Lifes game

A brown she-cat raced through the woods, heart thumping in her chest. What did I ever do to these cats? Their territory? What is that? She kept racing through until she stopped at a rise. Cats were chasing her, and they started to corner her. "What do you want? Please... I'll do anything!" One of the cats stepped up.

"Rogues like you are pests, and we don't want you around," he snarled. "I didn't know," she whimpered. "But on one condition, you can live." She looked up at the black tom, his eyes dark. "And what is that?" She started to feel braver. "Join us," he snarled. "As a prisoner?" She remembered serving a group of cats. "No, as a warrior," he hissed. "Okay," she whispered. "My name is Sky." The tom looked deep into her eyes, but suddenly pulled his gaze away. "Mine is Nightfrost," he replied gruffly. "Um... That sounds... Kinda evil?"

He looked at her, his sharp, icy, gaze causing a brilliant spark in her. She felt happy, scared, and humiliated at the same time. "Man, sorry." She shuffled her paws. A brown tom fell in next to her. "Hey, my name is Tiger," he meowed. "I'm Sky," she replied. "Nice." His purr sounded flirty, and filled with love.

When they arrived, they were in a forest pathway clearing, filled with cats. There were three with leaves in their mouths. "Who are you?" Sky looked at the cats carrying bundles of... Herbs? "I'm Cinder," greeted a dark gray one calmly. "Leaf," mewed a tortiseshell. "Featherwhisker." The tom, Featherwhisker, looked sleek, and he had a tuft of hair at the end of his tail. Cinder had a strand of hair covering one eye, but she quickly whisked it away, as if it were bothering her. Leaf was pretty, she was skinny, and she carefully weaved her way through the trailing brambles and vines. Cinder had broad shoulders, and so did Featherwhisker, but Leaf... Did not.

"Get a move on," called a gruff voice. It was a tall white cat. "Snowstar, this is a new recruit, Sky," mewed Nightfrost. He was shuffling his paws, looking sad and humiliated. His eyes were filled with longing, but Snowstar ignored him. "Hello, Sky," he snarled distrustfully. "Would you like to take a warrior name?"

Sky didn't know what to say, but "Yes!" burst out of her.

Chapter One: Skyblaze

Sky, now Skyblaze, raced through her camp. "Intruder!" Cats' eyes were fixed on her, gleaming with worry. A dangerous rogue, named Needle, had been threatening the Clan lately. "Is it Needle again?" Snowstar's face was scrunched up with hate, and fury was blazing in his eyes.

"Show me," he demanded. Skyblaze padded up the slope, and at the twig pile, they met Needle. "So, you brought your precious Clanmates? Are you to scared?" His eyes gleamed with scorn, and Skyblaze scowled. "We'll show you who's to scared," Snowstar snarled, and malice showed in his eyes. He leaped at the rogue, fast as a snake, and clawed his cheek deeply, making blood stream out. "So your going to play like that?" Needle looked unhurt - the reason he was named Needle was because he had blade-sharp claws. Needle jumped at Skyblaze, but she slid out of the way quickly. Then she noticed who he was actually running at - Cinder was behind them.

She zoomed off, faster then she had expected, and kept running until a rock came up before her, cornering her. "Help!" Needle was closing in on her, and Skyblaze ran off. "Cinder! I'm coming!" She hurled herself onto Needle's back, and clamped down on his throat. But that wasn't enough blood to kill.

There was a trickle of blood going down it, and his eyes were gleaming with rage. He leaped at her, but again, she slid to the side. His face landed in the dirt, and Cinder let out a mrrow of laughter. But he turned around, and smashed Cinder into the rock. Cinder yowled, and brought her hind paws out and kicked his belly. He was sent flying into the dust, and she realized the fall had opened the wound in his throat again. This time it was bleeding more, but still not enough. Skyblaze launched herself at him and her front paws smashed into his face.

She unsheathed her claws. Needle was pinned down, and he was struggling. Should I kill him, or not? After all he's done... yes! She quickly moved her paws onto his throat, and Needle's jaws were gaping. "You... Don't kill me," he begged. The once proud cat looked sad and old now. "After all you've done?"

"Everybody deserves a second chance," he replied weakly. "Have mercy." A quiet voice sounded behind her. She turned around, Cinder was saying it. "No!" Snowstar threw Skyblaze off Needle. "I want to finish him," Snowstar growled. But to late, Needle kicked Snowstar off. "That was a trick! Do you really think I'd beg for mercy?" Needle's eyes gleamed smugly. "I'll claw that smug look on your face off, if you even have a face when I'm done with you," snarled Snowstar. "Not before I kill Cinder!" Cinder had a shocked look on her face, and Needle pinned her down. "NO," shrieked Skyblaze, pouncing on Needle and throwing him off. A helpless look was on Cinder's face.

"Why not?" Needle slithered out of her grip and quickly sank his claws into Cinder's belly. Cinder yowled, her face twisting with pain. Blood spattered the ground, and Cinder was losing blood quickly. "Get cobwebs," choked Cinder. "She has to die slowly and painfully," hissed Needle.

He clamped his paws around her hind leg, and bit into her side. More blood poured out, and she looked dazed. "CINDER! SPEAK TO ME!" Skyblaze ran to Cinder, and knocked Needle off her. "SEE HOW MUCH PAIN YOU HAVE CAUSED!?" Rage poured out of her system, and she sank her claws into Needle's belly. "SEE HOW YOU LIKE IT!" She clamped her paws around his neck. "You don't deserve life, you will regret being born," snarled Skyblaze. She clawed his eye, hopefully making it blind, but it didn't seem to cloud. "Nice try, Skyblaze," sneered Needle, "But will that be enough?"

