If you happened to walk through StarClan's forests, past the kits in the meadow, the old lovers by the stream, and the elders sunning on rocks, you would encounter a shadowy place.
It is deep in the forest. Many cats walk here, ones who have been invited to join the ranks of StarClan many times. These cats cannot bring themselves to live among others. They walk alone, not quite in the grips of the Dark Forest, but close.
You would stand close to the edge of this shadowy place and look in. You would see many cats, shadowed by their regrets, walking alone. They would weave through one another silently. You would see entire generations in the shadow's grasp, but you would search for me. For us.
And you would find us. We walk together, in a pair. We are silent as well. We cannot bring ourselves to speak of our lifetimes.
I continuously search the edges of the shadows, where the light is, for you. For your beautiful eyes and your battle-scarred face. And when I see it, I will tell you this.
We have lived many lifetimes, and I think it is time to settle down and reveal our truths.
I think our first truth is you.
Chapter 1 - The Birth
The night was lit ablaze by the full moon floating in the sky. Silverpelt was brighter than it ever had been in my lifetime.
And your mother. Her yowls pierced the night.
Normally I would be attending the Gathering with the rest of RiverClan, but my duties were required here. I didn't have an apprentice.
That night was a special night. Your mother, Shiningclaw, and your father, Robinwing, had been waiting impatiently for the past few days. Shiningclaw had been moved to the nursery only days before, having preferred her warrior duties over anything else, and she would not allow me to protest.
It was the night your father came to me. Robinwing was the advisory deputy of the time, having been appointed at the beginning of Oakstar's leadership. And I, I was Kestrelfrost, the medicine cat. My mentor had died many seasons before, but I was not quite old enough to find an apprentice.
Robinwing told me, "I think it's time." His voice was filled with worry for his mate and his kits. I didn't blame him. Shiningclaw's previous litter had died at birth, every single one of them.
"All right," I said briskly, trying to stay calm. One of these kits, truthfully, could be my apprentice. If that had stayed true, maybe I would have had you.
I wished Oakstar was there, keeping the Clan together. The nervous looks I earned from the warrior's den weren't comforting to me at all.
"You've done this before," I murmured to myself. "Calm down, Kestrelfrost."
My heartbeat instantly slowed and my muscles - far less than those of a senior warrior - relaxed. Shiningclaw's kits would be okay in the end. Otherwise, they would be welcome in StarClan.
Entering the den, I saw that your mother's eyes were closed with pain. "Help," she whispered. Her body convulsed into a contraction. "They're coming," she whispered again.
"It's okay," I informed her. "Everything will be fine." I fed her herbs and a single poppy seed. "Now let's get started."
This was a joke, we were both aware that your mother's labor had started.
Your mother let out another long yowl, one that rang in my ears for a long time. Her body contracted once more, and a kit rolled out. Robinwing, who was standing just behind me, stepped forward, nipped the kitting sack, and began to lick the tiny kit's fur the wrong way.
A second kit emerged, this one was my responsibility. I nipped the sack and licked the white kit's fur the wrong way. This kit was alive. Thank StarClan, I thought, thank you so much.
The third and final kit emerged. Shiningclaw breathed a sigh of relief her head slumped to the ground. Robinwing darted forward and took the third kit, treating it delicately.
"What about the first kit?" I asked him, "there's no way that it could be warm now."
"Dead," he told me between licks.
That was the first time I saw you. You were a tiny, mewling ball of wet fur, but you all the same. Your dark gray fur matched your father's perfectly, but there was a tinge of blue there, too.
Your mother pulled you and the white kit, which I pronounced a she-kit, towards you. You were also a she-kit.
"Sisters," Robinwing whispered from beside me.
"Are you all right?" I asked the beaming mother. I expected a positive answer, and I got one.
I nodded. "I'll be back later, then, you two enjoy your kits." I let my eyes glitter happily in your and your sister's direction for a heartbeat, then withdrew from the nursery.
You and your sister were not the only kits in RiverClan There were also Lilykit and Fleetkit.
My heart was light as I made my way back to my den, but stopping at the creek that surrounded our camp first for a drink of water.
I dipped my head into the water, taking in the cool water, and when I looked up a spirit stood in front of me, on the water.
"These kits have a terrible destiny," the she-cat told me.
I paused. "Do they?" I asked stupidly, trying to sound like a formal, well-trained medicine cat.
"They do," she told me, and she disappeared.
I stood there for a few heartbeats, taking it all in. You and your sister were in some kind of danger. Since I was the only cat who knew, I decided I must do something. I walked back across the clearing to the nursery.
"Are you okay?" I asked, poking my head into the nursery and trying not to sound stupid.
"Yes, we are," Shiningclaw whispered happily. "Come see, we named them!"
I approached you and your sister for the second time and gazed down at you.
It was impossible, you and she, for she was mewling innocently and you were suckling.
"The blue-gray one," Robinwing told me, "she's Oceankit."
So you were Oceankit. It seemed to fit you, I thought, because your fur rippled every time you moved.
"And the white one," Robinwing told me, "is Skykit."
And your sister looked up at me with the brightest blue eyes I have ever seen.
"Dear StarClan," I whispered to Shiningclaw, "they're beautiful."
"Shame you're a medicine cat, or you'd have some of your own by now," Robinwing told me happily.
I shrugged. "No big deal," I told him. "Now, if you excuse me, I'm exhausted. Both of you should sleep, too."
I retreated from the den. My heart, for the second time that night, was pounding.
You hadn't been alive for a day, and I was already worried about you.
Chapter 2 - Ancient History
This is a chapter written by a guest writer, Arti.
You lunged at me and I dodged, catching your wriggling tail between my paws. I bit down and you let out a squeal.
