My large paws sink into the soft, marshy ground as I stop by the border. Sitting down with a soft squelch on the moist earth, my ears prick in search for any sort of noise - most often of another thing. However, for once - to my surprise - they're actually silent.
Usually, there's some sort of activity outside our borders - cats' voices rising as they roam the nearby forest, looking out onto our marshy, watery land. Today, it seems, looks as though it breaks this rule. All I can hear is the sound of the small stream that marks the edge of CreekClan's border, the whisper of grass being blown by the breeze.
I feel myself relax. This is nice. I wish this happened more often. For a moment, I close my eyes, revelling in the peace and quiet. It feels good.
However, as I open my eyes, I feel a pang of worry hit me.
This is too good to be true.
I'm sure of it as soon as I hear that thought, and I hear it echoing softly in my ears. At this, I look out worriedly out onto the expanse of land outside CreekClan. There's no sign of any other cat, and I try to relax - but I can't seem to make it happen.
This quietness makes me feel... uncomfortable. Something tells me that all of this... all of this is too good to last.
I hear a soft brushing noise behind me, but I dismiss it as being the wind. It's still tugging at my gray pelt, and I feel myself starting to shiver because of how cold it is. My fur fluffs up, and I can hear a voice telling me in my mind that it's time to go back. You should head back to your Clan.
Agreeing with this, I rise back onto my paws, and turn around. As soon as I look behind, I jump in surprise. Apparently, I am not alone.
There's a whole lot of cats behind me - I'm too surprised to really take note of how many there actually is. I recognize none of them. They're closing in on me; while I'm rooted to the spot, unable to move. I'm trying to escape... but for some reason, I can't.
They're getting even closer, and I'm terrified. I'm still frozen, and they're still coming at me. I try to look away, but it's not letting me do that either...
They've surrounded me completely now. My heart is thumping in my chest in fear, in apprehension, in worry. I can't do anything now... I am doomed to fail.
I see one cat, the one right in front of me, crouch. For one long moment, he eyes me up, before I see him shift on his haunches, bunch them together.
He leaps straight at me... I can feel him as he lands on my back... he's captured me...
At once, my eyes shoot open. Breathing rapidly, I stare around the near-deserted warriors' den, trying to recover from what I'd just seen. It was a dream... thank StarClan, it was only a dream, I reassured myself, feeling my breathing start to slow.
That was terrifying, I thought to myself, as I slowly rose to my paws, shaking ever so slightly. I hope that doesn't... happen again. Shuffling between the few sleeping warriors still in the den, I slowly started to make my way out, still deep in thought.
Out of all cats, why did this have to happen to me? I'd done nothing wrong! I hadn't done anything towards those rogues that had been bothering my Clan.... so why, in the name of StarClan, had I been shown this... this vision? Why me?
That was the question I wanted to ask.
Finally, I manage to get past the other warriors, and I pad out of the den into the newleaf sunshine. I feel it on my back, and I purr as it warms me up.
There's a lot more cats than usual around the CreekClan camp at this time of the morning. As I shoulder my way towards the edge of the clearing, I hear a cat telling another that Flightstar's calling a Clan meeting.
That probably explains the amount of cats in camp, I think to myself, as I get to the front, and look around.
One cat catches my eye.
Pitch-black fur is the first thing I see. This cat is small, slight, and fairly agile, judging from their build. They turn their gaze towards me, and their eyes are so bright that I have to look away.
I know this cat very well. She's Nightclaw. My mother...
...My mother, the one cat that I've always struggled to understand.
"Mama!" I heard my brother, Shadowkit, squeal as he rolled around noisily in the nest that I shared with him, our sister, and our mother. "Do we have a daddy? Slightfall's kits have their father visit them all the time! But no tom visits us."
Lazily, I stretched, eyes closed, by Nightclaw's belly, only half-listening to my brother.
However, when she heard Shadowkit's words, I felt her shift. Guessing that she was just uncomfortable, I ignored her action, instead curling up in a small ball and trying to doze off. I was quite tired.
