Quillpaw's muscles burned, but she wouldn't stop. Not if her life depended on it.
"Aha!" a tom's voice shouted. Quillpaw felt a huge weight on her side and she tumbled into the bushes, staring up into the playful green eyes of Shadepaw.
Quillpaw relaxed, but let out a fake growl, "Get off!"
Shadepaw got off quickly and crowed, "I'm too cunning for you!"
"But I am too fast for you!" she teased.
"We'd make a great pair," he meowed. Then, he turned red and dipped his head, "I-in battle I mean."
Quillpaw laughed shaking the dust from her light brown fur, "I know what you mean, Shadepaw. We would be unstoppable in battle!"
Shadepaw shifted uncomfortably on his paws.
"Well, I guess we should hunt," Quillpaw meowed, "How about a competition?"
Shadepaw's eyes lit up, "Yeah!"
"Ok, It's almost sunset, so whoever catches the most prey by sundown will win."
"Sounds great!" Shadepaw meowed.
"Go!" Quillpaw yowled.
Quillpaw and Shadepaw darted off in opposite directions. Quillpaw crashed through the bushes and scented the air. She could smell a vole. She looked around and saw it scrabbling around by some tree roots. She crept up to it, staying low and making sure not to rattle the leaves. She caught it and killed it quickly.
"Hello, Quillpaw," a deadly, almost silent hiss echoed through the clearing. She thought her ears were tricking her so she gave them a good flick and moved on.
By sundown she had caught enough prey to feed the whole Clan twice a day for three days. She was quite proud and she hauled the load back to the clearing where she and Shadepaw first separated.
"There you are!" Shadepaw meowed, "You caught all that? Well done!"
Quillpaw dropped her first load and called, "I have loads more. I'll be right back." She padded back into the direction she had come from to where she had piled the rest of her prey which seemed like it would take moons to bring back.
I should have asked Shadepaw for help, she thought.
Then, she felt a cold, tingly feeling.
"Hello, Quillpaw," the hiss came again.
Quillpaw froze. Her green eyes were wide and she turned around before calling, "Who's there?"
"Why must you know that, dearest?" the voice asked smoothly.
Quillpaw got scared. Here she was with lots of prey halfway across the territory from Shadepaw and a hissing voice that seemed to know her.
The voice chuckled sinisterly and she slowly scanned the clearing.
She felt it before she sensed it and she was knocked sideways against a tree.
She landed, winded and unable to call for help because a huge weight fell on her and knocked her yowl out of her lungs.
Quillpaw writhed under the weight and managed to flip herself over to stare into the face of...
But the weight was still there, all the same.
She felt a slash on her cheeck and blood started flowing into her eyes. The deep, evil laugh sounded again.
"See you there!" the voice hissed.
And it could have been the blood in her eyes and her half-concious state, but she though she saw a dark, transparent shadow with glowing red eyes vanish into the night.
Voices seemed to be speaking in slow motion to Quillpaw. She blinked open her eyes to see blurry shapes dancing slowly across her vision. Then her hearing and vsion sharpened.
"Quillpaw!" Shadepaw cried, nuzzling her, "You're alive!"
She felt a stinging in her cheek and winced, "Ow! What is this?"
"You have a big cut on your cheek," Shadepaw informed her.
"I'm the medicine cat, Shadepaw," Tinynose meowed, "And I say, let Quillpaw rest."
Shadepaw scowled, "Fine..." He trudged out of the den.
"Now that you're awake, Quillpaw, can you tell me what happened the other night?" Tinynose asked.
"How long have I been out?"
Quillpaw's eyes widened.
"So can you tell me what happened?" Tinynose asked.
"I can try..." Quillpaw stammered.
Tinynose sat down and wrapped her tail around her paws, waiting.
Quillpaw racked her brain and she began, "Ok, so... Shadepaw and I were having a hunting contest and I went off into the woods. Then, I heard this hiss and it said, 'Hello, Quillpaw.' Then, later when I went back to collect my prey, I heard it again and I talked to it. He didn't tell me who he was, but then I was knocked against a tree and slashed across the cheek. The voice called me 'dearest', then he said, 'See you there', then I saw a black shadow with red eyes, but that could be a half-dead hallucination."
"Interesting..." Tinynose murmured.
