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Prologue

A white she-cat with brown ears, tail patches, and paws padded through a grassy field. A hill sloped above it, but her eyes were focused on what was ahead of her. She had spotted a mouse. All of a sudden, a badger came out of the bushes. How did I not scent that? She growled in her mind. The badger leaped at her. “Help!” she yowled.

She clawed at the badger’s belly. She had the upper paw for a second, while she was on its back, but it knocked her off. She landed on the ground, dazed. She watched as a blurry white shape yowled, “Don’t hurt May!”

May gazed around. As her vision focused, she realized it was her leader. “Cotton,” she gasped.

Cotton planted a paw in front of May, blocking the badger from her. She got up. Cotton leaped at the badger again, and May joined in, clawing at its sides. Suddenly, Cotton was flung off with a gasp. “Cotton!” May shrieked.

With fury like fire, May leaped onto the badger, biting into its throat. In the midst of her anger, she barely noticed Cotton’s broken body lying on the ground. May leaped onto the badger’s back and bit down hard on its throat. The badger roared in pain and fury, but sank to the ground. May turned to Cotton. “Cotton…” she whispered, “are you okay?”

Cotton just made a small gurgling noise. May looked at the tear in her throat. “May…. I’m… going to move on…” Cotton whispered.

“You can’t die!” May screamed.

“My time… is up.”

Cotton took a heaving gasp, and lay limp. “COTTON!!!” May yowled.

Tears in her eyes, May took Cotton’s scruff. She dragged it back to camp. Blood spattered her pelt and the grass. It looks like I just murdered someone, May thought. She made it back to the sandy area. “My nine lives,” May muttered.

She had been the deputy. She padded through the sand, until she reached the Moon Hollow. She had to go through the suddenly forest-like area until she reached the Life Tree. As she trudged through, sadness swamped over her. She reached the tree, and touched her nose to it.

Chapter One || New Dawns

May padded into her camp. Cats gasped. “Where’s Cotton?” a brown she-cat came up to her and asked.

“Rue, Cotton died,” May sighed.

The she-cat yowled to the air, clearing her grief. A little tom came up to her. “How?”

“Badgers attacked her, Racer.”

Racer looked at Rue, who had teared up. “Did you get your lives yet?” asked Rue quietly.

“I did,” May replied.

Suddenly, a white tom with gray spots stormed up to her. “Did you even bring back Cotton’s body?” he demanded.

“I already buried it.”

The tom seemed to find peace at this fact, and settled down. May leaped onto the Highrock. “Cats of ForestClan, time for a meeting!”

All the cats gathered around the rock, looking expectantly up at May. “We have faced hard times, I know. And with that, brings the death of a leader.”

Cats were silent and solemn. One looked up at May. “Why did it have to be Cotton?” she whimpered.

“I don’t know why, Lavender,” May replied.

Lavender was one of Rue’s kits. “I wouldn’t have wanted it either,” May finished.

Lavender was silent, despite her being barely more than a kit. She looked like she already knew the dangers of the world. “Tonight, we will hold a vigil!” cried May.

Cats looked pleased that their former leader would get some form of honor. “Since she was already buried, we won’t have her physical form, but we will have her spiritual form.”

“She resides in StarClan now, with the great Leader!”

Cats cried out, repeating, “She resides in StarClan now, with the Great Leader!”

May knew Cotton was in good paws, and she couldn’t help but smile at the fact. She was safe, home, among all her lost family. “Clan dismissed.”

Cats walked to the center of camp, pretending like they were surrounding a body. They were silent and still as ever. A heavy sadness had fallen over the clearing. “We all honor Cotton,” May announced.

“She is safe now, never to be killed or harmed again.”

May thought about the Dark Forest battle, back from the original Clans. 

Chapter Two || Heavy

“I’m not a fool,” May hissed.

Racer was hissing, “We need to stock up on prey. We can all tell a huge storm is coming.”

May snarled, “You do what the leader tells you. I don’t like being ordered around by animals under me.”

Racer shook his head, and Rue begged, “We need to at least evacuate. There will be floods.”

“I’m not buying it,” May shrugged.

Rue and Racer turned around. They were deep in conversation, worrying their pretty little heads about nothing. “May?”

May turned around to see a spirit. “Cotton!”

