Part of the Stars (Series).
“Tulipkit! Springkit!” Lilywing sang, and two little bundles of fur trotted obediently out of the tall grass and towards their pink-furred mother.
“Yes mother?” the two she-kits chimed, their eyes wide.
“Oh, you two are dears,” trilled Lilywing. “I just wanted your father to see you! Mistyclaw!”
An irritable-looking light gray tom with blinking blue eyes padded over, his head bent warily as he looked down upon his two daughters, who looked slightly crest-fallen that he didn’t seem pleased to meet them. After all, Springkit had his gray fur, and Tulipkit had his and her mother’s blue eyes.
Mistyclaw grunted, gave his mate’s ear a lick, nodded to the two kits, and padded towards the fresh-kill pile, picking a scrawny bird of the top, then jumping onto a rock to eat it, his back to Lilywing, Tulipkit, and Springkit.
“Does he like us?” asked Tulipkit uncertainly. “Of course he does,” murmured Lilywing, smoothing her chest fur with her tongue.
“He just has a lot of work to do, Dewstar counts on him for a lot of patrols.” Meanwhile, another queen, Rosefeather, was talking to her own mate, Roosterfoot, about their only kit, Dovekit.
“I just don’t think he’s big enough,” Rosefeather fretted. “All the other kits dwarf him, he’s so scrawny!”
“He’s small, not scrawny, Rosefeather,” Roosterfoot chided. “And I’ve told you about not neglecting to feed him. How would you feel if your own mother didn’t want to feed you?”
“I don’t not want to feed him,” Rosefeather mumbled. “He won’t drink my milk.”
“Really?” Roosterfoot said skeptically. “I’ll go ask him.” He turned around, but Rosefeather called after him.
“All right, I lied, but he’s not getting any bigger so what difference does it make? The other queens laugh at me for having such a runt.”
“He’s not a runt,” Roosterfoot hissed. “He’s your kit. You must feed him; no innocent kit deserves to die because his mother thinks he’s too small. That’s an idiotic notion, Rosefeather, I expected better of you.” And he turned away angrily. Meanwhile, Orchidtail, a light brown tabby she-cat was talking to a cat almost identical to her, though without the tabby stripes.
“Chirpkit is adorable,” the second cat purred. “I wish he was my own.”
“Yup,” replied Orchidtail. “He’s so energetic, and I feel really bad when I can’t take him outside, he wants to explore, and I can imagine how exciting it must be out there for a kit whose never been, and how dull it must be, stuck in here. And he only has the other kits to talk to that treat him like equals—all the warriors frown upon him because he’s curious.”
“I’ll always treat him like an equal,” Finchpool promised. “And if you were to join StarClan, I’d treat him like my own.”
“Well, I don’t plan on joining StarClan anytime soon,” Orchidtail promised her friend.
“I almost wish for my own kits. But then Risingpool and Wetblade will be the only she-cat warriors, and they’ll miss me.”
Finchpool had mentored both of the young, tiny cats, taking on Wetblade’s apprenticeship when her mentor, Dawnforest, had died in battle. Wetblade’s mother had also died in the battle, alongside Dawnforest. It had taken a long time for the small, light brown tabby to recover after the deaths of her two closest clanmates. Meanwhile, Petuniacloud was coaxing her own three kits to try a squirrel from the fresh-kill pile. They were five moons old already (almost six), but insisted still on feeding wholly on their mother’s milk.
“Come on Rockkit…see? Mallowkit is trying that squirrel; she’s always been brave, right? And Cloverkit is nibbling on the squirrel too!” The two kits that had eaten the squirrel had glee spreading over their faces.
“Mother!” they chirped. “Why didn’t you let us eat this before?”
“See?” Petuniacloud said exasperatedly. “They love the squirrel!”
“It’s a bit furry,” admitted Mallowkit, hanging her head.
“And you have to eat around the bones,” added Cloverkit. Their mother glared at them, and Rockkit shook his head.
“Never!” he squeaked, and darted off towards the medicine den, where Mistpaw was sorting herbs with her mentor, Grassfoot.
Petuniacloud sighed. “I guess I can’t persuade him to do something he doesn’t want to do,” she mumbled. Her mate, Pebblewing, padded over to her and rubbed his tail along her back.