"Mommm! Skykit bit me again!" you cried.
"I didn't mean to!" I wailed.
Our mother padded out of the nursery looking exhausted. "Why can't you two go do something nice... like Fleetkit! Fleetkit is talking to Kestrelfrost," Shiningclaw said, exasperated.
"Well if Fleetkit wants to spend the rest of his life in the dingy medicine cat's den, that's fine. But I want to grow up to be deputy!" I retorted hotly.
You nodded, looking a little uncertain, "Yeah, me too."
Shiningclaw shook her head, her eyes sad. I tipped my head, wondering what Mother wasn't saying. But all she did was sigh.
"You two should go visit the elders," she said in a tone that made us think we had a choice when in reality she was forcing us to do it.
"Okay!" You ran off, your eyes bright with excitement. With a sigh, I followed.
You skidded to a halt in front of the enterance to the elders' den, then charged in. I skidded to a halt, then dashed inside. Unfortunately, I landed on Longwhisker's back. "Sorry!" I squeaked, before settling next to you. Your blue pelt glowed softly in the light that trickled in from the den top. You looked pretty. I look down at my white paws, noting the dust on them. Oh well. No one cares if a deputy gets her paws a little scuffed up.
"Tell us a story!" You begged. Your blue eyes were wide and the elders purr, whiskers twitching. One of them coughs and I pull back slightly. I understand why we must protect the elders, but they're not exactly useful. Or good-smelling.
"What would you like to hear?" asked a dappled gray queen.
"Tell us about the begining of the Clans!" I said, "I want to hear about the Rages!"
"I want to hear about the Four Blessed Ones!" you argued.
The elders must have sensed an argument because a grizzled tom meowed, "Well, we can tell you about both of those."
"Okay!" you meowed, looking happy. I wrapped my tail around my paws and leaned forward. I recognized the tom- his name was Longwhisker and he was a great story-teller.
"In the beginning," Longwhisker meowed, "There were Four Clans. ThunderClan, RiverClan, WindClan, and ShadowClan."
"We live in RiverClan!" you purred. I shushed you.
"These Clans were unorganized," the elder continued, "They allowed kittypets to join their ranks and had only one deputy!" I bared my teeth and you gasped in surprise. "But they were weak as well. They were defeated by their own ancestors, the cats of the Dark Forest. But there were four who survived the horrific battles," the tom paused for suspense, "The Four Blessed Ones."
Your eyes widened in awe and I couldn't help but feel slightly impressed.
"They were the strongest, bravest cats alive." Longwhisker meowed proudly. "And when the war had ended, they took charge. Surronded by their Clanmates' bodies, they formed the New Clans. They gave us new laws, new traditions. They made us strong. Apprentices now fight their mentor for the right to be trained. We were given two deputies- a Warrior Deputy to lead the Warriors into battle-"
"That's what I want to be!" I couldn't help but gasping. This time both you and the elder shushed me. I stuck my tongue out at you and your whiskers twitched.
"There were also the Advisory Deputies," he continued like nothing had happened, "Who would advise the leader on... other matters. When the leader died, the two deputies would fight a Rage to see who got the honor of becoming leader."
I felt a little thrill run through my fur. It was terrifying, but also enticing. Fighting to the death for your honor, the honor of leadership. It was an adventure.
"Wow," you meowed, your eyes huge blue circles. "Imagine that... having to start new Clans all by yourself!"
"You would be scared?" I asked, tipping my head.
You shook her head, "I wouldn't be. It's just fun to think about." You purred and scampered back to the nursery after thanking the elders. I laughed and followed.
You were a goofy kit, you know that?
Chapter 3 - The Moonpool
Your kithood was almost normal, excluding the fact that there was a prophecy looming over you and your sister.
Both you and your sister regularly visited the elders, begged the apprentices for lessons, and tripped over each other's paws when you saw Oakstar.
The one thing that was different was the fact that you both admired the deputies, asking them endless questions about their duties and their Rage, if they ever experienced one. Both deputies always answered with courtesy, but I was worried, as was your mother.
A few days after you were born, I escorted your mother out of camp to tell her all that I knew. Her reaction was exactly what I expected. Disbelief and rage.
"You're lying," Shiningclaw snarled at me, "my kits are safe, Kestrelfrost, and I dare you to contradict me."
I dared. "StarClan's word is the truth, however inconspicious it might be at the moment."
Shiningclaw demanded, "Tell me the prophecy."
Shaking my head gently, I told your mother that the prophecy had not yet been told to me. "If anything," I said, "the prophecy will be revealed to Skykit, and she can decide what to do with it."
Your mother almost exploded with anger, but thankfully did not attack me. She stormed off instead.
Everybody wanted to protect you, you know. But destiny loomed instead.
A few nights after I confronted your mother came the half moon.
I departed from RiverClan, walking across the grassy plains completely alone. I wished that I had an apprentice; journeys got lonely without one. Being RiverClan, I was probably the farthest from the Moonpool.
Luckily, the WindClan medicine cat, Gorsepelt, was waiting for me at the border. He fell into silent step with me and we padded silently across WindClan's moor.
The normally-talkative tom finally turned to me. "Heatherstar," he sighed, "she's dying, and I'm not sure what to do."
"Have you tried yarrow?" I asked Gorsepelt. "You know, for poisons?"
He sighed. "Yes, at the very beginning. I'm afraid to try it again because she hasn't been eating."
Silence, then I asked, "Or did a snake bite her?"
"Kestrelfrost, she's just sick. It's not greencough season, it's not whitecough... she's just old." Gorsepelt looked at me with pain. "I grew up with her, I can't lose her!"
I shook my head at him sadly. "I'm sorry," I told him truthfully.
