"The marsh is colder than I expected tonight," said Patch as he dropped a rabbit in front of his two kits. "You should huddle together tonight."
White fluffed up her snowy fur. "You know I don't like sleeping next to Black!" she whined. "He stinks worse than puke left in the sun!"
"That's untrue and you know it!" snarled Black, baring his teeth. He pushed the rabbit away. "And now I've lost my appetite. You'll pay for this in the morning!"
Patch cuffed his son's ear. "You'll eat that rabbit, appetite or no appetite. I risked life and limb chasing it across the moor for you, and you ought to be grateful."
Black grumbled something. White purred in amusement. "I'll just make sure I get all the meat and he gets none."
"White!" Patch snapped. "We're rogues, but most important of all we're family. We have to do all we can to survive, including sharing what little food we have."
"Fine. I'll share with Black. But don't blame me if he doesn't end up eating any..."
Patch sighed. "You difficult little minx."
As she took a bite, White stared out at the dusk light gleaming on the waters of the marsh. This was how it had always been, the scarce food, the bickering, the scoldings. It brought them closer together. In the chaos of daily life, she found structure and peace, knowing it'll all turn out fine. The jibes would be forgiven, their bellies would always end up somewhat full, and Patch was always there to keep them safe.
"No! Heartless monster! Stay away from my children!"
White's eyelids snapped open. Outside the air was filled with her least favourite sound: the hisses and yowls of cats engaged in battle. Her heart froze as she realised Black had vanished from beside her.
"You are vermin!" snarled an unfamiliar voice. "For too long you've been stealing prey off clan land! We should have put an end to you long ago."
"Land belongs to nobody! All cats have the right to walk free!" argued Patch.
"Insolent rogue! Your words mean nothing to us."
White squeezed her eyes shut and pressed herself against the den wall, and tried to fill her head with her own voice to drown out the voices outside.
Soft paw steps entered the den. White's body froze.
"Young. Female. she's no threat to us."
"You say that, but you'll change your mind when she starts spawning litters, each one by a different father," said a cat outside.
The first cat laughed. "Yeah. I suppose we'll have to deal with it when it happens." And together they left.
Clan cats! screeched White inwardly. Patch... Black... What happened to them? They can't be.... I never heard them die...
Unable to see in the dark, sleep soon overcame her, and morning seemed to drive as soon as she shut her eyes.
"Excuse me?" asked a gentle voice. "Are you alright? Do you know what happened here?"
A white, friendly-looking face peered back at her. White stared at her with wide eyes.
"You seem to be in shock," the cat said. "My name is Merrytail. I'm from Riverclan."
A clan cat... of all cats to find me, a Clan cat found me!
A voice sounded from outside the den. "Reeks of rogue, but mixed with Windclan. I'll send a cat to ask one of their patrols what happened last night. It's time someone did something about these vermin."
"Rogues are cats like us, we shouldn't call our own kind 'vermin'", retorted Merrytail.
White's heart lifted. She's a friend to rogues! She's the best help I'm gonna get out here...
"I'm a rogue," White whispered. "Windclan attacked my father and brother. I'm not sure if they're dead or alive. Please, don't tell anyone!" she begged.
Merrytail gazed at her tenderly. "Your secret's safe with me, little one." She turned around. "This cat is a loner who stumbled across this den after the attack. She knows nothing about the rogues that were here."
The cat who was outside slunk in. His large brown body filled the den entrance. "Would Shellstar accept her?" he asked Merrytail in a low voice.
Merrytail dipped her head. "We're low on apprentices at the moment, and.loners are no enemies of Riverclan. He will accept her with an open heart." she turned back to White. "Come with us, little one. In Riverclan there's safety, fraternity and no shortage of prey.
Riverclan didn't attack my family, White reassured herself. With Riverclan I will be safe until I find out what happened to Patch and Black. She exhaled a deep breath and nodded. "I'll come with you."
Merrytail purred. "Fantastic. I'm sure everyone will be glad to meet you."
White crept outside. "But first," the large brown cat said, "Roll in that shallow pond. The clan won't take kindly to a newcomer with rogue scent on them, and it'll be unfair considering you're not a rogue."
White sighed. She remembered the time where Black had pushed her into a body of water in the marsh before jumping in himself. Patch has to rescue them both. Her throat swelled up with sadness, and she rolled around in the water and shook herself dry.
