|Preceded by: |
|Shattered Like Dewdrops||Succeded by: |
Leader: Pantherstar--black tom with piercing yellow eyes
Deputy: Flameblossom--pretty ginger she-cat with amber eyes
Medicine Cat: Ambershine--ginger-orange she-cat with blue eyes
Mistfur (Apprentice, Jaguarpaw)--silver she-cat with blue eyes
Cherryleaf--tortoiseshell she-cat with green eyes
Skytail--gray-blue tom with a white chest and paws
Antpetal--Mousy brown she-cat
Vinepelt (Apprentice, Bamboopaw)--gray she-cat with streaks all over her body and lime green eyes
Toucanfoot--Brown tom with long claws and ginger feet
Mothflight--Creamy brown tom with amber eyes
Streamlight--silver she-cat with dark stripes
Stormpelt (Apprentice, Strikepaw)--Muscular tom with a smoky gray pelt and yellow eyes
Cloudbreeze--Rather small white tom
Firetail--Ginger tom with amber eyes
Lilydrop--Striking and mysterious white she-cat with deep amber eyes
Jaguarpaw (mentor, Mistfur)--Said to be descended from the big cat itself, she has palette-shaped markings just like a jaguar and beautiful blue eyes
Bamboopaw (mentor, Vinepelt)--She-cat with a simple brown pelt and green eyes
Strikepaw (mentor, Stormpelt)--handsome tom with a smoky gray pelt and a golden streak down his back
Whitemist (kits: Hawkkit, Splashkit--silver she-cats with black splotches and ice blue eyes)--pretty white she-cat with flecks of silver
Grayberry (kits: Waterkit, Swallowkit)--Gray she-cat speckled with black with pale green eyes
Rainwhisper - grayish tom with pale blue eyes
Splashkit bolted up, breathing heavily. Just a dream. Just a stupid dream. Actually quite ridiculous when looking back on it.
She hurt all over. Scars arched across her body, and she felt woozy, like she was about to topple over. And she did. Pain shot up her legs. Ugh, what just happened, what just happened...
You were attacked by piranhas. You were attacked by piranhas crossing a river to escape from rival Clans.
She shifted to look at Hawkkit, who was saying blurred words into her ears. Pain shot through her again as she tried to move her stiff body.
Soon, more aloe leaves were pressed onto her wounds. She lay there for a few moments, awake, but not daring to say anything.
"Splashkit! Splashkit! You're okay! Whitemist, Splashkit woke up!" Hawkkit was calling. Whitemist dashed into the den, along with Stormpelt.
"Oh, Splashkit, I'm so glad you're okay. What were we thinking, doing that, with kits? We should've gone farther downstream instead--"Stormpelt interrupted her.
"I'm proud of you Splashkit. You're a fighter. I know you are. You can pull through this, and I know that you already are going to."
Pride warmed her heart at his praise. Stormpelt was the best father that she could ever have.
"I'll go report to Pantherstar," Whitemist mewed briskly. She slipped out of the den.
"Do you think that she's ready to get up and walk yet?" Hawkkit questioned.
"No," Stormpelt purred, "But she should be able to in a day or two."
In a day or two. I'll be walking in a day or two.
She slipped into sleep, this reassuring thought in her head. Yet she did not realize as a long, spindly fly landed on her wound, rubbing its legs together.
Hawkkit watched as Splashkit slowly slipped into sleep.
"Splashkit slowly slipped into sleep," Hawkkit mewed, "Splashkit slowly slipped into sleep. Splashkit shlow--slowly sleeped--slipped into sleep--ugh." Hawkkit was never very good at tongue twisters.
All of that morning, no one came to visit Hawkkit, except for Whitemist, who brought her some prey. She had been expecting Lilydrop by now, but she still hadn't come.
The sun drifted over the horizon. Finally, Hawkkit found herself staring at the moon beams slicing through the trees. Rarely did that happen. It must be a full moon, she thought. Hawkkit and Splashkit were six moons starting that night. Lilydrop was right. We'll never become warriors. Where was Lilydrop, anyways?
She peered to her right, where Splashkit was curled up awkwardly. She had to sleep sort of tilted because of their linked flanks. Splashkit looked as young as Waterkit or Swallowkit when she was asleep. Hawkkit rasped her tongue over Splashkit's ear. Wake up soon. We'll find a way to become warriors, I swear.
Her peaceful reverie was interrupted by cries of anguish. What in the name of StarClan...?
She bolted up out of her nest, dragging Splashkit with her. Splashkit's eyes flickered open. "Wha?" she grumbled. Hawkkit felt a burst of relief.
She peered out of the den to see the chaos.
She saw Lilydrop carrying Waterkit, both covered in blood.
"TwilightClan! They attacked! I never had a chance to save her, I only found her after this!"
Grayberry frantically rushed to Waterkit's side. "Is she okay? Is she going to live?"
Nettlestar and Flameblossom came rushing to them. "Are you okay?" Pantherstar asked Lilydrop.
"Yes, I'm fine, it's Waterkit who's injured!"
Flameblossom picked up Waterkit by the scruff, and quickly carried her to where Hawkkit and Splashkit were resting.
What sort of Clan would attack innocent kits? Are they really that mad?
Voices rose to a climax as Waterkit was carried in.
"Ugh...what's happening?" Someone said.
Hawkkit turned to her side. Splashkit's blue eyes were just peaking open.
"Splashkit!" Hawkkit exclaimed, "You're all better!"
"Well, yeah, but what's...oh my," she trailed off, noticing the limp form of Waterkit.
"Is she going to be okay?" Mintberry was wailing. Swallowkit sat between her legs, her head buried in her paws.
"Yes, she should be fine...just fetch some leaf wrap, and some aloe, if you can find some," Ambershine replied.
Splashkit attempted to get to her paws. Hawkkit helped her up, by standing up herself.
"Let's get out of here," Splashkit mumbled weakly, "Waterkit needs somewhere to recover."
"Are you absolutely sure you'll be fine?" Hawkkit questioned.
Splashkit just began to walk forward, giving her answer.
"Whitemist! Stormpelt!" Hawkkit called out, as they stumbled into the clearing.
"Hey...the linked sisters are okay...." Toucanfoot mewed absentmindedly.
The linked sisters? They're even being that open about it now?
Splashkit stared down at her paws, as Hawkkit shot him a glare.
He thinks we're just innocent, useless kits, never to be apprenticed. Well then...we'll prove him wrong.
"Kits? Splashkit! You're all up and around!" someone screeched. Whitemist pried herself from the throng of cats, Stormpelt close behind her.
