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Sequel to Rogue at Heart

Pepper

Chapter One

A gray she-cat was padding through the woods with two cats behind her. "Pepperstorm, are we there yet?" Whined a young-looking one. "Almost," Pepperstorm reassured. "Keep that whining down, would you?" Snapped a black tom. "You actually like Crowstar's leadership, don't you?"

"Yes, we need more warriors," the tom replied. "Well, Blackfrost, why don't you go tell StarClan that kits should be warriors?" Pepperstorm snapped. "I agree," the young cat squeaked. "Silvernose!" Snapped Blackfrost. The cats argued on their way, until they stopped at a stream. "Silvernose, who should be an apprentice," she hissed with a glare at Blackfrost, "will collect the prey."

Silvernose nodded, dashing off. "What about me?" Blackfrost asked. "You, the useless one, will look for intruders," Pepperstorm instructed. "Useless?" She heard him mutter. She saw a silver streak flash across the bank, then it came to a halt, letting out a panic-stricken yowl. "I'm coming!" Screeched Pepperstorm.

She flung herself across the sand, leaping over scattered twigs and rocks. She saw what was attacking Silvernose. It was a huge dog, standing over him. Pepperstorm launched herself at it, locking herself into it's shoulder. It grunted in surprise, but shook her off. "Don't mess with Silver-" she was cut off.

She found herself flying in the air, blood trickling from her leg. She leaped right over the dog, but landed down its back. It's legs buckled and it fell, nearly crushing Silvernose. It let out a yelp, and then closed it's eyes. "Thanks," panted Silvernose. "It could have eaten you!" Pepperstorm was still stunned by the way she had knocked it out.

"Let's get out of here, before it wakes up," she suggested. Silvernose dashed off without a word. Blackfrost was already there. "What happened?" He asked as Pepperstorm padded up. "A dog," she replied. Blackfrost's jaw dropped. "What did you do to it?" He ventured. "Knocked it out, but it won't be down forever."

She started padding off along the bank. "Come on." She flicked her tail to gather her patrol. "Our Clan will be worried." She started to pad off. "I can't wait to tell them how we did it!" Silvernose's eyes glittered with triumph. "Yeah," Pepperstorm replied. But other cats had done that before. How extrodinary was it?

Chapter Two

"And that's how we did it," Silvernose was concluding. "It was also saying, 'I want my life', but we just didn't let it complain!" Silvernose added. "Now that's just boasting. Think of it and burn. It's not true," Pepperstorm giggled. "Dogs can't even talk to us," a gray she-cat protested. "It just puts joy upon my face!"

"To the warriors' den we go," Pepperstorm replied. "You need some sleep, don't mention it." She padded with him to the warriors' den. "Think again about that," snorted Silvernose. Silvernose's tail disappeared into the den, but Pepperstorm stayed outside. "As I said, think of it and burn," Pepperstorm declared.

"It's a nursery tale."

~

Silvernose woke up what seemed like a heartbeat later and saw a spirit. "You can feel it in the air. It's my passion - what I was meant to do! Free your mind of worries." A cat was talking to another one. "But... Tuft. Don't be silly," the other cat replied. Silvernose had heard tales of the mouse-brained Tuft.

"There's nothing left for me to yearn, now that Pepper is gone," Tuft replied. "Pepperstorm?" Silvernose couldn't help herself from squeaking it aloud. "You know her?" Tuft had turned to him. "Lift your voice. Was that what you said?" He quired. "Why would I tell you?" Spat Silvernose. "I am a spirit, knowing all."

"Why do you want me to tell you, then?" Hissed Silvernose. Tuft sighed. "Just joking," he sighed. "Help me. Would you like to join forces against Crowstar? Don't you hate him?" Tuft asked. "Think of it and burn. I'm a loyal cat," Silvernose snarled. "You sound like your doing it for good, but it's for evil. I know that trick."

"She was the rhythm of my life," sighed Tuft. "She was my passion. You could feel it in the air."

"Don't get romantic with me," Silvernose hissed. "Sorry, was I?" Tuft seemed to realize his mistake. If it was a mistake. "Why are you even in Cindertail's dream?" He asked. "I didn't mean to be here." Silvernose shuffled his paws. "Did I do something wrong?" Silvernose had to stand up to this cat.

