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First book in Starlight.

Prologue: Cinderheart's Deputyship

Bramblestar yowled for a Clan meeting. Cats came out of their dens. "As we all know, sadly, Squirrelflight has died," he began. He gestured to her limp body in the middle of the clearing, ready for vigil.

"But, I'm afraid, I have to appoint a new deputy. Cinderheart."

Cinderheart stood from her place. "Yes?" she asked. "You will be my new deputy," he yowled. Cats chanted, "Cinderheart! Cinderheart!" others muttered uneasily. "And what will an inexperienced warrior do as deputy?" challenged Snarlpaw, a new apprentice.

"Serve the Clan the best she can," retorted Bramblestar. "It was my descision."

Chapter 1: Duties

I padded out of my den to see the dawn patrol I assigned yesterday. "Hello, Cinderheart." mewed Poppyfrost. I dipped my head in greeting. "Hello," I replied. "Cinderheart!" called a voice. "Bye, I guess." I raced off. "Yes?" I met my guest. "I needed fresh air, so I went out of camp. I scented ShadowClan in our territory."

"Really? I must send out a patrol," I hissed. I leaped into the heart of the camp, and yowled, "Everyone, wake up!" Cats emerged from their dens. "Huh?" Groggily, Graystripe padded toward me. "What's goin' on?" I sighed. "ShadowClan. Their invading." I snarled inwardly as I thought of them running over the border and stealing prey.

"The battle patrol will be made up of Cloudtail, Snarlpaw, Spiderleg, Poppyfrost, Millie, Sparktail, me, and Thornclaw."

All those cats stepped out. "An inexperienced deputy chooses me," Snarlpaw sneers. "Shut up! Show more respect for your deputy! Plus, you're just an apprentice yourself," snapped his mentor, Spiderleg. I lashed my tail. "Lucky I chose you." I hissed. "Grasspaw, as a very young apprentice, I want you to go warn Bramblestar."

Grasspaw raced off. "Let's go!" I charged off with my patrol. I saw brown pelt - Rowanstar. "Rowanstar, why are you hunting so deep on our territory?" I hissed. "Your territory? Excuse me?" Rowanstar sneered.

"Uh-huh. I guess you are blind to borders," I snarled. "Attack!" horrible screeches split the air as I leaped into battle. I pinned down a black cat and sank my claws into it's belly. It screeched, and earsplitting one, and ran into the flurry of cats. I raked the ear of a white one.

It rounded on me and leaped forward. I dodged quickly to the side, my lithe body helping. It hissed and leaped again, and I leaped too, and we met each other in the sky. "You should have never threatened ThunderClan!" The white tom screeched in pain when my claws met his ear. He ran away. "That's right, kittypet," I snarled.

I was sure Rowanstar was doubting this battle when he leaped into the air, right on Bramblestar! I screeched and bit down hard on Rowanstar.

"Little deputy, you think you have this match down?" He asked, "Well, think again."

He probably thinks ThunderClan is weak, but we aren't. I bit into his eye, hopefully blinding him. Blood scattered the ground and all of ShadowClan gasped and came forward. "Leader blinder," hissed a cat. "It's what you do in battle. Fight. If your to weak to understand that, than your not fit for this life."

The cat looked offended, but I didn't care. Just imagine the look on Lionblaze's face when he knows I did this!

"What the...? Who did this?" Asked Bramblestar. "Me, sir," I replied. He sighed and shook his head. "You shouldn't have gone that far. Now all of ShadowClan hates us! Is that what you wanted?" I sighed and shook my head. "No, sir," I replied. "Well, that's what you got."

I couldn't argue that we had won the battle, but ShadowClan would get over it. Or would they?

They never seem to let things go. Even this old rivalry. I think it's stupid, but do I get a say in this? No. I'm just the sad old deputy that doesn't matter at all. When we got back, I didn't even bother to eat. "Is something wrong?" Lionblaze asked. "No, just leave me alone," I replied.

"Okay." Lionblaze shrugged and walked away. Is that how much he cares about me?

