Leader; Frogstar- brown tabby tom with pale blue eyes
Deputy; Timberclaw- silver tom with green eyes
Medicine Cat; Dovewhisper- white she-cat with dark patches
Darkfur- gray tom with a white-tipped tail
Lightningstorm- black tom with white marks on his forehead
Flameclaw- dark red tabby tom with a white chest. Apprentice, Pinepaw.
Hawkfang- dark brown tom with amber eyes. Apprentice, Stalkpaw.
Sharpeye- black tom with a white-tipped tail and electric-blue eyes.
Applevine- light brown tabby she-cat with darker stripes and green eyes. Apprentice, Shadedpaw.
Birdwing- ginger-and-white she-cat with dark eyes.
Thistlepelt- pale grey she-cat with fuzzy fur.
Brightfrost- bright ginger she-cat with blue eyes.
Amberheart- pale brown she-cat with a darker chest and underbelly. Aprprentice. Sunpaw.
Pinepaw- brown she-cat with a white-tipped tail.
Stalkpaw- long-legged silver tom with blue eyes.
Shadedpaw- Dark grey she-cat with black spots.
Sunpaw- bright red she-cat
Flutterwing; small tabby-and-white she-cat with a scar over her muzzle.
Crowflight- black tom with amber eyes.
Leader; Redstar- pute white she-cat with a red face
Deputy; Hawkflight- black tom
Medicine Cat; Pinenose- light brown she-cat
" Brightfrost! Darkfur! Brightfrost! Darkfur!" Brightfrost closed her eyes and reveled in the sound of her new name. I am Brightfrost now. She let out a purr of satisfaction. The damp scent of the marshes filled her nostrils, the scent of ShadowClan, her home. Brightfrost leapt down from where her warrior ceremony had taken place, shattering pine needles under her claws. The four apprentices, Pinepaw, Shadedpaw, Stalkpaw and Sunpaw crowded around her in an instant.
" How was it?" Pinepaw asked with shining eyes.
" Was it hard?" Shadedpaw gasped.
" Yeah! Did you catch anything?" Her sister Sunpaw asked.
" Did your mentor fight you?" Stalkpaw gasped. Brightfrost waved them away with her tail.
" Good, not very, two frogs, and no. Both did," Brightfrost called back over her shoulder. She spotted Darkfur, her friend since kithood, being fawned over by his parents Lightningstorm and Applevine. She felt a familiar twinge in her heart and tried to push it away. Her mother, Silverfrost, had died when Brightfrost was a kit. Brightfrost had never known her father. Darkfur spotted her forlorn look, excused himself, then padded to her side.
" It's okay. I'm sure your father is watching over you, wherever he might be," How does he always know my thoughts? Brightfrost shrugged ruefully.
" That's the problem. He could be any of the warriors here, he could be in StarClan. Speaking of them, he could even be an elder for all I know!" Brightfrost snorted. Darkfur rested a tail on her shoulder.
" Stop worrying! We've got our vigil coming up, you know. Thistlepelt and Sharpeye are waiting for us," he pointed across the clearing at their mentors. For a moment, Brightfrost wanted to yowl out Race you! like she used to when they were apprentices. But she composed herself and walked regally to where both cats waited. Thistlepelt, her former mentor, beamed at her and purred.
" A warrior at last! I thought you'd never make it," she teased. Brightfrost shoved her playfully with her shoulder. Thistlepelt's spiky fur made her look like a disgruntled hedgehog sometimes. The pale she-cat shook herself out and nodded towards the camp entrance. " You two will be there tonight. Remember, no talking!" Thistlepelt reminded. Brightfrost nodded solemnly. Sharpeye dipped his head to her, then set off towards the fresh-kill pile. He had the best eyesight in the Clan, and could spot a cat from almost half the territory away. And that's not all. Brightfrost purred to herself, studying her mentor's plump belly. His and Thistlepelt's kits will be arriving soon. She was so happy for her mentor. Suddenly, Darkfur jolted her out of her thought with a meow.
" Want to go for a walk?" he asked, shuffling his paws. Brightfrost nodded, and the two set out, side-by-side. She squinted up at the sun as it illuminated the beautiful pine forest. Bird sqwuaked and Brightfrost could hear the faint murmur of a brook, but there was nothing else that disturbed the peace. She loved her Clan. Darkfur leaned closer to her, his warm scent engulfing her. A warm tingling feeling spread through her and a purr rose up in her throat. Then she shook her head. What am I? A lovesick dove? Brightfrost shook herself and brusquely padded away. She turned around and called back over her shoulder to Darkfur who stood watching her in silence.
" We've got to head back. Our vigil is soon," she reminded him. Darkfur shrugged.
" Yes, but-"
" I'm going," Brightfrost snorted and padded away. Immediately, she felt bad. But Darkfur had gone, bounding away into the pine forest as the pale shadows swallowed him up. Guilt weighing in her belly, Brightfrost padded back towards the camp. He was just trying to be friendly. She was so lost in her thoughts that she didn't notice heavy footsteps thumping on the earth behind her, or smell the hot breath that blasted her hindquarters. She only spun around when a vicious snarl startled her out of thought. Brightfrost glanced at the wedge-shaped head and shrieked.
" Fox!" her instincts screamed at her to run, but she knew she would lead the fox to the camp. Brightfrost screeched in defiance, rearing up and slashing at the fox. She caught its muzzle and sent it reeling away. Brightfrost bared her teeth and lunged for the fox's throat. She was too slow. It swung around and caught her shoulder with its teeth, then sent her flying across the clearing. Brightfrost gasped in pain as her vision blurred at fire spread up through her side. The fox glowered above her, poising to strike a killing blow.
Then, out of nowhere, came Darkfur.
He threw himself onto the fox's back, tearing its ears and scrabbling at its spine with is hind legs. The fox keened, thrashing around like a fish trying to shake Darkfur off. Brightfrost, feeling rejuvenated, shot to her feet and charged the fox. Just as she was about to reach it, the creature rolled over and nearly crushed Darkfur. Rage began to build up inside of Brightfrost. You tried to hurt my Clanmate! Howling in anger, Brightfrost dodged whirling claws and snapping teeth. She sank her teeth into its neck and hung on tight. The creature thrashing and writhed, but Brightfrost held fast. At last, the creature fell still, blood gushing from a wound in its neck. Brightfrost took a step back and surveyed it with grim satisfaction. Darkfur gazed at her, stunned.
" Y-you killed it!" he choked.
" It appears so, doesn't it?" Brightfrost muttered, wiping the blood off her paws on the grass. Darkfur shook his head and suddenly sank to the ground. Alarmed, Brightfrost ran over to him and sniffed him in concern. He looked up at her, eyes warm and loving.
" Don't worry, I'm fine," Darkfur purred and shakily stood up. Brightfrost offered her shoulder, so he leaned on it, struggling to find his footing. " It's just… Brightfrost! You could have been killed!"
" Me? Killed? You should know better than that, Darkfur," Brightfrost teased, flexing her claws.
" I worry about you," Darkfur's meow became gentle. " I don't know what I'd do if you died."
" Sorry to disappoint you, but that's not going to happen soon," Brightfrost forced a purr. Her mouth was dry.
" I think you know what I mean, Brightfrost," Darkfur leaned closer. " I love you." He- what? Brightfrost glanced at him in surprise. Despite herself, a warm purr was rising up in her throat. She pressed her cheek against his and their tails twined.
