Special Edition: Cinderflower's Story
This is a special edition of the FireClan Series.
||black tom w/ white chest & paws, smoky blue eyes|
||dark gray muscular tom w/ slate gray eyes|
||small brown she-cat w/ red chest and robin-egg blue eyes|
|Grayheart||fluffy huge pale gray tom, brown eyes|
|Angelwing||small long-haired cream she-cat|
|Rainsplash||dark gray she-cat w/ bright blue eyes and thick-furred tail|
|Sootfur||black tom w/ white chest; dark blue eyes|
|Dovefur||white-and-gray long-furred she-cat, smoky blue eyes|
|Cinderflower||tortoishell she-cat w/ light amber eyes|
|Swifttail||pale gray long-furred tom|
|Trickflash||black tom; coppery-gold eyes|
|Copperflash||gold she-cat; amber eyes|
|Infernoclaw||dark ginger large tom w/ dark gold eyes Apprentice: Blazepaw|
|Leaftail||small calico she-cat w/ bright green eyes|
|Mistshine||beautiful silver she-cat; clear blue eyes|
|Creampatch||fluffy cream-colored she-cat, warm brown eyes Apprentice: Thrushpaw|
|Gingertail||bright ginger skinny she-cat; piercing yellow eyes|
|Thrushpaw||brown tabby she-cat; amber eyes|
|Blazepaw||bright orange tabby tom w/ bright green eyes|
|Flowersplash||orange tabby-and-white she-cat; yellow eyes|
|Nettleflash||brown tabby she-cat w/ white paws|
|Brushtail||scruffy brown tom w/ bushy tail|
|Peachfur||dark peach she-cat; amber eyes|
|Crabtail||orange tabby tom w/ one copper eyes|
|Sorrelwind||calico she-cat; very old, blind|
||small orange-and-white she-cat w/ golden eyes|
||brown she-cat w/ white chest & amber eyes|
||calico she-cat; gentle brown eyes|
|Thorntail||spiky-furred black tom|
|Dewmoss||fluffy pale ginger she-cat Apprentice: Slippaw|
|Silentbrook||slim silver she-cat w/ blue eyes|
|Violetnose||small white she-cat w/ gray nose, olive green eyes Apprentice: Sunpaw|
|Sunpaw||bright ginger she-cat|
|Slippaw||sleek brown tabby tom|
|Garlictail||grizzled dusty brown she-cat|
|Preciouswings||gray-and-white mottled she-cat w/ long fur|
||dark gray she-cat w/ smoky gray eyes|
||dark gray-and-white she-cat; green eyes Apprentice: Dartpaw|
||large brown tom w/ white chest|
|Brightfoot||young ginger-and-white she-cat|
|Glazefoot||cream tom w/ ginger paws and faint tabby stripes|
|Fernshade||brown she-cat w/ cream-tipped tail; amber eyes|
|Pumpkinstripe||pale ginger tabby she-cat w/ blue eyes|
|gray tom w/ thick black stripe|
||large light gray tom; wise amber eyes|
||pale tan she-cat w/ golden eyes|
||silver-white she-cat, gentle blue eyes|
|Spottedpelt||mottled gray-and-white tom|
|Thunderwolf||gray tabby tom|
|Willowleaf||slim silver she-cat; yellow eyes|
|Squirreltail||gray she-cat w/ squirrel-like tail|
|Bramblebush||large brown tom; golden eyes|
|Pheasantwings||long-furred pale brown she-cat w/ green eyes|
|Quailnose||small brown she-cat w/ bush tail(Kits: Rockkit, Daisykit)|
|Firberry||dark brownish-gray tom w/ olive green eyes|
|Fluffysnow||all white she-cat; blind cloudy blue eyes|
Cinderflower rolled onto her back, kicking her paws into the air. "Stop that!" Rainsplash said, swatting her gently on the muzzle. "We've just become warriors. Do you want to get demoted?"