"Leave, now, someone's coming," Tuft hissed. "Okay." Silvernose blinked open her eyes.

Chapter Three

"You were twitching in your sleep!" Pepperstorm felt a sharp paw prod her side. "Ow!" She squeaked. "Sorry," muttered the cat. "Watch it, Dustcloud!" Protested another cat. Dustcloud was one of those who should be an elder. "I'll have to stop that," Pepperstorm hissed to herself. She had been having dreams about Tuft lately.

She realized she actually missed the mouse-brain. She pushed the thought away, she hated the idea. "I'm up, I'm up." She picked her way through the den, with most cats still sleeping. "Hey! Pepperstorm!" She halted. Wingpaw. "Hello," he meowed. "Hi," Pepperstorm replied. "It's cool, having the hero in my Clan."

"I guess," Pepperstorm replied. "But I'm not a hero. Just a cat with a prophecy." Wingpaw gasped. "You don't believe in yourself?" His jaws gaped. "I do. But a true warrior must focus on their flaws, to fix them, not their skills." Wingpaw closed his jaws. "I didn't know that, I thought it wasn't true," he mumbled while walking.

Pepperstorm looked at the sky. The clouds had just parted to reveal the sun, and it shone dimly onto the clearing. She trotted up to where the patrols would be sorted for the day. She sat there, waiting. Other cats started walking groggily into the clearing, joining her. The deputy finally came out. "Pepperstorm, take a hunting patrol."

Pepperstorm nodded, walking away. "Dewmist! Flowerthorn! Cinderpaw! Silvernose!" Pepperstorm called her best friends together. Dewmist trotted up. "Yeah?" She yawned. "Bramblestorm wants us on a patrol," she replied. "Flowerthorn, Cinderpaw, Silvernose, Pepperstorm needs you!" She called into the distance.

"I needed my training rest," Cinderpaw meowed, "But I was bored, so alright."

"Good," Pepperstorm replied. "Come on, let's move." She whisked her tail to beckon the patrol. They padded out of camp, unspoken to, and went down to the river. "This is close to where the dog is. Be careful," Pepperstorm warned. "I will," Flowerthorn promised. Cinderpaw sniffed the water. "It smells watery."

"That's because it is water," Pepperstorm giggled. Cinderpaw squeaked and jumped back as a splash of water came up. Pepperstorm purred in amusement. She flashed her paw in the water real quickly, managing to hook a fish on her claws. She let it flop beside the river until it went limp. "That might as well be prey."

Dewmist had trotted up. Silvernose looked troubled, and he was just sitting there. "Is something wrong?"

Chapter 4

Pepperstorm trotted back into camp. "Now, where's the secret place, Silvernose?" Silvernose had promised to tell them what happened when she was on patrol. "Follow me," she whispered. They went behind a tangle of vines with a swish, then silence. "A strange, black cat visited my dream. He said his name was Tuft."

Silvernose looked at Pepperstorm, as if challenging her to speak. "He was an evil cat, and I fell for his trick," Pepperstorm admitted. She looked at them through silted eyes. "But I was young and foolish then," she continued, "Do not embarrass me about this." She raked her gaze over them, daring any one of them to talk.

They all nodded. "Good," she finished. "He was trying to trick me, too. He asked me if I wanted to team up against Crowstar, but I knew he was using 'good' for evil. I rejected his offer." Silvernose sighed. "His voice sounded like the silk of morning. But, still, it was a trick. I will not fall for it." Silvernose straightened up.

"I repeat, I will NOT!" She yowled. "Silvernose! Silvernose!" Dewmist chanted. "Yes." She sat back down, though she got up almost and once. "I'll be leaving now," she finished, padding through the vines. "Let's go. We have no more business here," Pepperstorm concluded, feeling embarrassed. Then she was in the camp.

"Hey, Pepperstorm, I know you were just on patrol, but can you lead a hunting patrol?" Pepperstorm jumped. "Yes, Blackfrost, I still have my energy," Pepperstorm chuckled. She gave him a gentle shove. Then, she remembered Tawnypelt. Her mentor had been a senior warrior. She had existed long ago, in Pepperstorm's time.

"Sapfur, Oakbranch, Flamepool!" Pepperstorm called. Sapfur came out of the warriors' den, yawning, "Yeah?" Pepperstorm fixed her gaze on her. "We need you on a hunting patrol," Pepperstorm announced. "Why at this moment? I-" She looked up at the sun. "Oh... Sorry," she meowed. "It's okay," Pepperstorm replied.

