Leader: Rain (very dark gray tom with black stripes and green eyes)
Deputy: Skull (black tom with a white skull-like mask)
Moss (small brown tabby she-cat with green eyes)
Dark (gray she-cat with a darker forehead and golden eyes)
Blood (red tom with lighter patches and yellow eyes)
Claw (stormy gray she-cat with a white chest and green eyes)
Sparrow (brown striped tabby tom)
Flame (ginger tom)
Bee (striped golden tabby she-cat)
River (black she-cat)
Lark (orange tom)
Dawn (long-furred light brown she-cat)
Strike (white tom with russet paws and dark blue eyes)
Night (sleek black she-cat, Flame’s mate) mother of Feather (stone-gray she-cat with dark green eyes) and Pine (deep reddish brown tom)
Leader: Sun (yellow tabby tom)
Deputy: Wind (white she-cat with gray swirls)
Healer: Leaf (calico she-cat)
Fox (dark red tom with a white tail tip and dark green eyes)
Thunder (bright ginger tom)
Swift (blue-gray she-cat with amber eyes)
Birch (pale brown tabby tom)
Stone (white tom)
Ripple (young black she-cat with barely visible swirls)
Snow (pure white tom)
Hawk (light brown she-cat)
Sorrel (tortoiseshell she-cat with green eyes, Thunder’s mate)
Blade (dark silver she-cat with darker stripes, rogue)
Bramble (dark ginger tom, rogue)
Howl (black tom with blue eyes, rogue)
Shade (longhaired black she-cat with green eyes, rogue, Howl’s littermate)
“Strike, you are useless to us all,” Rain hissed. “You can’t hunt, or fight, or climb. You do nothing but sit and wait to grow old. Everyone else has at least one acceptable skill. Even Night’s two kits are learning basic battle skills. All you are is another mouth to feed.”
Strike’s blue eyes were wide with terror. He seemed to shrink back as Rain went on.
“Do not fear, I will not kill you. I only have need of what lies inside you. Blood.” Rain circled around his victim. But I would kill him, Rain thought. He knew this, but wanted to fool Strike into a sense of security.
The truth would be revealed to everyone soon.
Suddenly, Rain pounced. He landed on Strike’s back, and sank his claws in. Strike couldn’t move. Not that he was ever strong enough to fend for himself, Rain thought.
Strike seemed to come to his senses. “Rain, forgive me! Let me go! I promise to be a better—”
But Strike’s terrorized wails we’re cut off. He was dead.
Rain stood and glanced down at Strike’s body. One less weak cat in the group.
Chapter One (Claw)
Rain killed Strike last night. For being a weak cat.
I didn’t think that he was weak, but I didn’t want to object to Rain, or he’d kill me. If any cat challenges him, Rain kills them. He makes it a show, in front of every cat. And any healthy kit over three moons old had to watch too. That part was cruel, but it was necessary.
Every kit gets assigned a trainer to teach them how to hunt and fight. Everything they need to survive. Once their trainer approves, and Rain assesses them, they become a rogue warrior. I’ve never had a trainee before, but Rain says I’ll be ready soon. Night’s kits are almost five moons old. That’s the age that a kit becomes a trainee. And I hope that I get one of them as my own.
If it’s not me, it’ll be Moss, Dark, or Blood. They’ve been warriors for moons and moons now. But I have a chance still. Anyway, let me tell you about our Clan’s cats.
Rain is leader, of course. Skull is the deputy, and is just as bad as Rain. All of the warriors are kind of the same. They’re divided into two groups. The guards, who protect the borders, and the battle-planners, who devise the attack plans.
When a cat dies, Rain just scrapes some earth over their body. We have no healers, so a sick or injured cat is exiled, or killed. Mainly just quickly killed off. Basically, if you’re not completely healthy and ready for a fight, you’re gone.
If a she-cat decides to have kits, she can. But the kits will have to be good warriors, or else they and their mother will be exiled.
