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The Journey Series
Preceded by:
None
Night of Beginnings Succeded by:
A Fresh Start

Spare me your judgments and spare me your dreams,

Cause recently mine have been tearing my seams.

I sit alone in this winter clarity which clouds my mind.

Alone in the wind and the rain you left me.

It's getting dark darling, too dark to see,

And I'm on my knees, and your faith in shreds, it seems.

-Thistles and Weeds, Mumford and Sons

Prologue

With the taste of blood lingering on her tongue and an adventurous glint her eyes, the brown and white she-cat bounded across the forest floor. She was quiet and graceful, each leap perfected from moons of practice.

She found the hints of her camp’s scent close by, inhaling the smells of her Clanmates. Skidding to a stop, the she-cat peered into the shadowed camp, pushing past a few brambles to enter.

“Who’s there?” An alarmed hiss surprised the approaching she-cat.

“It’s just me,” she mewed in reply, walking into the moonlight that showered the camp.

The other she-cat let out a sigh of relief, and went back to her guarding. “Be more careful next time, Birchtalon. I can still see the scratches on your pelt…” The ginger she-cat trailed off.

Birchtalon nodded reluctantly. “It was worth getting that retched fox out of ThunderClan territory,” she smiled, her eyes gleaming. “You should’ve seen the look on its face when it saw me racing after it!”

“Remind me again why you went out there in the middle of the night?” The ginger tabby rolled her eyes, shaking her head with disappointment.

“Well, nobody was taking any immediate action towards the threat,” Birchtalon lifted a paw, licking it thoughtfully. “My sister at least deserves a night without worry for once.”

The she-cat smiled. “I’m glad you’re looking out for her,” was all she said in response. “You know, she named the kits while you were gone.”

“Really?” Birchtalon gasped, her eyes growing wide. “Thanks, Stripedsun!” She turned, and ran off excitedly towards the nursery.

“She’s probably asleep!” Stripedsun called out to her, worried the young warrior would wake the kits.

“Doesn’t matter!” Birchtalon laughed back, disappearing into the darkness of the overgrown tree.

The brown and white she-cat pushed through a few overhanging branches, seeing her sister silently curled around her kits. Birchtalon smiled, glancing towards the other pregnant queen. Her belly wasn't very swollen, due to her only realizing her pregnancy a quarter moon ago. She was excited to have new Clanmates to hopefully train in a few moons. The warrior's hunger for an apprentice was high, for she dreamed of having a cat to train in the ways of ThunderClan. 

"Birchtalon?" A quiet, drowsy voice alerted the young she-cat. "Came to see the kits?" Birchtalon caught sight of Lilypetal, a pretty brown tabby, rousing from her rest.

Birchtalon nodded towards her. "Yep!" She kept her voice down, giving a few careful looks towards the sleeping kits. 

A loud yawn surprised Birchtalon, who turned to see her sister looking up with sleepy eyes. "Hello," her sister, Roseleaf, murmured. 

The warrior bounded towards Roseleaf, nuzzling her sister and looking pleased towards to kits. "They look a lot like Jaywind..." Birchtalon couldn't hide the disappointment in her voice. The brown and white she-cat was displeased none of them resembled her brown tabby sister.

"But so very beautiful," Roseleaf sighed happily, curling up tightly around the three bundles. "Would you like to hear their names?"

Birchtalon nodded eagerly. "Of course," she purred.

Roseleaf pulled her thick, brown tail away from the three small kits, revealing an array of grey toned fur. "This is Dimkit, Silverkit, and Ashkit." Her proud eyes rested on her offspring, but she returned it to Birchtalon, a smile on her face.

The brown and white she-cat settled herself by her sister and her kin. "They look so strong," Birchtalon sighed, pleased with the three newnborns that lay below her. 

"Jaywind must be proud," Lilypetal piped up from the other side of the nursery. "I can only hope mine are just as perfect." She glanced down towards her belly, giving the fur a few licks to groom.

"I'm sure they will," the other queen mewed in response.

~_~_~_~_~

The storm raged on, but instead of clouds there were a flurry of claws, and blood replaced the rain.

A brown and white she-cat was pinning down a dark ginger tom, spitting in his face. "You think you can invade ThunderClan camp so easily?" She struggled, her wounds causing her an enormous amount of pain. However, she stood her ground.

He squirmed beneath her grip, and paused for a second. "Yes I can!" He hissed in reply, seeing an escape as he raked his free paw against Birchtalon's soft belly.

She screeched in agony, toppling to her side as the ginger tom slipped from under her. He sneered at her, shaking his head in a mocking way. 

"I thought I'd get a tougher fight," he rolled his eyes, quickly giving his wounds a quick lick. 

"I'm not over with you rogue!" Birchtalon rose to her paws, shaking violently as she attempted to stand. "You can't defeat a warrior!"

His dark green eyes inspected her stomach wound, and he smiled darkly. "I think I already have," he meowed quietly, turning his back on her, ready to head back into battle.

The she-cat crouched low, thinking for a few moments as she watched him creep away. She released a powerful lunge, landing directly on his back. The two fell to the forest floor, cats letting out yowls as they continued battling. She battered her paws against his muscular body in blind rage, not knowing if she was landing a clean strike. After shaking away some dizziness, she saw that she had inflicted some damage on the ginger rogue.

"Rotten piece of fox-dung!" The rogue desperately tried to catch his breath, blood streaming from a wound on his shoulder.

Before he could continue, he saw cats racing away from the camp, disappearing into the undergrowth of the forest. With a growl of dismay, he began to run off after them. 

"Quick, they're escaping!" Birchtalon heard her leader, Oakstar, cry out to her Clanmates.

She could feel a firey pain deep in her belly, but she couldn't let the repulsive rogues escape without punishment! The brown and white she-cat began to follow after her Clan, almost about to exit camp. But something caught in her eye, she slowly turned to see a brown tabby, unmoving, in the center of camp. 

"It... It can't be..." Birchtalon paused, and shook her head, pain returning to her. 

The warrior began to run back, skidding to a stop by the side of the cat. She began to violently lash her tail. "No!" She yowled out. "No, no, no, no.... Please... Please just be a rogue..." She shoved her nose into the thick fur of the tabby, wrapping herself in the scent of her sister.

"Roseleaf, you gotta get up," Birchtalon pleaded, the agonizing ache in her stomach growing stronger until it numbed her senses, "there's still rogues, we have to get going!"

Silence.

"Leafbreeze!" Birchtalon sobbed, searching the camp for ThunderClan's medicine cat. Sadly, the dappled brown she-cat had followed the others out of camp. "Anyone! Please... Please!" She screamed. 

The warrior turned back to her sister, tears welling in her eyes as blood began to drip from her stomach to her legs. "Your kits... They just became apprentices. They need you, Roseleaf. They need a loving mother to guide them through life...." Her voice caught in her throat, vision growing blurry from the tears. "Just get up! Get up!" Birchtalon screeched her empty demand, her mind set in denial.

Suddenly, the pain overwhelmed her and she collapsed. "Oh Roseleaf," she cried into her sister's cold fur, "they need you so much..." Her voice was growing softer, overcome by such a flurry of emotions. "I-I need you..."

"H-help," her voice was just a simple whimper, echoing softly into the forest.

She could feel the blood of Roseleaf's intermingling with her's. Birchtalon couldn't struggle to her paws, she could barely move. All she could do was let out pitiful cries to try to alert her Clanmates and search the entrance of camp with her eyes.

"Perhaps..." Her meow faded quickly. "Perhaps it wouldn't be that bad to just... Lay here with you." Blood was dribbling from her mouth, and her mind felt blank, far off even. The pain in her stomach was ebbing and she smiled softly. "Roseleaf?" Her blurry eyesight could barely see her sister's outline in front of her.

"Hello, Birchtalon." A familiar purr echoed in her ear, the last sound she would ever hear.

Chapter One

Silverpaw fell to her side, she sighed and scrambled back to her paws. She glanced up, expecting Stripedsun's disappointed expression. However, the silver she-cat only felt her mentor's tail rest on her shoulder. "Silverpaw dear," she could her the ginger she-cat's mew echo in her ears. "You gotta try harder next time, okay?" Her voice was gentle, and Silverpaw could sense her troubled emotions.

It's only been a moon. Silverpaw realized and shook away the thought from her head. A moon since the day she lost both her mother and her mother's sister. Both she-cats had cared so dearly for her and her siblings. 

Birchtalon had been her previous mentor, and was so eager to begin teaching her new apprentice. They had ventured across the territory on Silverpaw's first day of being an apprentice, she loved having Birchtalon as a mentor. However, having her mother's sister was a mentor was cut short. Rogues had attacked ThunderClan camp, and as they left to chase the remainders off of their territory, they came back to see a terrible sight.

Roseleaf and Birchtalon curled up, soaked in the blood from their own wounds, already making their way towards Silverpelt. StarClan would be accepting two brave warriors that night.

Silverpaw could only feel guilt when remembering this, for she could tell Birchtalon had tried to get help, but her wounds were too deep. Leafbreeze had thought all the living cats had followed them, only to realize she had left a valuable, dying warrior behind. They could've saved Birchtalon... Maybe even Roseleaf if they noticed sooner.

"You know," Stripedsun's warm voice made Silverpaw jump, "she was my best friend."

"W-who?" Silverpaw replied, stunned.

The ginger she-cat sighed softly, giving a small, half-hearted smile. "Birchtalon. We were unseperable, always looking out for each other. Then just one night, where I didn't watch my friend's back..." Stripedsun turned away. "Well, we should get back to camp. I say today was a successful day in training. You learned how to climb trees! Exciting."

The silver apprentice could tell Stripedsun's excitement was false, just a way to cover up for her feelings. Silverpaw decided not to question it and nodded in agreement. Stripedsun lead her apprentice back to camp, pushing past a few overgrown bushes to make her way through. 

Silverpaw looked around, watching the cats busily preform tasks around the camp. A few other warriors greeted them as the entered, and Stripedsun flicked her tail in response. 

"How about you get a mouse? You've deserved it." Stripedsun murmured, and padded off to be with her fellow Denmates.

The apprentice watched her mentor trail off to the other warrior, and made her way towards the other apprentices, chatting by the nursery.

"Brightkit and Dawnkit are going to be apprentices soon!" Fawnpaw, a brown she-cat, announced as if this was the most important news of the season.

Silverpaw settled herself by her brother, Ashpaw. "Good, they're always bothering me about taking them out exploring," she laughed, letting today's recent events slip past her.

"I wonder who their mentors will be," Blackpaw, Silverpaw's friend, thought aloud. "There's a few good cats capable of the job!"

"Too bad Whitetail, the best mentor in all of ThunderClan, is taken." Ashpaw gloated, a smirk on his muzzle.

"I ought to claw that sneering look right off your face!" Fawnpaw frowned with a lash of her tail. "Everyone knows Goldfeather is the best." 

Ashpaw snorted. "I bet Silverpaw agrees with me!"

Silverpaw glanced up, clearly not wanting to be apart of their kit-like teasing. 

"Well of course!" Blackpaw piped up, giggling loudly. "She's always mooning over him."

The silver apprentice gasped, her claws unsheathing slightly. "Am not! He's just a very... Respectable tom, that's all!" 

"Respectable, young, and up for grabs," Fawnpaw meowed, joking with her friend. 

Silverpaw's face grew hot, but before she could retort to Fawnpaw's words, she could feel the brush of fur against her side. "What's going on?" The curious voice of Dimpaw questioned.

Ashpaw nudged Dimpaw with his nose. "They're teasing Silverpaw for her crush on Whitetail." He could barely keep the pleased look off his face.

"Oh come on guys," Dimpaw rolled his yellow eyes, sitting down to groom his grey fur. "Everyone knows she couldn't get a tom like that."

"Hey!" Silverpaw hissed in protest, the fur on the back of her neck rising. "Who said you're allowed to pick on me too?"

"I'm just playing with you." The stone grey apprentice rolled on his back, his eyes glittering mischievously. 

Silverpaw was ready to lash out another retort, but the silver she-cat was cut off by a warning yowl. The apprentices gazed up towards the tall tree near the front of camp, there sat their leader, Oakstar. Each rose and began to crowd around the tree, wondering what was about to be announced.

In the darkness of the setting sun, they could see the gleam of Oakstar's eyes on a branch of the tree, inspected the group of cats around him. He looked disatisfied, as if he knew several cats were missing from the Clan meeting. Silverpaw peered about the camp, noticing that Jaywind, Palestorm, and Bluewhisker were nowhere to be seen.

Her heart lurched when thinking of her father, of course their patrol was running late, but they should be back soon. Right? She tried to reassure herself, but ever since her mother's passing she couldn't think straight on these matters. Not to mention Jaywind, her father, was the deputy and a vital member of the Clan.

Almost instantly relieving her worry, she watched as the three missing cats pushed through the entrance of lush bushes and brambles. Her eyes brightened when they caught sight of Jaywind, supporting a few light scratches on his pelt.

Oakstar let out a small gasp, making his way down the tree, his claws scrabbling on the bark. He skidded to the ground, bounding towards Jaywind and exchanging a few hushed meows with him. He gave a small nod and the two climbed up to separate branches of the tree. Silverpaw could feel her concern return, but it was replaced with pride as she gazed at her father's place on the tree.

"Cats of ThunderClan," Oakstar cleared his threat, staggering slightly on his perch. "There has been news of another attack."

Hushed meows full of worry echoed across the camp, but Oakstar rose his tail for silence. "It was rogues again, trespassing and hungry for more battles," his tone shadowed annoyance, but any cat could hear it.

"What are we going to do?"

"Are we going to let more warriors die due to mange-pelted rogues?"

"Do we all face the same fate as Birchtalon and Roseleaf?"

Silverpaw could see her father shuffle uncomfortably after the mention of his dead mate. Oakstar lifted his tail again, this time more fiercely, for silence. This time Jaywind was the one to straighten himself, looking across the crowd with distressed eyes. 

He sighed deeply as the quiet continued between the cats. "The rogues this time were smaller, more feeble and unskilled. This leads us to believe they're recruiting cats for their own purposes. What is this purpose you may ask?" Jaywind continued, his voice holding a rhetorical tone. "We don't know."

His final words gave a ring of gasps and shocked cries. 

"But do not worry!" Oakstar butted in, clearly not prepared to take on a group of flustered cats. "ThunderClan is strong. We may have lost two brave warriors that fateful night, but we have learned from our mistakes. I promise."

Silverpaw's clanmates didn't look reassured, but refused to continue to argue and shove their opinions at the leader and deputy. Oakstar flattened his ears, climbing down with Jaywind, and talking to him quietly beside the trunk of the tree.

"What do you think the rogues want?" Silverpaw turned, hearing a concerned mew by her ear. Her eyes widened and she looked away, fur puffing out as Whitetail was beside her.

Of course the tom wasn't much older, he was a skilled warrior though, and gained an apprentice soon after he became a warrior. He was young and you could still see the youth sparkling in his eyes. However, Oakstar did trust him and his strength, which was proven when he was given Ashpaw to train.

"I... Uh... Have no clue?" Silverpaw's voice was frail, and she avoided the tom's striking green eyes.

He gave her a curious glance, but carried on. "I think they want territory, not just border scuffles," he announced his suspicions to her. "I don't think many cats noticed, but they attacked our camp head on, and are beginning to get a taste for our land."

She thought for a few moments, pushing aside her crush for him and taking in his reasoning.

"So what you're saying is that the rogues have bigger and more devious plans?" Fernpaw gasped from beside Silverpaw, her eyes flooding with fear. "But they're just rogues! Digusting crow-food eating rogues!"

"Ah, but rogues in a group." Whitetail pointed out, his whiskers twitching. "They seem to be getting more organized by the looks of it."

Ashpaw came padding up to Silverpaw after listening from a few tail-lengths away. "Organized? Organized rogues? I don't think I've heard such a thing."

"Rare, but I think we're catching glimpses of one," Whitetail meowed. "These rogues seem to be taking a liking to ThunderClan."

"Are they a threat?" Blackpaw piped up, her tail flicking back and forth with agitation and concern.

Whitetail paused, lifting his paw and licking it prudently. "We can't be sure yet. Just be on high alert." His eyes darted towards the fresh-kill pile, a few fresh morsels were left from a hunt earlier. "Why don't you guys go get some prey? You seem like you haven't eaten all day."

The apprentices nodded reluctantly, seeing how Whitetail wasn't going to reveal what he really thought about the situation. Silverpaw caught sight of a mouse, realizing how hungry she was from a day of training. 

While sinking in her jaws deep into the mouth and relishing in it's warmth and tasty juices, she thought to herself. The silver apprentice wondered if Whitetail was onto something, perhaps ThunderClan should take more caution.

Chapter Two

"Hurry up you two!" Thrushleap demanded, his tail lashing as he padded along the forest floor.

"Don't mind him," Blackpaw muttered to Silverpaw. "He's just cranky today."