"Sorry," Cinderflower leaped to her paws, staring at Rainsplash excitedly. "I'm just so excited. Our first Gathering as warriors. The other clans will-"
"What?" interrupted Rainsplash, purring. "Bow down at our paws? To them, we're just competition." But Cinderflower could tell by the gleam in her sister's blue eyes that she was just as excited.
"Blackstar!" she called to the black tom coming down from the rock-pile. "We're coming to the Gathering tonight, right?"
Blackstar nodded at the two sisters. "Yes Cinderflower."
Rainsplash and Cinderflower padded into the clearing and lay down, sharing tongues. Cinderflower couldn't stifle the purr that vibrated through her body. Rubbing against her sister, she selected a vole from the fresh-kill pile. They ate, then walked over to Dovefur and Swifttail, who were talking.
Rainsplash sat besides Doverfur. "Aren't you excited? I can't believe we all get to go!"
Dovefur nodded. "I wonder if the other warriors will treat us differently now."
"Yeah, especially old Darkclaw," added Swifttail. "He was such a grouch to us as apprentices."
Rainsplash grinned at her sister. "Now we'll show him!"
Blackstar called all the cats going to the Gathering to the exit of the camp. Grayheart and Angelwings were in charge of guarding the camp.
Nettleflash and Flowersplash, two sisters, sat outside the nursery. "Tell me everything!" Nettleflash called to her mate. Sootfur nodded and touched noses with her. Both she-cat's sides were plump; they were due any day now.
Cinderflower followed her leader through the entrance between the bushes and loped through the forest. The shadows of a canopy of leaves dappled her tortoishell coat, and the grass was soft and springy beneath her paws.
Blackstar paused at the top of the rise to look down on the Gathering. The Great Oak stood proudly in the middle of the clearing, it's branches reaching into the indigo sky. Cinderflower had seen it before as an apprentice, but it felt different now. She streaked down with her clanmates, happily aware of Rainsplash running alongside her.
Cats mingled and sat together sharing tongues. No one noticed her. Cinderflower felt like yelling, "Hey! I'm a warrior now!" Rainsplash and her best friend, Dovefur, walked over to a group of older warriors. They were instantly accepted. Rainsplash had that about her.
With a sigh, Cinderflower began weaving through the crowd. This wasn't what she had expected. Just then, she bumped into a cat. "Sorry," she muttered. Could this day turn out any worse?
"It was my fault. I never look where I'm going," the tom meowed. Cinderflower studied him. He had a very handsome face, with a pair of keen golden eyes and a unique pattern of blazing ginger stripes on his ears, tail, and legs which stood out against his cream coat. "I'm Glazefoot," the tom continued. "of DarkClan. I've seen you before. You're Cinderpaw, aren't you?"
"Cinderflower," she hastily corrected him. "My mentor was Peachfur, but she just retired after I became a warrior."
"Congratulations," purred Glazefoot, his eyes sincere. Cinderflower felt a twinge of surprise. She'd never met such a friendly DarkClan cat. "I became a warrior one moon ago, so I'm still young too."
Cinderflower felt a smile coming on. Stop that, she told herself. He's a DarkClan cat. We can't even be just friends.
A yowl cut through the chatter just then. Nightstar stood on the edge of a branch, the moonlight glinting off her dark gray fur. Her muzzle was flecked with silver, and Cinderflower remembered with a jolt that Nightstar was rumored to only have two lives left. But there was nothing weak and frail about the she-cat now. "FireClan has been stealing prey," she declared, with no more ceremony. Blackstar leaped to his paws, his gray-blue eyes blazing.
Nightstar ignored the yowls of anger and protest that came from Cinderflower's clanmates. Glazefoot's ears flattened against his head, and he glanced at Cinderflower. She turned away. They were enemies.
"We found prey killed within our borders."
"Are you sure it wasn't killed by your own feather-brained cats and then left there?" taunted Grayheart. He was on his paws, fur bristling.