" I love you too," she purred. They padded back the way they had come, the sunset lighting up their fur and laying out a path for them on the grass. " You know what?"
" What?" Darkfur asked.
" It's nice to be loved."
A moon later, Brightfrost awoke to someone poking her with a claw. Letting out a tremendous yawn, she opened her eyes and pawed at them to clear the morning fuzz out. Pale dawn light streaked into the warriors den. All around her, warriors grumbled and moaned, reluctant to get up for the dawn patrol. She looked around and saw Darkfur standing by the entrance, tail waving in excitement. " It's our first time leading a patrol!" he reminded her. Of course! Brightfrost leapt over the nests and landed neatly beside her mate. Two small starlings were poking through their fresh-kill pile. Purring with amusement Brightfrost watched as Thistlepelt's kits, Thornkit and Whitekit, chased them away.
" Brightfrost!" Timberclaw's call jolted her out of daydreaming. He beckoned her close with his tail. " You'll be leading a patrol to the WindClan border. Pick a few cats to go with you. Darkfur will be going to the ThunderClan border," he instructed. Brightfrost dipped her head to him, then dashed off to the warriors den. She surveyed the sleepy warriors in excitement.
" Birdwing! Flameclaw! Amberheart! You're going on patrol with me!"
" Can I bring Pinepaw?" Flameclaw asked, shaking out his red pelt.
" Of course," Brightfrost meowed. They were the ones ordering me around a few moons ago! Flameclaw departed to the apprentice's den to fetch Pinepaw. Amberheart licked her white chest and padded to the entrance.
" Who's leading this patrol?" she growled.
" I am," Brightfrost replied. Amberheart rolled her eyes, but fell in beside Brightfrost as she skipped out of the entrance. Darkfur mouthed something that looked like' good luck'. Brightfrost flicked her tail to show she understood. Birdwing caught up with her, hardly panting. Brightfrost glared at her playfully and the two raced across the grass, paws barely skimming the surface. Brightfrost threw her head back and relished the cold winds that ruffled her fur.
" Slow down!" Amberheart called. " We wouldn't want to cross the border." Though the she-cat was right, Brightfrost didn't want to listen to her. Reluctantly, Brightfrost slammed her paws down and skidded to a halt. Birdwing trotted beside her, twitching her ears at Amberheart. The air smelled of heather and rabbit. The pine trees thinned, exposing the sky. Suddenly, Pinepaw let out a squeal as she spotted a rabbit. Pushing off from the ground, she ran towards it. The rabbit glanced up in horror, turning to flee.
" Pinepaw, come back! That's not how you catch a rabbit!" Flameclaw yowled. But Pinepaw wasn't listening. Ears flat, she streaked across the ground after the rabbit. I've got to go after her. Brightfrost streaked across the grass, trying to reach the apprentice. Suddenly, the strong rank of WindClan came from close by. The border! StarClan, no! Pinepaw hadn't stopped. As Brightfrost drew nearer, the apprentice seemed to be accelerating,
" Pinepaw!" Brightfrost yowled. Pinepaw didn't pay attention. Giving one last desperate leap towards the rabbit, she pushed herself over the border. Great! Tail stiff with annoyance, Brightfrost stalked towards Pinepaw. To her surprise, the apprentice was holding the hare in her jaws. " Pinepaw, get back here!"
" I caught it!" Pinepaw ignored her, eyes gleaming in delight.
" You crossed the border!" Brightfrost growled, trying not to feel impressed. She spotted four lean shapes racing across the golden grass to her left and groaned inwardly. Now we've got to defend ourselves against WindClan scum. She spotted a ginger tom with a fuzzy head coming towards them. Excellent! Furtuft, the deputy. Can this possibly get any worse? Furtuft saw the apprentice standing on the moor with a rabbit in her jaws and narrowed his eyes. He bounded across the heather to stand in front of her. Pinepaw flattened her ears and shrank away.
" Stealing prey?" Furtuft growled. " Don't deny it, ShadowClan. It's obvious you are."
" Get away from my apprentice!" Flameclaw spat. Furuft regarded him lazily.
" Should I?" he ran is tongue iver his jaws. Pinepaw whimpered. Another growl came from beside Brightfrost. Amberheart had joined them, her dark brown fur bushed out in anger.
" Yes, you should!" she ordered.
" Hare-dung!" Furtuft shot back. We aren't getting anywhere. Making a massive effort to stay calm, Brightfrost shoved Amberheart and Flameclaw aside. She glared at Furtuft.
" Why don't we stop arguing like a bunch of angry chicks? Look, Furtuft, Pinepaw really did catch that hare. Smell its scent trail. You'll find it started on the outskirts of a pine forest and came here. We'll back away peacefully if you'll just let us keep the hare. Please," Brightfrost added. Furtuft snorted in disgust, then padded away.
" Let her keep the mangy hare. It doesn't matter. WindClan's got plenty of prey," he snarled. Pinepaw stood still for a moment, then came rushing back down the slope. She looked up at Brightfrost with worship in her eyes.
" Wow! You stood up to that scary old cat and made him give the hare up. I wish you were my mentor," Pinepaw purred. Flameclaw cuffed her playfully over the ear.
" Excuse me?" But Brightfrost knew he really didn't mean it. In fact, he looked impressed. " Great job there." he added. Amberheart sniffed, but Brightfrost could tell the proud she-cat she felt the same. Warmth spreading through her chest, Brightfrost scampered away. Birdwing, Pinepaw, Amberheart and Flameclaw hot on her heels. At last, she reached the camp entrance. Lifting her head in pride, Brightfrost strutted through. The ThunderClan patrol wasn't there, but Frogstar and Timberclaw were. The deputy broke away from a group of cats he was talking with and came over to them.
" How was it?" he asked. Pinepaw thrust forwards her hare and he purred. " Great catch!
" We had some trouble on the WindClan border, but Brightfrost handled it really well! You should've seen her…" Brightfrost stopped listening to her Flameclaw's praise as Darkfur and his patrol entered. Darkfur darted away from the patrol almost at once. Brightfrost prepared a warm purr for him, but he brushed past her and headed for the den. Surprised, Brightfrost followed. He was curled up in their nest, eyes closed and muzzle on his paws. But Brightfrost could tell he wasn't really asleep.
" How was it?" Brightfrost asked.
" Fine," he grunted. She nudged him playfully.
" Don't you want to know how mine went?" there was no reply. Feeling worried, Brightfrost settled down next to him. He drew away.
" Leave me alone," he growled.
" Why? Did ThunderClan scare you?" she teased half-heartedly. Darkfur's head shot up and he growled.
" Nothing! Nothing at all! Stop it!" Darkfur snarled, getting up and sprinting away. Stunned, Brightfrost watched him go. What happened at the ThunderClan border?
Brightfrost was startled to find herself awake so early. None of the warriors had yet stirred. She slowly rose up and exited the den, casting a look at Darkfur's sleeping form. Dew on the leaves brushed against her fur and settled onto her whiskers. Crisp morning air stroked her cheeks as Brightfrost strode across the clearing. She spotted Hawkfang, a dark brown tabby tom with amber eyes, curled up stiffly in the grass after his night watch. His nose was cracked and dry, his eyes watered at the scent of sickness rolled off of him. Feeling kind, Brightfrost padded over to him and nudged him with her muzzle. He looked up with a start.
" Why don't you go take a rest? I can take over," she meowed. Hawkfang let out a tremendous sneeze, then got up and shook out his ruffled pelt.