"When isn't he?" Palestorm rolled his eyes, trotting beside the two apprentices. "Every patrol we go on he tries to take charge. You aren't leader you know!" He said the last sentence louder for Thrushleap to hear.

Thrushleap let out a disgruntled growl. "Well, who else would take charge with you all acting like disruptive kits the whole time?" He looked back, his brown eyes meeting Blackpaw's. She looked away shyly.

Thrushleap was Blackpaw's father. He was a loner who went by Thrush who requested to join ThunderClan, clearly holding back a painful past. Blackpaw, Blackie at the time, had a loner mother. Her mother was unfaithful and fought with Thrushleap on several occasions. The two separated each going on their own ways, leaving a very small, sad kit behind. Blackpaw was nearly identical to her mother, which brought her harsh looks from Thrushleap.

"It's okay, let's just go mark the borders." Silverpaw nudged her friend affectionately with her nose, and Blackpaw gave a sheepish nod.

The four trudged on, paws squishing against the damp dirt from morning rain. Silverpaw inspected her surrounding, she recalled this part of territory from her first day with Birchtalon. She hadn't seen it since due to Stripedsun believing she had enough exploring and needed more battle training. Nostaglia filled the young she-cat, but it was cut short after catching scent of a terrible stench.

They had approached the Thunderpath, the bridge between ThunderClan's forests and ShadowClan's marshes. Breaking through the undergrowth, they sniffed around carefully. 

Blackpaw wrinked her nose due to the odious smell. "What is this place?" She asked, about to step a paw on the smooth, black ground of the Thunderpath.

"Careful!"  Thrushleap pulled her back, giving her a cuff to the ear. "Haven't you listened to the stories? Monsters roam across this place, one misplaced second on here and you could be dead!" He couldn't hide the concern from his face. 

The black she-cat fluffed out her fur, looking back at the Thunderpath with wide eyes. "I-I'm sorry," she stuttered.

The warrior lashed his tail in reply. "You should be!"

"Calm down, Thrushleap." Palestorm meowed softly, flicking his ears. "There's no harm done."

"She could've died, then what would I do?" The russet tom spat in reply, his eyes blazing. "She's my daughter for StarClan's sake!" He whipped away, stomping back into the safety of the trees.

Blackpaw started to go after him, but Silverpaw stopped her. "We still have to check the borders," she meowed, gesturing back towards the Thunderpath.

"I don't know how you can catch any other scent besides this thing," Blackpaw sighed, her muzzle pointed towards the Thunderpath. She was clearly still rattled by her father's brief display of affection and interest for his daughter.

Palestorm sniffed around, his head rising back up to face the two apprentices. "Rouge, but it's stale. Probably from when Jaywind and the others were ambushed." 

"Are you sure?" Silverpaw meowed.

He gave a brief nod. "We'll still keep close watch. The rogues are unpredictable at the moment." Palestorm beckoned the two with his tail. "Let's head back before there's any real trouble. Thrushleap deserves some back up."

~_~_~_~_~

"Come on Silverpaw!" A giggle pierced the grey she-cats ear, she sleepily opened her eyes. She scrambled to her paws, looking around in astonishment. 

Silverpaw beheld a world unlike any other, there was mist swirling around her and trees encircling her, tall and skinny.

"Are you gonna get going?" A playful voice echoed through the mist; Silverpaw could barely see her outline against the mist. "Come on lazybones!"

The grey apprentice stumbled along, feeling disoriented as she made her way towards the faded cat. While she got closer, the mist seemed to grow thicker. Silverpaw stopped in her tracks, staring in awe at the cat before her. The feline had a faded pelt and it seemed as if the entire night sky was trapped in her, her eyes had a white, luminous glow. The young apprentice felt a strange sense of fear and curiousity when seeing the beauitful, yet mysterious starry she-cat.

"Do you know who I am?" She questioned, her voice still giving off a comical feel, it almost seemed familiar to Silverpaw.

Silverpaw slowly shook her head, her tail beginning to rise as her ears flattened. The she-cat looked crestfallen for a moment, but it faded quickly. She just gave a small shrug, glancing to her fur. 

"Well that would explain it!" The starry she-cat laughed, leaving Silverpaw confused. The cat closed her vibrant eyes and concentrated hard, her sparkling fur bristling with effort.

Suddenly the stars began to fade from her pelt, one by one; white and brown patches proceeded to fill their place. She let her eyes flitter open, gazing right into Silverpaw's astonished amber orbs. The she-cat wrapped her tail tighly around the silver apprentice, nuzzling her softly. 

"I've waited so long to see you again," she whispered to Silverpaw, who pulled away gently, not wanting to disappoint the she-cat.

"I'm sorry, I don't... I don't recognize you." Silverpaw confessed, growing sad. 

The she-cat shook her head, smiling. "Take another look, Silverpaw." She insisted.

The apprentice searched the she-cats face, and they locked eyes. It was as if a click went off in the young she-cat's mind, for it finally hit her.

"B-Birchtalon?" She stuttered, baffled by her former mentor standing before her. "How...?"

Birchtalon pulled Silverpaw close to her, touching noses with the apprentice, purring contently. "It's just a dream, my dear apprentice-" she stopped herself, as if remembering she wasn't alive anymore to actually be Silverpaw's mentor. "I'm sorry I can't be there with you now."

"It's okay," the apprentice reassured her kin, a deep pain rising in her chest. "Where's mother?" Silverpaw's voice was frail, almost like she was begging to see Roseleaf.

Birchtalon frowned and shook her head softly. "She's in StarClan," the brown and white she-cat meowed. "Forever enjoys seasons of hunting and peace."

"I know that... I just want to know why she isn't visiting me with you," the silver apprentice's eyes brightened, excited, imagining what it would be like if Roseleaf appeared with her own starry pelt. 

"She... Couldn't make it." Birchtalon avoided Silverpaw's dejected face. 

Silverpaw jumped to her paws, her fur puffing up, the mist getting denser as her anger grew. "She has an eternity of relaxtion and you're saying she's too busy to see her own daughter?" The silver she-cat spat, feeling as if her own mother rejected her.

"No! She loves you so much, Silverpaw!" Birchtalon fiercely defended her sister against Silverpaw's harsh words, she looked defeated and let out a sigh, sitting down on the forest floor.

"What are you doing?" The apprentice demanded, hurt and tears flooding in her eyes.

"I'm so sorry Silverpaw... I'm sorry for you, Ashpaw, and Dimpaw..." The brown and white she-cat struggled to choke out, pain filling her own voice. "You needed her. You needed her so much..." Birchtalon began fading from Silverpaw's presence.

Silverpaw gasped, desperately trying to keep her former mentor from disappearing. "Don't go!" She cried out, but it was too late. 

Birchtalon was gone.

Chapter Three

"Go up the tree!" Stripedsun demanded, her eyes growing wide as she watched Silverpaw chase a squirrel.

The she-cat was yard on the rodent's tail, ready to claw her way up a tree if she had to. The squirrel began to scurry up the nearest tree, it's fluffy, grey tail swatting in Silverpaw's face as she climbed after it. She scrambled to the first branch, and leaped after the prey. Silverpaw's front paws slipped on the bark and she latched on with her claws, letting out a small screech. The squirrel took its chance and scampered off deeper into the trees.

Silverpaw wavered, pulling herself on to the branch. "Mouse-dung!" She cursed, searching the leaves for any sign of the prey.

"It's a lost cause, Silverpaw," Stripedsun sighed from below. "However, your tree climbing skills have excelled."

"Yeah!" Blackpaw agreed from below, Dimpaw gave a small nod from beside her. "You were like a grey blur chasing after that squirrel!" She praised her friend. 

Silverpaw began her trek down the tree, slipping down to her friends on the ground. "You really think so?"

Blackpaw smiled, touching noses with the silver she-cat. "Of course! You're such a great hunter."

"Come on," Stripedsun beckoned the three apprentices, "we have to keep moving. Foxclaw is already far ahead."

They both scampered to her, following the older she-cat as they trotted along the forest floor. Silverpaw gazed up at the tree tops, feeling the warm light of Green-leaf shine on her pelt. A gentle wind ruffled her fur, bringing in the scent of Foxclaw.

"Hey guys!" His cheery mew burst from the bushes, as he popped his head out. "I found a vole nibbling on a few wildflowers. That'll feed Lilypetal and her kits tonight."

Dimpaw glanced down towards the plump vole. "We should catch more like that," he informed the others. "I can already feel the chill of Leaf-fall coming."

Stripedsun nodded. "And losing squirrels isn't helping our chances with feeding the Clan," she gave a disappointed glance towards Silverpaw, who shied away.

"She's only an apprentice," Foxclaw frowned at Stripedsun, his ginger ears flattening. "She's so young and has much to learn."

Silverpaw purred at Foxclaw's words, feeling more praise from him rather than her mentor. At least one cat understood she wasn't going to be perfect at everything. However, Stripedsun expected her to be the best, which she clearly wasn't.

Blackpaw prodded the ground. "Let's get back to camp!" She meowed brightly. "I want to see Lilypetal's kits, they're so cute and tiny." The black she-cat turned, skipping off into the trees.

The others gave a small laugh, except for Stripedsun, still stung by Foxclaw's words. The ginger tom gave her a small nudge to the shoulder and they followed after the apprentice.

~_~_~_~_~

Silverpaw crept into the nursery, watching as Blackpaw played around with Lilypetal's kits.

Lilypetal smiled. "I just found out I was pregnant with them when you were born," the honey brown she-cat meowed to Silverpaw.

"I'm a fierce warrior!" Brightkit squeaked, biting Blackpaw's tail.

"Hey!" Blackpaw looked alarmed, but giggled, pushing the she-kit. 

Dawnkit pounced on her sister, pinning Brightkit to the ground. The white kit squirmed under her sisters grip, letting out thrilled squeals.  

"I'm the ThunderClan leader!" Dawnkit exclaimed, eyes darting to Silverpaw. "Help me Silverpaw! You're my deputy!"

"Come on you two," Lilypetal wrapped her tail around the two, pulling them to her. "Don't bother the apprentices. It's about time for you guys to go to sleep."

Dawnkit frowned, her tail dropping to the ground. "B-but momma," she whined. "I want to play with Silverpaw and Blackpaw!"

Lilypetal shook her head. "Don't argue with me. You'll have all the fun you want with them in a few moons, when you become apprentices too." She scolded the grey patched kit, nudging them to her nest. 

"Well, we better get going then," Blackpaw straightened herself, trying to hide the disappointment from her voice. "Thanks for letting me play with them, Lilypetal." She thanked the queen.

Lilypetal smiled, giving Blackpaw a nod. "No, thank you for helping me tire them out," the brown she-cat curled up around them. "I would've never gotten them to sleep if you didn't!"

Dawnkit let out a small whimper. "I'm still not going to sleep," she protested, but let out a defeated yawn.

The two padded out from the over-hanging tree. Silverpaw scanned the camp with her amber eyes, catching site of Whitetail arguing with Stripedsun.

"What's going on with them?" Blackpaw looked surprised, not used to seeing the white warrior lose his sangfroid. 

Silverpaw shook her head with a shrug, and they crept towards them, trying to eavesdrop on their conversation. Silverpaw motioned the other apprentice with her tail, pulling her towards the edge of the apprentice den. The two hid below some bushes, making sure their scent wasn't going downwind to alert the bickering warriors. The silver she-cat felt a bit of guilt, for if she was caught Whitetail's trust in her would be lost.

"They're getting stronger, Whitetail." Stripedsun hissed under her breath, glaring at the tom's pelt. Silverpaw and Blackpaw followed her gaze, seeing  a few scratches on Whitetail's pelt that were previously masked by his thick fur. "What are we going to do? Oakstar's trying to keep this from the other cats, but how long will it be until one of our apprentices is attacked?"

The tom looked away, supressing a sigh. "They only seem to be attacking border patrols now, but it isn't serious. They aren't aiming to kill, but they want something more..." He trailed off, his whiskers twitching anxiously.

"And what might that be?" Stripedsun demanded, but Whitetail hushed her with a flick of his ears. "What if they attack the camp like before? Are we going to risk this?"

"What do you suppose we do?" Whitetail was growing frustrated. "We can't make them stop, and we don't know exactly where they live. With Oakstar making sure no other cats knows of their threat, what can we do?" 

Stripedsun tore up the ground below her paws, eyes flaming. "I hate how Oakstar is acting like this isn't even a problem! Is he forgetting how Roseleaf and Birchtalon died? Does he want us just to forget that?" She growled.

Silverpaw shivered beside Blackpaw, the mention of her mother's death still sent chills running down her spine.

"Of course not," Whitetail paused, considering Stripedsun's words. "Actually... I think he is. He doesn't want the new apprentices to fear the same fate as their mother. Nor does he want others stressing over the safety of ThunderClan...."

"Exactly! If no cat is aware of how hazardous these rogues can be, how will be defend our home?" Stripedsun meowed, her voice growing soft with worry.

Whitetail stood quietly, the white tom opening his mouth to respond, but not managing to release his words.

"Don't tell me you're thinking about-"

"Of course not!" He cut off the ginger she-cat, glancing around to see if anyone was watching them. He murmured something in her ear and she stared at him, surprised.

Whitetail stalked off towards the warriors den, leaving Stripedsun awestruck. Blackpaw pressed her pelt against Silverpaw, warning the other she-cat for them to leave the area. Silverpaw nodded, escaping into the apprentices' den, Blackpaw quick on her paws.

"I know what to do!" Blackpaw exclaimed, after entering the encirclement of bushes that were the apprentice den. "We have to help them!"

Ashpaw looked up alarmed, he was putting fresh moss and lichen in his nest. "What are you talking about?" He turned, padding towards them.

Dimpaw followed after him, rising from his snooze in his own nest. "Could you not be so loud next time?" He let out a yawn. "I've had a long day of training."

"And it's almost moonhigh!" Ashpaw pointed out, but the others could tell he was curious to what the she-cats had to say.

Silverpaw rose her tail for silence, pleased in how the cat's instantly quieted themselves. 

"We eavesdropped on Stripedsun and Whitetail," Blackpaw continued, even though the toms let out amazed gasps. "The rogues are still a big threat despite Oakstar's words. I was thinking we could try to help them out!" 

"W-what?" Dimpaw was startled, his voice hush with worry. "No... No, this is warrior business, we can't..."

"But we can!" The black furred apprentice reassured him. "They don't know where they live, but if we found out for them, then the rogues could be defeated," her eyes were showing a glowing determination.

Silverpaw looked taken back by Blackpaw's idea, but she admired the she-cat for her plan. It might actually work! She silently agreed, but inspected the others for their opinions.

"How would we do that?" Ashpaw was growing excited by the concept of defeating the rogues.

The apprentice took a deep breath. "They said they only attack the border patrols, meaning they must creep along the borders of ThunderClan. I say we hide by the borders until we see them, then follow them to their camp!"

Dimpaw snorted. "No, absolutely not. What if we're caught, what would we do then?" He voiced his thoughts.

"We won't be," Blackpaw tried to convince the stubborn, grey tom, "we're going to be in the trees!"

"Like squirrels?" Ashpaw laughed in remark.

Silverpaw rolled her eyes at her brother. "I actually think Blackpaw's idea isn't half bad," she shrugged, growing eager to begin. "if we hide in the trees, we'll have the advantage. Then we can leap from tree to tree, following them until we reach their camp!"

"What if they go in a place without trees?" Dimpaw questioned, clearly unsure about going through with this.

"We'll think of something. We're not that stupid," Silverpaw narrowed her eyes. 

Dimpaw looked to his paws, his tail twitching uncomfortably. "I'm just concerned for everyone's safety, okay?"

Blackpaw nodded. "But we're also worried for the Clan, this might finally be the end of the rogues. Isn't that good?"

The grey tom puffed out his fur, avoiding Blackpaw's stare. "All right, do what you want. But count me out of it," he muttered.

The black apprentice scampered towards him, giving him a friendly nudge in the shoulder. "Dimpaw, you have to go! You and Silverpaw are the best at climbing trees. We can't do it without you."

He paused, broadening his chest at her praise. "Well... I suppose I could go..." He licked his paw, swiping it confidently over his ear. "But if anything funny goes on, I'm heading right back to camp!"

Chapter Four

Silverpaw kept her balance, hanging on tightly to the lowest branch of the tall oak tree. She gazed below her, watching as Dimpaw effortlessly leaped up beside her. Blackpaw and Ashpaw followed her gaze.

"Go on the tree on the other side of us," Dimpaw called down to them.

Fawnpaw bounded up, settling herself next to Blackpaw and Ashpaw. "You sure you want me to go with you guys?" She asked them.

Ashpaw nodded. "You and I are to keep watch, make sure no warriors go in this general direction. Don't want any interferences."

"We said to our mentors we were going to have a joint training lesson today," Blackpaw meowed. "They wouldn't dare deny a group of apprentices training together."

