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RATS9

"That's impossible."

"It's not real, there's no way."

"But one of us is dead!"

"I don't care!"

Allegiances

The Blurb

For Skypaw, everything was going right. She was an apprentice with a cool mentor, she was training with her friends, and nothing bad was happening. The Clans were at peace, and all was well. But things don’t stay the same for long, when she finds herself over her head in trouble.

Shypaw wasn’t content with just being an apprentice. She wanted to be the best warrior there ever was. But the mysterious prophecy looming over MarshClan is causing things to go in a direction she didn’t want.

All Wildpaw really wanted was a chance to get out of his shell. With an outgoing mentor, he thought he could finally stop being shy. Unfortunately for him, he finds himself caught up in a problem that could destroy everything he’s ever loved.

If you described Fallenpaw in one word, it would not be optimist. She had always looked down on the world, and now she has to pay the price. When everything she knows begins fading away, Fallenpaw finds herself in deep, deep waters.

Prologue

Ivywhisker hissed quietly. She was so tired, and the ground beneath her paws was boggy. In desperation, she lay down, and hoped for some good luck.

She’d been walking for hours, and she was hopelessly lost. Everywhere she went, she found more twists and turns than she’d ever seen before in her life.

“H-hey! Are you okay?”

A meow took her from her thoughts, and she looked up. A brown tom was pelting towards her, and Ivywhisker let out a sigh of relief.

She slowly got to her paws, and the tom approached her.

“Are you lost?” He mewed, “It’s a pretty big place.”

Ivywhisker nodded, “I’ve been walking for ages, but I still can’t get back to the clearing.”

The tom mewed, “Everything shifts around so rapidly, especially in the dark.”

“Can you help me get back?” Ivywhisker mewed, “I’d be ever so grateful.”

“Of course.” He mewed, “I’m Cedarfang, by the way.”

“Ivywhisker.”

Ivywhisker followed Cedarfang in silence. Occasionally, he would speak about landmarks, but it was so dark, that Ivywhisker couldn’t see a thing. She just wanted to get back to the clearing.

The way Cedarfang took her was so convoluted, that she wondered if he was taking her in circles.

Does he even know where the clearing is?

After what felt like forever, Cedarfang finally stopped in front of a path, “The clearing is down at the end of the path.”

Ivywhisker mewed, “Why can’t you come with me?”

Cedarfang hissed, “I must be going. Besides, if your kind sees me, they’ll have my hide.”

Ivywhisker blinked, “My kind? What are you talking about?”

Cedarfang looked away, not wanting to meet her eyes, “I’ll tell you some other time, if we ever meet again.”

“No, tell me!” Ivywhisker demanded, “What has anyone done to you?”

Cedarfang mewed, “Goodbye, Ivywhisker!” With that, he raced away into the darkness.

Ivywhisker sighed, “What a strange tom.”

She turned towards the path, and followed it to the end. Cedarfang had been true to his word, because the clearing was at the end. The big rock in the centre made her comfortable.

Snowstripe caught her eye from across the clearing, “Ah, there you are. What took you so long?”

Ivywhisker mewed, “I got lost. But I found my way back in the end.”

Snowstripe purred, “Well, we wouldn’t want to lose such a valuable cat.”

Ivywhisker rolled her eyes, “Don’t flirt with me, princess.”

Snowstripe mewed, “Fine, fine. Do you want me to tell Beetlestar that you’re back? He’s been worried about you.”

Ivywhisker nodded, “Yes, thank you.”

The white she-cat dipped her head, and then disappeared behind the large rock.

A chill ran through Ivywhisker’s fur, and after a moment of hesitation, followed Snowstripe in secret. After walking a slight bit, Ivywhisker could hear Snowstripe speaking.

“Yes, Ivywhisker has finally returned.” Snowstripe mewed.

Beetlestar hissed, “Where has she been?”

Snowstripe replied, “She claims that she was lost. I’m inclined to believe her. It is a big forest.”

Beetlestar mewed, “Don’t let your love blind you. How did she get back, if she was lost? She must have had help.”

Snowstripe admitted, “I did hear her talking to someone. It might have been Owlclaw.”

“Impossible. Owlclaw has been in all day.” Beetlestar mewed.

“Then who-“

Beetlestar growled, “It must have been one of them.”

Snowstripe gasped.

Beetlestar mewed, “I can’t believe this treachery. She must be killed, do you understand?”

Snowstripe mewed, “But she’s-“

“I said she must be killed!” Beetlestar yowled.

Ivywhisker’s breath caught in her throat.

Snowstripe mewed, “I… I understand.”

Beetlestar mewed, “Then go.”

Ivywhisker froze in place. She tried to run, but her legs wouldn’t move.

Snowstripe appeared in front of her, “Ah, so you heard.”

Ivywhisker whispered, “You don’t have to do this.”

Snowstripe mewed, “Yes I do.”

She raked her claws across Ivywhisker’s throat, and the silver she-cat fell to the ground.

Snowstripe whispered, “Despair will rule following the hero’s last breath, the world lost to worse than death.”


Chapter One: Skypaw - Exploration

The sound of cheers overwhelmed Skypaw. When Maplestar’s voice broke through, she looked back up at her leader.

“My congratulations to these four apprentices. May StarClan guide you well.”

Fallenpaw nudged Skypaw, “Hey, perk up! We did it.”

Skypaw purred, “I know. I guess I’m just a bit nervous, y’know?”

Fallenpaw nodded, “Whatever. You were so excited this morning, I thought you were going to keel over and die.”

Skypaw mewed, “I’m still excited! I mean, Foxwhisker’s my mentor. He’s really cool.”

Fallenpaw snorted, “I can’t believe I got Feathershine. She seems to think she’s still an apprentice.”

Skypaw mewed, “I’m sure she’ll be good to you.”

“Did you hear her squeal?” Fallenpaw mewed, “She sounded like a kit.”

“Don’t be so mean!” Skypaw retorted.

Shypaw broke into their conversation, “Hey, why are we arguing? Why would you start that without me?”

Wildpaw nudged his sister, “Don’t burst in on their argument.”

Skypaw mewed, “We’re not arguing. Fallenpaw’s just a stick in the mud.”

Fallenpaw rolled her eyes, “Is it bad that I wanted a warrior who knows what they’re doing?”

Skypaw cuffed her sister over the ears, “Shut up!”

“D-Don’t fight!” Wildpaw mewed, “It’s our first day! I mean…”

Shypaw snorted, “Oh, would you live up to your name already?”

“Why don’t you live up to yours?” Wildpaw shot back. Then he widened his eyes, “Wait, I’m sorry…”

Shypaw purred, “Lighten up.”

“Ahem.”

All four of the apprentices whipped around.

Foxwhisker mewed, “If we’re done being kits, I think we can proceed with our day. Skypaw, I’m taking you on a tour of the territory.”

Yes!

Honeymist stepped up behind Foxwhisker, “And Wildpaw, I’ll show you the forest area.”

Wildpaw nodded silently.

Firestorm cut in between the too, “Shypaw, I’m showing you how to catch a mouse.”

Shypaw’s eyes lit up, “Let’s do this!”

Feathershine, who was shaking with excitement, mewed, “Oh, Fallenpaw! You’re uh… going on tour of the territory too. If Foxwhisker doesn’t mind, that is.”

Fallenpaw shot a glance at Skypaw, as if to say, ‘Does she have any idea what she’s doing?’

Foxwhisker mewed, “It’s no trouble to me. I’m sure Skypaw would like to have her sister with her today.”

Firestorm and Honeymist mewed their agreement.

Today… Today I will make my mark on MarshClan!

~

“…And this is the river. It marks the border between MarshClan and BreezeClan.” Foxwhisker mewed.

Skypaw peered over the edge, and looked down at the rushing water.

“Be careful not to fall in.” Feathershine mewed, “If you fall in the river, you’ll… get wet.”

Fallenpaw scowled.

Foxwhisker mewed, “Not to mention that you’d get swept towards the Badlands.”

Skypaw’s ears pricked, “Badlands? What’s that?”

“An old nursery tale.” Fallenpaw mewed, “Do you think you can scare us?”

Foxwhisker mewed, “No, it’s real. There’s a pack of rouges who live down there, and they’re particularly vicious.”

Feathershine mewed, “But you two are so smart! I’m sure that you could take any rouge you found!”

“…We’ve been apprentices for less than a day.” Fallenpaw mewed.

“Still!”

Foxwhisker looked at Feathershine with annoyance in his eyes, but he didn’t say anything to her.

“Let’s move on.”

~

Skypaw felt as if she was going to collapse. MarshClan’s territory was even bigger than she had ever imagined. But she was finally back at the camp, and could relax.

Fallenpaw mewed, “That took way longer than it should have.”

Skypaw mewed, “But we’re back. And we got a tour of the entire territory.”

Fallenpaw scoffed, “We could have been back sooner if Feathershine didn’t feel the need to make some stupid comment every time we stopped.”

“Don’t talk bad about your mentor.” Skypaw mumbled, too tired to make a proper argument.

Shypaw let out a meow, “Hey, there you guys are!”

Skypaw looked up, and her eyes lit up when they landed on her friend, “Shypaw!”

Fallenpaw and Skypaw crossed the camp, and approached Shypaw.

Shypaw mewed, “Honeymist and Firestorm helped us build nests. So thanks to me, you have a place to sleep tonight.”

Wildpaw poked his head out from behind Shypaw, “I hope the nests aren’t too mangled. I tried…”

“I’m sure the nests will be fine.” Fallenpaw mewed, “Let’s get some sleep.”

~

Skypaw was dreaming.

It was cold, so cold where she was. She felt like she was going to freeze to death.

“H-Hello?” She called out, “Is anyone there?”

A gray and silver she-cat appeared in front of her. Her mouth moved, but Skypaw couldn’t hear her speak.

“Is something wrong?” Skypaw mewed, “Can I help you?”

The she-cat shook her head, and fear flashed in her eyes. Then she collapsed.

Skypaw yowled, but the she-cat wouldn’t wake up. Skypaw nudged the she-cat’s body to no avail.

“Wake up! Please wake up!” Skypaw meowed.

She was dead.

Chapter Two: Shypaw - Shypaw's Goals in Life

It was cold when Shypaw awoke. Breeze blew throughout the den, and she shivered. Her eyes flickered open to darkness, and she realized that she was pressed up against Skypaw.

Skypaw’s fur was so soft, and Shypaw almost felt content to stay in the den all day. She felt so safe, like nothing could ever hurt her.

Cats began waking up throughout the camp, and the other apprentices began to shuffle in the den. Shypaw wanted to stay put, but she knew she had more training to do.

She wondered what she’d be doing today. Perhaps she’d get a tour of the territory, or maybe she’d get to hunt again. Maybe Firestorm would start to instruct her in battle training.

Her fur pricked with excitement.

“Okay, up, up, up!” Came a meow from outside, “You four have a busy day, so let’s go!”

Shypaw shot up from her nest, nearly smacked into Wildpaw, and then tripped over Fallenpaw’s outstretched leg.

Wow, I’m off to such a great morning!

Once the four apprentices had gathered outside, Foxwhisker mewed, “Skypaw! You are going to practice hunting with me in the forest.”

“Wildpaw.” Honeymist mewed, “I’m afraid you’re staying in camp today, and helping take care of the elders.”

“W-What?” Wildpaw yawned. Then he mewed quickly, “Er, I mean of c-course! Sorry…”

Firestorm mewed, “And Shypaw, Fallenpaw, you two are going to start battle training with Feathershine and I.”