"Come on."

After Oakbranch and Flamepool joined them, they headed off for the pines. "I smell some fat squirrels," Pepperstorm commented. "I'll catch them all!" Flamepool announced. Pepperstorm giggled. She was a young warrior, trained by Echotail, who had died recently. Pepperstorm saw a squirrel nibbling on a nut.

She broke off from the patrol. She crouched down, stalked almost silently forward, and pounced. She nipped the squirrel's neck and killed it. "Nice catch," Oakbranch commented. "Thanks." Pepperstorm dug a hole and buried it. She soon added two more squirrels and a stray mouse to the pile. "It'll feed the Clan for days!"

Pepperstorm smiled. Oakbranch was a nice cat. Thornheart, who had died recently in war, was her brother. Oakbranch suddenly leaped up, hooking a bird out of the sky. "That makes up for the mouse you missed," commented Sapfur. "Yes," Oakbranch agreed.

Chapter 5

Pepperstorm was back in the camp. Bramblestorm sat beside her. "I've watched you over the seasons, and your such a great warrior. Your passionate. Your caring. I think we are more then friends," Bramblestorm admitted. "Best friends?" Pepperstorm guessed. But she knew what was coming. "Mates."

"I never knew you thought that about me," Pepperstorm gasped. "Believe me, I did," Bramblestorm replied. "I accept your offer!" Pepperstorm nuzzled him. "I can't wait for my kits," she whispered. "They will be great warriors," Bramblestorm replied. She kept the words, If they even exist then, or if they are born, to herself.

~ 2 MOONS LATER

Bramblestorm padded up to Pepperstorm. "Oh my, your belly is big!" He gasped. "I feel kicking," Pepperstorm admitted. "Your kits," Bramblestorm purred. "Oh, StarClan!" Pepperstorm gasped. The kicking got stronger. "Didn't you see the medicine cat!?" Bramblestorm exclaimed. "Oh..." Pepperstorm fell to the ground.

"Littlecloud! Their coming!" Bramblestorm yowled. "Wha?" He saw Pepperstorm. "She's kitting! Congrats," Littlecloud added to Bramblestorm. "Push," he instructed calmly. Pepperstorm felt a spasm roll over her belly, and heard a popping noise. "One kit," Littlecloud announced. Another spasm rolled over her belly.

Then, it hurt, greatly. "IT'S AGONY!" She managed to yowl. But it seemed like all her breath was being taken away. "It's stuck," Littlecloud told her. "Push harder!" Pepperstorm tried, but she just went limper. "I can't," she whispered. Then, as if it were a miracle, a kit popped out. "The next one is the last one," Littlecloud announced.

She felt another spasm, then a tiny kit rolled out. "Your done," Littlecloud told her. "But I still feel pain," Pepperstorm moaned. Her belly was aching. "Is she dying?" Bramblestorm asked worriedly. "No," Littlecloud told him. "It's normal. Kitting is a painful thing." He padded away. "If she starts coughing, call me!"

"What are their names?" Bramblestorm asked. "Thornkit will be the first one, in honor of you. Besides, he has your coloring," Pepperstorm decided. "You name the second one," she urged. "Mintkit," he sighed, "In honor of YOU." Bramblestorm purred. "The third one is gray with brown splotches. She will be Birdkit," Pepperstorm finished.

Bramblestorm nuzzled her. "We will be a happy family," he sighed. "Of course," Pepperstorm replied.

~ 1 MOON LATER

Birdkit was outside. "Race you to the nursery!" She called to Thornkit. "It's on," he growled.

Chapter Six

Birdkit was trotting into the nursery with Mintkit behind her. "I have a contest for you," she announced. "I'm sure to win," bragged Thornkit. "I will toss a moss ball around. Whoever gets hit by it first has to sit down. Then the third to get hit is the winner," she explained. She ran outside and snatched a moss ball.

"Begin!" She threw it at the kits and a delighted shriek split the air as the scattered. She kept throwing it until Birdkit was hit. "Haha! Loser," Thornkit teased. "Hey!" Birdkit pinned him down. "Who's the loser now?" Thornkit groaned. "Who?" She repeated. "Me," Thornkit sighed. Pepperstorm threw it, making Thornkit sit down.