"Come on, Cinder, eat," Bramblestar mewed. "No. I'm not hungry," I replied. He pushed me a piece of prey. I turned to look, it was a squirrel. "Come on," Bramblestar tempted. "Fine." I had to admit, my belly begged for food. I ate a few bites and then went to my nest. "Goodnight," Lionblaze whispered. "'Night."

Chapter 2: The Day After

Everything was cool, until suddenly, a rumbling sounded.

I looked up from my nest. I had been sleeping the day away, and I had been awaken by this sound. "What!?" I shrieked. The ground was swaying, and suddenly, it all calmed, before any damage could be done.

"Was that a sign?" Jayfeather had come out of his den. "I don't know," I breathed. Couldn't Jayfeather decode this?

Everything was calm, until the rumbling started again. Rocks shook, and the trees were swaying in the wind, making a creaking sound that could be heard all the way to StarClan. "What is happening!?" I shouted. More cats were protesting, when a huge gust of wind almost swept me off my paws.

Cats were jumping, more like almost being carried away, and the wind was sighing. Something big was happening. Was this going to be a big event in history? Would the elders always talk about this?

Suddenly, it stopped, leaving us with no answers, yet again. I sighed, retreating to my nest.

"Something bad is happening," Lionblaze sighed, "Something very bad." I had to agree with him, the wind made the trees rustle, and CREAK, for whatever reason, and the ground quaked, witch was bad enough already.

The rumbling would always annoy me, why couldn't it just stop already? Am I getting annoying?

Well, StarClan, just tell us what your trying to say, and maybe I'll understand. This better be urgent. I'm probably getting old and grumpy, but maybe doing that gives you a benefit - understanding. And I'll understand this later.

The quakes were getting worse the following days, and even small fires were starting. Good thing the wind blows them out.

"StarClan, stop this," I pleaded.

But they hadn't stopped, no matter how hard I prayed.

Chapter 3: A Message

The rumbling happened again, and a whisper mewed, "Ash will burn the Tree, and Flames will contribute." The quake stopped. "Ash? As in Ashfur? Tree? As in Oakheart? Flame? As in Firestar? Was this a prophecy for StarClan?" The cats were all silent at Jayfeather's remark.

"This could be something else," I pointed out. Everyone else nodded.

"Whatever goes on in StarClan, they don't need prophecies - they GIVE prophecies!"

Every cat turned to Snowpaw, the cat who had said that. "There's always a chance. We're not there yet," I meowed. "I'm not even close," Snowpaw laughed. "Of course not."

"There's always a chance," Jayfeather whispered darkly.

"Oh, shut up," I laughed, "It's not like the prophecy said Snowpaw's dying or anything." That was true. Was Jayfeather being weirdly dark, or was he serious? Had he gotten a message? What was going to happen? Suddenly, the ground swayed beneath my paws, and Jayfeather yowled, "Quake! Get shelter! This will be a bad one!"

I practically ran up a tree, and hoped with my life I wouldn't fall. But luckily, I didn't, but this took longer than a few minutes. I had to sleep on the tree, and I barley could, the ground was shaking so hard.

I was just muttering prayers almost the whole time. But it was worth it.

Sadly, the quake lasted for another day, because it was still there when I finally got some sleep. Spiderleg's tree looked like it was about to fall, and I yowled, "Spiderleg, your tree! It's falling!" When he looked down, it was to late. The tree crashed to the ground, crushing the nursery.

One of the kits in a tree wailed. "Spiderleg!" I shrieked. I picked out his body among the tangle of leaves and branches. It was still and lifeless. "No," I whispered.

The tree branch seemed to freeze beneath my paws, but, the strange thing was, it did.

The quake was over.

I climbed down from my branch to see the damage it had caused. It wasn't half as bad as I thought, but still, we had lost a warrior. Daisy wailed, seemingly feeling grief for her former mate. She ran to him and cried beside his body. "I'm sorry," I meowed. The elders carried his body to the middle of the clearing, preparing it for vigil.

I went up to pay my respects, but Daisy hissed, "No. Stay away. He's my mate." I reeled back in surprise. "He's dead! There's nothing you or we can do," I hissed. "What's gotten into you?"