Fallenpaw scowled, but Shypaw nodded seriously. This was her chance to excel, and impress the other apprentices with her expertise.

She followed Firestorm and Feathershine out of the camp, and towards the dirt trail that lead to the training hollow. She fell in line with Fallenpaw, who seemed more annoyed than usual.

“What’s up with you?” Shypaw mewed, “You’re acting all grumpy. Like, grumpier than usual. Are you tired? Should I dunk you in the river to wake you up?”

Fallenpaw glanced at Shypaw, “What in the name of StarClan is wrong with you? How are you this peppy already?”

“I’m not peppy! I just really want to fight something.” Shypaw declared.

“How did you get your name again?”

Firestorm mewed, “Enough chatter. We’re almost at the training hollow.”

“I’m going to find a fox, and beat it up!”

Fallenpaw hissed, “Shut up, Shypaw.”

~

Trees on all sides enclosed the hollow. The ground was sandy, and covered in fallen pine needles. At the far end of the hollow was a rock shelf.

Shypaw mewed, “Whoa, this is so cool! It’s perfect!”

Even Fallenpaw looked slightly impressed by it.

Firestorm mewed, “We’re just going to teach some basic defence today. No attack moves yet.”

Feathershine added, “No foxes today, Shypaw.”

“But-“

Feathershine mewed, “If you tried to fight a fox now, you would… probably not win.”

“She’d die!” Fallenpaw mewed.

“Enough.” Firestorm mewed, “We’re doing basic defence work, so let’s actually do it.”

Shypaw and Fallenpaw nodded silently.

“First, you have to know what kind of attack is being thrown at you…”

~

If you’d asked Shypaw that morning, she would have said that she was so excited for battle training, and that she was ready to take on the world.

If you asked her now, she’d fall to the ground and groan.

Firestorm had worked her to the bone, and she felt like she was going to pass out. Not only had she been training all day, she was terrible at it. Shypaw kept tripping over herself, or performing the wrong technique, or just flat out did terribly.

Even Fallenpaw, who was ignoring most of the instructions, was doing well.

Shypaw thought that Firestorm would be a rather laid-back mentor, based on her attitude from yesterday. Apparently, she was not.

“I think my legs are going to fall off.” She complained.

Firestorm sighed, “Well, you don’t have to worry about that. We’re done for today.”

“Go back to camp, and get something to eat.” Feathershine mewed.

Shypaw and Fallenpaw nodded, feeling exhausted.

As they slogged their way back to camp, Fallenpaw mewed, “What happened to ‘I’m going to fight a fox’ and all that?”

Shypaw groaned, “I don’t need a fox. That training destroyed me.”

Fallenpaw sighed, “You’ll get better. I know it was hard today, but-“

“No, I was rubbish!” Shypaw mewed, “Worse than rubbish, I was abysmal. If that were a real battle, I’d be dead. I… I can’t do anything right.”

“Yes you can.” Fallenpaw said, “You had a bit of trouble, but it was your first time trying this! Someday, you’re going to be the best fighter in the Clan.”

Shypaw looked at Fallenpaw, “Do you really think so?”

Fallenpaw mewed, “I know so.”

She purred.

~

Skypaw and Wildpaw were already at the fresh-kill pile when Shypaw and Fallenpaw entered camp.

Skypaw waved at them with her tail, and that gave the two tired apprentices enough energy to run over.

Shypaw collapsed at the pile, “If I don’t eat something this instant, I’m going to pass out.”

Skypaw pushed over a juicy looking mouse, “I saved it for you. I figured you’d be tired.”

Shypaw gratefully took the mouse, and bit right into it.

Fallenpaw mewed, “What about me? You saved your sister something, right?”

Wildpaw nudged a chaffinch, “That’s all yours.”

“It looks like it’s half feathers.”

“I tried to save a bigger one, but Sootfoot took it.”

Fallenpaw took the chaffinch.

“So, Wildpaw.” Shypaw mewed, “How was cleaning out the Elder’s Den?”

Wildpaw shrugged, “It was okay. Rabbitleap told me a story.”

“Oh?” Fallenpaw mewed.

Wildpaw nodded, “He told me about the time he fought a badger to save Violetpelt’s life!”

Skypaw snorted, “You do know that Rabbitleap makes up half the tales he tells, right?”

Wildpaw looked away, “…That would explain why Violetpelt was laughing.”

The four apprentices fell silent for a bit, as they continued to eat. Shypaw considered sleeping for a long time, as soon as she was done with the mouse.

After a bit, Skypaw mewed, “Can I tell you guys something?”

“What is it?” Fallenpaw mewed.

Skypaw mewed, “I… I had a strange dream.”

“About what?” Shypaw mewed.

“I’m not sure.” Skypaw admitted, “But this silver she-cat was there, and she tried to talk to me.”

Shypaw nodded.

Skypaw mewed, “I tried to figure out what she was saying, but I couldn’t hear her. Then… Then she fell to the ground, like she died.”

Everyone went silent.

Eventually, Fallenpaw mewed, “I’m sure it was just a dream. I’ve had weirder ones.”

Skypaw shrugged, “It felt important. Like she wanted to tell me something, but she didn’t make it.”

Fallenpaw mewed, “I dreamed that I grew into a giant and crushed you, so I don’t think you should worry about it.”

Shypaw snorted at the thought of a giant Fallenpaw.

“T-That sounds pretty scary.” Wildpaw mewed.

Fallenpaw mewed, “It’s just a dream. It doesn’t mean anything.”

Skypaw mewed, “You’re probably right. I guess I’m just nervous.”

“Exactly.” Fallenpaw mewed, “You’re fine. Let’s get some sleep. I’m exhausted.”

The others agreed, and Shypaw collapsed in her nest. She fell asleep at almost the instant her body hit the soft moss.

~

A starry forest surrounded Shypaw. It was beautiful, and breathtaking, but it was also awfully cold.

She glanced around, wondering what she was doing here. As she did so, a mottled brown tom appeared near the edge of her vision.

They made eye contact, and he tried to talk to her. Shypaw couldn’t hear him, as much as she strained her ears.

“Hello?” Shypaw called out, “What’s wrong?”

The brown tom scowled, annoyed that she couldn’t hear him. Then, he vanished without another word.

Shypaw shot up in her nest, shuddering in horror. At first, the dream didn’t seem very important, but as she thought about it, it made her feel sick.

It was just like the dream that Skypaw had had.

Chapter Three: Wildpaw - Wildpaw's Life is Hard

Like every morning, the first thing Wildpaw thought was, ‘My sister has smothered me in my sleep and I am dead.’

He was always wrong. Still, he considered it something he should worry about.

Wildpaw sat up quietly in his nest, confirming that he was indeed still alive.

He stepped out of the Apprentice’s Den, hoping that the ground wasn’t going to sink down and trap him.

Honeymist was sitting by the fresh-kill pile. When she noticed him, she mewed, “You’re up early.”

Wildpaw tensed, “S-Should I go back to sleep?”

“What? No. I was just making an observation.” Honeymist mewed.

Wildpaw mewed, “So I’m not in trouble?”

“Why would you be in trouble?” Honeymist mewed, “Honestly, Wildpaw.”

Wildpaw shrugged.

Honeymist mewed, “Anyway, I’m sorry for making you clean dens all day yesterday. Today we’re doing something more exciting.”

Exciting? More like terrifying.

“We’re going hunting.” She added, when Wildpaw didn’t respond.

“O-Oh.” Wildpaw mewed, “Okay.”

Honeymist mewed, “And I think Firestorm would like to take Shypaw hunting as well. It’ll be fun.”

Wildpaw nodded. If his sister was there, then he’d be fine. Unless she chose to bash his head into a rock.

He decided not to think about that possibility.

Honeymist mewed, “I’ll wake them up now. You stay here, and get something to eat.”

She padded away, and Wildpaw stared at the fresh-kill pile. What if all the prey was poisoned?

My mentor is plotting to kill me.

Wildpaw stared at the fresh-kill pile, wondering if it would burst into flames if he stared hard enough.

“What are you doing?”

“Ah!” Wildpaw jumped three feet in the air.

Shypaw snorted, “Chill out. What are you doing?”

Wildpaw mewed, “I think the prey is poisoned. If I stare at it, it’ll catch fire.”

Shypaw exchanged a glance with Honeymist, who was standing right behind her.

Honeymist mewed, “The prey is fine. Eat something, and then we’re hunting.”

She’s going to kill my sister and I. What did I do to deserve this?

~

The forest was even larger than Wildpaw remembered. He shivered in fear.

Honeymist mewed, “Firestorm’s needed on a patrol, so I’ll be teaching the both of you.”

Wildpaw mewed, “O-Okay.”

Shypaw, whose enthusiasm had returned, mewed, “I’m going to hunt a bear! That’ll feed us for weeks!”

“Shypaw, don’t be ridiculous.” Mewed Honeymist.

Shypaw declared, “There’s nothing a wild cat can’t do!”

Honeymist replied, “Regardless of what you can or can’t do, you’re not hunting a bear!”

“Don’t tell me what to do! You’re not my mom!”

Honeymist sighed, “I give up.”

~

Honeymist spent most of the morning teaching the two of them how to hunt. Shypaw caught a mouse, and Wildpaw just managed to catch a squirrel. He wondered if the squirrel’s family would come back to kill him.

After that, Honeymist had told them to go hunting on their own, and to bring back every piece of prey they could find.

Wildpaw felt as though he was doing okay. He’d caught a mouse and a vole, and he still had the squirrel from earlier. He hoped Shypaw was doing well for herself.

The scent of mouse was in the air, and Wildpaw began following it. He figured he could catch it, and dropped into a hunting crouch.

He probably would have caught it if Shypaw hadn’t barreled into him at that exact moment.

“S-Shypaw? What did you do that for?” Wildpaw whispered.

Shypaw mewed, “Sorry! I was chasing a mouse, and I guess I hit you instead.”

My sister is trying to kill me.

A stick cracked nearby, and both apprentices froze.

“Mouse-dung!”

Shypaw blinked, “That’s Mossfeather’s voice. Why is she out here?”

Wildpaw mewed, “Let’s just leave her alone.”

“What? No!”

Mossfeather’s voice got louder, “What’s with all these StarClan forsaken twigs everywhere?”

“I don’t know, Mossfeather. Why did you call me out here? Using Lionfang, no less.”

Shypaw’s ears flicked, “Is that Berryfall?”

Mossfeather hissed, “It was important! I told Lionfang to tell you, and then nobody could trace us.”

Berryfall mewed, “Except of course, Lionfang.”

Wildpaw and Shypaw peered through the brush, and spotted the two cats staring at each other.

Mossfeather mewed, “Whatever! Look, this is serious.”

“Actually serious?” Berryfall replied, “Or is it about-“

“Everything about Honeymist is serious!” Mossfeather mewed.

Berryfall sighed, “What about her now?”

Mossfeather mewed, “Okay, well you know how she got Wildpaw as an apprentice? Well, now she spends her time training him, or trying to figure out how to teach him! We never have time together anymore!”

“Mossfeather, I literally do not care.” Berryfall mewed.

Mossfeather rolled her eyes, “Yeah, okay. I need your help. Before, neither of us had gotten an apprentice because I’m not patient enough, and she’s always kind of freaked out. Now she has one, and now we don’t have anything in common. I need something in common with her so I have an excuse to talk to her!”