Being a medicine cat, I didn't even consider telling Oakstar about this news. It would be a good opportunity to steal territory, of course, what with the quickly approaching Rage in WindClan, but this is a violation of the unsaid code of medicine cats. Medicine cats work for the good of the Clans, spreading StarClan's word as truthfully as possible, and we must trust one another as completely as possible. Between medicine cats, Clan boundaries are surpassable for the greater good.
"Our deputies are growing restless already," Gorsepelt told me, obviously annoyed. "One approached me the other day asking for me to just give her deathberries."
I gasped. "No," I said, "that's just wrong."
Gorsepelt looked at me. "He had a packet of the berries with him. He brought them into the camp."
I pitied Gorsepelt, but I didn't tell him. I still remembered Oakstar's rage, but I shook it out of my mind.
"Let's just hope that StarClan tells us something good tonight," I told the WindClan tom, and we continued on in silence.
The other two medicine cats were called Quailwing, from ThunderClan, and Yewclaw, from ShadowClan. A new apprentice accompanied Yewclaw, bouncing around by her paws, who introduced herself as Dawnpaw, and how wonderful it was to meet us!
Gorsepelt butted my shoulder. "Reminds me of somebody I know," he joked of Dawnpaw.
"I was not that excited about my first visit to the Moonpool," I replied hotly.
The other medicine cats purred.
"How long have you been an apprentice, Dawnpaw?" I asked the ShadowClan apprentice.
She answered, "I was apprenticed just yesterday! Oh StarClan, I'm so excited! Let's go!"
"What did she do," Quailwing muttered in my ear of Yewclaw, "give her chamomile or something?"
This was a joke; chamomile calms the nerves.
I snorted. "Probably," I agreed, "but let's not make fun of Dawnpaw too much. She's got a lot to learn!"
We walked on together, sharing stories of the past half-moon. Quailwing mentioned that he had come up with a clever way to heal wounds.
I would use this method to heal your sister.
At the Moonpool Yewclaw pulled Dawnpaw aside. "Ready?" she asked.
Dawnpaw nodded, looking nervous.
Yewclaw took a deep breath before beginning. "Dawnpaw," she began, "is it your wish to enter into the mysteries of StarClan as a medicine cat?"
The apprentice nodded. "It is," she mewed confidently.
"Then come forward," Yewclaw commanded Dawnpaw.
Dawnpaw obliged, putting each paw delicately in front of the other.
Yewclaw raised her head to the sky. "Warriors of StarClan, I present to you this apprentice. She has chosen the path of a medicine cat. Grant her your wisdom and insight so that she may understand your ways and heal her Clan in accordance with your will."
Dawnpaw stood beside the Moonpool. She shivered as a breeze blew by her.
"Now dip your nose in the water," Yewclaw commanded her apprentice.
Dawnpaw obeyed, dipping her small nose into the cold water. She began to sleep nearly instantly.
The rest of the medicine cats quietly stepped forward.
I dipped my head in the pool and my world faded away.
I awoke in a deep forest that stretched as far as my senses could tell. Somewhere deep in my mind I knew that it streched on forever.
A young tom stood before me, his ginger fur shining in a light that came from nowhere.
"I have a prophecy for you," he told me, taking a step closer.
I dared to ask, "Is this about the two kits born most recently in my Clan?"
"Yes it is," the ginger tom told me.
I waited patiently as something seemed to come over the tom.
"Ocean will bleed into open sky," he told me in a mysterious whisper.
"Is that all?" I asked, worried.
The ginger tom nodded his head. "Yes, it is," he told me. "Now, awake. It is time to return to your Clan."
"Wait," I said, "what's your name?"
As the dream faded away, I heard one name whispered in the breeze.
I woke up with a gasp and quickly quieted myself. I was the first one awake, it appeared, so I tried to compose myself.
You and your sister, whatever your story might have turned out to be, were in danger.
I needed to help you.
Chapter 4 - Living Legends
When you skidded into the nursery that morning I had no idea how dramatically my life would turn.
"Skykit!" you squealed, prancing towards me on your blue-gray paws. "There's an apprentice ceremony today!"
I looked at you, wide-eyed. Neither of us had seen an apprentice ceremony before, but we had heard about them often enough.
You had the same idea as I did. Together, we yowled, "I'll beat you to the elders' den!"
We raced across RiverClan's clearing together, with you beating me by a single pawstep. We both crashed into Longwhisker's pelt at the same time, but he purred when he saw it was you.
That was the thing about you: you always had the right way to get a cat to like you. I wish I had that ability now.
Longwhisker pretended to be annoyed. He was always an egocentric tom. "What do you want now?" he sighed irritably. He could never keep the twinkle out of his eyes, and you knew it too.
"Tell us about the apprentice ceremonies you've seen!" I whispered breathlessly.
Longwhisker's eyes darkened instantly. "What made you interested in those?" he asked me incredulously.
"There's one today," you told him matter-of-factly. "So you better tell us 'cause we're gonna see anyway!"
Longwhisker took a deep breath. "There's one I'll never forget," he began hesitantly.
Another elder in the back piped up. "Just tell them the story already so they don't mess theirs up and get killed, Longwhisker!"
"All right," Longwhisker snapped back. "Keep your tail on!"
He turned back to us, muttering.
"I still remember our strongest senior warrior's apprentice ceremony," Longwhisker told us.
We looked at one another, you and I, and asked the same question with our facial expressions: Who is the strongest warrior?
"Rivertalon was still very young," Longwhisker informed us, not seeming to notice our silent exhange. "He was still a very proud kit, and never wasted an opportunity to let his entire Clan know."
I glanced at you. Your eyes were wide with wonder and your tail was sticking straight up. I quickly turned to Longwhisker again.
