Honey flavoured lies
She's beautiful, the cat that lies so serenely on the moss-coated ground. Her glossy white coat is windswept but perfect. Her beautiful blue eyes are wide open, the moonlight reflecting off the azure colour. Her breath is ragged but a trace of her own voice is detectable in her deep gasps. Three tiny kits lie mewling by her side, nothing more than frightened scraps of fur. They voice the ancient, instinctive language that only a newborn kit could produce. The beautiful she-cat's eyes are fixed on them, and although she is weak, I can see love burning in her gaze. That love is echoed in my heart as I watch the tiny creatures nuzzle their mother expectantly.
"You're... so... beautiful..." she chokes out, each word an effort.
"What will we name them?" I whisper. The she-cat sends me a warm, loving look. My heart feels like it is going to split in two. I am living the last moments that I have left with the cat I love.
"You... you... can name two. But... I'm... I'm naming the gray kit Smokekit."
"After... me?" I feel the fiery, consuming emotion of love surging through my veins, digging deeper into my heart than I ever knew possible. In this moment, there is no cat in the world but she and I, lost in our own sweet, oblivious paradise. But that world is soon to be torn apart, and we both know it. Why am I not yowling with grief at out fate? Because I cannot accept that she is leaving. No cat so beautiful and pure could face such an ugly fate. I cannot comprehend life without her.
She doesn't reply. We gaze into each other's eyes for moments, then the tiny infants begin to grovel again. The she-cat sighs deeply. I lick her ear.
"You promise you'll love them and raise him in ShadowClan? Especially Smokekit. He... he reminds me of you so much. That... that kit is destined for greatness. Make... make sure he is leader, one day," she murmurs.
"Of course," I choke out. She purrs.
"I love you. Nothing can ever change that. I don't think I've loved anyone more in my life." she whispers. And with that, the beautiful white she-cat lies down her head onto the soft, damp floor, and the life leaves her eyes for the last time.
And I am left alone.
It's warm today. The sky is a warm shade of blue, streaked with wispy white. The scent of plants and herbs combined makes the air slightly thick. There's an ever-lasting chatter from the cats of DarkClan huddle beneath the Jutting Ledge. I'm lodged inbetween Frostpaw and Dustpaw, my two best friends. Smokestar, the Clan leader, is perched on the end of the ledge, his eyes frosty.
"Look, Smoke, it's Smoke!" Dustpaw exclaims. His eyes widen, expecting a reaction. Frostpaw's huge blue eyes roll.
"That isn't funny," she explained in a slightly bored tone. Although I couldn't agree more, I don't say anything. That would hurt Dustpaw's feelings.
"Don't you get it? Smokepaw and Smokestar!" he repeats. Frostpaw shakes her head in mock disappointment. The ends of my mouth twitch in a tiny smile.
"Hey, I just realized! I'm not going to be Smokepaw for much longer. We're going to have our warrior assessments soon!" I blurt out. Frostpaw sniggers.
"You just realized?" she says sourly. This makes me purr out loud, because it's such a typical thing for Frostpaw to say. Dustpaw's eyes drift towards mine, and I can see in his amused expression that he's thinking the same thing as me. But neither of us have a chance to comment before a deep, resonant voice interupts us.
"Cats of DarkClan, please settle down!" it's Smokestar, my namesake. His bright green eyes sweep across the clearing. I see a glimmer of recognition as he sees me and my siblings sitting amongst the pack of ShadowClan cats. An elder coughs, her frail frame trembling with the effort.
"As you all know, the Gathering is coming up. I will be choosing cats that come shortly. Those who are given the privilige of attending should remember that due to the ongoing argument with CaveClan, we must all be extremely precautious not to give away any key information, or - far more importantly - not to enagage in any actions that may put yourselves in danger. Is that clear?" even though Smokestar's eyes are warm green, like mine, they have an icy touch to them as they scan the clearing. The rest of us murmur our assent.
"I'd also like to mention that the apprentices of the Clan will be partaking in the upcoming warrior asessment," a flash of pain shines wildly in his eyes, and I'm sure I see his eyes flicker towards my siblings. His momentary pain is short-lived. Smokestar seems to redeem himself after a moment, and goes on to talk about rising river levels and increasing numbers of fish and other trivial pieces of information.
"Ouch!" someone suddenly howls. The Clan cranes their necks to see who has cried out. There's a soft murmur as everyone tries to work out what's happened. I'm the first to find the source of the noise. It's Dustpaw. My brother is lying flat on his back. A mixture of relief and amusement hits me as I realize that he's just tripped over. A few amused yowls sound out. Suddenly, everyone is laughing at my littermate. It's mostly friendly laughter, but Dustpaw looks horrified.
"Hey Dustpaw! What's the weather like down there?" I mutter jokingly, nudging the apprentice to his feet. If looks could kill, I'd be on my way to StarClan right at this minute. I'd be more dead than a dead piece of wood.
But not as dead as Dustpaw, who lies at the recieving end of Smokestar's thunderous glare.
"Great stunt you pulled at the Gathering," a deep voice murmurs. A reddish tom is standing near me, his expression a mixture of disgust and amusement. I don't say anything, but I can feel my face fur growing hotter. As I try to think of a clever comeback, the squirrel I'm chewing falls from my jaws and lands in a soggy heap on the floor. I curse myself. Why am I always the one that messes up?