"Onwards!" cried Merrytail, and the two warriors escorted White to the Riverclan camp: an piece of land bordered by two streams with dens made of brambles and reeds. The camp was fairly busy. Merrytail bounded up to a silver tabby bathing on a smooth slab.
"Shellstar! We found a young loner on the marsh. She has no family and is too young to survive well on her own. She's apprentice age, and the apprentice den is pretty empty these days, so I thought..."
Shellstar stood up. "Let me have a look at her," he said in his deep and gruff voice. He padded towards White and studied her closely. "An athletic build, plenty of energy. It's worth a try." He returned to his slab and called out, "May all cats old enough to swim gather for a clan meeting!"
White gazed curiously at the assortment of cats that had gathered. They chattered among themselves.
"Young loner, come here," commanded Shellstar.
Obediently, White sat down next to Shellstar.
"We have a new addition to our clan. This young cat next to me looks like a fine future warrior, and we as Riverclan cats will be honoured to receive such a promising young cat with open hearts. Young one, from this day on you shall be known as Splashpaw. I know it is not a name you are used to, but it marks you as a member of the Clans. You shall get used to it as you get used to Clan life. Merrytail."
Merrytail straightened up.
"You found Splashpaw, I suppose?"
"Then I assume the two of you have already bonded. I entrust Splashpaw to you, Merrytail, and I can sleep peacefully knowing you will treat her with fairness and kindness." Shellstar nodded, and started a chant.
"Splashpaw! Splashpaw! Splashpaw!"
The rest of the cats joined in. Splashpaw purred in embarrassment. This is all so weird to me... and to think half a day ago I was a rogue and an outcast in the eyes of these cats!
It was a new kind of safety and routine, and as long as Splashpaw had that, she felt okay with the world.
"Good morning, Splashpaw!" a gentle voice called from outside the apprentices' den.
It had been a whole moon since Splashpaw had joined the clan. Since then she had gone to her first Gathering, gained an adequate amount of knowledge about Riverclan's territory, and learnt to swim, but she hadn't yet got the hang of fishing. Her only friend her age was Ferretpaw, a pale brown tabby with darker stripes. It was more like a one-sided friendship on her behalf, as Ferretpaw was raised in a 'traditional sense' according to Merrytail, and looked down upon all non-clan cats, current or former.
Splashpaw slowly blinked open her eyes. She spotted Merrytail's face peeping into the den. "It's so early..." she grumbled, and rolled onto her side.
"Early? It's almost sunhigh!"
A jolt ran through Splashpaw, and she scrambled to her feet. "I can't believe I slept to late into the day!"
"Neither can I." Merrytail led her to the camp's exit, where Ferretpaw and his mentor, Troutskip, stood waiting.
Troutskip bowed his head. "You're just in time. We returned from the morning hunting patrol five minutes ago."
Relief washed over Splashpaw. So they're not angry at me for sleeping in!
Ferretpaw squinted at Splashpaw. "A true warrior is punctual and up at sunrise to protect their clan. I'm not surprised a rogue doesn't have that key quality. This Clan really is going to the dogs."
Splashpaw's ears flattened, and she backed away.
"This isn't the time for chit-chat!" chirped Merrytail, glancing anxiously at Ferretpaw. "We're doing a double training session! Splashpaw's fishing skills aren't up to scratch-"
Ferretpaw spat on the ground.
Merrytail ignored him "-so I thought, we could all chip in to help her! The more support, the better, isn't that right?" She turned to Troutskip.
"As you can clearly see, not all of us here are supportive clanmates," he murmured in a low voice.
Worried, Merrytail turned back to face the two apprentices. "We'd better not waste any time!" and trotted away.
Splashpaw loped to catch up. "Why are you so nervous?" she asked. "I'm going to be fine! Everyone starts somewhere. I'm going to take a bit longer to become as good as you because I wasn't born here, that's all."
"I want you to fit in," said Merrytail. "There's been a rise in traditionalism in Riverclan... I'm worried of how people might treat you in the future." They arrived at a stream, and Merrytail sat down, watching the water.
Splashpaw unsheathed her claws and pretended to pounce on an enemy. "If anyone tries to make me feel ashamed for my birth, I'll rip their pelts off!"
"Typical rogue. Disturbing the fish and threatening violence." Ferretpaw joined them. "You should have been drow-"
Splashpaw launched herself into him, and they both toppled into the water. Ferretpaw thrashed about, yowling for help every time Splashpaw dunked his head underwater.
