|Rise from Ash||Succeded by: |
Burn to Ash
The allegiances can be viewed here
Prey's eyes opened sharply at the scent of smoke. He coughed the foul scent before peeling the heat pricking at his pelt. Fire. He quickly jumped off his special spot on the couch, where he had been sleeping. He looked out through the window, it was night, and nobody was awake. But he was too busy running running out of the living room and trying to find and exit, to question how a fire would start in the middle of the night. The lights were off so it was impossible to see, but that didn't matter, Prey knew the house like the back of his paw.
He pushed himself to continue running, and fight against the pain and the burning on his pelt. He successfully reached an open window using the memory of his house. Just when he was about to use his remaining strength to jump out of the window, he heard a scream.
It was coming from upstairs where the parents and his best friend were sleeping. Prey didn't have to think to turn around, and go save them. He was turning around when a burning wall fell in front of the stairs, the fire created enough light for Prey to make out the carpet on them molding away. He couldn't do anything now, he would just have to pray for the best. His heart pounding like lighning, and anxienty taking over him, he jumped out of the window, where he waited patiently, not minding the cold of the night.
As he watched ambulances and firetrucks pull in he kept wondering the same thing, Who had hated the Green's enough to burn their house down. He knew this was no accident, it couldn't have been. He waited patiently though, and was thrilled when he saw his masters being pulled out. His delight soon changed to dread and misery as he realized their body's were limp. The firefighters knew it too because they sighed and didn't bother to put the bodies into the ambulance.
Prey felt his heart shatter. Those were his owners, the people who played with him, the people who took care of him and provided him shelter, the people who loved him. And they were all gone, now he had nobody, nothing remained for him to do anything but weep and mourn over his loss. The only thing that he had left was now a big pile of Ash.
Lil' Sun was disscusing who she thought her mentor would be with her siblings, Lil' Night and Lil' Brave when she heard the cry of horror. Immedeatly the three kittens' and their mother's smile and laughter dissapeared as they ran out into the clearing.
"Leader Prey has died, he was killed by a badger! Leader Prey is gone!" Lil' Sun didn't want to believe it when she heard Prey's second in comand Spark cry. But a body was being dragged into the clearing and it was obviously Leader Prey's. Rosemary and Powder were carrying their leaders body, adn laid him mournfully on the ground. All of Lil' Sun's excitment about becoming a warrior-in-training the next day dissapeared. Her mom Mother Fluff froze and the sight of the stiff body, and she quickly started soothing her kits, trying to keep them calm.
Spark steped onto the Rockpile, a fair sized pile of rocks that made the from which Leader Prey used to adress the clan. Not that Prey used to have much of a clan to adress. All he had was a deputy, a healing cat, six warriors, three pre-warriors or warriors-in-training, a mother with three kits, and a elder that was due to die any time now.
The clan refused to let this dicourage them however. They might only have three dens; one to sleep in, one for eating and sharing tounges and one for the leader and healer to stay in, and cats might only get once piece of prey per day, but the clan was new, and they had made very good progress in the time since it had been formed. It had only been four short seasons since Leader Prey had lost his old comforatble life and lost himself in the wild. He had started this clan from nothing but ash, and that's what he named his clan after.
Lil' Sun knew the tale of the clans forming because her mother constantly told it to her. When Leader Prey came to the forest, he had to survive alone, but he befriended two cats and they agreed to help each other out. The two other cats who were elder, Old Feather, and the Healer Mud, mated and Old Feather gave birth to four kits. They were cared for and when they were old enough they began to help hunting as well. Eventually more cats joined, some were born into the clan, some mothers submitted their kits to the clan so that they could be taken care of, and some cats came to the clan seeking shelter in return for their services. Ashclan took everybody in, who wanted to join. About one third of the cats who joined Ashclan were dead, not a very good rate, but their chances were lower in the wild out on your own against terrible beasts like bears and badgers.
Ashclan did have borders, but they were very small, so the warriors often hunted beyond the clan bounderies to get whatever prey was left. Several cats have died defending territory, but their sacrifice proved not to be in vain as the boundaries were always protected. Leader Sprak was very strict on protecting the little amount of land which belonged to his clan.
Ashclan had a rather large camp though. The dens were well protected since they were dug into the ground and covered by bramble thickets. The healer stored his herbs under different rocks, and had to quickly be able to recognize which rock had which herb in an emergency situation.
There was a pile of prey, which was guarded by one warrior. Around evening Leader Prey would jump onto the rock pile and make his anouncments as well as ceremonies for the day. Cats would usually eat there prey then, as Leader Prey talked about the ansecntors that lived in the clouds, a place where there was enough prey, and cats who were noble would go there. Lil' Sun wondered if he was in Starclan right now.
Lil' Sun was also wondering if she would become a warrior-in-training tommorow, now that Leader Prey had died. One of the laws of the clan were that at one season, kittens become apprenticed, and at two seasons they were assesed to see if they were worthy of becoming warriors.
Lil' Sun wasn't going to deny it, life was tough in the clans, but it was an adventure too. You had friends and frenemies to watch your back, you had exciting moments when you would become a warrior-in-training, a warrior or become a teacher for one. You also had cats to turned to during emotional distress. The healer also dealt with a lot of cats that had depression.
But know Lil' Sun wondered if her clan would be able to recover. They had made it through other deaths but this was their leader, the only leader they had ever had. Spark sighed as he paddled on top of the Rockpile ad adressed Ashclan, "May Leader Prey rest in peace up in Starclan. One day we will all join him in that pradise. I will be the new leader of Ashclan and my deputy shall be..." he looked around for a moment, "Leaffy!"
Leaffy looked surprised, proud, and happy but the joy was bitter sweet and so were the chants of te clan. However the chants cheering on Leaffy were proud and meaningful. They still hadn't given up, they were still in this, and they wanted to continue what Leader Spark had started. Ashclan would survive after all thought Lil' Sun.
It hadn't taken a day for the clan to recover. By the next sunrise two cats were up and heading out for their dawn patrol. In the morning there were five pieces of prey stashed onto the pile of prey, Leader Spark had also entered the den to talk with Mother Fluff about how they were going to become warriors-in-training today. Lil' Sun couldn't wait and she was boiling all of over with excitment. She had to wait until sunset however since it was tradition that all cermonies be done alongside the evening anouncments. Now she was having a debated conversation with her littermates on who their teachers would be.
"Well," Lil' Night murmured thoughtfully, "The only cats availible are Leader Spark, Coconut, Hazel, Rosemary and Powder."
"Momma will become availible too," Lil' Sun added a little brightly, "Who do you want?" she asked Lil' Brave.
Lil' Brave didn't even need to think, "Of course I want Leader Spark," she rolled her eyes.
"I actually want to be apprenticed to healer," Lil' Night admitted and when the two other cats gave her stares she shrugged, "What? She can handle two warriors-in-training for a short period of time. Petal-in-training is almost done training so she will only have to multi-task for a short period of time."
"Did you tell Leader Spark about this?" Lil' Sun asked her.
Lil' Night hook her head, "I told Momma but I didn't tell anyone else. I think she told Leader Spark though, so I will problably get Mud as my teacher, or maybe Petal-in-training will teach me the basics until she becomes a full healer."
Lil' Sun and Lil' Brave looked at each other, "I don't think we'll get Leader Spark, a leader is too busy leading to train. We'll problably just get one of the warriors, cause I don't think that he will want to give us Momma either. I'm still super excited though!" she exclaimed, to which her littermates squeeled in agreement.
"Lil' Brave, I free you from the weight of your dependence and start your journey towards warriorship by taking your name Lil' Brave and giving you your new name Brave-in-training. I have chosen Coconut to assist you on your journey."
Coconut, who seemed slightly surprised paddle onto the rock, "Coconut, just like others have helped you on your journey and it is time for you to help others on theirs. I hope that you pass down all of your durablity and courage to Brave-in-training."
Lil' Sun waited with excitment as Leader Spark turned to her. She already knew that she would get a warrior as a mentor but the thought of finally being removed from kithood excited her. "Lil' Sun, I free you from the weight of dependence and start your journey towards warriorship by taking your naming Lil' Sun and giving you your new name Sun-in-training. I have chosen Rosemary to assist you on your journey." A flash of happiness spread across Rosemary's face but it was replaced by seriousness as she paddled onto the Rockpile and and Leader Spark approached her.
"Rosemary, just like others have helped you on your journey it is time for you to help others on theirs. I hope that you pass down all of your your empathy and justice to Sun-in-training."
Finally the leader turned to Lil' Night. "Lil' Night, I free you of your dependence and start your journey towards being a healer by taking your name Lil' Night and giving you your new name Night-in-training."
Mud the healer, didn't need to be summoned to the Rockpile. She automatically walked on top of the pile which Sun-in-training was starting to feel squished on the pile of rocks which couldn't hold seven cats. "Healer, just like others have helped you on your journey it is time for you to help others on theirs. I hope that you pass down all of your healing and medicine skills to Night-in-training."
The three apprentices touched noses with their new mentors as the clan started cheering the name of all six cats. They all stood proudly and Sun-in-training felt herself draining all of the energy and support. She would start training now, she would help Ashclan grow and build a huge strong clan, which would have a large amount of territory, lots of cats, and at least two pieces of prey for a cat per day. She could just feel that was the destiny of her clan.
But as Sun-in-training gleamed with pride, clouds gathered above the Rockpile and Sun-in-training thought she heard a silent message the clouds were delivering, one just from her. All things must burn to Ash. Ash can only become Ash. You are destined to burn with Ash.
And just like that the clouds dissapeared, leaving Sun-in-training stunned, as light returned to the clearing, showing no sign of the ominous message which had just been delivered.
Rosemary had decided to start Sun-in-training's first day out of kitship by showing her the whole forest. "It is a very large forest, so I won't be able to show you the whole thing, and don't you dare go out on your own, since there are large and terrible beasts out here, much too stong for just an in-training to handle."
Sun-in-training nodded as they reached the border of Ashclan territory. Slowly she stepped out of it and Rosemary flicked her tail, "Go, on smell all of the strange, unfamiliar smells. See what kinds of things lie beyond our small territory."
Sun-in-training sniffed and was overwhelmed by all of the scents that reached her nose. There seemed to be everything beyong Ashclan territory. The cats, the other animals, and the remains of two-legs "It's all so strong," she muttered, and Rosemary nodded with approval.
Rosemary also took a sniff, before taking a deep step out of the terriotry, walking towards a large tree, signaling with her tail for Sun-in-training to follow.
They walked so much that day, Sun-in-training could barely feel her pads before they even started the journey back to camp. Along the way they even caught a small mouse, which Rosemary ate, sacrificng her piece of prey for the day on a tiny mouse.
While they explored the forest, Rosemary also showed her some cats. The dangerous cats that she had to warn Sun-in-training about were the cats they snuck up on, and Sun-in-training was intoduced to the friendlier cats, who were allies of the clan. They spread the news of the clan, to attract cats to it, and they would exchange news with the clan cats.
Sun-in-training was being intrduced to Silver, a beautiful silver tabby, when the she-cat cut in, "I saw some of your cats earlier today. They were up really early."
Rosemary frowned, "That's not possble, we are the first cats out of camp today. You must have thought some loners were one of us."
But Silver wouldn't give in, "They were four cats together, one of them was being taught to hunt. And when they had caught some prey they said 'let's take it back to camp.' Only clans have camps, I know it was one of you!" She insisted.