"Hi," Splashkit replied sleepily, "It doesn't even hurt anymore."
Hawkkit glanced down to see that her vicious cuts had faded to pink scars.
"Will Waterkit be okay?" Splashkit inquired nervously.
Whitemist purred. "Oh, my kit...always so considerate and selfless...yes, I believe Waterkit will be okay. But those TwilightClan cats--" she broke off before she could say any more.
"What? What about the TwilightClan cats?" Hawkkit interjected.
Whitemist clenched her jaw. "You're too young to know."
"To young? We would be becoming apprentices today, if we were fit!" Hawkkit hissed.
Stormpelt flinched, his gaze worried. "If you were fit? What do you mean?"
"Stop pretending!" Hawkkit growled in his face, "Just because we're conjoined, it means that we can't become apprentices. We'll never fight, never train. We're impaired!"
"Who told you that?" Whitemist hissed.
"Lily--" Splashkit began to say, but Hawkkit silenced her.
"No one. No one told us. And we all know that's exactly what you're thinking. You don't think that we can do it."
"But--but that's not true," Whitemist stuttered.
Hawkkit just turned away. Stormpelt sighed. "Whitemist..."
Spinning away, Hawkkit dragged Splashkit with her. "Stupid Clan...I hate it...."
They stood on the outskirts of the camp. Hawkkit was reluctant to go any further, or else they would be in deeper trouble.
"Great. Just great. Now look what you've done," Splashkit groaned.
"Yeah, well I'm sick of it. Sick of everyone treating us like we're cripples and burdens," Hawkkit snapped back.
"Not everyone thinks your 'cripples' and 'burdens," a voice sounded.
Hawkkit snapped around, to see who had spoken. Sure enough, it was the white form of Lilydrop.
"And you're not."
Splashkit scuffed at the ground, obviously trying to hide all of her emotion. "But sometimes we're treated like ones," she muttered reluctantly.
"And I know how to stop that."
Splashkit felt the nerves getting to her.
I just recovered from getting attacked by piranhas. I just recovered from getting attacked by piranhas, now I'm following Lilydrop farther into the jungle to do who knows what. Which will probably get us in trouble.
"Did you make sure that Waterkit was okay?" Splashkit inquired.
"Yeah, she's all fine. I made sure that Ambershine is tending to her," Lilydrop replied.
"What about Swallowkit?" Hawkkit interjected, her nervousness easily showing.
Lilydrop shook her head. "Swallowkit wasn't involved."
"So...what exactly did happen?" Splashkit asked, against her better judgement.
She didn't respond for a moment, and Splashkit wondered if for once, Lilydrop would not tell them the full truth.
"I was trying to hunt for the Clan, when I smelled an unfamiliar scent on the air. I realized that it was TwilightClan..." she stopped and shivered. If TwilightClan is disturbing Lilydrop, then they must be horrible.
"I heard a squeal, then the blunder of paws. I came running, and saw Waterkit lying there, covered in blood. It was horrible."
"That does sound horrible," Splashkit mewed, in sympathy for both Waterkit and Lilydrop.
"It was, yes, but that's not why I've taken you here."
Hawkkit scuffled her paws impatiently. Lilydrop purred in amusement, then spoke again. "I believe that you two will be becoming apprentices, before I'm through with you."
"What do you mean? Can you please stop being so infuriatingly mysterious about it?" Hawkkit hissed.
"Hawkkit!" Splashkit hissed. They were never going to get anywhere, with her sister being rude to Lilydrop.
"I plan to train both of you to use being linked as an advantage."
Splashkit stared up at her, big blue eyes wide. Finally! What we've been waiting for!
But who knows how much trouble this will get us into?
"How do we do that?" Hawkkit asked, in awe.
"Simple. One warrior takes you on, you have twice the amount of paws and two sets of razor sharp teeth. You could do plenty damage. Especially if they get caught between you," Lilydrop answered.
Splashkit could barely suppress her excitement. She actually knew how to use their disability as an advantage; they'd be undefeatable in battle.
"That's perfect!" she bubbled.
Hawkkit chose that moment to finally be the downer. "But wait. We're really clumsy when we walk and run and everything else. How are we supposed to be quick and precise in battle?"
Lilydrop narrowed her eyes, gleaming with excitement. "Meet me tomorrow morning and I'll show you."
Splashkit couldn't stop thinking about her first training session with Lilydrop. They would finally learn all of the skills they would need to prove to JungleClan that they weren't completely useless.
Time seemed to drag by, as Hawkkit and Splashkit attempted to entertain themselves with mossball that day. The jungle turned dark.
Splashkit cleared her throat. "Well...I guess we had better go to bed. For...you know."
"Yeah," Hawkkit responded.
They curled up, getting as comfortable as possible in the makeshift nursery. Splashkit kept one of her blue eyes peeled, seeing if Whitemist or Grayberry happened to be awake.
Nope. They were safe.
Darkness began to cover her vision, and her thoughts became muggy with sleep. Yet some seemed to get clearer and clearer, as if her drowsiness was improving them.
She found herself remembering the day that her and Hawkkit had snuck out of camp, into the jungle, for the first time. How much fun they had had climbing the vine...but then the snake...she shuddered.
The snake...a familiar hiss sounded in her ear.
Beauty at a price. Skill costs your life.
Splashkit jerked upward. That message! That message she had been receiving, when she was unconscious, it had come back. She clawed at the moss. It had to mean something.
"What the heck, Splashkit? Just let me sleep," Hawkkit mumbled.
"Sorry," she mewed sheepishly, "Just a nightmare."
Hawkkit didn't reply, just turned the other way.
Beauty at a price...skill costs your life.
She remembered Lilydrop talking about TwilightClan. They were beautiful...but they were horrible. Beauty at a price.
Splashkit gulped, and buried her nose in her paws. It must be a warning, of danger to come.
Strange birds screeched, and jungle trees rustled. Her Clanmates snored, oblivious to the chaos about to break out.
Splashkit awoke to a busy day, the camp bustling with cats. Hawkkit was already up, her blue eyes staring into the distance.
She groaned and yawned. "Still sleepy?" Hawkkit teased. Splashkit just snorted, and batted her over the ear.
They got to their paws, unsure of all the chaos around them. "Are we journeying again?" she inquired.
"You think I would know?"
"Oh, I was thinking that maybe Lilydrop stopped by--" Splashkit stopped, midsentence.
"Lilydrop," Hawkkit whispered. How could we be so stupid, forgetting all about our training session?