"Hey, Fluffkit!" Smokepaw exclaims at the sight of the big red tom. I narrow my eyes in unison with the tom. What does he mean?
"My name's Redpaw, mousebrain," he says. Smokepaw looks genuinely sorry.
"Wow, sorry, Redpaw. I really should know your name by now. At least I didn't call you something totally ridiculous, like Bravepaw. Because... you know? Fluffkit is an easy mistake to make. For you, anyway," he says with utter sincerity. I burst into laughter. Redpaw looks furious.
"We'll see who's laughing when I'm made a warrior before you, Smokescum!" he hisses. Smokepaw shakes his head in mock sadness.
"I might, but you won't. After all, you're a little too... ah... vertically unadvantaged to be able to see all the way up HERE!" He draws himself to his full height. Like this, Smokepaw is at least a mouse-length taller than Redpaw. The confusion on Redpaw's face turns slowly to furious realization. The two of us are unable to stop ourselves from laughing. Before Redpaw can say anything, we've already taken off into the trees. Of course, Smokepaw is faster than me, but he makes an effort to slow down. We stop, panting, beside a huge oak tree.
"You totally showed that little mousebrain what you..." I pant, laughing. Smokepaw snorts with laughter, his amber eyes gleaming.
"You know, we shouldn't be so mean to Redpaw. I mean, Redpaw really looks up to us!" we're both doubled up with purrs again. Then I take a few deep breaths, and calm down.
"Seriously, though. You can't let that tom make you feel small - no, I'm serious! Because no offence, but you looked totally stupid, not saying anything back," Smokepaw says. I feel a pang of anger, but I'm not in a position to tell him so.
I wonder why Smokepaw's the way he is? I wish I was more like him. I could never had said all of that stuff to Redpaw. He's so funny, and clever. And he certainly wouldn't trip up in front of the whole Clan.
I mean, sure. I love my brother and all that. But he's just so good at everything. It's hard being a clumsy, fumbling idiot, and especially so when your brother is perfect.
"Do. Not. Say. Anything," I say warningly, as Nightpaw and Fernpaw pad up to me. They settle down in the moss next to me.
"About what?" Fernpaw asks. I roll my eyes.
"My brother," are they teasing me? No, they look serious. There's even a dreamy look in Fernpaw's eye. Good, I think. Becuase if Fernpaw is feeling dreamy, she's not going to talk about my clumsy, useless lump of a littermate.
"How did you know about your brother?" the brown she-cats eyes stretch open in amazement. She turns to Nightpaw, as if looking for some sort of explanation. But Nightpaw looks as lost as Fernpaw does.
"What do you mean? I was there!" I say, resisting the urge to claw Fernpaw's face into shreds.
"No you weren't. Wait... which brother are you talking about?" Fernpaw says.
"Dustpaw. Because... you know. Remember the Clan Gathering?" They both seem as clueless as ever. Just as I'm about to hiss vicious things at them both, Fernpaw opens her mouth to speak.
"We didn't want to talk about Dustpaw. We wanted to talk about Smokepaw." My eyes narrow. What do they want to say about Smokepaw? I hate to admit it, but I do have a slight amount of respect for him. Not like Dustpaw, who makes me cringe.
"I think I have a crush on him." Fernpaw says slightly sheepishly. I give a sigh of relief.
"Really? How long has this been happening?" I exclaim. Nightpaw remains silent. Fernpaw glances at the ground.
"And you never thought to tell me?" I say crossly, noticing her guilt with satisfaction. Let her feel bad. If she wants to keep secrets from one friend and not the other, that's fine with me. She had just better not expect me to understand her reasoning.
"I thought you'd go straight to him and tell him. And I didn't want that. But now, I think I do. I feel so sorry for you! You don't even know how amazing he is. And... oh StarClan, that tom is good looking," she squeals. Nightpaw shakes her head in mock disappointment.
"His eyes are so green. Remember what Sparrowcall used to say, when we were kits? Green eyes are StarClan's delight," she seems happy to babble on forever, but it's getting dark, and I'm tired. It's to my relief that Nightpaw intervenes.
"I think I prefer Redpaw," she says shyly. My stomach does a little flip at the sound of his name.
"Me too," I say. Then our eyes both widen in shock, and my gaze meets hers.
We both love the same tom.
I am at war.
"Smokepaw," a deep voice growls. My eyelids, which resist my will to waken, feel heavy as the blurry shape of my father is barely visible amongst the dim dawn light.
"Smokestar..." my voice is a bit hoarse, because my throat is dry after a hot summer night.
"Come with me," he beckons towards the small opening in the brambles that mark the edges of the apprentices den. Wait...
"Smokestar, why are you here?" the words slip out before I can stop them. Then I freeze, horrified that I have disrespected the Clan leader. He gives a slight smile, but doesn't say anything. We walk into the camp in silence.
"Do you know who you are, Smokepaw?" he asks quietly as we make our way into the deeper forest.
"Well... yeah. I'm Smokepaw," I say, wondering tiredly whether he's telling a joke. Smokestar sighs deeply.
"What more are you, Smokepaw?"