“It’s okay. Rockkit has always been stubborn. His mentor will be able to knock some obedience into him,” Pebblewing purred.
“I am obedient,” called Rockkit. He was watching Grassfoot and Mistpaw avidly, his eyes trained on the herbs they were sorting, his ears perked towards Mistpaw who was reciting the names.
“Rockkit!” Mistpaw said, flicking him with her tail. “I was on a roll!”
“Keep going,” her mentor, Grassfoot, croaked. “You were on chervil.” Mistpaw took up her chant of names again.
Rosefeather was dreaming.
Two big, muscular cats were flanking a smaller, but still huge, cat, which, Rosefeather guessed, was already an apprentice in another clan.
The first muscular cat spoke. “I am Cedarclaw,” he said in a deep voice, his dark brown, striped, tabby fur rippling in the moonlight.
“And I Wolfcloud,” said the second cat, a female. She had striped gray fur, and clear blue eyes that gazed somberly into Rosefeather’s own. “And this is Mousekit.”
“Kit?” echoed Rosefeather, but her eyes shone as she looked down upon the bright brown pelted-kit, with his wide, shining green eyes.
“This was our son,” Cedarclaw murmured, swiping his tail along his kit’s spine.
“Was?” asked Rosefeather.
“We have joined StarClan,” murmured Wolfcloud. “We were still young, but he’s only three moons old.” She rubbed against Mousekit, who purred.
“You can have him, but your own son, Dovekit, will come to StarClan with us, and one cat you don’t know very well, will come with us too,” Cedarclaw mewed.
“Of course I’ll take him!” Rosefeather meowed. “He’s bigger than any kit, and Daisymoon won’t be able to say how much bigger her kits are than mine, because Mousekit is the biggest of all!”
“You are aware that we must take two lives for Mousekit’s? If he were to go with you, two lives will be stolen from cats, one will be your own son, your own flesh-and-blood, and one could be from you own clan, or DuskClan, or NightClan, or DayClan?” Wolfcloud warned. Rosefeather nodded succinctly.
“Then go,” they meowed together, their tails sweeping identically. “Mousekit will be waiting for you on the banks of the river.”
“What Clan is he? What Clan are you?” Rosefeather yowled through the mist swirling around her, though she could barely see the starry cats.
“It doesn’t matter,” their voices mingled together as Rosefeather’s eyes closed, and she was once more in the nursery, and Dovekit was gone.
“Orchidtail!” wailed Chirpkit. Rosefeather stumbled blearily out of the nursery, to where Chirpkit was yowling in the middle of camp. “Orchidtail went out to hunt at dawn, and it’s sunhigh and she isn’t back!” he yowled.
“Dewstar!” Petuniacloud dashed over to the leader. “Chirpkit says Orchidtail went out at dawn to hunt, and she isn’t back yet,” Petuniacloud said in a rush. “Orchidtail!”
“I want to look for her!” Chirpkit squeaked. Petuniacloud nodded.
“She’s my littermate, I want to go too,” Petuniacloud insisted.
“Chirpkit,” Dewstar said softly. “I know she’s your mother, but you’re not allowed out of camp. Protect everyone with Wormnose, stand right by him and make sure no cat or animal who isn’t DawnClan comes in. Can you do that, Chirpkit?” The little kit nodded. Dewstar straightened up.
“We’ll protect the camp, Dewstar!” called a pink-gray tom. His mate, Irispool curled around him fearfully.
“Petuniacloud, Earlypaw, Wetblade, and Frostfall, come on,” Dewstar meowed. “Thanks Wormnose.”
The patrol headed out towards the camp barrier, and Rockkit dashed after them, keeping low to the ground. No one noticed the tiny kit stalk out of the camp. Rosefeather decided not to let the disappearance of Dovekit bother her, and she went out in search of Mousekit.
“Orchidtail!” Finchpool yowled. Rosefeather froze on the edge of camp. “Orchidtail, no!”
“We already used poppy seeds, Finchpool. She’s not in any more pain, but StarClan are going to accept her, don’t worry,” a small voice said, and Rosefeather peered through the hanging grass tunnel, to see Rockkit rubbing up against the light brown tabby, another, similar body eagle-splayed in the middle of the clearing.