"I won!" Squeaked Mintkit. "Yes, you did," Pepperstorm purred. Bramblestorm returned. "How'd the hunt go?" Pepperstorm asked. "Great," Bramblestorm replied. "I caught a thrush, a mouse, and a vole." Pepperstorm looked back at the kits. "They were just playing a game," she replied. They were running in circles, playing tag.

"You can't catch me!" Teased Thornkit. "Oh, yes I can," Mintkit leaped on Thornkit and bowled him over. "Uh-huh!" Mintkit yowled in triumph. Pepperstorm got up. "Let's look at the camp," she declared. "Our first time farther then just outside the nursery!" Mintkit's eyes glimmered with awe. "Come on." Pepperstorm flicked her tail.

They were brought into a grassy clearing, witch was dark. They went by a cat. "Hello, kits," purred Oakbranch. "Hi!" They raced up to Oakbranch and got on top of her. "Now, now," Pepperstorm scolded them, "She's a warrior." The kits leaped off. "What's it like?" Asked Thornkit. "We hunt almost all day, and the battles are chaos."

"Woah," Thornkit gasped. Mintkit walked up. "What about hunting?" She asked. "Basically, you just stalk forward and pounce," Oakbranch answered. Birdkit walked up. "Do you have a brother?" She asked. Oakbranch's eyes glimmered with pain. "I did," she sighed. "Don't pain her with memories," Pepperstorm scolded. They padded away to the elders' den.

"Could you bother me another time?" Asked Rowanclaw. He had retired as leader. "Don't disappoint them. This is their first time out of the outside of the nursery," Pepperstorm exclaimed. "Oh," Rowanclaw growled. "I have no stories for you." He set his head down in the moss. "Sorry for his rudeness." A voice came from the back of the den.

"Fernwing," Pepperstorm greeted. Fernwing dipped her head. "It's a pleasure to see the kits," she purred. "I want to hear a battle story!" Thornkit leaped in the air and clawed it. "Once..." Pepperstorm padded away as her kits were entertained. She went to the leaders' den. She had a complaint. "Crowstar," she greeted politely.

"Why, if it isn't you," he meowed, "What can I do for you?" Crowstar looked at her. "Stop making kits warriors at 4 moons," she blurted out. "Why should I?" He hissed. "It's against the code." Pepperstorm fixed her gaze on him. "I don't care about any stupid code," he growled. "We all follow it. In some cases, the leaders' word is law."

Crowstar rolled his eyes. "You aren't following-" Pepperstorm cut him off. "In some cases. Not in a case where the leader is breaking it!" She unsheathed her claws. "The Clan does not like your choices," she hissed. "Silvernose is only 8 moons old. She should be 12 moons," Pepperstorm reasoned. "We cannot wait. Who knows when I battle will start?"

"We haven't threatened any other Clans," Pepperstorm growled. "But they have threatened us."

Chapter Seven

Pepperstorm was pacing at the elders' den. She was waiting to pick up her kits. "Mommy!" A squeak. "Little one," Pepperstorm purred. "What are we doing now?" Thornkit asked. "Going outside of the camp. Your almost apprentices," Pepperstorm meowed. If Crowstar is leader, Pepperstorm thought bitterly. They padded on.

They met a patrol that was coming back. "Hey, little kits," Sapfur sighed. "It's our first time out here," Mintkit squealed. "Be careful. There might be wolves," Cavestep warned playfully. The kits hid behind their mothers leg. "He was just joking," Pepperstorm meowed. They walked out again, sighing in relief. "We better get going."

The hills stretched ahead of the cats. "That's WindClan territory," Pepperstorm told them, pointing with her tail in that direction. "How can they live there? It's so bland," Thornkit growled. "WindClan's battle moves are bland, too," Pepperstorm replied. "And it's warriors." But Pepperstorm had to admit they were amazing fighters.

Thornkit looked at the tallest tree in the area. "Can we climb it?" He asked. "I want to!" Squeaked Birdkit. "Now, now." Pepperstorm herded them back. "Your to young. You will learn in your training," Pepperstorm said. She pointed with her tail in the direction of ThunderClan. "That's ThunderClan territory," Pepperstorm told them. They squeaked.