Chapter Two: Malice

Skyblaze glanced at Cinder, and she glanced back at Needle. "YES," she roared. She sank her claws into his neck, but he kicked his hind paws up. Her belly ached, and she half-closed her eyes, stunned. Needle was on top of her, and he sank his blade-sharp claws into her belly. She yowled in pain.

"You deserve this," he whispered into her ear. Her ear fur stirred, and Skyblaze felt it comforting, but she couldn't give in to this rogue. "Nice try, Needle." She kicked him off her, making her belly rip open, blood flying from Needle's claws. Cinder was staggering to her paws, but Needle knocked her over. "Cinder," shrieked Snowstar. He had a thick wad of cobwebs in his mouth. He knocked Needle off Cinder and quickly applied the cobwebs. Cinder seemed to soothe. "Needle's leaving! Finally," called Skyblaze. "I'll be back," Needle snarled. Cinder lay stunned on the ground. "Will we carry her?" Skyblaze looked at Snowstar. He nodded. Skyblaze heaved Cinder's body onto her shoulders, and Snowstar took the other half. Together, they got her back to the camp.

"Cinder!?" Leaf and Featherwhisker were coming up from the crowd. "CINDER!" They ran over to their fellow medicine cat. Cinder looked up, and her eyes glinted happily. "Leaf, Featherwhisker," she purred. "Don't worry! We'll make sure they don't get infected," Leaf mewed. "Get some marigold, Featherwhisker!"

Skyblaze padded to the warriors' den, flopping down. She was tired from all that fighting, and it ached where her belly had been ripped. It was not bleeding now, but she was still tired. She let herself slowly sink into sleep. She woke in a dream, where there was only a pool of water, with a reflection of herself. It started to ripple, and it changed to Cinder. Skyblaze wondered what it meant. She woke before she could determine it. "Skyblaze." Someone was prodding her in the side. "What?" She grumbled. "Needle, he's hurting Cinder again, and he's in camp," meowed Leaf. Skyblaze heard the pained yowls of Cinder. "Coming!" She hurled herself at Needle, who was already getting buried under a pile of cats.

He was yowling, and finally, Skyblaze shot a blow to his throat, and he lay limp on the ground. He wasn't breathing... He was dead! Snowstar came over. "The other rogues here will be exiled from life along with this rogue," Snowstar hissed, "CLAN life!" Skyblaze, Cinder, Leaf, Featherwhisker, and Tiger gasped.

"We haven't done anything wrong," soothed Cinder. "But you aren't loyal here," Snowstar replied, tail lashing. "All rogues aren't like Needle," pointed out Skyblaze. "Yes, they are, and their a danger." With that, Snowstar had escorts chase them all out of the territory. And when Cinder wouldn't give up, they clawed her and threw her out. "Cinder! Are you okay?" Skyblaze looked at the medicine cat. "Yeah," she replied, but she was bleeding all over. "I'll get the cobweb," Skyblaze sighed. She found some in a moment, under a bush. She rubbed it onto Cinder's wounds, and she relaxed. "Thanks," she mewed. They traveled on, stopping every now and then for some herbs.

Suddenly, when they were passing the border, Skyblaze heard Snowstar's yowl and realized Tiger wasn't there. "Tiger! How dare you follow the path of Needle!?" She heard Tiger's voice, calm and soothing, "Well, we have our own destinies." He sounded matter-of-fact. "No," wailed Snowstar.

Cinder was looking in the other direction. "Look! There's a river we can drink from!" The cats raced down the hill. When they stopped, they drank from the river. Skyblaze lapped gratefully at the nice, fresh, cold, refreshing, water. "Ah." She flopped down, sleepy. "Well you guys sleep, I'll guard," Cinder mewed, "I don't take naps often." She sat down, and the last thing before sleeping Skyblaze felt was the gentle breeze against her pelt.

Chapter Three: Thunder and Lightning

"STORM!" She woke to an alarm Cinder had called. A strike of lightning crashed the moor, lighting it on fire. "Quick, in the water," shrieked Cinder. "No! There goes my fur," Featherwhisker hissed. They plunged in, fire eating where they were and rapidly approaching them. It reached the water, and started eating in.

It burnt out. "Yes!" Cinder was purring. But suddenly, a strike of lightning hit close to the water - almost on it. "What do we do now?" They were surrounded, but suddenly, a lithe shape dived into the water and pushed them onto shore. "What's happening here?" Skyblaze got a good look at the rogue, it was light yellow, and it had a buddy, that was orange. "I'm Light, and this is Thunder," introduced the yellow one. "Yep." Thunder's eyes gleamed playfully, but there was a hint of mystical in them, and it made her shiver. "We know what to do," mewed Thunder. They showed them a cave, and they quickly sheltered in it. "Thanks," breathed Cinder. "No problem!"

They sheltered there for the rest of the day, until the sky cleared up and they could see the setting sun. "That was a long, boring, day," announced Leaf, "So I'm going hunting!" Skyblaze looked at her in surprise. "But... Your a medicine cat!" Leaf rolled her eyes. "We're not in the Clan anymore remember?"