Chapter 4: Prophecies

The next day, Jayfeather kept getting these prophecies, and I was getting worried.

"What's going to happen?" I wailed. Jayfeather shook his head. "I have no idea," he replied. And Jayfeather added, "Also, keep that wailing down." I scowled at him but said nothing. There was nothing to do on that rainy day but curl up in my nest. I got so bored I actually fell asleep, witch I normally wouldn't do.

When I woke up, the rain had settled a bit, so I finally went out to assign patrols. "Sparktail, take Grasspaw and Twigfall to the ShadowClan border." The senior warrior nodded. I felt wet grass under my paws, and I didn't like the feeling.

"You okay?" Lionblaze had approached me again. "Yes, but it's just, these times are confusing," I replied. "I know," Lionblaze mewed. We sat down.

"So, uh..." Lionblaze clearly didn't know how to start a conversation.

"Do you like the rain?" I asked casually. "I only enjoy a little bit, otherwise it gets annoying," he replied. "Same." All day long, the rain pattered the ground, until it felt like my paws were rooted on this mud. "I'm going to hunt," I finally mewed. Lionblaze gave a flick of his ear.

All day, thunder and lightning crashed the sky, and I prepared to go back, when I heard creaking. It was very loud, seemingly, all of StarClan could hear!

But I saw what it was - in the not-so-far distance, a tree was toppling over.

"Watch out!" I could already see other cats and animals shooting out of the bushes. "Sparktail! Grasspaw!" We ran back to camp together. "A tree fell," I reported. The others nodded. "Was anybody hurt?" Bramblestar asked. "No, not that I know of," I replied.

"Good," sighed Bramblestar. Relief leaked into his mew.

Chapter 5: Preparing

One day, Jayfeather burst out of his den. I looked at him. "What's going on?"

Worry was in his mew, "Shelter, NOW! A huge storm is coming! Some of the dens will collapse, so go in a tree!" Energy sparked in my paws, and I climbed a tree.

Wind started, and I sank my claws into the branch. I was stuck here. Again. Soon enough, thunder crashed the sky, and the rain started. It pelted down, and it was so hard my pelt stung. It was hard to hurt me. I felt dizzy as the tree rocked side to side. Something lulled me into sleep.

When it did, I slipped into sleep.

I woke. I was not on the tree, but under. My leg hurt. Was it displaced again? I groaned, and I couldn't stand up. "Cinderheart!" It was Lionblaze.

"I'm so glad your okay! You fell asleep, and fell!"

It all came flashing back to me. Slipping into sleep. The storm. The ground was soaking beneath my paws, and I felt weak and numb, not to mention dizzy, still. The world seemed to spin around me, and my head couldn't life anymore. It collapsed. Was I dying?

"Cinder." It sounded like Lionblaze was closer.

Was he out of the tree?

"Go back," I managed to moan. "No. Your safety is more important then mine. And remember, my powers?" I looked up. "You don't have them anymore." And everything went black, again.

"Oh come on, Cinder! How many times do you have to pass out?" A annoyed voice woke me. It was Jayfeather, standing over me. "She's my mate," Lionblaze snapped, "So shut up." I groaned. My leg felt better. There was a poultice around it, and it didn't hurt.

"Thank you," I mumbled.

Chapter 6: A Big Storm

That night, I slept in Jayfeather's den, and I woke to a creaking sound. The walls of his den were wobbling, and Jayfeather was sleeping soundly.

"WAKE UP!" I screeched. He looked around. "This better be-" The roof began to shatter.

I ran out, I might not be fast enough. I burst into the clearing, hard rain whipping the rocks and trees. "Jayfeather's den is collapsing," I shrieked. Cats ran from their dens, most likely afraid theirs would collapse too.

"What should we do?" Sparktail sat by her kits, Greenpaw and Snowpaw. "I say we stay here and hope for the best," grunted Jayfeather.

"WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS SO GRUMPY!?" I realized an argument was about to break out.

"Maybe if you would shut up, I wouldn't be," he snarled.