"...Of course you have a daddy, Shadowkit." Nightclaw's voice had a hint to tiredness in it - maybe she didn't want to talk about this? "Every cat has a daddy."
"...We do? B-but how come we never see him?"
I felt Nightclaw shift again. This time, guessing that this wasn't because she was uncomfortable, I opened my eyes a crack. Shadowkit was pawing my mother's flank lightly with a jet-black foot, waiting for answers. He wasn't the type of cat to be patient when it came to others.
"Shadowkit, please stop that..." Nightclaw moved Shadowkit gently away from her stomach with a gentle shove, causing the dark kit to fall gently to the ground.
"I'll only stop if you tell me about my daddy, Mama! Who even was he?"
I heard my mother sigh slowly. "...Okay, Shadowkit, I'll tell you and your siblings. It's best... that I tell you now, rather than when you're older." A pause. "...Your father's name was Stormriver... and he was probably the greatest warrior in CreekClan that I have ever known."
Stormriver. Stormriver. I heard my father's name echoing in my head. Stormriver. I like that name. I relaxed slightly for a moment... but then I tensed up again. Wait. Mama just said that he was in CreekClan...?
"Was...?" I mewed faintly. "...But Mama, where's Stormriver if he's not here anymore?"
I saw Nightclaw tuirn slowly to me at this. Her gaze set on me, and I asaw her amber eyes blaze for a moment. I shivered slightly: was something up? However, before I could say anything, she's turned away again.
"...He's in StarClan, my kits... he died before you all were born. I'm sorry, but you'll never meet... your father..."
I could hear my mother sniffle for a couple of times after this. None of us spoke. It was just silence... silence...
Then, it finally hit me. Stormriver's dead, Ripplekit. You'll never know him.
"B-but Mama...?" Hearing another voice, I shuffled over to see my sister, who I hadn't really acknowledged throughout this whole incident. Streamkit gazed up into Nightclaw's fierce amber eyes, her pale gray fur fluffed out. "What did he look like then...?"
Yet another pause followed, and yet another long sigh escaped Nightclaw. I saw her blink slowly - once, twice, thrice - before she turned slowly to me.
"He looked... he looked exactly like Ripplekit."
"Ripplestorm? I think you're distracted. You've been ignoring me for, like, the last twenty sunrises."
Jolting back to the present, I hear my brother, Shadowraven, speaking to me. Blinking for a moment as I turn to him, I shuffle my paws. "Sorry... whatwereyousaying?" I mumble, feeling my jaws stretch into a yawn.
"Finally! You took a while there." Shadowraven rolls his ice-blue eyes at me. I am not surprised by this: my brother, although more laid-back than me, can be incredibly sassy. "I was saying that Flightstar's about to, like, call a meeting for some reason. You wanna go sit somewhere?"
I shrug. "Sure." I then flick my ears at Nightclaw, who is still behind me. "Just not by Nightclaw, overly." In the corner of my eye, I can see my mother snort from behind me - is she disapproving of what I've just said about her?
Shadowraven nudges me. "C'mon, Ripplestorm, Nightclaw's fine. She loves you. It's just... I think she doesn't know how to tell you."
He's probably right. I do have a slight issue with that sort of thing. It's just.. Nightclaw's never let me onto anything, to tell me that she cares for me. Is it because I so much like my father - her deceased mate? It's too hard for me to figure out... However, I don't say anything in response - I just flick my tail to an empty space nearby, which Shadowraven and I pad over to, and sit down on.
In the corner of my eye, I can still see my mother looking over at me for a moment. I hope she didn't hear what I said, I think, suddenly feeling guilty. I regret saying that now.
I turn away my focus from Nightclaw, and look up. As expected, I catch sight of a brown tabby pelt sitting on top of a mossy boulder. Faintly behind me, I hear a few scrabbles as the last of the Clan arrives at the meeting, but I don't acknowledge these: my gaze is firmly set on my leader.
Once every cat is silent, Flightstar starts her speech, her tail flicking ever so slightly. "As most of you know, the rogues that bother us every so often are at us again."