Berryfall sighed, “Do the math. Wildpaw is the reason that Honeymist is busy now. Since she has an apprentice, what are you going to do?”

Mossfeather’s eyes lit up, “I’m going to kill Wildpaw!”

Wildpaw drew back in horror.

“…Or you could just ask Maplestar for an apprentice. Sweetwillow and Rainspeckle’s kits are almost six moons old.” Berryfall mewed.

Mossfeather mewed, “So I get an apprentice, and Honeymist has an apprentice. Then I kill both of them!”

“Mossfeather, killing two apprentices will not get Honeymist to like you.” Berryfall said exasperatedly.

“You don’t know! You’re not my mom!”

“I’m leaving, goodbye.”

“Berryfall!”

Shypaw turned to Wildpaw, “Well, that was certainly enlightening.”

Wildpaw whispered, “S-She’s going to kill me!”

Shypaw mewed, “Calm down. “

I’m going to die, and it’s going to be Shypaw’s fault for not warning me.

~

Wildpaw tossed and turned in his nest. He’d been having trouble sleeping his whole life, but tonight was worse than ever.

He opened his eyes, but instead of finding himself in the darkness of the Apprentice Den, Wildpaw saw a beautiful forest clearing. He didn’t recognize it, but it made him feel oddly calm.

As he padded through the clearing, he spotted a white she-cat. He stopped and stared at her, and she made eye contact with him.

“H-H-Hello!” Wildpaw stuttered, hoping she wasn’t there to kill him. Maybe she was an embodiment of all the prey he had killed, and had returned to hunt him.

The she-cat purred, and walked over to him, “Hello, Wildpaw.”

Wildpaw whispered, “How do you know my name? Are you here to kill me?”

She laughed, “Quite the opposite. It’s nice to meet you. My name is Snowstripe.”

Wildpaw mewed, “Opposite?”

Snowstripe mewed, “I worry about you. You’re always so afraid of everything. Afraid of living. It hurts me, and I want you to be strong.”

Wildpaw looked away. He knew he was weak, but he didn’t like that this strange cat had decided to point it out.

Snowstripe continued, “I want to help you. You’re having trouble with your training, so I’ll teach you.”

Wildpaw blinked, “Really? B-But why would you do that? I mean…”

Snowstripe mewed, “I’m doing this for you.”

Wildpaw mewed, “Who are you? A-Are you dead? Is that why you’re in my dreams?”

Snowstripe nodded, “Indeed. But this means I have all of eternity to help you.”

“Thank you, Snowstripe!”

“Of course. I only want what is best for you.”

Chapter Four: Fallenpaw - Battle Scars

A horrid shriek woke Fallenpaw from sleep. She jerked upwards in her nest, immediately alert.

Wildpaw mewed, “W-What was that?”

Skypaw mewed, “I think that was the Dawn Patrol! Have they been attacked?

Shypaw was on the Dawn Patrol.

Fear coursed through Fallenpaw, as she leaped out of the den. Four cats were leaning against each other, as they entered camp. Blood covered all of them.

Sootfoot scurried out of the Medicine Den, “Who attacked you? Who’s hurt?”

Snowheart hissed, “IceClan. They saw our patrol, and went for us. Shypaw and I are okay, but Crowspot struck Berryfall, and Frostshadow savaged Larkwillow.”

At that moment, Larkwillow collapsed, blood still dripping from an open wound in her side.

Skypaw screeched in horror, “Mother!”

Fallenpaw was frozen in place. She tried to move her legs, but her body was refusing to listen to her.

She screamed, and fell to the ground.

~

When Fallenpaw opened her eyes again, she was in the Medicine Den. The scent of herbs fills her nostrils, and she inhaled deeply.

“Ah, Fallenpaw. Are you okay?”

Fallenpaw looked up to see Ravenpaw, the medicine cat apprentice. She nodded, “I… I think. Is Larkwillow okay? I need to see her.”

Ravenpaw mewed, “Sootfoot isn’t letting anyone else near her right now. She’ll be okay, but Sootfoot needs to spend all her time with Larkwillow.”

“What about Berryfall?”

“He’ll live.” Ravenpaw mewed, “I stopped the bleeding, and gave him some poppy seeds. Within a matter of days, he’ll be up and running again.”

Fallenpaw mewed, “That’s good.” She tried to stand up, but her legs were shaky, and she fell down again.

Ravenpaw mewed, “Ah, careful. You’ll be a little off balance for a bit. It should be gone by sun-high, though.”

Fallenpaw nodded, and slowly got to her paws. She felt like her legs might give out under her, but she did her best.

She hoped her mother would make it.

Slowly, Fallenpaw left the den. As she made her way out, she quite nearly ran into Mossfeather, who looked frantic. As soon as Fallenpaw was out of the way, Mossfeather darted into the den.

“Is my brother okay?” Fallenpaw heard her mew to Ravenpaw.

Shypaw darted up to Fallenpaw, “Are you okay?”

Fallenpaw mewed, “I should be asking you that. What in the name of StarClan happened on that patrol?”

Shypaw mewed, “Just like Snowheart said, IceClan assaulted us as soon as we got close to the border. I managed to beat off one of their apprentices, but one of them got Larkwillow bad.”

Fallenpaw shuddered, “Yeah… I’m so worried about her. What will I do if she doesn’t make it?”

“She will.” Shypaw assured her, “Oh, and Skypaw’s sleeping. Foxwhisker and Feathershine gave you guys the day off.”

“Why?”

Shypaw shrugged, “How should I know? I’ve got battle training anyway. See you!” With that, she darted away, and Fallenpaw sighed.

She knew that hanging around camp doing nothing would just make her think of Larkwillow, and that was the last thing Fallenpaw needed at the moment.

I suppose hunting would be okay. I can feed the Clan… Feed the Clan, and not focus on my mother.

With that in mind, Fallenpaw left the camp.

~

The bird had no idea that it was about to die. Fallenpaw leaped, and bit right into the bird’s neck. It went limp inside her mouth, and blood pooled onto her tongue.

Fallenpaw gagged, and the bird fell to the ground. After a moment of hesitation, she picked it up by the tail feathers, and carried it over to where she had buried the rest of her prey. It wasn’t much, but it would feed some of the cats.

“Larkwillow…” The thought of losing her mother panged through Fallenpaw’s heart. It was the worst thing she could think of, other than losing Skypaw.

Skypaw.

Skypaw would be even more broken if Larkwillow died than Fallenpaw would be. She was incredibly sensitive, and Fallenpaw realized that she would have to be strong, so she could support her sister.

With their father already dead, Fallenpaw was forcing herself to be braver, and harsher than before. If Larkwillow were to follow him…

Fallenpaw shook herself, “That’s not going to happen. Larkwillow’s going to be just fine, I swear.”

She gathered up her measly prey, and carried it back towards camp.

~

Fallenpaw placed her prey on the fresh-kill pile.

Feathershine scampered up to her, and mewed, “Take that mouse to Larkwillow. I’ll get Shypaw to take the rest to the elders.”

Fallenpaw nodded, too tired to make a snappy comment. She grabbed the mouse, and padded towards the medicine den.

Sootfoot nodded to her, as she entered, “Larkwillow’s sleeping. Just leave that for her, and I’m sure she’ll eat it when she wakes up.”

“W-Will she be okay?” Fallenpaw mewed.

Sootfoot mewed, “Don’t doubt me. She’ll be fine. After a couple days of rest, she’ll be up and kicking.”

Phew.

Fallenpaw scurried over to the back of the den, and laid the mouse down in front of Larkwillow. She looked at her mother’s sleeping form, and then licked her ears, the same way Larkwillow had when Fallenpaw was a kit.

“You’re going to make it.” Fallenpaw whispered, “I swear.”

~

Darkness cascaded through the skies. Fallenpaw looked up, hoping to see the stars, but she could not see anything besides darkness.

“What is this place?’ Fallenpaw whispered.

As she wandered through the darkness, she spotted a brown cat in the distance. He slowly approached her, and as he did, the area grew brighter and brighter.

“Hello, Fallenpaw.” He mewed gently.

Fallenpaw gaped, “Cedarfang?! Is that you?”

Cedarfang nodded, “Indeed. It has been so long, my precious daughter. I’ve missed you so much.”

Fallenpaw purred, “We’ve all missed you. Why have you come to see me?”

Cedarfang mewed, “Beware the darkness.”

“What?”

“Nothing.” Cedarfang replied, “Not yet.”

Fallenpaw mewed, “You didn’t answer my question. Why have you come to see me? Is… Is Larkwillow dying?”

Cedarfang shook his head, “No, it will be quite some time before your mother joins me in StarClan.”

Fallenpaw nodded, “That’s good to hear.”

“I’ve come to visit you. I’ve missed you.” Cedarfang whispered.

Fallenpaw purred, and nuzzled her father.

Chapter Five: Skypaw - Echoing Voices

“Really, Skypaw. You should go train.” Larkwillow mewed, “I’m going to be fine.”

Skypaw mewed, “You need to rest up! I’m going to do everything I can to help you get better!”

“Skypaw, you’re not a medicine cat.” Larkwillow mewed.

Skypaw huffed, “But I-“

“Should go train, or hunt, or something.” Larkwillow mewed, “Sootfoot and Ravenpaw have me covered.”

Skypaw sighed, “Fine. But as soon as I’m done, I’m coming back to see you!”

Larkwillow mewed, “Run along, Skypaw.”

Skypaw mewed, “Okay, I’m going.” With that, she left the den, her mind still on Larkwillow’s condition.

“Ah, Skypaw!”

Skypaw turned around, and spotted Ravenpaw.

Ravenpaw mewed, “Sootfoot asked me to gather some herbs, and said I could get help from someone. Do you want to come with me?”

“Sure!” Skypaw chirped. If she was gathering herbs, then she was technically helping Larkwillow get better.

Ravenpaw mewed, “Let’s go, then.”

Skypaw followed Ravenpaw out of the camp, and down a small dirt path. Thorns hung overhead, covering the sky.

“Keep your tail down.” He mewed, “There’s a lot of brambles here.”

“Okay.”

After a couple minutes, Ravenpaw mewed, “We’re here.”

Skypaw looked up at a small clearing. The ground was covered with herbs, and berry bushes surrounded them. On the side, there was a small waterfall, with water trickling down into a tiny pool.

“Wow…” Skypaw whispered, “This is beautiful.”

Ravenpaw purred, “Isn’t it? Sootfoot showed me this place when I first became an apprentice.”

Skypaw paused, and then mewed, “Hey, Ravenpaw? Why did you want to become a medicine cat?”

Ravenpaw replied, “Hm? Well, ever since I was a kit, I really loved being in the medicine den, and helping Sootfoot out. And, I figured out that I didn’t want to cause bloodshed, I wanted to heal.”

“That’s noble.” Skypaw mewed, “I want to fight to defend MarshClan, but it’s not like there aren’t others to do that.”

Ravenpaw mewed, “I think being a warrior is perfectly noble. You want to defend those closest to you. I just sort herbs all day.”

Skypaw sniffed the air, “What kind of herbs do we need to gather?”

“Alder bark, juniper berries, and mallow.” Ravenpaw replied.

Skypaw mewed, “Oh, I know what juniper berries look like!”

Ravenpaw chuckled, “Yeah, cause you had to eat some when you got a stomach ache as a kit.”

“Fallenpaw dared me to eat an entire mouse!”

“Doesn’t mean you had to do it.”

Skypaw mewed, “You just don’t understand sibling rivalry, being the only one in your litter.”