"Quiet," Blackstar said calmly. He padded down a different branch. Cinderflower noticed, with a glimmer of satisfaction, that it was above Nightstar's. Windstar and Quakestar sat quietly. Windstar's eyes glimmered; she was always ready to take advantage of hostilities between other clans. Quakestar only looked concerned.
"Did you smell FireClan scent on the prey?" Blackstar asked.
A tiny flicker of uncertainty appeared in Nightstar's cold gray eyes. "No, but the prey was besides the FireClan border."
Caterwauls of ridicule errupted from the cats. "It probably wasn't even killed by a cat," yelled Grayheart. His mate, the docile Angelwing, laid her tail across his shoulders to calm him down.
Nightstar was bristling furiously. "We have doubled the border patrols," she spat at Blackstar. "And we will shred any FireClan cat caught on our territory. Other than that, we have two new warriors, Pumpkinstripe and Fernshade." Two DarkClan she-cats nearby raised their heads, but no cat cheered. Nightstar had ruined it for them. Pumpkinstripe, the ginger tabby, lowered her head sadly. Glazefoot touched his nose to her shoulder, and suddenly Cinderflower felt a wave of jealousy course through her. She's his clanmate, she reminded herself.
Blackstar announced that FireClan was well and then added, "We also have two new warriors. Rainsplash and Cinderflower." Cinderflower searched for Rainsplash in the crowd, and met her sister's clear blue gaze. Her fur prickled with a combination of embarrasment and delight as the cats chanted her name. Glazefoot purred at her, and she felt a tingle ripple down her spine.
Once the Gathering was over, Cinderflower was surprised that Glazefoot stuck around to talk with her. They discussed the prey, nice greenleaf weather, and their clanmates. When Blackstar summoned FireClan, Cinderflower felt strangely disappointed.
"Bye Glazefoot," she said.
"Bye Cinderflower," he said, touching his nose gently to hers. He looked like he was about to say more, when Rainsplash called:
"Cinderflower! Let's go!"
Shooting one last glance over her back, Cinderflower turned and followed her clan back to camp.
When they reached the camp, Cinderflower sensed something was wrong. Cats were clustered in the middle of the camp, and long, high-pitched wails came from the nursery.
Gingertail shot past her with a bundle of herbs in her mouth, which she quickly gave to Robinpelt. "What happened?" Blackstar asked.
Mistshine walked over to him. "Flowersplash and Nettleflash are both having their kits!"
"What! At the same time?" Rainsplash said, looking shocked.
"How will Robinpelt deliver both litters?" Cinderflower asked. Fear gripped her as she heard another screech of pain. Not able to bear just listening, Cinderflower walked over to the nursery. "Can I help?"
Robinpelt was bent over Nettleflash. The queen's brown tabby flanks were heaving, and there was a pool of blood around her. Flowersplash didn't look as bad, and a bundle of fur was nestled beside her. She gave it a lick and murmured half to herself, "Dawnkit."
Robinpelt turned and saw her there. "Can you fetch some moss with water?"
Before Cinderflower could reply, Sootfur meowed, "I'm on it." He raced out of the nursery.
"Another one," Cinderflower called. Flowersplash was licking her second kit, a brown tabby she-cat.
Robinpelt placed her paws on the ginger-and-white queen's sides. "That's the last," she said.
Nettleflash's breathing was labored, and she lay limp, as if she was too exhausted to move. Robinpelt delivered two kits. One lay so still Cinderflower was sure it was dead, till it moved. She began licking it as Robinpelt fed Nettleflash herbs and licked the other kit, a brown tabby tom.
"How is she?" asked Sootfur, coming in with a wad of moss in his mouth.
Nettleflash raised her head. Her amber eyes were glazed with pain, but for one moment they cleared, shining with love as she gazed at her mate. "Sootfur," she gasped. "Take care of them. I love you. A shudder rippled through her body, and her head fell limply to the floor.
"No," whispered Soofur. "Nettleflash? Nettleflash!"