A few mutters follow this familiar announcement. However, I do not speak.
"I have decided," Flightstar calls over the clamor, immediately causing the murmuring to fall back into silence, "that we are going to have to battle against them once more."
I groan. Great, I think sarcastically, that's very welcome news. Meanwhile, I hear some cheers around me - obviously some of the warriors agree with Flightstar's choice. I know - for fact - that I beg to differ.
Without thinking, I can feel my gaze shift sidewards to my mother. Nightclaw looks as though she's... happy with the decision - something that I was not expecting. Knowing that my father's death was in battle with this exact group, I thought she would've chosen to stay away from them. However, after a moment, I realize that wouldn't be the sort of thing she would do.
She's too confident to shy away. Maybe she wants to teach them that killing Stormriver was a bad idea.
I'm not like my mother at all. I'm much more hesitant than she's ever been.
Maybe past experiences have a part to play in this.
"Ripplepaw!" Duckflight, my mentor, called to me. "There's no time to be dawdling! We need to join our Clan."
"Sorry!" I mewed apologetically, speeding up so that I catch up with the rest of the battle patrol. I'd obviously been so deep in thought that I'd forgotten about the battle.
Shadowpaw and Streampaw were also on the patrol. They seemed... excited that they'd finally be able to be on the battlefield. Maybe it had something to do with Stormriver? I didn't know.
However, I was nervous. Ever since I knew what death actually was, I'd come to... fear it, somewhat. Sure, there was StarClan at the other end, but... the pain of dying seemed so bad. I didn't want to go through that.
After a while, we reached the border. There was a pause as the Clan and I waited silently by the border: Flightstar being at the front as always, her brown tabby tail raised to the sky. I could feel my heart beating quickly in my chest: great StarClan, this was incredibly suspenseful -
"CreekClan, hmm?" As I heard a voice, I craned my neck to see what was going on: I couldn't see anything at the back! A sleek silver tabby she-cat was at the head of the group, her green eyes narrowed. "Looks like we have a score to settle again."
That silver cat doesn't sound nice at all! I thought, narrowing my eyes at her.
"Whatever, Arleine." That was all I heard of Flightstar's response. Next second, I felt the ranks behind me move forward, and I was left blinking in confusion.
"Ripplepaw! Go fight!" I heard Duckflight's voice over the clamor that had suddenly interrupted. Only then did I move, still feeling quite unsure of the whole situation. Great StarClan... I feel so clueless right now.
Nearby, I could see some cats fighting. Scarlet blood left stains on the grass: I could see some from where I was standing. It wasn't what I thought it would be - I thought it would be more like the training sessions I'd had with my mentor and fellow apprentices - but apparently, I was wrong.
Maybe I should've asked some warrior that before I'd stepped on the battlefield...
"...Ripplepaw?! What are you doing?!"
I jumped as I heard that call. Guessing it was from behind me, I spun around, expecting a warrior to be looming over me, scowling.
That was not what I ended up getting. Instead, I found a large rogue tom standing right in front of me, his teeth bared. I could feel him breathing on my face... but he wasn't moving.
Why isn't he attacking me..?
Then, after a long time, I heard his voice. He spoke softly, in a hiss: "...Foolish apprentice."
That was when he lunged straight at me.
Shocked, I jumped back. He missed, but barely. Terror shot through me: this cat was scary! Slowly, I started to back up, my ears flattened against my skull; while he went forwards, keeping his unflinching amber gaze on me.
I thought I was doomed. I thought I was going to die. I was so scared that I... I couldn't even express how scared I was in words. There he was, this massive cat: compared to me, a small, barely nine-moon old apprentice. I prepared myself for my fate - well, the fate that I thought was going to happen to me: getting killed by this nasty, mean cat...
"Hey, you there! Get away from my apprentice, and fight me instead!"
The cat turned at once to face the brown tabby she-cat with the pale chest beside me. It didn't take long to recognize who she was - from her voice, from her appearance. Duckflight leapt at the rogue, snarling at him as her feet left the ground.