"Let's go!" Dimpaw yelled, growing impatient with the other cats. He steadied himself on the branch, nodding to his sister. "I'm going to stay on Blackpaw's tree," he told her. "She isn't the best at climbing trees."

Silverpaw looked at his questioningly, but nodded relunctantly. "If you insist," she said gruffly, dug her claws into the bark of the branch, gazing towards the place she'd leap next.

Dimpaw was quiet, Silverpaw knew he sensed his sister's bitter attitude. However, he managed to shake it off and jumped down, following Blackpaw up the tree across from Silverpaw. The apprentice watched the two, and Blackpaw stood behind Dimpaw, bunching up her haunches.

"Ready!" She squeaked with excitement, and Dimpaw dove towards the next tree.

He landed hard on the branch, Silverpaw watched it shake from underneath him. She caught a hint of panic in his eyes, but it faded once the branch stopped rocking. Blackpaw followed from behind him, landing a branch next to him. The black she-cat nearly slipped from the smooth bark, but caught herself. 

Dimpaw bristled. "Be careful!" He warned her, getting an apologetic glance from the other apprentice.

Silverpaw breathed deeply, releasing her energy as she glided through the air. She landed hard on the branch, her tense muscles relaxing, continuing her conistent bounds across the trees. Dimpaw and Blackpaw pursued Silverpaws from the trees across from her. The silver apprentice noticed they were nearing the border where the territory consisted of uneven trees and dry land. 

"Silverpaw!" She whipped her head to the right, hearing Blackpaw's urgent whisper from the other tree. The black furred apprentice gestured with her tail to below them, Silverpaw looked down, gasping in fear.

Below them were a group of four cats, scheming quietly between them. They hadn't noticed the apprentices yet, which sent a wave of relief surging through the silver she-cat. Dimpaw exchanged nervous glances with Silverpaw, but they didn't dare meow a single word, in fear of alerting the rogues.

"They'll be coming soon," a brown tabby meowed from below, his tail flicking uneasily against the ground. "Are we prepared for another fight?"

An orange tabby tom looked agitated. "I suppose," he mewed in reply. "I'm sick of Badger sending us out everyday... The cats are going to catch on soon."

"Badger is only doing what's best for us," a cream colored she-cat pointed out, ear ears flattening. "Don't doubt his motives."

"But is this Clan really worth it?" The orange tabby asked.

"Of course!" She cream she-cat replied with a hiss. "ThunderClan is full of prey and has plenty of trees to protect us against the weather. They won't be expecting our next attack..."

The fourth cat, a dark grey tom parted his jaws, scenting the air. Silverpaw grew uneasy, shuffling on her perch in the tree. The tom didn't say anything, which lead to Silverpaw letting out a breath of relief.

The brown tabby perked his ears. "You mean the real attack?" His eyes showed a fierce excitement. 

The cream she-cat opened her mouth to reply, but she paused. "What's wrong Antler?" She caught the dark look looming in the grey tom's eyes.

"In the trees," he looked up.

Dimpaw's eyes widened, his gaze bore into Silverpaw's, as Silverpaw tried not to yowl out in fear. They had been spotted, the grey cat knew they were there. Silverpaw noticed to fear in Blackpaw eyes, and longed to leap to her tree. 

"So we've got a case of eavesdroppers, now do we?" The orange tabby snarled, glaring up at the trees. He launched himself against the trunk, slicing up the wood with sharp, white claws.

"He's going to get to us!" Blackpaw cried out pressing against Dimpaw in fear.

Silverpaw watched as he bounded up the first branch, advancing closer to the two. The tom was nearly to their branch, but Silverpaw saw how closeby her tree was to theirs. She gave a few rushed moments to decide, and jumped from her branch, flying blindly in the air until she landed on the tom.

The tom screeched, and the two toppled from the tree, becoming a blur of clashing claws and missed blows. The orange tabby fell to the ground first, the loud snap of his bones echoing in the forest. Silverpaw landed on top of him, luckily he took most of the blow and she rolled off the tom. 

She felt dizzy, unsteady on her paws with a powerful aching in her front leg. Her vision was growing blurry, but she tried to straighten it out, watching Dimpaw and Blackpaw bound down from the tree.

The ran beside her, supporting their friend, hissing boldly at the rogues.

"Oh look Tusk," the cream she-cat sneered, staring at the three apprentices. "We've got a few kits to handle."

Antler, brown tabby was about to agree, but stopped cold in his tracks. "Strike!" He exclaimed in horror, seeing the broken body of his fellow rogue.

"You'll pay for this," the cream she-cat snarled. "Do you just kill cats for fun?" She whipped her head towards Silverpaw.

"Y-you..." Silverpaw stuttered, still feeling disoriented. However, she still understood the she-cats words, and they enraged her. "Your group of rogues killed my mother..." She trailed off, her voice showing a piercing rage.

Antler stared at her. "Was that the weak brown tabby Badger killed all those moons ago?" He smirked, eyes looking towards the cream she-cat. "Say Poppy, let's give this kit the same fate!" He snarled.

Poppy, the cream she-cat gave a brisk nod in reply. "We'll avenge Strike's fate, you worthless piece of fox-dung." Her eyes bore into Silverpaw's pelt, showing a firey hatred.

Her fur bristled, but Silverpaw was trying desperately not to fall to the forest floor. Her thoughts were getting jumbled together, and she watched as Antler lunged towards Dimpaw, helpless to her littermate.

Dimpaw growled, slashing at Antler's shoulder with messy, blows from lack of training. Antler sneered, snapping at the tom's leg.

Poppy raced towards Blackpaw ripping her claws through the apprentice's flank, she let out a screech of terror. Blood trickled from her black fur, and her eyes widened with terror.

Silverpaw was losing her footing, stumbling as she tried to help her friends from the stronger rogues. She caught a quick nod from Antler, realizing they were plotting something. She tried to yowl a warning, but fell to her side, feeling a numbing sensation over her body.

No... No StarClan, don't let me die! Her mind cried out, struggling as her paws flailed around weakly.

Poppy landed a harsh blow on Blackpaw's head, sending her unconcious, splayed out on her side. Dimpaw shrieked as Antler gave a harsh nip to his hind-leg, but quickly stopped battling the young tom. He raced over to Poppy, helping her drag away Blackpaw.

"No! Blackpaw, get up! Blackpaw!" Dimpaw yowled in pain and fear, racing after the two. Antler lashed out at the grey tom, sending him rolling back.

He growled at Dimpaw. "Stay back, kit!" Antler bared his teeth, eyes blazing.

The grey apprentice struggled to his paws, glaring at Antler, ready to lunge again. However, he realized Poppy was quickly dragging Blackpaw down a slope, into the shadows.

"Blackpaw!" He gasped, but Antler blocked his way, snarling angrily.

Silverpaw could feel the world around her shifting, the sounds growing fuzzy in her ears. She could see Ashpaw cantering across the forest in the distance with Fernpaw, closing in on the border where they were attack. She watched as warriors followed closely behind them, breaking into the scene. 

Her vision was darkening, but she could see Stripedsun, lunging with her claws outstretched at Antler. The two cats tumbled to the ground, a flurry of claws and hisses.

"Silverpaw? Silverpaw!" A shriek echoed in her ears, but all she could see was black.

Chapter Five

Wake up, darling. You must fight on...

Silverpaw's amber eyes fluttered open. The she-cat saw she was in a small dip in the ground.  She scrambled to her paws, but fell back down, screeching in agony. The silver apprentice whimpered softly, her front paw throbbing in pain.

"Oh, you're awake!" A meow echoed against the rocky walls of the slope. "I could hear that yelp all the way across camp."

The apprentice bristled, her mind still feeling astray and fuzzy. A dappled brown she-cat came into the light, her yellow eyes sparkling with curiousity.

"Silverpaw?" She mewed, confused. "It's me, Leafbreeze." The she-cat padded slowly towards her.

"L-Leafbreeze?" Silverpaw's meow was frail, weak from her state of health.

The medicine cat gave a brief nod. "Yes," she responded. "You've been asleep for a few days, that must've been some fall! Dimpaw was telling me all about it..." She cut herself off, eyes growing sad.

The silver apprentice struggled to sit up, holding up her front paw, wincing. "Leafbreeze... Is everyone okay?" Her voice shook, the memories of the incident returning.

"Dimpaw has recovered. His wounds weren't as bad as his shock," the dappled she-cat answered. She made her way to the back of the den, picking through the herbs.

"Where's Blackpaw?" Silverpaw was regaining her strength, stretching out in her nest.

Leafbreeze paused, avoiding eye-contract with the apprentice. She continued the silently fumble with the assortments of herbs, then turned to face Silverpaw. "Her little idea turned against her," she choked on her words. "They took her Silverpaw."

"What?" Silverpaw gasped. "No... No they must've found her! Oakstar is still sending out search patrols... Right?" 

The brown she-cat's eyes softened. "Of course, Silverpaw." She meowed. "But as I said, you've been asleep for days. Just waking up briefly for a bite of fresh-kill or water. We sent out search patrols, but we couldn't find her." Leafbreeze stared to her paws.

"But.... But Blackpaw..." Silverpaw could feel the tears welling in her eyes. The she-cat was so young, so full of hope and so eager to be a warrior. 

"Silverpaw!" The silver apprentice's head whipped up, seeing the bright eyes of her mentor.

Stripedsun dashed down the slope, nuzzling her apprentice. "I'm so glad you're awake!" Her voice showed a deep relief.

Two other smaller cats bustled down the slope, racing up to Silverpaw. Ashpaw and Dimpaw stood before her, paws itching with excitement.

"We thought you'd never wake!" Ashpaw exclaimed, touching noses with his sister. "We were so scared!"

Dimpaw shoved Ashpaw with his shoulder. "Don't say that," he hissed. 

Silverpaw gazed into Dimpaw's eyes, catching a glimpse of pain. Something was troubling him severely. 

"Can I leave the medicine den?" Silverpaw looked towards Leafbreeze.

The medicine cat quickly nodded, she looked cramped with all the cats in her den.  "But don't leave camp, your paw isn't strong enough yet."

Silverpaw flicked her tail, and began to frantically limp up the slope, her mentor and brothers padding after her.

"Remember to come back later if your paw is sore!" Leafbreeze called to them, but Silverpaw was too busy to notice.

The silver apprentice raked the camp with her eyes, relishing in the warmth of the Green-leaf sunshine. It would be over all too soon, for Leaf-Fall was arriving at a furious pace. She could already feel a slight chill in the air, ruffling the fur on her pelt.

"How does it feel to finally be back in camp?" Ashpaw questioned his sister.

Silverpaw smiled, but it was shortlived after remembering the downfall of Blackpaw. Dimpaw caught the grief in her expression and rested his muzzle on her shoulder. Stripedsun paused in her tracks, frowning briefly.

"Blackpaw was very brave," the striped ginger she-cat noted, understanding the pain the apprentices felt. "The loss of her only proves how strong the rogues are getting. Oakstar isn't going to hide it from ThunderClan anymore."

Dimpaw hung his head. "Why'd it have to be her?" He murmured softly, quiet enough for only Silverpaw to hear.

Stripedsun pressed against her apprentice. "On a lighter note, we should get some prey in you. You've only had a few bites ever since the incident! You must be starving." 

Silverpaw flattened her ears, giving a slow nod. She didn't feel hungry, but she couldn't bring herself to tell Stripedsun. Something was gnawing harshly at her belly, something that wouldn't be fulfilled by a piece of prey. Losing Blackpaw wouldn't be taken lightly, nor would she forget about it so easily. Those rogues would pay, she would kill each and every last of them if she could. Just to revenge the loss of her friend.

~_~_~_~_~

Green eyes opened in the darkness, sparkling in the pale moonlight. The she-cat scrambled to her paws, her heart beating fiercely in her chest. She gazed around, seeing cats quietly chatting in the hollow. Tall pine trees encircled her, spreading a scent that was unknown to the she-cat. She adjusted her eyes to the dim lighting, seeing a cream she-cat making her way towards her.

The she-cat bristled, but the cream she-cat shook her head briefly. "No need to be scared, young warrior." She said softly. "Blackpaw, isn't it?" 

The she-cat shivered against the chill of the night, she narrowed her eyes. "Where am I?" She demanded, her voice shaking with fear.

"You're in our camp," the cream she-cat explained. "And if you remember correctly, I'm Poppy."

"P-Poppy?" Blackpaw bristled, her eyes blazing with a newfound anger. "You attacked my friends!"

"And your friend killed Strike," she growled lowly, causing Blackpaw to back off a few pawsteps. "He was a strong rogue, not very intelligent, but strong. Our best fighter."

Blackpaw's tail lashed, staring at Poppy for a few moments. "D-do you expect me to feel sorry for this Strike fellow?" She gave a pitiful snarl in return, not used to being assertive. "You guys constantly attack ThunderClan! You deserved to lose Strike, it's payment for killing Birchtalon and Roseleaf."

Poppy unsheathed her claws. "Oh, is that so?" She sneered. "They were easy to kill. Perhaps you will be too?" She lifted a paw; Blackpaw crouched low, eyes filling with horror.

"Poppy!" An angered meow echoed from the clearing, Blackpaw watched a fluffy, tortoiseshell she-cat stomp towards Poppy. The she-cat roughly cuffed the cream cat's ear, leaving Poppy to stalk off, mumbling vulgar words.

"I apologize, Blackpaw." The tortoiseshell she-cat eyed Poppy, who sat moping by a tall pine. "Poppy is just bitter after Strike's death. Which I don't know why she's this way, we need strong and intelligent cats. What is the point of having strength but no wits to match?" She shook her head with a sigh. "He wouldn't have lasted long. She should know this."

"I... I don't understand." Blackpaw slowly rose from her crouched position, confusion glittering in her eyes.

The tortoiseshell she-cat gave her chest fur a few thoughtful licks. "Which is expected," she meowed. "I'm Shard." Her bright yellow eyes glowed in the darkness.

Blackpaw stared at her quietly, unsure on what to say. Fear made her pelt prickle, for she thought any wrong move could result in her dead on the forest floor.

"Why am I here?" She murmured, swallowing hard.

Shard smiled, her thick tail wrapping around her paws. "Us rogues, we only crave for a home. We cannot keep living in a small hollow forever. The land we live on it constantly invaded by Two-legs, and has a limited amount of coverage. You see how the trees are so spaced out. We are not meant to live like this." Her eyes grew sad. "All we want is a territory of our own."

Blackpaw could feel the greed radiating off her pelt. Shard was envious of ThunderClan's prey stocked, lush territory. However, it was understandable. The rogues looked skinny and underfed, they were practically begging for ThunderClan land.

"But you're a ThunderClan apprentice," Shard continued, eyes gleaming with ideas. "We thought that if we showed a ThunderClan cat our ways, then they could influence the others to let us have some of their territory. Just to help us survive."

"So you're not trying to take all of ThunderClan's territory...?" Blackpaw's voice was quiet, growing more curious by the second.

The tortioseshell looked appalled by the accusation. "Of course not!" Her eyes narrowed. "That is a pitiful way to get territory, to steal it right under the paws of another!"

Blackpaw shied back, avoiding Shard's angered gaze. "But... Why did you attack our camp before?" 

"The rogues were under different rule then," Shard explain, flicking her paw in a disappointed manor, as if she was disgusted with how the rogues were before. "They wanted to taste blood daily and take over all the territory they could. That is not true strength, and it definitely doesn't show any intelligence."

The black furred she-cat was growing more and more interested with Shard's words. She had never expected rogues to be this civil, but there were still unanswered questions lingering in her mind. "Why do you keep ambushing our patrols?"

"Ah, we do not ambush your patrols." Shard replied right after Blackpaw uttered out the last word. "Your patrols attack us, we only roam around our side the border. However, when your Clan cats see us, they see us a threats and lash out."

"W-what?" Blackpaw was bewildered. "We attack you guys without the rogues even crossing our border?"

Shard's bright yellow eyes shadowed with sadness. "They hold grudges from moons before," she gazed to the ground. "Before we were an organized group of cats. It isn't right, and I refuse to stand for it now that I'm the leader of these rogues."

Blackpaw felt ashamed of herself, even ashamed of her own Clan. This was against everything the warrior code taught her! 

"I'm not going to keep you here against your will," Shard remarked, shaking Blackpaw from her thoughts. "So you have a choice. You either leave back to your Clan, or help us in our only chance of survival." The she-cat proposed her deal.

How can I just let them die? They need my help. I should never let ThunderClan's fault be the downfall of others... Blackpaw looked up to the tortoiseshell, puffing out her chest. "All right. I'll do it."

Chapter Six

Silverpaw rolled across the forest floor, her eyelids fluttered across her amber eyes, glaring at Fawnpaw. The brown she-cat gave a triumphant 'mrow', looking up to her mentor for approval.

"It was a well preformed blow," Goldfeather admitted, shaking out his tabby fur. "However, the placing of it was off. You aim to slam the flank not the shoulder."