Rosemary was stumped and she thought for a moment, "Which direction did they leave in?" Sliver pointed her tail in the opposite direction of camp. Sun-in-training felt excitment getting the best of her. They might be about to discover a new clan. She realized that this could also mean danger, but if they could join with the clan, then Ashclan would be so much bigger and stronger. "I can show you where they went if you want." Silver offered. Rosemary, temporarily forgetting about Sun-in-training's first day, nodded.
The two clan cats followed the loner, who seemed to be tracking a scent. Eventually she led them to a gianst rock, which had been carved into to make a cave. Three massive tabbies emerged from inside the cave, all of them snarling. "What do you want?" one of them asked.
Rosemary dipped her head, "We come in peace. I was just curious who you are, and how so many of you live together."
This time a different cat answered, "We are just a group of cats, trying to survive together. We hunt for each other and defend one another. A queen inside is pregnant so you wouldn't dare take a step in. All of us are related, and we have no leader. We make our desicions together. Why should this concern you?"
Rosemary's eyes widened with hope and Sun-in-training knew what she was about to offer, "We have a clan actually, not too far from here..." As Rosemary talked about the clan, Sun-in-training noticed a small young tabby, about her age, sitting on the side.
She approached him. "Hi!" she greeted, "I'm Sun-in-training, who are you?"
The tom shrugged a little shyly, "I'm Bramble."
"So," Sun-in-training tried to begin a conversatation, "How is life here for you?"
Bramble smiled a bit, "It is much safer. How about the clan which your friend is talking about?"
"It's amazing!" she purred, "We all work together and watch out for each other. We are growing very quickly. When you reach six moons you start training and you train for three moons. After that you become a warrior, an official member of the clan! We have a camp and territory which we defend and protect." Sh explained it all with excitment.
Bramble smiled, "It sound great," then he smiled mischeviously, "Is that how you got your ridiculous name?"
"Hey," Sun-in-training protested and she jumped on him playfully, her claws sheathed. One of the toms turned around, but grunted when he saw they were just playing.
The two young cats were still play fighting when Rosemary called Sun-in-training. She found herself wanting to stay and play with Bramble forever, but she left anyways with her pelt tingling, she pretended to ignore it, reminding herself that she had just met Bramble.
"Well," Rosemary commented, "I offered them a place in our clan and they said they would get back to us within a couple moons. I think they were leaning towards joining us though."
As they continued to walk Silver took a deep breath, "I have two friends, one is a queen who has almost gave birth, and the other is a very strong tom. I have convinced them both to join your clan, and I really want to join it too."
Both clan cats were grinning, "That would be great!" Rosemary exclaimed, "When will the queen give birth?"
"Anyday now," Silver replied, "she might even be giving birth as we speak!"
Rosemary gasped,"Why don't you go fetch them right now, we'll warn the clan cats so we will be prepared for your arrival." Silver nodded and bounded off as the Ashclan cats ran back to camp. Sun-in-training was tired but her thrill and excitment kept her going. The size of the clan might be doubled within a moon. Ashclan was growing and it seemed to be getting stronger everyday! It seemed like absolutly nothing could go wrong.
But, of course, something would.
Mother Rose stared affectionatly at her four new kits. Almost right after Sun-in-training and Rosemary reached camp, Silver had arrived with her two friends Rose, a cream she-cat, and Flame, a strong ginger tom. Two sunrises later Rose had given birth to her kits, and the whole clan was gazing at them very proudly.
"What will you name them?" Leafy asked Mother Rose.
She must have already decided because she didn't even think as she named the kits. "This is Lil' Thorn," she claimed pointing at a dark gray tabby tom, "Lil' Fierce," a cream she-cat, "Lil' Dust," a very light blue tom, "And Lil' Copper," a solid gray tom with long fur.
The four kits were snuggled up closely to their mother, their eyes shut tight as they sucked Rose's milk. The sleeping den was very crowded, as it was the only one in camp, so all of the cats left the den, to give Rose some time to be alone with her kits.
As they left the den Rosemary flicked her tail as she walked out of camp, signaling for Sun-in-training to follow. Sun-in-training had already learned some hunting, and how to patrol a border. She had even caught three pieces of prey for the clan so far. Today, however, Rosemary seemed to be planning a different lesson. She took Sun-in-training to a sandy hollow, close to the border of Ashclan territory.
"Today," Rosemary explained, "We will practice your fighting skills. There is no point in a having a border and patrolling it, if we don't know how to defend it. You need to know how to attack and defend if you want to become a full member of Ashclan."
Sun-in-training nodded as her mentor began their longest training session up to date. They worked from morning to evening when Rosemary finally called it a break. "Good job, Sun-in-training, I was really impressed with you today."
As they started heading back to camp Sun-in-training suggested something, "Why don't we go to camp from different paths, that way we might catch more prey?"
Rosemary nodded, "Very good idea," she praised her apprentice before paddling to camp through a longer way than the route Sun-in-training panned to take. As Sun-in-training walked, her ears and eyes on high alert to find the remaining prey, she smelled a familiar scent.
She didn't realize who it was until she heard his voice, "Psst," Sun-in-training whirled around, trying to figure out who had made the noise."Sun-in-training is that you?" Bramble's head peeped out of a bush, and his eyes brightened when they saw her.
Laughing she playfully jumped on the tom, and they rolled around for a while until they both finally stopped, panting. "What are you doing here?" she asked Bramble, "Shouldn't you be hunting with your family right now?"
He shrugged as his face went a little red, "I made a little detour to visit you. My family won't ever need to know. Your clan won't either." Sun-in-training nodded a little doubtfully. She didn't like the thought of keeping secrets from her clan, but she couldn't reject Bramble. He might not ever speak to her again, and she wouldn't be able to bear that.
They sat in silence for a few moments when Bramble finally whispered, "I missed you. I know it was only a few days, but you are really fun to be around. I wish we lived together so then I could always be around you."
Sun-in-training grinned, "We might be living together very soon, if your family agrees to join our clan. That would be so awesome!"
Bramble's silence made it clear he didn't really want to talk about the subject and Sun-in-training didn't push him as to ask why. The two cats chatted a little while longer before Sun-in-training realized that Rosemary would be waiting for her. "I have to go," she quickly leaped up to her feet and licked Bramble, "Let's meet again tommorow. Same time same place."
Bramble nodded instantly as Sun-in-training bounded back to camp. She was lucky enough to catch a giant rabbit on the way back as an excuse for being so late. Rosemary didn't bother to ask when she saw the large piece of prey and she flicked her tail towards the sleeping den, where Old Feather was lying down. Sun-in-training dipped her head as she approached the elder and dropped the rabbit in front of her. The old she-cat purred in delight, as Sun-in-training left the den to go hear Leader Spark's daily anouncments.
She couldn't shake off the guilty feeling in her head for meeting Bramble. Clan cats weren't supposed to be very close with cats outside of the clan because they might feel torn in between their loyalties. Sun-in-training doubted she could ever be disloyal to her clan, but she still felt like she had betrayed her clan.
Sun-in-training watched Leader Spark on top of the high rock. "Today I have a an important anouncment to make!" Night-in-training came to sit beside her sister. "We will expand our terriotry a little more, due to the new additions to our clan."
The clan cheered as Leader Spark dismissed his clan. Night-in-training turned to Sun-in-training. "You've been meeting with a cat outside of the clan," she accused her and Sun-in-training shrugged. It was quiet obvious if you smelled her. Night-in-training hissed, "I wont tell on you, but you need to stop. This won't do anything but hurt you!"
Without giving her a chance to reply, Night-in-training stormed off, leaving Sun-in-training feeling even more guilty than before.
As Sun-in-training continued to train, she also continued to meet with Bramble. The shy tom would open up to her and they would spend some time socializing and playing around everyday. They also got a little closer everytime they met. They began to brush against each other more, and confess how much they missed each other and wished they could live together. Once, their muzzles accidenlty touched but instead of immedeatly pulling away, they held on for a couple seconds staring into each other's eyes. After a few seconds they broke away and both went back home, with their faces turned to red. But they never confessed their love for each other, as Sun-in-training tried to convince herself that there was no love between them to confess.
She was more careful now and would always roll in a pile of mud before returning to camp, but something told her, from the glares that she got from her sister, that Night-in-training knew that she was secretly meeting. In the meanwhile, Ginger-in-training, Petal-in-training and Bluey-in-training all became warriors.
Around two moons into Sun-in-training's training, a cat from Bramble's family arrived. He was warmly greeted by Leader Spark, "Welcome, have you agreed to join our clan?"
The strangers voice was menacing unlike the kind voice of Leader Spark, "No! We came here to take your territory from you, and make it our camp!" and he jumped onto Leader Spark's back. Suddenly the camp exploded into a war zone.
There were more warriors in Ashclan, but the rouges were stronger. Sun-in-training jumped onto the first cat that came into her way without thinking. She bit his neck as Ginger rushed to her aid. Eventually the tom was wounded very deeply and he ran out of the camp. Sun-in-training was scanning the camp to see who else she should help when she was bowled over by another cat. She pulled in her hind legs, ready to fling the cat across the clearing when she looked into his eyes and realized that it was "Bramble!"
The tabbies' fierce eyes softened, "Sun-in-training," he whispered. She tried to wiggle out of his grasp, but he had her pinned down.
She tried to push him off, but his grip was firm, and he had no intention of letting her run away and hurt his family, "You have to let me go!" Sun-in-training cried, "They are ruining my clan, I need to defend the clan. Please, move!" Sun-in-training's eyes had widened, and slow tears started to form, but Bramble wouldn't let go.
"Forget about all of this clan business Sun-in-training," he replied, "Lets just run off and live together. We don't need these other cats." Sun-in-training was actually considering when she heard a kit wail from camp. That was enough to remind her of what she needed to do.
She pulled her mouth up and brushed muzzles with Bramble, who purred in response. Slowly she pulled her hind legs in, as she continued brushing muzzles with Bramble. Waiting for the moment, she pulled her head away, and using her hind legs, sent him sprawling across the camp.
She had no time to celebrate. She jumped onto one of the enemy cats, who was hurting her sister Brave-in-training. Together the two apprentices were barely enough to drive him away, and he bounded back to his camp.
Panting hard, she looked around her to see Leader Spark jumping on one of the enemy cats, and slitting his throat. It wasn't fatal, but it was good enough to send the message. Spitting, the cat bounded out of camp, leaving the destructed clan behind him.
Sun-in-training looked around at their camp. It was covered with blood, fur, mud and foul scents. The herbs were shattered, and the entrances to the den were covered by rocks, which had been flying around during the battle. Almost all of the cats around her were hurt, and the three healers were rushing to the cats aid. Sun-in-training didn't want to believe it. These cats were supposed to help the clan, not harm it!
Sun-in-training had just gotten a nick on her ear, and she couldn't feel guilty that she had spent to much time fooling Bramble, when she should have just attacked him. She decided to go hunting in order to ease some of the guilt.
She also felt a little guilty about throwing Bramble after he had trusted her, but she had done what was nessecary for the clan. Sun-in-training hunted for a very long time that day, draining the restr of her energy with it, but it was definitly worth it. She retuned to camp with four large pieces of prey. As she paddled through the camp, she got grateful glances from all of the cats, and Leader Spark flicked his tail towards the den, which had been cleared out now.