"At least they have the sense to have trees around," Mintkit commented. "They do," Pepperstorm assured her. And that was where I came from. They will never know. Nobody except Tawnypelt. Pepperstorm pointed her tail toward RiverClan. "That is RiverClan. They SWIM, gross," Thornkit growled. "I don't ever want to get my paws wet."

"You won't," Pepperstorm promised. "I better not!" Thornkit squeaked. Mintkit dug her tiny claws into the ground. "All the other Clans are stupid, even ThunderClan," Mintkit hissed. "Especially them!" Thornkit snarled. "Trying to boss the other Clans around. Who do they think they are?"

"ThunderClan probably thinks we're just as bossy," Pepperstorm replied. "WindClan is bland," Birdkit repeated. "And RiverClan? Their just plain stupid. Swimming in the river is a bad thing." Thornkit was lashing his tail. Pepperstorm was sure he wanted to kill all of the other Clans.

"What will happen in the battles with them?" Birdkit asked. "They'll fight us, and we'll fight them, basically," Pepperstorm exclaimed. "You mean fight them fiercely!" Thornkit clawed the air, as if imagining sinking his claws into a mangy ThunderClan pelt. But Pepperstorm still had some loyalty to ThunderClan.

But she was ShadowClan now. She just had to blend in with the others. "Let's go home. I don't want to spoil your apprenticeships," Pepperstorm suddenly meowed. The kits drooped their tails. "But I want to see more! Maybe we'll have a battle," Thornkit growled. "That's an order. GO HOME," Pepperstorm snapped.

"We'll play tag. I'll get you Thornkit!" Birdkit challenged. "It's on," growled Thornkit. They raced home.

Chapter 8

Pepperstorm yawned. It was early in the morning. But she was not in her camp, she was in a thick fog. "This is not your camp," a familiar voice sneered, "We're actually far from it. And I won't let you escape this time." A slender black shape walked out through the fog. "Tuft! But your dead!" Pepperstorm cried. "This is Dreamworld, honey."

Pepperstorm shrank back. "There's no getting out of my reach," Tuft hissed. He turned huge and snatched her with a paw. "I will make your suffer, for LIFE!" He cackled. "You will feel left out, neglected, like I did when you left." He held her closer. "IT'S TIME FOR YOU TO SUFFER THE SAME PAIN!" She woke up for real this time. Her paws felt numb.

"It's just a dream," she muttered under her breath. Bramblestorm was in the warriors' den, like always. She still had time to save herself, if the threat was real. She padded over to get chosen for a patrol. Bramblestorm chose everyone but her. "Why can't I go?" Pepperstorm asked. Bramblestorm ignored her. Her belly felt hollow, so she went to get fresh-kill.

The pile was strangely empty. "What is this, Tuft?" She growled. She had no answer. She whimpered as her belly started to hurt. She went to Littlecloud, but he acted like she was invisible. "Littlecloud? What's going on?" She called. He ignored her. Strange, he should have at least some connection with Tuft. Pepperstorm went back to her den.

Her nest was soggy, and she sighed, curling up in it. "See? You have nothing to do but sleep." Tuft's voice woke her. "What have you done to me?" She cried. "I've taken away your love, your life," Tuft cackled. "And there's no fixing it." Another shape appeared behind her. "Tuft?" It was Littlecloud. "What are you doing to her?"

"She left me, so I am making her suffer," growled Tuft. "She doesn't deserve this! Just think, you loved her once, but you loved her wrong," Littlecloud hissed. "And your making her pay the price for doing it?" Tuft glanced at Pepperstorm. "It was her choice to leave, the mangy furball," Tuft growled. "I could kill you in one slice, but I want to make you hurt first."

Pepperstorm couldn't watch, until she saw Littlecloud had disappeared. "DID YOU KILL HIM!?" She shrieked. "Of course, so we could have a little romance," Tuft meowed. "I wouldn't love you, ever again!" Pepperstorm shrieked. She still couldn't take in the fact he had killed a medicine cat. "It's against the warrior code! It's against... Me."

His gaze softened, but it lit back up with delight. "I wanted to make you hurt, can't you see?" He growled. "Now, it's your turn."

Chapter 9

Pepperstorm was in the medicine cat den. Littlecloud had died without an apprentice, so she had taken the role for now. But what was the use? Every cat seemed to not even notice she was there. Suddenly, she heard a talk. "Pepperstorm hasn't come out in days," a tom said, "I'm worried about her." A she-cat voice answered.