Sharp teeth caught Splashpaw's scruff and dragged her onto the bank. "What were you thinking?" exclaimed Merrytail. "You're only going to aggravate him more!"
"I stick to my word," Splashpaw bristled, and coughed up several mouthfuls of water. Behind her, Ferretpaw vomited and swayed.
Troutskip growled. "I'll take him back to camp. Shellstar will hear about this."
"Filthy rogue!" croaked Ferretpaw. "You don't belong here."
Splashpaw glared at him.
A new voice spoke up from the other side of the bank. "The scrawny little rat called us filthy. I reckon that was quite rude, don't you?"
Splashpaw whirled around. Her fur was soaked and her appearance was ragged, but that didn't matter.
On the opposite bank stood a large black tom. His short fur shined in the weak sunlight. Behind him was a jittery grey kitten.
"I wonder why a cat with a rogue's free and fighting spirit would choose to confine themselves within the rules and borders of a clan," the black tom continued in a smooth sombre voice.
Splashpaw stared at him. Words tumbled in her mouth, but she couldn't spit them out.
"Get out of our territory!" hissed Merrytail.
The black tom ignored her. "Although it's not surprising, considering what happened to Patch and his kits..."
Splashpaw froze. How does he know my father? Patch never let us near any other cats. She turned to Merrytail. Her mentors eyes were wide, and she was quivering.
"What do you mean, 'what happened to Patch'?" Merrytail squeaked.
The black tom gave a short purr. "Oh, I don't know what happened exactly... all I know is that Windclan has begun cracking down on rogues, and Riverclan is considering it. I head it down the grapevine..."
"Who told you?" Splashpaw asked.
"You wouldn't like my answer. I can tell by your faces. Besides, I suppose it's a sign that we parents should be more protective of our children." He picked up the grey kitten. "Besides, I wouldn't know what to do with myself if Isabella here got hurt. After all, she's a rogue like me and you." He bowed his head towards Splashpaw. "I wish you both happiness and peace." He padded away, silently.
The journey back to camp was awkward and silent. A tension hung in the air.
"Do you know who that was?" Splashpaw asked, as Merrytail absent-mindedly ushered her into the medicine den.
"No." Merrytail stared at the floor, focusing on nothing.
"Are you okay?" Splashpaw asked. "You're scaring me a little bit."
"I need to be alone with my thoughts." Merrytail walked stiffly out of the den.
Theories began brewing in Splashpaw's mind. Maybe she know the black tom. Yeah! And maybe Isabella the kitten is her kit... but why was she so worried at the mention of Patch's name? Patch knew nobody. He only talked to me and Black.
"Goodness me, you're soaked!" Cried Heatherthroat. The young heavy she-cat bustled around, sorting through herbs while her apprentice, Mothpaw, waited at the entrance.
"I fell in the river!" Splashpaw admitted glumly. It was a white lie, but the truth would be uncovered soon enough.
Heatherthroat huffed. "We all expected you to be bad at fishing, but not this bad!"
Splashpaw's heart sank. "What do you mean, 'expected'?"
Heatherthroat stopped in her tracks. "Well- You know-"
Splashpaw bared her teeth and hissed. "You're so transparent." She shook out her fur and marched out the den. "I'd rather get greencough than risk medical malpractice because of my blood!" she snarled. She turned away from the camp and found herself staring into Shellstar's angry blue eyes.
That night, Splashpaw paced around the camp. An all night's vigil covered in bile was the punishment Shellstar had assigned her for "nearly killing a clanmate".
Splashpaw scowled. "Ferretpaw could have died! you're misrepresenting the clan! Nyeh nyeh nyeh! I'm Shellstar! I'm so big-headed I almost drown each time I go swimming!" Splashpaw said in a shrill, mocking voice. She paused. That insult wasn't devastating enough. Her limbs felt heavy from the constant walking, and bouncing, and punching on pretend Ferretpaws.
She slumped onto the floor, feebly watching the half-moon. Her eyelids drooped, and then...
A strange paw combed through her fur. Splashpaw screamed and rolled away.
The strange cat laughed. "I got most of it off, but you still look like a mess."
"You think this is funny?" Splashpaw snarled, fur bristling. Why can't I ever look cool? Why must my first impressions always be so pathetic?