I couldn't bear to watch. Backing off, I retreated somewhere else. I was too scared; too ashamed to injure another cat...
Great StarClan, I shouldn't be scared of defending my Clan! Is something wrong with me?
After that, I'd always been jarred by my failure. Knowing that this couldn't happen again, I'd tried to become more confident. However, I don't know if it's going to work this time around.
It has been a moon since Flightstar announced we would be fighting those rogues. The patrol for battle was announced two sunrises ago: to my annoyance, my name had been called, despite my reluctance to go into battle. However, I assumed that this was because of what happened the last time I'd tried to fight in a battle.
We're leaving soon. I'm feeling quite nervous.
"Hey, Ripplestorm!" A pale gray tail flicks my side. I can tell from the cat's scent that this is my sister, Streamflower. "Have you eaten up yet? Flightstar wants us to leave soon, y'know." She's also on the battle patrol, but she's... a little more at ease with that sort of thing.
I look at my paws. "I'm not hungry," I mumble, still looking at the ground. I know I'm lying to myself: I can feel my empty stomach rumbling ever so slightly as I speak. No: that's not the problem.
Streamflower shoots a look at me, her amber eyes round. "Okay then, Ripplestorm, if you really say so." She then pads off to the steadily dwindling fresh-kill pile to get something to eat. Looking up, I see that Nightclaw's there, and my fur bushes up for no apparent reason.
Oh, Nightclaw. Nightclaw, Nightclaw, Nightclaw. She's still as secretive as ever - we haven't really spoken lately. I feel somewhat guilty - I shouldn't be feeling this about my mother. At the same time, however, I know that I still love her - but I know I'm starting to doubt it.
She's never said it to my face. Maybe she... Maybe she thinks I'm too much like Stormriver. Is there a problem with that?
It seems like there is.
I'm now feeling more nervous. I don't know why. I don't feel good... and I feel that, deep inside, something is going to happen tonight. Something that will change everything.
I don't know if I can do this. I don't want to fight. I wish that I could -
"CreekClan cats in the battle! Gather at the camp entrance! We are leaving for the battle now!"
Flightstar's voice rings through the camp, and I sigh. It's too late to do that now. Reluctantly, I rise to my paws, and join the cats on the battle patrol.
Now is definitely not the time to think about my own needs. Now, it seems, is the time to defend everything that CreekClan stands for.
The journey to the battlefield seems longer than I remembered it of being the first time around. Maybe it was my nervousness in those moments that made time stand still: maybe it wasn't. Either way, as the CreekClan cats started to arrive at the place - at long last - I could feel my heart thumping in my chest.
This is it. This is the time to defend the Clan. This is the time... to prove that I can be brave. My thoughts whirl in my head as I breathe slowly, trying to make a last-minute effort to forget everything. In and out, in and out. I don't think it's working, though: my heart still feels as if it's about to burst.
My Clanmates are around me. They're all looking forward. Slowly, I turn that way as well - trying to blend in, look confident. It's what I need right now - those things. If only I was really feeling that way...
"So, CreekClan. You've come again, hmm? Well, this time, you will fall."
I recognize that voice. It was there at the first battle as well. I crane my head over the cats in front of me, and catch a flash of a silver pelt at the lead of the rogues.
Arleine. It's her.
"Sure." Flightstar's voice is sharp, icy. "We beat you last time, and you know it. CreekClan will beat you again. This territory has always been ours!"
"We'll see about that," Arleine hisses. "You can't win again - you always win! Rogues, attack!"
Behind Arleine, I see the ranks of cats surge forward.
"CreekClan, attack!" At Flightstar's call, the ranks in front of me spring forward as well, and I follow suit. The ranks in the front rows start to collide with sickening yowls, and I know that soon I will be facing an opponent.
The battle has truly begun.
I look around, seeing if there's any cats free. I don't see any, but I can see some that are fighting - in the distance, I can see Shadowraven fighting a large tabby tom, hissing as he avoids an attack. He looks as though he's holding his own, so I leave him be.