She leaped back, surprised. “It’s good to see you and all, May, but this is important.”

May raised an eyebrow. “Don’t tell me you believe in all this storm stuff?”

Cotton snarled, “May, LISTEN TO ME. This is real.”

May rolled her eyes. “You’re all just believing something that is fake. They’re all bird-brained, if you ask me.”

Cotton hissed. Her eyes glowed with seriousness. “This is no joke. Evacuate now, or there will be grave and dire consequences.”

May swerved around as Cotton’s spirit dissolved. Rue and Racer seemed to be getting the Clan ready. “Every cat!”

All the heads turned to May. The gray-and-black tom looked at her. “This is not a joke.”

“Not a joke,” The Clan cats echoed.

May snarled, “Leave if you want, but you’ll soon find out nothing is wrong.”

She left them at that, and heard paws padding away. Cats were evacuating. May smelled the air. It was tense. “Could they be right?” she muttered.

“No,” she immediately answered herself.

Those mouse-brains, all ready to leave for nothing. May had a feeling deep in the pit of her stomach, though, that they were all right. Leaving. Maybe she was the rabbit-brain? She kept it hidden, though, and watched as the days passed by. Her Clan all eventually left, leaving only her. She was lonely. Only one other cat had stayed – Pine. “Pine?” May whispered.

The brown tom turned to look at her. “Yes?”

“Why are you staying?”

The tom looked shocked. “I’m loyal to my leader, not Rue and Racer.”

They snuggled closer together. Rain was drizzling, and May couldn’t help suddenly feeling they were all right. It soon enough came pelting down, where Pine meowed, “May, I’m sorry, but I seriously doubt staying right now.”

May confessed, “So do I.”

She usually didn’t confess, but she felt she could this time. She felt safe. The rain got worse, thunder and lightning striking a lot. “What if the lightning catches our den?” May asked in a very soft voice.

Chapter Three || It Gets Worse

The rain had been faster. Winds had been stronger. Things had been getting destroyed. May watched as yet another Twoleg monster flew by, ripped apart by the violent winds. “If they can kill Twoleg monsters, what can they do to us?” May muttered.

Her den was barely intact at this point, many spots in the roof had rain leaking into the den. Floods were surrounding the camp, so that nobody could escape. “Rue and Racer were right,” sighed May, “I was such a mouse-brain. I even ignored a sign from Cotton.”

Pine’s ears perked up, in despite of their situation. “Cotton visited you?”

May hissed. “Don’t we have more important things to worry about?”

“Right.”

Pine settled into his nest again, discouraged. May stood up. “We need to evacuate.”

Pine looked at her in shock. “Not in this weather!” he cried.

May flicked an ear. “I sound crazy, but, we may be able to swim.”

Pine hissed, “What kind of insane idea is this?”

May snarled, “Don’t call me insane!”

Pine didn’t say another word. More winds came flurrying by, uprooting a small shrub. It hurtled across the camp, and into the nursery. Luckily, no kits resided there right now. With a horrible creak, the den’s roof suddenly got ripped off. “That’s it!” shrieked May.

“I’m leaving!”

Before Pine could intervene, she ran out of the den. Rain pelted down on her, not particularly making her comfortable. She had to find Rue, Racer, and the others. Quickly. “May!” shrieked a voice.

Pine had followed her. “Don’t try to talk me out of this now,” she snarled.

Pine hissed. “I’m just coming with you.”

May whirled around and padded forward again. They walked on in silence, quietude. Pine slipped a couple of times, but nothing too bad. “Rue! Racer!” May called out over the wind.

Still, nothing. Wind lashed the trees, making the branches shake wildly in the wind. Suddenly, the wind drifted an all-too-familiar scent towards May. “Rue!” she cried.

She rushed towards it, not even making sure Pine was following. She spotted a den, and crashed through the sheltering brambles into it. Inside, stood Rue, Racer, and the rest of her Clan. “May!” Rue cried.

“Finally, she has some sense,” Racer teased.

Lavender tentatively licked the wet she-cat. Pine burst in not-too-long after May, and they huddled together for warmth. “What made you come?” asked Rue.

“Well, the roof to my den got ripped off,” replied May.

Rue looked shocked. “This is a bad storm!” 