They scrambled out of the makeshift nursery and into the hustle and bustle of the main camp. How could they possibly slip away, when every cat was so active?
"You think Lilydrop'll still let us train, if we're late?" Hawkkit muttered worriedly out of the corner of her mouth.
Splashkit nodded. Lilydrop seemed very flexible, and understanding. Yet she was nowhere in sight, as they scoured the camp for a trace of her.
Splashkit peered underneath the legs of the moving warriors, and noticed Swallowkit, tail held high, walking to Waterkit. Crouched down next to Waterkit was Lilydrop. Lilydrop appeared to be telling Waterkit something. Waterkit just looked up at her, eyes wide, and nodded.
"Lilydrop!" Hawkkit hissed under her breath to her.
She snapped around, in surprise, as if she had been doing something wrong. Then her muscles relaxed. "Oh. It's you."
"Sorry, we were late. Splashkit was sleeping the day away."
"Hey! You could've woken me up!" Splashkit retorted.
Lilydrop purred in amusement, her whiskers twitching. "It's fine. I was just checking up on Waterkit here, while I was waiting for you."
"How're we going to sneak into the jungle?" Splashkit questioned.
"Easy. We're continuing to move today, after the brutal attack on poor Waterkit. The chaos of leaving should buy us a little time."
Splashkit nodded, once again impressed with her strategy. This also bought them time to eat some prey before they would leave. Finally, Pantherstar ushered them out, accompanied by Flameblossom. Stormpelt followed close behind. Splashkit felt a familiar rush of pride in her father.
As soon as the Clan was filing out, Lilydrop whisked them aside. "We have to make this a quick one."
They nodded, in awe of how well she could sneak, even with her white pelt.
"So, like I was saying yesterday, you can use always being together as an advantage..." Lilydrop began to speak, as Hawkkit and Splashkit became immersed in learning. She mostly taught them how to stay agile and fleet, and how to get cats trapped in between them, so they would be at their mercy.
By the end of the short session, Splashkit felt exhausted and over exerted. But she felt more fleet and precise with her movement, even when Hawkkit wasn't always in sync with her.
"That was great!" Hawkkit purred to her, as they left the training session with Lilydrop. Splashkit purred and nodded in return.
"How about we practice those some more when we stop for a break?" she suggested.
Hawkkit and Splashkit no longer noticed the completely exhausting journey, accompanied by the muggy air and mushy jungle floor. Their minds were completely occupied with thoughts of becoming apprentices and finally receiving their warrior names. Splashkit had always wanted to be called Splashflower; she thought it was a pretty name.
She didn't even think of the warning she had previously received.
JungleClan stopped for a break to eat and drink and get some rest for Waterkit. She was just thankful that it was her they were fussing over, not her. Icemist was next to them, trying to maintain a cheerful mood, but she actually seemed very upset. Even Hawkkit noticed.
Just then, a groan rose up, cutting through the muffled noise of the stop. And it wasn't a groan of disappointment or exasperation. It was a longing moan of pain.
Whitemist's ears pricked. "What was that?" Hawkkit asked sharply.
Whitemist didn't answer. Stormpelt came rushing out from the bushes, in a panic.
"Flameblossom has fallen ill. There are boils all over her body!" Another groan escaped from the bushes.
No, no, no. "StarClan, what did we deserve to get this?" Whitemist whispered, her voice hoarse.
Worry and curiousity battled inside of Hawkkit.
Will she be okay? What will JungleClan do without a deputy?
What is this disease anyways? It's nothing I've ever heard of!
"Wanna go see?" she whispered to Splashkit. Splashkit swatted her over the ear.
"No! Are you trying to get us in trouble? And plus, I'm sure that Flameblossom would just love a bunch of cats gawking over her!"
"If we all looked at her, then maybe we could figure out the disease!"
"Yeah. You would totally know what's wrong with her. Uh-huh."
Hawkkit frustrately tore at the ground with her claws. True, their efforts to help would be futile, but at least they were doing something! Splashkit just seemed like she wanted to sit there and do nothing while one of her Clanmates lay in agony and sickness. She went through one of those moments, where all she wanted to do was just rip away from Splashkit to live her own life.
Splashkit winced. "Ouch," she mewed.
"Nothing...just my cuts started to hurt again for a moment."
Hawkkit hissed under her breath. Yes, just try to get a little pity for yourself again.
No one in the Clan knew about healing plants of the jungle as much as Flameblossom did, except for Ambershine. The deputy of JungleClan was always the one that assisted Ambershine in the healing of sick or injured cats. Now she was sick with some dread disease that no one could make out.
And from what the Clan could tell, it was contagious.
That night, the worst news came. Icemist had fallen ill, after attempting to examine Flameblossom for the cause of the disease. Grief washed over Hawkkit. No one had died yet; but she didn't want her mother to be sick. Not until then did she realize how much she actually loved her, despite how annoying and overprotective she could be.
Stormpelt was padding into the den of all the sick cats. Her heart caught in her throat. He can't catch it too!
Splashkit turned her blue gaze into Hawkkit's identical one. They hadn't talked much lately, but they were thinking the same. For just that one time.
"Stormpelt!" Hawkkit called after her father.
He didn't seem to hear.
"Stormpelt!" she repeated. Splashkit joined in. Finally, he snapped around. "Yes, what is it?"
"You can't go in there!"
He exhaled through his nostrils. "I have to. It's my duty to the Clan, kits."
"But what if you catch it?" Splashkit whimpered.
"I'll be careful," he promised. Then he turned around once again, to Hawkkit's dismay.
But she found herself shouting to him again. "Wait!"
"Yes, what is it this time?"
I can't believe I'm saying this. "We want to go in with you."
"What? Are you insane?" Splashkit hissed to her.
"Maybe," she replied.
"You can't go in."
"But you're visiting the sick cats!"
"I'm a full grown warrior. You're still kits, and I don't want anything bad happening to you."
We would be apprentices, if the Clan would stop underestimating us.
To Hawkkit's surprise, Splashkit spoke up. "But we are Whitemist's kits. We have a right to visit her," she mewed.
Her father sighed. "I suppose you're right. But stay on the outskirts, and don't go near anyone. Understand?"
They nodded, and shakily followed after him.
The first thing that hit her was the smell. It was the smell of infection and disease, of tons of cats trapped together in a small space with the same symptoms. Then she noticed the flies and mosquitos, furiously buzzing through the air, occasionally landing on the disease-ridden cats.
"This is horrible," Splashkit whispered. Hawkkit just nodded and stared ahead. She didn't know much about sicknesses, especially this one, but she could tell that the cramped quarters was doing no good. It seemed like half of the Clan was trapped in the small space.