"Do you think she's died in her sleep?" So that's how they ignored her! They couldn't see her! "I think it is time to admit it," the tom replied. He padded into the leader's den. The she-cat started to cry. "No! Don't cry! I'm alive!" Pepperstorm wailed. But she couldn't see her or hear her. She burst into tears. "You think I'm going to let you out of this?"

Pepperstorm saw a black cat in front of her. "I've suffered enough! Please, lift the curse," Pepperstorm pleaded. "Then you must visit me every night, love me, and worship me forever." Tuft smirked. "I'LL DO IT!" Pepperstorm shrieked. Then, the she-cat glanced up. "Pepperstorm? A StarClan cat?" She asked. "No, I'm alive," Pepperstorm replied.

"How?" The she-cat asked. "I was alive and well all along. How did you not know?" Pepperstorm replied. "I just didn't," the she-cat replied.

Pepperstorm raced to the she-cat and touched noses with her. "I'm sorry for sleeping so long," Pepperstorm cried. "But here's the truth." The she-cat listened with a shocked face as Pepperstorm poured out the whole story. "Wow, I didn't know you suffered that much," she whispered. "But I pulled through," Pepperstorm replied. "And that matters."

The she-cat smiled. "Oh, Snowbird, thank you for lifting the curse!" Pepperstorm nuzzled her softly. "It's the least I could do," the white elder replied. They sat and talked for a few hours. The sun went down, and Pepperstorm went back to her den. She slept, and found herself in the mist again. "Now, your my servant," Tuft growled.

"Yes, I remember my promise," Pepperstorm hissed. "I want mice! Five of them! Get me some, now!" He yowled. Pepperstorm saw a forest open up before her. She brought back five mice, and dropped them at Tuft's paws. He didn't even thank her. "Now, search me for fleas," he demanded. Pepperstorm searched his ragged fur for fleas.

She found a fat one, and dabbed mouse bile on it. It fell off. He sighed in relief. "That's better." But Pepperstorm realized the flea was on her now. She put mouse bile on it, and it fell, dead. Pepperstorm suddenly woke. "Fire!"

Chapter 10

It was Snowbird. Pepperstorm looked at the walls of her den. They were burning with hot flame. "We've got to get out!" Pepperstorm shrieked. They ran to the entrance, but it was blocked by a huge wall of fire. "The back exit," Snowbird wheezed. They raced through the burning camp and narrowly escaped. But Pepperstorm didn't see her friend.

"Snowbird?" She called. She saw a glimpse of white fur. "Snow?" She was barley breathing. "No!" Pepperstorm wailed. "I... I'm sorry, Pep, b...but...," she wheezed, "I... I breathed i...in to m...uch s-s-smoke." With that, she let her head go limp. "I'm sorry, Pepperstorm, I will miss her too." A voice sounded behind Pepperstorm.

"Crowstar?" She turned around. Her leader was gazing right at the dead body of Snowbird. "Why would you care? You make kits apprentices at three moons," Pepperstorm replied. "I have a heart," he answered. "But we must leave. Do you want to die, too?" He asked. Pepperstorm padded away, every step a pain. For the last time, she looked back.

The flames had not decreased one bit. She sighed, and ran into the safety of the trees. She settled in a moss nest, and drifted off to sleep. She woke to see a starry Snowbird. "It's so much better here, in StarClan!" The elder exclaimed. She sounded younger. She looked younger. "But I still miss you," Pepperstorm replied.

"It was obvious I would die soon. I was a frail elder, one of the oldest," she answered wisely. "I had to die soon." Pepperstorm looked at her. She was right - back in her Clan she looked weak and scruffy. Here she looked strong and sleek. "Right," Pepperstorm replied. "Besides, I get to see my old friends, like Tawnypelt," Snowbird continued.

Just then, a strong-looking tawny she-cat padded down a cliff. "Tawnypelt!" Pepperstorm cried. "My apprentice," Tawnypelt purred. "You do well as a warrior. But it's not even close to your time for joining us," Tawnypelt continued, "When you die, you must make your death wise." Pepperstorm blinked at Tawnypelt. "What do you mean?"