Sun-in-training entered the den which was occupied only by Rose and her kits. She dropped the prey in front of them, and Rose's eyes shinned with gratitude. Sun-in-training couldn't help feeling slightly proud. She left the den, and got her ear checked, upon Petal's insisting. She had now become a full healer, and felt that even the smallest cut was fully her responsibilty. Sun-in-training tried to tell her that she was fine, but she wouldn't let her go until she had it treated.
Once she had her ear checked, Sun picked out a normal sized piece of prey and took in into the den. No one else was there, they were all busy cleaning up the clan, fetching herbs for the healers, or hunting. Sun-in-training quickly finished it, before leaving the den to go help them out.
Night-in-training paddled up to her as soon as she saw her sister. Sun-in-training waited as Night-in-training took a deep breath. "Sorry," she admitted, "I thought being close with that cat would effect your loyalties, but I saw you fling him across the camp."
Sun-in-training nodded awkwardly before escaping her sister by leaving the camp to find herbs. She assumed that her sister hadn't seen her hesistate for a moment, before flinging Bramble.
That night, when Sun-in-training crawled into the sleeping den it was effortless to fall asleep. When she woke up, she was on the clouds. "Where am I?" she wondered out loud.
"You are in your sleep," an amused voice replied and Sun-in-training turned around to see Leader Prey.
She gasped, "Leader Prey, It's so great to see you again. I have so much to ask you, the clan is really doing well, and I could answer all of your questions about the clan if you wanted me too," she paused for a moment, "Where is this place anyways? I know I am in my dream, but settings in dreams are based off real places."
"This," Leader Prey replied, indicating with his tail to the lush forests which hung aboive the clouds, "Is Starclan. I do miss the clan but it is great here, as you will soon discover young one. The Prey is unlimited, You can speak to your very old ancestors, and I can ever watch my dear clan from the skies."
Sun-in-training was opening her mouth to ask another question when Leader Prey silenced her, "No time, young one. You must wake up, there you will find me again, and I will show you something that is very important. Okay?"
Sun-in-training nodded, and felt herself waking up. As she looked around her she realized it was pitch black outisde, midnight. She whirled around to find a transparent Leader Prey standing behind her. She knew it was disrespectful, but her curiousity got the best of her and she swept her paw through, him. She felt nothing but air, and as Leader Prey looked at her, she felt her face going red.
He flicked his tail, as he exited the den and Sun-in-training followed him. They paddled out of camp together, and Leader Prey gve her no oppurtunity for questions, he was moving far to quickly and they soon reached the destination. Leader Prey stood in Sun-in-training's way, so she could not see ahead of her.
Sun-in-training looked at her former leader, as he began to speak, "Listen Sun-in-training. What I shopw you now, is what your clan must claim. I set up out camp in the wrong spot, and you will have to move here, no matter what the cost. It is fatal to the survival of the clan. You might not understand now but it will become very clear later on."
She nodded and felt the urge to ask a question, "Why are you telling this to me?"
Leader Prey shrugged, "Why not?" and he dissapeared into thin air, problably going to the clouds above him. Sun-in-training turned her head to see what would need to become her new camp. As she stared at it, Sun-in-training felt the blood being drained from her.
It was Bramble's camp!
Sun-in-training stared at the large rock, surprised, and slightly torn. She felt her stomach getting heavier. After staring at it with an absent mind for a long time, she decided that she should return to camp, to tell Leader Spark as soon as possible.
As Sun-in-training began to turn around she felt another lurch of guilt strike her stomach. She felt horrible that she would have been the one to propose driving Bramble out of his camp. Because she had to admit that a large part of her heart wanted to run into the cave and curl up beside him, to never leave his side.
Ignoring the urge, Sun-in-training turned around. She would do this for her clan, she had to be willing to sacrifice everything for her clan. Yet in the pits of her heart, she could feel doubt, and she could slowly feel it growing.
Sun-in-training ignored it as she pushed herself to turn her body around. She sent one last longing glance at the rock, before shaking her head and running back to Ashclan camp. She reminded herself that she belonged there, not by the side of a tom she hardly knew.
Sun-in-training ran for a few minutes, at her top speed, before she finally reached her camp. She didn't slow down and dashed into the center of the camp. Powder, who was keeping watch, jumped and unsheathed her claws. When she saw Sun-in-training her muscles relaxed and she dipped her head to the apprentice.
Sun-in-training dipped her head in response, "I need to speak with Leader Spark, it's urgent!"
She nodded, "Go ahead."
Sun-in-training breathed a sigh of relief as she paddled up to the cave which the leader and medicine cats sheltered in. As she peeped her head inside, she noticed her sister sleeping as her flank slowly rise and fell. It felt relaxing to watch.
Sun-in-training snapped herself out of it, she was losing her concentration far too quickly. She spotted Leader Spark in the corner of the tunnel and she called out to him, "Leader Spark, please wake up! It's urgent!"
Slowly the large tom began to stir. He pulled his head up, and a look of surprise entered his eyes when he noticed Sun-in-training standing in front of the entrance to his den. Sun-in-training felt herself going a little red at the situation but managed to say, "There is something very important which I need to tell you!"
A confused look entered his eyes, that an warrior-in-training might have something to tell him which a warrior couldn't, but he pushed himself up anyways, and began paddling towards the entrance. Sun-in-training moved out of the way so that he could leave.
When he had finally exited the den, he turned to her, "Well, what is it?"
"I can't tell you here," she replied a little slowly, "It must be somewhere no one else can hear us."
There was a slightly annoyed look on his face, and he murmured, "This better be good, Sun-in-training. You've ruined my beauty sleep, and I don't tend to take that very well."
"Don't worry it is," she replied, as they paddled towards the edge of camp.
When they were out of ear sight she turned to him and noticed Leader Spark staring at her a little expectantly. She forced herself to speak.
"This may sound a little strange," she began slowly, "but you have to believe me, because I know I wasn't imagining things."
He nodded slowly, "I am willing to listen of you don't start talking about aliens abducting you."
Sun-in-training snorted, "Why would I want to embarrass myself by making up something like that?" Leader Spark shrugged, amused, and Sun-in-training began.
"So during my dreams tonight, I saw Leader Prey," a look of surprise entered Leader Spark's eyes, but he didn't interrupt, "he was in Starclan, the place he was constantly talking about, and he told me that is very happy there. But then he told me that I needed to wake up."
She looked at her leader to see any trace of disbelief but he was just waiting for her to continue, so she took in a deep breath and went on with her story, "When I woke up, he was standing in front of me. He was transparent and I couldn't feel him, but he was there," she explained, "He told me that he needed to show me something, giving me no time or questions. I followed him out of Ashclan territory."
"Eventually he stopped, and he told me that the place I was about to see, would need to be our knew camp, and that it was fatal to the survival of the clan. I promised him we would build our camp there, and then he just disappeared."
Leader Spark nodded, "So where is it?"
Sun-in-training swallowed, "I am afraid this is where the bad part comes in," she told him nervously, "It's the camp of those rouges that attacked us just yesterday."
He stared at her, disbelievingly and she hung her head, "I knew you wouldn't believe me."
But Leader Spark surprised her, "I actually do believe you," he replied and she looked at him, not willing to believe it, "He also appeared in my dreams tonight," he confessed, "he wouldn't answer any of my questions. He just told me not to ignore the message he would send me."
Sun-in-training stared at him, "So you actually believe me?" She asked and he nodded honestly.
"What I don't get," he admitted, "Is why Leader Prey would chose to show you, instead of a warrior."
Sun-in-training shrugged, "I asked him too, but he wouldn't tell."
Leader Spark smiled, "I understand," he replied and after fumbling with his paws for a moment he turned to the apprentice, "We have to respect Leader Prey's wishes; he knows things we don't know since he can see things from the stars he dwells in, but we can't just jump into a battle, right after we escaped one."
"But the longer we wait, the more the rouges heal," Sun-in-training responded, "and since we won, we are currently stronger and better healed than them," she tried to convince him. A part of her felt like Leader Prey wanted them to do it as soon as they could.
Leader Spark looked thoughtful, "Give me a night to rest on it, Sun-in-training," he replied, "I will discuss it with the warriors tomorrow," seeing the disappointed look on her face he added, "I am sorry, but we can't take you into a warriors meeting. You're job was to deliver the message which you did a very good job of, and I thank you for that, but now that you're job is done, I can't let you do something I wouldn't let a normal apprentice do."
Sun-in-training nodded her head, understandingly but she felt disappointed deep down, and couldn't help noting that Bramble would probably not have dejected her like that, no matter how useless she was. As she thought about this she couldn't help wondering if Bramble might take her back, if she ran back back into his paws, telling him that she picked him over the clan. Sun-in-training snapped herself out of those thoughts and she reminded herself that it didn't matter anyways. She would never pick anything over her clan.
The next morning when Sun-in-training woke up, there was no one else in the den. Groaning a little, she pushed herself up and exited the den. Night-in-training and Brave-in-training were standing outside of the den, both had a slightly worried expression on their face.
"What's wrong?" she asked them.
"Nothing," Night-in-training replied, "Leader Spark is just having a meeting with the warriors and medicine cat, over something secret which he will anounce to us after the meeting."
"Oh," Sun-in-training replied, feeling slightly guilty that she wasn't telling them. Petal, who was sitting in the corner of the claering, walked up to them when she noticed that Sun-in-training had woken up.
"Aren't you in the meeting?" she asked the healer, but she shook her head.
"Since I am not the official healer, I have to sit out," she explained, "So, your mentors asked me to take you out hunting, on a small assessment."
"Sweet," Sun-in-training bounced, "let's go!"
"What about me?" her sister asked, "I'm not a warrior!"
Petal shrugged, "When I was a healer-in-training, I had to learn to hunt as well. Even medicine cats need to eat, and the clan might not always be there for you, if you go on a jouney or something..."
Sun-in-training got the ominous message in her words, and Night-in-training too because she nodded, a serious expression now planted on her face.
Together the four cats walked to the border of Ashclan terriotory, where Petal finally turned around, to face the in-trainings. "This is a race," she declared, "The cat who catched the most prey wins. And I will count by size, not amount."
The three cats nodded, "Go!" Petal yelled, and they dispersed each running in a different direction. Sun-in-training went through the path that led straight out of camp.
After a couple hours of hunting, when Sun-in-training felt that she had done enough of it, she turned around to pick up her prey. As she placed her newly caught prey in her jaws she could feel something burning her pelt. She slowly turned around to find Bramble gazing at her.
There was a bush seperating them and he was with his band of rouges, one of the large cats was telling him something. The two cats made eye-contact before quickly turning their heads away. Sun-in-training picked up her pace and quickly paddled out of the area. She and Bramble were on thin ice right now, and she doubted that talking about the battle would fix anything.
"Wow!" Petal stared impressed at all of the cats. Together they had managed to gather enough prey to feed up to eight cats, "Leader Spark will be very impressed with all of you!"
"Who's the winner?" Brave-in-training asked.
Petal shriugged, "You were all great! I call it a tie!"
Both apprentices were dissapointed, although Night-in-training seemed rather happy with the result. The warrior-in-trainings knew that Petal just didn't want to hurt anyones feelings. Sun-in-training shook off her frusturation. She had done very well on the hunting assessment and the clan would be impressed. That was what mattered.
When the cats got back to camp, Leader Spark was ready to make an announcement. There was no need to call the clan, they were all sitting beneath him.