My whiskers twitched. "You always have to be so annoyed by the Clan. Why don't you just leave?" Cats around me gasped. I had made another outburst. Jayfeather even looked hurt, emotion showing for once in his blind eyes.

"Cinderheart," snapped Bramblestar. "What?" I made my eyes look as innocent as possible.

"You... What..." Bramblestar couldn't seem to find any words. He looked angry, his eyes like fire. Jayfeather twitched his whiskers in annoyance. "If you don't like me, you just leave," snarled Jayfeather. He flattened his ears. Would he fight me? Could he fight me?

Suddenly, he leaped at me, and at the same moment, lightning struck.

Mews of awe rippled through the clearing. I dodged easily, making him crash into a den. His blind eyes looked at me, pain showing through.

I padded up to him. "Are you done yet?"

Bramblestar sighed. "Jayfeather, that attack was unprovoked," he growled. "Why shouldn't I have? She said I should leave," hissed Jayfeather. "You two, cool down," Bramblestar ordered. I limped to the warriors den, sheltered once again. Darkness enfolded me when I fell asleep.

"Wake up!" A loud shriek went across the clearing.

And then, I realized what was happening. Another tree. It was falling.

Chapter 7: Declaration

I ran, but my injured leg pulled me behind. But I didn't feel a great weight on me.

I lay, stunned, in the grass, then I realized, it had fallen the other way. It crushed the camp walls. I felt relief wash over me. "So..."

Jayfeather was standing over me. "Yeah, grump?" I replied in a silly manner.

"I just wanted to say I'm glad your okay," he mumbled.

"Toms," I purred.

Jayfeather's blind eyes rested on me. It was like he could see me. Could he? Jayfeather broke the silence. "I have to store herbs," he muttered.

He stiffly padded away, but my eyes were still fixed on him. I knew my heart truly lied with Lionblaze, and now it is time I announce so. "All cats old enough to catch their own prey, gather beneath the Highledge!"

Confused, all the cats padded out of their dens. "This better be good," sighed Graystripe.

He was getting grumpy. "I have a declaration to make. Yes, Bramblestar, even you watch. Lionblaze, step forward."

The tom did so. "I want to say something. From the very day I rested eyes on him, I knew he would be the great cat I should choose. He continued to be nice to me, so now I want to ask him something. Lionblaze, will you be my mate?"

His eyes turned joyful. "Yes, Cinderheart, yes!"

Chapter 8: The Return of a Kittypet

One day, I was sunning myself on the Highledge, and a ginger tom strolled in. "Who are you?"

I leaped down from the rock, and he purred. "My name is Jake," he replied, flicking his tail.

I had heard tales about Jake. He was friends with Tallstar. "I've heard about you. Do you know a cat named Tallstar? Was he your friend?"

"Yep," Jake sighed, "I remember those days."

I turned to Bramblestar. "Do you want me to deliver the news?"

"Yes," sighed Bramblestar, "It's better you then me."

Jake gasped. "What bad news? Has something happened here? I could help."

I shook my head. "Jake, Tallstar is...."

"What?"

"DEAD!"

His lower lip trembled. Oh no. I knew what was about to happen. A teardrop fell down his face. "I know you were his best friend," I sighed.

Jake slowly sank to the ground. "It's not your fault."

I saw wisdom in his eyes. I let him grieve for himself, and that night, I didn't sleep well. I had never met Tallstar, but somehow, I couldn't overcome that grief. Was it for Jake? Did my heart lie with two toms now? "Wake up." I felt a paw shake me.

I grumbled and opened one eye, then the other. It was Lionblaze. "What are you doing up this early?"

"It's Jake," he growled, "He's doing a weird kittypet thing."

I looked outside. He was circling around a rock and marking it as his territory. "Jake? What are you doing?"

"I'm marking my bed, duh," he purred.

I rolled my eyes. Was Jake really sleep-talking-and-walking? I meowed to Lionblaze, "Ignore it. He's sleep walking."

Lionblaze nodded. I went back into my nest, and fell asleep. The morning seemed to come early. In the milky dawn light I stretched, and that felt good. Jake was still asleep. "Wake up," I called softly.