"You will know soon," Tawnypelt replied. Soon, the two she-cats dissolved into nothingness. Pepperstorm jolted awake. The sun had risen. "Crowstar?" There were no signs of the black tom. "Didn't you hear? He died in the fire." A voice sounded behind her. It was Flowerpaw, an apprentice. "He visited me in the fire, though!" Pepperstorm shrieked.

"He... He was there!" Flowerpaw shook her head. "You must have been imagining him," she replied. Silvernose was beside Pepperstorm, still sleeping soundly. "At least you or Silvernose didn't die," Pepperstorm replied. "We need to find the rest of the Clan. It's Blackfrost's turn to become leader." Pepperstorm shook Silvernose awake.

"Wha... Pepperstorm!" Silvernose shrieked. "We need to find the Clan. Blackfrost is becoming leader now," Pepperstorm explained. Silvernose jumped to her paws. "I'll do it!" And she raced off.

Chapter 11

Blackfrost looked at the Moonpool. "Lap up the water," instructed Littlecloud. He did so, and he entered a starry clearing. Cats were standing in a straight line. "Hello, Blackfrost," mewed a voice. Blackfrost turned around and saw Tawnypelt. "Tawny? You were alive when Pepperstorm was an apprentice," Blackfrost gasped.

"And she was my apprentice. A fine warrior, isn't she?" Blackfrost didn't know what to say. "I guess," he replied. "With this life, I give you strength..."

~

Blackstar woke up. "I remember when the other Blackstar was alive," Littlecloud sighed. "What was he like?" Blackstar asked. "He was strong, wise, and fit for leadership," Littlecloud replied. He imagined the huge black-and-white tom, standing strongly on the Shadowrock. He imagined him smiling, looking down on all his cats with love.

They traveled through unknown territory, until they reached the place they had set camp at for now. "I have returned!" Cats turned around to look at Blackstar. "Congrats on your leadership," some muttered. He jumped on the Shadowrock. "I must chose a deputy," he started. He scanned the clearing. "And I will choose an experienced warrior."

"Pepperstorm," he continued, "You are the new deputy of ShadowClan."

"What?" She shrieked. "You are the most experienced one here," Blackstar replied. "I hope Crowstar will hear and approve my choice." The Clan yowled, "Pepperstorm! Pepperstorm!" As if cheering a new warrior. Blackstar smiled. He knew he had made the right choice.

~

Blackstar curled up in his nest. He soon woke into another starry place. It was a valley. Crowstar stood before him. "I hate your choice as deputy!" He snarled. "You should have picked a warrior that made ShadowClan stronger, not weaker!" He snapped. "You would be in the Dark Forest if you didn't want this," Blackstar replied.

"She is the most experienced warrior in the Clan. She will make a good leader" He turned to see Tawnypelt coming up behind him. "Crowstar, you can't deny this, she is a great warrior, and would make an even better leader," Tawnypelt meowed. "She was a respected and great warrior, I admit, but just not one fit to be leader."

"We cannot change her destiny," Tawnypelt replied. Both of the starry warriors, disappeared, and the black tom was left alone. "Guys? GUYS!?" He called. He met Snowbird. "They have gone to discuss StarClan warrior things," she mewed calmly. "Okay," Blackstar replied. "Bye, then."

Chapter 12

Pepperstorm woke again to another dream. "Where were you!" Spat Tuft. "The camp was on fire," Pepperstorm replied. "That's no excuse, you liar," Tuft growled, "But just get on with the job. It doesn't matter." Suddenly, Snowbird appeared in a swirl by Tuft. "Let her free!" She shrieked. "Never, she's my servant," Tuft purred. "Aren't you?"

"I won't be anymore," Pepperstorm growled. Pepperstorm clawed Tuft's eye easily. "Hey!" He snarled. He looked at Pepperstorm and Snowbird. "You want a fight? I'll give you one," he challenged. Snowbird eyed him. "You know what this fight is for," she growled. She turned huge and crushed Tuft with a single paw. But Tuft turned huge, too.

He picked up Pepperstorm. He hung her over a river. "NOW WAKE UP!" She realized she was hanging over a river there, too. "Tuft... No," Pepperstorm pleaded. "Now, there's nobody here to help you," he growled. But a tom bolted out of the bushes. "Think again, and put her down," he snarled. He dropped her into the water. "Oops."