Ambershine, along with Cloudbreeze, padded up next to Stormpelt, quiet as a sloth. Cloudbreeze played the role of Ambershine's temporary assistant. She had always thought that Cloudbreeze was a funny name to give a jungle cat. They rarely saw the sky, let alone clouds; and the jungle air was always hot and muggy.
"I've tried everything. Nothing's working. I fear that I'll fall ill too, if I keep trying," she murmured.
Stormpelt glared at the two kits. "Go stand over there. We need to talk privately."
Reluctantly, they turned tail and stood near the flimsy wall of the sick cats' den.
"I wonder what they're talking about," Hawkkit muttered to Splashkit.
"Probably stuff that is 'too harsh for our precious ears'," she said angrily.
She kicked a leaf, and watched it flutter down to the sticky ground. Rarely Splashkit was so out there with her opinion, but rarely was she so right.
Hawkkit couldn't stand to look at the sick cats anymore, so she entertained herself with capturing ants and making them wrestle on a thick leaf. She hissed in annoyance, as the ants just continued to scuttle off the leaf, making zero attempt to battle each other.
Her head drifted up in curiousity, as Splashkit hissed.
"What?" she asked.
"Look!" Splashkit growled. She saw Cloudbreeze exiting the den, Vinepelt attempting to move around and get up. Then Stormpelt caught her eye. Her was hunched over Flameblossom mumuring words to her.
"What is it?" she inquired.
"Open your eyes!" Splashkit shot back. Hawkkit looked at her quizzically.
She scoffed angrily. "He's not even spending any time with Whitemist! His mate! All it's been for him lately is Flameblossom, Flameblossom, Flameblossom!"
"Well, Flameblossom needs to get better, so she can take care of the Clan," Hawkkit protested, unwilling to believe Splashkit's words.
"But Stormpelt didn't panic about Whitemist falling ill, like he did for Flameblossom!"
"Well, Flameblossom was the first, so it was the most shocking!" Hawkkit snapped.
"You just refuse to believe the truth, don't you?" Splashkit hissed. For once, Hawkkit had no reply. Always has to have the last word. Always.
"Let's get out of here," she finally said.
"No. Stormpelt told us to wait here," Splashkit mewed, obviously arguing just to argue.
Hawkkit hissed and attempted to walk the other way, as Splashkit was firmly rooted to the ground. Hawkkit scanned the sea of cats for a familiar white pelt, then let out a sigh of relief.
"Let's go see if we can find Lilydrop," she said, "Maybe she'll know about.... this situation better than us."
Splashkit sighed. "Fine. Whatever. I guess it doesn't even matter anymore."
The kits went to talk with Lilydrop. She had just told them that it was possible that Stormpelt could've taken Flameblossom as a second mate.
"After all, they're both hardworking, tough warriors," she was explaining, "But we shouldn't jump to conclusions."
"And even if that did happen, we could still love both Whitemist and Stormpelt, right?" Splashkit squeaked. She nodded. "Of course."
Noticing their dejection, she decided to distract them by teaching them battle and hunting moves.
"So this may seem hard, but it's actually quite simple. As they lunge towards you, instead of sidestepping, duck underneath them and rake your claws on their underbelly. Like this." Lilydrop executed a swift, agile leap, close to the earth. She lashed out with her paws. Hawkkit winced. If that move was used in a battle, it could sure cause some nasty damage.
They tried on Lilydrop. At first, they kept on colliding with her legs, but they eventually got the hang of it. Hawkkit was able to swipe Lilydrop across the belly once, her claws sheathed.
"Well done," she mewed, her voice barely betraying any emotion, "Now we'll move on to some hunting practice."
A shriek cut through the night air. "No! No!"
"Who was that?" she mewed nervously.
"I don't know," Splashkit whimpered. There was muffled mutterings of the warriors, and a dreadful dragging sound.
Ignoring Splashkit's protests, Hawkkit sat up and dragged herself, and Splashkit, out of the den.
A dead she-cat lay there, her once pretty pelt blemished with ghastly boils. Hawkkit remembered that her name was Vinepelt; she was Bamboopaw's mentor. Bamboopaw occasionally came to talk to the kits and gawk at their birth defect, bringing Strikepaw along with her. Strikepaw seemed to take an interest in them, but didn't really talk to them. Yet at that moment she could feel his gold gaze burning into her pelt.
"There's not enough prey in this part of the jungle," Ambershine was explaining, "She was malnourished, and the bumps were spreading. There was nothing I could do."
Pantherstar nodded to him. "Take the body outside. We don't want the germs spreading any more. I'll tell the Clan."
Hawkkit hissed with anger and annoyance. Pantherstar had barely done anything for the Clan, when it was in a time of greatest need. The sickness ravaged through the camp, and he had done nothing. It was too bad that Flameblossom was now sick. Because she was actually doing a good job with most of the work.
She leaned over to Splashkit. "I heard some cats talking about a mutiny against Pantherstar."
"You're not seriously thinking that it's a good idea, are you?" Splashkit mewed angrily.
"Well...Pantherstar is a poor leader... but I guess not, no."
"Good. More bloodshed would be terrible, especially with the threat of TwilightClan and DuskClan and the sickness," she mewed dimplomatically. Hawkkit knew that she would make a good leader someday, if they ever got past their struggle with being linked. But then what would I be? she pondered. A nobody, living her life stuck to my great sister, living in her shadow.
Splashkit turned to her, a nervous intensity in her crystal eyes. "Hawkkit, I've been meaning to tell you something."
Tell me something? "But I thought we never kept secrets from each other--I mean--like we actually can't keep secrets--or no, we can if they're in our mind--" Hawkkit babbled.
"I might as well be striaghtforward with this," she sighed, "When I was in my coma, from being attacked by piranhas, I had a really weird dream. It was more of a nightmare."
A dream? Really? But Hawkkit just said, "Go on."
"So I was in the jungle, with you, that day we decided to go explore. And...the snake that attacked us gave me what seemed like a warning. It just said this: Beauty at a price, skills cost your life."
"Yeah. And I think I know what it means," she mewed.
"What?" Hawkkit pressed.
"It's a warning of trouble to come. From TwilightClan."
TwilightClan... the supposedly beautiful Clan that could kill with one swipe of their paws. Skilled. Shivers ran down Hawkkit's spine.
The thick, dangling leaves rustled. Splashkit slowly watched as the jungle's night life emerged, determined not to let her get a wink of sleep.