But anyway, Rain is a terrible leader. He kills for no reason at all. He leads us into pointless battles, takes lots of prisoners, and slaughters them. Rain has not a care in the world for sympathy or love.
Chapter Two (Ripple)
Digging up the mouse that I had caught earlier, I tasted the air. No fresh prey around here. But the oak grove always had a lot of squirrels. I would head there next as quickly as possible.
Suddenly, I heard a rustle, and saw a flash of bluish fur. Swift had found me. She was the fastest runner in the Clan, and so could deliver a message very quickly.
“You’ve got to head back to camp now!” Swift hissed. There was worry in her tone. Had Rain’s Clan ambushed us? “I’ll take the mouse! Just go!”
I run back to camp, where Sun and Birch are arguing. What is going on?
“You’re a terrible leader,” Birch is growling at his leader. “Lately, Wind has been taking charge. She makes all the decisions now. She’s a better leader than you could ever be. You’re a coward and a fool. You lead us into battles, and then retreat as soon as you get near Rain. A newborn kit would have more sense and bravery. Either let Wind take over, or die.”
Sun looked quite offended. “You don’t tell me how I lead my Clan. Any cat not involved in this can go hunting, or back to their den.”
I had no choice but to head back. Swift was in the nest beside me. She had the mouse at her paws.
“Do you want to share this?” she asked. “Sure,” I replied. In the Clan, every cat eats when they want to. If a cat wants prey, they catch it themself. And any cat can share if they want.
From outside, I hear Sun. He isn’t exactly being quiet, and every cat wants to know what is going on. They are all listening, I’m sure of it. But nothing prepares me for what Birch says next:
“You know that Sorrel had her kit—Storm— yesterday? A single kit. He’s bright white, with red raindrop-like marks covering his pelt. The sign of revenge. Blood rain.”
Chapter Three (Claw)
“All cats old enough to kill their enemies gather beneath the Boulder for a Clan meeting,” Rain called.
“We have two trainees to make today. Feather and Pine. Sparrow, you will train Pine until he is old enough to survive on his own. Claw, you will do the same for Feather.” With that, Rain jumped off the Boulder.
Finally, I’ve gotten my first trainee! I can already tell that Feather will be a great hunter. She’s quick and has a good sense of perception. And possibly a good fighter...
Feather turned to me. “How did I do?” I hesitate. “You’re pretty good, for such a young cat. Don’t worry if you aren’t a good hunter. Rain will let you fight if he knows you’re good.” And she was. Feather was a very good fighter. She always caught me unaware with a blow. “There’s a shrew over there,” I whispered to her.
Feather started stalking it, then pounced. She had caught it! “Nice,” I told her. “You‘re really good, if you try.”
I knew that this was true. Feather would only become a better warrior.
A warrior to hunt or fight for Rain.
Chapter Four (Sun)
The sign of revenge on that kit’s back. No wonder Sorrel named him Storm.
Moons ago, there was a cat from Rain’s Clan named Storm. He was a pure white cat with fiery golden eyes. Eventually, Storm became leader. He killed many cats, but the most noted kill was the murder of Tiger. Tiger was the last living cat from my Clan, and Storm killed him. He then, by chance, had a raindrop-shaped patch of blood on his paw.
My Clan rebuilt over time, as several of its cats had fled. They restarted the Clan, and life has since blossomed. But the sign of blood rain has been one of revenge. And that is why Sorrel named her kit Storm. After a legendary warrior.
But Birch is still speaking. “Storm is a traitor,” he continued. “He will kill us all someday.”
If I killed Birch, then he would possibly be proved correct. For if he was dead, then Storm might be evil with no one to speak against him. Birch alone spoke up, and so if he was killed, all proof would be lost.
But I had an idea.
“Birch, you are now exiled from our Clan. If you are seen on our territory, we will treat you as our enemy. Any cat has permission to kill you if they see you. Go.”
Birch turned and left. He wouldn’t die. But he would never look to our Clan for help again.
Chapter Five (Birch)
Sun has exiled me. At least I now know that he’s strong enough to exile a cat who’s brave enough to challenge him. But I won’t beg for help. I won’t live my life alone.