Longwhisker continued, "When the day came for his ceremony he showed not one trace of fear or worry. He padded straight up to Creekstar, our leader of the time, and declared that he would be fighting Creekstar himself."
I couldn't help but gasp. Who is this brave tom? I asked myself. Next to me, you gritted your teeth.
"Creekstar, of course, was forced to accept," Longwhisker said, "and the battle began no later than that." His words became darker now. "Creekstar was nearly killed. He was old as it was, but Rivertalon was extremely ferocious and determined to win. I believe that Creekstar allowed Rivertalon to win out of fear of his own demise."
My upper lip twitched. I'm sure I could beat him.
"Of course, Creekstar then mentored Rivertalon up until the day he died, where Oakstar won his Rage and became leader. I took over mentoring Rivertalon."
The silence in the elder's den was deafening. I glanced at you out of the corner of my eye. You wanted more information, I could tell.
Longwhisker eventually said, "Rivertalon has never had an apprentice. He kills every kit he fights."
"On purpose?" you asked.
"Of course," Longwhisker told you. "In his opinion, if they choose him and are not worthy, they are not worthy at all."
His words echoed in my ears. If they choose him and are not worthy, they are not worthy at all...
We slunk out of the den.
The apprentice ceremony began at sunset.
The senior warriors assembled in a circle. Those with apprentices sat patiently, tails flicking back and forth, any other senior warrior without an apprentice laid in the dust. The other Clan members gathered behind.
In the front, as usual, stood Oakstar, flanked by the warrior deputy, Ivyleaf on his right and our father, Robinwing. On Robinwing's left was Kestrelfrost, who watched the goings-on with obvious sadness. On Ivyleaf's right was the father of Lilykit and Fleetkit, Wolfclaw. He had no apprentice but would not be allowed to fight one of his own kits.
You and I sat towards to the front, thanks to our father being the advisory deputy. We caught his eye and he twitched his whiskers.
For a while the Clan waited in silence. Next to me, you were becoming impatient, but I kept perfectly still, trying to impress Oakstar, who was staring fixedly at the senior warriors in the dust.
Finally Lilykit and Fleetkit emerged from the nursery, their pelts smooth and their eyes filled with anticipation. Their mother, Thrushnose, followed them out.
Fleetkit was going first. He had been your favorite playmate and always very kind to you. He glanced at you now as he walked by, and we could both tell that he was shaking with fear. I cast him a sympathetic look, but he looked straight ahead and at Oakstar.
Oakstar, a normally very kind leader, had to adopt a less kind role as the leader of RiverClan's ceremonies. He took no pity on the small kit's fear, but rather seemed to relish it. "Fleetkit," he called in a voice very unlike his own, "you have reached the age of six moons and are therefore old enough to fight for the right to be mentored."
The Clan fell into a heavy silence. Fleetkit stood in the center of everything and trembled.
"You will now choose your mentor," Oakstar commanded.
"Cloverpelt," Fleetkit yelped. "I choose Cloverpelt," he said more strongly.
The white she-cat rose from the ranks and stepped forward, clearly indicating that she was up for the fight. Her eyes blazed with a familiar fire, one that I knew well. It was the fire of competition, the longing to win.
Fleetkit's going to die, I thought, alarmed. With a glance at you I realized that you hadn't noticed Cloverpelt's face, only Fleetkit's. You were leaning towards him, desperate for him to win, to survive.
My heart began to pound.
Fleetkit stepped forward, his eyes glazed with fear. He readied his body into a position where he could fight from and simply waited.
Cloverpelt's eyes glinted with amusement, but she crouched for a heartbeat before jumping at Fleetkit and knocking the kit to his feet. I heard Fleetkit's indignant squeak as he was pushed over.
"Fleetkit!" Lilykit cried.
Oakstar snapped, "Quiet!"
The clearing was anything but silent as the two cats, one tiny and untrained, one experienced and fully-grown, fought to the death for all the Clan to see.
Finally Cloverpelt stopped as Fleetkit managed to rake his claws across her belly for a second time. "I declare this kit as my apprentice," she choked out. Blood was flowing from a few cuts on her body, but there was more blood from Fleetkit.
Kestrelfrost made his way over to Fleetkit and began to admire his wounds. The entire Clan bated their breaths, each set of eyes focused on the tiny, bleeding kit in the center of their vision.
The medicine cat looked up, caught my eye for a brief moment, and declared, "He will survive!"
All of RiverClan erupted into cheers of "Fleetpaw! Fleetpaw!"
Fleetpaw's eyes were wide with excitement as he looked at his sister. "I won!" he silently told her, and Lilykit nodded with relief.
"Lilykit!" Oakstar called over the commotion, bringing the Clan to instant silence, "you are now old enough to fight for the right to be an apprentice of RiverClan." I noticed that his voice was tinged with pride. Just like mine used to be.
Lilykit was shoved forward by her mother, who was more confident now that Fleetpaw had won. Lilykit glanced at her brother, who was now sitting with Cloverpelt over to one side. I noticed that you were straining to talk to him, so I gently nudged your shoulder. "He can't talk until after his sister's ceremony. He wouldn't want to, anyway."
The tiny she-kit stared at the senior warriors in the dust as Oakstar said, "You will now choose your mentor."
I saw Lilykit settle her gaze, but I didn't get to see him before she announced his name.
"I choose Rivertalon," she declared to the Clan.
The name sounded familiar, but I couldn't place it. Longwhisker's stories spilled through my mind until I remembered a singular quote.
"If they choose him and are not worthy, then they are not worthy at all."
"Oh my StarClan!" I hissed in your ear. "That's Rivertalon! From Longwhisker's stories!"
You looked at me dully. "They're only stories," you informed me.