Hawkkit, however, seemed to be snoring peacefully, unaware of everything around her. She was so...naive sometimes.
More cats had fallen ill. The only ones that were still uninfected were her, Hawkkit, Stormpelt, Cloudbreeze, Lilydrop, Berryleaf, and the apprentices. Ambershine had fallen ill, too. Their training sessions with Lilydrop had been increasingly rarer, and Splashkit worried that she was losing interest in training them.
She had voiced her fears to Hawkkit, who had shaken them off like a troublesome mosquito. "Don't worry," she had said, "Lilydrop always shows enthusiasm at every session, and really seems to put work into it. I don't think she'll bail on us." Splashkit grudgingly admitted that Hawkkit was right; Lilydrop did seem to love training them. And she seemed very set on finding a way to prove themselves.
They had once walked up to Icemist and questioned her about being apprentices. "Not right now," she said.
"But sometime soon?" Hawkkit mewed. Icemist just sighed and turned away. Lilydrop had watched, and said that they would both show their worth someday.
"But I fought off all those piranhas that were attacking Splashkit," Hawkkit protested.
"It doesn't matter," Lilydrop meowed, shaking her head sadly, "They are blinded. They can't see who you really are."
That morning, what Splashkit had feared, and known all along, came to be true. Stormpelt sat down next to them, to talk to them.
"This seems serious," Hawkkit muttered out of the corner of her mouth.
"Shut up," Splashkit hissed back.
"Kits, I need to tell you something. Now, when I say this, I don't want you to think that I love you less. Just know that I'll love you the same as always, and I'll always care for you no matter what."
Splashkit's initial worry was, Did Whitemist die? But he seemed to sense her thought and said, "Whitemist is still alive and okay. She may even recover someday." And that makes me feel a whole lot better, Splashkit thought grimly. Streamlight and Rainwhisper had died of the sickness. Cloudbreeze had admitted defeat, and just took to entertaining the cats, and feeding them.
"Well... I believe that you will be having some younger brothers and sisters soon," Stormpelt mewed.
Oh no, no, no. "You mean with Flameblossom?" Splashkit hissed.
Stormpelt said nothing. "Yeah, it was really that obvious," Hawkkit chimed in.
"Look, it was before she got sick, so I didn't know what was going to happen. Whitemist and I had fallen out a little bit, and...."
They fell out because they were arguing over us. Because we're so needy, and they just have to make things worse by tiptoeing around us.
"I don't want to talk about this anymore," Hawkkit whined.
"All right. That's fine. Why don't we all talk about happy things for once?" he suggested.
"That would be nice."
There was a silence. There were no current happy things going on. Even their goofy kit memories, such as sneaking out of camp, seemed to be laced with grim injuries and such.
Finally, Hawkkit spoke, "Our hunting and fighting skills have improved."
Idiot! She's going to give away our secret! Splashkit smacked her on the leg.
"We've been thinking about it together, and practicing some new moves."
"Oh, that's great," Stormpelt said distantly. He doesn't even care at all!
In her frustration, Splashkit forgot all about keeping the Lilydrop meetings a secret. "In fact, we'll show you," she mewed forcefully.
Surprised, Hawkkit glanced at her, but then complied. They decided to use the move, where they dart under their opponent's stomach.
Stormpelt wasn't leaping towards them, but that would just make it easier. Skimming the moist jungle ground, they quickly raked Stormpelt's belly with sheathed claws. He looked impressed.
"That's very good," he mewed, surprised.
"So...do you think that we could possibly be apprenticed sometime?"
He didn't answer. But Pantherstar's call interrupted them, saving them a potentially awkward moment.
"All cats able to join in the Clan meeting, come to hear what I have to say!" he rasped.
Stormpelt bounded away, and sat next to Firetail in the meeting.
Any cat could see that Pantherstar was in no condition to lead. He was getting the boils, even though he attempted to cover them up with tree sap and leaves. But all of that just made them more prominent, like a patch of snow on one of the hottest jungle days, especially with his black pelt.
"More cats... have fallen ill," he murmured, his voice shaky with pain.
"Including you," Lilydrop mewed, her voice gently flowing. Lilydrop rarely spoke at Clan meetings; it was always a surprise.
Pantherstar looked down at her, his yellow eyes knowing. "But Flameblossom is ill too. I can't leave JungleClan to rot, at the mercy of hunger and sickness and enemies."
"Which brings us to the issue of the food crisis," he sighed, his sigh sounding like a last breath. For a moment, Splashkit was actually scared he was going to topple over.
"Hawkkit and Splashkit. You are young and strong. It is now your duty to feed the Clan, with some help."
At first, she felt a wave of pride, that her Clan finally trusted them to be useful. This was probably a first step to becoming apprentices!
"Great! Are we going to hold our ceremony now?" Hawkkit exclaimed. Splashkit noticed Lilydrop looking at them from the crowd, in pride.
"I fear that that won't be necessary," Pantherstar sighed. Her hopes were all crushed. She thought that they were being useful to the Clan, but they were just using them!
Lilydrop's gaze grew dark. "This meeting is over," Pantherstar rasped. Then he lay down, to lick his boils. Who knows what nastiness he's spreading on his tongue, she thought in disgust.
Slowly, a shining dewdrop slithered off a leaf and landed on her pelt, and shattered, leaving her silver fur slightly damp.
Hawkkit had never gone out into the jungle, with permission, before. Neither had Splashkit. The conditions must be more drastic than imagined if Pantherstar was sending them out to hunt with only Stormpelt as company.
Lilydrop had disappeared once again; she seemed to have a habit of doing that. Meanwhile, Stormpelt was trying to give them a lecture on hunting.
"So you always want to make sure that you're not stepping too hard. The prey always finds it easier to feel you stalking it than hear you, so not stepping on sticks and leaves is your second priority."
Hawkkit groaned. We know this already! Lilydrop had taught them in their very first training session!
"I can't stand this," she muttered to Splashkit.
"Me neither," she replied, "But you know we can't give away our secret!"
"Why must you always think at the most random times that I am going to tell someone our secret!" she hissed.
"I just want to be careful. Never know with you," Splashkit sniffed. That familiar frustration with Splashkit seethed inside of her again, yet she knew that there was nothing she could do about it.
"Stormpelt," Splashkit mewed politely, "We have already figured this out on our own."
"Huh? What?" he mumbled.
"I mean, we already know." Stormpelt looked at them skeptically. "How do you already know?"
"We've been practicing."
Huh. And she accuses me of trying to give away our secret training sessions.