Fawnpaw's tail lowered, pride vanishing as Silverpaw rose to her paws. Her body ached slightly. That move could've taken down a fully fledged warrior! The silver she-cat thought quietly, giving her friend a sympathetic stare.

"Come on now, Goldfeather." Stripedsun rolled her eyes from across the clearing, scratching at the rough forest floor. "I think she's doing fantastic! You keep saying she needs more work, but I think she's ready for her final assessment." She exclaimed. 

Fawnpaw's ears perked, brown eyes gazing up hopefully to Goldfeather. "I've been training my moves with Silverpaw for a quarter moon, I should be ready!" She crouched low to the ground, swatting at the air with determination.

The golden tabby flicked his tail back and forth, uncertain. "Well, if Stripedsun thinks so... I'll bring it up with Oakstar," he sighed in defeat.

"Really?" The brown she-cat rose, her paws itching with anticipation. "I can't wait to tell Ashpaw and Dimpaw!" She giggled, prancing around her mentor who rolled his eyes with a smile.

The mentors and their apprentices pushed past the trees, making their way towards camp. Silverpaw dipped her head to avoid getting poked by the bramble barriers as she made her way in. Goldfeather nodded to them, and he turned to make his way to the leader's den, but stopped in his tracks. Oakstar was sitting upon the towering tree in the center of camp, gazing down at the cats below. He saw the other's arrival, and let out a caterwaul into the darkening sky.

"ThunderClan," he called out, watching quietly as others gathered from around the camp. "I cannot keep the lingering threat of the rogues from you. We know their true ways after they brutally ripped Blackpaw from our paws." 

"Why'd he keep it from us in the first place..." Silverpaw heard a mutter to her left, she glanced over, seeing Whitetail's claws sinking into the ground.

Oakstar steadied himself on the branch, a chilly wind buffeting his brown tabby fur. "Leaf-Fall is approaching. The time the rogues attacked the camp still lingers in our heart and mind. I've come to decision with Jaywind that them taking Blackpaw crossed the final line."

The clearing was silent, Silverpaw saw Whitetail's awestruck gaze bear into Oakstar's pelt. He was drinking in the leader's words, his green eyes blazing, finally getting the chance to take action.

"We will spend the next moon preparing for battle." Oakstar announced, several cats let out yowls of approval. "We will avenge those lost! Let Blackpaw, Birchtalon, and Roseleaf never fade from our minds!"

Silverpaw found herself crying out along with the others, letting their howling meows echo into the sunset-orange sky. Deep in her heart was the pain of a thousand battling warriors, an ache for revenge and to feel the blood of the evil upon her tongue. 

~_~_~_~_~

The black pelted she-cat slammed her paw into the other cat's flank, if claws were used then the other would have smooth slices down her pelt. The darkness of the night made her approach easier due to blending in with the shadows. Her opponent, a smoky grey and white she-cat, gave Blackpaw a nod.

"She's doing well isn't she?" Shard murmured from her post beside a slender tree. 

The grey she-cat, Storm, nodded. "Her moves have gotten cleaner and quicker from the time she's spent with us."

Blackpaw relished in the praise, welcoming it as soon as it came. She wasn't used to this type of appreciation in ThunderClan, for her mentor thought of her as a simple apprentice with not extraordinary talents. Not to mention her father, Trushleap, could barely look at Blackpaw whenever they were in each other's presence. 

"Why don't you take the squirrel I caught?" Shard offered, her voice low, filled with thoughts she was contemplating to say.

"I...Well, if you insist." Blackpaw smiled as Shard tossed over the fluffy grey-brown rodent.

The apprentice lifted it into her jaws, following Storm and Shard back to the rogue's camp, a clearing within the forest of skinny trees. She nodded towards her friend, a younger ginger tabby she-cat named Finch who was talking with Poppy.

A dusky grey tom, Dew, approached Shard. His eyes were wary, showing signs of anxiety. "Shard," he spoke quietly, his blue eyes avoiding her stare. "Hawk isn't improving. He hasn't caught a single piece of prey, since I've begun training him. I tell him what to do, but he never listens!" Dew hung his head.

"No, Dew." Shard replied, her ears flattening. "We took Hawk under our protection, and he is not paying his debt to us. The young tom is a superb fighter, but what is a fighter without a piece of prey to nourish them?"

Blackpaw watched Shard, puzzled. She had admired the older she-cat equally to Oakstar, and even considered her a true leader of the rogues. However, now the tortoiseshell she-cat had a sense of disappointment shadowing her voice. 

"What are we going to do?" Dew questioned, voice weak with a sense of remorse.

Shard didn't answer, she cleared her throat, scanning the camp with watchful eyes. "Hawk." The she-cat beckoned the brown spotted tom.

He spun around, speedily padding up to the she-cat. He looked up to her with wide, anxious amber eyes, Hawk swallowed hard. Shard inspected him with a sense of failure, as if he would never get better.

"You joined us just a few moons ago," she informed, Hawk froze, his whiskers twitching. "What help is a cat who cannot feed their family? Do you want us to die, Hawk?"

Hawk slowly shook his head, eyes full of worry and fear, as if Shard would strike out and shred his ears.

The tortoiseshell wasn't amused, her once warm gaze was full of bitter cold. "You are young, you a naive, but that does not mend the problem at paw." Shard's sharp yellow eyes narrowed. "Dew has taught you how to catch prey, he has taught you the ways to fill the bellies of the hungry. Now what do you do? Do you ignore his teachings, Hawk?"

He shook his head again, Blackpaw could see that his teeth were chattering behind his closed jaws.

"Speak up!" Shard demanded with a hiss that sent shudders down Blackpaw's spine as she watched the scene. "N-no, Shard." Hawk choked out, despair brimming in the corners of his eyes.  "Then why do you not learn?" She spat out the last word, claws unsheathing. "Why haven't you brought more than a mouse back from your trainings? If every cat does not contribute their share, we will surely starve!" 

Dew watched from closeby, staring towards the ground with shame. Blackpaw felt a sharp pang in her heart, for Dew felt as if he failed Shard by failing to train an simple cat.

"I refuse to keep you under the safety of our group!" Shard growled the punishment. "You are hereby banished from the rogues for being an un-trainable tom incapable of learning!"

Hawk gasped, his tail lowering. "Please, Shard. I beg, don't send me away! Leaf-Fall is coming and soon after Leaf-Bare will too! I will die out in the cold," he begged, lowering head head, craving for forgiveness.

"If you stay, you are just another mouth to feed! Not to mention you will be a mouth who cannot give back!" Shard lifted her paw, letting the moonlight reflect from her sharp, white claws. "Leave, Hawk. You may return after Leaf-Bare. If you survive it proves you managed to feed yourself for the season!"

Tears filled the young tom's eyes, he backed away from Shard, watching her claws until he turned to face his mentor. Dew avoided his eyes, and Hawk let out a sniveling wail, cantering off into the shadows of the forest.

Blackpaw ran up to Shard, pressing her nose in the fluffy she-cat's fur. "Oh, Shard! Please don't let him die out there. If he doesn't starve, he'll be killed by foxes!" 

Shard shook her off gently, eyes softening. "Blackpaw, you see how skinny we are now. If we are forced to feed someone who cannot provide for another, then our numbers will dwindle." She wrapped her tail around the apprentice, her scent wrapping around the black she-cat. "We cannot keep those who don't fulfil expectations, Blackpaw. It is heartbreaking, but it's the only way for us to survive."

"But... He's a cat in need of help, he won't live..." Blackpaw sniffed, her eyes wide as she gazed into Shard's.

"If his instincts kick in, he will learn how to hunt during that time. If not, he should be able to find a Two-leg to take him in, or another group of rogues." Shard pointed out, her whiskers twitching.

"Y-you think?" The apprentice murmured. 

Shard nodded. "Of course, dear Blackpaw. No cat is that incapable of fending for themselves. Hawk is strong, and I'm sure he'll last." She paused, inspecting the camp silently. "But we have more plans to worry about at the moment."

Blackpaw looked up, pushing away her grief for Hawk's exile to listen to Shard. "Plans..?"

"Yes." Shard responded. "The reason we are forced to remove those like Hawk is our lack of territory. Our plans for ThunderClan must flourish. We have trained you in our ways, Blackpaw. You now understand our need and pain, and you have grown stronger from this. However, spies from our group have informed me that ThunderClan wants to wage war."

"War?" Blackpaw was appalled, her green eyes expanding.

"They want us gone, even if it means they'd have to kill us. Every last one of us. They hunger for our blood and to see us dead." Sadness filled the tortoiseshell's eyes. "Oakstar is leading them into these devious deeds. He is not trustworthy anymore... He even tried to keep our existence a secret! He is a coward..."

"Oakstar?" Blackpaw thought for a few moments. She never thought the ThunderClan leader was anything less than the most humble and strong cat of any Clan. But she soaked in Shard's words, processing them in the workings of her mind. If Shard has proof of him trying to murder her group... He must be a threat. He doesn't know what Shard wants! These rogues only long for a home, and if he's too selfish to give them that....

"You see Blackpaw," Shard continued, looking towards the sky. "With Oakstar in charge, you can never persuade ThunderClan to cater to our desire of territory. He still believes we were the ones who killed the other warriors, when it was clearly a group under lesser lead. Now he thinks we have killed you! That ignorant excuse for a leader..." A fire blazed in Shard's piercing yellow eyes.

Blackpaw could feel an anger rising in her own heart. To think, she once felt proud of her ThunderClan leader! Now he was trying to rage battle upon these innocent rogues? The young she-cat wouldn't stand for this, she refused to let this happen. The apprentice didn't know what to do, but she had a feeling Shard was going to tell her.

"You have to go to ThunderClan, you have to make sure your Clan is under better lead." The fluffy she-cat explained, voice filled with determination. "Oakstar is not fit to keep his bitter control on those poor souls..."

"What am I supposed to do?" Blackpaw seemed confused by this proposal. Take Oakstar out of lead? How do I do that?

Shard stared at Blackpaw, cats silented around them, watching Shard with a sense of curiousity. Shard made her way towards the black furred she-cat, letting her muzzle stay just a claw-length away from the apprentice's ear. She whispered something, her voice quieter than the squeal of an insect.

As the tortoiseshell pulled herself away from Blackpaw, she watched as Blackpaw's expression changed from confused to emotionless. The apprentice nodded slowly, and Shard flicked her tail with appreciation. 

"It's been nice training you, Blackpaw." Shard purred, eyes glinting darkly. "I'm sorry I have to give you back up to ThunderClan, if I could keep you with the rogues I would. But we won't last long until things are changed."

Blackpaw was silent, gazing to the floor, her eyes blank.

"Contemplating, are you?" The fluffy she-cat smiled. "You'll do great. Remember my dear, what you are doing will save the lives of us all. You are so very brave..." Her voice lingered with admiration. "You were truly the best cat I had to train."

The apprentice's head slowly rose. "I'll be seeing you then, Shard." She answered slowly. "After this, things will change for the better. I promise."

Chapter Seven

Silverpaw shuffled in her nest, muscles weak from a vigorous training lesson with Stripedsun. Her mentor was excited over Fawnpaw's approaching warrior ceremony, and wanted Silverpaw to be the best she could be as well. 

The silver apprentice was allowed a bit of rest time before the ceremony, seeing that she worked Silverpaw right to the bone. 

But it was worth it. Silverpaw yawned, stretching in her nest. She blinked in the bits of sunlight streaming in from the twigs of the bush covering the den.

The she-cat got to her paws and padded out to camp. The sun was disappearing on the horizon, and cats were chattering as they gulped down fresh-kill. Silverpaw noticed more cats sharing prey than usual. It was probably due to Leaf-fall setting in, for prey was already beginning to hibernate in their burrows in preparation for the long Leaf-bare.

"Silverpaw?" Whitetail called to her, he was sitting beside Ashpaw and Dimpaw as he told them adventures from that day.

She nodded towards the white warrior, making her way to him and her brothers.

"Did I tell you Ashpaw caught the biggest squirrel I've seen all Green-leaf?" Whitetail gloated, pride glowing in his eyes for his apprentice.

Dimpaw frowned. "Oh come on! I've seen bigger." He nudged Ashpaw with his nose.

Silverpaw sighed happily. It had been nearly two moons since the loss of Blackpaw, and it was the first time she's finally felt able to joke around with her brothers again. 

Oakstar padded out from his den, which was was hole in the tree where he called meetings, hollowed out moons before. He faced the crowd, the group of cats hushing themselves as Fawnpaw pushed her way towards Oakstar. He pelt was sleek and well-groomed, it was clear she was anticipating this moment all day. Goldfeather trailed behind her, stopping himself at the edge of the crowd, watching Fawnpaw with proud, blue eyes.

"Today is the day Fawnpaw is granted the title of a warrior," Oakstar announced, face bright and cheerful. "Goldfeather, do you approve of her training and believe she deserves to be a warrior?" He asked the brown apprentice's mentor.

Goldfeather nodded. "Yes."

"Then Fawnpaw," the brown tabby turned to the apprentice. "Do you promise to uphold the warrior code and protect and defend your Clan, even if it costs your life?" 

"I do." Fernpaw responded, shuffling on her paws, chest puffed out.

Oakstar rested his tail-tip on Fawnpaw's shoulder. "Then by the powers of StarClan, I grant you your warrior name. Fawnpaw, from now on you shall be Fawnleap. StarClan is gracious for your strength and intelligence. We welcome you as a full warrior of ThunderClan." He bent down, touching noises with the newly named Fawnleap.

"Fawnleap! Fawnleap!" The Clan echoed her new name. Silverpaw joined along, yowling out her friend's name to the sky.

As Fawnleap made her way over to Silverpaw, cats congratulated her, giving her mrows of approval.

"It'll be sad to see you leave the apprentices' den." Silverpaw sighed, smiling as she nuzzled Fawnleap.

"And not as warm." Ashpaw interjected, his grey fur puffing up as a cold wind blew. "This Leaf-bare will be a chilly one."

Fawnleap purred, sitting beside her friends and Whitetail. "It'll be a pretty icy vigil for me tonight," she confessed. "Standing out all night in the chill of Leaf-fall, I don't know if I'll last!" She giggled.

Whitetail flicked his ears. "Every warrior has to go through it, I'm just lucky mine was in New-leaf." His voice was light-hearted and comical.

"I heard the gathering is also coming up." Dimpaw brought up, wrapping his grey tail tightly around his paws. "That'll give Oakstar a chance to announce a new warrior in ThunderClan." His yellow eyes darted to Fawnleap

"Gathering?" Whitetail looked up. "I remember the last one. Boring as ever. I swear, the other Clans aren't doing anything." He groaned. "Not a single border skirmish or anything. I swear, all our focus is on those fox-brained rogues..."

Silverpaw's itched with a new sense of anxiety. She once had been excited for the battle Oakstar planned for the rogues, but the thought of actually fighting them made her feel sick. The idea of cats lying dead on the ground brought her sour nightmares.

Fawnleap licked her paw. "It'll all be over in good time," she noted. "Soon, we'll be rid of them for good. Think of the sweet relief..."

The silver apprentice's focus switched to Fawnleap. "We haven't seen much of them since they killed Blackpaw. I wonder what they're up to?"

"They're probably moping around in their make-shift territory." Ashpaw sneered. "Rogues will be rogues, after all."

Whitetail was quiet, his eyes clouded with thoughts. "That actually concerns me," he confided with the others. "They're too quiet for comfort. I can't help but to think they're plotting something..."

"But what if they're not?" Fawnleap pressed against Whitetail, an act that sent jealousy circuiting across Silverpaw. "We shouldn't worry about things that probably aren't even occurring."

Silverpaw felt her face growing hot with envy at Fawnleap's fur against Whitetail's. What am I thinking? He isn't much older, but they're both warrriors! Even if Fawnleap just became a warrior... I'm just an apprentice...

Whitetail pulled away from Fawnleap's body, avoiding her disappointed gaze. "Honestly, I think it's time for your vigil. The sun's setting and you best get to it." His voice was gruff, still lost in his thoughts.

Fawnleap watched Whitetail for a few heartbeats, eyes sadenening at her failed attempt. "O-of course. Bye guys!" She forced a smile, flicking her ears to her friends and bounding off towards the camp entrance.

"You shouldn't have pushed her away like that. She was only pointing out that the rogues aren't planning anything." Silverpaw meowed, regretting her words due to the bitter jealousy lingering in her mind, causing her heart to beat faster.

"Oh, but how do we know that..." Whitetail muttered, Silverpaw caught him rolling his eyes. "And I didn't push her away because of that. She should know there are bigger problems on my mind, I have no time for that." He turned, stalking away to the warriors' den.

Ashpaw had a confused expression. "Is he referencing Fawnleap rubbing up against him or...?" He questioned.

Silverpaw shrugged. "I- uh- guess so..." The she-cat trailed off. "Anyhow, I'm hungry. We should eat before it gets too dark.