Chirpkit’s sobs reached Rosefeather’s ears, and she backed into the tunnel, Mousekit still dangling by his scruff in his new mother’s jaws.
Plucking up her courage, Rosefeather raced into camp like nothing had happened. “Look what I fou—” she stopped dead when she saw a steady trickle of blood running from Orchidtail’s mouth, and an odd flatness in her body. Her breath was coming in ragged gasps.
“What do we do?” yowled Finchpool to her littermate, Petuniacloud, upon seeing their other sister’s body lying on the ground. “Rockkit, tell us what to do!”
“There’s nothing we can do,” said Rockkit quietly. “She’s…she’s gone.”
Rosefeather set Mousekit down, and yowled into the sky, “You told me it would be someone I didn’t know!”
The two she-cats who were grieving over Orchidtail froze. “You killed…what?” Finchpool was stunned.
“No…I…” and she explained her dream with Wolfcloud and Cedarclaw, and then she showed Mousekit, who looked terrified, to the other cats in the clearing.
“You traded Dovekit and Orchidtail for a bigger kit?” yowled Petuniacloud. “That was my sister!”
“No,” stammered Rosefeather. “I didn’t know it would be Orchidtail, Cedarclaw said it would be some cat I didn’t know!”
“You didn’t know Orchidtail,” Finchpool said gently. She raised her voice to address the clan. “I know, that in the light of Orchidtail’s death, she would have wanted me to tell you this. Her mate was never Shimmerfrost, but he knows that. Right?”
Shimmerfrost, a light pink-gray tom, nodded, his head bowed.
“Her mate…was Shorenose,” Finchpool murmured.
“No way, his mate is Cherrystorm!”
“Cherrystorm and Shorenose agreed never to have kits together. They both know about Orchidtail, but…someone has to tell them she died.”
A few cats murmured, but Chirpkit spoke up, his voice no longer a squeak, but a strong, clear ring. “I’ll do it. She was my mother. With an escort to DayClan, I will speak to Shorenose, and Cherrystorm. They wouldn’t hurt a kit.”
“She was your mate Shimmerfrost,” murmured Dewstar. “You can go with your son.”
“We’re not related,” murmured Shimmerfrost and Chirpkit at the same time.
“He’s not my father, and I’m not his son,” Chirpkit meowed. “But I wish he was. Shorenose is great too, but…Shimmerfrost was never my father.”
“I would like to make an announcement!” called Grassflight from the sidelines.
Dewstar beckoned her with her tail.
“It is my wish, to join the elder’s den,” she croaked, and Mistpaw looked shocked, sad, and scared.
“I’ll never get my name!” she wailed.
“Tomorrow,” Grassflight continued over Mistpaw’s yowl. “I would like to remain a medicine cat one more night, so that Mistpaw can receive her warrior name at the Moonpool.”
Dewstar called out, “It is time for three kits to move on to apprentices…Mallowkit. Cloverkit. Rockkit.”
The three kits scrambled forwards.
“….Then, from this moment on, until you receive your warrior names, you will be known as, Mallowpaw, Cloverpaw, and Rockpaw. Your mentors will be Risingpool, Shimmerfrost, and—”
“Wait!” cried Rockpaw. “Dewstar, I’m sorry to interrupt you, but…but I want to be a medicine cat.”
Gasps rippled through the clearing, but Mallowpaw and Cloverpaw yowled, “Yeah Rockpaw! Go Rockpaw! The new medicine cat apprentice!”
The clan began to nod its approval, until everyone was yowling for Rockpaw. Mistpaw glowed.
“My first apprentice!” she purred.
“I’m still your mentor,” croaked Grassfoot. “Tonight you’ll get your name, and then Rockpaw will be your apprentice.”
“Any more announcements?” asked Fuzzytail with an annoyed edge to her voice. “Or are we done for tonight?”
“Done,” chorused the cats in the clearing. The elder turned, muttering darkly, and slipped back into the elder’s den.
Rosefeather was still sitting, grief-stricken, at the edge of the camp, tears welling in her eyes as she looked upon Orchidtail’s limp, battered, flattened body. “StarClan, please, no!” she whispered.
“Too late,” Wolfcloud and Cedarclaw’s voices seemed to whisper. “Too late.”