"Nettleflash!" Flowersplash sniffed her sister's flank. Cinderflower felt rooted to the ground. She didn't belong here, but she couldn't leave.
Robinpelt prodded the slender tabby with a paw. "I'm so sorry Sootfur," she said, her blue eyes clouding with grief.
A long, eerie wail split the air. Sootfur crouched beside his mate and buried his face in her fur. After a few moments, Cinderflower stepped forward. Everyone looked at her, as though they'd forgotten she was there.
"Sootfur," she said gently. 'You still have your kits."
Sootfur looked at the kits. The little tom was mewling pitifully, while the black she-cat lay on the ground without moving.
"I'll take them," Flowersplash said softly. Her eyes were shining with tears. "Nettleflash's kits are like my own." She drew the kits towards her. The brown tabby began feeding eagerly. Robinpelt studied the black kit with worried eyes.
"What will you name them?" asked Cinderflower.
Sootfur stared at her. For a second Cinderflower wasn't sure he'd heard her. Then he gave each of his kits a lick. "For the brown tabby, Barkkit. And the little black she-cat, Ridgekit."
Flowersplash gazed at her litter, her yellow eyes filled with equal love for her sister's kits as her own. "Barkkit, Ridgekit, Dawnkit, and Sparrowkit. Welcome to the world, my little warriors of FireClan."
The next day was dreary and gray, though it was only greenleaf. Rainsplash walked towards Cinderflower, her blue eyes as bleak as the sky.
"Oh," gasped Cinderflower. "Poor Sootfur."
Rainsplash nodded. "How could StarClan let this happen?"
Cinderflower lay her tail on her sister's flank. "It's not their fault," she whispered. But she was having doubts herself. Why had the pretty young queen and her kit died?
Rainsplash read her thoughts. "It's okay," she muttered. Cinderflower shook her head.
"You didn't see her die. Oh Rainsplash, it was horrible! And now little Ridgekit's gone too." Cinderflower shook her head.
They heard a call. Blackstar stood on Leader's Rock. "As you all already know," he began, his voice sad and shaken. "We lost Nettlesplash and one of her kits last night. The elders have buried her and Ridgekit, and all of FireClan honors their memory." He let the clan bow their heads in grief for the lost queen. "However, clan life must go on. Trickflash, take Copperflash and Cinderflower on a border patrol. I don't trust DarkClan now that they've started making false accusations against us."
Trickflash nodded and signaled to Copperflash and Cinderflower. She bounded after him, eager to escape the blanket of gloom that hung over the camp. The three cats made a beeline for the DarkClan border, obviously thinking the same thing. Cinderflower found herself a little hesitant as they reached the border, remembering Glazefoot. He had seemed okay. Was he responsible for this enemity too? Could she blame him too?
Ahead of her, Trickflash froze, a growl rumbling in his throat. A DarkClan patrol consisting of Ashfoot, Glazefoot, and Pumpkinstripe stared back at them through the brush, open hostility in their eyes.
"Well, well, well," began Ashfoot, her green eyes like accusing lasers as she studied the FireClan patrol. "Look who had the nerve to try to steal prey again, even after Nightstar warned your Clan to stop."
Trickflash met her gaze evenly, betraying no anger, though Cinderflower could see that behind his cordial front, his copper-gold eyes were smoldering. "We are on a border patrol. Traditionally, this is what we do to make sure no intruders get into our territory. If you spent more time patrolling your territory and less blaming others needlessly, you might have better sucess in keeping your own mangy food."
Pumpkinstripe yowled in anger. "Ashfoot, we cannot let them get away with that!"
Cinderflower narrowed her eyes, readying herself for combat. Suddenly, she caught Glazefoot's gaze. The pale tom appeared outwardly calm, but there was a hint of desperation in his demeanor too. Puzzled, she took a step back.
"This is unnessecary fighting," he pointed out reasonably. "Just stay away from our territory, and we won't bother you."