And as you said it the fight began. Lilykit was never strong enough, never bold enough, to fight the senior warrior. Her muscles strained with every movement, her eyes were filled with desperation to survive.
At last the horrific fight ended with Lilykit pinned to the ground, her eyes bulging. She tried to take a breath, but Rivertalon brought his claw down on her neck.
Lilykit died that day in the center of the clearing.
Although I have searched for her, I have not seen her soul to this day.
Chapter 5 - The Spirit
This chapter is dedicated in spirit to one of my biggest fans and greatest friends, Red. Happy reading!
The tiny, mangled body lay in the center of the clearing, surrounded by members of RiverClan young and old alike.
Lilykit was dead, but her spirit was alive in our souls. Her fighting spirit kindled ours in a way I had never felt before.
Rivertalon was nowhere to be found, but I knew of a place where he would go to find himself. Only I at the time knew his true spirit, his true personality.
So it was I who crossed RiverClan's territory trying to find him. My paws sunk into the squishy mud with every step. My sight was blocked by the tall grasses that made up the field that I called home.
Finally I reached the shore of the lake. In the distance I could spot shrubbery lining the murky shore, and within was where I could normally find some catmint during greenleaf. I also knew that it provided shelter to those who needed it.
My paws shifted the sand as I walked across it. A breeze flew from the lake, so I could smell WindClan's disgusting scent. I flinched as it hit my nose, and at that very moment a buff, blue-gray tom emerged from the very bush I was walking toward. His bright blue eyes widened when he saw me approaching.
"Kestrelfrost," he said, surprised. "You found me."
I twitched my tail. "It wasn't too hard, Rivertalon," I replied.
He sat down in the sand, hard. Only I knew the tough tom's soft side.
He told me, "I messed up by killing her."
"Face it, Rivertalon, you're supposed to kill her. You did the right thing."
He looked up, wide-eyed and scared. "But her family will hate me now."
At that very moment I sealed your fate. "Then save the next one."
I have never been sorrier.
Afterwards I walked along the beach alone, looking over the water. I admired my paws and the sand and the tall grass and the sun sparkling over the water.
I stopped to gaze over the water as my mind drifted to the prophecy.
Ocean will bleed into open sky.
Who was involved was easy enough. The outcome was obvious as well.
"Are you wondering when it will happen?" a she-cat's voice said behind me.
I spun around. I couldn't tell at first if she was real or not. The lake seemed to be reflected in her fur, but she seemed to be reflected by the lake.
"It will be when they are both fully grown," the she-cat continued.
My eyes were drawn to her face. I gasped in shock and horror as I saw the scar down the side, ripping her face into shreds. I turned away, my heart pounding.
I heard her sigh. "Yes, my face. I was attacked towards the beginning of my life, during my apprenticeship as a medicine cat. I've lived with this scar forever. It is a part of me."
I could not bring myself to look at her. My fur was hot. I could not bear to see the injury that had obviously plagued her life.
Her scar disgusted me. I wanted her to disappear.
She seemed to sense this. "Look up, Kestrelfrost," she commanded gently. "It is not a shame to admit you want me to leave."
I looked up, but at anything but her face.
"My name is Redpoppy," she began. "I've been watching you your whole life, Kestrelfrost, and I know things about you that would make your fur rot. I want to help you with this prophecy."
I blinked, fully looking at the spirit she-cat. "I don't need help," I grumbled, seeing her scar again. "Leave me alone."
She faded away before my very eyes.
I walked through the grieving cats and stopped in front of you. You were craning your head to see Lilykit.
"Oceankit," I told you gently, "go back to the nursery with Skykit."
You shook your head. "I want to see," you whined.
But I shook mine in reply and nudged you toward the nursery. "Go and be with your sister," I commanded.
Opening your mouth in protest, you stared at me with annoyance. At my glare, you went slowly and quietly back to the nursery.
"Be glad you have one," I whispered after you.
My sleep was troubled. I kept seeing a torn Rivertalon, a battle-scarred Redpoppy, and your protesting face. I knew when I woke up at moonhigh that I was not meant to sleep that night.
I padded sleepily over toward my stock of herbs and began to sort them out, absentmindedly dividing old, shriveled herbs from ones that I could still use. I picked up the pile to discard and stopped short at a pair of paws right in front of me.
"Don't go anywhere," Redpoppy's gentle, soothing voice told me. "I need to tell you something."
I kept my eyes aimed at my paws. "I have to go get rid of these," I explained.
"Stay," Redpoppy said firmly. "This is important."
Dropping the herbs, I sat in front of the she-cat and avoided looking at her face.
I heard her sigh. "Kestrelfrost, I'm sorry that I have to tell you this."
Surprised, I looked at her face and flinched.
Redpoppy said, "Kestrelfrost, you're not Clanborn."
Chapter 6 - StarClan's Omen
It was the type of morning that stretched long past sunhigh, all the way to when the sun began to set and the sky began to darken. Two moons had passed since the horrific death of Lilykit, and the image still hadn't left my head. It still hasn't.
You and I had been play-fighting all day. Since Lilykit and Fleetpaw's apprentice ceremony play-fighting had taken on a different meaning. You and I were genuinely trying to learn from one another, but we both knew that silly, untrained kits' battle moves were no match for those of seasoned warriors.
When Shiningclaw called us inside the nursery it was because she was getting impatient for the long day to end. As I fell asleep with you beside me I watched the sun set between the bramble walls of the nursery. I was afraid to fall asleep in anticipation of nightmares of Lilykit.
Eventually as Silverpelt became visible I managed to. I don't remember my eyes fluttering shut, but I do remember opening them to a forest.
