Dawncloud padded into camp carrying a frog, a rat, and a rare treat, a bird. She set the food down on the fresh-kill pile and her stomach rumbled. Usually she would get to take a piece, but Brokenstar and his senior warriors had to eat first. And after Flintfang's execution, no one really felt like challenging their crazed leader's laws.
Dawncloud felt a pang when she remembered her mate and their first son. Badgerpaw had been killed in battle with WindClan. He was only 4 moons! Dawncloud felt herself scream the words on the inside. Flintfang had vowed to never train another to young apprentice again. Brokenstar found out and he was killed. Now I'm alone...
There was some kind of commotion over, under the Broken Ledge. Dawncloud padded over and saw her ony other kit, Duskpaw, a brown tabby she-cat with white paws and green eyes that seemed to change every day. Today her eyes were bright green and very excited.
"We're raiding RiverClan!" she squealed to her mother. Dawncloud purred and licked her daughters head, but inside she was screaming again. What if I loose you too?'!
Brokenstar leaped onto the Broken Rock smiling. "Friends!" the cats all gathered beneath him and sat, looking up. Dawncloud sat next to her daughter. "Today, as some of you may have heard," the ShadowClan leader went on, "We are raiding RiverClan!"
"Why?" asked a cranky elder called Ashfur. "They already gave us some of their hunting grounds."
Brokenstar's eyes glowered with despise at being questioned, but he smiled at the elder, "Because this will show them not to even think about taking it back, that they are under our control!"
Either Ashfur was truly satisfied, or he realized he was in possible danger and he nodded, "I see. Clever."
Brokenstar's ears pricked and his fur fluffed out proudly at the compliment, "Thank you Ashfur. Now, we will attack, all of us. Everyone. Right now! Go!"
The cats started to move for the camp exit and Dawncloud moved with them. It was typical. Brokenstar decided to take all the cats to prove their strength and didn't think about leaving some behind to guard the camp against a possible attack.
Duskpaw was bounding foreword, then she noticed her mother lagging and padded over, "Are you okay?" she asked, her eyes worried. Dawncloud nodded, hoping Brokenstar hadn't noticed and thought she was a traitor. She had to stay alive for her kit.
The two she-cats raced foreword, softly and stopped near the RiverClan camp, breathing softly form their run. Brokenstar was in front of them and he seemed pleased both of them were eager to attack. He murmured to Dawncloud, "Kill a few just for show. But wound as many as you can." Dawncloud gave a nod, but she was wondering if there was a queen in RiverClan who would mourn today if her kits died under a ShadowClan cat's paws.
Brokenstar tensed his muscles and hissed,. "Now!" The ShadowClan cats sprang forword, into the RiverClan camp. There were yowls of shock and horror and as the battle began, pleads for mercy. But none of Brokenstar's warriors dared show any.
Dawncloud flew into battle, trying to stay close to Duskpaw. But her daughter was running at the nursery, clearly intending to make sure none of the queens would cause any trouble. Or to steal kits. Dawnclould tried to follow but a huge, scarred gray tom appeared in front of her. Dawncloud vaguely remembered him form the Gatherings as Stonefur, Oakheart's son. She barely had time to duck and roll away as his unsheathed claws came down where she had been standing.
Dawncloud hissed at the RiverClan cat. Stonefur's eyes were blue fire, filled with outrage and hate. He was clearly waiting for her to make the next move so she sat and calmly licked her paw, staring at him. Stonefur straightened up and tipped his head, probably thinking she was crazy. His eyes had just enough time to widen in fear as she sprang up quickly and tackled him, clawing tufts of fur and leaving scratches oozing blood on him.
She jumped away from him but he was already falling. She knew he wasn't dead but she had given him enough scars to leave him there for the rest of the battle. She looked around, most RiverClan cats were lying on the ground, bleeding or cowering on the ground, no longer trying to fight.
Brokenstar was standing on the River Rock, a triumphant smile on his face. Most of the Clan was sniffing around camp. Dawncloud thought there was more RiverClan cats, there weren't very many here...
Then it happened. A huge patrol, Crookedstar and Oakheart included, burst into camp. They must have been hunting. Crookedstar gave a battle cry, "ATTACK!!!!!!"
Now it was the ShadowClan cats who were fighting for their lives. "Retreat!" Brokenstar screeched "RETREAT!" But the RiverClan cats weren't letting up, no cat could get away. Dawncloud found herself slipping into the nursery. If she died, at least she'd die defending her kit. But a huge paw dragged her out -Stonefur, she realized with a jolt- and tossed her across camp.