Her eyes glimmered sadly, so Skyblaze left her alone. "My legs need a walk," mewed Cinder, "I'll go with her." They padded down a hill, and disappeared into the sky. "So, what should WE do?" Skyblaze looked at the other cats. "We might as well make ourselves useful. I'll gather herbs," mewed Featherwhisker. "I might as well hitch back some water in moss," sighed Skyblaze. She padded down to the water, it was calm, so she collected moss, and dabbed it in. When she had enough, she went back to the cave. Cinder and Leaf had brought back a stray squirrel, and a few rabbits. Featherwhisker wasn't back yet, and Light and Thunder were eyeing the prey excitedly.

"Thanks to Cinder and Leaf, we're having this feast," Skyblaze purred. They put their prey down, and Skyblaze picked out the squirrel. It was fat, but greenleaf was coming. Soon it wouldn't be newleaf, the best prey-catching season. "How did you manage to catch such a tasty meal?" Lightning was asking.

"Luck," replied Leaf. Cinder sat down and bit into a rabbit and Skyblaze decided she might as well eat. Flavor filled her mouth, and she licked her lips after her meal. "Mmm," she mumbled. "Thank you!" She looked at Cinder and Leaf. "Your welcome," Cinder purred. "No problem." Leaf shrugged. Featherwhisker returned to a nice meal, he dug into a rabbit. "Tasty!" Skyblaze looked at the first star. It was getting dark. "Why don't we rest?" Cinder made them all nests, and they curled up. Skyblaze's eyes closed as sleep swirled around her. She woke to a prod in the side. "We need to hunt," informed Thunder. Skyblaze nodded, and set out, Thunder and Featherwhisker at her side.

When they got back, Cinder greeted them with a smile. "Looks like we'll be fat this greenleaf!" Skyblaze purred, and set her prey down. She remembered her rogue life, her mother, and suddenly felt homesick. She tried to ignore it, but it just became greater and greater until the pressure overcame her.

"I want my mother! I want to be a kit again, tucked around her belly, suckling her milk!" The cats blinked, confused. "Are you a kit?" Asked Lightning. Thunder snorted. Cinder's eyes were gleaming with sympathy. "We all want that," she comforted. "You... Of all cats... Want to be home?" Cinder rolled her eyes. "Everybody wants to be home, once in a while." Cinder's voice made her feel better, and comforted. "Thank you," she muttered. Cinder nuzzled her, as if she were a kit.

"You'll always have us."

Chapter Four: Homesick

Skyblaze's ache seemed to follow her all day. "Are you okay?" Cinder would sometimes ask. "Yes," Skyblaze would reply. That night, it got to it's worst, and she couldn't take it. "Where is mommy? I want to sleep with her, I'm scared as heck..." Oops. She used one of her rogue words. "What does that mean?" Cinder stood up.

"I can't explain it." Then Thunder stood up, he would understand. "It means, what you call the Dark Forest, I think," he mewed. "How do you know about Clan lore?" Thunder drew in a deep breath. "I used to be in a Clan, TreeClan." The cats looked surprised. "You lived on our border?" Cinder blinked. Skyblaze couldn't believe she hadn't seen this attractive tom in the forest. "Why did you leave?" Thunder looked hesitant, then started. "I killed Mintfur," he confessed. "Why?" Thunder looked at the roof mystically. "He was a burden to our Clan. He had evil plans, and I killed him, before trouble could come to the Clan. Why did you leave?" Skyblaze stood up. "We were loyal to our Clan, until this rogue named Needle came and caused trouble. Snowstar was driven to believe all rogues were like that... So, he kicked us out."

"That is completely unjustified," gasped Lightning. "I know! It was stupid," Skyblaze spat. "Calm down," Featherwhisker mewed. He hadn't spoken in a while. There was another ache in Skyblaze, full of sadness and pain. Somehow, she felt that her mother was dead. She didn't believe it, and ignored it.

"Do you know a rogue named Grass?" Skyblaze suddenly asked. "Mhm. Why?" Replied Thunder. "She's my mother," explained Skyblaze. "WHAT!? We're her sons!" Skyblaze gasped - these were her younger siblings her mother had been expecting! "Brothers?" She still couldn't believe it. "Where is mom?" Lightning looked down, scuffling his paws. "Do you really want to know?" Skyblaze nodded, but she didn't know what was coming. "SHE'S DEAD, SKY, SHE'S DEAD!" Tears formed in her eyes. "H-h-how?" Thunder narrowed his eyes. "Needle killed her."

"The same cat that tried to kill me!" Cinder stood up. "Needle is dead now." Thunder yowled, "Yay!" and Lightning purred. "He was a burden to the world anyway," snarled Lightning. "Agreed." They went to sleep, but Skyblaze didn't sleep well. She kept having dreams and memories of her mother.

That morning, Skyblaze was relieved. She felt tired, limp, and useless, but forced her body up. "Good morning," purred Lightning. "Morning," Skyblaze sighed, stretching. She couldn't imagine, Grass's bloodied body by Needle. She couldn't believe it, her mom, gone. Never being able to see her in a lifetime. Her paws felt numb. "You should hunt." A voice came from behind her. She looked up, seeing Cinder. "My paws are to numb. I can't feel a thing," muttered Skyblaze. Cinder pushed her up. "Walking will help," she argued. Skyblaze sighed, and padded out of the den. The wind in her fur made her feel refreshed, but she still missed Grass.

"Hi." A voice came from behind her. A brown she-cat was standing there. "Hi," sighed Skyblaze. "I'm Oakfur. Who are you?" Skyblaze sat down and curled her tail around her paws. "My name is Skyblaze," she replied. "Are you from a Clan? I'm from TreeClan." Skyblaze purred. "I was in BreezeClan, and I know another cat in TreeClan."

