This fanfiction is by Rainy. It takes place in the mountains, near the Tribe of Rushing Water. Hope you like it!
<tabber> Prologue=Chapter 1=
A cool breeze blew across the air, causing Rock to shiver as he looked down into the canyon. The patrol of cats was barely visible below, their pelts stark and lonely patches in the harsh mountain landscape. He imagined the lonely mewling of the kit they took with them, and hot tears pressed hard against his eyelids. He blinked them away, but the sadness remained, like a bottomless hole in his heart.
"I'm sorry," he whispered softly, into the darkness. "If I didn't have to do this, I wouldn't. You have no idea how much this hurts me-"
"I think I do," a gentle voice said from behind him.
Ice formed in the tom's veins. He whirled around, almost losing his grip on the rocky peak he had perched on. When his eyes fell on the slender she-cat in front of him, he let out a slight breath of relief, but the tension didn't ease from his shoulders. "Stoneteller."
She padded over a few steps, her eyes fixed on the horizon, where the visiting cats were just vanishing around a bend in the stone path. "You cannot escape destiny, Rock." Her words were quiet, but powerful. "It will find you, every time."
Rock turned away, a cold wind blowing through his brown fur, and freezing his heart into ice. "I don't care. This time, I shall cheat Lady Fate. She shall not get my daughter." He looked up, trying to keep the desperation out of his voice. "She's all I have left of Star. I can't lose her."
Stoneteller didn't pursue the topic. She flicked her tail towards the empty canyon where the cats had once been. "And this isn't losing her? She'll never know you."
Though he knew she was right, he said stubbornly, "I'll know. And that'll be enough, as long as she's safe."
"There are no guarantees of safety in an ever-changing world. Don't get your hopes up."
He opened his mouth, closed it, and shook his head. "You don't understand, Stoneteller. Wise as you are, you've never had kits, or a mate." Instantly, he flinched, anticipating a crude cut-down for his disrespect. But the she-cat's eyes clouded with sadness. She seemed lost in memories, caught in a world far away from him. As if on cue, flurries began to fall, landing gently on Rock's pelt. He shook them off, a fresh wave of anguish hitting him as they reminded him of his daughter.
"Snowflakes On The Wind," he said gently. "I wonder what they'll call her in the Clans."
Letting out a snort, Stoneteller broke free of her trance. "Probably some dumb warrior name. You told them never to tell her about her past, right?"
"Right. I don't want it hurting her."
She frowned. "But... Won't it hurt you?"
He met her gaze steadily. "I can take it. There are some things worth anything. Even dying for."
The apprentice huddled closer behind the bush, stepping on her friend's paw in the process. Lilacpaw's eyes bugged out, but she kept quiet. Sorry, Dovepaw mouthed.
The voice grew closer, and a ginger tom emerged from between the tree trunks, his handsome face tinged with irritation. "Come on guys, we're done playing hide-and-seek. The mentors will kill us if we don't get back in time. And guess who'll get the blame? Not you two 'angels'. Me," he grumped.
A slow smile worked its way across Dovepaw's features. She flicked her tail at Lilacpaw, who understood immediately. They both crouched down in the snow, eyes intent on the apprentice as he wandered closer and closer to their hiding place, still muttering curses.
Right when he was nearly about to step on them, Dovepaw burst out of the bush. She tackled him with a bloodcurdling screech. Behind her, Lilacpaw was yowling her head off and batting the tom with her paws. Letting out a high-pitched scream, he scrambled backwards, his eyes wide with panic. When he saw who they were, he deflated like a balloon.
"You guys are so lame- I'm going to kill you!"
"Fat chance, Blazepaw! You'll have to catch us first." Lilacpaw shot up a tree, her white-socked paws eating up the bark like she was running across regular ground. Dovepaw, however, wasn't so lucky.
As she made for the deeper woods, she felt Blazepaw's paw on her tail, pinning her down. With a screech, she fell over, and they wrestled, crashing into shrubbery and undergrowth in the process. Though she put up a valiant attempt, she knew she was no match for the larger, stronger tom. In seconds, Blazepaw had her against the floor. Their faces were inches apart. With a sudden jolt, Dovepaw suddenly remembered self-consciously that Blazepaw was a tom. Not to mention an adorable tom.
To stop the fluttering of her heart, she rolled out from under him, grooming her fur to hide her flushed cheeks. "Oaf," she muttered.
"Don't go creeping around next time," he retorted.
Lilacpaw had made her way down from the tree, and stood facing them with an impishly wide grin on her face. "You two behave like an old married couple."
Dovepaw glared at her friend, then turned her nose up haughtily. "Well, we'd better get back to camp."
"Agreed," Blazepaw said. They trotted off through the woods, side by side.
Lilacpaw noticed and laughed lightly. "I feel the same way. Want to go take a catnap?"
"There isn't much else you can do in this heat," she agreed.
Before the two apprentices could make their way towards the den, Blazepaw butted in without hesitation. "Mind if I join you ladies?"
Dovepaw shrugged. "I don't see why not, as long as you don't make a nuisance of yourself."
Flashing a charming grin, he said, "When have I ever done that?"
A gusty sigh accompanied Dovepaw's reply. "There isn't enough time in the world to list them all."
He pretended to be offended, giving her a wounded look and dragging his tail in the dust. "Well, I see how it is now."
"Good. That'll save me a lot of explaining," she shot back.
Giving a giant yawn, Lilacpaw mewed, "Shush, both of you. I'm not in the mood."
"He started it."
"She started it."