I'm weaving through the ranks of cats fighting. A few roll close to me, and I feel the urge to claw their ears off. Still, I leave them alone, and I keep walking. I really shouldn't - I'm shying away again.
I can do better than this! I think to myself. Pausing for a moment, I then add: I'll find someone soon. Don't worry, Ripplestorm, it'll be -
My thoughts are immediately cut off as I look up, and see a flash of silver in front of me. My blood runs cold. What have I done?
It's Arleine... and I am sure I have no chance against her. I freeze in surprise, staring at the rogues' leader. I don't even know why I'm doing it, but I can't seem to take my gaze off her.
The next movement seems to be in slow motion. I see her approach. She looks as though she's running... I realize that she is coming for me. I try to move, but I can't, I just can't... I close my eyes and dig my claws into the ground, bracing for impact.
This is not what I wanted to happen... I think, as I crouch at the moment that I'm sure she's going to spring...
...However, it never came. All I hear is a loud yowl, and a thump on the ground. Then, I hear a cold mew: "You fool! This is what you get for messing with us, and protecting your own... Clanmates." I then hear the soft pattering of paws as the attacker - Arleine - moves away again.
...Someone's saved me...? I get up from my crouch, and open my eyes, blinking a few times to get used to the light. I gaze over in the direction of where the attack would've happened... and I gasp at who I see has saved me.
Oh my StarClan...
It's Nightclaw. Out of all cats that could've... she did it.
I start to shake. Maybe... maybe everything I ever thought she thought about me was not what she actually felt. Still shaking, I slowly approach the black cat's body, and nudge it. I think she's still alive - I'm judging by the rapid rise and fall of her flank - but I can see that her wounds are bad, and I'm almost sure that she won't survive them.
At this, I see her head shift ever so slightly. "Ripplestorm," I hear her rasp quietly. Her amber eyes have a look of desperation to them - I think she knows the consequences of her actions. "I..." A pause. "...Ripplestorm, I'm sorry."
I'm confused. Why is she apologizing to me...? I - Before I can say anything, Nightclaw's already continued speaking.
"I shouldn't have left you... left you in doubt. You think that because you look like your father, I've treated you differently."
At this I nod, a lump rising in my throat. Her words are indeed how I feel.
"I tell you, Ripplestorm," Nightclaw wheezed, "that is... not what I intended." She tries to shake your head, but fails. She's getting weaker, and she and I know it. "I want to show you... that I do care."
Her breaths are getting quite shallow now. Whatever she has to say, she has to say it now... or I will never know what she wanted to say.
"I... I love you, Ripplestorm," I hear my mother whisper quietly. And almost immediately after, I see her eyes close, and a few moments later, she falls still.
She's dead... but she got what she wanted in the end.
I feel warm now. All the doubt that I've had for moons was washed away in that very moment. I press my nose into Nightclaw's body, which is still warm.
"I love you too, Nightclaw," I whisper quietly into her fur, savoring my mother's scent for what could be the last time.
We won the battle that night, but of course it wasn't without loss. CreekClan grieved for all the fallen warriors that died in service. Nightclaw was one of them, and that night, I sat by her for the whole vigil. I think the fact that I finally knew that she wasn't put off by who I was made me willing to do that for her.
It's been a moon since the battle. It's not the same. A few times, I have wondered to myself if she'd said it earlier, what could've happened. Obviously the past is the past, and I can't change it, but I can't help but do so.
However, I'm so glad that she did. I don't know how I would've felt if that hadn't occurred.
It took me a while to discover a mother's love, but I finally did it. Now, it's something I'll treasure. I only have one, after all.
It's also something that I will never forget.
...That turned out a lot longer than what I expected it to be. However, I did enjoy writing this <3
I'd like to thank the people who commented on this as I wrote this - your feedback was much appreciated <3. You guys helped me with this! To everyone reading this, I hope you enjoyed it <3
I may possibly do a prequel on the NightClawxStormriver ship - I will update this note if this ends up going ahead yay C:.
All comments are appreciated - please make sure you use constructive criticism in your comments tho C:
Until next time,