“You hardly have a rivalry.” Ravenpaw mewed.

Skypaw sighed, “It was different when we were kits. Before our father died, Fallenpaw was so cheerful and daring all the time. Now, she’s just a grumpy lump of fur.”

“Hm.”

Skypaw crossed the clearing and started pulling juniper berries off the bushes. She listened to the sound of the water trickling down, and it put her at ease.

Somehow, gathering herbs made her feel safe. She briefly wondered if she could ever be a medicine cat, but then shook her head. She didn’t know the first thing about healing, and there was no way she could remember every herb and its use.

“How’s it going?” Ravenpaw mewed.

Skypaw looked over at him, “Is this enough?” She gestured to the large pile of berries.

He nodded, “That’s great. Sootfoot will be so pleased.”

Skypaw purred, “Oh, good. Do you have the rest of the herbs?”

Ravenpaw mewed, “I do. Now we just have to get them back to camp.”

“How do we do that?” Skypaw mewed.

Ravenpaw ripped down a large leaf, and placed it on the ground. With his paws, he pushed all the berries onto the leaf, and then tied it up with his teeth.

“There, now you can carry all the berries.” He mewed.

Skypaw picked up the leaf bundle with her teeth. She felt the berries shift inside, but luckily, they didn’t fall out.

Ravenpaw did the same with the other herbs, and together, they carried them all back to camp.

~

Sootfoot purred, “These will do wonderfully. Thank you, both of you.”

Skypaw’s tail curled happily, “You’re welcome! Can I see Larkwillow?”

“Larkwillow is sleeping.” Sootfoot replied, “Come back later, okay?”

Skypaw nodded, and then left the medicine den. As she did, Shypaw and Fallenpaw scampered up to her, Wildpaw close behind.

Fallenpaw mewed, “There you are! We were all worried about you.”

Shypaw added, “Foxwhisker said he was busy today, so I thought you’d gone hunting.”

“B-But you were nowhere to be found.” Wildpaw added.

Skypaw mewed, “Oh, I was helping Ravenpaw collect herbs today.”

“Really?” Fallenpaw mewed, “I thought you hated the smell of herbs.”

“I do.” Skypaw said, “But I really wanted to help Larkwillow get better, and I thought that gathering herbs would indirectly help her.”

Shypaw purred, “I’m just glad that you’re safe.”

Ravenpaw stepped out of the den behind her, “Skypaw was very helpful today.”

Fallenpaw mewed, “Well, don’t get comfortable. Tomorrow, you’ll be out and about again.”

“I know.” Skypaw mewed.

A strangled noise came from Ravenpaw’s throat, and he fell to the ground, writhing in pain.

“R-Ravenpaw!” Wildpaw cried out.

The four apprentices gathered around him, as Ravenpaw twitched.

“I’ll get Sootfoot.” Shypaw mewed.

Suddenly, Ravenpaw rose up, his eyes glazed over, and glowing brightly.

Fallenpaw whispered, “What in the name of StarClan is happening?”

Ravenpaw began to speak, but it didn’t sound anything like his voice. More than anything, it sounded like a demon.

“There will be four, pride of the Clan, who’ve lost everything to make their stand. Slowly friendships will decay, four will become three, come what may. Destroy with a hero’s final breath, and lose the world to worse than death.”

Ravenpaw collapsed again.

Chapter Six: Shypaw - Riverside Reflection

Everyone stood in silence.

Eventually, Skypaw mewed, “Did… Did that just happen?”

Shypaw shivered, “What in the name of StarClan do you think that was?”

Fallenpaw opened her mouth, but then closed it without saying anything.

Sootfoot poked her nose out of the den, “What are all of you-“ She broke off, as her gaze landed on Ravenpaw, “Great StarClan.”

She scurried out, and picked up Ravenpaw. Then, she flicked her tail, and the four apprentices followed her inside.

Sootfoot laid Ravenpaw down on his nest, and then turned to the others, “He’ll live. Now, what happened? I heard you talking outside a moment ago.”

None of them responded. Shypaw felt sick to her stomach. Ravenpaw’s chilling words didn’t make a lot of sense to her, but one thing did.

One of us is going to die.

Eventually, Fallenpaw whispered, “He… He collapsed.”

Sootfoot mewed, “And after that? If he had just collapsed, I doubt you would all be quite this shaken.”

Shypaw mewed, “Ravenpaw said some really weird things. I think… I think…”

Skypaw mewed, “He said that we were going to die.”

“What?” Sootfoot mewed, “Don’t be ridiculous!”

Wildpaw, who had been silent up until that point, mewed, “He said, ‘There will be four, pride of the Clan, who’ve lost everything to make their stand. Slowly friendships will decay, four will become three, come what may. Destroy with a hero’s final breath, and lose the world to worse than death.’”

Shypaw shuddered.

Sootfoot mewed, “…I see.” She took a step towards the herbs in the den, and then nudged a poppy seed towards each of them, “Eat this. It’ll calm your nerves.”

Shypaw gratefully swallowed the poppy seed.

The gray tabby mewed, “Now, I think I know what might have just happened.”

“You do?” Skypaw mewed.

Sootfoot nodded, “It sounds like a prophecy. I’ve been a medicine cat for many years, ever since I came to join MarshClan. I’ve seen many omens and things, but in all my years, that is the first fully fledged prophecy I’ve heard.”

Shypaw whispered, “What do we do? Are we supposed to just accept this?”

Sootfoot sighed, “I don’t quite know. Usually, it’s the head medicine cat that gets the prophecy, not the apprentice. These are some strange circumstances.”

Wildpaw squeaked, “I don’t want to die.”

Sootfoot mewed, “Now listen here. You’re all going to be fine.”

“How could you possibly know that?” Fallenpaw cried, “You’ve never even had a full prophecy before!”

The gray tabby mewed, “Look, young’un. I know my way around this. You are all going to go back to your training, and you’re all going to be just fine, you hear me?”

All four of them nodded.

“Don’t tell anyone about this, either. I’ll tell Maplestar, and that’s it. This should stay a secret.” Sootfoot dipped her head.

Shypaw mewed, “I understand.”

Slowly, she left the medicine den, feeling shaky on her paws. Skypaw brushed up against her, and she shivered.

What’s happening? Am I going to lose those closest to me?

Fallenpaw mewed, “Look, it’s getting late. We should all try to get some rest, and not think about this stupid prophecy.”

“Right.” Skypaw agreed, “We’re probably just overreacting.”

Wildpaw didn’t say anything, but he dipped his head.

While the others went back to their nests, Shypaw wandered away from everyone else. She felt hollow, and sick.

As she walked, Shypaw found herself overlooking the rushing river. She knew that it led to the Badlands, and she almost considered going there. She could try to fight one of the vicious rouge there, or she could die.

Neither option really appealed to her, but it was better than reflecting on the fact that she could lose someone she loved.

“How could this happen?” She whispered, “I was enjoying my apprenticeship. I was supposed to be a normal cat, living a normal life. Why…”

She fell to the ground, and cried.

She didn’t want to die, and she didn’t want anyone she loved to die.

This is too much.

Aloud, she murmured, “Must I lose everything?”

Chapter Seven: Wildpaw - Wildpaw Screams Loudly

Wildpaw screamed loudly.

Snowstripe looked over at him, “Are you finished?”

“No.”

Wildpaw continued to scream.

Snowstripe sighed, “Wildpaw, shut up.”

Wildpaw screamed louder.

Snowstripe cuffed his ears, “Wildpaw, if you don’t stop screaming, I’m going to cut your ears off.”

Wildpaw immediately shut up.

Snowstripe mewed, “Now, are you going to tell me what’s wrong, or are going to scream all night?”

Wildpaw considered screaming again, but changed his mind, “I’m just worried. It’s stupid.”

Snowstripe mewed, “Tell me about it. Clearly you’ll be useless in a fight until you get this off your chest.”

Wildpaw mewed, “It’s terrible. StarClan sent a prophecy saying that we’re all going to die.”

“Most unfortunate.” Snowstripe mewed.

Wildpaw cried, “What am I going to do? I can’t die!”

Snowstripe purred, “If you get on with your training, I can certainly say that you won’t die.”

Wildpaw narrowed his eyes, “O-Okay! I’ll do whatever I can!”

Snowstripe got to her feet, and then leaped at Wildpaw. Wildpaw just managed to roll away in time, missing Snowstripe’s claws by a matter of inches.

Snowstripe turned around, and swung her paw at him. Wildpaw ducked, and then dived between her paws. He raised his paw, and dragged it across her belly. He wondered briefly if he should unsheathe his claws, and hurt her.

This moment of hesitation was enough time for Snowstripe to bowl him over, and pin him to the ground. Wildpaw struggled beneath Snowstripe’s grip, but it was futile.

After a few moments, Snowstripe got off him, and Wildpaw carefully stood.

Snowstripe mewed, “Don’t hesitate. Ever. That can mean life or death in battle. And next time, don’t be afraid to use your claws.”

Wildpaw nodded, “I-I’ll do my best.”

He lunged forwards again, and stuck his claws into Snowstripe’s white fur.

~

When Wildpaw awoke from sleep, he was stiff and sore. Snowstripe’s attacks had gotten fiercer as the night went on, and he felt as if he hadn’t slept at all.

My sister has smothered me in my sleep, and I am dead.

Wildpaw’s eyes flickered open, and he decided that that wasn’t the case. He yawned, trying to force his brain into awareness.

Slowly, Wildpaw rose from his nest, shaking on his paws. As he did so, Fallenpaw poked her nose into the den, “There you are. Honeymist is looking for you.”

Wildpaw nodded silently, and left the den. He stumbled a few times on his way, but made it to the clearing without too much incident.

Honeymist was waiting for him, flicking her tail impatiently, “There you are. Wildpaw, I expect promptness from you in the future. What kind of an example are you going to set on the new apprentices?”

“N-New apprentices?” Wildpaw asked.

“Well, they’re not apprentices yet, but they will be tonight.” Honeymist pointed her tail at Riverkit, Mothkit, and Splashkit, who were being groomed rather thoroughly by their mothers.

Wildpaw nodded, “I’ll… I’ll never let this happen again.”

I messed up… Honeymist hates me!

Honeymist mewed, “We’re doing some battle training today, just the two of us. The others are going hunting.”

Wildpaw knew that this was his chance to prove himself. He promised himself that he would do his very best, so that Honeymist would be proud of him.

~

Wildpaw collapsed on the ground from exhaustion.

Honeymist sighed, “Wildpaw, what’s up with you? All four of you have been acting strange since yesterday, but you in particular stand out.”

Wildpaw mewed, “No… Sootfoot said-“

“Sootfoot!” Honeymist hissed, “That inane medicine cat is always messing things up.”

What?

Honeymist continued, “Listen to me, Wildpaw. Sootfoot is out of her mind. Don’t believe everything that comes out of her mouth, do you hear me?”

Wildpaw mewed, “What do you have against Sootfoot? I mean… You…”

Honeymist sighed, “She drove my father mad with some stupid omen. Trust me Wildpaw, nothing she told you is important. You need to focus on your training.”

“O-Okay.” Wildpaw whispered. He struggled to get to his paws, and when he did, he shook.

Honeymist mewed, “Wildpaw? Are you going to be okay?”

Wildpaw shook his head.

Honeymist mewed, “Have you gotten any sleep?”

Wildpaw shook his head again.

Honeymist cursed Sootfoot under her breath, then mewed, “Go take a break. Hunt if you feel like it later. You need to look after yourself. Wildpaw, you’re important.”