A overly-sweet smile spread across Lilacpaw's face. "Awwwww. Isn't that adorable? I love the way you two always talk over each other."
"Argh!" Dovepaw exclaimed, glaring at Blazepaw as if it was all his fault(when a tiny portion might have been hers). "Whatever," she said huffily. "It doesn't mean anything, just that he's annoying."
"Yeah," agreed Blazepaw. "I mean-"
Neither she-cat paused to listen to him; they flopped down in the shade of the bramble-covered caves. Dovepaw rested her head on her paws and slid her eyelids shut, letting the honey-scented, humid air lull her to sleep.
Blinking open her bleary eyes, Dovepaw staggered to her feet. Lilacpaw was standing in front of her, tail twitching impatiently, and Blazepaw was already seated near the Highledge with the rest of the Clan.
As she padded over to join him, Dovepaw mewed, "What's going on?"
Her friend's face was a mask of bewilderment. "I'm not sure. Surely it isn't time to apprentice Bluekit and Flowerkit yet? They aren't six moons yet."
Excitement tingled in Dovepaw's paws, and Blazepaw voiced her thoughts. "Maybe we're becoming warriors."
A soft laugh came from behind them; they turned to see Honeyfrost standing there. Dovepaw smiled at her mother warmly. "I'm sorry dears, but I don't think your ceremony will be for a while yet. This is about something else," Honeyfrost mewed.
"A guy can dream," Blazepaw muttered.
Honeyfrost let loose her signature tinkling laugh. "Yes, yes he can."
Just then, Lilystar called the Clan's attention. Her dark tabby-and-white coat ruffled in the breeze as she waited for the rest of ThunderClan to quiet down. "Attention, cats of ThunderClan. It has come to my attention that we've received a prophecy concerning us all."
A murmur rippled through the crowd. Dovepaw and Lilacpaw exchanged glances, wondering what this could mean. A prophecy was a rare occurrence; they hadn't had one since Firestar's time. And why was Lilystar telling the entire Clan?
The medicine cat, Waterwhisker, was standing nearby, his keen blue eyes searching the Clan as if he knew exactly what he was looking for. When his eyes found Dovepaw, they held her gaze a second longer then any other. A weird feeling rippled through her as she blinked uncomfortably at the tom, shifting from paw to paw. Meanwhile, Lilystar had continued speaking.
"I understand that it's greenleaf, and the last thing we want is to handle a prophecy when we're stocking up on health and prey for leaf-bare But this was sent by StarClan, and I believe to disregard it would be to dishonor an old friendship." She paused to let that sink in. "The cats who fulfill this prophecy have something to do with the Tribe of Rushing Water."
Puzzled mutters filled the air, accompanied by a few questioning yowls. Dovepaw turned to her friends and scrunched her brow. "The Tribe? Didn't they help us a long time ago, when we were first traveling to the lake?"
"I think that was it," Lilacpaw meowed in agreement, flicking her tail to signal that they should be quiet and listen to Lilystar.
Not taking the hint, Blazepaw said, "Why did StarClan bring them up now? We're fine."
Slightly miffed, though she didn't know why, Dovepaw said, "A friendship goes both ways. Maybe they need our help."
"Ahem." Lilystar forked them with a pair of sharp hazel eyes. Instantly falling silent, Dovepaw awaited her leader's next words. "So far, we haven't distinguished who shall be going on the quest. All we know is that it'll be four cats."
Four cats. What if I'm one of them? Dovepaw thought excitedly. Wouldn't it be nice to be part of a prophecy? It would be so interesting! But she couldn't let herself get carried away. It was unlikely that StarClan would ever pick her to carry out whatever mission they had, especially if it involved the Tribe, who, according to the elders, lived far away, in a rigid mountain range.
Still, she tuned in eagerly to Lilystar's next words. Maybe she'd get lucky.
"As of now, we don't know who these cats are," the leader said. She flicked her tail as the quarry filled with groaning. "However, that doesn't mean we won't know. I'm sure StarClan will send signs. The prophecy wasn't too detailed, but Waterwhisker and I know enough to decipher if what you dream truly is a sign from StarClan. If anyone thinks they're one of the cats, please inform us immediately."
"What will the four cats do?" asked Dovepaw with a frown.
Lilystar looked uncomfortable. "I'm not sure. I'm hoping it doesn't involve traveling to the Tribe - the mountains are a rough and dangerous place - but it might. We'll have to wait and see."
Murmuring rippled through the Clan as the Gathering broke up. Dovepaw raised her eyebrows at her friends, who looked just as bewildered. "Well," said Blazepaw. "That was... unexpected."
"Totally," agreed Lilacpaw. "I mean... the Tribe? Really? What the heck does that have to do with anything."
"I'm not sure..." Dovepaw mused. "But I think we'll find out pretty soon. I mean, the cats going on the trip will be picked soon, and-"
Flicking her tail dismissively, Lilacpaw mewed, "It won't be apprentices, so we don't have to worry about anything."
It was a moment before Dovepw responded. "Yeah. Right." She wondered if her friends could sense her disappointment.
Almost as if she could, Lilacpaw brushed her shoulder against Dovepaw's. "Did you want to go?" she asked curiously, and with a hint of surprise in her tone. "Did you really want to leave the Clan and go off on a journey?"
Suddenly, she wasn't sure what to say. Would it really be strange to say yes? Before she could make up her mind, she felt a pelt brush hers, and Waterwhisker was by her side, blue eyes boring into her keenly. "I'd like you to come with me," he said softly, his breath warm on her ear.