He acknowledged the newly arriving cats and his eyes brightened at the sight of prey, before he continued, "It had been decided when we will atack," he anounced. Sun-in-training could feel her littermates whispering curiously about the attack they knew nothing of. She waited with excitment for his anouncment, "We shall attack later, when our clan is better healed!"
Sun-in-training decided to ignore her frusturation. Leader Spark was the clan leader for a reason and he must know things that she didn't. She would have to respect his choice.
Sun-in-training waited patiently as the mouse chewed on the little piece of bark. She took in a deep breath, and pulled one of her hind legs back. Waiting for the moment, she leaped. The mouse tried to run out of her way, but Sun-in-training had it pinned down, and as she gave it the death blow to the neck, it stopped all of its movement and its body went limp.
Sun-in-training grinned as the sun danced along her golden pelt. She heard something rustle behind a bush, but she pretended not to. She wasn't supposed to know exactly when her mentor was watching her. She did a little cheer on the inside though, glad that her mentor had seen her finest kill of the day.
All of her kills today had been great; she couldn't take the risk of making the slightest risk on her warrior assessment. If she did well, she would finally become a warrior of Ashclan, that was what she had been dreaming of ever since the day she was born.
She burried her prey before moving on to a different part of the large forest. After wandering for a while, her nose on high alert, she heard the leaves rustle, from behind a tree. Sun-in-training didn't wait this time. She dashed behind the tree, where the rabbit jumped in alarm. But before he could make the smallest bounce, Sun-in-training had the juicy animal in her jaws.
As she examined the prey for a moment she decided that this would be enough. She had been hunting since the sun had rose and now it was at its highest. But it was definitly worth the time; she had caught a total of four pieces of prey, two which were big enough to feed a cat.
Two new loners had joined Ashclan; Raven and Tiger, and both were strong and helpful warriors. Ashclan continued to grow stronger, and Leader Spark had raised the amount of prey a cat could eat, to one and half pieces, which had made the clan very pleased.
Now, as Sun-in-training turned around, she realized that it wouldn't be longer before they were allowed to eat even more prey daily. Ashclan continued to grow stronger and more cats were joining every moon. Her clan was thriving and there seemed to be more prey in the forest than ever.
Rosemary was waiting for Sun-in-training when she reached camp. There was a broad smile on the cream she-cat's face and she purred when she was her apprentice. "You did wonderfully," she praised, "There is no doubt that Leader Spark will make you a warrior today!"
Sun-in-training almost jumped on her mentor, "Awesome! I can't wait! I'm gonna go tell Brave-in-training and Night-in-training!"
Her teacher laughed, "I'll take the prey to the pile," she hesitated a moment before turning to her apprentice, "Try not to brag too much, Sun-in-training. Night-in-training still has a while until she leaves apprenticeship, as medicine cats train longer, so try to go a little easy on her and don't make her feel... left out."
"I won't" Sun-in-training promised, as she bounded to the den where her sisters were both chatting with excitment. They both turned around when they saw her, and made room for her.
"Anyways," Night-in-training was saying, "I heard that Leader Spark might call the attack any moment now! I wont get to fight, but I bet that you can't wait!" Of course, Sun-in-trainings siblings had both heard of what the attack would be about, and learned her connection to it, but they had been okay, and proud of her instead of jealous, much to Sun-in-training's relief.
The three apprentices talked with excitment for a while, about becoming a warrior and their assessments. Night-in-training listened and the two other cats made sure that she was involved with their exciting discussion.
Finally, they heard Leader Spark calling the clan. They all bounded out of the den, to gather underneath their leader, with excitment. Leader Spark smiled with amusment when he noticed the young cats' excitment.
It felt like forever until the other cats had all gathered as well. When they were all there, Leader Spark finally began, "Today we have two warrior-in-trainings to make warriors, so that they can become a full member of this clan," the two warrior-in-trainings glanced at each other with excitment, as Leader Spark flicked his tail at them, indicating for them to come up.
"Sun-in-training and Brave-in-training are now ready to become full members of our clan," he anounced as the two cats bounded up to the top of the rock. He turned to them, "Are you two ready to be accepted as full members of this clan, promising to serve it until your death!"
"Yes!" they both chanted in unision, and he smiled.
"Then I free you both from your dependence, and take away your names. You shall now be known as Sun and Brave, warriors of Ashclan!" He claimed and Sun almost felt the burden of being a warrior-in-training lifted from her shoulders.
However, as the cats began to chant, "Sun! Brave! Sun! Brave!" she felt a new burden being placed on her shoulders', that of dependence and loyalty to the clan. She realized that seeing Bramble was out of question now; especialy since he was their enemy.
The two she-cats sucked in the praise, and walked off the rock when the chanting stopped and Leader Spark dismissed them. Night-in-training gave them both a happy lick, and Sun could feel Rosemary's proud gaze on her back. She smiled, she would miss Rosemary, she had been a great mentor.
But Leader Spark wasn't ready to dismiss the clan yet, "I have one more important anouncment to make!" he called, "I know some rumors have been going around and I am ready to confirm them or prove them wrong." the clan waited with excitment, and Sun already knew what the topic was; everybody did, "We will atack today!" Leader Spark anounced and there were cheers from all of the cats including Sun, who wasn't really cheering on the inside, and the prospect of kicking Bramble out of his home.
"When, today?" A cat asked.
Leader Spark's face remained hard as he replied, "Tonight"
The cats slowly crept through the ferns, waiting for the sign of attack. Leader Spark kept his tail down and the cats barely breathed, trying not to make any noise.
Sun's pelt brushed against Brave's. The siblings looked into each others eyes and Sun could see her excitement being reflected through the bright shine in her sister's eye.
She turnd her head around, checking to make sure that Night-in-training was still paddling behind them. She was slowly creeping alongside the other Healers. The healers would not be fighting but they would be waiting in the entrance to heal the wounded cats.
Night-in-training looked a little worried, at the thought of having so many lives in her paws, and Petal was trying to soothe her. Sighing, Sun turned around; Petal would make sure her sister was okay.
When the cats in front of her all stopped moving, Sun realized that they were there. She peered at the large rock, wondering what Bramble would make of the attack. She shook her head, he didn't matter anymore, what mattered was her clan and Leader Prey had told her that they needed to live here for her clan to survive.
The cats remained in the crouched position for a while, and Leader Spark sent Powder to see if anyone was keeping guard. It didn't take the tom long to return. The cats huddled around him as he whispered, "They have a guard inside the den, and there is no way we can sneak past him."
Leader Spark thought for a moment, "Then our only chance is an open attack. We need to catch them by surprise though."
Leafy approached her leader and turned to the clan, "Give us a few minutes to plan something out. In the meanwhile, help the healers get organized, so they will be ready to heal as soon as we attack."
The clan nodded and they slowly walked over to the healers, to help them sort out the herbs they had been carrying. Sun walked up to her sister and pressed against her shivering body, as it sorted through different herbs.
Brave stood on the other side of Night-in-training and the two newly-made warrior helped her out. She licked them both with gratitude.
Finally, Leader Spark signaled with his tail for the cats who would be fighting to come up. Almost all cats were in the battle, except for Rose and her group of kits who had completed half of their kit-ship now.
Leafy went through the attack plan, "Coconut, Hazel, Powder, Aroma and Rosemary," she indicated towards the oldest warriors, "You will be the first wave of cats."
The second-in-command then turned to Flame and Silver, "You two will form the second wave along with Leader Spark and I."
They nodded and the deputy finally turned to Sun and Brave, "You two," she explained, "Will cause the distraction. You will walk go up to the guard and make him chase you. Keep running away from his direction until you hear the battle start."
The two cats nodded, and Sun was excited at the prospect of being such an important part in the attack. As much as she hated to admit it, she was also relieve because it meant she wouldn't have to attack Bramble.
The clan stood in silence for a while, before Leader Spark flicked her tail at the two cats; indicating for them to go.
Sun gazed into her sister's eyes for support, before nodding to the clan, and walking out of the bushes, Brave at her side. They walked up to the large rock, and Sun couldn't help wondering why Leader Prey had wanted them to move their camp here. There wasn't really anything here that wasn't in their old camp; at least from what she could tell, gazing at it from the outside.
Sun was very close to her sibling so they didn't need to exchange any words. They just nodded at each other and took a couple steps into rock. Sun noticed one of the large tabbies standing guard, just a little bit ahead of them. Behind him, Sun saw a large area of land which would be camp, with several caves branching out of the area. She figured those would be the dens.
When the tom noticed the young cats he walked straight up to them, "What do you want?" He demanded, obviously not remembering them from the battle they had against Ashclan.
"We're hungry!" Sun yelled and batted his head with her paw. It was a light swipe, one meant to get attention rather than hurt.
Fortunately, it got his attention. He snarled and this time Brave batted at him. He growled and took a step forward. Sun batted him again, before turning around and feeling the large rock, with Brave at her side.
As she ran, feeling the rouges breath on her backlegs, she noticed a pair of ears poking out of the bushes. She prayed to Starclan, whom she had now grown to believe in, that the rouge wouldn't see the ears and realize the trap.
He didn't. He just kept running after them. They ran past many of the rocks and trees Sun remembered seeing on the walk to the cave. She wondered what was taking the clan so long to attack. He chased them so far that she lost track of how long they had been running.
Finally, they heard a loud cry coming from the cave. The two young warriors grinned, glad to have succeeded in their role.
The rouge let out a groan. He just realized that he had been tricked. He turned around and snarled in their face, "I'll get you back for this later," he snarled, "Maybe it will be today."
He turned around and began running back towards the camp, at his fastest speed. Sun looked at her sister and they both grinned. Together they chased after him, their positions flipped with the large tom.
So this is what it feels like to be in control, Sun thought and purred. She liked the feeling.
It wasn't long before the three cats were back at the battle scene. Even as she approached the rock, running as fast as she could, she could see blood and fur splattered over the ground. She hoped that Night-in-training would be able to cope well, after the battle when all the clan would be waiting for her treatment.
When she reached the opening to the large rock, form where she could hear yowls and the sound of claws, she paused for a moment to let some excitment take over her. This would be her first battle as a warior, and the chance to finally prove that she was a worthy warrior of the clan.
"Come on," Brave called as she bounded into the cave. Sun heard her screech, then something hitting the wall. She wasn't sure if it was Brave or the cat she attacked.
Taking in a deep breath, Sun bounded into the cave. She alomst stopped cold at the scene in front of her; there was so much blood, she wondered if it might stain the cave forever.
She took a quickk look around. At of the corner of her eye, she noticed Bramble but pretended not to, as she turned in the opposite direction of him and jumped on a cat who had just swiped Powder in the face.
He tried to shake Sun off, but she kept her claws wrapped around his face. She finally pulled one up and raked the side of his face with them. She almost felt a little guilty doing it; the cats had just been sleeping for the night and her clan came up to drive them out of there house. They hadn't even done anything this time. But then, Ashclan hadn't done anything last time.
The tom was strong and he threw Sun off. She hit the ground and he ran up to her, ready to scrape his claws down her throat. She closed her eyes waiting for the end, when she heard a loud thump. Opening her eyes she saw Powder standing over the rouge cat. He was struggling though and Sun quickly rushed to his aid.
Together the two cats attacked him, and though strong, he was no match for the two of them, and he had to turn around and flee out of the cave. Sun grinned at Powder who gave her a light smile in return, before turning around and rushing off to help another clan member.
One of Sun's ears were torn and she could feel blood slowly leaking out of it and rolling down her face. She shook the blood off her face, before looking around to fight someone that might need help.