"Was?" Oakfur's eyes darkened. "I'll explain when we get back. If you are coming, that is?" Oakfur shook her head. "I can't. I'm on patrol. My cats are waiting," Oakfur explained. "Okay. Bye." With that, she ran up the moor, and saw a rabbit. She caught it, and brought it back. "That's the best you could find?" Skyblaze turned around to see a dismayed Thunder. "The reason was, I saw a Clan cat named Oakfur. We talked." Mutters went around the den, until Cinder stood out. "It's just one tiny thing. And besides, she isn't feeling good. I'll hunt." The cats nodded, and that day, everything worked out okay.

Chapter Five: Oak and Sky

Skyblaze kept meeting Oakfur secretly, but her group seemed to suspect. "Why did your hunting trip take so long? Again," sighed Cinder. "Sorry. I keep going overtime with trying to find prey." Skyblaze smiled. The next day, Skyblaze planned a meeting with Oakfur. She was sad, but she had to tell her.

"What is it?" Oakfur asked. Skyblaze sucked in a deep breath. "We can't meet anymore," she sighed. "Why? I thought you needed a friend," Oakfur meowed, confused. "My 'hunting trips' are taking to long," she replied. "Oh... I understand. My Clan is like that too," she murmured. "So, is this goodbye?" Skyblaze gazed into her eyes. "I guess so." They stared at each other, gazes sinking in for the last time. Skyblaze couldn't believe it. She had to give this up, all for her group? But suddenly, she had a plan. "Maybe I don't have to say goodbye," meowed Skyblaze. "What!?" Oakfur jumped. "I could come back with you," Skyblaze meowed. "I'm not sure, my Clan is not very nice to rogues." Skyblaze resisted. "But, if you told them I was your friend..."

Oakfur looked at her solemnly. "They'd ban me for being friends with you. They say it's a risk to the Clan." Her eyes met Skyblaze's. "Then why don't you come back with me?" Oakfur shook her head. "My heart lies with the Clan," she replied. "Goodbye, then." Skyblaze trudged along, trying not to think about her mom.

Later in the day, she felt sick, and refused to eat. "No," she had meowed, "Don't waste it on me. I'm fattened already. Feed it to the ones who need it." Lightning had blinked. "Are you sure?" Skyblaze had nodded, and a little later, she had fallen asleep. The next day, it got worse. "Skyblaze, what's wrong?" It was Thunder. Could she be honest with her brother? "Can you keep a secret?" Thunder nodded. "Anything for my sister," he purred. "I kept meeting Oakfur." His eyes widened. "Why? You know they'll hate you." Skyblaze nodded. "That's why it's a secret." She padded away, not wanting to talk anymore. Thunder was her brother. Surely he wouldn't let them know? But something was concerning her.

When she returned, she saw Cinder's serious eyes. "We know, Skyblaze." Skyblaze gasped. Thunder had told! "Thunder?" She looked to the tom. His eyes were gleaming with sympathy. "I'm sorry, but this is something everyone must know," he mewed steadily. Cinder dipped her head. "We're not mad."

"Why?" Skyblaze blinked in confusion. She hadn't brought back any prey, and it was holding up her hunting trips. In fact, Cinder looked happy. "We might have brought a new cat in." Cinder seemed to read her thoughts. Oakfur? They ran back all the way, and there, was the brown pelt of Oakfur. "Oakfur!" Cried Skyblaze. "I thought you weren't coming!" Oakfur giggled. "I joke sometimes," she purred. That night, they had a feast celebrating Oakfur's joining. They went to sleep well-fed on full bellies.

"Goodnight," whispered Skyblaze to Oakfur. The she-cat was already snoring. Skyblaze purred and soon fell asleep. She was undisturbed by dreams, and the morning seemed to come quickly. She yawned and stretched. She tasted the air, and smelled a foul scent. It was tinged with... BreezeClan scent?

TreeClan scent was there, too. Were they having a war? "Guys, wake up! There are scents of BreezeClan and TreeClan!" Oakfur shot out of her nest and gasped. "What if they think I've gone to your side?" She looked around, panic in her gaze. "Don't worry," Skyblaze mewed, resting her tail on her shoulder. "We'll make sure they know you haven't joined BreezeClan." Oakfur looked at her, green gaze boring into Skyblaze's blue. "We have to give a fake sign," Skyblaze replied. "That's harder than you think!" Cinder had stood up, knowledge in her eyes. "But, if apprentices could do it in Clan history, than so can we," Skyblaze assured her.

"You don't know how much work was on their shoulders," Cinder warned. "Surely none?" Cinder shook her head. "How did they lure Blackstar and Littlecloud?" She questioned. Skyblaze realized it must have been hard. "OH," she meowed, realizing. "But then what do we do?" Oakfur looked frantic now.

"Okay, I'll admit, I can't help seeing poor Oakfur sad." Leaf had come out of her nest. "Let's do it!"

Chapter Six: Sign

Skyblaze had a bundle of twigs in her mouth. She was running. She was going to meet up with the other cats in the clearing. Once she arrived, she dropped the twigs at her paws. "Phew! Could thing I wasn't spotted acting like a dog," she meowed. Oakfur purred. "I brought the wet moss," she announced.

White moss was at her paws. "Good, now what do we do?" Cinder had spoken. "Come up with something, I guess," replied Skyblaze. They came up with the sign, well, they changed it to omen, Oakfur has left. Let her run in the breeze. And then oak leaves would fall. Skyblaze would be placed on top of the oak tree, with oak leaves to shower down on the TreeClan cats. Oakfur was in the whispering position. She would hide behind a stack of sticks, and whisper the omen. Cinder would try to make a breeze by waving the trees.