He mumbled and looked around, then his gaze turned calm. "What do you need? And what are you doing up at this hour?"

"If you want to stay here, you have to get up at dawn," I purred.

Chapter 9: Fire!

I felt heat around me. Could it be? "Fire," screeched Lionblaze.

I snapped into wakefulness. The den walls were burning, and I raced out instantly. Cats were gathered in the clearing. "Run to the abandoned Twoleg nest," commanded Bramblestar.

"Cinderheart and I will get the rest."

I gulped. This could be the ending to both of our lives. I dived into the elders' den, and saw Graystripe was still there, snoring away. "Wake up," I hissed.

He looked up. "Is that a fire?"

"Yes."

He scurried to follow his Clanmates' scents. I dashed into the warriors' den. Empty. Nobody was left. Even Bramblestar had left. I narrowly darted out of the entrance and raced to the Twoleg nest. "Why did you leave me there?"

I was panting. Bramblestar shrugged. I sunk onto the cold, hard, floor. It felt soft to me. I realized how tired I was. I felt my body go limp, and let myself fall asleep. "Wake up."

Bramblestar was shaking me awake like Lionblaze had been. "What now?"

"Um... You need to sort out hunting patrols," meowed Bramblestar, his tone sounding like it was obvious.

"Oh, shut up," I mewed playfully.

I went out of the Twoleg nest to find the cats lined up. I assigned a hunting patrol with Lionblaze, Poppyfrost, and Jake, just to put him to the test. I assigned a border patrol with Sparktail, Grasspaw, and Thornclaw. "Done," I reported to Bramblestar.

Soon, Lionblaze's patrol reported back. "I saw a ShadowClan cat sneaking into our territory..."

"Okay, let me get the battle patrol."

I sent out Jake, Millie, Lionblaze, myself, Thornclaw, Cloudtail, Poppyfrost, Berrynose, Hazeltail, and Mousewhisker. "Let's go!"

We dashed through the woods, and when we arrived, ShadowClan cats were there, smirking. "Late?" Sneered Oakfur.

"ThunderClan, attack!" Yowled Bramblestar.

Chapter 10: Betrayal

I felt a cat leap on me. It sank thorn-sharp claws into me. "Berrynose!"

I gasped when I recognized the tom. "This Clan is lame," he sneered.

He almost slashed my neck open when Bramblestar came to rescue me. "Thanks," I whispered.

I dived under Berrynose and clawed his belly open, a shower of blood splashing me. He wailed in pain, and I felt a flash of sympathy, but he wasn't my Clanmate anymore. "Please... Help..."

His whimpers were enough, but I didn't listen to my urge. I slunk away from the tom. I heard a shriek, it sounded like Poppyfrost. I raced over, and a cat was ripping her belly open. I slammed into the tom cat, and ripped his open. "How does it feel?"

He shrieked in pain and ran once I let him go. Blood spattered the ground, but the battle wasn't over yet. Berrynose was battling Hazeltail. "What are you doing?" She shrieked.

"I'm going what I needed to do." Berrynose smirked.

Hazeltail screeched when Berrynose sliced her throat. Blood poured out of it. "Hey!"

I lunged at Berrynose, and bit his throat. I thought I killed him. His eyes dulled, and he lay motionless. I went to check on Hazeltail. She was breathing hard. "It's okay," I mewed.

Luckily, there were cobwebs nearby, so I put them on her wound. ShadowClan had retreated into the bushes. "Let's go home."

I lifted Hazeltail onto my back. Mousewhisker and Cloudtail came to support me.

Chapter 11: Family

I arrived back at the camp, and gently let Hazeltail slide down. "What happened?"

Jayfeather came racing to me. Leafpool was sitting at the edge of the camp, along with Alderheart. Alderheart padded forward. "It'll be okay," he promised.

Hazeltail probably didn't hear - as she was being rushed to the medicine cat's den. "What happened out there?"

I sighed. "Berrynose turned against us, and did THIS to Hazeltail."

Alderheart gasped. "That's horrible!"

"I know," I replied, gazing at the medicine cat den.