The forest was perfect. Light shone through the trees from an unseen source; I could smell prey everywhere; and best of all I didn't smell any foreign scents. I was safe here.
I recognized a figure making its way through the trees. A thrilled sound made its way up my throat and it came out as, "Lilykit!"
The kit came toward me. I could feel my body: tight with excitement, trembling, heart pounding. I missed my friend, I felt her loss every day, I wanted to see her.
As she approached, one single question tugged at my young mind: "Are we in StarClan?"
Lilykit looked up, revealing her face for the first time. Her eyes were filled with a strange sadness. "Yeah, but I'm the only dead cat in sight," came her answer.
My heart felt a twang of sadness. She probably regretted choosing Rivertalon, she could be alive and training to become a warrior.
My thoughts were interrupted by Lilykit's sad sigh. "I'm supposed to tell you something, Skykit," her tiny voice said. It trembled, it wavered, it weakened.
"What?" I asked her.
She whispered, "There's a prophecy about you and Oceankit."
My heart stopped. "And what does it say?" I asked.
She cleared her throat. "Ocean will bleed into open sky."
And there was no more.
I woke up to a shocked face right in front of my own. "Lilykit, that can't be true-" I burst out.
Then I realized that it was your shocked face in front of mine and I stopped speaking.
"Are you okay, Skykit?" you asked me, worry coursing through your voice like the world's strongest, fastest river. "D'you need me to get Kestrelfrost or something?" you asked me, already turning to run if needed.
I stopped you. "No, stay, Oceankit, I can go get him myself." My mind was spinning around in circles and when I tried to stand for the first time I fell down. "No worries," I stammered to you as I stood up successfully. "I'm fine."
I stumbled out of the nursery and across RiverClan's clearing to Kestrelfrost's den. I prodded him with my nose, annoyed with each passing heartbeat that I couldn't tell him about my dream.
He finally woke up, and at the sight of my crazed face he scrambled to his feet. "Skykit, what's wrong?"
I tried to speak but was overcome by hysteria. What could this prophecy mean? Why was I getting it now?
"Shh, calm down," mewed Kestrelfrost, moving toward the back of his den, obviously trying to find herbs to help the cause. When he returned with a single poppy seed and I ate it, I felt ready to speak.
"I got a prophecy," I told the medicine cat. As his eyes widened and he settled back to listen, I told him about how I had seen Lilykit and that she had given me the prophecy.
"What was this prophecy, exactly?" Kestrelfrost asked me. "Did it involve you and your sister?"
"Yes, it involves Oceankit," I replied, thinking of your worry for me. What would I tell you?
"Tell me the prophecy," Kestrelfrost commanded, standing up.
I obeyed, taking a huge breath. "Ocean will bleed into open sky."
Chapter 7 - The Walk
When I stretched awake the first thing I remembered was the night before. Skykit's fear over the prophecy I already knew. Her face was what I imagined mine to be when I first heard it. Almost like looking into a lake.
I had other, more important things to think about. Like Redpoppy. And her statement to me. I had been putting it from my head, trying to focus on my medicine cat duties for the last moon or so, but at one point I knew I would have to confront the issue.
I looked at my stores of herbs and cleared out a few I could no longer use, but there was no reason to go herb-hunting.
As I emerged from the den to dispose of the old herbs I heard a voice shout to me, "Kestrelfrost! Up already?"
It was Oakstar. I had to admire the tom, I still do. He was completely ripped apart at his Rage but managed to pull himself back together rather quickly. He took over RiverClan's leadership position with a firm belief that he would make RiverClan stronger. His two deputies carry out his orders without hesitation.
"Yes," I told my leader, flicking my tail toward my destination, "I found some old herbs that I have to get rid of." I wasn't anxious to leave, but there was no pushing past Oakstar.
Oakstar twitched his whiskers. "You never stop working, Kestrelfrost," he purred, but then he got serious. "I was considering a trek over to the Moonpool. To see what's up."
I blinked. "There's no reason to-" I began, but he cut me off.
"We'll leave after you eat. Get rid of those herbs. Ivyleaf and Robinwing will take care of the Clan today." Oakstar's command was final, no arguing, so I fetched a trout from the fresh-kill pile and ate it as quickly as possible.
I saw you and Skykit arguing across the clearing and that Shiningclaw was not around to break it up. I headed across the clearing and, to my dismay, I heard you begging Skykit to tell you about her dream. The one about Lilykit. As I approached both you and Skykit stopped arguing and looked up at me with identical blue eyes. You erupted into accusations about your sister while she just looked at me desperately.
"Oceankit," I meowed, cutting you off, "if Skykit doesn't want to tell you about her dream, she doesn't have to. Quit it."
"You know what it's about!" you accused me, anger coursing through your voice. "You both know, and it's probably about me, isn't it?"
Pain shot through my heart, and I could tell Skykit was feeling the same thing. "I'm sorry," I responded. "Skykit decides to tell you or not. I'm the medicine cat, anyway, I'm supposed to know about it." Not a complete lie, but I was sure that most cats wouldn't bother to think to tell me about a simple cat-and-mouse dream. I didn't want to hear it, anyway.
"Kestrelfrost!" I heard Oakstar call, "You're slow as a snail! Let's go!"
Surprise flashed across your face. "Where are you going?"
"Moonpool," I grunted. "It's no big deal, just a common thing a leader has to do."
I left you and your sister behind to argue and followed Oakstar out of the camp. I caught a glimpse of Ivyleaf and Robinwing having a silent conversation. Your argument with your sister erupted once more and Robinwing instantly began to try and break it up. Just like a father.
I tried to start conversation as Oakstar and I began the walk across the WindClan moorland. "You never told me why you're going to the Moonpool today," I mewed.
"I'm getting vibes from those kits," Oakstar told me, looking me straight in the eye.