"Let's go," Cinder mewed. Leaf and Featherwhisker stayed behind, calling, "Good luck!" Skyblaze took her position. "When will the cats come?" She hissed after a while. "Soon," hissed Oakfur. Suddenly, a brown tom and a ginger-and-white she-cat came into the clearing. "I heard whispering."

Skyblaze rustled the oak leaves, as noticeably as possible. When they glanced at her, Cinder made a breeze, and the cats gasped in awe. Skyblaze glanced at Oakfur. Her face was filled with pride. Was she about to do something that didn't need to happen? Oakfur glanced up at her, a prideful expression in her eyes. "Everything's going well, I'll say it," she hissed. "No," Skyblaze hissed back. To late. Oakfur meowed, "Oakfur has left. Let her run in the breeze!" The ginger she-cat blinked at the sticks. "Oakfur? Is that you?" The brown tom next to her blinked and looked at the pile of sticks. The she-cat stiffly padded towards the branches and revealed Oakfur.

"This must have been a trick!" She saw Skyblaze and Cinder in the trees. "Great StarClan," she snarled. "Run," Cinder commanded. They ran across the moor, the breeze in their whiskers. The TreeClan cats were far behind, panting as they tried to keep up. They reached the cave, and collapsed.

Skyblaze's chest ached. Her lungs ached. That had been a long, hard, run. She felt her eyes droop, and she fell asleep. "Skyblaze." An echoing voice went through the center of the blackness. There, stood a copy of Cinder. "Who are you?" Skyblaze backed against the wall, her mind whirling. "I'm Cinder's sister, Ash," she mewed, flicking her tail. "Why have you come?" Ash looked at her. "This is a serious matter. I have an omen for you," she replied. She led Skyblaze to a forest. TreeClan cats were there, chattering. She could not make out what they were saying. Suddenly, a cat jumped into the center, and her vision was splashed with red.

Her breathing heavy, Skyblaze stood up. Cinder was sitting beside her. "So, you took a nap?" Skyblaze purred. "Of course," she replied. The breeze ruffled her fur, and the sky had clouded, as if a storm were coming. "Where are the TreeClan cats?" Cinder looked at her seriously. "They came here, and we fought them off."

For the first time, Skyblaze noticed a scar over Cinder's nose. "I see," she meowed. The other cats were either sleeping or... She noticed one that wasn't breathing. "Lightning!" She ran over to the tom, tears forming in her eyes. "It was all running smoothly, until they got backup. 'Gingerpaw' leaped and killed him." Skyblaze burst into tears. "But, Thunder basically lured them here..." For the first time, she noticed Thunder was gone. "How could my brother betray me?" Cinder looked deep into her eyes. "Maybe if you hadn't fallen asleep, we could have stopped them," she snapped. Skyblaze didn't expect the she-cat could be so snappy.

"Sorry," she muttered.

Chapter Seven: Betrayal

Thunder burst through the den entrance. "You traitor," snarled Cinder. "I was just driving them away," Thunder replied. Skyblaze looked at the tom. He was panting, a sign of running and fighting, and he had several tufts of hair torn away. "No, I'm sure he drove them off," Skyblaze meowed. "How?"

"Look - he's panting, and he has missing tufts of hair," Skyblaze replied. "Fine," Cinder grunted, "But I still think he betrayed us." She padded to the back of the den and curled up. Skyblaze sighed. "Come on, Thunder," she mewed. "I also collected some prey for you on the way home." Skyblaze's eyes lit up. This would be a chance to show Thunder never betrayed them? "Where is it?" She asked. Her eyes were scanning the moor for a piece of prey, and she smelled a whiff of it. "If you haven't smelled it yet, then here," he replied. He led her out of the cave and picked up a rabbit. Suddenly, TreeClan cats appeared.

"Are you sure that isn't ours?" The cat who had said that stepped menacingly towards Thunder. It's gaze snapped to Skyblaze. "Yes, I'm sure," she replied bravely. "Thunder caught that!" There was one cat behind it - it looked small, the size of an apprentice, and was already haring back into the trees.

Before she could think more, the TreeClan cat leaped on her. "Sparrowpaw, attack!" When the cat didn't come, it glanced around, and Skyblaze pushed it off. In surprise, it fell. Skyblaze pinned it down to rake it's muzzle. It's eyes were blazing with fury. Suddenly, Thunder bowled into it, and gave a swift killing bite to the neck. It's neck snapped. Did they just kill a cat? "Thunder," she whispered, "What if we attracted more TreeClan cats?" Suddenly, the apprentice burst out of the forest. "I came fast as I could, Bramblefang," mewed the apprentice, fast. It's gaze snapped to the dead body of Bramblefang. "No!"

Skyblaze was sure the grief-stricken yowl could be heard from Highstones. It's gaze snapped to her and Thunder. It let out a battle cry, and tried to bowl Skyblaze over, but she pinned the apprentice quickly. "Please, don't kill me," it pleaded. "Why would I?" Skyblaze had no reason to kill an apprentice.

"You killed my mentor." It pointed with it's tail to the cat they had killed earlier.

"I'm sorry," murmured Skyblaze, "We didn't mean to."

Skyblaze remembered the moment the cat's bones had snapped. Thunder stepped towards the apprentice. "Don't go to soft on her, Skyblaze. Remember, she's from TreeClan."

"She's only an apprentice," snapped Skyblaze. "Okay..." Thunder backed away.