The cat's expression darkened. Splashpaw studied his face. A white head on an orange-and-brown tabby body. His pelt glittered with stars.
Splashpaw gasped. "You're a kittypet!"
The strange cat looked at her in shock and confusion, then burst into hoots of laughter. "N-No," he spluttered, and giggled again. "I'm-" and laughed madly again. "I'm from Starclan, where you go if you die. That is, if you believe we exist, of course. Call me Smallstripe. I used to be the medicine cat here."
Splashpaw stared at him, unimpressed. "Oh. That's much less exciting. Have you come to tell me off as well?"
"Quite the contrary. I wanted to talk to you about today's events."
Splashpaw tilted her head. "Go on."
"What did you feel when the strange cat mentioned your father?"
A screech filled the air. "How do you know that Patch is my father?"
Smallstripe licked his chest fur. "For a reason you will soon learn, I've been watching you from birth. Ferretpaw too. He's my nephew."
"Tell me the reason," demanded Splashpaw.
Smallstripe shook his head. "Answer my question first."
"Hmph. Well... I was scared. Patch never interacted with anyone except me and my brother. I never saw him since... since that night. Come to think of it, I never knew what happened to Black either."
"Do you think they're alive?"
"I..." Splashaw's eyes widened. "There's a chance!"
"I've been pondering that too, but I haven't checked. I don't want to waste time on a possibly futile task." Smallstripe looked at her apologetically.
"Then what makes this 'task' of visiting me not futile? Why have you been stalking me since birth?" Splashpaw challenged.
"Promise that you will not dismiss anything I say tonight as lies."
"Just tell me, starry cat."
Smallstripe sighed. "Starclan have always had the power to grant seven cats throughout all four lake clans the power to transform into forest predators. These powers are called 'Lovacs'."
"I don't see how any of this is relevant to me," Splashpaw muttered.
Smallstripe glared at her. "The powers are given to the chosen kit at birth and remain until they die, where the power will be returned to Starclan to be passed into another kit when they choose to. When a regular cat goes to Starclan, they will learn about these powers. I used to be a Lovac holder myself. I used to be able to turn into an owl, but that power is in another cat's paws now. And before you ask, I'm not allowed to tell."
"So what does this have to do with me?" Splashpaw looked at him expectantly.
"You're a Lovac holder, Splashpaw."
"I'm a what?"
"You have the power to turn into a viper by biting onto your tail."
Splashpaw stared at her long, thin tail. "But why me? I'm not a clan cat! I was born a rogue!"
"I chose you myself. You're a bridge between Riverclan and the rogues. You can stop this conflict."
"I can't it's too much. I'm already treated like an outsider. How can I change things here if I'm not welcome?" Splashpaw backed away from him. "I don't want this destiny!"
"Think of the abandoned rogue kits who will be taken into a clan and treated just like you! Think of your father and brother, and what happened to them. Have some empathy! Do you want any cat to go through what you're going through?" Smallstripe's voice had transformed into an angry snarl.
"I suppose... it's worth a try." Splashpaw nodded, though she was shaking. "How does this Lovac thing work, anyway?"
"Bite your tail," ordered Smallstripe.
Splashpaw gave him an odd look and bit her tail, and gave him an odder look when nothing happened.
"Harder, Splashpaw. You have to break the skin."
Splashpaw groaned and bit down harder. A strong wind enveloped her like a tornado, and she felt her bones being shrunk and compressed.
I am going to die. I am literally going to die.
She opened her eyes. Above her stood a gargantuan Smallstripe.
He's grown huge? Or am I smaller?
"You're a viper now, Splashpaw!" beamed Smallstripe. "Try move around a little. And be careful not to bite me with those fangs of yours!"
Splashpaw wriggled on the ground, annoyed at the lack of limbs. She soon got the hang of it, and slithered around Smallstripe's paws.
"It's not the most useful or versatile Lovac," Smallstripe said, "but it allows you to create a little distraction when transforming and slip into battle unnoticed, but make sure you don't get killed, trodden on or carried off my an owl!"
So what he's trying to say is, this power sucks and risky to use. Lame.
"Climb onto my back, and don't bite me!" Smallstripe crouched down, and Splashpaw slithered around his foreleg.
Together they flew through the night and landed at the Moonpool.
Where are we? Have I been scammed?
"Drink the water. It's not toxic, in fact it's blessed by Starclan."