She decided to rush to her sister's aid, she was fighting a young light brown tom. Sun was just beginning to realize that almost all of the rouges were toms. One of them had mentioned that they were taking care of a queen, but there were no other she-cats around. Sun figured that it probably wasn't a coincidence.
Brave was already fighting alongside Fuzzy, who had resumed her warrior duties a long time ago. The three cats together were barely a match for the strong cat. Even as they jumped on him, and clawed him with all of their strength, he still managed to stand strong and swipe back.
While fighting, Sun's eyes slid away from the battle for a moment to see where Bramble was. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see him fighting of Leafy alongside another one of his den mates.
While she was looking away, the cat bit her knee and she yowled in pain. She could see blood rapidly oozing out of several places under her golden fur, staining it an orange color.
Fuzzy looked at Brave, scared for her daughter, "Quickly!" she yelled at him as she dodged a blow, "Quickly take Sun to the healers, she needs help."
Sun tried to push herself to her feet, but her bloody leg was holding her down. She grunted as Brave came up next to her, while Fuzzy held off the rouge. Brave hauled her to her feet, and Sun leaned against her,as they slowly began to exit the rock.
As they walked out Sun looked around in horror at all of the bloodshed. Suddenly, she refused to believe that Leader Prey would have wanted this. What have I done? she thought in horror. Brave seemed to sense her thoughts, because she gave Sun a comforting lick.
They soon were outside of the den, and within seconds Night-in-training had ran up to them, and moved Brave out of the way so that she could support her sister. "I've got her," she said, "You can go back now."
Brave nodded and dashed back into the den, while Night-in-training carried Sun behind the bushes. She noticed Ginger was having cobwebs attached to neck while Petal worked on him. Mud was sorting the herbs but stopped when he saw Sun.
"Night-in-training, can you continue sorting out these herbs, I will check on Sun."
She nodded a little reluctantly and walked up to the pile, and began to sort while Mud inspected her leg a little.
He finally pulled his head away and turned to Night-in-training, "I need catmint, poppy seeds and some more cobwebs." The medicine cat apprentice nodded and picked out some things from the piles of herbs, handing them to Mud.
Mud turned his attention back to Sun, and gave her some poppy seeds, "Lick," he ordered, "They will make you feel better."
"But poppy seeds make you tired!" Sun protested, "I need to go back and fight."
"You're not going anywhere!"
Sun opened her mouth to protest but closed it when she saw the stern look on Mud's face. Sighing he began to lick the poppy seeds. Mud smiled and picked up a pile of cobwebs.
Sun felt immense pain in her leg, but she was soon too tired to realize it.
Sun's eyes opened sharply at the sound of a battle cry. She shot straight up to her feet. Petal, who had a broad smile on her face, pushed her back down, "Relax, Sun. It's okay! We won!
But Sun got back up anyways. When she looked around she saw several cats, being heaeled by the three medicine cats. Night-in-training looked stressed so she decided not to bother her sister.
Instead she staggered up to the cave. A few warriors were sleeping in it, they seemed happy with their new home, but looking at the walls and the ground, stained with blood, she didn't feel the same way. Why would Leader Prey or Starclan have wanted to bring such destruction to a place.
Oh Starclan! She begged, This battle was never meant to happen, was it?
Sun's eyes fluttered open at the sound of footsteps. She groggily pushed herself up, to see who it was. When she saw her former mentor she breathed a sigh of relief.
Rosemary smiled, "It's your turn to keep guard Sun," she informed her and Sun dipped her head. Rosemary stumbled over to the clearing, not bothering to explore one of the dens. Sun realized how tired she must be, and felt sympathy for the she-cat.
She walked to the entrance to the large cave, and waited there. As she stood guard she couldn't help wondering about Bramble. He seemed to be the only thing she thought of lately, other than how she shouldn't think about him. But she couldn't help herself. A part of her wanted to continue thinking about him, his sweet smile, the was his fur shimmered when he moved, his beautiful, glimmering, green eyes.
But he wasn't a clan cat. And she would have to fight her thoughts about him. Instead, she tried to think of Bramble's group of rouges, instead of just him.
She had yet to hear the story if exactly what happened in the battle. All of the cats had been too tired to talk to her, and she was too tired to listen, although she was sure that she would hear it several times when morning came around. She really wished that she hasn't missed the fight, but soemtimes even the clan leader had to take orders from the healers.
Sun kept her guard from midnight until dawn, and her senses way too high on alert to fall asleep. She heard the small leaf crumple under the weight of the wind.
The sun started to rise, eventually, further brightening to golden shade of her skin. Her legs were now wrapped by cobwebs, so it looked an ugly shade of brown. She hated the webs dangling around her foot. They were ugly and itchy and they felt gross, stuffed with blood and fur. But she knew that if she ripped it off her leg would begin to bleed and Mud would just put some knew ones on and scold her.
As the sun continued to rise, Sun turned around to walk back into the cave. They wouldn't send out the dawn patrol today, since Leader Spark would first need to decide where the boundaries should begin, but there would be a hunting patrol coming our any second then.
Suddenly she heard a loud rustle from the trees and turned around. There were three cats who had just emerged. Their claws were sheathed but Sun still kept her out, "What do you want?" She asked kindly but causiostly.
"Hello," one of them stepped forward and dipped his head, "I'm Raven." The name suited him well. He was as black as midnight and his eyes were painted a dark color.
"I'm Sun," She replied, "Is there anyway I can help you?"
The Tom was a little shifty and one of the other cats, a light brown she-cat stepped forward, "We heard a battle yesterday, and we heard that the cats who used to live here were driven out," she began, "We wanted to know if it was true."
"Of course it is," a tabby brown tom rolled his eyes at her, "You're staring at a she-cat. They didn't accept she-cats, remember. They just threw them our into the wild, because they weren't as strong as toms."
All of the sympathy Sun had felt towards them disappeared. They threw kits into the wild just because they were female? Sun wanted to take her claws across something. She was a she-cat and she was perfectly capable, They deserve whatever Starclan gives them.
Taking in a deep breath to control her anger, she turned back to them, "Yes," she replied, "Our clan drove them out. It is none of your business why so I suggest that you don't ask."
"Well," the she-cat began with a joyous glint in her eyes, "How did you drive them out? They are the strongest cats in the forest."
Sun narrowed her eyes, "Nothing is stronger than a clan," she replied, "A group of cats that work together and remain together. How can you lose when there will always be someone to protect your back?"
The black cat looked at her in surprise, "I heard rumors about a clan, but I never believe that it was real! Wow, do you really live together and have a leader and take care of the kits, as well as the old cats together?"
Sun nodded and all of the cats looked at each other happily. The brown tabby, who must have seen Sun's confusion explained, "Those rouges are bullies to every cat it his forest. They steal and hurt others just because they can. We are so grateful that you drove them out..."
"Oh," Sun replied, "But you should know that we will be setting a territory soon. You won't be allowed to hunt in that area..."
They snorted, "That's nothing," one of them claimed, "and I hope it doesn't matter because we," he turned to his fried a questioningly and they both nodded, "We want to join your clan."
Sun felt the darkness that the battle has brought starting to be replaced. New members was exactly what Ashclan needed, and Leader Spark would be thrilled.
"Of course," she replied brightly, "Follow me and I will take you to our leader. He needs to approve first."
The cats nodded and followed Sun as she led them into the den. They walked past the entrance and into a smaller den, one branching off of the large area where the battle had taken place.
Some cats who noticed the new cats gave her a funny look, but she shook them off, and led the cats into Leader Spark's den.
The leader was already awake and his tired face opened with surprise when he saw the new cats, "And who may these cats be?"
The tabby tom stepped forward, "I'm Tiger," he introduced then pointing at his friends, "And these are Raven and Bush. We wanted to join your clan."
Leader Spark looked thoughtful, "If you may excuse us, Sun, I will talk with these cats," Sun dipped her head and left the den.
Night-in-training quickly approached, "Who were they?" She asked, "Not more rouges I hope!"
Sun shook her head, "They are here to join the clan, if they are allowed to." Night-in-training smiled, excited at the prospect of new clanmates.
"So," Sun asked her, "Do you know what happened in the battle? Your mentor out me to sleep."
"I do," a voice said from right behind them and they both turned around, startled. Brave laughed, "Do you want me to tell you?"
Sun shrugged, suddenly feeling like it didn't matter anymore, "I can guess. Leader Spark fought one of the cats, and won. The cat he beat up had no choice but to call a retreat, and they all ran away, making us win."
Brave shrugged, "You just about got it."
Sun smiled and flicked her ear with her tail, "Want to go hunting?" Se asked her siblings, "I'm hungry and the clan needs food. I'm also curious what the condition of prey here is..."
They both nodded with excitement and the cats paddled out of the rock, to hunt for a while. Sun knew she wouldn't be able to return until she had caught enough prey for her clan. But she didn't mind that, she liked serving her clan.
Sun chased the rabbit through the bush. Brave better be there she thought as she drove it to a maple tree. She chased the squirrel around the tree and a second later she heard claws, then Brave walking out of the bush, with the squirrel in his claws.
"Good work!" Sun praised, "I think we should take back what we have."
She nodded, "You take this, and the rabbit you caught back there. Night-in-training and I will take the rest."
Sun licked her sister, before taking the squirrel from her claws, and shoving it into her jaw.
She picked up a rabbit that she had killed earlier on the way back to camp. When she arrived there, all of the cats were too busy chattering away with excitement to notice that she had arrived.
She walked up to Petal, and dropped the rabbit at her feet, "You take this one," she told the medicine cat, "You look like you will drop dead any moment now," Sun teased.
She gladly accepted the food and sat down to eat it. Sun decided that she would use her prey of day then. She sat down with the squirrel in her jaws, and began to chew, "So did Leader Spark take them in?" She asked.
A bright look entered her yes, "Yes!," she responded, "And there were two more cats, Deer and Pine who also asked to join, because we drove out the rouges. Leader Spark took them all in, and he will do a ceremony for them tonight!"
Sun was surprised, "Five new members in a single day! That's amazing!"
Petal nodded with agreement, and the two cats continued to chatter away.
"If Leader Prey and Starclan will look down on us while we name five new members of our clan today!" Leader Spark began. Brave was shivering with excitement behind her and Sun tried to look calmer, "We are here to make five cats who were once loners members of our clan so that they may thrive and always have something to count on!"
The clan cheered as Leader Spark turned to face them, "Do any of you have any oppositions to joining Ashclan?"
"No," they all responded witha proud gleam in their eyes.
Leader Spark nodded, "Then I make you all a full member of Ashclan, we thank you for the service that you will give to us."
The clan began to cheer, Sun joining in, "Deer! Pine! Bush! Tiger! Raven! Deer! Pine! Bush! Tiger! Raven!
Once the cheering had died down, Leader Spark flicked his tail dismissing the clan.
"Come on!" Brave called as she turned to her sister, "Let's go welcome them into the clan."
"I'll be there in a second!" Sun responded and her sister bounded off. Sun noticed a strange feeling in her, and she slowly began to walk in the direction of one of the unexplored dens. She didn't know why she was going there, she just felt like someone was pushing her, urging her to enter.
She didn't ignore I and slowly crept into the den. She took a couple steps into it and a figure appeared in front of her, ghostly, but there.
"Leader Prey!" She gasped, "Do you want me to get Leader Spark?"