Wildpaw whispered, “O-Okay.” He stumbled lightly out of the training hollow, his head burning up.

~

Wildpaw looked out over the cliff. The slight bit of rock he was lying on extended out over the drop. Wild brambles surrounded the cliff, making it a difficult area to hunt. Wildpaw wondered why they didn’t just give the bottom of the cliff to BreezeClan. After all, they needed it more than MarshClan did.

He sighed. He felt useless.

What am I doing with my life?

Aloud, Wildpaw whispered, “Can I even be a warrior?”

He lay in silence. Wildpaw peered over the cliff again, and pictured himself falling off it.

Perhaps death would be relief. Four would become three…

The sound of shifting bracken caused Wildpaw to tense. Skypaw poked her nose out onto the tiny ledge, “Oh, Wildpaw! I didn’t know you were here. Sorry, I can leave.”

“N-No!” Wildpaw mewed, “I mean… You can stay if you want…”

Skypaw mewed, “Are you sure?”

Wildpaw nodded, and sat up. Skypaw padded over, and sat down next to him.

Skypaw mewed, “I don’t think I can do this.”

“Do what?” Wildpaw mewed, “Shypaw says that there’s nothing a wild cat can’t do.”

“Was that before, or after she tried to tackle a bear?” Skypaw mewed.

Wildpaw went silent.

“Exactly.”

Wildpaw mewed, “Still, you can do anything!”

Skypaw sighed, “I wish. I can’t do anything right. Foxwhisker showed me how to stalk a bird like a hundred times, and I still can’t do it.”

“That’s just one thing though.” Wildpaw mewed, “You’re good at-“

“No I’m not!” Skypaw cried, “I… I’m useless. I can’t be a warrior at all.”

Wildpaw mewed, “At least you didn’t collapse in battle training.”

Skypaw hissed to herself, “I feel so useless. I’ll never amount to anything!”

Wildpaw mewed, “I guess we’re in this mess together.”

Skypaw mewed, “Pretty much. Sorry to vent like that.”

“It’s okay.” Wildpaw mewed.

They sat together in silence.

I wish I could be a good warrior. Or at least an apprentice who wasn’t failing everything. If I could just be like Shypaw, or Fallenpaw, or even Skypaw. She’s not a failure. I’m the only one.

~

Maplestar cleared his throat loudly, “All those old enough to catch their own prey must gather below the Rockwall for a Clan meeting!”

Wildpaw scampered up to the Rockwall, sitting beside Shypaw and Skypaw.

“Hey, what happened to you?” Shypaw whispered, “Are you okay?”

Wildpaw nodded silently, hoping it would be enough to convince his sister.

“Riverkit, Mothkit, and Splashkit, please step forwards.” Maplestar mewed.

The three kits approached the Rockwall, two of them shaking nervously, the third excited.

Maplestar mewed, “Riverkit, from this moment on, until you receive your warrior name, you will be known as Riverpaw.”

The she-cat squeaked happily.

“Your mentor will be Mossfeather.” Maplestar continued, “Mossfeather, I hope you pass on your bravery and determination on to Riverpaw.”

Oh no… Mossfeather’s going to kill Riverpaw and I! I have to warn her.

“Duskstep, you will be mentor to Splashpaw.” Maplestar mewed, “I hope for you to pass on your humility and compassion.”

Splashpaw scampered up to Duskstep, his legs shaking.

Maplestar mewed, “And finally, Mothpaw will be mentored by Snowheart. Snowheart, you will pass on your honesty and dedication to Mothpaw.”

“Riverpaw! Splashpaw! Mothpaw!”

Wildpaw chanted with the others, but he felt sick to his stomach.

“What’s wrong?” Skypaw hissed, “You look freaked out. I mean, you always do, but you look seriously freaked.”

Wildpaw whispered, “Mossfeather is going to try and kill me.”

“What?”

Wildpaw nodded, “And Riverpaw too!”

Skypaw blinked, “Riverpaw’s going to try and kill you?”

“What? No, Mossfeather’s going to kill Riverpaw.” Wildpaw mewed.

“I thought she was going to kill you.” Skypaw replied.

Wildpaw mewed, “She’s going to kill both of us!”

Skypaw mewed, “I honestly doubt that she’s capable.”

Wildpaw replied, “Shypaw can vouch for me! She was there!”

Skypaw went quiet, then mewed, “I’m not having this conversation.”

As she walked away, Wildpaw cried out, “It’s true!”

Wildpaw glanced around. The meeting had ended, and everyone had gone back to their own areas of the camp.

We’re going to die. Why does nobody listen to me?

Chapter Eight: Fallenpaw - Composure of IceClan

Fallenpaw awoke to warmth on her fur. She purred happily and rolled over onto her back. Her muscles were still stiff from battle training, so the heat was welcome.

As her muscles eased, she got to her paws. Leaving the den, she brushed against a still sleeping Riverpaw, before getting into the clearing.

Feathershine was talking to Emberbreeze, as Fallenpaw approached. Feathershine turned, and mewed, “Ah, Fallenpaw. Good timing.”

Emberbreeze mewed, “Both of you are on Daisyclaw’s patrol. You’re tackling the IceClan border.”

Fallenpaw swallowed.

“You’re going to be careful.” Emberbreeze mewed, “IceClan may attack again. If they do, don’t engage in combat.”

Feathershine mewed, “But if we run, they’ll think we’re weak. They might… make fun of us at the gathering.”

Emberbreeze sighed, “I’m not letting anyone get injured. You run back to camp, and if they follow, you’ll have backup.”

Feathershine mewed, “I understand! I mean, understood, Emberbreeze.”

Fallenpaw sighed quietly.

Emberbreeze flicked her tail, “Go.”

Fallenpaw nodded, and padded towards Daisyclaw. The cream she-cat nodded to her, then motioned to Feathershine. The gray she-cat scurried over, and Daisyclaw mewed, “We’re waiting on Shadowfang and Moosejaw.”

After a couple moments, both toms appeared, and both had grim expressions on their faces. Fallenpaw shivered. The fact that both the senior warriors, and the young warriors were worried made her feel sick.

Is IceClan really that dangerous?

Daisyclaw mewed, “Let’s get moving. I want to get in and out without any bloodshed. Understood?”

Fallenpaw nodded.

Daisyclaw lead the patrol out of camp. Fallenpaw stayed close to the group, her fur bristling. She tried to keep it flat, but it kept sticking back up again.

It’s fine, Fallenpaw! It’s just a border patrol. Calm down, and think about what you’ve learned.

When they reached the stream, Daisyclaw mewed, “Be careful. We only have a tiny stretch of territory on the other side of the water.”

Fallenpaw swallowed nervously, as she scampered over the stepping stones. She could smell the IceClan scent, and it made her want to choke.

Moosejaw whispered, “Easy. You’ll be fine.”

Fallenpaw hissed, “I am fine.” Then winced.

Moosejaw muttered, “Fallenpaw, it’s okay. Just steady your breathing.”

I don’t need you looking after me like I’m a kit!

Still, the IceClan scent was making her feel ill.

Daisyclaw mewed, “We’re marking the border, and then we’re going. Don’t give IceClan a chance to catch us off guard.”

After marking the border, Feathershine called out, “I smell IceClan!”

“Of course you smell them.” Shadowfang hissed, “We’re right in front of their border!”

Feathershine meowed, “No, I smell them approaching! We need to get out of here, or they might… Ridicule us for how thin we are.”

“…Feathershine, I’ll give you some advice.” Shadowfang mewed, “Shut up.”

Feathershine shrunk to the ground.

Daisyclaw hissed, “She’s right though, I can smell them too. MarshClan, turn back!”

Fallenpaw shivered. He fur began to prick again, and she darted back across the stepping-stones before anyone could tell her otherwise. She waited on the other side for the rest of the patrol, but she began shaking.

They’re coming…

By the time Moosejaw had gotten across the stream, the IceClan cats had poked their heads out of the foliage.

The patrol leader hissed at Daisyclaw, “Oh, how sad you look! You’re all are so weak and hungry!”

The other IceClan cats jeered, while the leader continued, “It’s no wonder you were injured so badly the other day.”

Daisyclaw mewed, “Larkwillow and Berryfall have healed without problem.”

“Is that their names? Like I care. I’ll meet one of you in battle, and I’ll tear you apart.” He hissed, “Perhaps I’ll start with that apprentice of yours.”

Fallenpaw paled in horror.

No! I’m too young to die!

“Shut your mouth, Frostshadow.” Shadowfang hissed.

“Make me!” Frostshadow replied.

Daisyclaw and Shadowfang exchanged an amused glance, before Daisyclaw mewed, “Let’s head back. No point in engaging with such a mindless conflict.”

As they retreated into the depths of MarshClan territory, Frostshadow called out, “Yeah, you better run! Cowards!”

~

When the patrol arrived at camp, Daisyclaw mewed, “I will speak to Maplestar and Emberbreeze. The rest of you, keep quiet about the patrol. This means you, Moosejaw.”

Moosejaw scowled.

Feathershine whispered to Fallenpaw, “You’ve had a long day. Go get some rest.”

“It’s still morning!” Fallenpaw protested.

Still, she padded back over to the apprentice den, where Skypaw was chatting cheerily with Shypaw.

Shypaw looked over, and mewed, “Guess what!”

Fallenpaw blinked, “What?”

“No, you have to guess.” Shypaw insisted.

Fallenpaw mewed, “…The two of you are dating?”

Both Shypaw and Skypaw’s eyes went wide.

Skypaw mewed, “…All four of us are going to tonight’s gathering.”

Oh, of course. I’d forgotten about that.

“Nice!” Fallenpaw mewed, “I didn’t think we’d all get chosen. Does Wildpaw know?”

“Not yet.” Skypaw admitted.

Fallenpaw mewed, “I can tell him. Do you know where he is?”

Shypaw nodded, “Yeah, he’s at the training hollow. I’ll come with you.”

“I don’t think two of us need to-“

Shypaw mewed, “I insist.”

That was weird. Is she okay?

Skypaw blinked, “What’s up with you, Shypaw?”

Shypaw muttered, “N-Nothing. Come on, Fallenpaw.”

Fallenpaw shot a glance of confusion at Skypaw as she walked out of camp.

~

Wildpaw was indeed at the training hollow.

Fallenpaw mewed, “Hey, Wildpaw! We’re going to tonight’s gathering!”

“R-Really?” He mewed, “B-But why would I get chosen?”

Fallenpaw mewed, “Don’t be so hard on yourself.”

Shypaw came in behind Fallenpaw, “It’ll be fun, Wildpaw.”

Wildpaw looked at his paws, “Thanks for the encouragement.”

Why do you look so down then?

Fallenpaw stepped into the centre of the clearing, and suddenly, Shypaw jumped in front of her, “I want to talk, Fallenpaw.”

Fallenpaw blinked, “Okay, what’s-“ She broke off, as Shypaw swung her claws at Fallenpaw’s head.

“What the- Shypaw, this isn’t talking!” Fallenpaw cried.

Shypaw hissed, “Why did you have to insinuate that in front of Skypaw?”

“Insin- what does that even mean?” Fallenpaw replied.

Shypaw replied by slashing at Fallenpaw’s ear. The calico just managed to duck in time, “Shypaw, what are you doing?!”

“P-Please don’t fight!” Wildpaw cried out.

Shypaw mewed, “Your presumptions could ruin everything!”

Fallenpaw blinked, “My what?”

