she then turned back to Dognose, who appeared to be still grieving. “We… we should probably take Dovetail back to camp.”

Dognose looked up. “We should,” he mewed thickly, voice hoarse with grief. “Can you help me?”

“Of course.” Together, they got the body up on their shoulders – ignoring Cye nearby, who was still staring. They then wandered off with Dovetail on their backs, continuing to ignore.

When they were out of sight of the gray rogue, Dognose finally spoke. “Heronwhisker? Why were you with that rogue anyway? What was he doing?”

In reality, Heronwhisker wasn’t sure what Cye was up to. It was not with good intentions, but it didn’t matter anymore – it was over. She sighed, and mewed:

“I don’t know, Dognose. I really don’t know.”

seven

fire-falls

“Wait for me, Windwhiskers!”

Dawnpaw ran after her mentor, struggling to keep up on short legs. Her small size definitely didn’t help for when she was going after her large mentor! She saw the dark gray tom stop, waiting for her patiently as she reached his side.

Windwhiskers looked slightly amused as he got up, long whiskers twitching. “Took you a while to catch up,” he mewed, his tone amused.

“Oh, shush.” Dawnpaw flicked one dark ear in acknowledgement of her mentor’s words. He’s never going to let that go. “One day I’ll be as big as you,” she insisted, knowing her words were probably lies.

Suuuure,” Windwhiskers meowed, intentionally lengthening the word. He then straightened up. “Right, Dawnpaw, we’re doing a scenting exercise today. You need to tell me all that you can smell.”

Dawnpaw nodded. “We’ve done this before.” Admittedly, she’d only done it a few times – her training had only started a moon ago, so she could become a MoorClan warrior one day. However, her heart was set on the fact that she would – one day – be the best warrior.

I’ll show MoorClan that I’ll be the greatest warrior they’ve ever seen!

“Yes, I know, I’m just reminding you,” Windwhiskers grunted, his tail twitching. “As I was saying, you’ve only done this a few times, so you’ll still be learning. I do think, though, you will be starting to get a better idea what you’re looking for.”

Dawnpaw nodded. She knew this would be an important skill for when she became a warrior, so it was important to get it right and learn. She paused, waiting for a signal. Nothing.

“Can I just start?” she asked after a while of waiting for something to be said... and nothing being said. The silence was daunting, Dawnpaw felt – she just wanted to start doing it.

“Just go ahead, Dawnpaw. Do your thing,” Windwhiskers mewed.

Dawnpaw nodded. Raising her dark tail, she opened her mouth and tasted the air. Scents tasted her tongue, and she thought about them as she said them out loud.

“I smell MoorClan. Unsurprising, as we’re in our own territory right now,” she began. “I also smell… some prey. I smell a relatively fresh rabbit – came by in the last day, possibly?”

Behind Dawnpaw, Windwhiskers was also tasting the air, and she saw the dark gray tom nod in agreement. “You’re right that the rabbit came along in the last day. Actually, it probably came by a few hours ago.” He paused, and then added: “Continue.”

A surge of pride at getting the point about the rabbit went through Dawnpaw. Sounds like I’m making progress! She tasted the air again, picking up more scents.

“Um, there’s another faint scent. Smells like some sort of predator. I haven’t smelled it before, though, so I don’t know what it is.”

Glancing behind her, Dawnpaw saw Windwhiskers giving her a pleased look. “Yes, that’s a fox scent. You don’t want to meet those things. Not as deadly as badgers, but still dangerous.”

She’d heard the stories of these predators before. Badgers were huge and black-and-white, while foxes were slightly larger than cats, and had a mainly orange pelt. They were threats to all the Clans, and cats died fighting them.

“Didn’t Honeystar get killed by a fox?” Dawnpaw asked. The former leader had died three moons ago, and been replaced by a she-cat that was now called Ivystar. She remembered seeing his body quickly afterwards: he looked pretty beaten up. She didn’t get a good look, however: Lilyfur, her mother, had caught her looking and drover her away from the dead leader.

I didn’t know him well, but the Clan grieved for him. I definitely remember that.

Windwhiskers nodded. “That’s right,” he mewed grimly. He then shook himself. “Now’s not the time to be talking about Honeystar. Anything else?”

Dawnpaw grunted in frustration before tasting the air again. This time… another new scent hit her. It was really fresh, and now she felt like choking - it smelt terrible! “What in the name of StarClan is that scent?” she gasped, breaking off to cough.

Windwhiskers paused, and wrinkled his nose. “Oh. There must be a fire in that woodland outside Clan territories. That’s the smell of smoke, Dawnpaw. Smoke comes from fire. Smoke kills cats.”

Dawnpaw made a choking noise. Smoke kills. Smoke kills. Fire kills. The words echoed in her head, and then another harrowing thought came into her head. What if there are cats in there?

“…There could be cats in there!” she breathed.

Windwhiskers grunted. “Yes, Dawnpaw. However, it’s not our problem. That’s where rogues live. There are rogues stuck in that fire – who cares about them?”

I care, Dawnpaw thought, as she felt the pale fur on her back start to rise. “But –”

Windwhiskers sighed. “We need to go back. Ivystar will want to know, just in case.”

Dawnpaw opened her mouth to protest, but ended up snapping it closed again. It was no use arguing to her mentor about it – she’d get shut down. However, as she headed back, a bold of confidence ran through her.

I‘ll go help the cats in the fire, no matter what Windwhiskers says. I can do anything!

~

“You seem worried, Dawnpaw. Is something troubling you?”

Dawnpaw raised her head, as she heard her brother’s voice. Volepaw had emerged from Spottedpatch’s den – this was completely normal, as he was her apprentice – and come to sit next to her, his pale brown tabby fur spiked up. He stared at Dawnpaw, as if he expected an answer.