I will ask Rain if I can join him. He’s a strong leader, who respects the challengers. Not like Sun, who’s wimpy enough to kick them out. Doesn’t want to give them a second chance.
Soon enough, I come to Rain’s camp. As I expected, a cat runs up to me. The tom is giant, and I have no chance of defeating him.
“Rain? There’s an intruder here!”
The leader is at the brown tabby’s side in an instant. “Who are you and why are you here?”
“I am Birch. I was originally from Sun’s Clan, but he kicked me out. I wanted to join you to get revenge on that fox-heart. The wimps who left me to die. They never suspected that I would come here, and when they see me, they’ll retreat.”
“Very well. I can see that you want to surprise Sun’s Clan as much as possible. I am letting you stay, but if you are disloyal, you will pay.”
“Birch, do you wish to be a guard, or a battle-planner? Guards protect the borders and bring any trespassers to me. Battle-planners plan out the attacks. Everyone fights, and if they die, they are loyal.”
“Rain, I would like to be a battle-planner.”
“Very well. You will join Dark, River, Bee, Dawn, and Flame over on the other side of camp.”
Five cats sit by a pine tree, deep in conversation. One of them, a golden-striped she-cat, turns her head to me.
“Who are you? Why are you here? State your purpose!”
“I am Birch. Rain interrogated me, and he asked me if I wanted to become a battle-planner, or a guard. I chose to be a battle-planner. I came here of my own free will.”
“Okay, I get the point! We were just developing an ambush on Sun’s Clan.”
“How about half of us ambush them, and the other half stay and fight the ones who come here?” a gray she-cat with a darker gray head speaks up.
“Yes! But how do we distract the guards?” I put in.
“Good point. How about one of us scratches them to cause a diversion, and then we attack them?”
I have been accepted into the Clan. My life has forever changed.
Chapter Six (Ripple)
“Rain’s Clan is attacking! Fight!” Wind’s call alerts me. A battle? Right now?
Sure enough, I see about eight cats charging towards our camp. Why not more? Is this some sort of a plan?
I see Swift has taken down a small tabby, and Snow is fighting a massive ginger-patched tom. No cat has died yet, but this is only the beginning.
Rain is fighting Sun, but not having much success. Oddly enough, their eyes look hauntingly similar... the same color and shape. But other than that, the two cats are polar opposites.
Suddenly, an orange tabby is attacking me. I claw back, not seeing where the blows hit. Then, I see him collapse off of me. He doesn’t get up after that. Just lies there, without the strength to keep fighting.
Then I see a brown-striped tabby cat hauling the orange one away. And that’s when it hits me.
This cat was my first kill. I killed a cat whose name I didn’t even know. Who I hadn't ever even heard of before.
I wonder if anyone would figure it out. Or if the tabby’s death remained a secret.
Chapter Seven (Claw)
“I have good news, and bad news,” Rain announced.
“Firstly, the bad news. Both Lark and Moss were killed in the battle, and we mourn them greatly. However, there is now more prey to go around....”
“And more battles to avenge their deaths!” Skull pointed out.
“Silence, Skull. Now for the good news. One of our warriors, Dawn, is expecting kits.”
“Whose are they?” Flame asks the leader.
“Mine,” Rain answers. “If I die, then I need someone to take on the leadership of this Clan.”
“But that basically ruins my whole purpose!” Skull objected.
“Until Dawn’s kits are born, you will remain as deputy. But after that, you will become a guard. It was your rank before deputy, and will be after. Until you die, of course.”
Although every cat knows that it’s wrong to challenge Rain, I can’t help feeling that Skull is right. Being forced to step down from the deputy position is not something that most cats would willingly do. Especially a power-hungry cat, or a cat who wants to honor another. It’s just not something that you’d do, unless you had to, or really wanted to.
And I have Feather. The young cat has impressed me with her skills, and will probably become a warrior in a moon or so. Her fighting skills are extraordinary. And if she died... Rain wouldn’t trust me at all. Night and Flame would be devastated, and Rain wouldn’t give me a second apprentice. Not even if every other cat had one.