I gulped. "You mean... Oceankit and Skykit?"
"Yes, who else?"
We keep walking, but after a while I asked, "Why?"
"I had a dream," Oakstar confessed with a sigh. "I was told that the two kits were in danger, but I haven't gotten enough information. I want more."
I stared at him for a long time. This leader was perfect. He was strong and young and he cared about the cats in his Clan. "Okay, if that's what you want," I agreed.
While Oakstar slept next to the Moonpool I sat just outside, trying not to disturb the tom. "He'll want to protect them," I thought out loud, "or at least keep them safe for now."
I thought again of the prophecy's chilling words. Ocean will bleed into open sky.
I had an idea about what it could mean, and my heart froze whenever I thought of it.
Skykit would end up killing you.
When Oakstar emerged from his slumber he looked troubled and tense. "Let's talk in our own territory," he said when I opened my mouth. "We don't need WindClan overhearing what I want to tell you."
I nodded. My heart was pounding and my blood was pumping uncomfortably fast as we walked across WindClan's territory. We did not encounter any of their cats.
As we entered our own territory Oakstar instantly pulled me aside. "I got a prophecy," he whispered. "The only way to make it come true is if they both become my deputies."
Your entire future had just been set in stone.
Chapter 8 - Fighting Fury
It was long before dawn when my eyes opened wide. My heart began to pound in my chest and I looked wildly around. "Oceankit!" I whispered to you, prodding you with a foreclaw, "wake up!"
You murmured something in your sleep, something like "leave me alone," but my heart was pounding too fast to care that much.
"Get up!" I grunted, pushing you over, and you were up on your feet in an instant.
Looking up at the sky, you seemed to realize what day it was. "Today's the day," you whispered to me, your voice drifting toward me like I was in a dream.
Our apprentice ceremony. The source of my most recent nightmares: being killed before I opened my mouth, being killed during the fight, being killed after the fight.
And each time in my dreams I saw Rivertalon, the senior warrior who killed Lilykit.
"Have you decided yet?" I asked you, not daring to look at your face.
You nodded. "Yes, actually, I was thinking Rabbitpelt."
"She's almost an elder!" I exclaimed at you, looking you in the face. "What sort of bravery is that?"
You glared at me. "You're going to fight Rivertalon, aren't you?"
This was like a claw to my heart. I hadn't realized it before, but now I could clear my throat and say, "Yes. I'm going to fight Rivertalon."
The day was long and by sundown I was worn thin by impatience and tired limbs. I had been play-fighting my sister all day, trying desperately to learn the moves of the most senior warriors.
Finally Silverclaw told us, "Time to settle down and clean yourselves up; it's time for the ceremony in a few heartbeats."
You and I licked ourselves clean, then gave one another a fierce inspection. We both passed just before Oakstar called, "Let all of RiverClan gather forth, for it is time for an apprentice ceremony!"
As the cats gathered and you and I took our appointed places, I heard whispers among the crowd of cats. Lilykit's death was still fresh in the mind of the Clan. My heart pounded even faster.
Oakstar's voice declared over the murmurs, "Oceankit, you have reached the age of six moons and are therefore old enough to fight for the right to be mentored."
I felt you shiver beside me, and I hoped that the sacred bond of sisters would not be broken today.
"You will now choose your mentor," Oakstar commanded you.
You looked around the clearing before your eyes found her. "I choose Rabbitpelt," you declared.
Rabbitpelt stepped forward. In her eyes glinted pride for you and for herself. She did not hesitate in flinging herself upon you. The fight had begun.
You were flung back and forth by the older senior warrior until you managed to scramble up and throw yourself back on her. She yelped with surprise as you crashed onto her shoulders. You and Rabbitpelt tumbled over, but before the fight could continue Rabbitpelt yowled, "I declare this kit as my apprentice!"
Yowls of happiness erupted through the gathered cats and Kestrelfrost stepped forward. "She will survive," he said to the Clan. Until then I hadn't noticed the blood on the dusty ground.
"Oceanpaw!" the Clan called joyously, "Oceanpaw! Oceanpaw!"
My heart began to pound faster, and- as if he could feel it- Oakstar yowled, "Skykit! You have reached the age of six moons and are therefore old enough to fight for the right to be mentored."
His eyes told me, "Don't screw up." Out loud, Oakstar said, "You will now choose your mentor."
I stepped forward, keeping my eyes averted from the tom that plagued my sleep. "I choose Rivertalon."
The gasp echoed through the crowd. I heard you scream, "Skykit! No!" and Kestrelfrost trying to subdue you.
I was prepared for all of that. I was not prepared for Rivertalon's immense strength as he toppled me over, pushing me across the clearing in which we were gathered. I caught a glimpse of Kestrelfrost's eyes as I rolled away. They were wide with fear.
I scrambled to my feet. I am not going to die today! I thought to myself. I put all the strength I had into leaping toward him. I felt his strong body twist me around and crash to the ground, pinning me beneath him. Rivertalon stood and placed a paw on my throat. I kicked out at his stomach and used his surprise against him to push him back over.
"Yes! Go Skykit!" I heard Kestrelfrost screech, I heard your voice as well cheering me on.
In my distraction I found Rivertalon's claws at my throat.
The Clan fell silent. My heart was pounding. I heard your whimpers.
I found myself staring into Rivertalon's eyes. They were blue, piercing, and absolutely terrifying. But as he saw my eyes looking back, his softened.
He looked up at Oakstar. "I declare Skypaw as my apprentice."
Chapter 9 - The Answer
This chapter is dedicated to the person who keeps pushing me to write more, Robo. Happy reading!