“Uh, yeah, a little bit,” Dawnpaw mewed uneasily, thinking about the fire. What if –

“What is it, then?” Volepaw’s eyes narrowed as he spoke, and he shuffled his paws. Dawnpaw, meanwhile, jolted out of her thoughts, listening. “You can tell me, Dawnpaw.”

Dawnpaw took a deep breath, and told Volepaw of what she’d smelt. “He said it was smoke, and that it comes from fire. Fire kills cats, and I’m worried. These cats are rogues… but –”

Volepaw’s tail twitched ever so slightly. “Windwhiskers is right that it’s not really our problem,” he mewed apologetically. “It’s out of our territory – out of the territories of all three Clans. These cats aren’t like us in their ways, Dawnpaw; we don’t need to look after them.”

Anger spread through Dawnpaw at that. She thought Volepaw, at least, would have more sympathy that what Windwhiskers had had when she told him. It turned out that she was wrong.

You… let me down, Volepaw. I thought you’d understand.

Dawnpaw grunted irritably and wandered away from her brother. Guilt ran through her. She wanted to do something, even though her Clanmates all said no.

They couldn’t stop her. She would do something. A plan was forming: she’d need to act fast.

No cat can tell me what I can and can’t do! If I want to help, why can’t I?

~

Dawnpaw stood below the flaming trees, her heart racing. These trees… they look so dangerous up close? Was going after some rogues such a good idea?

The flames were massive. The smell was bad – it made her feel sick, like she was going to vomit. Now she understood why Windwhiskers and Volepaw told her not to get involved.

A small breeze blew past – hot due to the fire and the fact that it was mid-greenleaf. Dawnpaw stared up the flames again, fear running through her. Now, she wished she hadn’t run off. Now, she wished she hadn’t abandoned her Clan. Why had she –

Suddenly, Dawnpaw swore she heard a noise. Her dark ears pricked in interest. Is there a cat in there? she wondered. “Is anyone there?” she called, just to check her suspicions.

This time, she heard a voice clearly. It wasn’t exactly a voice – more like a wailing noise than anything – but it was better than something. “Oh, is that someone?” the voice mewed. “Help me, please!”

Dawnpaw’s breath caught in her throat. Some cat was there – and in trouble! “Just wait there! I’m coming for you,” she yowled.

Without thinking she padded into the flaming forest, trying to find this cat.

The good news was the cat was making noise. That helped Dawnpaw – she could figure out how close she was. However, avoiding the flames was tricky – they kept on flicking up the trees. They were also really hot, and Dawnpaw felt as though she’d overheat.

The only thing that stopped her from going back out was this cat. I’d never forgive myself if I went out now. I may be a Clan cat, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about rogues in danger.

She could hear the cries getting louder. Dawnpaw was getting closer. She rounded a bend – past a flaming tree that was covered in fire – and then, she saw him.

A dull-furred cat was standing there, stuck behind a wall of flame. He looked younger than Dawnpaw, and he looked terrified. His gaze locked with hers as he noticed her presence, and he let out a cry. “How do I get out of here?”

The Siamese she-cat looked around – and quickly noticed that this cat hadn’t assessed all his options. He was looking only in front of him. If he backtracked, he could find his way out. However, Dawnpaw made up her mind – no. She’d go find her way to this cat herself. At this, she immediately got back to work.

She weaved around a few trees, trying her hardest to dodge the flames. This area was more in flame than the areas she encountered before – and Dawnpaw felt them licking at her skin, trying to deter her. She wouldn’t let them deter her. For the rogue's sake, don't give up now!

It finally worked, and she emerged from behind the rogue after a few long moments of trying. “Okay, we have to get out now,” she coughed, “before it gets worse.” She coughed – smoke was getting in her lungs, and she didn’t know how much longer she’d cope.

The cat turned around. His gray fur was singed, his eye wild. “Yes,” he spluttered. “We need to run.”

Dawnpaw nodded. They turned around, and running, the followed back the way she came. Her heart hammered in fear and in pride as she did so.

I helped some rogue! She felt incredibly satisfied. See, I can do anything!

~

The two cats had coughed once they emerged from the forest – and coughed quite badly. Dawnpaw felt in bad shape: the fire-run had not done her much good at all, physically. The good that came from it was from what’s she’d done – what was on the inside.

The cat she’d helped rescue was beside her. He looked like he was even worse – unsurprising to Dawnpaw, considering he’d gotten stuck in there. “I… never got your name,” he mewed quietly, looking at the flaming forest. “What is it? I’m August, by the way.”

August. It wasn’t a bad name, Dawnpaw thought. It was different to any name she’d seen, anyway. “My name’s Dawnpaw,” she mewed.

“Huh. Funny name,” August muttered, crouching to the ground as he looked up at the flames. Clouds were now forming on the horizon: soon, it would hopefully rain and the fire would be vanquished. “Thanks for saving me,” he added, sighing. “You saved me.”

You could’ve saved yourself, Dawnpaw thought. However, she didn’t deny his words. “It was nothing.” She too sighed and looked up. The forest, she knew, would lose its glory as a result of this.

The fire had caused the forest to fall, she felt.

The fire-falls, she thought. That was the name that first came to her head – a name that described how she felt about it all. The fire-falls.

And from that moment on, Dawnpaw knew that would be the name she’d know the forest by. She knew that she may not step in it again… but she’d never forget what she’d done for that August cat.

The fire-falls.

eight

eloquence

nine

"when you spend so long trapped in the darkness, you find that the darkness begins to stare back"

ten

a thousand steps

eleven

messenger

twelve

"you could rattle the stars. you could do anything, if only you dared"

thirteen

wind-walker

fourteen

"no-one was my master - but i might be the master of anything, if i wished. if i dared"

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