But I could be comforted, because I was surrounded by family. Leafpool came forward. "I heard your talk," she meowed.

She sat down. "I have something to say about it," she confessed.

"What?"

"When I was hunting, I heard Berrynose talking to a ShadowClan cat. The patrol had split up, so the rest of them didn't hear. Berrynose was saying that he wanted to join ShadowClan because the cat had some sort of offer for him. Then they left."

"Why didn't you tell anyone?"

"I thought that Berrynose was doing one of his hotheaded schemes to attack ShadowClan, so I didn't think it mattered."

"You should have reported back right away," I scolded, "But I guess you didn't know, so I'll let it slide."

Leafpool looked at the medicine cat den. "I better be in there."

She padded off. "Me too," sighed Alderheart.

They left, and I went to my den for a sleep.

Chapter 12: The Truth

I woke to a shadow standing over me. I realized it was Berrynose. "Now you have to kill me in my dreams?"

"No, I've come to tell the truth."

"Make it quick."

Berrynose sighed, I could tell he was guilty. "I... I thought ShadowClan was cooler. I met a cat on the border, and he said to me that ShadowClan was better at fighting."

"That's not true," I growled, "How could you think it was?"

"I did. And I said 'if their cooler, I'll come back with you'. So we went back, and... And Rowanstar let me in."

"How could that old gruffo let you in?"

Berrynose shushed me with his tail. "Do you want to hear or not?"

"But he said 'on one condition - you have to fight a battle with us against ThunderClan with loyalty'. And I agreed, going back to ThunderClan so nobody got worried about me."

"So you started the attack!?" I shrieked in anger.

"Kind of..."

"But, thank you for telling me the truth. You can leave now."

Chapter 13: The Lion

I looked around the camp the next morning to see Lionblaze.

"Hi," I meowed.

He turned to me, his eyes like the stars of StarClan. "Hello," he meowed.

I padded up to him and nuzzled him. "Because you've lost your powers, I'm getting worried about you. Even a little torn claw can affect you now. I'm so sorry."

I looked at him but he looked away. "I can deal with it. I'm a strong cat."

I sighed, would Berrynose be mad if I gave this away? "Berrynose came to me in a dream and told me why he joined ShadowClan."

"Really? Can you tell me why?"

I told him the story and his eyes gleamed with anger. "He should have just told us! He didn't need to do that!"

"I agree," I sighed, pulling Lionblaze closer with my tail.

"But there really is nothing we can do."

We fell asleep together, and woke up touching noses. Bramblestar called a meeting, "All cats old enough to catch their own prey, gather beneath the Highrock!"

We padded over, confused. I wondered what was happening. "We have two new warriors today."

Oh, Snowpaw and Grasspaw's ceremony. Snarlpaw wailed, "Why don't I get to be a warrior!?"

"You disrespected Cinderheart," snarled Bramblestar, looking at me.

Snarlpaw lowered his head. "But she's an inexperienced warrior."

"But your an apprentice."

Snarlpaw sighed, "I'm sorry."

"That's all I needed to hear."

Snarlpaw came forward, his head held high. He looked at me with a smile, and I smiled back, signaling I forgave him. "Snowpaw, Grasspaw, and Snarlpaw, do you promise to uphold the warrior code and protect this Clan, even at the cost of your life?"

"I do," they mewed in unison.

"Then Snowpaw, from this moment on, you will be known as Snowcloud. StarClan honors your braveness and amusing personality. Grasspaw, from this moment on, you will be known as Grassheart. StarClan honors your braveness and good heart. Snarlpaw, from this moment on you will be known as Snarlclaw. StarClan honors your braveness and skill at fighting, yet having a warm heart at the same time."

The Clan chanted, "Snowcloud! Grassheart! Snarlclaw!"

Chapter 14: Cope

I watched as we prepared for a different kind of training. It was bound to lead to trouble. Rowanstar had suggested we all train with claws unsheathed, but in my opinion, watch as blood is wasted away. Most of the leaders agreed, and threatened Bramblestar if he didn't do this. "Are you excited for the new training?"

