Welcome to the Family

Hey kid, do I have your attention?

I know the way you've been livin'

The top lies you are told when you're young:

1) Being a kit is the best time of your life.

2) You will get adequate preparation for being an apprentice.

3) Just be yourself, and you'll be fine.

I am always alone. Even in the large crowds of cats at sunhigh, even during the boring Clan meetings among others, I am always alone.

But, it is admittedly worse when I'm by myself. At those times, when everything is silent, my thoughts creep up on me, overwhelming me. Sometimes the things that I think scare me. Sometimes they just make me sad.

Life so reckless, tragedy endless

Welcome to the family

This is one of those times. My mother put me in this corner, secluded from the rest of the camp. She hates me. And the worst thing is, I don't even wonder why, because I know. The rest of my family hates me too, for more obscure reasons. The only cat that I care about is my brother. Poor, gentle Frostkit. He's so soft that a strong wind would blow him over.

Frostkit takes care of me, as much as I take care of him. He's the only cat who won't judge me for who I am, or what I want.

Hey, there's somethin' missing

Only time will alter your vision

Maybe things will get better with time. I could grow up to be a popular apprentice and warrior. I would get a beautiful mate and become Clan deputy. That would show Pebblekit. Pebblekit is also my brother. However, unlike Frostkit, I wouldn't give two mouse tails if he decided to throw himself off a cliff.

Oh, who am I kidding. I will never grow up to be a deputy. I just feel empty. Empty, empty, empty.

Never in question, lethal injection

Welcome to the family

I glance a few fox-lengths in front of me to my mother, Goldenleaf. She sits next to Hollyfoot, her beautiful straw-colored pelt shimmering in the sunshine. She was obviously flirting with him, her mate long forgotten.

Birchheart watched jealously from across the clearing.

My father doesn't hurt me as much. He just ignores me, as well as my siblings.

That about sums up my family. It's not the worst one in PineClan; but it's definitely not the best one either.

"Turn around, and stop staring at me, brat," Goldenleaf growled from over her shoulder. I met her icy glare with my indifferent gaze. You don't faze me, I told her mentally. Nevertheless, I obliged, and turned to face one of the trees dotting the edge of the PineClan camp.

Earlier in the day, she had caught me in the medicine den, sorting through the herbs. It wasn't like I was messing them up; in fact, I cleaned everything up. It was just the color and variety of the leaves that fascinated me. Who would think that such thin, flimsy plants could save a cat's life?

But of course Leafpaw, that little foxheart, had to point me out.

"Cinderkit is messing up the medicine den!" What a tattletale.

Within seconds, Goldenleaf appeared in the entrance, and it was all over.

Not long ago you'd find the answers were so crystal clear

Within a day you find yourself livin' in constant fear

"Get out of there," she said coolly. I obeyed.

She snagged her claw on my ear. "So this is what you like to do. Well, listen here. You aren't going to become one of those useless medicine cats. You understand? You're going to become a perfect warrior."

She dug her claw deeper. Blood began to trickle down. I looked up, undaunted.

My mother whispered the last words quietly. "You're worthless."

These are the words that I have grown up fearing every day. I know that I'll get used to them in time though, and I should just ignore them.

I reached my paw up, and tried to dab some of the blood off of my ear. Unfortunately, it was all dry. Blood is another thing that intrigues me, as well as herbs and flowers. It's just so shiny and red, and such a vital part of you.

"Hey scrap," a warrior mewed in a deep voice. "Move. We need to store some den-building material back here."

I looked to Goldenleaf. She was too enthralled with nuzzling Hollyfoot to notice me. Quietly, I scampered away.

I approached the edge of the clearing. There, is Pebblekit, Mistkit, and Daisykit scuffling and laughing. Their eyes shine with happiness. But that doesn't fool me. No one is truly happy. And Pebblekit just doesn't understand emotion.

However, Frostkit is nowhere in sight. Most of the time, the others allow him to join. I guess they would let me join too, but I'd rather not.

I passed by the other kits. Pebblekit stuck his tongue out. "Frostkit?" I called.

At first, I couldn't hear it. But then the faint squeaking reached my ears. "Cinderkit," he mewed.

Can you look at yourself now?

Can you look at yourself?

You can't win this fight

I rushed to his side. His soft white pelt was stained with red spots. It almost like he was adorned with little deathberries. He was panting.