She thudded across the ground and skidded to a painful halt. She lay there for a moment, out of breath. Then she sprang to her paws. Just in time to see Stonefur whisk into the nursery. She heard a cat shriek and he bolted out again, a fresh new scar over his eye. Duskpaw was doing okay.
Dawncloud was baring her teeth at some apprentice when she heard another shriek form the nursery, this time it was feminine. She gave a yowl of shock and sprinted to the nursery. Please StarClan no, don't kill her, take me instead, she's so young...
She skidded into the nursery, still begging StarClan to spare her kit. She half glared at the queens and cowering kits and searched the nursery frantically for Duskpaw.
She almost missed her among the blood soaked moss and cowering cats. The brown apprentice was lying in her side, breathing heavy, huge claw marks down her front. Dawncloud let out a wail and ran over to her daughter.
"No Duskpaw....stay with me...don't leave me!"
Duskpaw was still breathing heavy, her eyes staring at the sky through the nursery entrance. She slowly focused her green eyes on her mother. "What....What's wrong?"
Dawncloud begged her daughter while the queens looked on, "Stay with me kit, stay with me please..."
Duskpaw didn't move, "D-Don't be afraid....the stars are coming." she raised a blood soaked paw and pointed out at empty sky, "Look!"
Dawncloud's tears fell onto the moss, "Don't look at them baby, mamma's here now...."
Duskpaw didn't move again. She was staring intently at her mother, "Why...What's wrong?"
"You're dying!" Dawncloud half shrieked. "You're dying and you're leaving me all alone in the world!"
Duskpaw stared at her mother, her breathing growing shallower.
"Stop." begged Dawncloud.
"Not something..I-I can stop." Duskpaw told her, her eyes shifting to the green of the forest.
Dawncloud was silent, knowing no amount of begging would bring back her kit. Duskpaw's eyes shifted, one last time, to the exact shade her father's had been, but they were fading, fading away...
"All....I wanted....was to help..." she said softly, then her breathing slowed, her heartbeat stopped, and she was gone. Dawncloud let out a wail.
"Who did this? WHO????" she spun around the nursery, looking for the sign of bloody paws, Duskpaw's fur in someone's teeth. But all the queen s were clean, cowering still. Blackfoot stepped out form the shadows smiling.
"Why?!" hissed Dawncloud, claws unsheathed.
"She got in the way. I was trying to make an example out of a kit who was dumb enough to try and attack me and she tried and stopped me. Now let's go, Brokenstar is waiting."
He padded out leaving Dawncloud hunched over her daughter's still body. The she-cat buried her nose in the apprentices to cold fur and let out a mangled sob.
Then, tentatively, a RiverClan queen rubbed hr tail down Dawncloud's back soothingly. "She...She was a brave little one. We'll all miss her."
Dawncloud stared at the queen, grief and loss welling up inside her. These cats had known the apprentice for only a few moments and they were feeling as much pain as Dawncloud. Well, not as much. But a lot. Whereas Blackfoot, of Duskpaw's own Clan had killed her.
Never again. The wind was whispering to her, Duskpaw's scent heavy in the air. It may never happen again...
"It was Brokenstar's fault. And Blackfoot's." Dawncloud said with sudden spite and hate. The RiverClan queens nodded nervously.
"I'll never let it happen again. I won't rest until those two are dead. Just like Duskpaw."
Most of the queens seemed shell-shocked, but somewhere, a kit let out a whoop of victory. Pretty soon all the kits had taken up the calls and some of the queens were giving awkward, soft yowls. Dawncloud lowered her head, then picked up Duskpaw's body.
She padded out, the calls of the nursery echoing. She felt a tear run down her face but ignored it, carrying Duskpaw. The ShadowClan cats had already left but many RiverClan warriors were still outside. They looked at her, carrying Duskpaw, and as she passed, each one of them, wounded or not, bowed their heads in sorrow.
Dawncloud stalked through the unfamiliar territory into her own, still clutching her daughter's still body. Never again, never again, never again.
She stopped, at the place where she and Flintfang had first met and where Raggedstar had died. Where this had all started. She dropped Duskpaw and the brown apprentice fell to the ground.
"I'll never be loyal to those fox hearts again!"
Never again, never again, never again.
"I won't follow their rules or take part in their raids!"
Never again, never again, never again.
"I'll never mentor another kit-apprentice!"
Never again, never again, never again.
"And lastly..." she lowered her head and softly, said, "I'll never forget."
She picked up Duskpaw and padded home.
Authors Note: 5 moons later, Firepaw and Graypaw as well as the rest of ThunderClan saved ShadowClan from Brokenstar, chasing him out with the help of Dawncloud and her friends. The she-cat was finally avenged and she joined StarClan and her kits and mate later.