Splashpaw reluctantly drank the water, and felt relief as she was restructured into her normal form.
"So can you tell me where we are?" she asked.
"The Moonpool. It's not far from the clans' territories. So, how was that?"
Splashpaw stamped her foot crossly. "It sucked and it's the lamest power I've ever heard of."
Smallstripe chuckled. "Your predecessor would say the opposite."
Above them the sky was growing lighter. "I should dash," said Smallstripe as he looked up. "You should too. Maybe we'll see each other again some night. Best of luck!"
He departed, and Splashpoppy was left panicking and alone in a strange place. The cats back home would have a lot of questions to ask about her lack of bile-covered fur, and she was not looking forward to answering them.
My second gathering! Splashpaw inhaled the sweet night air. She followed Merrytail across the tree bridge and bounded into the clearing. So many new faces!
She searched the throng. I see Aspenstar is here. He's always so scary... and there's Ashpaw from Shadowclan, he's always fun to talk to.
Aspenstar's bright yellow eyes gleamed from across the island. They burned into Splashpaw. He shouldered through a group of cats and snatched up Splashpaw by the scruff.
"Hey!" gasped Merrytail. "You can't steal my apprentice away like that!"
Splashpaw writhed, but it was no use. She was dropped at the paws of a smaller, trembling cat, with white fur just like her. Except this cat's fur was much longer.
"Riverclan's Splashpaw," Aspenstar grunted, and sat back.
He's so creepy. Splashpaw shivered. She turned towards the smaller cat. Her eyes were wide with fear, and she was hunched.
"You poor thing," Splashpaw murmured. "No need to be so scared! I’ll show you around. I take it this is your first gathering? It’s mine too. I’ve already been here for a while, so I have all the experience you need! I’ve talked to all the other clan leaders and most of the deputies.” Good. Be confident and maybe your confidence will spread to her. “Follow me, I’ll show you to my mate-to-be! Except he doesn’t know that.”
Since that failed training session by the stream, Splashpaw had resolved to making Ferretpaw's life as painful and embarrassing as possible. Splashpaw knew he was here, but she couldn't identify him among the hordes of cats. She flanked the smaller cat, and let out a surprised purr at the softness of her fur. As they walked on, the island seemed to become less crowded. Splashpaw marched on as confident as the most seasoned warrior, and the cat next to her did the same.
This is good! She's gaining confidence! Splashpaw felt oddly proud.
"Ferretpaw!" Splashpaw called out into the crowd. "Where are youuu?"
Ferretpaw padded out to greet them. He dipped his head courteously to both of them. "Hello there, Splashpaw, nice sky tonight. I see Starclan is happy. Who’s this?”
Splashpaw squinted. You're so obviously faking it. If we weren't in a gathering, you wouldn't even acknowledge me. If he can put on an act, so can I! She suddenly let out a peal of shrill laughter. "No need to be so formal, Ferretpaw! We’re just kids! Chill!"
She caught the beginning of a growl in Ferretpaw's throat. But he stopped himself, and let his eyes take on a hurt expression. "We do,” he replied, offended. “This is a gathering. We can’t make a fool of ourselves.”
From behind them, Aspenstar grunted in approval.
So he's still following us? Splashpaw cringed. That's so gross. What a loser. Splashpaw tilted her head from side to side, pondering Ferretpaw's statement. “I guess you’re right… I’ll just have to teach you how to have fun when we’re mates!” She loped off, turning back to the small white cat. “I’m waiting!”
Ferretpaw's mask slipped. “I-I’ll never be y-your mate!” He spluttered, angrily. “We’re exact opposites! From an objective point of view, we’re incompatible!” He let out a small ‘oof’ as the small cat barged past him.
Splashpaw then arrived at a grey she-cat with unusually wide eyes and a brown and white swirled tabby. “Duskpaw and Curlpaw from Thunderclan!” she announced proudly.
“What’s with her muzzle?” Curlpaw asked, disgusted.
The small white cat gingerly touched her abnormal muzzle. Splashpaw's eyes filled with hatred.
“What’s with your attitude, you got a stick up your hindquarters?” Splashpaw retorted. “Why do you care? Is this cat a threat to your childish illusion of everything being normal inside your bubble of a stone hollow? Grow up. Embrace individuality, you puddle of watery sheep dung!”
Curlpaw’s face was distorted in a mix of fury, abhorrence and confusion.