"Fine. Suit yourself," he said disbelievingly. They nodded to him politely, and crouched low to the ground.
Hawkkit lifted her nose into the air. "I smell a lizard."
Splashkit nodded, narrowing her frost-blue eyes. The lizard was hidden under a rock overhang, oblivious to the predators after it. Staying in perfect sync with each other, they crept closer and closer. Suddenly, with a sharp smack, Splashkit knocked it off of its resting place. It scurried right into Hawkkit's paws. She nipped its neck, killing it instantly.
She turned to see Stormpelt watching them with interest. "Well done. I have never been so impressed with you two. In fact, I believe that I will talk to Pantherstar about you becoming apprentices."
The breath caught in her throat. Finally! What we've been waiting for, all these moons!
Hawkkit and Splashkit then proceeded to argue about who would carry their catch into camp, until Stormpelt finally took it and nudged them onward.
She watched as the lizard hit the fresh kill pile with a satisfying clunk. It hadn't been their first kill, but it was the first one that wasn't watched by only Lilydrop, and definitely something to be proud of.
Anticipating the meeting, Hawkkit scuffled her paws around, and batted at leaves, much to Splashkit's annoyance. "Honestly, with you acting like that, they'll keep us in the nursery for another six moons!" she complained. She was such a boring old downer.
Hawkkit took a deep breath, and padded up to Jaguarpaw, dragging Splashkit along with her.
"Hi," she greeted.
"Hi there," Jaguarpaw said back.
"Um... we're gonna become apprentices!" Hawkkit blurted out.
"Oh, that's great!" she purred, "I just thought, because, you know... just, nothing. That's fantastic,"
Hawkkit felt a twinge of annoyance as she skirted around the fact that they were stuck together, but she seemed really nice.
"We don't know for sure," Splashkit chimed in carefully.
"But it's like... most likely!" Hawkkit said, unwilling to let anything faze her.
Jaguarpaw shrugged, as Bamboopaw came up next to her. "All right. Guess I'll see you in the apprentice den!" Then she padded away with Bamboopaw.
"They seem nice," Splashkit remarked. She nodded in agreement, but then Jaguarpaw's voice reached her ears.
"Yeah, they're kinda cute in a kit-ish way and all, individually, but great StarClan.... we're gonna have some strange mutation sleeping with us!" Jaguarpaw was saying.
"Jeez, don't be mean," Bamboopaw lectured, but Hawkkit could hear her giggling as well. A low growl sounded in her throat. Splashkit just absentmindedly stared up into the canopy, pretending she had heard nothing.
"Did you hear that?" she hissed.
"Look, Hawkkit... don't dwell on it."
"But I want to go over there, and show her how useful we really are!"
"Drop it, okay? We don't want to create any trouble. We're literally pawsteps away from becoming apprentices, and just one little slip-up could take it all away."
Grudgingly, Hawkkit admitted she was right. Yet she couldn't help a low hiss escaping her throat as she saw Strikepaw walk up to them, laughing with them.
"So then I heard, 'Well, they're cute in a way, but great StarClan, we'll have a mutation sleeping with us!'" Hawkkit mewed indignantly.
"Bamboopaw and Strikepaw were laughing about it too," Splashkit chimed in sadly.
Lilydrop growled. "I promise that they'll see what you are soon. They just don't quite realize how special you are."
"How are the sick cats?" she mewed, slyly changing the topic.
"Some are getting significantly better, some significantly worse," Lilydrop sighed, "Cloudbreeze talked to Ambershine a bit, and they figured something out. They say that having them stand in running water seems to help, along with getting enough prey and water to eat."
"Hey," Hawkkit suggested, "Could we have a break from training, just this once, and hunt for the sick cats instead? That's what we're supposed to be doing, anyways."
Lilydrop nodded in agreement, and was already flat on the jungle floor, tasting the air. The sisters followed suit.
They returned with prey, which was eagerly given to the infected cats. To her happiness, Whitemist was slowly recovering. So was Flameblossom, but Ambershine wasn't sure if her kits would be okay. Hawkkit knew it was terrible when kits died, but she didn't really want a reminder of Stormpelt's betrayal of their mother.
The dreadful sound of Pantherstar's groans reached her ears. She didn't know how many lives he had left, but she sure hoped it wasn't his last. Even though Flameblossom was on the path to recovery, she was still in no state to be caring after a Clan. Cloudbreeze whisked into his den, the lizard that they had caught dangling from his jaws. Hawkkit felt a burst of pride. The prey that we caught will help Pantherstar recover, and therefore the Clan.
Lilydrop looked on. "I'm proud of you both," she mewed suddenly.
They scuffled their paws, embarrassed. Rarely did Lilydrop give out praise extending from "Good" or "Nice". She bounded away into the den of sick cats, not even waiting for an answer.
The clearing seemed desolate, despite the presence of Berryleaf and the blabbering apprentices. Hawkkit hissed in fury. It was as if they didn't realize that their world was crumbling around them, shattering like the dewdrops that fell from the jungle tendrils.
Suddenly, Ambershine burst out of the den, Lilydrop following more slowly. "Pantherstar!" she called.
"Can't you see that Pantherstar is in no condition to talk? And neither are you, Ambershine," Cloudbreeze mewed gently as he stepped out of the leader's den.
"This is important," she pleaded, her voice cracking. She covered it up with a delicate sneeze.
"Just tell me," Cloudbreeze mewed, "Then you can go and rest."
She took a deep breath, to gather herself and her thoughts. "I've noticed that the sicker cats are the ones that are bitten by bugs more. I realized this, as I lay there, and observed. I found more boils rising up on me as I subjected myself to the little flies. I believe they carry the disease."
Splashkit looked at her in awe. She was a true warrior, but as a warrior, she would definitely want to be that smart. Maybe we could help! What had Lilydrop said? Running water helped, and so did getting enough nourishment. She was sure that cleaning the blemishes would help too. Maybe that's what the running water did...?
"So we just have to stop the bugs from biting the cats," Cloudbreeze mewed with conviction, "Along with regular cleaning."
"And food and water!" Splashkit chipped in, unable to resist. Cloudbreeze just purred. "Yes, and that too."
"Let's help," Hawkkit said suddenly.
"Are you sure that that's wise?" Berryleaf mewed, "The sickness can be caught easily, by contact."
"We're not going to touch anyone," Splashkit pointed out, "Besides, we'll need all the help that we can get."
The warriors, along with the kits, and even the lazy apprentices, filed into the sick cats' den. This time, Splashkit was even more conscious of the flies flitting through the air, surfacing on cats' flanks. Hawkkit picked up a leaf, and used it to start swatting away all of the bugs thirstily drinking the cats' blood.