" Will you? Thanks so much," he replied gratefully. Brightfrost watched the senior warrior with amusement as she shambled back to his den. It's close to leaf-fall. There's bound to be colds going around. Brightfrost turned around to pick a burr out of her tail. The sky was a soft pink, with blue-gray clouds dotting the horizon. The treetops were dark and silent, disturbed only once as a crow let out a caw from one and took of into flight. A familiar meow sounded from the entrance.
" Anyone there?" Darkfur! Brightfrost shrank back against the bushes, not wanting to answer. Why would he ask that? Darkfur's grey muzzle appeared around the corner. The rest of him emerged, bristling. Brightfrost squeezed back into the brambles, biting back hisses as they dug into her skin and tore her fur. "Brightfrost?" Darkfur called. She didn't answer. At last, he slowly padded forwards and vanished into the trees. Brightfrost waited a few heartbeats, then emerged from her hiding place. What is he up to? She quickly darted across the grass, hitting his scent trail and slinking along the ground after him. She hid in the shadows, waiting for his tail to vanish before she hurried forwards again. The acrid scent of the Thunderpath was beginning to hit Brightfrost nostrils. Eyes narrowed, she kept on shadowing Darkfur. Suddenly, he stopped. Brightfrost shot back and dove under a holly bush. Parting the leaves with her paws, she peered out and saw him pace across the clearing. His ears were pricked and his tail lashed impatiently.The sun was beginning to rise. Golden rays touched the sky and lit the tree-tops as it began to climb the sky. Darkfur sighed, then sat down and rested his muzzle on his paws. He was muttering something under his breath, it sounded like a name. Brightfrost strained her ears, but she couldn't pick up a shard of sound. All she could hear was the soft pattering of paw steps and the scent of ThunderClan… ThunderClan! She felt her fur begin to rise. Darkfur got up and sniffed at the air. Good. He'll deal with it and there won't be any need for me to reveal my presence. But then, Darkfur let out a purr. A shape slid from the bushes to his left and a slender she-cat appeared. Her white fur glowed in the light and her amber eyes twinkled. Darkfur let out another purr and launched himself across the clearing to her side. Her soft purr joined his and they twined tails. She ran her muzzle along his jaw.
" It was hard for me to get here," she meowed with a lisp.
" It's okay. You're here, and that's all that matters," he whispered. Brightfrost watched, dumb with shock, as he rested his head on her shoulders and said those words, those confounded words " I love you."
Darkfur twined his tail with Softpelt's. They sat together, pelts brushing, perfectly fine in the comfortable silence. He glanced at the ThunderClan she-cat fondly. Her amber eyes were shining, a disc of multicolored rays reflecting in the light. I'm glad I arranged to meet her. On this first border patrol to ThunderClan, he'd spotted the she-cat hunting in the undergrowth behind the Thunderpath. Something about her had intrigued him. After speaking to her, he'd planned a meet her. This was the fourth time. She's much nicer than Brightfrost. Softpelt is quiet and pretty. Brightfrost is moody and obsessed with battle. He hadn't told Softpelt about his ShadowClan mate yet. Not now. He had to make sure she trusted him first. " I'd better go," Softpelt whispered. " Your thoughts are wandering."
" Oh, no! I'm sorry. Would you like something to eat?" he asked hastily. Softpelt purred.
" Sure." Darkfur bounded away, sniffing for a sign of prey. Suddenly, a loud yowl exploded out from behind him. Softpelt! Darkfur slammed his paws into the ground and changed direction, heading back the way he'd come. He spotted a mass of flailing grey limbs, and a flash of orange. He halted in horror. Brightfrost! StarClan, no! He skidded to a halt and glowered at her.
" Hello, Darkfur. Why didn't you introduce me to your friend?" Brightfrost let out a pleasant purr. She was holding Softpelt beneath her paws. One was on her hind quarters, and the other near her neck. Softpelt's amber eyes shone with terror. She heaved upwards, but to no avail. Brightfrost tightened her grip on Softpelt's neck. She gasped, eyes bulging as she fought for breath.
" Let her go!" Darkfur snarled. Brightfrost shrugged and loosened her grip. She looked calm. Darkfur knew she was seething.
" Would you care to introduce me?" she meowed. Gritting his teeth, Darkfur turned to face Softpelt. He knew where Brightfrost's game was leading.
" Brightfrost, meet Softpelt. Softpelt, this is Brightfrost," she narrowed her eyes and he gulped " my m-mate."
" Mate!" Softpelt yowled. Darkfur cringed. " It's fine. You were going to tell me in your own time, I know that." Darkfur breathed in relief. " I can see why you chose me instead of this aggressive she-cat."
" Oh yes?" Brightfrost dug her claws into Softpelt's fur. " Do you know how I feel right now? Imagine your whole Clan leaving you to be fed to foxed without a second glance. That's what I feel," Brightfrost panted. Darkfur felt guilt weighing down in his belly. But she has to deal with the fact that I don't love her. " There's only one way to make you feel my pain. Watch your love die in front of you!" she howled. No! Darkfur's head roared. Brightfrost's gaze was full of anger and torment. He made a motion to stop her, but Brightfrost dodged. She bit deep into Softpelt's ear and seemed to relish Darkfur's yowl of fury. She can't! His heart was beating. He had to save Softpelt. Darkfur slammed into Brightfrost's side. In one lightning fast movement, she used the momentum of her fall to take Darkfur with her. Stinging from the impact, he turned to Softpelt and yowled.
" I'm not leaving you!" ear bleeding heavily, Softpelt got to her paws and raced to his side. Brightfrost roared and struck her chest, leaving her winded on the ground. Not wasting another moment, she leapt onto Softpelt's throat and sliced it open with her claws. Horror and outrage rose in Darkfur's chest. He felt as though his own heart was bleeding with Softpelt's blood. The she-cat made an awful gurgling noise, then feel still. Brightfrost howled in triumph.
" Feel it now? That is me," Brightfrost's eyes danced with a wild light. She's insane! And he knew it was true. Her face was strangely twisted. Heart breaking with sorrow, but mind alive with rage, he leapt at his former mate. She ducked and swiped at his belly. Fire flames licked at the wound and he wailed in agony. It spread through his chest, his mind, until he was nothing but pain. Brightfrost stood above him, flexing her blood-soaked claws.
" Stop…" Darkfur gasped.
" Now you feel my pain," Brightfrost whispered. She kicked his body and walked away. Darkfur closed his eyes and hoped to die. I can join Softpelt. But as he watched Brightfrost's tail-tip disappear, he knew there was one thing he needed to say more.
I never wanted to hurt you this way.
" What have you done?" Brightfrost heard the shrill cry as Applevine saw her son's body. The right thing. Brightfrost still felt the rage wracking her body. Her mind was frozen, trying to cope with all the emotions swirling around inside of her. She looked down. Her paws were covered in the blood of Darkfur and Softpelt. Letting out a grunt, she tossed Softpelt's body next to his. She met Applevine's horrified stare.
" Your son was traitor! To me, and to his whole Clan," she snarled. The commotion was drawing cats from their dens. Brightfrost swung around and glared at every one of them. They let out horrified gasps and hisses as they looked at Darkfur and Sofpelt's bodies. Or are they looking at me? She saw Thistlepelt shove Whitekit and Thornkit into the nursery. Her eyes were round with terror as she looked at Brightfrost. What have you done? That message was clear. She thinks I'm a villain. Brightfrost felt a strange surge in her blood. If that's what she-they all- think, I'll be that way!