"Yeah right," snorted Copperflash. "This is our border too, you know. We have a right to be here, and we didn't take a step onto your diseased ground."
"That's it! You've crossed the line, you FireClan mange-pelt!" snarled Ashfoot.
Giving an exasperated sigh, Trickflash mewed, "No, we didn't. That's what this whole fight was about, remember?"
"DarkClan, attack!" The deputy cannoned into the middle of Trickflash, knocking him down like a bag of sand. However, the lithe tom was up on his paws again in no time, darting in and out, slashing precisely with his claws.
Meanwhile, Glazefoot looked torn for an instant, before tackling Copperflash. The next thing Cinderflower knew, Pumpkinstripe was on top of her, hissing and squalling. "You don't stand a chance."
"Get out of my territory!" Calling on strength she didn't know she had, Cinderflower pummeled the she-cat's belly, then rolled out from under her and pounced, claws extended. Digging into her enemy's pale ginger pelt, she was rewarded by a cry of pain as Pumpkinstripe twisted and tried to swipe at her.
Suddenly, the DarkClan cat went rigid in Cinderflower's grip. Her eyes grew wide with horror. Following her gaze, Cinderflower saw what had made the fighting cease. A long red snout, topped with an interestedly sniffing black nose, had just poked out of a nearby bush. They had been so busy fighting that no one had scented the fox as it came closer, or heard its stealthy pawsteps. Now, suddenly, the two sides of the skirmish found themselves united against a common enemy, cornered between surrender and survival.
Glazefoot was the first to react. He rolled out from under Copperflash and jumped to his feet, concentrated on the fox and watching its every move. Trickflash peeled back his lips in a threatening snarl, and Cinderflower felt the hair along her back stick straight up. The fox watched them just as intently, its cunning black eyes seemingly searching for a way in. Suddenly, without warning, it darted in and grabbed Copperflash's foreleg, dragging her away on the ground.
Her Clanmate's screams spurred Cinderflower into action. Letting out a roar of anger, she pounced onto the fox's neck, using her hindleg to balance on the beast's sinewy shoulders while nipping furiously at its ears. Suddenly Glazefoot had attacked the fox too, clawing at its legs, and soon all the cats were on the attack. Cinderflower was surprised the DarkClan cats were helping rescue Copperflash, and had a feeling they wouldn't have had it not been for the cream tom's initiative.
Pumpkinstripe, who just moments ago had been trying to shred her pelt, climbed on beside her and braced against her flank as she clawed at the fox. Grateful for the extra support, Cinderflower hooked her pointy teeth around one of the fox's ears and bit as hard as she could. Giving a howl of protest, the creature reached up one paw and grabbed her by the scruff, pulling her off of it and slamming her to the ground. She covered her eyes with her paws, sure she was a goner, but the fox ignored her then. Instead, it grabbed Copperflash, who was laying limp now, and began carrying her away.
"Leave her alone!" screamed Cinderflower, latching onto its tail and grinding her teeth in till she felt the bones crunch beneath her jaws.
Finally, the fox screeched in defeat and raced away, leaving flecks of blood in its wake. Immediately, Ashfoot started walking away. At first a spark of anger stirred in Cinderflower's heart, but then she saw that the deputy was supporting Pumpkinstripe, who was bleeding heavily. She had time to breathe a quick prayer for the DarkClan she-cat before Trickflash's cry brought her back to her own Clan.
"Copperflash!" She had intended it as a scream, but it came out as a hoarse whisper.
Kneeling beside the wounded cat, she saw that her gold pelt was drenched in blood, and scarlet liquid still spilled out of a large wound stretchind from her throat to her shoulder. As they watched, Copperflash's breathing gradually slowed, till it faded completely. Giving a strangled cry, Cinderflower rocked back and forth, willing it not to be true, though the evidence was right in front of her.
She wasn't sure how long she and Trickflash stood blurry-eyed over their friend's body, but the next thing she knew the silence was broken by someone clearing their throat softly. Turning, she saw Glazefoot standing there, looking uncomfortable but determined.