"Good idea," Splashkit mewed. They could easily protect the cats from the hungry critters, without touching them.
Finally, they changed from Bug Patrol to the ones who brought prey. The sick cats seemed famished, even after eating. Splashkit believed that it was a good sign, and so did Ambershine, who was sitting upright despite Cloudbreeze's protests.
"I think I can get up," Flameblossom whispered. She hauled herself upright, and licked her shoulder self-concsiously, tucking her legs in front of her distended stomach. We all know, Flameblossom, Splashkit thought angrily, Why bother hiding it?
Grayberry did the same. "How are my kits? Are they all right?"
"Swallowkit is infected, but okay. Waterkit recovered from the attack successfully, but then caught a minor case of the boils," Cloudbreeze reported.
Grayberry whimpered. "May I see them?" Waterkit and Swallowkit lay nearly buried in the moss and fern, right next to her. Splashkit could only see the tops of their fuzzy little heads and bodies, slowly rising and falling with every breath. Splashkit's heart melted at the sight. But it's not like I can ever have kits....
She was so absorbed at the sight of the two lumps of fluff, she didn't even realize the patter of footsteps drawing nearer to camp.
"What was that?" Hawkkit mewed.
"What?" Splashkit mewed, snapping out of her trance. She pricked her ears. She heard the gentle thrum of paws as they drew nearer to the camp. It didn't sound like a singular warrior; it was a horde of cats, slowly approaching the camp.
"Stormpelt!" Splashkit screeched.
"Wha--?" Then he paused. "Get up against the wall. Now."
Splashkit and Hawkkit had no choice but to obey. He dashed outside, along with everyone else. Grayberry stood up, back arched, fur bristling.
Screeches echoed through the air as cats broke through the camp walls, pouring in.
"An attack! It must be TwilightClan!" Splashkit hissed.
"Let's go see!" Hawkkit exclaimed, and before she could protest, she was being dragged to the entrance of the den.
They slammed into the unaware JungleClan warriors. She could hear the claws rip flesh, and shrieks and yowls began to sound. The clouds broke, and rain poured down. It was utter chaos.
The cats weren't all that beautiful. They just looked like ordinary warriors, yet with a bloodlust gleaming in their eyes... and she felt as if she could recognize their scent from somewhere else.
The realization dawned on her. "This isn't TwilightClan. It's DuskClan!"
"How does that make it any better?" Hawkkit hissed.
"It doesn't, but that means the warning I received was misinterpreted!" She was backed up against Hawkkit, as Jaguarpaw screeched, "Get out, DuskClan traitors!" Then she pummeled at one with her hind paws.
"Oh, so you're calling us traitors?" the tom his calulatively, as he slashed Jaguarpaw across the face. His blow was blocked with expertise. "You're the filthy lot of traitors. And what about your little white warrior friend, hm?"
White warrior friend? Who's he talking about? She wondered. She heard Hawkkit gasp.
"Splashkit," she whimpered.
Lilydrop stood watching, leading the last of the DuskClan warriors into camp, barking out orders. The raindrop reflections danced in her amber eyes as she watched her Clan get torn apart. Then she turned, and caught Hawkkit and Splashkits' gaze.
She dashed over to them.
"How could you?" Splashkit hissed, trying to stop her voice from quivering.
Lilydrop silenced her by slapping her tail over her mouth. "What are you doing? Go and fight. Now is the chance to prove yourself. The chance that I promised you!"
"You didn't promise to destroy the Clan with it!" Hawkkit mewed, tears streaming from her eyes.
"Just do it!" Lilydrop said, not responding to Hawkkit.
The kits just looked at her for a moment, in anger, yet indecisive. How could she? She knew JungleClan was in a time of weakness! Just because we were always underestimated and shoved aside doesn't mean she has to go destroy the Clan! She was a traitor all along.
Finally, they lunged forward staring at her legs, but instead attempted to slash at her flank. It was well-aimed, but Lilydrop managed to block it.
"Don't even try to use the moves I taught you against me," she spat, "I can't believe how ungracious you are. I've sacrificed everything for you, yet you act like I gave you a big helping of crow-food!" Even in the circumstances, the words still hurt. She's a horrible traitor, Splashkit reminded herself, She took DuskClan striaght to the JungleClan camp.
"And Waterkit? That was you too, wasn't it! You attacked her and threatened her so she wouldn't tell!" Hawkkit gasped.
Lilydrop growled. "What's done is done. Just know that I always have a motive." Her mouth closed, and her eyes grew darker. "Pantherstar."
The black tom was doing his best to battle off the neverending stream of attackers. Splashkit could see that several of the sick cats in better condition were fighting too, yet they were not doing so well.
"You were the one that did this to me and the kits," she hissed.
Pantherstar growled at her. "I did nothing.You were the one that led DuskClan to the heart of our camp."
Lilydrop tensed her muscles, about to spring, when Flameblossom dragged herself in front of Pantherstar. "Try and you'll be crow-food," she wheezed.
"I guess I'll have to go through you too," Lilydrop said wistfully. Flameblossom defensively positioned her legs in front of her stomach.
"You didn't even care about us!" Splashkit cried, "You just wanted a stab at power while Pantherstar and Flameblossom were weak!"
"Quiet!" she snapped. And lunged.
Suddenly, a white and gold shape burst through the bushes. Splashkit was surprised to see that it was Whitemist, almost completely recovered.
"Don't. You. Dare," she spat. With a hiss, Lilydrop barreled into Whitemist, knocking her frail form over. They seemed to roll around in the moist jungle mud for ages, slashing and spitting, screaming threats.
"I sacrificed so much for your kits and this Clan, just for you to ruin my life," she hissed, "I hate this place, anyways!"
She stalked away, and whispered to Hawkkit and Splashkit as she left, "You never know where I'm hiding, lying in wait...." she broke off her sentence with a laugh. Splashkit just hissed in return.
And like that, Lilydrop was gone.
"Thanks for that," Flameblossom mewed to Whitemist, flustered.
"Anytime," she mewed, her voice not as hard as usual when talking to the Clan deputy.
Most of the DuskClan attackers were still at large. Ambershine was furiously defending the nursery, although she wasn't quite recovered enough. She still had to stop and gasp, and hunch over, as if there were pain all over her body. There is pain all over her body, Splashkit reminded herself.
The rest of the battle passed by in a blur. Hawkkit and Splashkit offered to help Ambershine, and she was too sick to protest. They showed as much expertise in moves as Jaguarpaw or Strikepaw (Bamboopaw's fighting skills were a bit shabby).