" I don't believe it," Applevine whispered. Lightningstorm pressed against her as they looked at Darkfur. " What right did you have to take his life?"
" Right!" Brightfrost spun around, fury making her fur stand on end. " What right did I have? What right did he have to take up with this she-cat? What right do you have to question me?" Brightfrost howled in rage. Applevine shrank back. Suddenly, Brightfrost felt her world shake. When it stabilized, her mind became cold and calculating. Everyone here was prey. And one had jut harmed her. This was what it felt like when she killed those two cats. Brightfrost let out a hiss. She leapt forwards and sliced open Applevine's neck. Lightningstorm's eyes lit with loathing, but Brightfrost bit his neck before he could move. She reared up in triumph. Her Clanmates backed away, but there was nothing to stop her. They're all prey. All prey! She let out a maniacal howl that seemed to shake the trees. Brightfrost lunged forwards, wanting to kill. Get them! All prey! Every single one! Her mind screamed. How can they live in happiness when you can't? She watched as Shadedpaw, Sunpaw, Pinepaw and Stalkpaw fled towards their den. Brightfrost's claws left a line of red blood on Stalkpaw's silver fur. Blood! Her mind roared in pleasure.
" Stop!" someone yowled. She saw Flameclaw charging towards her. His dark fur shimmered and became that of a fox. Brightfrost lashed out at him. He yelped as blood poured from a wound on his flank.
" I'll get her from behind." Hawkfang snarled and rammed into her hind quarters. Brightfrost screeched, writhing and flailing her paws as four, five- no, six- warriors held her down. Those aren't warriors! They're trees! Her vision was swimming so furiously it made her sick. Brightfrost retched, then her world went black.
When Brightfrost woke, she was shocked to find herself in a den made of bramble thorns. She tried to life her head, then moaned. It pounded too badly, as if she were under the river. What happened? Slowly getting to her feet, she hobbled across the den and stopped short. Two warriors, Flameclaw and Sharpeye, were standing guard. They saw her, and they bristled. Suddenly, the memories came rushing back. I killed Applevine and Lightningstorm. I'm pretty sure I killed Hawkfang and Stalkpaw too… Brightfrost suddenly felt sick. Then, she remembered what Darkfur had done and her rage came back. No one will dare mess with me again. But even as she padded back into her cave, a sadness was lodged in her heart. She sighed and sank her her paws, muzzle resting on the ground.
" She's awake!" someone's horrified cry filled the air. Warriors growled, but they fled. Soon, the only cat left in the clearing was Crowflight, an elder. He was watching her with his milky eyes, and they were pained and grieved. Shaking his head, the tom padded away. Brightfrost whimpered and curled up into a ball, as if she could block out her Clanmates by protecting herself.
In the sparkling forests of StarClan, a group of cats huddled together. The starry sky seemed to stretch on forever. The cats had gathered on a rock that jutted out from the ground like a snout. The night breeze ruffled their fur as they growled uneasily.
" She doesn't deserve to live." One cat, a brown tabby she-cat, hissed. They were watching an image reflected into the sky, that of a dark ginger cat moaning to herself while deep in sleep. A black tom growled his assent. But one cat, a slender silver she-cat, strayed from the rest. She approached the image and moved her paw as if to touch it.
" My daughter," she whispered. Those two words held a world of anguish, remorse and sorrow.
" I'm sorry," a dark grey tom join her, head bowed. The silver she-cat spun around, lips curled in a snarl.
" You, sorry? You ruin my daughter, and have the nerve to say sorry?" The she-cat raged. The dark grey tom cringed, pain clearly visible in his eyes.
" But we are," another she-cat said softly. Her white fur glowed in the starlight. " Our love was short, but when we came here, we knew that both of us had made mistakes."
" Love?" the silver tabby snorted. " That was not love. That was foolish obsession!"
" But we are not here to argue!" the black tom growled, tail lashing. The white marks on his forehead seemed to flash. " We are here to design a punishment."
" But does she really need to be punished, Lightningstorm?" the silver tabby dropped her head.
" How can you ask that? She took my life, my mate's, my son, his…friend, Hawkfang and Stalkpaw."
" She was not herself!" the silver tabby's eye's blazed. Then they darkened and she dropped her head. " You are right, but I will not ask for death. Instead, some sweetener on the bitterness of her life." The silver tabby padded forwards to the edge of the rock and closed her eyes. The air around her began to tingle, and a single thorn with a drop of blood on it rose in front of her. The silver cat opened her eyes. Instead of their usual blue, they were a vibrant gold.
" What are you doing?" A long-legged silver tom asked.
" Shh, Stalkpaw," a dark brown tom murmured, " She is working magic." The wind around the rock began to blow faster, until the cats had to hold onto each other to avoid being thrown off.
" I, Silverfrost of ShadowClan, ask that the ancestors of StarClan grant my wish," the silver she-cat meowed, calm beside the storm around her. The stars began to whirl, until the sky was a blur of blue-and-white. " And allow me to use your magic to work my spell."
" What spell?" the white she-cat hissed.
" All thorns in ShadowClan's forest will be covered in a sleeping spell. When Brightfrost is released, she will tread on one. When her blood touches the tip, she shall fall into deep sleep. Her sleep will be filled with nightmares, reminders of the atrocities she has done."
" But how will she wake?" Stalkpaw stepped forwards, eyes wide. Silverfrost turned to him, the gold beginning to fade from her eyes.
" She shall be woken by the confession of love." Silverfrost pronounced as the winds faded. Everything fell still. The StarClan cats disentangled themselves, growling uneasily. Magic was not worked often, and when it was, StarClan became unsettled. The dark grey tom that had attempted to apologize frowned.
" But then she will never be awakened. There is no one in the Clan that loves-" in a flash, Silverfrost was on him. She held him to the ground, eyes burning with fury. The white she-cat ran to his side, snarling, but Silverfrost knocked her away.
" I have no time for your petty distractions, Softpelt," Silverfrost growled. She released her grip on Darkfur and let him scramble to his feet. She faced the StarClan cats, all cats killed by her daughter. " Applevine, Lightninstorm, Stalkpaw, Hawkfang, Softpelt and Darkfur. Listen. My daughter will be awakened. There is one living cat in the Clan that still loves her."
" And who is that?" Applevine called out bravely. Silverfrost turned around and fixed her brilliant stare on the she-cat.
" Her father."
Brightfrost turned to snarl at the cats as they stared at her. Terrified, they leapt back, and Brightfrost tasted satisfaction. No cat gets the better of me. She was being led into the center of camp, where Frogstar was waiting. Although his light brown frame looked confident, the panic in his blue eyes betrayed his two feelings. Brightfrost curled her lip. He's afraid. She glared at her four guards. They had ivy tendrils wrapped around her, so that is she tried to run, the tendrils would trip her. Each guard held the end in their teeth. Amberheart was at the back, along with Birdwing. Sunpaw and Pinepaw, now named Sunfur and Pinebreeze grabbed the ones at front. Shadedpaw, the dark grey she-cat, ran up to them.
" Let me hold her," she begged. " I want revenge for my brother."
" You sure?" Pinebreeze shifted her paws uncertainly. She used to want me as a mentor. Now she thinks I'm evil. Brightfrost shook away her sadness. Pinebreeze was right.
" I'm sure," Shadedpaw- who was now Shadedwhisker, pleaded. Pinebreeze sighed and handed Shadedwhisker the tendril. With a malicious gleam in her eye, Shadedwhisker jerked it. Brightfrost winced as it cut into her skin. Let her have her petty revenge. You can kill her later. So Brightfrost allowed herself to be walked to Frogstar.