Splashpaw ushered the small cat away quickly. “Sorry about that, I just snap when someone insults a friend and then I go all explicit and ramble-y, and I don’t; really know what I’m saying,” she rabbited on. “Sorry for the ramble, by the way.”
“Thanks… friend,” the white cat said timidly.
Splashpaw purred. “You know, we should really go. Keep up with me this time! Oh, and Duskpaw’s great, she knows everything about hunting and prey. It’s her sister, the tabby, that’s the problem. Oh! I see the Shadowclan medicine cat! You’d like him.”
Splashpaw halted at an anxious cream tom. His head was swerving this way and that, his yellow eyes scanning the congregation of cats.
“H-have you seen my brother?” he asked. “He’s a tiny grey tom, it’s hard not to miss him.”
Bouncing up to him, Splashpaw stated, “Sandcreek, right? You’re the Shadowclan medicine cat!”
Sandcreek stepped back in alarm. “How do you know my name?” he quivered.
“I know everyone’s name,” Splashpaw breathed, her dark blue eyes widening creepily. Sandcreek yelped and leapt back.
"Who's your brother?" the small white cat asked.
“His name is Ashpaw. He’s quick, vicious, and ridiculously tiny. He looks more like a kit than a seasoned apprentice!”
“I’ll find him!” The white cat announced.
Splashpaw beamed at her friend's new surge of confidence. “I’ll come too!” Splashpaw stood flank-to-flank with her. “Ashpaw?” Splashpaw trilled.
A grey blur skidded under Aspenstar, who let out a growl and jumped. It barrelled into Sandcreek. “Bro!” it yelled. “Let me show you a new battle move! Mintstar taught me this one exclusively for me!” Ashpaw bounded up to his paws.
Sandcreek winced. “This is a truce, Ashpaw. That’s not allowed here. Maybe tomorrow.”
Ashpaw huffed and flexed his claws in the soft ground. “Mintstar would skin you alive if she found out!”
“Who’s Mintstar?” The small white cat whispered.
“Leader of Shadowclan. She has this weird fascist agenda with her apprentices: she trains them to be merciless killing machines or something. If you ask any Shadowclan cat about it here they’d ignore you. But… it’s a wonder what you can pick up from eavesdropping!” Splashpaw winked at her cheekily.
Ashpaw had already stormed off in a huff, and Sandcreek was apologising to them frantically.
“It’s ok, it’s ok… Ashpaw’s just grumpy today… not all Shadowclan cats are like this I swear! I mean, I’m nice…” he trailed off with nothing left to say, and dipped his head in shame.
For the first time, Splashpaw was awkward. She hustled the small cat away. “Uh… I guess that’s everyone.”
“The gathering should be starting now; it’s time you went to the stump of the tree," hissed Aspenstar
“Hey!” squealed Splashpaw, whirling around to face him. “I was just about to suggest playing hide and seek! Come back here, you good-for-nothing warrior! I bet your name is Sunglare or something!”
“That’s Aspenstar to you, little missy,” snarled Aspenstar over his back. “And you should be licking my spit off the ground where I walk!”
Splashpaw watched her friend as Aspenstar whisker her away to the tree. Their eyes met in a matched gaze of pain and sorrow.
"I didn't even ask for her name..." Splashpaw mewed sadly. She turned back and joined her clanmates, but drifted over to a group of Shadowclan warriors.
"Those rogues almost clawed my eyes out!" hissed one.
"I want nothing more than to rip their pelts off... We'll get them someday. Minststar will make sure of it," said another.
The first cat groaned loudly. "Ugh, why can't she deal with it already! Three skirmishes in the past moon, and each one resulted in bad injuries! We can't let this continue. I hate them all... especially that black feral one... Patch, wasn't it?"
The second cat snorted. "What a stupid name. Mothers really be naming their kits anything."
Splashpaw's heart soared. Patch! My father is still alive! She drummed her paws on the ground in a frenzy.
I need to find him. I need to let him know that I'm okay.
The day was oddly warm. Splashpaw took a deep breath and focused on the river.
I can NOT afford to mess up my warrior assessment. This is all or nothing!
A black shape flashed below. Splashpaw plunged her paw in, but ended up with only a wet empty paw.
Curses! I thought I had it...
She twisted her neck around and gave a strained look towards Merrytail. Merrytail gave an encouraging nod.