"Now, go, and don't come back," Skyblaze snarled.

The apprentice whimpered and ran away. "See, Thunder? I took care of it without violence," Skyblaze meowed. "But you could have given the apprentice some wounds to remember you by."

"I have no reason to do that," Skyblaze murmured. "What did she ever do to us?"

"Tried to steal our prey," snarled Thunder.

"Let it go, Thunder," Skyblaze sighed. They padded back in silence, and when they got there, they were greeted to Cinder. "I have some bad news," she meowed.

"What?" Skyblaze blinked.

"TreeClan cats came earlier, and tried to steal our food. Luckily, they didn't know how many of us there were."

She gestured with her tail to the cats behind her - Lightning, Featherwhisker, and Leaf. "How many cats did they send?" Asked Thunder. "Two warriors, one apprentice."

"Why would they send an apprentice? By the way, TreeClan cats attacked us too. They tried to take away what Thunder had caught..."

She looked at Thunder. "Thunder, where is the prey?" He hared back, and, without thinking, Skyblaze followed.

Thankfully, the rabbit was still there. The plump rabbit. And the plump mouse. Skyblaze's mouth watered at the prey that they could all share. We'll have a big feast tonight, she thought. "We can all share this," Cinder purred when they got back.

Chapter Eight: Only the Beginning

The TreeClan cats had kept stealing from the cats. First, they had taken a plump brown rabbit, second, they took a grouse, and third, they took two plump grouses! "We have to do something about this," snarled Cinder.

She sounded irritable. "Does anyone have a plan?"

There wasn't even the faintest murmur from the cats sitting by Cinder. Cinder's expression turned confused. Skyblaze was confused too. Even Lightning didn't have a plan? He was the sneakiest of them all. As if reading her thoughts, he raised his tail, letting Cinder know he would speak. "I have a plan."

"First, we'll go on a hunting patrol - when TreeClan cats are in sight, two of us will hide in the bushes. The other one or two will confront the cats and when they claim the prey as theirs, the other cats - or cat - will leap out."

Cinder purred. "Amazing," she purred.

She put her tail on his shoulder, as if comforting him. Was it just her, or did they have a 'thing' going on? Before Skyblaze could ponder that, Thunder came to her. "Want to go together? With Lightning and Oakfur?"

"Sure," Skyblaze replied.

They padded through the moor, and soon they saw two TreeClan cats waiting at the edge of the border. Skyblaze signaled for Lightning and Thunder to hide. They crept into the bushes silently. Skyblaze stalked towards them. "We want our share of prey," a black-and-white one snarled.

"But we caught it. It isn't your share," pointed out Skyblaze.

The black-and-white one's expression turned from angry to shocked when she seemed to recognize Oakfur. "Oakfur, how could you team with these flea-pelts?"

"Skyblaze is not a flea-pelt, she's my friend," snarled Oakfur.

They signaled for the others to attack, and Lightning and Thunder leaped out of the bushes. A white she-cat from TreeClan met Thunder with a flurry of blows. But Thunder's weight was to much for her, and he knocked her down. The black-and-white cat's teeth met her throat, and she felt her paws being dragged off the ground. "Mouse-brain," she hissed.

Skyblaze didn't react. She let herself go limp, and the black-and-white cat's grip relaxed. "Weakling," she muttered, padding away.

Skyblaze leaped into action, pinning it. "Who's the mouse-brain now?"

The she-cat struggled under her grip, and she tightened her teeth along the TreeClan apprentice's throat. She yowled in pain, but it only ended in a gurgling noise as she fell limp. She was barely breathing, and the other cat was retreating. "Let's leave her here for her Clanmates to find," Skyblaze told them.

They padded back to the cave, and she was excited to tell them how they defeated the TreeClan cats. She padded along proudly, and so did the others, prey in their jaws. Tonight their bellies would be full. But deep inside, Skyblaze knew this wasn't the last attack they would face.

Chapter Nine: Repeat

Skyblaze met more TreeClan cats at the border the second day. "You killed Nightpaw," one snarled.

Skyblaze flicked her tail. "We were defending what was ours," she snarled, "That you took away from us."

The TreeClan cat purred. "Yours? Whoever said it was yours?"

On signal, Cinder and Featherwhisker pounced out of the bushes, and leaped on a orange TreeClan cat. Skyblaze was met with the one who had been talking to them. Without thinking, Skyblaze sliced her ear tip. Blood poured out of it. "Hey," she snarled.

She leaped at Skyblaze, but Skyblaze easily slid to the side. "Are you trying to make this easy?"

The TreeClan cat bared it's teeth and flung herself at Skyblaze. Cinder darted in and nipped the cat's throat. "Y-you k-k-kill Ni, Nightpaw and now... Yo-your k-killing me too?"

Before they could reply, it's eyes closed and clouded over. The other cat yowled in grief. "This will be avenged," it hissed. It disappeared into the trees.

Skyblaze gasped in horror. "Cinder, you don't have to kill to win a battle."

"We don't live by the code anymore," she reminded her.

"But you still don't have to," cried Skyblaze.

Featherwhisker padded up to Cinder, concern in his eyes. Skyblaze could understand his emotion. Cinder wasn't usually like this. Featherwhisker put his tail on Cinder's shoulder. She snapped her head to him, but her gaze softened as she realized it was only him. "Skyblaze is right," he meowed.

Cinder glanced at him. "These cats are threatening to starve us. Why should we have mercy? We don't live by the code anymore. We could betray one another at any time." Cinder slid her claws out and narrowed her eyes, and Skyblaze knew who she was thinking about: Oakfur.