I peered into the storm. "Come back!" I screeched. My tiny voice was a wail. I pawed uselessly at the ground. Had I even spoken? Or was I too young?
The figure of the cat faded into the wind and the rain. I sank to the ground in despair.
An unfamiliar she-cat's scent was around me, now. "Hi," the she-cat whispered. "I'm Flowerpelt. I'm your mother now. You'll be okay. You don't have any brothers or sisters, but that's okay. There are other kits in the RiverClan nursery. You're a RiverClan cat now and your name is Kestrelkit."
I wailed again at the loss of my mother, but at the same time I felt myself sinking into Flowerpelt's warm flank. "It's okay," she whispered again, "I'll take care of you."
A haunting she-cat's voice broke into the memory. "Now do you see?" Redpoppy demanded. She loomed out of the darkness, her scar dripping with rain. All of a sudden trees loomed around me and the rain stopped falling. My fur was still drenched, but I could speak.
"Flowerpelt- she- she gave birth to me!" I breathed. "That's what I was always told!" I thought of the dappled gray she-cat, now in the elder's den.
Redpoppy took a deep breath. Her scar seemed to shine even brighter in that moment, so I looked away. Redpoppy mewed, "Flowerpelt's kit actually died right before she found you- she was burying the kit alone when your mother gave you to her."
I breathed out slowly, refusing to look at her. "So the whole Clan knew she was pregnant, they just didn't realize that I wasn't actually her kit," I concluded.
That explained everything, I realized as the dream faded away.
In the distance I heard the birds chirping and a few warriors yowling about an extremely large mouse, but in the field my gaze was focused entirely on Rivertalon.
"Seems serious," the huge tom murmured to himself. "Tell it to me one more time," he requested of me.
"Ocean will bleed into open sky," I repeated.
"The sound of 'bleed' makes me flinch," Rivertalon told me.
"Don't overanalyze it," I snapped.
He let out a huge breath through his nose and looked up. His icy blue eyes glinted with fear. "You're going to need a lot of help," he guessed.
I continued to stare at him, trying to convey my desperation.
"I'll help you," Rivertalon sighed.
Relief swelled in my heart. "You can't tell Skypaw that you know," I warned.
Rivertalon just sighed in response.
I was organizing my herbs in the medicine when you walked in, obviously angry and upset.
"Why is Skypaw acting so afraid and not telling me about it?" you asked me.
I stopped what I was doing to listen, but you were off on a rampage: "It's that stupid prophecy! You and Skypaw know about it and who else? Does the entire Clan know but me?"
"They could," I said softly. "Oceanpaw, listen to me-"
"I'd like to listen to your excuse," you interrupted.
I felt distinctly awkward as I said, "Oceanpaw, it doesn't concern you. You shouldn't worry about it."
"But it's my sister!" you burst out. "I care about Skypaw, you know that! Why won't anybody tell me anything?"
I puffed out my chest to deliver the verdict: "You don't need to know, Oceanpaw."
You closed your mouth slowly, then opened it again, obviously shocked. "Fine then," you snapped eventually.
Then you stomped out of the medicine den.
I had made a huge mistake.
Chapter 10 - Lessons Learned
The sun was high in the sky as I followed my mentor through the tall grasses that were his most familiar territory. Today was my first training session with him and there was no way I could fall behind, especially not after proving myself to him after my apprentice ceremony.
Rivertalon stopped by a bush, his tail flicking back and forth as he inhaled scents in the air. As I came up beside him, he grunted, "Tell me what you smell."
I did my best to smell anything I could, but my only answer was, "ShadowClan territory is right over there."
"No prey? No other cats?" Rivertalon asked me.
Worriedly, I replied, "No, I can't smell anything like that."
"Good, you passed. You, unlike most new apprentices, can understand if there's nothing to scent." He did not drop his brutish demeanor as he demanded that I sit down.
I obeyed, wrapping my tail around my front paws.
"Today, as Oakstar has mandated," Rivertalon began loftily, almost slurring his words in his distaste, "I will be teaching you about RiverClan, because it seems impossible that you can teach yourself."
I narrowed my eyes in dislike for Oakstar's order, but Rivertalon continued, "And I agree. You couldn't teach yourself anything if you tried. Fighting me was a stupid mistake and it almost got you killed."
I leaned back and licked my chest fur, in shock. "You-"
"I saved you because I decided you deserved to be punished for your mistake," Rivertalon snapped. "And trust me, you will be. First I have to get through the stupidest lesson I've ever had to give."
I clenched my jaw, but said nothing.
"First, the history of the Clans: four cats somehow managed to survive the Great War with the Dark Forest and reform the Clans, with different rules that would make the Clans stronger in case the Dark Forest decided to attack again.
"For instance: before, we didn't have two deputies, just one, who was guaranteed leadership when his or her leader died. Senior warriors because so based on seniority instead of the rigorous training program we have in place today."
I opened my mouth to ask a question, but he glared at me and continued.
"Now the Clans are the strongest groups of cats ever heard of in history. To prove it, we regularly go train in abstract locations.
"What about your traditions? Your future in the Clans depends on your cooperativeness with me, Skypaw. I am the one who appoints to you to your warrior position and also your senior warrior position. Rabbitpelt will do the same for Oceanpaw."
At the mention of your name I flinched, and a kind of darkness fell over Rivertalon's eyes for a brief moment.
Rivertalon took a deep breath and continued, "When you are a warrior, you do not enter battle first. You must wait until a senior warrior can no longer fight. You must always be ready for a test to prove yourself to the Clan. You must always do your best and be able to prove your strength."
The oppression suddenly overwhelmed me in a wave of dread. "And every cat does this?" I asked.
"Every one," Rivertalon said proudly. "You can see at the Gathering soon."
And after that, the lesson continued.