" Sit." He commanded. Brightfrost glared at him
" He said sit, " Amberheart snarled. She and Birdwing pulled their vines and Brightfrost was forced onto her rump.
" Better," Frogstar hissed and began to pace. Brightfrost flattened her ears. Pretending to have an itch on her ear, she raised a forepaw and began to scratch. Secretly, she was cutting through Sunfur's tendril. Frogstar continued to strut around her. Brightfrost squeezed the end of the tendril against her side so Sunfur wouldn't suspect anything. I can just cut through her's and Shadedwhisker's. As long as I have two free paws, I'll be fine. " Brightfrost…" Frogstar began.
" Yes?" she said, trying to sound irritatingly curious. Frogstar's eyes flashed.
" Brightfrost, you have committed murder in cold-blood. I cannot afford to have such a dangerous creature in my Clan. Therefore, I demand that you be… executed."
" Executed?" Brightfrost wrinkled her snout. When would they accept that they could never harm her?
" Yes. You killed a tom and his mate, two defenseless cats, one who I believe was your mate-"
" Shut up!" Brightfrost roared. As ferocious as a badger, she reared up and broke free of the binds on her fore. The sudden movement sent Amberheart and Birdwing skidding across the floor. Brightfrost let out a snarl of pleasure. She turned and fixed her gaze on Shadedwhisker, who was cowering beside her den. With a bellow, Brightfrost charged towards her. Shadedwhisker let out a startled squeal. As Brightfrost approached, she flashed out her paw and shot out from under her attacker. Brightfrost felt blood well on her muzzle. As it registered in her mind, the insane part of her slid over. Kill her. Kill them all. It commanded. Brightfrost thundered after the grey she-cat, who was making for the exit.
" Stop her!" Frogstar yowled. Amberheart and Flameclaw raced to block her path. Brightfrost knocked Amberheart aside, then shoved Flameclaw to the side. She relished her Clanmate's shrieks of terror as she broke free. Shadedwhisker's fear scent was stronger now. Brightfrost raced along her trail, but then stopped. Shadedwhisker's form was disappearing over the horizon. She had cut through an area filled with gorse thorns and brambles. The nerve! Furious now, Brightfrost began to run again. Suddenly, her hind leg shot out from under her and dragged her backwards. Of course. The tendrils. She gasped as she hit the ground, a the tendrils wrapped around a bramble. Her face slammed against the grass, and in front of her, was a single thorn. Its point was sharp, with a single red speck of blood on the top.
That was the last thing Brightfrost remembered before the ground opened up and swallowed her.
She was in a forest.
Everything was red. It was as if she was in a giant red sphere, floating in space. It was hot.
Heat crawling under her skin.
Something cold clinging to her limbs.
And then, something roared.
It was a sound that echoed between large black tree trunks that had just appeared on the horizon. The stygian leaves shook as the roar hit her ears.
It hit like a snake, something driving right into her chest. Her mind started whirling, heart pounding, legs pumping, one goal in mind. Get away. It didn't matter where she ran. As long as she got away.
The roar sounded again, and she could see it. It came in a black mist, whistling through the spindly trunks. Roaring and snarling, it took shape as monstrous creature, who tipped its head back to the sky.
She screamed, the sound ripped from her throat. The black thing lowered its head. Two eyes glowed blood-red in the light. White points flashed from the cloud, things that might have been fangs. The creature roared, and it came again, terror. She howled and took off, running so fast the ground began to burn. Tree trunks pressed in on her, and the forest thickened. There was a gap ahead, a narrow parting in the foliage. It was just big enough for her, but it was closing, getting smaller as she neared.
And behind her was that monster, always close enough for her to feel that hot breath on her feet.
Its fangs scraped her legs, and hot agony surged up her limb. Then she was falling, falling, the monster looming above her, insanity flashing in its throbbing gaze...
She could feel the breath rasping in her throat as her eyes shot open. Lying face to the ground, she saw a blue, star-speckled sky. A cold breeze ruffled her fur, refreshing, but with a bite. She closed her eyes, and the terror from that place came rushing back. She whimpered.
" Brightfrost." A soft voice whispered. The she-cat didn't move. Who was Brightfrost?
" Brightfrost," a deeper voice called. They seemed to be calling to her... but she wasn't Brightfrost.
In fact, who was she?
" Brightfrost," a different voice, softer, called. Something damp nudged her shoulder, and Brightfrost looked up. Three cats sat in a mossy clearing, dark brown oaks at their back. Three large boulders sat behind them, draped in ivy. Tendrils. The word rang unbidden in her mind.
One of them, a silver she-cat, stepped forwards. The other two shifted, tails still curled around their paws. The she-cat's blue eyes were soft, and sad. Then like a blow to her face, it all came rushing back.
" I'm Brightfrost!" she gasped, stumbling. The silver she-cat tipped her head to one side, as though waiting. And then like she had been thrown to the floor, it hit her. " And you are Silverfrost. My mother."
" I am," the she-cat murmured. " But you cannot be my daughter."
" What do you mean?" the old ache returned to her heart, the pain of seeing the life dim from her mother's eyes. " Y-you are Silverfrost, aren't you?"
" My daughter is not a savage killer," Silverfrost sighed.
" I-I..." Brightfrost dropped her head. Then she raised it, eyes blazing. " It wasn't my fault! I don't know what happened to me! It was Darkfur! I was betrayed. I was..." a sob broke from her throat "...betrayed."
" We know," Silverfrost said softly and stepped aside, revealing two cats. One was a long-legged silver tom, and the other was a cat that appeared to be made out of mist. Both dipped their head to her. " Punishment is nessecary, regardless of intention. You let the madness control you, and you took lives. We have trapped you in a realm of dreams, to go through what you made your victims feel, until you are woken."
" Woken? When will I be woken?"
" When someone proclaims their love for you," Silverfrost said.
" But... no one loves me," Brightfrost said, an unexplainable sadness filling her heart. Darkfur did... he loved me... she flattened her ears. Silverfrost did not answer, but nodded to the two cats. One of them, the smaller tom, padded forwards. He stood nose-to-nose with her, his breath washing over her muzzle. It was cold, and smelled like wet grass. The tom gazed deep into her eyes, and the pupils began to swirl. Images formed in her mind, that of a shaking world, where a monster was chasing him, its claws raking his legs.
Stalkpaw. This is Stalkpaw! And my dream... I was seeing through him. Gazing at someone she killed, knowing that the little spirit in front of her was in StarClan because of her, filled her with immense guilt. Stalkpaw's stare was impassive, but there seemed to be pain in his eyes.
" You know how I felt now, Brightfrost. Feeling chased, as though some monster was about to tear the life from me, escape only a few lengths away, until your claws tore my leg so badly that I bled to death."
" Can you ever forgive me?" she whispered, tail swishing through the dew-damp grass. The silver tom shook his head.
" I cannot answer that," as though stone had been cracked, the impassive look disappeared from his eyes. It was replaced by raw emotion, flooding into the only place that ever told the truth. His eyes. Brightfrost was drawn them, the boiling blue stones that sparkled. She saw bitterness, that life had been taken from him so young, and that she, his killer, had been allowed to live. She saw a brief flash of regret, that he had never confessed his love to Sunfur. There was something else, compassion for her, as he saw her suffering.
He had died so young.