~_~_~_~_~

The sleek, silver apprentice keep her body low to the ground. Her belly was barely scraping against some dead leaves that lay on the forest floor. Her amber eyes refleced the bright light pouring from the cracks in the trees tops. In front of her was a scrawny rodent nibbling on a seed, the mouse's ears perked, pausing from his meal. Silverpaw kept her position, not daring release a breath. The mouse went back to his seed, completely unaware that his lifetime was shortening by the second. 

Silverpaw lunged, her claws outstretched. The mouse whipped around, ready to escape, but it was too late. Silverpaw slammed down her paw, snapping the creatures neck. She held up her catch with pride, but the others on the hunting patrol were busy with their own prey.

"Fox-dung!" Mouseberry cursed, glaring angrily up the tree. "Stupid squirrel..."  The black and white she-cat frowned.

"Mouseberry," Whitetail nudged her shoulder. "You need to be more careful next time, the second the squirrel gets on the tree, it's lost."

Mouseberry gave him a cold stare. "I know that." She snorted. "It was one piece of prey."

"One piece of prey that would feed two cats. Keep in mind we have a battle coming up!" His voice was getting more short-tempered.

The she-cat hissed at him under her breath, turning to the two voles they caught earlier. Her green eyes caught sight of Silverpaw's mouse, and she whipped back around to Whitetail. 

"See?" She spat. "Silverpaw caught a mouse, I think that makes up for the squirrel."

"If you say so..." Whitetail muttered. Mouseberry shot him another fierce glare.

The silver apprentice pawed the ground awkwardly, she put down her mouse, looking towards the bickering warrior. "Who put fleas in your nests?" She rolled her eyes at the two. "We should be working as a team, but instead you only fight! What's your problem?" She sent the last sentence in Whitetail's direction.

Whitetail's fur rose, making him look twice his size, green eyes blazing. "What's my problem? What's your problem! I feel like nobody else is trying to prepare for the battle! We can't be weak with hunger and under-trained! Great StarClan!" He hissed, spinning around on his paws. He snatched up one of the voles and began stalking back to camp.

Silverpaw could feel sadness scratching in her belly. She had respected Whitetail for his great intelligence and understanding what others did not. Now she only felt a bitter regret, for the young tom was driven insane with worry for the battle. He had once been filled with excitement, even wishing that Oakstar had planned this earlier. 

"Don't worry about him Silverpaw." Mouseberry meowed. "He'll be better after the battle." 

If he survives... Silverpaw was surprised at her thoughts, and violently shook them from her mind. Of course he'll survive! He's extremely clever and a fantastic fighter...

Mouseberry perked her ears. "Do you hear that?" She blinked, Silverpaw shook her head. "Must just be my imagination then..." She laughed, but something was on her mind.

"What'd you hear?" Silverpaw asked.

"Oh nothing... I thought I heard a cat, but you didn't." The black and white she-cat shrugged, turning around. "Let's get back to camp. Don't want to run into the Sunhigh patrol, we were supposed to be back a while ago."

The silver apprentice nodded, picking back up her mouse and quickly following Mouseberry back to camp. As she ducked under the brambles, a chilly breeze raked across her pelt, causing Silverpaw to shiver.

"Cold isn't it?" She heard a familiar mew from closeby. Looking up, Silverpaw saw Jaywind watching her with content blue eyes.

"Yep." Silverpaw nodded.

He rose to his paws, stretching, then made his way towards Silverpaw. "You're becoming a fine she-cat." He noted, scanning her muscular silver body. "Roseleaf would be so proud." The grey tom stared to his paws. 

Silverpaw felt awkward. She and her father had a friendly relationship, but they'd never been close. Ever since Roseleaf died, he found refuge in Sagefrost, and didn't pay much attention to his kits.

Jaywind paused, as if thinking how he would continue the conversation. "Sagefrost is going to move into the nursery soon." He announced.

"Oh, uh, congratulations." Silverpaw forced a smile, avoiding Jaywind's eyes. Roseleaf has been gone for moons. It's good that he's moving on, but why do I feel betrayed...?

The nodded. "You and your brothers, when is your assessment?" He avoided the topic of Sagefrost.

Silverpaw blinked. "Oh, that? I'm not sure." She licked a paw, swiping it over her ear. "I suppose Stripedsun will bring it up soon."

"I guess so." Jaywind's whiskers twitched, he was quiet for several heartbeats. "Your skills have excelled. I saw them at the last hunting patrol we went on together. You'll be fantastic at the battle." His eyes were misted with worry, he was keeping something from Silverpaw.

He's concerned about me. The silver apprentice clarified. He thinks I'll die like Roseleaf.

"You remind me a lot of her," the grey tom continued. "Same joyful spirit and strength." He opened his mouth to say more, but a loud yowl echoed across the camp. 

Silverpaw whipped around, seeing the awestruck face of Bluewhisker, her pelt bristling at the entrance of camp. 

"She's back!" Bluewhisker was out of breath, shaking her head frantically. "She's back. I don't know how, but..." She paused, turning as there was a rustle in the brambles.

Pushing through the thorns, a she-cat's head appeared, and soon the rest of her body made its way from the brambles. Her green eyes gleamed in the bright sunlight, her long, black pelt shining like the night sky. She was muscular, well-groomed, yet her body was skinnier, as if she was underfed.

"Blackpaw!" 

Chapter Eight

"This is impossible... How are you here?" Jaywind demanded, eyes wide with amazement. "You were dead!"

"If I were dead, I wouldn't be here." Blackpaw smiled, her fluffy tail waving back and forth through the air.

Oakstar poked his head out from his den, letting out a gasp. "Blackpaw?" He bounded towards her, touching noses with the now older apprentice. "It's been moons! We thought they killed you!"

Silverpaw found herself galloping towards her old friend, Dimpaw and Ashpaw following quickly after her. Blackpaw greeted them with warm eyes, however Silverpaw could detect something hiding within them. She brushed it off, for her friend was finally back.

"They kept me prisoner," Blackpaw told them, hanging her head. "They kept me fed, but they were cruel. They refused to let me leave, only letting me out when it was night, when I couldn't escape. They constantly questioned me, trying to get more information on ThunderClan." She sighed.

"Those vile creatures!" Oakstar growled, tearing up the ground beneath his paws. "Stealing an innocent apprentice, such mouse-brained ideas they have! But we'll be through with them soon, Blackpaw." He smiled.

Blackpaw's ears perked. "Huh?"

"We've been preparing for a battle. Those rogues will never see it coming! We'll finally rid them from ThunderClan once and for all!" His eyes showed a fire, a hunger for war. 

The cats of the Clan cheered from the clearing, eyes bright and full of excitement. Silverpaw was expecting the same reaction from Blackpaw, but she looked horrified. The black furred she-cat's emotion changed from terror to happiness in an instant. The silver apprentice could almost sense it was fake.

What's going on with her? Silverpaw was puzzled, but she decided against bringing it up.

Blackpaw purred. "I'm just glad to be home." She changed the subject. 

Dimpaw pressed his muzzle into her shoulder. "We all are!" His voice was cheerful and full of hope. "Those rogues will pay for taking you, I promise."

Blackpaw pulled away slightly, glancing towards Oakstar. "I'm happy to be welcomed back with such warm paws." She mentioned, green eyes softening.

Oakstar nodded. "You should have the rest of the day to get settled back in. Eat some prey, catch up with other warriors, re-familiarize yourself with ThunderClan once more." He meowed to her.

The black apprentice nodded, smiling towards Dimpaw. She glanced towards Silverpaw and Ashpaw nearby, giving them a nod in greeting. Silverpaw could sense something off about her, she didn't feel like regular Blackpaw. She had changed, there was anxiety and loneliness clouding her eyes. 

It's probably due to being imprisoned for almost two moons. Silverpaw thought to herself, which it made sense. She had been cut off from her Clanmates for so long, it'd take time for her to get used to being with them again.

"We should get you some rest, you look exhausted." Dimpaw offered, nudging her towards the apprentices' den.

Blackpaw accepted his request, padding towards the bush where the nests lay underneath. Silverpaw and Ashpaw followed behind them, pushing through the twigs, padding into the apprentices' den.

The black apprentice looked around, frowning slightly. "My nest is gone," she commented, her eyes darting towards Dimpaw.

"I'm sorry." He apologized, his yellow eyes staring to the ground. "We took it out to make room for Brightpaw and Dawnpaw." He mentioned the newly named apprentices that were only ranked up days before.

Her ears perked. "Brightpaw and Dawnpaw...? They were only kits when I was taken! I sure have missed a lot..." Blackpaw's eyes sadened, as if she regretting missing a large portion of her apprentice life. "Where's Fawnpaw's nest?" She questioned, noticing the missing space.

"You mean Fawnleap?" Ashpaw spoke up, correcting Blackpaw.

She shuffled uncomfortably on her paws. "Y-yeah. I guess so... I'm disappointed I didn't get to see her ceremony."

Dimpaw shot Ashpaw a cold look, causing the grey tabby to back up a few paces. 

"I didn't mean-"

"No, no... It's okay." Blackpaw cut him off with a smile, but Silverpaw could see it was fake. Blackpaw had missed out on so much, and it hurt the silver apprentice to see her this way. "I just want to rest."

"All right." Dimpaw meowed. "You can sleep in my nest for now," he offered. 

Blackpaw purred, touching noses with the tom. "Thanks, Dimpaw." She pulled away from the tom, making her way towards the nest. The black she-cat curled up, her tail-tip resting on her muzzle. 

"It's getting dark." Ashpaw observed, sticking his head out of the den, gazing towards the sky. "We should get some rest too. Big day of training tomorrow, and now Blackpaw can join!" He turned back to his clanmates. 

"You guys can sleep." Silverpaw mewed, stretching out. "I'm feeling a bit restless." She admitted.

Dimpaw looked up, he was about to curl up beside Blackpaw, but paused to give his sister a curious look. "What are you going to do? Every cat in ThunderClan is probably going to sleep around now."

The silver she-cat shrugged. "I don't know, maybe I'll take a walk?" She began to pad out, but her brother continued.

"What about foxes?"

"It's early Leaf-bare, there won't be any foxes out." Silverpaw rolled her eyes, to her relief her brother quit his badgering. 

Silverpaw made her way out of the den, breathing in the crisp, clear air. The scents of the forest rushed into her nostrils, and she gazed around camp. Dimpaw was right, everyone had already crawled into their dens for the night. Everyone except for Whitetail, who caught Silverpaw's gaze. He beckoned her with his slender, white tail, and the she-cat bounded towards him.

"Not tired either?" He asked. Silverpaw shook her head. "Wanna take a walk?" Whitetail meowed. Silverpaw nodded.

They padded out of camp, silent for a few moments, following a pathway through the trees. Silverpaw kept her head low, unsure what to say. She had once dreamed of having time alone with the young warrior, but now it just felt awkward and un-needed.

Whitetail's long strides did not compare to Silverpaw's, and she was soon trailing behind the tom. She sighed, quickening her pace to be equal to the tom. She paused, realizing they were approaching the training hollow.

"Wha...?" She was confused, but Whitetail nudged her forward.

"It's just more open up here." He murmured, continuing on as he pushed through the undergrowth.

The two slipped in the hollow, Whitetail trotted to the midde and settled himself, curling his tail around his paws. His bright green eyes gazed to the stars, he sighed softly.

"There will be more stars in Silverpelt soon." He confirmed, eyes closing, deep in thought.

Silverpaw was quiet, gazing up at the night sky. She wondered if her mother's star was among the others, twinkling bright for all to see. But there were far too many to tell which was hers, it would take an eternity.

"You're getting so old." Whitetail sighed. "You're almost as big as me now, and you deserve to be a warrior."

The silver apprentice's ears perked, she turned to face Whitetail, her interest peaked.

His whiskers gave an agitated twitch. "Stripedsun has delayed your warrior assessment. She fears for the battle, she fears you will die." His eyes narrowed, causing Silverpaw shuffled uncomfortably on her paws. "Oakstar, on the other paw, thinks if you are to die, you should die a warrior."

The she-cat opened her mouth to say something, but the words refused to spill out. There was something unsettling about death, something that just didn't make sense to Silverpaw.

"I believe Ashpaw needs his warrior assessment, so I guess you could say I side with Oakstar on this. If you guys are going to have your last battle, it should be as a fully realized warrior of ThunderClan." He continued. "Foxclaw and Willowspots agree."

Silverpaw thought about Blackpaw's and her brothers' mentors. If they think their apprentices should be warriors, why didn't Stripedsun? Perhaps it was due to her friendship with Roseleaf and Birchtalon... The she-cat wondered. But that still didn't add up, Birchtalon and Roseleaf were still warriors, why was her mentor so unwilling to let her become a warrior?

"Oakstar knows you're ready," the white tom piped up. "I think if Stripedsun doesn't initiate a warrior assessment, he will."

Silverpaw gave a small, slow nod. "I'll prove to her I can do it." She finally meowed. "How do you know Stripedsun and Oakstar think these things though?" She asked.

He rose his tail, letting the tip rest on Silverpaw's shoulder. "I'm observant, Silverpaw. We need more people to see what others don't, to understand the emotions of others and how they play into things." He meowed softly. "I'm afraid not many others view things the way I do."

"Well, you knew the rogues were actually a group before everyone else, you knew that Oakstar was keeping secret about their true threat-" She stopped herself, remembering she had eavesdropped moons before to obtain that information.

"How did you know I knew Oakstar was keeping it a secret?" Whitetail questioned.

Silverpaw sighed. "I listened to you and Stripedsun talk about it a while ago. That's what lead us to finding the rogues... We were trying to get information, but we almost got ourselves killed..." She trailed off, mind wandering off to that horrific day.

Whitetail gave a slight smile. "I'm sorry I've been so irritable lately," he apologized, avoiding the current topic. "I may be clever, but that does not mean I an invincible to fear. I'm scared those I hold so close to me will be lost." His green eyes grew sad, and he stared towards the ground.

"Have hope, Whitetail." Silverpaw meowed. "We're ThunderClan, we'll fight to our very last breath for the safety of the Clan. If we lose our lives, it will be worth the cost."

He stopped talking, his eyes targeting on the forest floor. Slowly, he rose to his paws, avoiding Silverpaw's gaze. "I'll make sure you have your assessment soon. Before we have the battle." He promised, turning, and making his way out the hollow.

Silverpaw gasped and quickly scampered after him.

Chapter Nine

"You need to keep your claws sheathed during this part." Stripedsun told her apprentice, getting into crouch position in the training hollow.

Silverpaw nodded. Whitetail had kept his promise, she was currently taking her warrior asessment after moons of training.

"Give me all you got!" Stripedsun's tail lashed, giving a fierce growl.

The silver she-cat crouched low, she lunged, bowling over Stripedsun. She was just now realizing her strength, noticing she was nearly as big as her mentor. The ginger tabby wriggled out from under her, lashing out with a blow that sent Silverpaw's head spinning. She shook away the pain, but Stripedsun rammed into her side, pinning her to the ground. Silverpaw saw her chance, and slashed at the warrior's belly, her claws sheathed. Stripedsun hopped off the young apprentice, eyes full of pride. 

"Keep going!" The striped she-cat demanded.

Silverpaw raced towards her mentor, grabbing her scruff and slamming her to the ground. Stripedsun let out a squeak of pain, rising to her paws and shaking out her pelt. The silver apprentice refused to let the other cat retaliate. Silverpaw let her paws rake down the she-cat's flank, if her claws were unsheathed, Stripedsun would've suffered major wounds. 

Stripedsun looked up, giving a brief nod. "Excellent. If I was the enemy, you would've already put me in grave danger." She purred. "I caught you a few times though. Remember to never let your guard down, or the enemy would've taken you down." 

The silver apprentice nodded. "What next?" She eagerly asked.

"Hunting." Stripedsun answered. "You have to catch all the prey you can in a limited amount of time. I will be watching, but I will be hidden. I will inspect your stance, and strategy."

"All right," the she-cat responded.

Stripedsun's ears flattened. "What are you waiting for? You're wasting daylight!"

"Oh, right..." Silverpaw's face grew hot with embarassment, she turned, bounding out into the forest.

Remember, she's watching you. Silverpaw reminded herself as she weaved between the trees.

The she-cat took a deep breath, scanning the air for signs of prey. She shivered slightly, Leaf-bare winds pulling at her fur. Soon, snow would begin to pour from the sky, causing most of the prey to escape to their warm burrows. She was lucky the white flurries had not rained down yet, or else it would make her assessment much more difficult.

She could catch the stale scent of mouse in the distance. The rodent must've scurried around here early and should be close by. Silverpaw kept her head low to the ground, inhaling the ground, trying to find the trail of the mouse. At least, a fresh scent entered her nostrils. She followed it, catching sight of the brown creature ahead of her. 