Featherwhisker sighed, his eyes meeting hers. "But why shouldn't we have mercy? We're not Scourge or his followers. And if they attacked again, we're not defenseless. We could easily defend ourselves, as proved here."

Cinder sighed. "I know. I just feel like a idiot right now. Something's controlling me, and I don't know what it is."

Skyblaze felt worry creep into her belly. She gulped. She might be killed next. And worst of all, Oakfur might be killed. She was in danger with Cinder's monster around. "What about Oakfur?" She called.

Cinder's eyes lit with worry. "What if I kill her?" Cinder gulped.

"You won't, as long as we're there for you." Featherwhisker padded up, "We might hurt you... But for your own good."

Chapter Ten: Problem

Skyblaze had been eyeing Cinder all day. Everytime she came close to Oakfur, Skyblaze kept a watchful eye on her. Featherwhisker would distract her. Cinder trotted over to Oakfur, something weird in her eyes, but then Featherwhisker called, "Want to hunt together?"

Cinder smiled and padded over. "Of course," she mewed.

Skyblaze felt like there was something going on between the two of them. She couldn't quite place it. Then, as if her mind's gears had started working, it clinked together - love. Skyblaze had been noticing Cinder was hanging around a lot with Featherwhisker. "Hey, Skyblaze!"

"Yeah?" She replied.

"I know what's happening," meowed who turned out to be Leaf.

Skyblaze's eyes lit up. "What?"

Leaf sighed and looked at her. "There is a place, Thunder has mentioned, the Dark Forest. This is a place with evil cats. They go there when they die. Unfortunately, they can go in cats' heads. I think one is talking to Cinder. But... I don't know how to save her. She might go insane..."

Skyblaze started in shock. "You have to do something! Your the medicine cat!"

Leaf sighed. Her eyes betrayed worry. "I know. I feel stupid already, but I know there isn't any herb that can cure this. Only time, and luck from StarClan."

Skyblaze put her tail on Leaf's shoulder. "But look on the bright side - I think Featherwhisker and Cinder are becoming mates!"

Skyblaze didn't feel good anymore, because more worry appeared in Leaf's eyes. "The kits would be in danger, she might kill them," fretted Leaf. "Why would she kill her own kits?"

"All Dark Forest cats do that," explained Leaf.

Skyblaze gulped. They were in for a big fight. Or were they? Could Cinder be saved? Would the unborn kits be safe? Skyblaze's mind whirled until Leaf snapped her out of her trance. "We must tell Cinder."

"What about?"

Leaf snapped her head to Skyblaze. "Don't you know? The kits! The Dark Forest!"

And with that, Leaf disappeared. Skyblaze watched her go, she couldn't do anything more. Shock still froze her paws - how could cats be THAT cruel? Skyblaze lay down and put her head on her paws, and curled her tail around herself. She was awoken to Ash's face again. "Don't you understand now?"

"Understand WHAT?"

"Don't you remember the omen!?"

It all came flooding back to her, running from the TreeClan cats, falling asleep, waking to a dream, the omen, and her vision splashed with red. "Yes," she whispered, "Yes, I do."

"Do you know what it means now?"

"No," Skyblaze replied.

"You mouse-brain! It means Cinder!"

Then, it all came into her brain. Why would Cinder's sister come? And it was about Cinder joining the Dark Forest. "Exactly," Ash meowed. How did she read Skyblaze's thoughts?

Chapter Eleven: A Real Threat

Cinder was glaring at a TreeClan cat at the border again. Skyblaze sighed heavily. What would she do this time? Featherwhisker stood beside her, watching her closely. "Cinder..." He whispered something to Cinder.

Something Skyblaze would never know. Was it about her secret evil side? "Stealing prey again?"

A TreeClan cat's voice snapped her out of her thoughts. Watching from the bush with Oakfur, Skyblaze could see what Cinder's every move was. "Stealing? Your the ones stealing," hissed Cinder.

She commanded them to attack, and Skyblaze bowled over a gray tom. She slashed his muzzle. The gray tom struggled under her grip, and opened his eyes. Another cat was behind him. A third TreeClan cat! "You want to kill Smokestorm next? You've already killed so many cats, I'd imagine you'd want to."

"That was Cinder," Skyblaze whimpered, "I haven't killed anybody."

But then Skyblaze remembered - she had killed Nightpaw! "We smelled your scent on Nightpaw's body," snarled the she-cat.

"It was an accident."

Smokestorm snorted, and fury showed in his eyes. Nightpaw must have been important to him in a way. "Nightpaw was my apprentice. She trained hard, and I had to see that all go to waste, and she could never get the warrior name she wanted - Nightfang."

Skyblaze felt a wave of sympathy to the apprentice. Maybe these cats weren't as vicious as she thought. She let Smokestorm go. "Thank you. Thank you for showing some kindness in your heart," he purred.

Skyblaze nodded, and turned. Cinder was ripping at a TreeClan cat's belly. "Stop." Skyblaze blocked her.

The apprentice's eyes showed wonder. Cinder's eyes were scornful. "Stop what? Stop defeating our enemy? We'll starve," Cinder snarled.

"These cats have learned their lesson," Skyblaze replied steadily.

Cinder looked shocked from the calmness in her voice. So shocked that she let the apprentice go. "Thank you, rogue," whispered the apprentice before running off.

"You let it get away," Cinder snarled.

"It had learned it's lesson."