Brightfrost lowered her head, overcome with emotion. Stalkpaw stepped back, and Silverfrost took his place. For the first time since she had been noticed by her daughter, Silverfrost showed her love for the ginger she-cat. She curled her tail around Brightfrost's shoulders for a brief moment, with drawing them and leaving a trail of starlight on her fur.
" It's time for you to go back now. You will meet us here when you are done." The beautiful silver cat blinked as her fur began to pale. The forest began to shimmer, until it vanished. Stalkpaw dipped his head one last time to Brightfrost before winking out like a star. All that were left was the misty cat and Silverfrost.
" Fare well, daughter," in a burst of starlight, both cats were gone. Before Brightfrost could call out, she felt the solid surface vanish from beneath her paws, and she was falling into a void of black that turned to crimson red.
" Who d'you think my mentor will be?" Whitekit pummeled the ground anxiously with her paws.
" I don't know," Thornkit shrugged. " In fact, I don't really care."
" You're just mad because Thistlepelt and Sharpeye wouldn't let you be a medicine cat apprentice," Whitekit teased, her shocking blue eyes sparkling. Thornkit shivered. Whenever he looked into his sister's eyes, or met her stare, he couldn't help feeling nervous.
" I'm not mad," Thornkit continued, gazing up. He could see sunlight dotting the ground where it shone through the pines above. " I just think it's unfair. Not everyone has to be a warrior like Sharpeye."
" He's our father. He just wants the best for us," Whitekit soothed, scanning the clearing. " Oh, look! There's Flameclaw. I want him to be my mentor."
" Him?" Thornkit wrinkled his muzzle. " Flameclaw's grouchy and strange. When I once asked him about the scar on his shoulder, he looked at me like I'd turned into a pile of rotten fresh-kill."
" That's 'cause you're rude," Whitekit purred, shoving him with her nose. She sighed and stared at Flameclaw, tail-tip twitching. " I think he's kind of handsome."
" Handsome?" Thornkit exclaimed, cuffing his sister over the ear. " Whitekit, he's seasons older than you!"
" So?" she sniffed, " I can think what I like." The banter went on between the siblings for a while, until two adult cats padded towards them. One was a pale grey she-cat with fuzzy fur that surrounded her like a cloud. The other was a tall, slender tom with eyes that seemed to crackle and spark. They were a bright blue, and appeared as sharp and keen as a hawk's. Resentment burned in Thornkit's heart as he spotted the tom.
He ruined my dreams.
" Ready to be apprentice?" Sharpeye rumbled, blue eyes unreadable. Then they flashed. " To be a warrior?" Whitekit pawed at the ground uneasily. Tension seemed to thicken the air as father glared at son. Thornkit's anger rose, and he fought to suppress it. He made no comment, knowing that Sharpeye would take every oppurtunity to make him look bad. Besides, Thistlepelt doesn't need any more to worry about.
" Are you?" his mother said softly, stroking his flank with her tail. She burst into a purr, the sunlight looking like golden patches on her pelt. " I'm so proud of you already! I know you'll achieve great things."
" Yeah," Thornkit swallowed, throat dry. His mother had been a good warrior in her time, though now she was thinking of staying in the nursery. She mentored a few cats, too, though she never speaks of them. Movement across the clearing distracted him. Cats were gathering, staring up at the trunk of a pine tree. It was large and old, bark peeling. But when it peeled, it revealed stronger, smoother bark underneath. It was a comforting reminder to Thornkit of how he could endure the torture that was about to enter his life.
" All cats old enough to catch their own prey, gather here for a Clan meeting!" a strong and clear voice boomed. Thornkit noticed Whitekit tremble, as if awed by the words. A dark mood settled over him as he saw Dovewhisper, the medicine cat, settle down by the roots alone. She saw him staring and dropped her head, as though there was a great burden on her shoulders.
The Clan elders gathered at the edge as well. Flutterwing, a small tabby, merely looked bored and tired. Crow flight examined them both with friendly interest, pity softening his gaze as it rested on Thornkit. He turned his back on the elder, embarrassed. I don't need any cat's pity!
" Good luck," Thistlepelt murmured, stretching forwards to give Thornkit and Whitekit one last lick to smooth out their fur. Her scent comforted him for a while, but then the old darkness returned when Sharpeye stepped forwards. He gave Whitekit a proud look, which hardened when it rested on Thornkit. The message was clear. You mess up, kit, and I'll feed your heart to the foxes.
" ShadowClan!" Frogstar yowled, and the clearing fell silent. " We are here today to appoint two new apprentices. It makes my heart bright to see our ranks swell, and I already see two promising warriors with us." Thistlepelt and Sharpeye pressed close together, purring. Whitest puffed out her chest, but Thornkit could only stare wordlessly at Frogstar. The leader seemed confused, but shook it away. Thornkit stared down at his paws, which were white like his mother's.
Sadly, the rest of him looked exactly like Sharpeye, without the stunning of his eyes.
" Whitekit, you have reached the age of six moons and are ready to be apprenticed. From this day on until you receive your warrior name, you will be known as Whitepaw. Your mentor will be Shadedwhisker, and I hope she will pass on all she knows to you." Thornkit watched Whitepaw's eyes widen as Shadedwhisker stepped forwards. Some unnamed tragedy had made her jumpy and nervous, which was proven as she touched Whitepaw's muzzle and immediately leapt back.
" Thornkit..." silence fell across the clearing. He could feel Sharpeye's stare burning into his back. "... you have reached the age of six moons, and it is time for you to be apprenticed. From now one until you receive your warrior name, you will be known as Thornpaw. Your mentor will be Flameclaw, and I hope he passes on all he knows to you."
In that moment, when the tom stepped forwards, Thornkit wished something would happen. He wished that anyone, anything, would stop this horrible ceremony and apprentice him to Dovewhisper. In a fantastical world, he saw Frogstar shouting " No!" and stopping it. If only...
" Thornpaw," Flameclaw's meow broke into his thoughts, " you have to touch noses with me."
" Oh." Thornpaw stretched forwards his muzzle, tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. The Clan began to chant.
" Whitepaw! Thornpaw! Whitepaw! Thornpaw!" they called, heads tipped back to the sky. Thornpaw wanted to shrink in his pelt, while Whitepaw puffed out her chest again and purred. Her soft, grey-and-black fur was bristling in excitement.
" We're apprentices at last!" Whitepaw meowed as they began to scamper down the tree. Bark shredded beneath Thornpaw's claws as he leapt nimbly onto the camp floor. The moss softened his fall, the water absorbed in it squeezing out beneath his claws. Thornpaw looked up in resentment as Flameclaw neared him. I suppose we'll have to go on some dumb tour of the territory, and I'll have to act like I hate WindClan. Why can't I just be a medicine cat?
" I'm so proud of you!" Thistlepelt purred suddenly, rushing forwards. He ducked away from her lick, silently fuming as his father neared. Sharpeye halted beside his mate, narrowing his eyes at Thornpaw.
" An apprentice, huh? Well, at least you didn't bring up any of that medicine cat nonsense in the ceremony. I'm sure you'll do well. Oh wait, I'm not sure..." here he thrust his muzzle close to Thornpaw. " I'm certain. You'd better do well, or else..."
" Got it," Thornpaw growled. " Ignore my dreams to make you happy. No wait..." he copied his father's action " Not to make you happy. To preserve your reputation."
" Thornpaw!" Thistlepelt exclaimed, shocked. Thornpaw bristled, refusing to meet his mother's stare. Tension and animosity crackled between them until Flameclaw's yowl sounded from across the clearing.