"Great StarClan," I swore, "Who did this?" Frostkit didn't reply. He just dragged himself to his paws, and rested his head on my shoulders.

I didn't need an answer though, because I already knew.

"All right, you pieces of fox dung," I snarled at Pebblekit and the others, "You're going to regret doing this to Frostkit."

Pebblekit rolled his eyes. "What are you talking about? We didn't do anything to that little weakling."

"Don't play dumb."

A smile slowly crept over my brother's face. "Always trying to protect Frostkit. I don't see the point, when you can't win against all three of us."

Daisykit spoke quietly. "I'm sorry, there's nothing we could do to stop him."

Don't make excuses! I wanted to snap at her. But I tried to stay uninvolved with kits other than my siblings.

Pebblekit glanced over my shoulder. "Look," he snickered, "He's collapsing again."

I made my decision.

Claws outstretched, I leaped towards him.

And in a way it seems there's no one to call

When our thoughts are so numb

He struggled beneath me, lashing out with his paws. I dodged all of his blows with ease, and landed one across his place. Beautiful, shiny blood began to leak from above his eye.

"You'll regret that you laid your paws on Frostkit," I hissed to him. Once again, I raised my paw to slash his ear.

But before I could act, I felt sharp teeth in my scruff. Roughly, I was lifted off of the ground, and dropped like a piece of fresh-kill.

"This is the second strike, brat," Goldenleaf's cold voice whispered into my ear. "Get into the nursery."

I hated the nursery. It reeked of old bedding and nursing queens who did nothing but eat. And what I hated most of all, is that I would be alone with my own thoughts again.

Goldenleaf guided me to the nursery, with Hollyfoot trailing a little ways behind, a smirk on his pointed face.

Right before the entrance. I decided to take a risk.

I took a deep breath. "Please don't leave me alone."

Goldenleaf sighed. "Here," she spat, shoving Hollyfoot towards me. She flashed a pretty smile at him. "Stay with my brat, and maybe I'll spend some time with you later."

Well, he was sold.

She turned away, not giving me another glance. It hurt. I know it shouldn't at this point, but it did.

And our feelings unsure

We all have emptiness inside

The familiar emptiness welled up inside of me. It was like I was dead, eyes glassy, emotion gone. I hated it.

It was my fault that I didn't have a little sister. It was my fault that Goldenleaf hated us all so much.

See, they weren't expecting me. I crowded out my sister. She was born dead. And Goldenleaf had always wanted a cute, delicate daughter. And she didn't get one, because of me.

That's why she hated me. It was a legitimate reason, and I knew it. But how was it something I could control?

Along with emptiness, came another feeling. Powerlessness.

We all have answers to find

But you can't win this fight

"Hey," Hollyfoot growled. "Your mother said I had to stay and watch you." He bared his teeth. "But she didn't say that I had to be nice."

In one swipe, he knocked me over. In another one, he slashed open my previously wounded ear. Fresh blood trickled out.

I didn't even try to escape as he hit me. It wasn't that I enjoyed pain; it was just that I liked the sight of my blood.

Hey, I have to question

What's with the violent agression?

But why did Hollyfoot want to hit me? He was probably just violent and awful. Or he was angry that he had to spend time with a stupid kit.

Hollyfoot finally relaxed. Yet he still bared his teeth in a snarl. He spun around, and exited the den, leaving me bleeding all over the old bedding.

I didn't try to stop the bleeding. I just watched, as it dripped into my fur and onto the moss. Even if I wanted to, I probably wouldn't have the energy.

Details blurry, lost him too early

Welcome to the family

Wistfully, I thought of Frostkit. I hoped that he was okay. He was most likely in the medicine den, getting treated with cobwebs and maybe a poultice. What herbs would be in the poultice? Marigold? Goldenrod? I remembered their distinct smells, from when I was sorting through the herbs earlier.

I watched the sun set from inside the nursery. It cast bloodred light over the clearing. Cats began to file inside their dens, after eating a piece of fresh-kill. My stomach growled.

Goldenleaf pushed through the den entrance, casting one last exasperated look over her shoulder at Hollyleaf. Then her gaze snapped around to rest on me.

"What in the name of StarClan are you doing?"

I looked up at her, confused.

She smacked me. "You're bleeding all over the bedding. We sleep here, you know. You little brat." She hit me again. I stopped myself from whimpering. I couldn't give her the satisfaction.