Chapter Four || It All Comes Crashing

All the other cats were asleep. In a serene world, at peace in their own dreams and worlds. But her? She was awake, in this harsh storm. She couldn’t bear to take anyone out of their dream worlds, where this storm wasn’t killing them. May sighed.  “This can’t be right.”

No other cat even lifted a claw to answer her. May wanted to go back to sleep, oh so badly, but no. She had a duty to her Clanmates. Besides, all she would do was toss and turn. She suddenly heard a creaking sound. “What’s that?”

A hushed whisper in the back of the den. “The creaking, I heard it too,” May replied.

In all honesty, despite of the creak, she was glad to have someone awake. “Maybe someone’s roof is getting ripped off,” May replied.

But no. This creak was louder, more deafening. How could anyone escape it? She thought it could be heard for miles. May stood up. “I sense danger.”

The cat, Rue, replied. “I sense it too. If even your senses are going off, then something is horribly wrong.”

They decided to warn everyone. May shook at Lavender with her paws. “Huh?”

The kit sat up at her puny height warily. Oh, such a young age to be going through what might be a hurricane. “May? What is it?”

Her squeak was high-pitched. “Oh, we heard a creaking. We need to get out.”

Lavender didn’t need to be told twice. She raced out of the den, practically screaming. Rue was busy waking every cat up; what a great job she did. Cats were constantly jolting awake. Suddenly, a yowl, “A tree!”

May rushed outside, to see a giant tree toppling over. “Rue! Get out!” she screeched.

“I have to wake up Pine!”

Pine. The one cat who had stuck with May through all these days. It was actually days, but it felt like years. May wasn’t sure what was going on anymore. The tree came falling faster. “RUE! GET THE HECK OUT!” she screeched.

They rarely used the word heck, but this time, there was good reason to. Rue raced out, barely making it as the tree crashed. A faint crack could be heard, like the cracking of bones. May shuddered. “Is someone in there?”

Rue turned to her. “Pine was.”

May was horrified. What if it was another death? “Pine!” she cried out, hoping for a response.

None. May, horrified, tried to wriggle her way in. She finally managed to sneak beneath the tree, and saw a tiny brown body. “Pine?” she whispered.

Hopefully he was only unconscious. Hopefully. That was a vague hope, though, considering a tree had just fallen on the poor tom. She shook him faintly. Heat still pulsed from his body. “PINE!” she screamed in his ear.

The tom finally groggily woke up, tried to lift his head, but collapsed it again. “May?”

His whisper was faint, barely there. “Pine. I’m here. Are you okay?”

She was calmer now, because Pine was alive. “It hurts everywhere,” he moaned.

He collapsed back into unconsciousness. 

Chapter Five || Past the Point

May slowly carried Pine’s limp body outside. Rue rushed to her side. “Is he dead?” she asked urgently.

May remembered how Rue’s mate, Oak, had been tragically killed by the same accident. “No,” May replied gently.

Rue cracked a smile. “Oh, good. We don’t need another one dead from the same thing.”

Racer looked horrified, and slithered to Rue’s side. Lavender crouched, a small lump of slicked wet fur, beside her tall mother. Rue licked her kit, and Lavender smiled a bit. “Cats of ForestClan! We need our medicine cat, Daisy, to heal Pine!”

Daisy, a pale gray she-cat, rushed to the scene. She looked at Pine. “There is little hope for him, but I’ll try. May StarClan and the Great Leader help us.”

She slid Pine onto her back, and rushed to her den. The sweet scent of herbs wafted out, hopefully calming everybody a bit. “Pine will be okay!” cried May.

Honestly, she was trying to convince herself as much as she was trying to convince her Clan. “May?” the trembling of voice of one of Rue’s other kits, Time.

May turned around. “Time.”

Time shyly licked his paw, and drew it around his torn ear. Time was the oldest sibling, so he had already seen war. He was still young, though. The other sibling was Lily, the youngest. Time meowed, “This is urgent. I found another cat crushed by the tree.”

May stood in a shocked silence. “Really?”

Her paws trembled. “Who was it?”

Time looked regretful as he meowed, “It was…” his voice choked and faltered, “Sky.”

May was shocked. Sky had been the leader before Cotton, Thistle’s, helper. “Sky? After so long with us? Could her old bones take it?”

Time shook his head. “We’ll have to see. We might need to send in Lily.”