" I have to leave," he hissed, stalking away. Before he could reach the dark red tom, Dovewhisper stepped in front of her vision. Her tail was lashing and her dark eyes were alight with anger. Thornpaw backed away, startled by the expression on her face. She should have been sad that he wasn't her apprentice! Instead, she looked furious.
" Happy now, are you?" she growled, her characteristic gentleness gone.
" Happy?" Thornpaw wasn't sure he'd heard her right. " How could I be happy? I'm apprenticed to a warrior. I have to be a warrior for my whole life!"
" Then you should've done something about it!" the medicine cat snarled. " I am old. When I die, there is no one to take my place. ShadowClan will fall!" Thornpaw's temper snapped.
" Well why didn't you do something about it?"
" There's only so much I can do," she curled her lip, " you're just too cowardly to stand up to your father."
" Cowardly?!" he spat, unsheathing his claws. " I'm no more of a coward than you are! Have you ever had to stand up to Sharpeye? Don't you think I asked? He wouldn't listen, not to one word. He was the one to insisted Frogstar make me a warrior. None of this was my choice!"
" Ah," Dovewhisper's temper seemed to cool abruptly. She took a step back. " But everything is your choice. Your fate it a choice. Your destiny is shaped by a choice."
" Yeah, well," Thornpaw scowled. Suddenly, he did not want to speak with her anymore. Turning his back on the pale cat, he scanned the camp for his mentor. Flameclaw's pelt flashed in the corner of his vision. The red tom neared, tail lashing with annoyance.
" Are you coming to train or not?" he snorted. " Your sister has already left."
" I'm coming, okay?" Thornpaw shot back, feeling Dovewhisper's stare burn into his back. Fuming inwardly, he followed his mentor to the bramble exit.
The thorns scraped his skull as he ducked under them. His bad mood did not improve as Flameclaw pointedly halted, tail swishing side to side. Ugh. He expects me to act all 'the forest is so big'! I've seen it before when I went to collect herbs with Dovewhisper... before Sharpeye noticed of course. He stared unimpressed at the tall pines above him, the trunk which seemed to grow narrower as they climbed higher into the sky. The sky itself was dark blue, the faintest hint of a storm gathering in the distance. Grass oozed muddy water beneath Thornpaw's claws. At least in WindClan, the ground it dry.
" Wow," he said flatly, eyes following the path of a fly. This seemed to satisfy Flameclaw, who flicked his tail and trotted forwards. His pelt was wreathing among the stems. Thornpaw flattened his ears and hurried to catch up. Is it always this dark? Surely it can't be darker in ThunderClan. It took him a while to realize Flameclaw was speaking.
"...so Tall Shadow led a group here, and made our camp back in the pines. Food was more plentiful than the moor, and we were sheltered by the pines in the cold weather," he was meowing. I wonder how the cats reacted to eating lizards and frogs? Thornpaw mused, staring at a tiny frog hopping around his feet.
" Catch it!" Flameclaw hissed in his ear, making him jump. The frog fled to the shelter of a few large pine needles.
" Hmm?" Thornpaw said, turning to his mentor. " What did you say?"
" You should've caught it!" his mentor hissed. " What kind of soft apprentice are you?" Rage began to stir in Thornpaw's belly. He's hated me ever since I asked him about the scar. " Well?"
" I'm sorry," Thornpaw mumbled, suddenly too weary to pick a fight. " Look, why don't I try and catch something else? There's an old log over there. Don't birds gather there, because of the insects?"
" Why, yes they do," Flameclaw meowed, his voice abruptly softening. He seemed impressed. " First, let me correct your hunting crouch. Show me how you do one, like this." Here, he demonstrated one by swiftly tucking his paws under his body. Thornpaw narrowed his eyes and tried to copy him, but the position felt awkward and unbalanced. He squirmed in discomfort as his chin brushed the ground and toppled to one side.
" Sorry," he mumbled again, standing up with as much dignity as he could muster. Whitepaw could already do a perfect crouch when she was a kit! I spent my time helping the medicine cat. It was clear that Flameclaw was not used to such a clumsy position, but he let out a patient sigh and began to explain.
" The biggest mistake you can make is getting your balance wrong. That's what my mentor Silverfrost told me, and she was one of the greatest hunters in her time-"
" Silverfrost?" the name rang bells in Thornpaw's head. " Who's she? Is she still in this Clan?" I swear I've heard her name before... or something that sounded like her name.
" No..." Flameclaw suddenly flattened his ears. " She died long ago, after falling into a quicksand hole. We tried to save her, but her lungs were too full of mud and she died."
" Oh." Thornpaw said, tipping his head. A sudden interest was sparked in him. " Did she have kits?"
" I don't- who told you to ask these questions?" Flameclaw snapped suddenly, narrowing his eyes. " Are you going to catch something or what?"
" Wait!" Thornpaw begged. " I heard my parents talking one night, and I think they said her name. I just want to know about her. Did she have kits?"
" She had a daughter," Flameclaw replied slowly, the tension in his voice betraying his fraying patience. " Now stop sticking your snout into a snake's den and start hunting! Do you want to learn how to be a warrior and impress your father?"
" My father?" bitterness laced Thornpaw's meow, but he knew it was hiding even more curiosity. He began to edge towards the fallen tree trunk, a new question at his tongue. He had seen Flameclaw shoot a look so swift he almost missed it, at his scar when he mentioned Silverfrost's daughter. A sudden reckless impulse possessed him and he called out: "What was her daughter's name?"
In a flash, Flameclaw had him pinned down.
" It's none of your business!" a half-mad glint shone in his eye. Thornpaw couldn't suppress the whimper of fear that broke through his throat. Flameclaw snarled, but upon hearing the whimper, he loosened his grip and took a step back. The red tom suddenly looked old and haggard. " You'l never stop asking, will you? Oh well, I suppose you have a right to know." Pain was in the depths of his gaze as he sank to the floor. Thornpaw pricked his ears, curious but apprehensive at the same time.
" It's a long story, Thornpaw, so seat yourself. You'll be here for a while..."
This time, Brightfrost had some sense of sanity.
She was staring up at a blue sky, but everything seemed surreal. Her surroundings were oddly contrasted, and a thin flim of bright colour covered everything. Brightfrost could see the sky and the peaks of the pine trees stretching upwards. Thin, white and wispy clouds were smuged on the blue canvas of the sky.
Murmurs were rising around her, but she couldn't see from whom. In fact...
Cold realization struck her like lightning.
This is the day... the day I-
It was too painful. Terror and regret washed over her. A wail escaped her throat, but it sounded detached and strange.
This was the day I... killed....
If only she hadn't. If only he hadn't. If only they hadn't. Who was to blame? Who? Confusion and pieces that didn't fit together were jumbling her thinking. She'd killed him, but he'd made her. Deep down inside of her, she knew that wasn't true. I killed him. How-how could I?
Brightfrost struggled to stand, but something was holding her back. To her astonishment, she found she couldn't move. Her limbs felt leaden and sunk in the dirt. Gritting her teeth, Brightfrost made an effort to stand up. She felt tighter, but nothing happened. Frustrated, she let her limbs go slack. That was when the sun was blotted out by the silhouette of a cat. It stood over her, fur ruffled by a breeze. Brightfrost felt sick.
Light brown tabby with dark stripes. It's Applevine.
Memories engulfed her, one standing out amongst the rest: red covering her vision and fangs plunging into Applevine's neck.