She raised her paw again. But this time, she unsheathed her claws.

I prepared myself for the blow. But it never came.

I opened my eyes, to see her looking at me, her paws still raised. I took the chance, and ran out of the nursery. She managed to land a blow on my tail as I ran out. The pain was ignorable, compared to her other hits.

Hey, why won't you listen?

Can't help the people you're missing

I looked around the clearing desperately. She couldn't catch me, she couldn't catch me...

And next to the leader's den, I saw my only hope. I ran to Birchheart, who was talking to Pinestar. Pinestar had been sick for a while. With each passing day, he grew frailer.

Gently, I tapped his flank with my paw. "Help," I said simply.

He sighed and turned away. "I'm sorry, Cinderkit. I'm busy right now."

Ever since Birchheart became deputy, he ignored his kits, ignored his mate.

It's been done, a casualty re-run

Welcome to the family

I understood the responsibility, but a good deputy would support his family as well as his Clan. But that wasn't happening.

Yeah. Welcome to the family.

I'll try and help you with the things that can't be justified

I need to warn you that there is no way to rationalize

I had to get away. Now that I knew Birchheart wouldn't help, I was on my own. There was no one to protect me.

I knew that Goldenleaf couldn't hurt me too bad, or else she would get punished by Pinestar. But I didn't want to take any chances. 

Maybe it was an irrational decision, but I ran out of the camp.

I had been in the forest several times; it wasn't unusual for kits to sneak out. But unlike most klutzy young cats, I managed to slink out and back in undetected. By now, I knew the curves of the pine trees and the shapes of the boulders surrounding the camp. I picked my way through them, not making a sound.

I came to a crevice in the boulders. The gentle sound of water dripping caught my attention. I shuffled to a nearby puddle, and lapped at it. 

So have you figured it out now?

So have you figured it out?

You can't win this fight

The prize question made it's way into my head. What now?

I could stay in the crevice for days; but I still would never win against the other cats, namely my mother. Soon I would have to go back to camp and face my fate. My apprenticeship would most likely be postponed. Like I cared.

I rested my head on my paws, and slipped into a light, restless sleep.

And in a way it seems there's no one to call

When our thoughts are so numb and our feelings unsure

I was awoken by whispering. It was the dead of night. Curiously, I directed my attention at the source of the whispering that had awoken me.

"Are you sure that no one's here? No night patrols?" A she-cat murmured. By her high-pitched voice, I could tell that it was Poppypelt, a new warrior with spiky dark red fur.

"What, do you think I'm an idiot?" A voice hissed in response, "Of course there isn't." This one was a tom.

By the smell, I could identify that it was Poppypelt, a tomcat that was undoubtedly from another Clan, and Hollyfoot. What in the name of StarClan could they be doing? A search patrol for me?

No, of course it couldn't be a search patrol. A search patrol wouldn't take this much care to be quiet. A search patrol wouldn't consist of only three cats. And most of all, they would never be acting this suspicious.

We all have emptiness inside

We all have answers to find

But you can't win this fight

When it comes to these things, I usually don't care, as long as it doesn't directly affect me. However, I allow myself to be curious. 

I had to find out what these creeps were up to in the middle of the night.

I turned my ears in their direction. Even though they were taking care not to be heard, their soft whispers still reached my ears.

"Now is our chance. We have to find the kit."

My eyes widened in surprise. This was a search party after all? But it didn't make any sense. They weren't behaving like a normal search party would.

Gunning for you and all mankind

I've lost my mind

Psychotic, rabid dementia, I won't be fine

I realized something. They definitely were not a normal search party. They wanted something; wanted something from me. But what did I have to offer? I wasn't worth anything.

Aching to find out, I snuck closer to them, pressing myself against the rock. I didn't want to be found. They would make me go back to camp. 

But in the darkness, I couldn't properly see the earth. I should've known to be more careful at this point, especially since I was a master at sneaking. Yet the curiousity clouded my rational thoughts, as I took another step forward.

Pain shot through my paw. I felt a warm dribble of blood soak my pad. I was such an idiot, I knew I should've felt for thorns or brambles.

Instinctively, I cried out in pain. Three heads whipped around to stare at me, eyes glowing in the moonlight.