He shook his head, "I am here to talk to you, Sun," he replied, "First I wanted to thank you for bringing the clan here."
"But that battle was horrible. You couldn't have possibly wanted that to happen!" She gasped.
He shrugged, "I didn't but I needed you here, Sun. I'm sorry it was costly..."
Sun nodded, despite her disagreement, "So what's your message?" she asked.
"First," the old leader began, "I want you to remember to listen to your heart instead of your mind. The future of your clan depends on it,"
Sun nodded allthough she was confused, "And the other,"
He smiled, "I want you to look down," he replied and he slowly began to fade. Sun didn't stop him, she knew that she couldn't, instead she just stared at him as he slowly dissolved into the air.
When he was gone, she finally looked down and gasped at what she saw. It was a large pile of ash, she could hardly believe that she hadn't noticed it. But she couldn't understand how ash would get here, of all places and what Leader Prey wanted her to do with it.
I want you to remember to listen to your heart instead of your mind. The future of your clan depends on it...
Sun pulled herself off the soft moss, which had been placed on the den. Now that they had so many more dens, where cats slept were rearranged. There would be a den for apprentices, which there were none of yet, a den for new warriors, warriors, senior warriors, queens and kits, the healers, elders, and one for the leader and deputy.
Sun personally would have changed the order up a little but, but she hadn't helped to decide. As she pulled herself to her feet, she reflected on the weird dream she had just seen.
She had been in Leader Spark's den. At first she had assumed that he had called her because of the pile of ash. They had spoken about it, alongside the medicine cats and deputy a couple times in the few days since she had reported it. However, he wanted to talk to her about something else.
He hadn't given her time to talk. As soon as she entered the den he began, "As you know, we have had a lot of new cats wanting to join the clan and they have all been accepted into open arms."
Sun had nodded. After the five cats, two more cats named Tulip and Fire had joined, for the same reason as the others. They were so happy that the rouges were gone and wanted to be a part of the strong force that kicked them out.
"Well, Leafy is an old cat as you know," he had began, "And with the new additions to the clan; the size of us has almost doubled, which is a great thing, he has decided that it would be acceptable for him to step down. She will be able to tell great tales to the kits, and will still be a wise cat I can turn to for advice."
Sun had nodded and asked, "Why are you telling me this?"
"Well, Leader Prey keeps on giving us messages through you..." he had began and Sun had incorrectly guessed the answer.
"You want my advice, or for me to ask Leader Prey!?" she had exclaimed and the leader had shaken his head.
"No, I believe that it is a clear sign you were meant to lead this clan," he had explained, "If he chooses to communicate through you."
"No!" She had gasped, "I am far too young and inexperienced. I might make a dangerous mistake that could put the clan in peril."
"Leader Prey trusted you, and I trust him," was his answer, "The clan does too, and none of them will oppose to such a thing."
Sun guessed that she had waken up after that, because the rest was just a blur of colors, and sounds.
Now, as she blinked the sleep from her eye; she thought about how real the dream had seemed and almost laughed to herself about it. I must be doing a great job of hiding how much I want leadership from myself. she thought.
As she walked out of the den, she noticed Leader Spark standing on top of the Highstone, a large rock placed in the center of the cleaing, which was the perfect place to adress the clan. He seemed to be waiting for the cats to appear, and when he saw Sun his eyes brightened.
Looking around, Sun realized she was the only one missing and she went a little red in the face. The clan didn't seem to notice as Leader Spark began.
"I am here to report that Leafy is retiring and joining the elders den!" As the clan cheered congratulations for the cat, Sun felt her blood stop cold with surprise. She had heard tales of cats seeing things in dreams and then having them happen in real life later, but she had never known anyone that happened to.
She listened curious who the deputy would be. She figured that part of the dream would be incorrect, because Leader Spark was far too wise to make a rash choice like her for the new deputy.
"The new deputy shall be..." he didn't hesitate as Sun looked around trying to guess. She thought that her mentor, Rosemary, might be a possibility.
She stared blankly at him, hardly willing to believe it. As the clan chanted she reminded herself to climb up to the rock and stand beside Leader Spark.
The two leaders of the clan stood together while cats chanted. Sun heard Brave, Night-in-training, Fuzzy, and Rosemary the loudest, and she couldn't help accepting every ounce of their support.
Leader Spark turned to Sun, his whiskers twitching with amusement, "Why do you look so surprised? I thought I told you about this yesterday..." So it wasn't a dream Sun thought.
"I thought it was a dream," she admitted.
He smiled, "You are far too modest, Sun. It is completely understandable for you to become deputy after all Leader Prey had rightly trusted you with."
Sun smiled modestly as the cheering died down, and Leader Spark dismissed the clan. As soon as she stepped down from the rock, half of the clan had run up to congratulate her.
"Thanks!" she purred as Night-in-training licked her fiercely.
When the cats were all done congratulating her, she realized she needed to organize patrols.
"Rosemary and Hazel," she indicated towards the older warriors, "Can you two each lead a hunting patrol?" she asked and the cats nodded.
She turned to Aroma, "Can you lead a border patrol. Extend our territories a little bit, so that we cover the large pine tree." The tom nodded as he indicated towards the cats he wanted to come with him. Soon the camp was mostly empty.
Night-in-training remained by her sister's side.
"I'm so proud of you," she purred.
"Thanks," Sun responded, "But I am not sure if Leader Spark made the right choice..." she trailed off.
"Of course he did!" her sister exclaimed, "You are doing so good already!"
"But I haven't had to make any important decisions yet, and I don't think I will make the right one when the time comes."
"I know you will," her sister assured her, "Leader Prey already trusted you twice, and you proved him right to do so." the whole clan knew about the pile of ash, and the old leader's message. There were no secrets in Ashclan.
The rest of the day went by normally if you didn't consider that Sun was deputy and everybody treated her like it.
That night she went to bed in the leader's den, which was a little strange for her. Leader Prey appeared in her dreams that night.
"Good job, Sun," he purred, "I am proud of you."
Sun felt like she had to know something, "Is it my destiny to be the deputy?"
He thought for a moment, "No."
"Hey, Deer, can you lead the patrol today?"
"Sure, who do you want me to take?" the brown cat asked.
"You decide," Sun answered, "But remember to extend the territory a little bit more. We are gradually trying to collect the land we need to feed the clan."
He nodded, "Of, course, Sun," he replied, "I'll take Bush, Aroma and Ginger." Sun nodded as she noticed how excited the cat was at the prospect of leading a patrol.
She'll have plenty of patrols to lead later on, Sun thought with amusement as the patrol left camp.
As if on cue, a hunting patrol emerged, carrying lots of prey. Sun's eyes brightened, "Brilliant," she breathed as the cats took it over to the fresh-kill pile.
She didn't exactly like being a deputy, she was a natural leader, but the responsibility and what Leader Prey had told her made it feel like it wasn't something that she was supposed to have. It wasn't her destiny after all.
She marched back into her den, the one she shared with Leader Spark. He was inside, and seemed to be thinking on a topic, so she didn't disturb him as she chewed the squirrel she had picked out from the fresh-kill pile.
Finally he turned around, "Hello, Sun."
"Hello, Leader Spark."
"So how is being a deputy coming along? How long has it even been now?"
"Seven days," she responded. It would be a lie to say that she wasn't keeping track. She couldn't help knowing exactly how long she had the position.
He smiled, "So do you enjoy it?"
Sun hadn't told him about the message that Leader Prey had told her, she just couldn't bring herself to do it. Besides, Leader Prey had not mentioned telling this to the clan. It was something meant for only her to know. "I'm getting used to it," she admitted, "But sometimes I look at cats and realize that they probably would have been a better choice."
He smiled, "Modest as always, young deputy," before changing the subject, "I think it's important that we find out where the rouges are resting now." he admitted.
Sun paused, "Why?" she asked, "We defeated them, and if they come back we are much stronger than we were only a short period of time ago; they wouldn't stand a chance."
There was a serious expression on his face, "The fact is that they were very strong and well-trained cats, masters in the art of survival. That is what the clan is all about; survival. And the whole team, of course, but the main attraction for cats is our ability to survive hardship."
Sun nodded, "What does this have to do with us attacking them again? That will only weaken our clan."
He frowned, "I never said anything about attacking," he claimed, "I wanted to try once again, to convince them to join us. If we worked together, we would be so stable, and we wouldn't have to worry about the possibility of attack." Sun felt something strange going on.
"There's something you're not telling me," she accused him and when he didn't deny, "I am you deputy, you have to tell me these things!"
"Look, Sun," he tried to explain, "Somethings are just for the leader to know, and I really can't tell this to anyone. I promised not to."
Sun sighed, "Fine, I will lead a patrol to check it out."
"Are you sure that you don't want to go by yourself," he asked, "I would rather if just one cat went. Don't approach them, I just want you to use the scents that are left, to detect where they are."
Sun nodded, realizing that there was more her leader was hiding but hse didn't press him to tell her, "Will there even be a scent left?" she asked him.
He laughed,"You would be surrised, I stopped to check yesterday and it isn't very hard to smell.
Sun nodded, and without furthur questioning she left the camp and found that he was right. The scent still was very strong.
She followed the scent for a long time, until she reached a place she thought might be the edge of the forest, where she found a stong blast of their scent. When she looked up she saw a camp, not too far ahead. Just when she was about to turn around, to report it to Leader Spark she heard a familiar voice.
The two cats looked at each other for several awkward moments.
"I've missed you," Bramble finally admitted.
Sun shrugged, "Me too,"
Slowly, the cats walked up to each other. Bramble felt all the anger towards Sun in him disappearing. He would never forget the way he tricked her when he was thrown half way across their old camp, but seeing her again made everything so different. Like this was the way it was meant to be this way. Little did he realize how true it was.
The two cats gazed into each others eyes for a moment before they finally brushed pelts. "I'm sorry," Bramble heard her whisper.
He didn't answer, indicating that her apology wasn't accepted. Instead he asked, "What are you doing here? Has your clan come to attack again?" He didn't want to sound hostile around her after everything that had been done, but he had to make sure that his family was safe first.
"Oh, no," she replied, "I wish I could say I came here to see you," her voice trailed off and Bramble felt himself going a little red, "But I was actually sent here so that we could make peace with your family, and possibly convince them to join us."
"After how you drove us out?" Bramble softened his eyes, "I'm sorry Sun, but I don't think that your clan stands a chance," he pauses, "You should probably just leave."
There was a comforting silence as the two cats stared at each other. Bramble noticed Sun slowly edging closer to him. To break the silence he asked, "Are you done with your training?"
Her eyes brightened, "I am more than done," she claimed, "I became the second-in-command, which is a pretty big deal now because there are a lot more cats in the clan."
Bramble couldn't say he was surprised. He knew Sun well enough to acknowledge that she did have leadership skills, "Congratulations," he purred and she licked his gratefully.
Bramble felt himself relax as he and Sun continued to sit in silence. He was surprised when he heard himself say, "We could start meeting again you know. I never will forget the wonderful moments we shared together. I never said it back then Sun, but you were more than a friend to me. You always will be."
Her eyes widened as she registered what he said. Finally she nodded slowly, "I tried to hide it too, but I always felt like all I could ever think about was you."
She thought for a moment, "I guess I could keep meeting you. For a while at least."
He purred, "That's great! But when and where?"
"It had to be closer to my camp, because I am always busy with deputy work, but how about right after the sun sets," she offered him, "That is when the clan is busy eating."