Silverpaw got into hunting position, crouching down, her ears flattened, making sure the wind didn't blow her sent to the prey. She crept forward, making sure her belly just scraped the forest floor. She leaped forward, hurling herself at the mouse. However, the rodent caught site of Silverpaw quickly and scurried into the undergrowth.

"Mouse-dung..." Silverpaw cursed quiet , glancing around. She knew Stripedsun watched the apprentice's failure from wherever she was. 

I have to redeem myself. Silverpaw grew determined. She couldn't fail the assessment, she was too far into it to fall into defeat!

She parted her jaws, scenting the air once more. The smells of squirrel entered her mouth, and she could feel liquid fill her jaws at the thought of a juicy squirrel. She shook away the thought, staring to where the scent trail was coming from. She padded quietly through the forest, finally seeing the fluffy-tailed, grey squirrel peaking around a tree. Silverpaw would need to be quiet and unseen, or the squirrel would get a quick getaway up the tree.

The silver apprentice silently stalked the prey, she finally lunged, her body soaring through the air. She squirrel did not notice the hunting she-cat, and was crushed beneath her paws. Silverpaw nipped its neck, taking pride in her kill. The she-cat buried it quickly, ready to obtain it for later.

As the day went on, she managed to catch a vole, two other mice, and the squirrel from earlier. However, Silverpaw had also failed to catch several pieces of prey as well

She was burying the vole she caught when Stripedsun leaped down from a tree above, her eyes glimmering with satisfaction.

"I'll help you take the pieces you caught back to camp. You must be tired." She purred.

"Did I pass?" Silverpaw thought her heart was going to beat out of her chest with anticipation.

Stripedsun nodded. "Your stance was excellent, however strategy was... Interesting." She meowed.

Silverpaw recalled the first mouse she lost earlier, her eyes clouding with shame. 

"But you did pass," Stripedsun continued. "You impressed me with your battle skills, even if your hunting tactics don't match up with qualifications. I think Oakstar will appreciate having you as a full warrior of ThunderClan."

The silver apprentice's eyes shimmered with pride. She was finally going to become a warrior with her siblings, who took the assessment a day before. 

"Now come on and dig up that squirrel," the ginger she-cat meowed. "We'll get the rest of the Fresh-kill and head back to camp."

~_~_~_~_~

Silverpaw stared at the apprentices' den quietly. She had removed her nest, giving Dawnpaw and Brightpaw the warm things like bird down and scraps of mouse fur. The other apprentices were disappointed that their other denmates would be leaving, but it was worth it. They'd finally become warriors.

Ashpaw ducked under the branches of the bush, inspecting the den with wide, green eyes. "It sure is big in here without three other nests cluttering it." He pointed out with a flick of his plume-like tail.

"So I'm guessing Blackpaw passed her assessment?" Silverpaw asked her brother. "She took it today too. I just haven't seen her yet."

"Yeah!" Ashpaw's eyes were sparkling with amazement. "Foxclaw was gloating how amazing her hunting and fighting skills were. It's surprising really, she wasn't that good before she left." His nose crinkled with suspicion.

"Do you think the rogues...?" The silver apprentice looked to her grey tabby brother. 

Ashpaw opened his mouth to speak, but he was interrupted by Dimpaw pushing into the den. His dark grey fur was well-groomed, clinging to his muscular body. His face showed a maturity of a warrior. He looked to his siblings, giving them a small nod.

"Get going guys." His tone was full of authority. Silverpaw rolled her eyes with amusement.

"Come on, Dimpaw." Ashpaw laughed. "Loosen up, we're becoming warriors today. Have you forgotten that you're still an apprentice at the moment?" He purred.

The grey tom frowned. "At least I'm acting like a warrior," he flexed his claws. "Can you please just groom a bit? You two look like you just rolled out of the nest!"

Ashpaw shrugged, sitting down in the den. He licked his paw, swiping it over his ear.

He smirked at his brother. "Is that good enough?"

"Honestly, I-" Dimpaw began.

"Hey guys!" Blackpaw's cheerful voice echoed from outside, she poked her head in, green eyes bright. "Jaywind told me Oakstar's waiting, but Jaywind wants to talk with you guys first." 

Something's off about her tone. Silverpaw noted. This isn't just from the rogues, something is really bothering her...

"Father? He wants to speak with us?" Ashpaw seemed confused. Their father never really cared much for his kits' lives after Roseleaf was killed.

Blackpaw blinked. "I guess so." She meowed. "Well, come on then. Let's not leave them waiting." 

The three padded out of the den, following the black she-cat over to the deputy. Blackpaw quickly hurried off towards Foxclaw, who continued to praise Blackpaw's efforts on her assessment to the other warriors.

Jaywind's eyes rested on the three apprentices, the blue-grey tom's face swelled with pride. He nuzzled each of his kits to their surprise.

"I've never been so proud." He confessed. "I know I haven't been involved in your lives as much as I would've wanted, but never forget that I do care so much for you three." Jaywind sighed. "Now you're become warriors... Warriors! Can you believe it? You all are growing up so quickly."

Ashpaw and Silverpaw smiled, but Dimpaw kept a blank expression. The stone grey tom gazed at his father with piercing yellow eyes, staring at him as if he were just another warrior. Silverpaw couldn't deny that she did not feel the same fatherly love another kit would feel for their father, but she wouldn't be as cold as Dimpaw.

Jaywind noticed Dimpaw's emotions, but he dismissed them quickly. "Well, get at it you three. The next time we talk, you'll be warriors of ThunderClan."

Silverpaw nodded to their father. "Thank you." Her eyes softened. "We owe you so much." She forced out, not exactly knowing what they owed him. 

They all turned, scampering off towards the Tall tree, where below, Oakstar stood awaiting their arrival. The brown tabby watched as Blackpaw pulled away from Foxclaw's boasting and made her way towards the leader.

"Cats of ThunderClan," he called out with a loud, engaging voice. "Today we not only grant one cat full warrior status in ThunderClan, but four!"

Cats cheered from across the camp. Silverpaw caught site of Sagefrost, her warm, pleased eyes gazing at the four cats. The silver apprentice saw her swollen belly, but now instead of betrayal, she felt happiness. Sagefrost is a kind and beautiful cat. I'm proud Jaywind is her mate.

"Ashpaw, Blackpaw, Dimpaw, and Silverpaw, do you promise to uphold the the warrior code and protect and defend your Clan even if it costs your lives?" He recited the usual ceremony words.

"I do." The four cats meowed in harmony.

Oakstar smiled. "Then by the power of StarClan, I grant you your warrior names. Ashpaw, Blackpaw, Dimpaw, and Silverpaw, from this moment on, you shall be Ashtail, Blackheart, Dimfeather, and Silverleaf."

Silverleaf's eyes widened. She had gotten the same warrior name as her mother, Roseleaf. It sent pride swelling through her heart. 

"Ashtail, Blackheart, Dimfeather, Silverleaf!" The Clan chanted, their voices roaring in Silverleaf's ears.

The four turned to face the crowd, making their way through it as their Clanmates congratulated them.

Fawnleap raced towards them, touching noses with each one. "I'm glad to have some of my friends joining me in the warriors' den!" She purred, ears flicking. "I can get some other warriors to help me make your guys' nests. It'll be a relief to collapse in them after your vigil, believe me!" The brown she-cat giggled.

Silverleaf smiled at her friend, but she caught Blackheart's image in the corner of her eye. The silver warrior turned slightly, seeing the black she-cat talking with her father, Thrushleap. The two looked happy for once, and instead of anger on Thrushleap's face, there was delight. 

"I am honored to call you my daughter, Blackheart." Silverleaf heard him confess. "I'm sorry I practically abandoned you." 

The black warrior hushed him, pressing her muzzle into her father's shoulder. 

Things are better now. Silverleaf clarified in her mind. Sure, a war was going to begin soon, but there wasn't fear lingering in Silverleaf's chest like before. It wasn't about dying or losing your friends, it was about protecting the Clan for the better good. And like she said before to Whitetail, if she were to be killed, it would be worth it to die for a Clan she had been loyal to since birth.

Chapter Ten

Skinny trees dotted the land before them, rising up towards the sky. The ground felt dry even with the white snow piling up around the two.

"How was your vigil?" The she-cat asked the other. 

The black she-cat glanced up, the darkness of night only showing the glow of her eyes. "It was okay. It decided to finally snow that night, however." Blackheart smiled slightly. "A beautiful sight, the moonlight reflecting off the white snow, but awfully cold." She shivered at the thought of it.

Shard nodded, the tortoiseshell's thick, fluffy tail swung back and forth. "You must do it soon, Blackheart." The rogue called the she-cat by her new name. "You are a fully realized warrior and strong enough to proceed. We will continue with this plan, correct?"

Blackheart nodded reluctantly. She recalled Oakstar's warm, happy eyes as he made her a warrior. But this was protecting her Clan. She was upholding her warrior oath by fulfilling the task before her. Oakstar could not lead their Clan into a battle that would destroy a group of cats, and he would probably get ThunderClan cats killed in the attempt.

But there was fear in her heart, a fear that could not be quenched with thinking of Oakstar's terrible deeds. She was scared for what would happen after. Would she be considered a traitor to ThunderClan? The Clan that had accepted her and her father from the outside world?

Shard looked at her curiously. "What is on your mind, young one?" She asked softly.

Blackheart shook her head. "What will I do after? Pretend as if it never happened..?"

The other she-cat sighed, giving Blackheart a disappointed look. "Darling, the rogues are so accepting of you. After you do this, ThunderClan will finally accept you as well. They will praise you for stopping the battle they dread. They will treat you as if you were a gift from StarClan." She purred. "Do not let others block your path on this quest."

The black she-cat smiled at the thought. She had craved for such attention from her Clanmates, such attention that could be fulfilled from preforming this action.

"Okay," Blackheart's face showed determination. "I will do it."

~_~_~_~_~

Days later, Blackheart paced outside the warriors' den. She felt sick to her stomach, thinking about how she would do this, what would truly happen....

All the cats were snuggled up in their nests, avoiding the harsh Leaf-bare cold. The anxiety of the situation festered within Blackheart. She was raised in ThunderClan, but her loyalties were divided. She cared for the rogues, but she had grown up in the safety of the Clan.

She tried desperately the shake the doubt from her mind. Shard trusted her to do this, she believed in the young warrior. Shard had trained Blackheart, and put all her faith in saving the group of rogues with Blackheart. The black furred warrior could not fail her rogue mentor!

"Blackheart..?" A voice shook her from her thoughts. She turned to see a grey tom making his way towards her with sleepy, yellow eyes.

Mouse-dung! She cursed violently in her mind. I was so quiet, and it's the dead of night! What's he doing awake...

Dimfeather blinked, looking confused. "I noticed you were out of your nest. What's wrong?" He gave her a compassionate look, but it was filled with worry.

"G-go away, Dimfeather." Her voice shook, everything inside of her was breaking apart just at the sound of his voice. "P-please..."

"Are you okay?" He gasped, running towards her, giving her a small lick to the shoulder.

Her body shuddered at his touch, she pushed his away roughly. "I'm sorry, Dimfeather. Go back to sleep..." She begged him.

He was surprised by her actions, his eyes growing sad. "I'm only trying to help. Please, tell me what's wrong..." He frowned, the grey tom's eyes glittering with curiousity.

Blackheart stared at him, glancing towards the leader's den. She ignored the tom, knowing she had to get it done quickly. The black she-cat continued on her path towards the hollowed tree, but Dimfeather stopped her, tugging at her tail.

"Why are you going over there?" He demanded, his temper growing thin. "Answer me Blackheart!"

"He's going to kill them all!" She black warrior spun on her paws, hissing in her love's face. "Every last rogue. They have families too, Dimfeather! They don't want to die, all they wanted was a portion of ThunderClan's territory. But Oakstar refuses, he's too stubborn and heartless to care!"

Dimfeather gasped. "What have the rogues been telling you..." He shook his head, eyes blazing. "They're liars, Blackheart! You can't believe what a rogue says!"

Blackheart growled at the tom. "They appreciated me, they gave me more love and gratitude then any other cat in ThunderClan! Shard, their leader, didn't participate in the battle that killed your mother! Please, believe me Dimfeather! Oakstar is trying to kill innocent cats." Tears began to well in her eyes. "We can't keep living like this..."

He stepped towards her, eyes widened. "What do you think you're going to do? You're a ThunderClan cat, you're not a rogue!"

"We might as well be rogues with Oakstar leading!" The black she-cat was growing more furious by the second. "I need to put an end to this!" She let out a sob, making sure to keep her voice low in case any others heard her.

Dimfeather violently shook his head. "No... No you can't do that, Blackheart. You can't fall into the rogues trap!"

Do not let others block your path on this quest. Shard's words echoed in the young warrior's mind. She gave Dimfeather a harsh look with her narrowed green eyes. 

"Go away, Dimfeather. Go away if you know what's best." She snarled, sending Dimfeather back a few paces.

He was apalled at her actions, disbelief clouding in his eyes. "Silverleaf noticed your actions. She knew you were acting weird, and now I know why." His voice choked. "I'm not letting you do this. You're not killing Oakstar!"

"I-I warned you," the black she-cat looked away, slowly unsheathing her claws. "You can't be trusted, Dimfeather. You refuse to listen to my words, and therefor you are destroying ThunderClan. Do you want a leader who is leading his cats into an un-needed war? I'm trying to stop this, please, listen to me!" She pleaded for the last time.

"No, I'm warning you, Blackheart." His voice was growing angry, ears flattened, fur rising on his neck. "Stop this, now. I care so much for you, why can't you just understand what you're doing is a mistake?"

She faced him, letting out a growl as she whipped out her paw. Her claws slid across his face, making him fall back. He screeched in pain, glaring at the cat he loved.

"Blackheart, stop this! Please!" He begged, struggling to his paws, one of his eyes pouring blood.

The black warrior lunged at him again, the two rolling in the snow. She continued to send blows across his body, but he tossed her off. 

"You will never block my path again!" She hissed, baring her teeth.

The tom raced towards her, biting her leg and bringing her to the ground. She slashed at his stomach, giving him long, deep cuts in his belly. He cried out, slashing blindly at her face. To Blackheart's luck, he avoided her eyes.

"I'm so sorry, Dimfeather." Blackheart cried, watching as his blood became to coat the snow. 

Dimfeather collapsed into the snow, a strained look on his face. He gazed up to Blackheart, eyes filling with tears. "You can't leave me to... To this..." He struggled to meow, glancing down to his stomach.

"I'm sorry... I regret this so much... I can't get Leafbreeze. I can't..." Blackheart buried her muzzle into Dimfeather's flank.

"W-why, Blackheart?" He coughed out, blood leaking from his mouth, despair clouding his eyes. "I... I loved you."

"I need to do this for the better of the Clan." Blackheart choked out, refusing to watch the red liquid gush from Dimfeather's belly. "You only held me back."

His eyes were getting a far-off look in them. "Don't kill, Oakstar. Please, Blackheart. One d-death is all we need for tonight, eh?" He managed to joke, but pain shook in his voice.

Blackheart instantly felt a wave of remorse. She yowled into Dimfeather's pelt, shaking with agony. "Don't go! Don't leave me! I won't kill Oakstar, I won't!" She cried out.

Dimfeather was silent, his mouth gaping slightly as his body stilled. Blackheart stared at the body, shaking violently, unsure on what to do. She had killed the one cat who never lost hope in her, the only one who would always be there for her. He was so young and did not deserve this. Anger swelled in Blackheart's bone, the black warrior kicked the snow, letting it fling into the air. She yowled into the sky, loud enough to wake the cats around her. She did not care, she lost the will to care.

"I can't... I can't stay here." The black she-cat sniffled, giving one last glance to Dimfeather. "I-I love you so much." She gritted her teeth, looking towards the forest. "I cannot stay here. I am... I'm a traitor." She galloped through the snow, disappearing into the forest, for she knew the others would awaken soon.

Chapter Eleven

Silverleaf quietly stared at the body of her brother. She would hold vigil for as long as she could, and even help bury him if she was allowed. 

What brought her to doing this? She clenched her jaws, grief tearing at her heart, but she dare not speak a word.

She saw the difference in Blackheart before, but she never expected her friend to resort in murder. What was Dimfeather doing that provoked her so much? What did the rogues do to change her?

The smell of fresh herbs mingled with the dreaded scent of death. Leafbreeze desperately tried to mask the scent, but failed miserably. However, she did a good job of hiding his wounds under layers of cobwebs. 

I hope you hunt eternally with Roseleaf, Dimfeather. May StarClan light your path. The silver she-cat rose to her paws, eyes shifting towards Ashtail.

The young tom with completely heartbroken with his brother's limp, cold body at his paws. He slowly lifted his head, catching Silverleaf's eye. He shook his head as if to say Why would she do this?

Jaywind was closeby, completely silent as he stared in disbelief. The battle hadn't even begun, yet a cat's life was already lost. Silverleaf could see the pure pain in his expression. She sadly wondered if this was how he acted when Roseleaf passed.