Shypaw swiped at Fallenpaw, “I’ll become a pariah if she finds out.”

“I’m seriously convinced that you’re making up words as this point.” Fallenpaw replied dryly.

Shypaw lunged at Fallenpaw, and Fallenpaw realized that she had to fight back, or risk being injured. Fallenpaw slammed her paws down on Shypaw’s back, and leaped over her. Shypaw skidded around, and pinned down Fallenpaw.

Fallenpaw struggled, and managed to kick her off, gaining the upper hand.

Wildpaw yowled loudly, “S-Stop! Y-Y-You can’t kill each other!”

Shypaw hissed, “If Skypaw ever knew what I-“ She broke off.

Fallenpaw replied, “So I was right?”

“Shut up!” Shypaw cried.

Wildpaw sobbed, “D-Don’t do this!”

Shypaw swiped her claws, and Fallenpaw charged at Shypaw.

“Enough! Came a loud screech.

Everyone turned, to see a stunned Skypaw staring at them.

“Where did you come from?” Shypaw asked.

Skypaw mewed, “I could hear Wildpaw crying from camp. What in the name of StarClan are you two doing?”

When neither of them answered, Skypaw sighed.

Wildpaw whispered, “D-Don’t be mad or anything…”

Skypaw mewed, “I need new friends.” Then walked away without another word.

Chapter Nine: Skypaw - FlanClan Here We Stand

There were too many cats at the Gathering. Skypaw averted her eyes as a couple apprentices approached her.

“What’s this kit doing at the gathering?” One of them jeered.

The other shoved him, “Don’t be rude, Speckpaw! She’s bigger than you!”

Speckpaw hissed quietly.

The other apprentice mewed, “Sorry about my brother. I’m Swanpaw. We’re from IceClan.”

Skypaw tensed, “I’m Skypaw. Nice to meet you.”

Speckpaw narrowed his eyes, “From?”

“M-MarshClan.” Skypaw admitted.

Swanpaw frowned, “Oh, that’s too bad.” With that, she stalked away, Speckpaw at her heels.

Fallenpaw mewed from behind Skypaw, “Don’t listen to those fur for brains.”

Skypaw sighed, “It’s so dumb! Why are our Clans fighting?”

“Because IceClan is filled with… dumb cats.” Fallenpaw trailed off.


“Incredible, Fallenpaw.” Skypaw mewed sarcastically.

“I’m not good at on the spot thinking!” Fallenpaw mewed.

Right.

Skypaw mewed, “Hey, would you mind telling me why you were fighting with Shypaw?”

Fallenpaw gulped, “It’s pretty stupid. You wouldn’t care.”

Skypaw mewed, “So stupid that Wildpaw was crying?”

Fallenpaw mewed, “Look, it’s not something I should tell you. Ask Shypaw.” With that, she skittered away towards a group of apprentices.

Skypaw sighed.

There were several groups of cats all around the clearing. The most prominent, however, was an absolute hoard of brown cats that took up half the clearing.

Did they bring their entire Clan to this gathering? I don’t think even we have that many cats!

She walked up to the nearest brown cat, who was small like her. The cat chirped brightly, “Hello! Are you by any chance an apprentice?”

Skypaw blinked, “Uh, yeah. Who are you?”

“I am so glad that you have asked me this!” Replied the cat, “The name that I am called is Nettlepetal!”

What kind of a name is THAT?

There was a hiss in Skypaw’s ear, “Get away, right now!”

Skypaw turned, to see Sootfoot glaring at her. When Skypaw didn’t say anything, Sootfoot hissed at the brown cat.

“Keep away from us!” Sootfoot cried.

The brown cat frowned, but nodded, “I understand your intense declaration. Thus, I will cease my communications with this apprentice. FlanClan here we stand!”

Sootfoot and Skypaw got away from the hoard of brown cats. Skypaw mewed, “What was that about? Nettlepetal was just being polite.”

Sootfoot mewed, “Skypaw, do yourself a favour, and never acknowledge those cats again. Ever.”

“Why is there is sea of brown cats?” Skypaw mewed.

Sootfoot mewed, “We don’t talk about FlanClan.”

“What’s Flan-”

Sootfoot cut her off forcefully, “We don’t talk. About FlanClan.”

Skypaw blinked in confusion, and then walked away from Sootfoot, too afraid to hear an explanation.

She found Fallenpaw talking to Feathershine, a few ways away.

“Why is BreezeClan not here yet?” Fallenpaw mewed.

Feathershine shrugged, “I could not tell you.”

Fallenpaw shrugged, “At least there’s IceClan to talk to, if we’re desperate.”

“Fallenpaw, be careful.” Feathershine mewed, “IceClan is hostile tonight. If you provoke them, they might… Make fun of your fur.”

Fallenpaw stared blankly at Feathershine, “What?”

Skypaw approached her sister, and Fallenpaw turned and purred, “Oh, Skypaw! I wondered where you were.”

Skypaw sighed, “I tried to talk to that group of weird brown cats.”

Fallenpaw mewed, “What weird brown cats?”

“Huh?” Skypaw mewed, “That entire hoard over there!”

Fallenpaw glanced at the mysterious cats, and then mewed, “I… don’t know what you’re talking about. Do you have a fever?”

W-What?

Skypaw shook her head, “No, I’m fine. Anyway, where are the IceClan apprentices? If BreezeClan’s not here, I might as well try to be friends with them.”

“Don’t go near them.” Fallenpaw hissed, “They might make fun of your fur.”

Skypaw went quiet, as she glanced at Feathershine, “You… You just…” Skypaw stuttered, trying not to laugh.

Fallenpaw blinked, “What did I do?”

“Never mind.” Skypaw mewed quietly.

Fallenpaw mewed, “If you’re sure.”

Skypaw looked around the clearing, and noticed Wildpaw sitting alone. She padded over, and sat down next to him, “How goes, Wildpaw?” She mewed.

Wildpaw jumped, “AH! S-Sorry Skypaw. You scared me.”

Skypaw mewed, “Why are you sitting all alone?”

Wildpaw mewed, “The IceClan apprentices are scary, and I can’t talk to the warriors, and everything is terrible. I’m going to die here, Skypaw.”

Skypaw mewed, “Is there anything that you’re not afraid of?”

Wildpaw went quiet.

“That’s what-“

Wildpaw mewed, “No, give me a minute.” He went silent again, and Skypaw sighed.

When he didn’t respond after a few minutes, Skypaw walked away. She found Shypaw chatting with Swanpaw and Speckpaw.

They haven’t driven her off yet? Impressive.

Swanpaw narrowed her eyes when she saw Skypaw, “Careful. There’s a MarshClan cat here.”

Shypaw turned around, and her eyes lit up, “Skypaw!”

Speckpaw hissed, “You know this cat?”

Shypaw mewed, “Uh, yeah. Why wouldn’t I?”

“Aren’t you a BreezeClan cat?” Swanpaw mewed.

“No, I’m MarshClan.” Shypaw replied.

Both Swanpaw and Speckpaw raised their hackles, “Stay away from us.” With that, they stalked away.

Shypaw muttered, “That was rude. We were having such a nice conversation too.”

Skypaw mewed, “Don’t mind them. Anyway, I wanted to talk to you.”

“Y-You did?” Shypaw meowed, “About what?”

Skypaw asked, “Why were you fighting with Fallenpaw?”

Shypaw looked away, “It was over something really stupid.”

“That’s what Fallenpaw said.” Skypaw replied.

Shypaw nodded, “And it’s the truth.”

Skypaw meowed, “Please don’t lie to me. I don’t want you two to fight.”

Shypaw mewed, “I… We fought over who was better at fighting.”

Really? I doubt that honestly, but it doesn’t look like Shypaw is going to open up any time soon.

“Oh, okay.” Skypaw mewed, “That is kind of stupid.”

“Told you.” Shypaw mewed quietly.

Skypaw mewed, “I wonder what’s taking BreezeClan so long. If they don’t get here soon, the sun will rise.”

Shypaw replied, “Those-“

She was cut off by a loud yowl above her. Both cats looked up at the giant rock at the edge of the clearing. Maplestar stood on the rock, next to a mysterious silver she-cat. On the other end was a small brown cat, the same shade as the giant pack of cats that took up most of the clearing.

Maplestar mewed, “If BreezeClan does not see it fit to show up to this gathering, then we must start without them!”

The silver she-cat nodded her head in agreement, when a sudden yowl startled both of them.

A dark gray she-cat rushed into the clearing, cats trailing behind her, “My apologies, Maplestar, Silverstar. We had… an issue on the way here.”

Maplestar mewed, “What kind of an issue?”

The she-cat shot an icy glance at Silverstar, but didn’t say anything.

Silverstar mewed, “In the future, Miststar, make sure that BreezeClan is on time to the gatherings.”

Miststar hissed, “Well perhaps in the future, IceClan won’t have a battle patrol waiting to ambush us!”

Loud gasps erupted around the clearing. Silverstar replied, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Miststar growled, but walked through the crowd, and jumped up onto the large rock.

Silverstar mewed, “IceClan will report first. We are strong, and have many resources at our disposal. We also have two new apprentices, Swanpaw and Speckpaw.”

“Swanpaw! Speckpaw!”

While cheers came from the IceClan cats, and the mysterious hoard of brown cats, neither BreezeClan nor MarshClan said anything.

The brown cat at the far end of the rock mewed, “May our Clan make our important announcements of this month?”

All three of the leaders stared at the brown cat, before Maplestar mewed, “Go ahead…”

The brown cat mewed, “As your ocular organs can evidently see, the entirety of FlanClan has once again arrived at this gathering.”

Skypaw glanced around the clearing, and noticed that most of the cats were muttering amongst themselves.

“FlanClan is in some peril, as there is a treacherous rouge group attacking us. But we will prevail, for I am Farstar, leader of FlanClan!”

What?

The cat continued, “Also, there is a minor problem with our Clan. There is a traitor in our midst!”

Not a single cat reacted throughout the clearing.

“Slimetime, step out of the crowd!” Yowled the brown cat.

A bright ginger tom stepped out of the crowd, shaking in fear. He was vastly different than the mysterious hoard of brown cats.

“Slimetime, as you can see, is very different. FlanClan prides itself on unity. This scum has betrayed that.” Hissed the cat on the rock, “We must exile him for this.”

The ginger tom bolted out of the clearing, before the brown cat could speak again.

The brown cat huffed, “Now that that pest is gone, we are safe! FlanClan here we stand!”

The hoard meowed loudly, “FlanClan here we stand!”

Miststar mewed, “If you’re done… BreezeClan is doing well. We have plenty of prey, and many strong warriors. No matter what happens, we will not be defeated.” She finished with a glare at Silverstar.

Maplestar mewed, “MarshClan is doing quite well for itself. We have been blessed by kits, and have seven new apprentices. Four of them are with us tonight. Welcome Skypaw, Shypaw, Wildpaw, Fallenpaw, Riverpaw, Mothpaw, and Splashpaw.”

Skypaw flattened her ears, and hoped that there wouldn’t be too many cats staring at her. While most of the cats cheered, the IceClan cats remained deathly silent.

Maplestar mewed, “That is all MarshClan has to report.”

“The gathering is over!” Miststar mewed, “There may be a short time to share tongues, and then all Clans will depart!”

Skypaw glanced around, and spotted her sister nearby. She padded over, and Fallenpaw purred.

“Hey, Skypaw. How’re you feeling?”