I see you're a king who's been dethroned

Cast out, in a world you'll never know

Stand, place your weapons by your side

I was found out. There was no point in hiding anymore. Instead, I ran. I was also a fast runner, but my paw was slowing me down. Every time my paws thrummed against the earth, pain jabbed through my pad.

One of the cats was catching up to me. I could recognize her as Poppypelt. Panting, I tried to push myself forward, ignoring the sharp ache in my paw.

It was no use. She soon caught up to me, and pummeled me down in one leap. Writhing, I attempted to slip out from under her. However, she placed her paw upon my throat and pressed down. I choked. It felt like I was drowning, and I couldn't escape. 

Despite the resistance, I was able to gasp out a few words. "What do you want from me?"

Poppypelt's pale green eyes narrowed. She loosened her grip on my neck, and stepped off of me. 

"Why did you have to run away, Cinderkit? We don't want to have to hurt you."

"That doesn't answer my question!" I snapped. 

She sighed. "So much pain in the eyes of one so young."

I growled.

It's a war in the end

We'll surely lose, but that's all right

Hollyfoot and the unknown cat crept up from behind Poppypelt. The other cat was from MapleClan. His name was Silver-something-or-other.

I lost. I couldn't get away. Who knew what these cats would do to me? And plus, if they didn't kill me, I wouldn't be able to escape away from PineClan. 

Hollyfoot leaned toward me. "You know about your father, Birchheart, right?"

So have you figured it out now?

So have you figured it out?

I snorted. "What are you talking about? I know nothing about him. He's never around me."

"You think he's telling the truth, Silverflame?" Hollyfoot whispered to the MapleClan tom.

"We can't tell yet," chipped in Poppypelt. 

A silence followed. "So are you going to kill me?" I asked.

Poppypelt scoffed. "Of course not. We don't like killing, which is precisely why we need this information out of you." She continued. "If we could confirm that Birchheart is half-Clan, it would be enough to throw him out of the position of deputyship."

Birchheart? Half Clan? He was a hardworking deputy, I would've never guessed that he was half-Clan. Of course, I knew nothing about his kithood, unfortunately for my harrassers.

"I don't know anything about this. And why are you bothering me, instead of Pebblekit?" I didn't even mention Frostkit. They could not come near Frostkit.

Hollyfoot snorted. "Pebblekit is about as smart as a pigeon. And your disappearance made this more convenient for us."

"Do you really know nothing about your father's origin?" Silverflame meowed.

"No. Can you leave me alone now?"

Holllyfoot stepped closer, looming over my small form. "I don't think so."

And in a way it seems there's no one to call when our thoughts are so numb

And our feelings unsure

I shrank back. I did not want to feel the pain of Hollyfoot's blows again.

Too late. He raked me across the ear with his claws, tearing open my older wound from today.

"I know nothing, crowfood-eaters!" I spat. "Just leave me alone."

"You're lying."

"I'm not!" I protested.

"Look, Cinderkit," Poppypelt mewed softly. It was almost scary. "We can see how clever you are. I have no doubt that you could hide these secrets from us."

"Thanks for the compliment, but I hate Birchheart. He's ignored me since I was a kit; I have no reason to protect him." Tears welled up in my eyes. "It's true."

We all have emptiness inside

We all have answers to find

But you can't win this fight

Hollyfoot began to back away. Just as they were about to retreat, a small shape forced through the bushes. I verified that it was Daisykit, as it was easy to tell by her bright cream pelt. 

She was arching her back and hissing. 'Leave him alone!" she yowled.

Roughly, I shouldered her aside. "Daisykit, what in the name of StarClan are you doing here? You're going to get yourself disemboweled!" 

"I'm helping you!" she declared. "When you went missing, I knew there was something wrong. I could just feel it." 

I turned to the three warriors, expecting them to do something in retaliation. But to my surprise, they hung back, muttering amongst themselves. It seemed like they didn't want Daisypaw to know much about their plans.

I sighed. "Let's go home."

Deep inside, where nothing's fine

I lost my mind

You're not invited, so step aside

Daisykit and I treaded not far behind the trio of cats. 

"You're an idiot," I hissed.

She held her head high. "I was doing what was right."

I just scoffed, then called out to Poppypelt.

"Poppypelt?" I mewed.

"What?" she grumbled.

"Just pretend that I told you what you wanted today. That Birchheart is a half-Clan." I took a deep breath. "I don't care if you kill him or not."

I whispered the last words. "Who knows, maybe it will make things better."

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