He nodded, "We could meet right outside of your territory, where they won't have a problem with me trespassing."
She nodded, "But everyday you will have to move farther back since we are constantly extending out territory." she warned him.
He purred, "Less walking for me, more walking for you," he teased, "Not a problem!"
She laughed and playfully shoved him, "You lazy bum," she teased, "While I am working hard to manage my duties as a deputy, you can't bother to take another three steps."
Her tone was playful but when Bramble looked in his eyes, she saw how tired and worn out she really was. In order to help her relax a bit, he pressed up against her and let her lean up on him.
"I love you," he whispered, and he meant every letter he spoke.
"Where were you?" Thorn demanded as Bramble reached their camp, "You were just supposed to scout, not go on a pleasure walk!"
Bramble dipped his head, "Sorry, Thorn."
He sighed, "You are old enough to know this stuff by now, Bramble," Bramble put on a face of fake shame and he flicked his tail in dismissal, "Take Rose's two new kits; Rock and River, out hunting. Just show them the basics."
"But they were born just a month ago!" he protested, "They would collapse from exhaustion."
The older cat flicked his tail in frustration, "We are on the verge of losing our survival. We need to train them as quickly as we can. Besides, they won't hunt they will just learn a little from watching you."
"So I'm supposed to be baby-sitting," he mumbled.
"Stop that attitude," the brown tabby snapped, "Just because you are older that doesn't mean you get to make all of the decisions down here. We don't have a leader, we all play equal parts and have an equal amount of effort."
Bramble wanted to snort at his lie but instead he asked, "Didn't she give birth to three cats though?"
He shrugged, "The other one was a she-cat. You know we kick those out because they are weaker and we don't have room for those things."
Bramble thought differently from Thorn on this subject; they thought differently on just about every subject, but this one made him the angriest. Sun was definitely a strong cat, mentally, emotionally and physically and he wouldn't want to get in any type of fight with her. But he didn't say anything and walked inside of the den where Rose, the only she-cat whose only job was to give birth, slept.
"Hello, Bramble," she greeted the young cat and he could see pain and anger in her eyes. She was upset about her lost daughter, she had lost a couple before for the same reason, and Bramble couldn't blame her. But it wasn't like there was anything she could do about it. If she left then she would have a very hard time surviving and Bramble's family wouldn't hesitate to hunt her down. Some of the cats that would be sent to hurt her could even be her child, as Bramble was herself.
"I've come to take the kits out," he told her, "They're going to watch me do a bit of hunting."
She sighed and licked her kits before sending them in Bramble's direction. He looked a little fondly at the cats he shared a mother with before walking out of the camp alongside them. When Thorn noticed him, he nodded his head in approval.
Bramble could hardly catch anything that day. All he was thinking about was how messed up the system he lived with was; and the dictatorship of Thorn, how he claimed that they all worked together to survive. He was too distracted imagining Sun, and how she might help him if he revealed all of his troubles.
But he couldn't because that could get him and his family in trouble.
He did go to meet Sun that night, making up an excuse. Thorn just shoved him away, telling him to do whatever he wanted and he spent the whole night by her side, on the edge of her territory.
Nothing else could have made his night so wonderful.
We've been waiting for you, Bramble
Bramble looked around confused but all he could see was blinding light, and several pelts shimmering in the shadow of the light. Stars glimmered on their misty fur and they walked with such grace it didn't seem real.
"Who are you?" he asked the many cats gathered.
We are what you will become, the voice trailed off, We are your inevitable future. Do not deny us.
"What do you want from me?" he demanded, "What have I done to you, leave me alone!" he cried with anxiety and fear, "I mean no harm!"
We know that, young Bramble and we are not here to haunt you, the voices chorused, We are here to reveal something important to you, something we need you to listen to closely.
Bramble wasn't convinced, "Tell me already so that you can leave me alone..." he tried to sound strong and demanding but it came out weak and helpless.
You will remember these sharp words one day, now they spoke with amusement, But for now let us deliver our message, you do not have time to waste, for much is going on in your own world.
"Hurry up, then," he whispered, and they laughed together.
Here is your message Bramble, and remember to hold it close to your heart, and not your mind; The path of the Brambles must be reached through the heart and not through the mind; it is the only way to reach your destiny.
Bramble stared at them, confused, "What do you mean?" he asked but they were already fading, leaving his mind.
He realized he was lying in his nest, and when he pulled up he noticed that none of the cats were sleeping anymore despite the moon glimmering in the distance. He slowly pulled himself up to see where all of his den-mates were.
Suddenly, he heard a loud screech coming from outside his den. He quickly jumped to his feet and ran out of the den. Cats were running frantically and he noticed an Ashclan scent, extremely fresh but not present. He looked up to see Ashclan cats feeling, leaving their den. He felt his insides boiling with rage; why couldn't they just leave them alone, they had already driven them out once, and now they were trying to destory his family.
He knew he and Sun would have to have a long and unpleasent thought about it, but he soon discovered that was the least of his worries.
He heard a small wail coming from behind him and he turned around to see one of Rose's kits crying softly, with no older cat trying to comfort him, and when he looked slightly to the right of the kit, and a slender body lying limply he understood exactly why.
"I thought you just wanted to peace; to join our clan!" Bramble demanded as he walked up to Sun.
There was sadness and anger in here eyes, "We did," she hissed, "But they obviously didn't. Right after we made the request they called us mouse-brains and attacked us. Your group had declared was against us and my clan doesn't want to wait until we are attacked."
"But you killed my mother," he protested, "Why would you do that."
Sun sighed, and looked at him, "I figured they wouldn't have told you," she sighed sadly as Bramble senced there was something she was hiding from her.
"What happened to her?" he asked, and when she didn't respond, he looked deep into her eyes, "She was my mother, Sun, you have to tell me!"
She sighed, "Your mother died saving my life," she finally admitted, "I was about to recieve a death blow from one of the big cats. He was there last time too; the cat who attacked Leader Spark."
"Thorn," Bramble mumbled darkly.
Sun turned to him, surprised, "Do you not like him?" she asked and the expression on the face seemed to be a good enough answer for her, "Well he was attacking me, and Rose jumped in the way, screaming that he wasn't going to take the life of another she-cat that had the potential of becoming great and strong," she explained and Bramble detected guilt in her eyes, and he pulled his pelt next to hers to offer comfort.
"I didn't know that's what happened," he admitted with guilt, before he felt his eyes clouding darkly, "Rose had recently lost a kit, because it was a she-cat. In my family Thorn throws out all she-cats, and we only have one that functions with the duty of giving birth to kits."
Sun's eyes widened, "So it isn't a rumor!" she gasped, and Bramble shook his head sadly.
The two cats sat in silence, both forgiving the other for the crimes of the cats they lived with. Finally Sun turned to Bramble, "We are going to attack soon," she informed him, "I don't want you to get hurt," she claimed, "I will do everything I can to warn you, but you have to promise that you won't tell the others."
Bramble hesitated for a moment. He didn't want to betray his family they were all he had, but yet, Sun seemed to be more then them all put together but still...
He remember Rose, and her death, the way Thorn claimed he wasn't leader but then dictated them, the horrible way they treated she-cats.
"I promise," he claimed.
She sighed, "Good," she purred, "All I know at this point is we will attack within the next five days."
Bramble nodded and soon the two cats had to part. That night, Bramble slept in the den farthest away from Thorn, even though it was the most uncomfortable. He didn't want to go near him.
But the next morning, Bramble was doubting his decision. He debated if he should tell his family and lie to Sun. Even the horrible memories weren't enough to drive the urge out. However horrible they may be, they were his family.
Then what did that make Sun?
She was his mate, and the cat he cared about the most in the world. If he told his family then she might get hurt and he didn't know what he would do then."
He glanced once at Thorn, who was string then at the fine line where their camp ended. He only hesitated for a moment, before turning around and heading out of camp to catch some prey.
Bramble could never forget the day of the battle. The blood and fur and claws. His ruined home; and the horrible fate of the cats he had grown up with. But more then anything, the loss of one of his most prized possessions.
He had been sitting on his own, chewing on some prey. He had met with Sun the previous night, and he had asked her about when her clan would attack and she claimed that she didn't know, and they would probably decide the next day.
He hadn't pushed him and the two cats had sat in silence for the rest of the night.
He was eating his squirrel alone; he hadn't felt like conversing with any of his den mates after he learned about how it had really been Thorn that killed Rose. A part of Bramble couldn't wait for the attack so that Thorn might get some serious injuries, but he knew he couldn't have truly wished for something so bloody, no matter how much he hated his leader.
But despite, what he may or may not have wished, the battle was going to happen anyways.
It was far too sudden, for any cat to see it. One minute he was chewing his squirrel and the next second he had a cat on top of him, attacking fiercely. Right after he heard the sounds of a battle as cats collided, and he realized that his family didn't stand a chance.
He wasn't trying to defeat the cat, just hold them off until he heard Thorn's signal for retreat, but he never gave it. Worried, Bramble kicked the cat off him and turned around to see Thorn fighting, with obviously no intention of stopping. He realized with horror, that Thorn's arrogance would cost them a loss.
But he didn't bother trying to approach Thorn, he knew that the leader wouldn't listen to anyone but himself.
So Bramble did fight, and he tried to avoid hurting cats, but sometimes he found that there was no choice as he jumped from cat to cat. As he threw a cat off him, he turned around to find Sun staring at him, her eyes wide with worry.
For a moment Bramble felt himself being dragged out of the battle, and the two of them sat there in silence for a single moment, as cats screeched and hissed around them.
Their moment was interrupted by Thorn.
"What are you just standing there for!" he hissed as he approached him. Bramble wanted to ask him why he was just standing there, lecturing him rather than battling but he knew better than to object.
"I..." he stammered, before turning around and slowly paddling in the other direction, "I'll go to fight now," he finally said, "Sorry about that Thorn."
The tabby scoffed, "She is standing right in front of you," he rolled his eyes, "Why can't you just attack her?"
Worry entered Sun's eyes, and Bramble knew it was not because she feared a fight. He was perfectly aware that Sun wouldn't attack him back, even if he had his teeth on her neck. And now he was forced to chose in between doing that, and whatever consequence.
"I can't attack her," Bramble slowly admitted.
"And why is that?" Thorn questioned.
"Because," he hesitated for a moment before relizing that he would have to tell Thorn, "She is my mate," seeing the look on Thorn's face he repeated, "I can't attack her because she is my mate, and nothing you ever do can make me."
His eyes narrowed, "You traitor," he hissed, "I can't belive that you have been meeting with her all this time."
"I'm sorry Thorn," he responded, "But nothing you do can ever stop me from meeting with her."
He growled, "Then I will kill you first, you fool," and he lunged at Bramble's heart. He closed his eyes bracing for the impact, but never felt it happen. Instead, he looked forward and saw Thorn's claws pierced into Sun's throat, and blood running down from them.
Sun coughed for a moment, and Bramble felt the anger in his chest rising. He jumped onto Thorn, his claws poised to kill, and reached right under his heart. He howled with pain, before pulling himself back up.
"Leave," Bramble hissed, pain and anger leaking through his voice, "Leave now before I kill you!"
Thorn sensed the danger and let out a yowl before turning around and running away from the camp they had been sheltering in.
He watched his former leader disappear for a moment before turning around and running back to Sun's body which was now stiff.
"Sun, get up!" he meowed, a half-wail half-plead, "Please Sun, some cats will help you get better."