"I'm so sorry she died. If we had never-" He cut himself off, but Cinderflower realized he what he had been about to say; DarkClan shouldn't have drawn FireClan into the fight.
Shaking her head, she mewed, "It's not your fault."
Their eyes locked, and once more an electrical current shot through her. For a second he looked like he was wrestling within himself, half-tortured and half-joyful. Then his expression cleared. Giving a brisk nod, the tom turned and followed his Clanmates into the darker section of the woods.
Cinderflower sighed and turned back to Trickflash. The black cat gave a grim nod and picked up Copperflash by the scruff gently, motioning for her to help. "DarkClan will pay for this."
"It wasn't them. It was the fox," she pointed out, hoping she didn't sound disloyal.
"Either way, Blackstar won't just let this go, and neither will FireClan. More blood will be spilled before this is over."
Cinderflower sat just outside the warrior's den, her tail-tip twitching nervously as she strained to hear the muttered words of anger towards DarkClan. The fox too, but mostly DarkClan. She had told Rainsplash that it had been the fox's fault, but even her own sister hadn't seemed to believe her. Now, she was talking with her best friend, Dovefur. Sighing wearily, Cinderflower thought, I'm not wanted here. I can't contribute anything.
She took one last look at Copperflash's body, her streamlined gold pelt shining in the moonlight, and whispered, "Farewell, warrior of FireClan. You died a brave death." With that, she padded back into the warrior's den and collapsed into a nest, hoping morning would bring new light to the darkness that had swallowed her Clan.
Unfortunately, as soon as Cinderflower walked out into the clearing, she was greeted by a serious-looking Stoneclaw, assembling two patrols. One was to hunt down the fox, the other to go over to DarkClan and question them. Blackstar was busy trying to cool down some of the hot-headed members of FireClan, saying DarkClan couldn't be held responsible for the entire thing.
"Please don't pick me, please don't pick me," she whispered hurriedly.
She needn't have worried. As usual, she was overlooked. "Rainsplash, Leaftail and Trickflash, come with me to DarkClan," Stoneclaw said. "Grayheart, take Infernoclaw, Gingertail, Thrushpaw and Creampatch to hunt down the fox."
"Okay," Grayheart mewed, dipping his head. Cinderflower watched her sister's gray pelt as she raced out of the camp without a backward glance.
Well, I might as well make myself useful and go hunting.
As she headed out into the woods, keeping alert for any sign of the fox, Cinderflower wondered if this mess could possibly turn out good. Surely ripping DarkClan to shreds would accomplish nothing. After all, we did fight back. If a DarkClan cat had been killed, would it be our fault? They helped fight the fox with us.
She wondered if this kind of thinking was disloyal. Was that why no one considered her as great a warrior as Rainsplash? Was it because she was horrible at being a warrior, or was Rainsplash just naturally better at everything?
Not that she didn't adore her sister. She really, truly did. Still, that didn't make it any easier to constantly live in her shadow. Even Rainsplash couldn't be worth that.
I just want to be recognized for who I really am. But I don't think that's ever going to happen.
With a start, Cinderflower realized that she had forgotten to actually hunt while sulking; she had wandered all the way up to the DarkClan border. Just as she was about to turn around, a rustle in the bushes stopped er.
Seconds later, a mouse came flying towards her, and behind it, a cat in hot pursuit. The mouse dashed between her legs. The cat didn't quite make the cut. He crashed into her and they both went flying.
"Watch it!" she yelled, shoving the tom off her.
He scrambled backwards. "Sorry," he said. His eyes widened in recognition. "Cinderflower?"
"Glazefoot." Why did she feel strangely happy? She should not be feeling this way. She should be defending her territory; he had crossed the border. Instead, she mewed, "What do you think you're doing?"
"Hunting," he said nonchalantly. He didn't at all seem worried that he was on FireClan territory, as if he knew she wouldn't do anything about it.