Cinder's gaze dulled. She had snapped out of it. "I need to snap out of it. Idiot! Idiot in my head," she snarled, "Stop bothering me!"

Skyblaze felt sympathetic. "Come on, let's get home."

She padded beside Cinder the whole way, then they caught some prey and arrived back at the cave. They munched on rabbits. Skyblaze's was fat, she didn't know about the others'. She just had her eyes fixed on her own. "Skyblaze," called a soft voice.

Skyblaze looked at the cave edges to see Leaf. "Yes?"

"I think Cinder is getting worse."

Chapter Twelve: Dark Storm

The next morning, Skyblaze heard the yowls of fighting in the cave. She stretched, and opened her eyes. What she saw was something she didn't want to see - Cinder and Oakfur were fighting! "Stop," snarled Skyblaze.

"She started it," hissed Oakfur, staring at Cinder with a glare.

"She was going to betray us," hissed Cinder.

"I was just going to get prey," protested Oakfur.

"Cinder, I know you've been in the Dark Forest. I know you think you should harm anyone who threatens you. But harming someone when they leave the camp? What in StarClan?"

Skyblaze thought she had pulled Cinder out of it, but Cinder snapped, "I heard her plotting last night!"

Skyblaze knew this was untrue, as she had been talking to Oakfur, and it was all about attacking TreeClan. "That was about attacking TreeClan," snarled Oakfur.

"Attacking TreeClan? More like attacking us!"

Skyblaze sighed and rolled her eyes. This would be a long day. Their fight didn't seem to end, though, no matter how many times Skyblaze tried. "I told you," mewed a voice.

Skyblaze whirled around. It was Leaf. "Why do you always appear behind me like that?"

Leaf let out a mrrow of laughter. "I'm not trying to scare you," she purred.

"And I know Cinder's getting worse," Skyblaze added.

"At least you tried to stop them," sighed Leaf.

Skyblaze padded to the prey pile. She picked out a plump rabbit, sighed, and started to eat. She heard the trees blow in the wind and a gust came through the cave. Cats looked outside. The sky was clouded over and the wind was picking up. "We're in for a storm," sighed Leaf.

Skyblaze looked up. She saw a lightning strike light up the sky. "Now I see..."

She heard a boom of thunder and the rain started to pelt down. Skyblaze closed her eyes, ready for an undisturbed sleep, when she felt a wind tug at her fur. She looked outside and saw a swirling funnel. A tornado! "Tornado," she shrieked.

The cats shrieked in terror and evacuated the cave. Their tails flew behind them as they ran towards the forest and burst in. TreeClan cats were there. "No time.... Explain... Tornado..." Featherwhisker seemed breathless.

Cinder came up behind him. "If you harm us, then I will snap your necks."

"Whoa, Cinder, that's enough," mewed Skyblaze.

Cinder rolled her eyes and stepped back. The ginger cat winced. "After you hurt us? And killed our Clan members? Well, I think you should learn a lesson too."

With that, they drove them away. Cinder was racing back into the forest. She wordlessly clawed the cat's ear tip, and leaped onto it's back. Biting down, she let out a battle cry. "Help!"

"Fine," sighed the other cat, "You can stay."

Cinder's eyes were filled with triumph. "Don't you think you went a little to far?"

Chapter Thirteen: Shelter

Skyblaze was sitting by the fresh-kill pile eating prey when she heard, "We need to get rid of these rogues. Their hogging all our prey. What should we do? That tornado has made a wreckage of their territory."

Skyblaze knew that her friends and her were the problem. They were used to having more prey then normal to themselves. Their group was smaller. Besides, wouldn't they be generous because she saved one - no two - of their cats? "But how? They'd kill our cats if we tell them to leave. That really vicious one, Cinder, I think she was, made a threat. Besides, the leader hasn't agreed yet!"

It seemed like the one cat feared them. It had the markings of 'Nightpaw', and she was bigger. Skyblaze assumed she was her mother. "Just because they killed your kit doesn't make them any stronger then we are!"

She had been right. She stepped out of the bushes she had been hiding in. They looked shocked. "Please don't get rid of us. I saved two of your cats: Smokestorm and another cat."

Smokestorm was across the clearing. "I hate to say it, but she did."

Skyblaze looked at Smokestorm with gratitude. He nodded to say he had gotten the message. The cat sighed, and didn't say anything more. Skyblaze decided she'd go to sleep. She felt the gentle breeze on her fur, and she slipped into sleep. "You made friends with a TreeClan cat?"

A sneering voice woke Skyblaze. "Huh?"

A cat was standing over her. She was dreaming. Was this the Dark Forest? A murky moon shone down, casting an eerie glow over the forest. She felt like eyes, not kind but mean eyes, were watching her everywhere. "Who are you? Where am I?"

The cat purred. "Your in the Dark Forest, honey," it sneered.

Skyblaze shrieked in horror. "Screaming will not get you out of here," cackled the cat, "If your going to reject the training, then you have to fight me."

"I will."

The cat smirked. "Dumb choice, kit."

It leaped at her, and Skyblaze met it's leap with a flurry of blows to the muzzle. It pinned Skyblaze down, and raked her belly. She shrieked in agony. "You must love shrieking, don't you?"

The cat thrust it's muzzle into Skyblaze's face. "So, do you want to die, or train here?"

Skyblaze met the cat's eyes. She knew she might regret this choice, but she didn't want to turn evil. "Die," whispered Skyblaze, "Let's do it."

She felt claws raking her throat, and blood poured out of the wound. Her eyes dulled, and she felt her spirit slowly slip out of her.


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