Skypaw sighed, “There’s too many cats here. I want to talk to the BreezeClan apprentices, but I’m worried they won’t like me.”

Fallenpaw mewed, “Of course they’ll like you! And if they don’t, I’ll make them like you.”

“But-“

Fallenpaw added, “And if they still don’t, you know that Shypaw will beat them up for you.”

Skypaw purred.

“Just try not to get any IceClan cats mad.” Fallenpaw mewed, “They’re pretty hostile, so if you get them angry, they might… Gossip about you behind your back.”

Skypaw went quiet for a moment, before mewing, “Do you have any idea what you just said?”

Fallenpaw froze in place, then screamed and ran out of the clearing.

~

Rain began to fall, as MarshClan began trekking back to their camp. Skypaw walked in the back, her head still spinning from the overexposure to other cats. It had been a long day for her, and this gathering was the tipping point.

She still felt a bit uncomfortable surrounded by the cats taken to the gathering, but it was much better than the gathering had been.

When Skypaw saw the familiar camp up ahead, she quickened her pace. She was the first one inside her den, and she lay down in her nest quickly.

Riverpaw, Mothpaw, and Splashpaw were already fast asleep. Skypaw sighed, and wished she could be in their position.

She waited in silence for a few minutes, before Shypaw, Wildpaw, and Fallenpaw entered. They lay down in their nests, and faced Skypaw.

Shypaw mewed, “That was so cool. That gathering… I’ve never seen so many cats!”

Wildpaw shivered, “There were too many. I never want to go to another gathering.”

“I’m with Wildpaw.” Skypaw admitted, “That wasn’t very much fun.”

Fallenpaw shrugged, “It was all right. I didn’t hate it, but it’s really not all it’s cracked up to be.”

Shypaw mewed, “Did you see the leaders? They looked so regal up on that rock. It was mind-blowing.”

Fallenpaw purred, “Oh yes. Can you imagine being up there?”

Wildpaw shook his head, “No. I would fall and die.”

Shypaw snorted, “You’re such a wimp. I’d love to be leader someday. What about you guys?”

Skypaw shrugged, “I’d like to be leader some day. I don’t have a reason, but I’d like to be respected, and all.”

“Nope.” Wildpaw mewed, “I could never be leader. I’d make a mistake and then the whole Clan would hate me, and they’d kick me out and I’d have to fend for myself among all the foxes and badgers and stuff, all because I forgot to send out a patrol!”

Fallenpaw blinked, “…The deputy sends out patrols.”

“Still!”

Fallenpaw sighed, “Anyway, I think being leader could be a hassle, but at the same time, I want to protect and defend MarshClan until the bitter end. I’d do that anyway, but as Fallenstar, I could do it nine times better.”

Shypaw grinned, “I’d be the best leader this Clan ever had! We’d take care of those mangy IceClan cats in no time. I will give us war, and excitement, and challenge!”

“Shhh!” Skypaw mewed, pointing her tail at the sleeping apprentices.

Riverpaw’s ear twitched, and Mothpaw rolled over, but neither of them woke up.

Fallenpaw mewed, “Can we make it a rule that Shypaw isn’t allowed to be leader?”

“Hey!” Shypaw mewed.

Skypaw snorted, “Agreed.”

Fallenpaw mewed, “Hey, Skypaw. If you did become leader, who would you make your deputy?”

Skypaw shrugged, “I don’t know. An experienced warrior for sure. Maybe someone like Honeymist, or Foxwhisker. Elkhorn could be a good deputy too.”

Fallenpaw nodded, “That makes sense. I could see someone like Shadowfang as deputy, even if he’s a jerk. Firestorm or Tawnyfeather would also be good options. Or maybe Greynose.”

Shypaw mewed, “I would make-“

“You’re not allowed to be leader.” Skypaw mewed.

Shypaw pouted, “But I would have made you my deputy…”

Fallenpaw snorted.

Skypaw mewed, “What about you, Wildpaw? Who would you make your deputy?”

“I can’t be leader. I’ll die.” Wildpaw responded.

Shypaw hissed, “Just pick someone!”

“Y-You! Shypaw will be deputy!” Wildpaw stuttered.

“Didn’t we just make it a rule that Shypaw can’t be leader?” Fallenpaw mewed.

All four of the apprentices sat in silence, while they listened to the sound of the rain.

Shypaw grumbled, “I can’t believe it’s raining.”

Fallenpaw replied, “At least it didn’t start while we were at the gathering. That would have been terrible.”

Wildpaw nodded, “Yeah! I could have gotten a cold, and then I would have died, and then-“

“Shut up.” Shypaw mewed.

Skypaw sighed, “What now? I’m bored, and I don’t feel like sleeping yet.”

Fallenpaw sighed, “Well, we can’t wake up the others, so we need to be quiet.”

Wildpaw whispered, “What can we do that’s quiet?”

Skypaw thought for a moment, “…We could tell stories.”

Fallenpaw mewed, “Good idea.”

Shypaw mewed, “Does anyone here even know any stories? We’re not elders yet.”

Wildpaw’s eyes lit up, “I-I know a story!”

Everyone turned to stare at Wildpaw. Skypaw mewed, “…Go ahead, Wildpaw.”

Wildpaw cleared his throat, and spoke in a dramatic voice, “Not that long ago… In fact, about two days ago… On a stormy night just like this one…”

~

Hours later, Skypaw fell asleep after Wildpaw’s terrible story.

Again, she felt cold, and Skypaw opened her eyes. She was in a beautiful, star covered forest. Carefully, she got to her paws, and looked around.

Is this StarClan?

Skypaw took a few steps on the stardust ground, until she noticed a small silver tortoiseshell.

Skypaw mewed, “W-Who are you?”

The silver tortoiseshell stepped closer to Skypaw, and mewed, “My name is Moonshadow. I was the medicine cat of MarshClan before Sootfoot.”

Skypaw dipped her head, “It’s an honour to be in your presence. But why are you here?”

Moonshadow glanced to the side, before she mewed, “Something is coming, Skypaw. Something that even StarClan cannot control.”

Skypaw blinked, “What? But StarClan-“

“Is not all powerful.” Moonshadow admitted, “Thus, I have a message for you.”

Huh?

“After death, the remaining three must cope with it all. But no matter what happens, the world will fall. Betrayal lurks within the closest bonds, leaving trust to nothing but fronds. One will leave out of guilt, due to the darkness that they built. Three becomes two, and the universe will fall askew.”

A scream pierced the air, and Skypaw blacked out.

Chapter Ten: Shypaw - Followpaw

Water surrounded Shypaw. She struggled for air, as she desperately swam for the surface. Shypaw choked on the water, as the tried to breathe.

Shypaw stretched her paw up in the water and hit a rock. She pulled up with all her strength, and pulled her head out of the water.

Finally able to breath again, Shypaw inhaled the cold air. She took a look around, trying to place her surroundings.

As she glanced around the area, the smell of salt overwhelmed her. Shypaw turned her head, and saw a giant wave heading towards her.

The wave hit Shypaw, and she blacked out.

~

Shypaw awoke with a start. Her heart raced in terror, while her vision swam before her.

“W-What was that?” Shypaw muttered to herself.

She glanced around the apprentice den, letting herself calm down. All of the other apprentices were still fast asleep, some of them snoring.

As Shypaw’s heartbeat calmed down, Skypaw stirred in her nest. Shypaw turned her head, and then frowned.

Skypaw looked uncomfortable, as if something horrible had just happened to her. She twitched in her nest, until she suddenly shot up from her next, panting.

“Skypaw?” Shypaw mewed, “What happened?”

Skypaw tensed, and then looked over at Shypaw, “Oh, I just had a strange dream.”

Same here.

Shypaw mewed, “You looked disturbed. Are you okay?”

Skypaw swallowed, before she replied, “It was just bizarre. I… We were all warriors. But we had… strange names.”

Shypaw blinked, “Like what?”

“Well, I was Skycry.” Skypaw mewed, “And Wildpaw was… Wildface.”

Shypaw snorted, “What was my name?”

Skypaw paused, “…Shylegs.”

“Shylegs?” Shypaw repeated with a giggle, “What kind of a name is that?”

Skypaw purred, “I don’t know. But Fallenpaw’s was great.”

“Hm?” Shypaw mewed.

Skypaw giggled, “She was Fallenfall.”

Shypaw burst into laughter.

Fallenpaw flicked her ears, and then mumbled, “Keep it down. Some of us are trying to sleep.”

Skypaw whispered to Shypaw, “Let’s go outside.”

Carefully, Shypaw stepped over Riverpaw, Mothpaw, and Splashpaw. She did her best not to trip over all of them, and repeat her second day as an apprentice.

Once the two of them were outside, Firestorm and Foxwhisker almost immediately approached them.

Foxwhisker mewed, “Ah, good timing. Skypaw, We’re going to be doing some battle training. Since you need a partner for these exercises, I’ve asked Firestorm to lend me Shypaw.”

Shypaw’s eyes lit up.

I get to spend the day with Skypaw!

Firestorm mewed, “I’ll be helping out too, but Foxwhisker is the one in charge.”

“I bet he’s in charge.” Shypaw chuckled under her breath. Skypaw shoved her. Shypaw’s fur pricked.

Foxwhisker mewed, “…Let’s get going you two.”

Shypaw and Skypaw followed their mentors out of camp, towards the training hollow.

Skypaw whispered, “What do you think they’ll teach us?”

Shypaw shrugged, “Probably more defence. Maybe we’ll get some offence training? I really want to shred one of those pesky-“

“Let me guess. A bear.” Skypaw mewed.

Shypaw replied, “I was going to say IceClan cat!”

Skypaw purred, “Sure you were.”

Great StarClan, she’s cute.

When they reached the hollow, Foxwhisker mewed, “We’ll be teaching both offence and defence. Shypaw, you stand here. Skypaw, go to the other end of the clearing.”

Firestorm mewed to Shypaw, “Spread your legs apart, and use your tail for balance. She’s going to charge at you, and you need to try and knock her over.”

“But I don’t want to hurt her!” Shypaw mewed.

Firestorm sighed, “You’re not going to… Shypaw just listen to me.” Shypaw mewed, “Still, I-“

Firestorm mewed, “Shypaw. Stop having an existential crisis over the love of your life, and pay attention.”

Shypaw opened her mouth to argue, but then shut it.

Firestorm nodded, “Like I said, stand with your paws apart. You want to try and shove Skypaw over without breaking balance.”

What kind of exercise is this?

Shypaw dipped her head, “Okay.”

Foxwhisker and Firestorm moved to the sides of the hollow, while Skypaw looked up and locked eyes with Shypaw. Shypaw’s knees shook.

Skypaw charged right at Shypaw, and Shypaw swallowed nervously. She tried to steady herself, but at the last second, she panicked, and Skypaw bowled her over.

Shypaw found herself on the ground, her face filled with Skypaw’s soft fur.

Skypaw got to her paws, “Sorry! Are you hurt?”

Shypaw mewed, “I’m okay.”

Slowly, she got to her paws. Shypaw took a moment to breathe, then mewed, “Let’s do that again.”

Skypaw crossed the clearing again, and charged at Shypaw. Once more, Shypaw collapsed on the ground. Her legs burned with pain, as she felt weak.

After about five tries, Shypaw managed to not fall over when Skypaw rammed into her.

“Good one!” Skypaw mewed.

Shypaw murmured, “I’m a bit dizzy now…”

Firestorm mewed, “Okay, take a break and walk it off. Try hunting something if you can.”