Fawnleap crept up to them, settling herself beside Ashtail. Tears were brewing in the corners of her eyes, and she whimpered slightly. Silverleaf could practically sense their agony.

"Are you four ready?" A soft, careful mew escaped from their leader, Oakstar, who made his way to them.

"I think we are." Silverleaf responded, deciding she had to lead her family from this pit of moping. 

He gave a brief nod. "Where shall we bury him?" The brown tabby looked towards Dimfeather's lifeless body.

Ashtail looked up, eyes red and puffy. "H-he.... He liked trees a lot. He was such a good climber... Can we find a sturdy, tall tree for him...?" 

"Of course, Ashtail." Oakstar's eyes sadened. Silverleaf could tell it hurt him to see his Clanmates this way. 

They crowded Dimfeather, grasping whatever part of the body they could to tug him out of camp. Other cats watched them silently, no making a sound as the five pulled the body. He seemed lighter than before, as if his soul escaping the body removed a huge portion of weight.

They slowly approached a tall, thick oak tree whose branches scraped the sky. Oakstar turned to the others, they exchanged glances and begun to dig frantically. They pulled up pawful after pawful of snow and dirt. Finally, the hole was big enough for a cat to be placed in.

Jaywind took it from there, he drug his son's body into the pit, and made room so the others could place the dirt back on the body. They kicked the dirt into the hole, paws growing muddy due to the mixture of slush and ground.

They each made their way back to camp, except for Jaywind who refused to leave the grave's side. Silverleaf felt like her father had lost another piece of Roseleaf, just bringing him closer to losing everything from her.

The three others followed Oakstar back into camp, where gloomy faces awaited them. They looked as if they wanted to say something, anything, but the warriors of ThunderClan couldn't. 

"Is this what we're fighting for? Fighting for more cats to die like Dimfeather?" An angered yowl dissrupted the silence.

Silverleaf whipped around, her fur rising. She saw Palestorm step out from the crowd, his white and grey fur bristled.

"We haven't seen the rogues in nearly a moon! Now we're going to risk innocent lives against them?" He hissed, eyes scanning his Clanmates who murmured softly, agreeing with Palestorm.

"I'm trusting you all know what we're fighting for?" Silverleaf spoke up, desperately trying to keep her voice calm. "Did we not just lose two ThunderClan warriors, one who murdered the other?" "That's just proving my point!" Palestorm snarled in reply. "Cats killing others due to stress from this war!"

She couldn't stop her claws from unsheathing. "Really now?" The silver warrior snorted. "Hey Palestorm, did you ever consider that perhaps the rogues told Blackheart to do this? Was I the only one who actually noticed her change in personality when she returned? Was I the only cat suspicious?" Her voice broadened, questioning the cats of ThunderClan.

"I noticed." Her ears perked a Whitetail's meow, the white tom pulled himself away from the crowd. "She wasn't acting normal. She was stressed, as if she was to do something. We can only assume the rogues told her to kill Dimfeather, but maybe he was just a detour to a bigger plan?"

The cats hushed their murmurs, eyes widening with their minds bursting with thoughts.

"The rogues were planning something!"

"They used Blackheart!"

"They changed her into a monster!"

Silverleaf was consumed with the accusations against her former friend. She caught sight of Thrushleap, slowly backing away, shame clouding in his eyes. To think, Silverleaf frowned. He was so proud of her a few days ago, but she had to ruin it all...

"Quiet down, all of you!" Oakstar demanded, leaping up onto the Tall tree, tail lashing. "Yes, Blackheart was a mere pawn in the rogue's plans. They manipulated and lied to her, and we can only be glad she didn't do worse. This isn't sending innocent cats to their death, this is trying to protect ThunderClan from being taken over by rogues!"

Several cats cheered in approval, winning over the others who agreed with Palestorm. They looked to their leader with a new opinion on things, for they weren't fighting to die, as Silverleaf learned earlier. They were fighting to save.

"Tomorrow is the day!" Oakstar steadied himself on the thin, bouncy branch. "Tomorrow is the day we avenge the deaths we've faced due to those fox-brained excuses for cats!"

Chapter Twelve

Silverleaf glanced towards Whitetail. The tom smiled back at her, but his eyes were clouded with thoughts she couldn't understand. The battle would be soon, as would a time of fear and blood.

The camp was quiet, cats softly exchanging words with each other as Leafbreeze went through her stock of herbs. She was worried there wouldn't be enough, due to the shortage from Leaf-bare.

"You doing okay?" She whispered to the tom.

He paused, avoiding her eyes. "Yeah," the tom responed. "Just dandy..."

She stopped to think for a moment. The silver warrior ignored her mind and pressed against the white tom. "I miss him." She confessed. "Dimfeather... He was a pain in the tail and tried to be so high and mighty. But he was only trying to impress Jaywind all his life, and when it came to us becoming warriors, he was finished catering to our father."

Whitetail didn't respond, he just gave the she-cat a soft lick to the ear.

"I don't know what Jaywind will do if either Ashtail or I dies. He's trying to hold on to whatever he has left of Roseleaf. He's trying to move onto Sagefrost, he really is... But after the vigil, I knew his love for my mother wasn't completely lost."

"What are you getting at?" Whitetail murmured.

She looked at him with a puzzled expression. "Not everything has a secret, hidden meaning, Whitetail." Silverleaf frowned, silver ears flattening. "Can't I just... Talk to you?"

He looked to his paws. "I'm... I'm sorry." The tom didn't look at her face, acting like he wasn't used to being called out on his mistakes.

"Let's just get ready, okay?" Silverleaf rose to her shaky paws, shuddering from anxiety.

He opened his mouth to speak, but slowly closed it. Whitetail pulled himself up, giving her a nod. 

~_~_~_~_~

"Shard...." Blackheart began, looking towards the she-cat she had admired so much.

"Do not speak to me, young one." The tortoiseshell did not turn around as she gazed to her warriors. "You failed me, you failed us all. Now ThunderClan will fall into ruin."

The black she-cat was disappointed, for all she wanted was to converse with the last cat who would believe in her. "Dimfeather.... I didn't want to kill him, Shard. I would've killed Oakstar if it weren't for him. He lets out screams that woke up others, I couldn't stay or they would've killed me."

"One life lost does not compare to all we will lose today, Blackheart!" Shard snarled, spinning on her paws, her eyes piercing through the she-cat's pelt. "If you were to kill Oakstar while you could, we would've been finished with this conflict by now!"

"I couldn't, Shard!" Blackheart cried out in protest. "I wasn't going to sacrifice myself for the rogues!"

The tortoiseshell was appalled, she began to hiss, but she stopped. "I see where your loyalties lie, Blackheart...." Shard paused. "You murdered one of your own Clan, but refuse to defend the rogues. You're nothing but a loner."

"No... No." Blackheart growled. "I'm a rogue, Shard. I'm apart of your group, and I refuse to accept your.... Your cruel insults!" Her claws unsheathed. "I promise to prove myself, for I cannot prove anything to the Clan I lost."

"And how do you suppose to do that?" The wind whistled through Shard's fluffy pelt, messing up her neatly groomed fur.

"I'll fight for the rogues, I will be on your side." Blackheart winced. "I will slash, bite, and destroy until my very last breath. You can be sure of that."

The tortoiseshell gave a toothy grin, her yellowed fangs sparkling in the sunlight. "Is that so?" Her expression changed from angry to pleased. "Well Blackheart, I hope you hunger for the taste of ThunderClan blood."

~_~_~_~_~

The warriors of ThunderClan trudged through the forest, leading vicious and angry cats towards battle. Silverleaf looked to her left where Dawnpaw and Brightpaw were padding along. The two sisters looked frightened. They had only recently become apprentices, and were scared to death about the idea of fighting rogues. But Oakstar demanded they come, since he needed all the power he could get for the fight.

The white apprentice looked to her silver furred sister. "You don't think we'll die right?" Brightpaw's eyes were wide.

Dawnpaw swallowed hard. "Of course not!" She tried to convince herself. "We'll avoid the fighting as best as we can, all right?" She whispered to Brightpaw, her voice just loud enough for Silverleaf to hear.

Brightpaw frantically nodded back, scanning around to see if anyone heard her sister. Silverleaf avoided their looks, for she didn't even feel up to a fight, so she didn't think new apprentices would either. Besides, there were plenty of warriors to fill up their place in the battle.

They ambled across the forest, no cat was in a hurry to get there. Yes, they were willing to fight for their Clan, but there was no doubt everyone dreaded the idea of battling an organized group of rogues.

The silver warrior could feel the smoky, rotten scent of Thunderpath flow into her nostrils. She cringed as their Clan approached the terrible, smooth black ground.

"Be careful," Oakstar warned to his Clan. "For those who have not seen the Thunderpath, monsters race across here often." He shifted his vision towards Brightpaw and Dawnpaw.

The two apprentices nodded, pelts bristling as a monster zoomed past, ruffling the cats' fur.

"Palestorm and Willowspots," Oakstar turned to the two warriors. "Lead Dawnpaw and Brightpaw across first. I don't want them lagging behind and accidentally getting hit."

The warriors nudged the two wary apprentices towards the Thunderpath. They peered from left to right, keeping watch to see if any monsters were coming.

"Go!" The dark grey tabby warrior demanded.

Brightpaw and Dawnpaw skirted across the Thunderpath, plunging into the undergrowth on the other side, followed by Willowspots and Palestorm. 

Palestorm looked up, nodding to Oakstar that they were all okay. The brown tabby leader whipped his head back to his Clan. "We're going in groups of four." He ordered.

He sectioned the next group forward. They paused as several monsters drove by, spitting out their retched smelling smoke. Silverleaf coughed, the smoke burning her eyes and lungs.

The four cats leaped forward, dodging an unnoticed monster just barely. Oakstar held his breath, but he was given the okay that they were fine.

"I'm going to need you guys to be more careful," he meowed to the other group of cats beginning to form on the edge of the Thunderpath. 

Silverleaf was apart of the four cats, and she gave Oakstar a respectful nod. They let a few more monsters race by, then they bounded across. They met the other cats on the other side, they gave a few welcoming and relieved licks in greeting.

After a few more groups, all the cats were across. Not all of ThunderClan was here, for Bluewhisker and Goldfeather were left to guard camp in case of any invaders. They were also there to protect Sagefrost, since Leafbreeze went with the other warriors in case of any major injuries during the battle.

They continued on, making their way through the forest, noticing how spread apart the trees were. Silverleaf recalled these slender, leafless trees from their incident as apprentice. She shuddered at the thought, for those moments changed her life.

The silver warriors paws pushed through the snow, observing that the snow was much thicker in these areas. Probably due to the lack of tree coverage... Silverleaf predicted.

Now she fully understood why these rogues so desperately craved for ThunderClan territory. This land was unlivable.

"Silverleaf," Whitetail nudged a few warriors aside to reach her. "I think I found out something important."

"What is it?" The she-cat was slightly annoyed. This was not time for another one of Whitetail's keen observations.

"The rogues," the white tom began. "If they really disliked this territory, they would've left. There's plenty of lush, forested territory besides ours closeby. But they wanted ours for a reason," his words quickened "I think they were trying to take over ThunderClan."

Silverleaf stopped in her tracks, other warriors padding past her. "What? Like ThunderClan territory?"

Whitetail shook his head. "You said how you think Blackheart didn't plan on killing Dimfeather, but someone else. I think they wanted her to kill Oakstar, or else she wouldn't have been that worried. If we were out of lead, and Jaywind was making his way to the Moontree, then we would be a leaderless, vulnerable Clan. That would've been the perfect time to take over."

"So they want ThunderClan." Silverleaf confirmed, eyes expanding as her fur rose. "What are we going to do? What if they manage to kill Oakstar?"

"We're going to keep fighting. We have to. If we stop and let them win, then we will lose ThunderClan to them." He swallowed hard. "We have to win. We can't lose this battle, or else ThunderClan will be lost to the rogues."

Chapter Thirteen

Silverleaf could feel her pace slowing as she continued. Jaywind had caught the scent of the rogues, and they were fast on their trail. But the news Whitetail gave her made her want to run and hide. If they were to lose, the Clan she loved would become a group of rogues.

Finally, they were about to enter the hollow. She took a deep breath, exhaling it quickly. They burst into the rogues' camp. It felt like slow motion, as their powerful strides pushed through the bushes, leaping and pinning down enemies.

Silverleaf could hear the yowls of battle ringing in her ears. Cats were fighting instantly, clawing and sinking their jaws into the other's pelts.

The silver she-cat felt claws soaring in her own pelt, and she squeaked in alarm. She unsheathed her claws, leaping at the warrior who left her the nasty marks. It was a smaller cat with big, frightened eyes. He obviously didn't expect her to fight back so quickly. 

The tom struggled beneath her grip, but Silverleaf violent bit at his forearm, making him shriek. He kicked her off rougly with his hindpaws, sending the she-cat rolling. Silverleaf leapt to her paws, but the tom disappeared in the flurry of claws.

"Silverleaf!" A frightened mew called out for her.

The she-cat spun around, gasping as she saw Dawnpaw being held down by a large, grey tom. She recognized him from the incident, a tom that went by the name Antler. She galloped towards him, barreling her head into his flank. He fell to his side, letting Dawnpaw scramble free. The apprentice gave Silverleaf a gracious look and escaped to her sister.

Antler winced in pain, glaring at Silverleaf. "My my, you've gotten older." He meowed in a shaky, thick voice. "You could've served so much for the rogues like your friend, Blackheart. But no, loyalties to the Clan matter most." He rolled his eyes in a mocking way.

"ThunderClan was my home since the beginning of my life. Blackheart would be just like me if it weren't for you excuses for cats!" Silverleaf snarled, sadness glistening in her eyes at the mention of her friend.

His claws glimmered in the pale light of the setting sun, his eyes glinting darkly. He crouched low, pouncing quickly towards Silverleaf. The two rolled through the snow, but Silverleaf sank her teeth into his shoulder, tearing him off her.

Antler blinked at his bloody shoulder, giving Silverleaf a cold look. "Oh, so that's how you want to play is it?" He growled lowly, baring his fangs.

Silverleaf replied with a fierce glare. He raced towards her again, aiming for her throat. Realizing what he was doing, Silverleaf ducked, the tom's claws riping across her left ear. She let a sharp shriek escape from her mouth, thick, warm liquid dribbling down her ear.

She reared back onto her hind-legs, bringing down her front paw's claws down on the top, bringing him to the floor. The silver warrior gripped him, refusing to move from her position. He spat in her face, kicking wildly, panic clouding his vision.

He snarled, lifting a paw and raking it across his chest in cold blood. His loud yowl was what shook her, what made her leap off his wounded body. Silverleaf knew if she had continued, the young tom would be dead due to her rage. 

The grey tom shakily rose to his paws, giving Silverleaf an admirable look. "You're not so different from us after all..." He noted.

Silverleaf bristled. "If I was a rogue, you'd be dead! But I have a code to uphold."

"Fair enough." Antler meowed simply, swaying on his paws, chest trickling dark red blood. "I suppose I should thank your code... The rogues could actually learn s-something from that." He turned, not waiting for her response as he slipped back into battle.

Silverleaf's eyes followed him until he disappeared in the storm of cats. His words stung her, for it brought a new thought into her mind. Not all the rogues are as blood-thirsty as others. She realized.

She gasped, a strong blow was sent to the back of her head. She collapsed forward, sprawled in the snow, her vision blurry. The silver warrior saw the blurry outline of a black cat hovering over her. She shook away her fatigue, her eyesight clearing.

"Blackheart!" The she-cat scrambled to her paws. 

Blackheart's green eyes narrowed, her tail lashing. "Clan scum, you dare try to defeat us? You don't know the troubles we face!" Her voice seemed unfamiliar to Silverleaf, it wasn't warm or kind, it was cold and filled with hatred.

"We? You were apart of ThunderClan days ago! What happened to you?" Silverleaf hissed in response. "You killed Dimfeather! You killed my brother and your mate!" She could barely contain her rage, even if Blackheart was her former companion.

"Dimfeather..." Silverleaf caught a hint of grief glimmering in Blackheart's eyes. "No! He was never my mate. He was a stopping me from completing my mission, like a badger taking up the hunting time of a fox! I was supposed to kill Oakstar, but he sufficed." She lied, Silverleaf could hear the dishonesty coating her voice. She never wanted Dimfeather to die, and the silver she-cat knew this.

Silverleaf took a step towards the black she-cat, trying to get some common sense in her. "They lied to you, Blackheart. They want to take over ThunderClan, they don't want our territory, they want the whole Clan!"

"Shard would never lie to me! She told me Oakstar refused to give us just a portion of the territory! Oakstar is the traitor, he deserves the death he will soon recieve!" Blackheart unsheathed her claws, ready to lash out at Silverleaf.

"Why don't you ever listen to me you ignorant she-cat?!" Silverleaf snapped, eyes ablaze with a furious fire.