Chapter Eight (Swift)
I pass the Burnt Pine. The black tree has existed for as long as any cat can remember, and has looked the same for generations. But something is caught on it, something that isn’t natural.
It’s a tuft of cat fur. The fur was dark, so it blended into the burnt wood well. But it was definitely a cat, and not one from the Clan.
Suddenly, I see four shapes. They’re rogues, and something tells me that they won’t leave me alone.
One of them, a dark ginger tom, steps forward.
One of the others, a black she-cat, stops him.
“No, Bramble! This cat might be here for a reason!”
“Okay, Shade. You don’t have to get so mad at me about it!”
“Yeah, I am here for a reason. This is my Clan’s territory, and you’d better leave. Or else I’ll have to report you.”
A dark silver she-cat with darker stripes steps up. “Let’s go,” she tells her companions. “What’s the worst that could happen?”
I lead the four cats back to camp. Sun is waiting for me, and he looks very suspicious about the new cats in the camp.
“Who are you and what are you doing here?”
“I’m Howl,” the black tom tells him. “The silver tabby is Blade, the russet tom is Bramble, and the black she-cat is Shade, my littermate. We have heard tales of Rain’s Clan, and know that they are very cruel. We ask to stay here, in the hopes that you let us fight.”
“Very well,” Sun tells them. “You may stay. But if you are disloyal, we will exile you.”
“Thank you,” Blade thanks Sun. “We are in your debt, and will fight to the death for your Clan.”
If she really meant it, she wouldn’t have to wait long. Sun and his Clan were planning a big battle. And some cats would certainly meet their deaths.
Chapter Nine (River)
A battle is coming. We all know it, even without speaking. Skull is desperate for this fight, as he deeply wishes to prove himself.
Just over two moons have passed since Rain announced that Skull was going to have to step down from his position of deputy. Dawn is getting very close to having her kits. Skull is getting very close to stepping down.
We all know that however hard Skull fights, he’ll still have to eventually be replaced by one of Rain’s kits. And Rain doesn’t intend for Dawn to fight. He knows that she’ll be weakened by her kits, and if she died, then the whole thing would fail.
Feather and Pine were made warriors a half moon ago. That means that they’ll just be able to have a say in the battle plans (both became battle-planners, like I am) and (if they survive) will be able to train cats and have their own kits. Maybe even become deputy or leader...
“Oh, hi,” a voice calls out. I turn, and see a stone-gray pelt. “Do you want to plan the next attack phase together? I was working on it with the others, and then Dark asked where you were, and I came to find you. Let’s head back.”
Feather and I head back to camp together, where the battle-planners are gathered. They’re deep in conversation, which means that they have a good plan going.
“There you are! I thought you had gotten caught by some hungry animal by now!” Bee’s voice carries across the clearing. She’s a very impatient cat who doesn’t put up with nonsense.
“What about the attack plan?” I cut across.
“Oh, yes, that’s coming along fine,” Bee informs me. “You didn’t miss much, just the talk about how to directly enter the camp without the guards noticing.”
“What if we sent one or two cats out to one side of the territory, so the guards are distracted, and then send a couple more to the opposite side? Then we send in the main patrol, and then we meet at the camp. Birch has informed us about its location.”
“What if one of the first two patrols is caught?” Dark asks.
“We hope that no one dies,” Bee replies. Suddenly, a loud call echoes from the “nursery.”
“Dawn has had her kits!”
Chapter Ten (Dawn)
The three kits lay before me. The biggest, a tom, is dark brown with a black-striped tail. The other tom is black, with a light gray underbelly. And the she-kit is pale gray with dark gray stripes. In seconds, Rain is in the den.
“What do you want to name them? You haven’t already, have you?”
“No, I haven’t named any of them yet. But I want to call the she-kit Creek.”
“Creek it is. The brown tom is Branch, and the black-and-gray tom is Slate.”