May felt herself about to collapse, her paws buckling beneath her. Sky was the oldest member in the Clan. “Send Lily.”

Time nodded, racing off to find his little sister. A pawstep behind May made her turn around, yet again. There Rue stood, and she hissed, “Sending Lily? What is this nonsense?”

Rue was disapproving, and always had to look out for her kits. May understood her concerns. “Well, Lily is the smallest, so she won’t disturb the tree to make it fall on her.”

Rue hissed, “And she is the runt. Is she realty safe, being sent in there where two other cats were almost killed? Maybe one even is dead!”

May felt torn. She didn’t know what to do. Rue had a point. “Ok,” she conceded, “I’ll send in Stobny.”

Rue nodded, looking a little more reassured. “Stobny?” May called.

The dark gray tom appeared. “Yes?”

“Instead of Lily, go in after Sky.”

He nodded. “I will.”

He raced off, and May finally had a moment to herself. She felt the wind flow through her fur. Though she knew something grim. They were past the point of no return.

Chapter Six || The Results

May’s jaw dropped when she saw Sky’s body. Eyes glazed, looking into the distance. The worst thing of all? Her wounds. Her leg stuck out at an awkward angle, and her neck… oh, it was bad. Her neck was snapped, contorted in ways it shouldn’t be. “Sky?” May could barely utter the whisper.

“I don’t know…” Stobny looked equally shocked.

The gruesome sight made May feel faint. “From now on, we need to protect ourselves more.”

She looked up at the sky, where the light was gradually appearing. The stars gradually fading. “This isn’t a good sign, no.”

May put her paws over her head, laying her body flat on the dust and debris. “This can’t be right.”

Something flashed before her eyes. A vision? Oh, she should have just stayed safe. This couldn’t be. “May?”

Cotton appeared. It was like the she-cat had never died, or been injured in her life. She had no scars crisscrossing her tail, none on her legs. No wound on her throat or her belly. “Cotton…” May whispered.

Cotton nuzzled May. “Oh, May, you’ve not been leader for long. You needed more experience….”

Her voice choked. “I have one last word of advice for you. Please be careful.”

She faded again. May couldn’t be careful, it wasn’t part of her. She just ended up messing everything up anyway. “May? Are you okay?”

Body heat, real body heat, pulsed beside her. It was Lily. “Lily… you didn’t need to see this,” May muttered.

“See what?”

“Sky.”

“I didn’t see her. Mommy said it was too violet and gross.”

May was relieved that this kit didn’t have to see that at such a young age. She would be exposed to it someday – just not today. It wasn’t the right day. “Lily, listen to me.”

May pulled the she-kit in closer. “Please be careful.”

“You’re not dying, are you?”

The words struck May’s heart like lightning. “No. We don’t need to lose another cat today.”

“But you’re horribly wounded.”

May snapped open her eyes. Lily was right. Blood pulsed from wounds. She felt stinging on her throat, and on her leg, too. She looked to the leg. It was stuck at an awkward angle. “Did I… Do something?”

May could barely hear her own voice. She was mesmerized. She heard a yowl of surprise from the healing den. “Sky! You’re wounds… they’re gone! You’re alive!”

“What…?”

May realized she had taken the wounds from Sky somehow, transferring them to herself. “Lily, did something happen?”

The small she-kit looked shocked. “Actually, uh, yes. You glowed for a second, than all these wounds appeared on you.”

“Why me?”

“Why you?”

Lily’s head tilted to the side. “You would rather sacrifice yourself, instead of Sky, right?”

May wanted to say ‘yes’, but her true answer was no. Why did StarClan – maybe even the Great Leader – give such a selfish cat these powers? Why did Cotton make such a selfish cat leader, even? What did everybody see in her? 

Chapter Seven || Power-Filled

“You know you have to train your powers.”

May had heard those words a million times it seemed. Sky looked at her expectantly. Wounds and scars still crisscrossed her body, but she was alive. That’s what mattered. “I know, I know, I just don’t want to.”

Sky rolled her eyes. “They chose the wrong one.”

May wanted to flop down in her nest and lay there forever. “Why do I have to learn this?” she groaned.

“I’m not a kit.”

“Well, you’re certainly acting like one with this attitude.”