Her head began to pound and bile rose in her stomach. She struggled against the force holding her down, binding her to the ground. Standing above her, Applevine lifted her paw to draw it over her face. Unwittingly, Brightfrost felt herself do the same. Then she realized.
I'm Applevine's shadow! How absurd. Suddenly, Brightfrost was spun around and the earth moved below her. When it stopped, she was again looking up at the sky, with the same compressed feeling. A black shape moved above her, and twitched its ear. Brightfrost's did the same. The shape tipped its head back, and as her own moved, she saw the white slashes on his forehead.
Guilt burned with the remorse and repulsion burning in her stomach. Lightningstorm. Dread settled on her heart. Was she going to be forced to relive the moment again? Brightfrost tried to close her eyes but found she couldn't. A shadow could do nothing on its own. It was a copy, made to follow. As she thought this, ears began to prick and fur began to bristle. She saw an apprentice- the past Sunpaw- open her jaws to murmur.
They smell the ThunderClan.
Panic began to set it in and Brightfrost writhed furiously. She wanted to get away from it, anywhere but here. To her astonishment she found her limbs working. They pushed her upwards, but she was immediatly dragged between Lightningstorm and Applevine. She fought against the pressure madly, gnashing her fangs, but it didn't work. Panting, she dropped her head, all the strength suddenly drained from her body.
Then she heard the wail.
It came from Applevine, she knew, because her own chest tightened. The tabby she-cat's eyes were riveted ahead, flanks trembling. Against her will. Brightfrost's own head turned. She found herself staring straight into the eyes of a...monster. The cat that was ginger like her, with eyes wild and haunted, with fangs dripping blood. She couldn't bear to look at the bodies beside her, the bodies she had killed. Brightfrost whimpered as the other cat snarled and released its hold on the scruffs of its prey. She saw Applevine tip her head back and call out, eyes blazing with a new hatred.
No. She knew what was coming next. The other ginger cat snarled, a twisted and manical look coming over its face. It thundered towards Applevine, and leapt.
" Stop!" she yowled, but nothing happened. Desperate, frantic, she tugged at whatever was restraining her, trying to block the other cats path to Applevine's throat. It was too late. Like a flash of lightning, both cats crumpled to the ground. The ginger cat's teeth were poised for the killing point, but right before she could make the move, Brightfrost was sucked in towards Applevine. She found herself pass into the she-cat, and found herself looking at the one going to kill her.
Silence reigned in the forest.
Thornpaw stared at his mentor, wide-eyed. His heart was still pulsing from the tale, andd claws of icy terror had gripped him. Flameclaw sighed and bowed his head, glancing at the scar on his shoulder.
" So... that's how you got it?" Thornpaw croaked.
" Yes. And when Shadedwhisker returned to camp, she was never the same. Many cats have suffered because of her, Thornpaw. I don't want you to go talking about this again, you understand?"
" Y-yes," he replied, glancing upwards. Dusk had fallen and the crickets had begun to chirp. " I won't tell anyboy."
" Good," Flameclaw said curtly, standing up, " now, you and I are-" The bushes began to rustle, and he broke off from speaking. Whitepaw erupted from between them, a white bird clenched in her jaw. Her blue eyes were full of more energy with before. She zipped across the ground, clearing the trunk with a single bound, and raced to Thornpaw's side.
" Look what I caught!" she exclaimed, dropping it beneath her paws.
" It's true. She did catch it," Shadedwhisker followed her with a more relaxed pace. Seeing the she-cat reminded Thornpaw of the tale he had heard. He ducked his head to avoid Flameclaw's sharp glance. The young cat was jittery, glancing furtively at the tree trunks, and occasionally unsheathing her claws. However, she looked more at peace than she had at the ceremony. Her eyes were even shining with pride as she looked at Whitepaw.
" Have you really been here all this time?" Whitepaw said, skipping around Thornpaw. Annoyance prickled beneath his fur.
" Yeah, but I've been learning important stuff. Do you know how our camp was formed? Do you know who Tall Shadow and Gray Wing were?" he shot back. Whitepaw stared at him blankly, eyelids half shut and ears limp.
" Tall who?" she grunted, then leapt into the air to claw at a falling leaf. " Who needs to know about tall shadows and grey wings? I learnt how to hunt, and Shadedwhisker even taught me my first battle move!" as she demonstrated the atrocity. Thornpaw shot an accusing glare at Flameclaw. He could have told me the story while walking! But the red tom did not acknowledge the stare. Instead, he asked:
" Do you want to head home, or continue the tour? It's near dark."
" I want to go back! My pads hurt!" Whitepaw whimpered, holding up one. It was cracked and bleeding. Shadedwhisker inspected it.
" Well that's because you," here she bounced, " aren't used to," fur rippled," the ground." Thornpaw looked at his own. They were fine, because he had been out of camp before. Gathering herbs, which is what I should be doing now. Resentment against Sharpeye burned within him.
" Well?" Flameclaw asked, flicking his tail. Thornpaw opened his jaws to say he'd like to continue, when his belly rumbled. His eyelids felt heavy, and he realized he would look weak if he kept going.
" I'll go back," Thornpaw grumbled. Flameclaw nodded, then halted. He signaled with his tail for them to keep silent, and dropped into a crouch. He's hunting, Thornpaw realized with a thrill. He noticed the muscles in Flameclaw's legs tighten as the top sprang into a bush. It was followed by a muffled curse as something black streaked out. It's heading towards me! Faster than he would have thought he could, Thornpaw reared up and dragged the bird down. It thrashed and jabbed with its beak, but Thornpaw killed it with a bite to the spine.
" You caught the bird!" Flameclaw purred.
" That was-whoa!" Whitepaw exclaimed, bouncing on her paws. Thornpaw purred thinly, but inside of him a pit of anger opened. His catch wasn't as great as hers. As he eyed her magnificent catch, their mentors began to head back towards camp. Correction- Shadedwhisker. Flameclaw seemed to be hanging back, a look in his eyes saying he wanted a serious conversation.
" You go on ahead, I'll join you," Thornpaw told his sister. She nodded and bounded away, tail held high. Apprehensively, he turned to his mentor. Flameclaw's countenance was grave and stern as he addressed his apprentice.
" Thornpaw... remember what I said. Don't tell others that I told you this, you hear? Brightfrost was a bad cat, and she hurt the souls of many. You can't tell anyone. Promise?"
" But- don't you want to find her? Maybe she can redeem herself!" Thornpaw burst shocked at the coldness in his mentor's voice.
" No! It's better the way it is. Now, do you promise?" Flameclaw growled. Emotion surged upwards in Thornpaw's throat, battling with the urge to claw the red tom's face. Instead, he took a deep breath and fixed his mentor with a cold stare.
" I-I promise."
" Good," Flameclaw meowed, turning to march away. He paused, turning back to look at Thornpaw. " You know, you aren't a bad apprentice. You could make a good warrior."
" Thanks," Thornpaw meowed flatly, pointedly turning his back on his mentor. But I should be training to become a good medicine cat. His thoughts abruptly turned back to Brightfrost. He had some odd sense of empathy with her, the feeling that other cats were the ones that decided who you were. A sudden, strong feeling of determination rose within him.
I promised, but not in the name of StarClan. Wait. I do promise in the name of StarClan, in the name of Silverfrost. I will find your daughter.
Behind him, Thornpaw almost thought he heard the softest of purrs. When he turned, he was sure he could see the impression of two light blue eyes being swept away in the breeze.