Foxwhisker added, “You both did great, but I think this was a bit intense. We’ll pick this up again on another day.”

Both apprentices nodded to him, before stumbling off into the forest.

~

As they walked through the forest, Skypaw drew closer to Shypaw. Shypaw felt her fur prick up, as she brown and white she-cat moved closer to her.

Shypaw mewed, “Hey, Skypaw?”

“Yeah?” Skypaw mewed softly, “What’s up?”

Shypaw swallowed, when suddenly a cracking stick startled her, “What was that?”

Both of them turned around, to see a cat frozen in mid step, staring at them.

Skypaw mewed, “Fallenpaw? What are you doing?”

“N-Nothing!” Fallenpaw mewed, “Just some hunting, you know?”

Shypaw turned to Skypaw, “Let’s keep walking.”

They padded through the forest for a bit longer. After they’d gotten a fair distance away from Fallenpaw, Shypaw mewed, “So I wanted to-“ She broke off when something rustled behind her.

As Shypaw turned, Fallenpaw mewed, “Ignore me! I’m totally not here!”

Skypaw mewed, “Stop following us!”

“I’m not following you.” Fallenpaw insisted, “Go back to whatever you were doing.”

Skypaw sighed, “Let’s just keep going.”

Once both Skypaw and Shypaw were deeper into the forest, Shypaw mewed, “So, Skypaw-“

Foliage rustled, and Shypaw turned around with a hiss, “Fallenpaw! Stop it!”

A squirrel leaped out of a bush, and Shypaw muttered, “…Never mind then.”

Skypaw mewed, “I wonder why she was following us.”

Shypaw turned to her, and mewed, “Skypaw… I wanted to ask you something.”

“Hm?” Skypaw replied.

Shypaw looked to the side, before mewing, “There’s something I need to know...”

A stick cracked. Skypaw mewed, “What was that?”

Shypaw muttered, “Probably Fallenpaw again.”

A bush rustled in front of them, “Uh, nope! It’s just your every day average bush!”

Skypaw hissed, “Fallenpaw, stop following us! You’ve been doing it all evening, and it’s getting weird!”

Fallenpaw leaped out of the bush, her fur pricking, “Mission abort! Mission abort!” She looked up at the high tree next to her, and hissed, “Wildpaw, get down from there!”

Wildpaw fell out of the tree, and crashed to the ground in a heap, “Unngh…” He flickered open his eyes, saw Skypaw and Shypaw, and screeched, “No! I blew my cover! I’m sorry Fallenpaw!” He ran away as fast as his tiny legs could carry him, Fallenpaw at his heels.

Shypaw blinked, “How… How did we not notice Wildpaw this entire time…”

Skypaw didn’t respond.

~

Shypaw and Skypaw parted ways after that. Shypaw regretted not spending more time with Skypaw, but she figured it would be for the best.

She returned to camp a little uneasy, her heart pounding awfully hard. Shypaw approached the fresh-kill pile, nosing around for some prey.

“Hey, Shypaw.”

Shypaw looked up, to see Fallenpaw smirking at her.

“What do you want, Fallenpaw?” Shypaw muttered.

Fallenpaw grinned, “How was your date?”

Shypaw gulped, “D-Date? It wasn’t a date!”

Fallenpaw smirked, “And Wildpaw caught a bear today.”

“Shut up.” Shypaw grumbled.

Fallenpaw tilted her head, “Say, Shypaw. What is my sister to you?”

Shypaw hissed, “No.”

Fallenpaw mewed, “I think she’s your-“

Don’t.” Shypaw responded.

“Mate?” Fallenpaw smirked.

Shypaw screamed incoherently at the top of her lungs.

A few cats turned to stare at them. Daisyclaw hissed to Maplestar, “Is it too late to change her name?”

Maplestar just sighed to himself, as Shypaw’s screams grew louder and louder.

Chapter Eleven: Wildpaw - Live for Love

“What do you mean, two she-cats can’t have kits?”

Skypaw blinked, “Why would you ever think that in the first place?”

~

Fallenpaw hissed, “Wildpaw, we have to spy on them.”

Wildpaw blinked, “W-What? I can’t do that! They’d get so mad at us.”

Fallenpaw eyed Wildpaw, “Wildpaw. They’re going on a date. My baby sister, and your… sister.”

Wildpaw gulped, “All the more reason to stay away.”

“Do you want them to have kits, Wildpaw?” Fallenpaw mewed.

Wildpaw pictured the camp engulfed in flames, with hundreds of tiny Shypaws running around. Everyone else was dead.

“No! They can’t have kits!” Wildpaw screamed, “Everyone will die if that happens!”

Fallenpaw nodded, “Exactly. Come on now.”

~

“Well?” Skypaw asked.

Wildpaw muttered, “…Never mind.”

I can’t believe Fallenpaw tricked me…

Skypaw mewed, “Anyway, we weren’t on a date. Fallenpaw is just incredibly over protective of me. We’re all the same age, but sometimes she acts like my mother. I… worry about her.”

Wildpaw sighed, “I-I’m so sorry that I spied on you…”

Skypaw replied, “Honestly, I’m more impressed that you managed to jump from tree to tree without us noticing.”

“I nearly died,” Wildpaw responded.

Skypaw snorted.

“I-It’s not funny!” Wildpaw cried, “Do you have any idea how terrifying that ordeal was?”

Skypaw mewed, “Wildpaw, you’re scared of everything.”

“That may be true, but-“

“Wildpaw!” Came a call from the clearing, “Come here!”

Wildpaw looked over at Skypaw, “I’ll… talk to you later. I mean, if that’s okay with you.”

Skypaw blinked, “Of course that’s okay with me.”

Wildpaw dipped his head to her, and scampered over to the clearing. Honeymist flicked her tail impatiently.

“Ah, Wildpaw. Get ready.” Honeymist mewed.

Wildpaw blinked, “R-Ready for what?”

Honeymist sighed, “For your hunting assessment. Didn’t I tell you about this yesterday?”

Wildpaw did not remember that.

“O-Oh yeah, t-that! I remember!” Wildpaw lied.

Honeymist mewed, “Go hunt in the forest, and come back with as much prey as you can. You have till sunset.”

Wildpaw nodded, “O-Okay.”

I have to do this. I have to impress Honeymist.

“Mossfeather will be helping me.” Honeymist continued.

I’m going to die.

Honeymist blinked, “Why are you so tense?”

Because Mossfeather is going to take advantage of this situation to kill me, possibly kill Riverpaw, and then have kits with Honeymist. Wait, they can’t have kits. Besides she might kill them too.

“I’ll be f-f-fine.” Wildpaw whispered.

Honeymist sighed, “Then get going!”

~

Wildpaw spit out some feathers, as he dropped a finch into the pile of prey he’d caught. He scuffed some leaves overtop, and stepped away.

Wildpaw hadn’t caught too much prey, but he was proud of the catches that he had made. Still, he was distracted by the thought of Mossfeather coming out of the bushes and slashing his throat open.

She might torture me. I bet she’d enjoy my suffering. There’s no way I could get out of this with a clean, painless death. This is probably what this prophecy means. Four will become three, because Mossfeather is going to kill me!

Wildpaw shook himself, and darted back into the trees.

He caught the scent of a vole on the wind, and he inhaled deeply. Wildpaw dropped into a hunting crouch, and crept towards the smell. The vole came into his sight, and Wildpaw paused for a moment, then lunged forwards and bit down on the vole’s throat.

The blood felt warm on his mouth, and Wildpaw cringed. He gently put the vole down, and spat out the blood. Just as he leaned down to pick up the vole by the tail, he heard a voice.

“And that’s time. Good job, Wildpaw.”

Wildpaw glanced over, and then froze as Mossfeather came out of the bushes.

Mossfeather mewed, “Take that vole, and your other catches back to camp, okay? Mossfeather will give you a full report at camp.”

Wildpaw blinked, “Uh…”

“Wait, I meant Honeymist will give you a report,” Mossfeather corrected, “I’m Mossfeather.”

“Uh.”

“You get the gist.” Mossfeather mewed.

Wildpaw mewed, “Y-You’re not going to kill me?”

Mossfeather paused, “Uh… No?”

Wildpaw mewed, “A-Are you sure?”

Mossfeather sighed, “For what reason would I ever want to kill you?”

“…Uh.”

“Just get back to camp.” Mossfeather mewed.

~

Wildpaw put down his last piece of prey. Honeymist mewed, “Excellent work, Wildpaw. You’ve improved greatly since you first started your training.”

I have?

Honeymist continued, “Go hang out with your friends, and take something to eat. You’ve earned it.”

Wildpaw took a mouse from the pile, and dragged it over to where the other apprentices were eating. He sat down next to Skypaw, and listened to their chatter, while he dug into his mouse.

As he finished, Riverpaw slipped next to him, and hissed in his ear, “Follow me. It’s important.”

Wildpaw looked up, and saw Riverpaw already scampering away. Wildpaw got to his paws, and walked after her, confused.

“What’s going on?” He mewed.

Riverpaw mewed, “Okay, it’s about Mossfeather-“

“You found out?!” Wildpaw mewed, worry building in his throat.

Riverpaw blinked, “Found out about what? And why are you so freaked out?”

Wildpaw mewed, “Mossfeather is going to kill you!”

“…I highly doubt that.” Riverpaw mewed, “Besides, she just left camp with Honeymist.”

Wildpaw blinked, “What does that have to do with anything?”

Riverpaw sighed, “They left camp together! Wildpaw, we have to follow them!”

“Why?”

“Just follow me you eccentric cabbage!” Riverpaw shouted, running out of the camp.

Wildpaw blinked in confusion, then padded after Riverpaw.

~

Wildpaw found Riverpaw lurking in a bush near the stream. He stepped up to her, and peered out over the bush.

“What are we looking at?” Wildpaw whispered.

Riverpaw pointed her tail at two figures looking over the stream, “Honeymist and Mossfeather are there. If we’re quiet, we should be able to hear them.

“Why would we want to hear them?” Wildpaw asked.

Riverpaw hissed, “Wildpaw, this is an important day in MarshClan’s history.”

“Riverpaw, t-this is a terrible idea.” Wildpaw replied, panic rising in his voice.

Riverpaw mewed, “You’re a terrible idea! Now hush!”

They both peered out over the bush, watching the two she-cats. Wildpaw flicked his ears, their conversation getting louder.

“Hey, Honeymist?” Mossfeather mewed, “Can I ask you something?”

Honeymist mewed, “What’s going on?”

Mossfeather gulped, “Well, this is a bit unimportant, but…”

“Nothing you say could ever be unimportant.” Honeymist replied.

Mossfeather purred, “Well… I think that… that I might be in love with you.” She broke off at the end, her voice clipping.

Honeymist froze, “W-Wait, really?”

Mossfeather nodded, “I’m sorry, and I’m sure you don’t feel the same way, but I had to tell you-“

Honeymist cut her off, “What makes you think I don’t feel the same way?”

Mossfeather paused, “Uh, Rainspeckle?”

Honeymist hissed, “Don’t listen to my sister. Mossfeather, I… I love you too.”

Both she-cats purred, and stared deeply into each other’s eyes.

Wildpaw whispered, “Okay, let’s get out of here!”

Riverpaw mewed, “Okay.”

They left Honeymist and Mossfeather to their happiness, none of them knowing what the next day would bring.

Wildpaw hoped that everything would work out properly. That he could train with Snowstripe and Honeymist, and be the best warrior.

He had no idea of the tragedy that MarshClan was about to face.

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