May sighed, shuffling her paws. She silently admitted that she was acting like a kit, but she was never going to show her submission to Sky. “Sky?”

The older she-cat looked May in her drooping eyes. “Yes, dear?”

May bristled. She hated being called ‘dear’ – especially by a cat that wasn’t her mother. “First of all, don’t call me dear. Second, my powers aren’t that useful, right?”

Honestly, she was just looking for an excuse to get out of there. Sky snarled. “Not useful? They saved my life! You just need to train them so you don’t die.”

May sighed. “Okay, ramble on. Maybe I’ll listen.”

Apparently, that satisfied Sky because she started to continue her monologue. May wasn’t listening. The question that caught her attention was, “May, can you do that?”

“Uh – do what?”

Sky scowled. “You weren’t listening that whole time?”

May never wanted to admit to it, but going against herself, “Yes.”

Sky hissed. “THIS IS IMPORTANT, MAY! YOU BETTER TOM UP OR I SWEAR I’LL RIP YOUR THROAT OUT.”

The gruesome thought made May shudder. “I’ve seen enough snapped necks, thanks.”

Sky scoffed. “Yours looks like it’s been snapped.”

“Because I took your wounds. Be grateful.”

Sky rolled her eyes. “Don’t you understand? You’re power-filled. The Great Leader has chosen you – personally – to be one of the best.”

May didn’t care. Was something wrong with her?

Chapter Eight || Beneficial

May looked apathetically from her den. The rain was easing, and Sky sat beside her. “Miserable day, isn’t it?” May asked.

It wasn’t one of the most uplifting questions, but Sky replied, “Yeah.”

It looked like she was remembering something. Maybe Thistle, the leader even before Cotton. The elder had been alive for all of Cotton’s nine lives, and all of Thistle’s. Sky always talked about how devastated she was when Thistle died. May got up. “I’m hungry, I’m gonna hunt.”

Sky nodded absently. Now May could feel her frustration from before, when May hadn’t listened to Sky. She glared, and padded off. She saw something in the distance, like… a cat. As it got closer, May hissed. She could make out it’s pelt details, and it certainly wasn’t the ghost of Cotton or anything. “Who are you?” May snarled.

This brought cats to attention. They poked their tired heads out of the dens, afraid. They had just been hit by a hurricane, so they weren’t in the most stable of times right now. The cat purred, and looked apathetic that there were tons of cats snarling. “I’m Jasmineflower,” the cat finally meowed.

It was a she-cat – you could tell by the way she talked and her name. She went on, “ForestClan, I come from a different Clan. You never knew there were any more in the world, did you? Well, I come from HillClan. We want to offer an alliance.”

Before May could speak, she continued, “Since your Clan seems to be out of camp, this could offer great perks. We could help you rebuild to become the great Clan you once were.”

May considered this, did they need help? Rue darted up to her, and meowed, “This could be a trick, but it sounds like a good offering.”

May nodded, signaling that she heard. She had no deputy currently, so she needed most cats’ opinions. She leaped onto a high rock, any she could find in replacement for the Highrock. “All cats, gather around!”

She didn’t bother to call the formal words, this wasn’t formal. This was rushed. “Cats, it has been many days, and I have broken the warrior code, but I must pick a deputy.”

Cats didn’t seem to care. They just seemed thankful. “The new deputy… I believe this cat is wise, and makes many good decisions. They are the wisest deputy any cat could ask for.”

She looked to the stars. “I pick Rue, as my deputy. Rue, do you accept the role of deputy?”

Rue nodded solemnly. “I do.”

Lavender meowed to the sky, “RUE! RUE!” along with Time and Lily.

Rue smiled softly at her kits, and May looked at Jasmineflower. “But we must discuss another thing, an alliance possibility.”

Jasmineflower flashed a smile at her, and May continued, “Jasmineflower from HillClan has come to offer us an alliance. I want Rue to talk it over with Racer and Sky, two of our most trustworthy cats. Clan dismissed.”

May joined Rue, Racer, and Sky. “So, what should we do?” She sighed.

Rue looked thoughtful, and tilted her head to the side. “I think it could be a trick, but it seems legit. I’d see it’d be good.”

Racer nodded. “I agree.”

Sky meowed, “I’ve seen tricks like this before, but I agree.”

“It’s settled, then.”

Chapter Nine || Hills

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