She could barely talk, "I'm sorry Bramble," she choked, "But before I go I need to tell you something: Follow your heart instead of your mind." She gasped again, before her body went limp.
Bramble thought he could see her spirit leaving her body and heading up towards the clouds.
"Sun?" he whispered prodding her body but it was no use.
Sun, his mate and the cat he cared the most about, was dead.
"Are you sure about this?" Leader Spark asked Bramble, who nodded with reassuringly.
"I'm sure. I can't go back there, and I want to honor her; do what she would have done," he lowered his voice, "I also know you need someone to take her place since you are still growing."
He seemed thoughtful and Bramble hoped that he would be accepted, "You don't have to do this, you know," the leader finally said, "We would rather you don't come, as opposed to you coming unwillingly, not wanting to be a part of our clan."
"I want to join your clan," Bramble assured him, "Ever since I was a kit, I grew up around morals, and was taught obey orders which I didn't even believe him. Meeting Sun helped me ease some of the difficulty but now she is gone, and she had spoke so much about this clan to me," Bramble hoped that he looked sincere, "Nothing would honor me more than the opportunity to join Ashclan."
Leader Spark nodded, "But don't let me down. You cost us a cat, and I know you wish you had been in her place, but you need to face the possibility that the clan could blame you for that."
Bramble nodded, "I understand that, and I am willing to face whatever they throw at me. I also apologize for Sun, I am the saddest among us."
His eyes were sad, "I don't doubt that."
Bramble put on a sad smile before Leader Spark moved aside from the entrance to Ashclan camp, and let him pass. Bramble slowly paddled inside and despite the fact that he had lived most of his life in the massive rock, it felt like such a different place to him; the spirit that was now encompassing the den was much different than what he had ever known before.
Bramble noticed a brown she-cat approach him. She had a light and sympathetic smile on her face, "Hello, I'm Deer," she introduced herself.
"Hi," Bramble awkwardly responded, "Do you know where we sleep?"
"Yes," she replied before flicking her tail at a den, "That is the one where warriors sleep. I assume Leader Spark would make you a warrior, since you are just about as old as Sun and she was the deputy."
"What about those dens," he asked indicating towards the other ones with his tail.
"Those are for the other cats, who aren't warriors," she explained and using her nose to indicate towards one she added, "That one is restricted. A message from Starclan had been delivered there and the Leader as well as the healers are still trying to figure it out."
"So where did Sun sleep?"
"In the same den as Leader Spark," Deer replied, "Only leaders and deputies are allowed in that den, but I guess he can make an exception; at least until midnight when he picks the new deputy."
Bramble nodded and began to paddle towards the den where Sun had slept.
When he entered there was a calming silence inside the den. The background noise from the clearing could still be heard but Bramble could hardly hear it. As he sat inside the den, he could easily detect Sun's scent, bouncing off the walls. He inhaled her scent in deeply, before paddling over to the nest where she had sat.
Slowly he lied on top of the soft moss, covering her nest. Her stale scent engulfed him, and he found himself relaxing in it as all of his exhaustion hit him, and he fell into a deep sleep.
He woke up in the middle of the night, to the noise of cast whispering outside in the clearing. He looked over to see Leader Spark sitting thoughtfully and Bramble realized that he was thinking about his selection. He exited the den, to give the leader some time to think.
Outside the den, he noticed all of the cats walking towards the rock with excitement. Bramble found himself unable to express any emotion at the thought of the new deputy. Especially since it would be a cat replacing Sun.
He glanced around the clearing and his eyes got tripped on the den which Deer had told him not to go to. Just the thought of what might be in there made him excited, and he felt as though secretly exploring it might have been something that Sun would do.
He carefully sneaked a look at the clan and realized that none of them would notice if he did it. Leader Spark would be upset if he found out, but Bramble felt a force dragging him into the mysterious den, and he didn't fight back.
Making sure that no cat was watching he swiftly bounded up to the den, and entered so quickly that no cat could have ever noticed.
He looked around he cave for a moment, trying to find anything. He didn't even realize what it was until he wandered for a few moments, and tripped over a pile of ash lying on the floor of the cave
He looked at it curiously; he didn't remember anything like this being in any of the dens before.
He thought he could hear Leader Spark in the back calling the clan together to announce the deputy, but he didn't leave. There seemed to be something more to this pile of ash than what met the eye. Slowly he pulled his head in and touched it softly with his nose.
The next second he felt his world spinning out of control, as his vision got fuzzy and the world began to leave him. He wondered if he was dreaming, when he felt his world stand still.
Slowly he pulled his nose away from the pile of ash, and looked up to see the most astonishing thing he had ever witnessed.
He was facing millions of stars, bright as the sun, illumination the darkness of the land in which he was dwelling. They all seemed to speak as one, but yet many, the purest voice he had ever heard in his life, tingled with every good thing he could imagine. And the stars all spoke to him.
"We have been waiting for you, Bramble."
"Who are you?" Bramble asked, slightly worried.
"We are the clan of the stars; you will join us one day to honor a cat with the nine lives we have chosen to give you." the voices echoed.
"So are you..." Bramble trailed off, "The clans in the skies that Sun was talking about us."
"That is us," all of the voices said at once, "You were always destined to lead this clan Bramble. That was why we told you to follow your heart which belonged to Sun; because it would bring you here."
"Why me?" Bramble asked, suddenly feeling even more worried; something he didn't know was possible.
"There is no 'whys' in destiny, Bramble. There is just what happens, from the choices we make and the paths we follow. You followed a path here, where we will give you the nine lives you need to become a leader of this destined clan."
Bramble stood in shock and silence for a moment before the stars spoke again, "Are you ready to receive your nine lives?"
Deciding he was more ready than he ever could be he nodded, "I am ready Starclan!"
Suddenly he felt the stars growing and he squinted his eyes, as a bright flash of light turned into a ginger cat he didn't recognize.
"I am Ruby, one of the first cats of Ashclan," he claimed and he put his nose against Bramble's forehead, "With this life a give you hope, let it lead you through the darkness."
The life was sharp and painful, as Bramble gritted his teeth. He was relaxed when the ginger tom finally let go and his place was taken by another strange cat.
"I am Emberclaw, a resident of Starclan," the cat claimed as he eyed Bramble with respect, before leaning in to give another life, "With this life I give you compromise. Use it to solve problems and debates among the cats you will be responsible for."
This life hurt more than the last, and when Emberclaw finally pulled away, Bramble was wondering how he was going to put up with the rest.
The next cat was also a stranger, "My name is Wishspirit," the cat claimed as she touched noses with Bramble, "And I give you a life for dreams, which you must use to shape the future of yourself and of you cats." she claimed softly. This life was soft and sweet as Bramble sucked every last bit of it in.
The next cat seemed familiar but in a was Bramble could not explain, but there was pride in the tom's eyes as he approached, "I am your father, Bramble," he claimed, "And how proud I am to be." Bramble stared at the cat in astonishment as he leaned down to give a life.
"With this life a give you regret," this life scorched through Bramble's body as he struggled to control himself. When he looked into his father's eyes he saw regret. Regret at leaving him, "Use it to never make the same mistake twice. A mistake is an experience, not an embarrassment that we should always try to forget." his eyes were mallow.
"I forgive you," Bramble murmured as his father paddled away. He flicked his tail to indicate that he heard.
The next cat was one that Bramble didn't remember, although he knew he had heard about before. "Are you Leader Prey?" he asked and the cat nodded.
"With this life I give you leadership," he murmured softly as pain and pride both surged through his body at once, "You are a leader Bramble, and nothing you ever do can change that. What you have the power to determine is what kind of a leader you want to be."
Bramble nodded as the cat paddled away, and was replaced by two little kits who bounded up to him. He recognized them both as she-cats, that had once been Rose's. One was older while the other one was the cat they had thrown into the wild the other day. Bramble felt sorry that she was already dead.
The older one stepped forward, "With this life I give you anguish," she announced, and Bramble felt like he could collapse from all the pain, "Never fear it, for there is always something you will win in return for whatever you have lost."
The other she-kit stepped forward, "With this life I give you justice. Do not fear what is right; embrace it," This life was just as painful as the last and Bramble was panting hard by the time he had received the life.
"I'm sorry I never stood up for you."
"That's okay, I am proud to be your sister," she smiled before turning around and disappearing back into the stars.
Bramble purred with delight when he saw the next cat, "Rose!"
"Yes," she smiled, "I always knew you were a special kit, from the moment you were born."
Bramble clenched his teeth, prepared for the pain of this life only to discover that it was soft, "With this life I give you love. Use it to care for your clan, and cats. Love isn't something to fear; it belongs inside of every one of us." her eyes glowed with pride as she stepped away leaving Bramble hungry for more of the life.
But he soon forgot about it, when he saw Sun approaching from his mother's shadows. The two cats purred together as they brushed pelts, "I am proud to be giving you your last life," she announced, as she leaned in and put her nose against his.
"With this life I give you courage," she announced as pain zapped Bramble's body, reaching every nerve, "Approach opportunities, the only road towards greatness comes from your ability to follow that road. Do not fear what may become, only imagine what could become."
Despite the pain Bramble was sad when his mate finally pulled away from him and the whole of Starclan, her voice the loudest, chorused, "We welcome you, Bramblestar, the first leader of Ashclan!"
"Bramblestar! Bramblestar! Bramblestar!"
Bramblestar purred when he noticed Bushtail entering the camp, carrying the voles in her mouth, "This should be enough to feed the elders!" she smiled as she turned to walk into the elder's den.
Suddenly kits began to squeal as they came running out of the nursery, surronding Bushtail, who seemed to be liked very much by the little ones, "Did you bring us any food?" Willowkit asked with excitment.
"Sorry kits, this is for the elders," she responded, and seeing them start to deflate she quickly added, "But Firetail will be bringing something for you as soon as he comes."
Excitment returned to the kits, and Bramblestar couldn't help purring, as Nightfern approached him.
"The clan has grown so much since the time I was a kit," she murmured and Bramblestar smiled at Sun's sister, who was now the medicine cat since Mudpelt had retired.
"Starclan has led us through it," he responded, "Giving us a proper code and showing us how a clan truly functions. But the names still confuse me a little," he smiled, "The thought of giving a cat the wrong name makes me worried," Nightfern purred.
"I've liked all your names so far," she admitted, "Especially mine."
Bramblestar smiled, "I always thought that I had done a good job naming you."
He heard the kits shreaking with joy as Firetail entered the camp. He was one of the many loners that had joined Ashclan after Bramblestar became leader.
"You only have five lives left, don't you," Nightfern asked, cutting into his thoughts, "You need to be more careful, the clan will be confused if you die, they won't know where to find their new leader."
"If I died you would take Braveheart to the ashpile and he would recieve his nine lives; the clan would live on.
Nightfern didn't seem convinced and Bramblestar added, "Sun told me she was scared that the clan would die, when Leader Prey died. But the clan continued to live, and they only thrived even more."
She brightened a little at that, "I suppose that you are right," she smiled.
Bramblestar looked around the clearing with pride and confidence. They had made a camp, a code, a style of living, a truce with all the cats around them, a territory, a way for survival, and most importantly, they had made a family.
He was confident that nothing could stop them now; they had jumped over every hurdle that life had sent in their way, and now they were striding along confidently.
And it had all started from a fire that one cat had thought would ruin their life; a fire that brought out a new life for the cats in the forest: Ashclan.
The clan that rose from ash.