"Grab my paw!" Bramblestorm pleaded. Pepperstorm hung on as tight as she could. Bramblestorm tried to pull her up, but she fell into the current. "N-" he was cut off as rushing water took over Pepperstorm's ears. She shrieked as she was carried into the rapids, twisting and turning. She crashed into a rock and felt dizzy for a moment, but kept moving.

She realized Bramblestorm was running alongside her on the stream. "Try to swim over here," he called. She paddled with all her strength, but she couldn't do it. "I can't," she called back. She was dragged under again, and all went black.

~

She woke up on the shore. "I pulled you out, somehow," Bramblestorm meowed. "Your okay! I never thought I'd see you again." He nuzzled her. "I never thought I'd see you again," Pepperstorm purred.

"I'll do anything for you, even survive the rapids."

Bramblestorm nuzzled her. "Let's get back to the camp, clean you up, and settle down," he meowed. When they got back, after answering lots of questions, she got back to her kits. "Why are you wet?" Asked Mintkit. "It's complicated," Pepperstorm replied. "And it's not kit business."

"Aww!" Mintkit padded back to her curious-looking littermates. "Pepperstorm," called Bramblestorm, "I have prey just for the best cat!" He padded in and sat beside Pepperstorm, delivering her a bird. "Thank you," she mewed. Bramblestorm had brought a plump mouse for himself.

"All cats old enough to catch their own prey, gather beneath the Highrock!"

Pepperstorm peeked out, seeing Blackstar eyeing the nursery. "It's their apprentice ceremony!" She grabbed the kits by their scruffs. "Where are we go-" Thornkit seemed to realize. They sat down in the crowd. "Thornkit, Mintkit, Birdkit, come forward," Blackstar called. The kits padded forward, awe in their eyes.

"Thornkit, from now on until you earn your warrior name, you will be called Thornpaw. Your mentor will be me." They touched noses and purred. Thornpaw whispered something, but Pepperstorm didn't hear.

"Mintkit, from this moment until you earn your full warrior name, you will be known as Mintpaw. Your mentor will be Tigerheart." Tigerheart padded from the crowd and touched noses with Mintpaw. They leaped off together.

"Birdkit, from this moment on, until you get your warrior name, you will be known as Birdpaw. Your mentor will be Silvernose." The silver she-cat padded from the crowd and touched noses with Birdpaw. Silvernose's eyes were filled with joy. They leaped down.

"Clan dismissed."

Chapter 13

Mintpaw had been training all day. She didn't know if she had done good or not... Hopefully she did. "Mintpaw," her mother, Pepperstorm, greeted her quietly. The Clan was unnatrually quiet. "Oaktail died!" Bramblestorm shrieked to Mintpaw. "Oh..." Mintpaw hadn't really known him, but he was still a warrior.

She suddenly felt dull and unloved. Oaktail seemed to be cared about more than her! What did she ever do to her mom? Her dad? She felt grief for the loss of love nagging at her. She would get them back, she swore to StarClan.

"So what?" She finally replied to her dad. Bramblestorm looked surprised. "I don't care about some stupid old cat," she hissed. "Mintpaw!" Pepperstorm shrieked. She must have been pulled by grief, too. "Come on. You hardly knew him!" Her rage got out of control and she started spatting out things that were untrue.

"I hate you!" She shrieked. Her shriek was full of frustration and loss. "You don't care about me anymore!"

"Calm down, we love you with all our hearts," Pepperstorm soothed. "No you don't!" She hissed, her rage getting the better of her. Blackstar came down. "Calm down, Mintpaw," he soothed. She batted at the leader with unsheathed claws. "No!" She shrieked. "How can you be calm, if you parents hate you!?"

The clearing fell silent. "We love you, Mint," Pepperstorm whispered. "You don't deserve to call me 'Mint'! I'm not a precious kit of yours anymore!" Her littermates watched in horror. "Stop it!" Thornpaw commanded.

Mintpaw fatally bit Thornpaw's eye. "It's all misty now!" He shrieked, "It's blind!" Blood was trickling from his eye. "Thornpaw!" Pepperstorm shrieked. She ran up to him and licked him. "Do you understand now?" Mintpaw asked. "I hate you."

Blackstar's mouth was agape. "EXILE!" He roared. "You deserve it," Thornpaw hissed. "I'll kill you if I see you here AGAIN."

Epilouge

Mintpaw walked through the forest. "This isn't the end."

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