Lionblaze's eyes were dull, and his tone didn't sound excited. "No. I can tell you aren't."

Lionblaze's eyes met mine. "I mean, what kind of leaders are they if they threaten to attack us if we don't train in such a horrid way?"

"The Dark Forest. Could it be back?"

I recalled the horrible battle, with bloodshed for no reason, an unneeded attack. Ivypool padded up. "I hate this new training. It reminds me to much of the Dark Forest."

Her eyes gleamed with sadness, and I was sad some of our Clanmates still didn't forgive her. For example, Poppyfrost used to be a nice cat, until Berrynose made her hate her Clanmates. The apprentices looked excited yet nervous. Some of their mentors had sharp claws. And Snarlclaw called out, "I can't wait to be a mentor!"

But almost nobody else looked excited, they all looked baffled. I decided to secretly watch a training session. So, I sneaked out behind Poppyfrost, and her apprentice, Stormpaw. Poppyfrost silently attacked, and blood flew out of the apprentices' ribs. He whimpered. "You should have seen that coming," snarled Poppyfrost.

I shook my head this was NOT a way of life. Not life for the Clans.

Chapter 15: Decide

Bramblestar had called a meeting. I wondered what this was about. Ivypool and Lionblaze sat beside me. "As you all know, we have been forced to trained with claws unsheathed."

Everyone, including us, yowled in protest. "Do you want to take the attack, or not?"

"But what about we don't tell them we didn't do it," I suggested.

"But at the Gatherings, they might ask us about it," pointed out Ivypool.

Bramblestar nodded. Lionblaze put his tail on my shoulder. "Oh, Cinder, what are we gonna do?"

"We have to fight," I whispered, "We can't risk hurting our apprentices more. That would be dumb. Do you think abusing them would make them good warriors?"

Lionblaze shook his head. I looked around at all the apprentices that were hurt already. Stormpaw had had to go to Jayfeather's den, and so had Ripplepaw. They both had scars from their head to their tails. Poor little scraps. "I don't want to take this method."

Bramblestar had said that. But Snarlclaw protested, "The apprentices will learn what it's like in a real battle!"

Poppyfrost added, "Yeah!"

"All in favor of training with claws sheathed?"

Tons of tails rose up, including mine, Lionblaze's, and Ivypool's. "All in favor of training with claws unsheathed?"

Snarlclaw and Poppyfrost were the only cats with their tails up. "Then, we will train with claws sheathed."

"You only wanna do that because your weaklings," I heard Snarlclaw mutter to Poppyfrost.

Poppyfrost nodded, and went to the warriors' den, clearly unhappy. Snarlclaw followed, claws unsheathed and teeth bared. "Their in a bad mood today," commented Lionblaze.

"Their always in a bad mood," purred Ivypool.

Chapter 16: Now

I opened my eyes again to see cats before me. Evil cats. "What are you doing?"

The cats glanced at each other and laughed. "What a small tough cat," one purred.

"You two are Dark Forest cats. What do you want?"

"We want the Clans to die. Be our secret spy."

"Why should I?"

"Because you want to live to see another day, don't you?"

"Yeah," I snarled.

"Are you threatening to kill me? I won't do this."

Suddenly, one leaped on me, but I wrestled it to the ground and slashed it's throat. The other one stared in shock, and I leaped at it, and gave it a bite to the throat. "Easy," I purred.

I smelled something and I whirled around to see another evil cat. "It won't be as easy to get through me," he purred.

I realized it was Hawkfrost. "What do you want?"

I just leaped at him, because I wanted to get out of here. But I couldn't get to his throat, and I got frustrated. Finally, I was super fast, and struck a hard, deep blow to his throat. He started choking, but he didn't fade instantly like the others. "I'm harder..."

His voice was barely more then a whisper, but suddenly, the wound on his throat healed. He leaped at me again, and pinned me down. I wriggled beneath him, and he smirked. He scratched my throat, and I bled there, my eyes open and dull. I felt like I was about to pass out. "That's what it felt like, but it isn't a death wound."

He smirked. "But that will come painfully soon."

Next book: Twisted Branches

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