One particularly large striped tom came up to them, teeth bared. The pair tried to do their default slash-under-the-stomach move, but the tom seemed to anticipate that. With a bulky paw, he swatted them over. They heard as Ambershine came up, as their backup, furiously attacking him. Hawkkit and Splashkit recovered, and went in for their next move.
"Leap-and-hook?" Hawkkit whispered. Splashkit nodded. As Ambershine was a distraction, they crept up to his side, and lunged forward.
The tom turned his head when it was already too late. Hawkkit swiftly knocked his legs out from under him, as Splashkit slashed his flank. He stumbled to the ground, mud dribbling into his scratches. He was slowly getting up, but Splashkit was concerned with other things. Out of the corner of her eyes, she spotted movement. A small gray tom was smoothly dashing into the den of sick cats.
"Look out!" Splashkit yowled to Ambershine, but she was already racing towards him, trying to trip him up. Yet the tom disappeared inside.
"Stay here and guard the entrance," Hawkkit hissed. Splashkit nodded, unsheathing her claws. No more attackers came, but they heard bumps and screeches coming from the den. Finally, a wail rose up.
"What's going on?"
"How should I know?"
"Well, let's go see!"
"I wasn't fast enough. The pain on my body from the infection slowed me down," Ambershine wailed, "I hate myself! I'm a horrible medicine cat!"
Grayberry's body lay, in a silent screech. Her eyes were wide open with terror, yet she could still see the determination to protect her kits that had burned in them.
"Oh no," Hawkkit whispered. Nostalgia swept over Splashkit, as she remembered all the times Grayberry had scolded them or comforted them. She had been almost like a second mother, along with Lilydrop. Lilydrop. Splashkit hissed, and slashed at the ground, leaving claw marks in the soil.
"Are the kits okay?" Splashkit asked.
"Yes, they're fine." Ambershine paused. "I think the battle's over."
They saw that to be true, as all that was left was a ravaged clearing and scared Clanmates licking their wounds. "I had better start treating them," Ambershine breathed.
"Are you sure she's well enough to treat them?" Hawkkit muttered.
Splashkit shook her head. "Probably not. But she feels as if she needs to make it up to her Clan, because she couldn't save Grayberry." She gulped, a whole new thought coming to her head.
"It wasn't TwilightClan that attacked... what if there's still danger to come?"
"There's always danger to come," Hawkkit pointed out, "Besides. I guess if you think about it closely... the warning applies to this horrible day."
"Beauty at a price," Hawkkit explained, "We thought that it meant TwilightClan, because Lilydrop said that they do something to themselves to be beautiful. But it could be referring to Lilydrop, because... well, lilies are pretty. And she isn't too bad looking herself."
Splashkit nodded in agreement, wondering which DuskClan warrior had stolen the real Hawkkit and replaced her with this strange cat. She licked her silver and black fur. She might actually be pretty, if she actually had her body to herself.
"It's just 'Skills cost your life'..." Hawkkit mewed.
She pondered this for a moment. "Lilydrop was teaching us skills. And building our trust in her. That nearly cost us our lives." The warning was fulfilled after. So they had nothing to worry about; at least not then. She shuddered. Except for Lilydrop.
Pantherstar called a Clan meeting, his voice still raspy and exhausted.
"I have called this meeting for several important announcements. First of all, we grieve the loss of Grayberry, who died at the claws of those treacherous DuskClan cats." Sad murmurs rippled throughout the clearing. Waterkit and Swallowkit were nowhere to be seen; neither was Cloudbreeze. He must be the father.
"And, as you all may know, we lost a Clanmate in a different way," he growled, "Lilydrop has betrayed us, proving herself a traitor to JungleClan. She left, along with DuskClan, but make sure that you keep your ears pricked and eyes peeled."
Angry yowls rose up.
"And now, for some happier news. I must admit, I have had my doubts about this, even when other cats spent what seemed like moons talking to me about it. But now, I must give in. There were two exceptional kits that showed great courage in that battle. They truly deserve their apprentice names."
Splashkit gasped, and tried not to bounce with excitement. Hawkkit squealed happily and twitched her tail.
And it's for real this time.
"Hawkkit and Splashkit, please step forward."
"Splashkit," Pantherstar began, "From now on until you receive your warrior name you will be known as Splashpaw. Your mentor will be Berryleaf."
Hawkkit and Splashpaw both stepped forward, so Splashpaw and Cherryleaf could touch noses. Splashpaw looked about ready to burst with pride. And I'm next!
"Hawkkit, please come forward." She stumbled excitedly forward, forgetting all about Splashpaw, who surprisedly tripped at the sudden movement.
"Hawkkit, until you receive your warrior name, you will be known as Hawkpaw. Your mentor will be Toucanfoot."
Oh no, he seems really strict! Hawkpaw thought. But she saw the excited twinkle in his eyes as he touched his nose to hers.
"Splashpaw! Hawkpaw!" Stormpelt began to chant. The rest of the Clan joined in, even the sick cats. They all seemed like they were on the road to recovery.
Whitemist rushed up to their side. "You two looked like you had been burrowing in the mud! My, look at this!" She lectured, pulling a twig from Hawkpaw's flank. But she could see the pride in her eyes all the same.
"Let's go make our nests!" Splashpaw mewed excitedly.
They walked into the apprentice den, tails held high, to see that it was already occupied with Jaguarpaw and Bamboopaw sharing tongues.
Bamboopaw stopped mid-lick. "Hi," Hawkpaw mewed to her.
"Hi," she said in return. Jaguarpaw just nodded and smiled. "You're apprentices now! That's so cool!" She's so fake, Hawkpaw thought.
Splashpaw just nodded and started to scoop together some moss. Hawkpaw did the same, until they had a rather large nest where they could both fit. Hawkpaw glanced up briefly, to see the other apprentices gawking. Well they'll just have to get used to it.
Just then, Strikepaw padded into the den. "Hi Strikepaw!" The apprentices gushed simultaneously.
Hawkpaw caught Splashpaw's gaze. She just rolled her eyes.
The whole Clan sat vigil for Grayberry that night, even the cats who hadn't been particularly close to her.
"We'll miss you, Grayberry," Hawkpaw whispered to her, "You were like a second mother to us." Hawkpaw wondered if her spirit would drift up to StarClan, wherever they were. It did sound like a beautiful place.
As her and Hawkpaw curled up in their new nest that night, it felt like their troubles with attackers, sickness, and Lilydrop were far, far away...