Quillpaw shivered at the memory and licked her paw nervously.
Tinynose stepped out of the den and Shadepaw poked his head in minutes later and hissed, "Psst! Quillpaw!"
"What, Shadepaw?" Quillpaw asked, turning over in her nest to face him.
"We're getting our warrior names!"
She padded out of the den, limping on her injured leg. She looked at the ground beside her and saw the strangest thing: her shadow wasn't limping at all! And the shadow had those red eyes she thought she had imagined.
She caught her breath and kept walking, up onto the Highledge where she sat with Shadepaw. The red eyes were still there.
She nudged Shadepaw and whispered, "Is there anything strange about my shadow?"
"No!" he whispered, "Why?"
Her pelt grew hot, "I thought it looked a little lopsided."
"Shadepaw, Quillpaw, do you promise to uphold the warrior code and protect ThunderClan at the cost of your life if necessary?" Ashstar asked.
"I do," the two apprentices meowed in unision.
"Then by the powers of StarClan, I now give you your warrior names. Shadepaw will now be known as Shadewater. StarClan honors his courage and skill and we welcome him as a full member of ThunderClan. Quillpaw will now be known as Quillfeather. StarClan honors her bravery and loyalty and we welcome her as a full member of ThunderClan."
"Shadewater! Quillfeather! Shadewater! Quillfeather!"
Shadewater and Quillfeather gave Ashstar's shoulder a respectful lick, then settled at the entrance to the camp to sit vigil.
Quillfeather's pelt grew warm as if something were staring at her in the moonlight, but she turned to see it was only Shadewater.
Then in the forest, she saw two red eyes peering out.
Her fur prickled and she considered raising the alarm, but she decided against it, because if she did, there would be nobody there and she would look like a complete fool. Besides, she was the only one that saw the red eyes, so the speck of proof that was clearly visible to her, would not be to everyone else.
Who is this cat? What does he want with me?
Quillfeather padded through the forest, everything clipping along at fast pace. ThunderClan were on their way to battle ShadowClan.
"ThunderClan, attack!" Ashstar yowled.
The ShadowClan camp burst into a flurry of fur and claws.
She fought off two attackers with Shadewater until she saw another batling cat.
Her blood ran cold, it was the shadow. Now she really felt like she was in danger. Ever since that day as an apprentice, when the shadow had first showed itself, only a few days ago, she had seen the shadow or the eyes at least three times, if not mote, everyday.
The shadow bowled her over and she yowled. Everyone turned to stare at her, but they saw nothing, just an injured Quillfeather, lying on the ground convulsing.
Shadewater high-tailed over, "Quillfeather! Quillfeather! What's happening?"
The shadow gave a raspy laugh and stared her straight in the face.
The shadow sank his teeth into her throat.
"She's being injured by nothing! What's happening?" Ashstar yowled.
The shadow let up and stalked off, unseen to anyone.
"Quillfeather!!!" Shadewater yowled.
Quillfeather felt warm, sticky blood flowing from her throat.
"Get her to camp!" he former mentor, Stickfur ordered.
Again, Quillfeather submitted to blackness.
Quillfeather woke up in the medicine cat den, with cobwebs strung around her throat and neck. Shadewater was there, as he was all the time.
"Quillfeather, you.." Shadewater broke off.
Quillfeather gazed up at him.
"You keep getting hurt... and... and I don't want you to die... without letting me say that I love you."
Quillfeather summoned a distorted purr before she noticed eyes staring through the roof of the den.
Who are you? she shouted at the shadow in her head.
Why, my love, I am Toadpaw. The tom that loved you and died to defend you.
Why are you doing this, Toadpaw?
Because Quillfeather, I want you to be with me! And by killing you, you finally can!
She felt a horrible pain in her neck and she realized that her throat had been cut open even more. She felt dizzy. The world was a swirl of black and red.
No! I will never be with you!
More pain than she could ever imagined filled her and she felt thick blood all over her pelt.
"Quillfeather!" Shadewater wailed.
"Shadewater!" she gasped with all the strength she had left. She felt a slash to her tail.
Shadewater bent by her side.
A slash to her paw.
A slash to her flank.
A slash to her belly.
A slash to the head.
And with her dying breath she whispered her own name.