"Because the rogues appreciated me like Thrushleap never did! They saw my potential, my strong and weak points, and took advantage of them! They helped me become the best cat I ever could be, and I owe so much more to them than I ever did for ThunderClan!" Blackheart confessed, tears sparkling in her green eyes. 

Silverleaf was about to say more, but she stopped. She could see the confusion and agony in Blackheart's expression. Her face reminded the silver warrior of a kit who lost their mother. She recalled how Jaywind never treated her with the appreciation she craved until she became a warrior. The she-cat took a deep breath, and was ready to speak, but a caterwaul echoed into the sunset sky.

The she-cat whipped around, having difficulties seeing who let out the piercing screech. The cats continued to battle, despite the painful yowl. The scent of death and blood overwhelmed Silverleaf's senses, but she left Blackheart to battle with her emotions. She galloped forward, shoving away the cats.

A cat she recognized as Poppy, and an unknown ginger tom were holding back Jaywind. He gave Silverleaf an exasperated look, eyes darting back to the scene taking place before the silver she-cat.

The rogue leader, a tortoiseshell, and Oakstar were wrestled in the bloodied, slushied snow. The she-cat was suffering deep wounds in her flank that were pouring blood and drenching her tortoiseshell fur. But she had Oakstar pinned, her yellow eyes showing a hunger for death.

"No!" Silverleaf gasped out, racing to Oakstar's aid, but a warrior roughly pulled her back. To her surprise, Blackheart had grabbed her scruff.

"Finch, help me." Blackheart ordered a ginger tabby, who ran to assist her friend.

Silverleaf thrashed against the two warriors' holds, but she desperately tried to catch her breath, their weight overpowering her strength.

"Shard's going to do it!" The black she-cat cheered to Silverleaf's horror.

The silver warrior rolled her eyes to watch the tortoiseshell, now revealed to be a she-cat named Shard, gaze at Oakstar with blood-lusting eyes. She didn't speak a word, but Oakstar wildly struggled against her strong grip. Shard's thick pelt was plastered to her body with blood, but the insane she-cat didn't seem to notice.

"Oh, I shall enjoy this." She cackled, her tail waving back and forth. She opened her jaws, sinking them deeply into Oakstar's throat.

The tom gave a gurgled scream, lashing out with his hindpaws, sending gashes down her lower belly. She could feel this pain, and the she-cat staggered back, teeth clenched.

Oakstar had panic and confusion misting in his blue eyes. Silverleaf cried out, thrashing and greatly trying to break her way free. "Leafbreeze!" She yowled into the darkening sky. "Leafbreeze, please!"

Blood was pooling on the ground, sliding down Shard's wounded body. She staggered on her paws, but refused to take her eyes off Oakstar. "How does it feel coward? How does it feel to lose?" She snarled weakly, satisfaction in her tone. "How does it feel to lose ThunderClan to the rogues?"

"W-what?" Blackheart astounded by her words. "You... You lied to me...?"

Shard took her eyes off Oakstar's bleeding body to give Blackheart a loving stare. "It was for the best, Blackheart. Taking a portion of their territory w-was the plan a-at first, but we n-needed more to s-survive." The tortoiseshell's voice was shaking, her body growing unstable.

Due to Blackheart's astonishment, her grip on Silverleaf weakened along with Finch's. The silver warrior pulled free, racing over to Jaywind. She bowled over one of the rogues holding him back, sending him into the frosty ground.

Jaywind hopped to his paws, giving the two warriors an icy glare. The two inexperienced rogues could not take on two fully realized warriors. Silverleaf snarled darkly to Poppy, sending the two running.

They bounded back over to Oakstar, whose neck was gushing blood. 

"J-Jaywind," the brown tabby croaked. "StarClan... I-I..."

The grey tabby violently shook his head. "Leafbreeze will be here any second, Oakstar. You have two lives left. StarClan will heal you." He promised.

Oakstar let out a frail chuckle, but it looked as if it pained him to do that. "I lost one earlier, Jaywind." He continued, eyes getting a far off look to them. "S-Shard knew this. She watched me lose it as three rogues went up against me. They targeted me, my deputy."

"N-no!" Jaywind choked out.

"You will make such a great leader." The brown tabby frowned. "I-I hate to leave now, while I am so young. I was a rash leader, wasting my lives on petty things. Oh, please Jaywind. Please be better than me." He released a small smile, blood dripping from his mouth and nose. 

The grey tabby stared in disbelief. "Oakstar," he nudged the leader's body. "Oakstar!"

Silverleaf heaved in deep breaths of hair. "We've lost, oh StarClan, we've lost..."

"No," Jaywind clenched his jaws, whipping around to face the bloodied tortoiseshell, the she-cat's blood draining from her body onto the ground.

Blackheart was sitting beside Shard, licking her pelt frantically. Jaywind looked to Silverleaf, and he surpressed a brief nod.

"We've won this fight, Silverleaf." His voice released a pang of sadness. "Oakstar didn't leave to Silverpelt without taking that worthless rogue with him. Without a leader like that, they are nothing. They do not want to fight for ThunderClan, for they are rogues. Rogues do not work as groups, rogues do not live together or become Clans. Without a leader, they cannot find success." He gazed towards his fighting warriors.

"ThunderClan, retreat!" He yowled out, his tone showing a hint of victory.

The cats heard the hint, rushing away from the claws of the rogues. The rogues did not follow the escaping Clan cats after seeing the bloodied and wounded body of their leader on the forest floor. Jaywind and Silverleaf helped grab Oakstar's body, draggng him off and disappearing into the depths of the trees.

Blackheart, however, had her head lowered, close to Shard's pelt. 

"Shard.. No... No... Oh, no..." She sniffed, her voice getting higher with a painful hopelessness. "You were like a mother to me, Shard. You were the only one who cared so much..." The black she-cat sobbed.

The tortoiseshell's eyes rolled over to Blackheart, she gave her an emotionless look. "Am I... D-dying, Blackheart?" She questioned softly.

The black rogue opened her mouth to respond, but nothing escaped from her jaws. She nodded slowly, refusing to lie in Shard's last moments.

"I see." Shard's eyes rolled over, facing the forest. "In that case, I must admit. I did love you like a kit I never had. You see, I trusted you, Blackheart. Even if I got mad, I truly loved you so much. Never forget that." 

Blackheart could see the rogues around her disbanded, some fleeing from the scene, as if the death of Shard meant there was nothing left of this group to be with. 

"I love you too, Shard." Blackheart nuzzled the dying tortoiseshell, who smiled softly at her touch. "You were a wonderful mentor, and I care for you so much. I promise, I won't let your group die out." She assured the former leader of the rogues.

Shard exhaled deeply, eyes slowly closing. As her body stilled, Blackheart rose to her paws. She gazed at the remainding cats, then back to Shard's body.

"Please," she meowed to them in a pleading voice. "For one last sign of respect, help me bury Shard." The black she-cat could feel the tears rising in her eyes, but she tried to push them away to look strong. Shard would've wanted that.

The few rogues slowly padded towads Blackheart with somber expressions. They looked down at their once proud and fierce leader, and helped the black furred rogue dig a hole for Shard's body. After placing the dirt over her, Blackheart hung her head over the grave.

"Goodbye, Shard." Was all the she-cat could manage to say.

Chapter Fourteen

Silverleaf relaxed in the quiet of the forest. The training hollow was empty, for Bright and Dawnpaw were training how to hunt squirrels in trees.

She breathed deeply, trying to keep her mind off things. Jaywind had gone with Leafbreeze to Moontree to recieve his nine lives, he should be returning tomorrow around sunhigh. Silverleaf lay down, grooming her fur silently. The snow was cold against her pelt, but she didn't mind. The sun was shining brightly on the sky, warming at least some of her.

Everything happened too fast. She lost Dimfeather, Oakstar, and Blackheart to the rogues. She had expected the once friendly black she-cat to return, begging for forgiveness, but she didn't. Even though it disappointed Silverleaf, she knew that Blackheart would never return, for she wouldn't be welcomed in ThunderClan anymore.

She buried her muzzle into the fur of her fore-leg. Several moons ago she was getting over her mother's death, training by Stripedsun's side. Later, she would come back to camp and endure Fawnpaw and Ashpaw's jokes while Dimpaw watched, unamused. Then Blackpaw would pipe up, continuing the joking and light-hearted conversations. 

It pained her to think of it. To imagine that now Blackheart was a traitorous rogue, and Dimfeather was hunting in StarClan, hurt Siverleaf beyond belief. There was no way she could change the past events, even if she so desperately craved for her to just wake up and for it to be a dream.

The silver warrior sighed softly. She thought of her father, and Oakstar's last request. Oh, please Jaywind. Please be better than me. The words echoed in Silverleaf's mind, reminding her of how weak and frail Oakstar looked on his deathbed.

Perhaps Jaywind would be better. She always thought of her father as a strong, level-headed tom. Sagefrost was extremely close to kitting, and maybe new kits would take Jaywind and Silverleaf's mind off of past incidents. 

The she-cat smiled. She thought of Whitetail, and her brewing affections for the young tom. She had always had a crush on him, but it seemed as if the mooning over the tom blossomed into something new. There would be a time for a mate, oh yes, there would be plenty of time. 

And Silverleaf had that time.

~_~_~_~_~

The black she-cat rose from her resting position in the hollow. There were not dens to sleep in for the rogues, they were forced to tough it out and sleep in the snow.

We can't keep living like this. Blackheart frowned with a yawn, stretching after her sleep.

She counted how many rogues were left. She only saw six, and Blackheart blinked with discontent. There was Poppy, Finch, Sparrow, Stratus, and Hawk, who Blackheart found earlier, rummaging around for prey and safety. Unlike Shard, she believed Hawk would be essential to the group after losing so many members. 

The black she-cat recalled Antler, who left the day before saying how the rogues could learn things from the Clan code, and how he was going to find a Clan for himself. The battle changed him in ways the surprised the young she-cat, and she had no idea what brought him to that decision.

Blackheart looked to her paws. Perhaps they could learn something from the Clan. The group of rogues removed the weak and wasn't efficient. Few cats could properly hunt and serve the group. But in a Clan, all were cared for and all were healthy. This set off a light in Blackheart's head, a light that could possibly save the existence of the group.

"Denmates," the she-cat lifted her head, gazing out towards the chatting cats. "I've decided I must do what's best for this group after Shard's passing." She began. "Antler mentioned how we'd be better off in Clan, and he's right. After my moons of Clan life, I agree with him. Clans support each and every cat, and thus they grow strong."

"What are you suggesting, Blackheart?" Finch questioned, her ginger tabby tail wrapping around her paws, shivering from the cold.

She breathed deeply, wondering how the group would take us. "I think we should start our own Clan. We could move, far from here where the forests are lush and the prey is plentiful. We don't have many cats now, but as Leaf-bare ends, we can find other rogues or loners to join us." Her green eyes were bright, a sign of hope glittering in them.

Poppy's ears perked. "You know," she flicked her tail. "That idea isn't half bad..." 

The others murmured among themselves in agreement looking to Blackheart for more.

"I promised Shard to take care of her group, now I will. To become a Clan, we must have a Clan name. I say we are NightClan, for when I joined the rogues, the stars were high in the sky." The black she-cat meowed. "NightClan also proves we are stealthy and mysterious. It shows we are not ones to mess with."

The other cats nodded, faces glowing with determination.

Blackheart paused for a moment, thinking over her next words thoroughly. "I am no longer Blackheart, for that name holds a dreadful past that I'd rather escape." She announced. "I will lead NightClan as Darkstar. Finch, you have been a close friend and mine, and your loyalty never wavers. I appoint you as the deputy."

The cats exchanged glances, unsure on what to do. It would be difficult to teach them Clan customs, but the would soon get used to it. 

"We will need a medicine cat sooner or later." Blackheart meowed to them. "Keep on watch for any cat good with herbs, they will come be a necessity soon."

The group nodded, accepting Blackheart's leadership tone. They needed a proper leader, and that was what they were getting.

"Tomorrow, I journey to Moontree to get my nine lives." Blackheart's eyes sparkled. "NightClan is official, and so they cannot turn me down. We will grow and expand, becoming the strongest Clan in existence!" She cheered.

An array of yowls followed her, the cats' voices excited and full of anticipation. 

"We may not be able to stay on these unclaimed lands, but we will find our new territory. After I return we will make our journey, searching far and wide until we come up on the land of NightClan. So rest well my Clanmates, for your lives have just begun." Blackheart enjoyed commanding the others. She felt unexperienced and young, but that would soon change.

NightClan will begin their reign soon. I will rule as Darkstar, finally leaving my ThunderClan life behind me.

Epilogue

Silverleaf nuzzled her one kit, curled up in the warmth of the nest. Green-leaf was flourishing, bringing in a wave of prey and new greenery.

Her grief was fading at the site of the beautiful white kit, a fleck of black on her chest. She was dying to know what her eye color was, but alas, the kit was far too young to open her eyes. The silver queen had mourned for her two other kits. They had passed just a day after being born, being sickly and weak. Whitetail was extremely sad and disappointed, but there had been a remainder. A kit with white fur like her father.

She heard a rustle from outside the den, looking up, Silverleaf caught site of two excited apprentices carrying moss in their jaws. The light brown tom, Mousepaw, looked eagerly at the kit with bright green eyes.

"She's tiny!" He exclaimed. "Sagefrost says we used to be that tiny when we were younger." The apprentice mentioned his mother.

The other apprentice, a dark brown tabby named Brackenpaw laughed. "Mother says Mousepaw was the smallest, which is why she named him Mousepaw!"

The light brown tom shoved his brother, eyes sparkling with amusement.

"Hey you two, quiet down." A low mew rose from the entrance to the den. Whitetail made his paw in, hushing the two apprentices.

Silverleaf sighed. "Come on, Whitetail. It's good to have some company other than you sometimes." She nuzzled her mate, as he padded to her.

The two apprentices quietly placed their moss by Silverleaf's nest, she nodded to them in thanks. 

"We're going to go see what else we can do, it's so boring today." Brackenpaw huffed. "I wish something exciting would happen." 

The silver queen purred, nudging her kit closer to her belly. "Is that so, Brackenpaw?" She smirked.

He nodded. "ThunderClan is so dull. I can't wait for our next gathering!" The brown tabby exclaimed. 

"I hope Jaystar let's us go." Mousepaw got a dreamy look on his face. "We didn't get to go to the last one, he said we were too young." He frowned.

"I'm sure he'll let you both go next time." Whitetail smiled. "Now run along, Silverleaf needs some rest."

The two apprentices nodded, chasing each other out into the den and into camp.

"Is she doing okay?" Whitetail glanced down to the kit, looking concerned.

Silverleaf nodded, rising to her paws despite her kit's mewling protests. She give Whitetail's ear a lick, shaking out her pelt. She settled herself back down, tending to the white she-kit's hunger for milk.

The white tom smiled. "I'm glad StarClan has blessed us with her. She's so beautiful and so strong."

"And Green-leaf is doing wonders for her." Silverleaf agreed. "The abundance of prey is letting me produce more milk for her."

"I wish I could've said the same for Sagefrost." Whitetail sighed. "Poor Lionkit passed due to her lack of milk. Leaf-bare really took a toll on her. Jaystar was devastated."

Silverleaf frowned, knowing how any loss of his kits messed with Jaystar. When Dimfeather was killed, the silver queen thought he would've lost it.

"Well, I need to assign the patrols for today. I'll see you around, okay?" He meowed to her, heading out into the clearing.

Silverleaf mewed her goodbyes, and went back to grooming the small, white kit. She might only have one kit, but this little warrior was her entire world. 

I'm so proud of you Silverleaf. A faint meow caused her to flatten her ears.

She looked around wairly. "Anybody here?" The she-cat questioned.

She's such a beautiful she-kit, and she looks so much like Whitetail. The meow echoed in her head again.

Silverleaf looked forward, catching a glimpse of the starry outline of a cat. The cat nodded to her, wrapping in her a familiar, yet stale scent, as if she had smelled it just when she was a kit. Her eyes widened with realization, and the starry figure slowly touched noses with the queen.

You grew into the fine warrior. A mother could never be more proud. The same voice meowed to her, but it was calming now. Silverleaf was no longer alerted. Live well, my love. I will always watch over you.

"Goodbye, Roseleaf." She murmured softly. "Thank you."

The starry figure flicked her tail, fading away, as if she had never been there.

Silverleaf looked back down at the white kit, eyes clouding with an uncontainable joy. "Sleep well, Snowkit." She whispered to the white bundle. "Grow big and strong, so you can be a warrior like your father and I."

Finally, after moons of worrying the rogues would return, Silverleaf was at peace. The rogues were gone, never to reign superior over ThunderClan again. With Jaystar leading, there wasn't much to be afraid of anymore, and with Whitetail as deputy, no mistake would go unnoticed.

For once, Silverleaf could sleep soundly.

END.

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