A/N: So, yeah, Moon here. I thought of this, and I'm trying it out. It takes place shortly after the Dark Forest Battle, like two moons or so. After this one comes Moon in the Darkness, so read that one next :) Hope you enjoy!
A ginger she-cat stalked forward, her eyes glinting cruelly in the pale light. Behind her, six cats padded, all looking coldly at the small brown tabby she-cat that was standing bravely, head held high.
"Did you really think you could get away with it?" the one in front hissed menacingly, her claws slipping out of their sheaths.
The she-cat glared back. "I did what I thought I had too, and I'm proud of it!"
A low growl rumbled in the ginger she-cat's throat. "You'll pay for doing it, and it will be long and painful!"
The brown tabby refused to back down. "I don't care. What you're doing is wrong, and I'm not going to stand for it anymore!"
The ginger cat shook her head sadly. "Then you're a traitor. And if you act like a traitor, you'll die like a traitor." She flicked her tail at her followers, and two of them slid out of line and stalked toward the brown tabby.
There was a pause, then a flash of claws, and one of the two sank down to lie on the street.
The brown tabby froze, her eyes growing huge as she realized what she had done, then, without a word, she turned and spun away.
The ginger she-cat watched her, a mocking look on her face. She motioned with her tail at the fleeing she-cat. "No backbone, that's her problem."
A pure black cat padded up to stand beside the ginger one. "Should we follow her?"
The ginger one shook her head. "Not yet." She started to walk away, turning back once to add, "It's a shame she turned traitor on us. My daughter was worthy of both the name Moon, and the name 'daughter of Slash'."
And with that, she left, the remaining five cats silently falling into step behind her.
The young she-cat slipped through the forest, looking for a place to hide. Just to the side of her, the pine trees seemed to shelter a dip, and she instinctively swerved for that, praying she would be safe there.
She burst through without a moment's thought, and found herself staring at a bunch of cats, most of which were eating or grooming each other. She gulped in fear, and shrank back, wishing desperately that she could just start running again.
One of the cats, a mottled brown tom stood up, his eyes glittering with distrust. "Who are you?"
Her slim body quaked with fear. "I... I'm M--"
A strong ginger tom padded forward, his tail raised commandingly. The young she-cat pressed against the prickly bramble wall in fear, ready to fight for her life.
"I'm Rowanstar. If you aren't an enemy, then we wish you no harm."
Several cats yowled in outrage, and the mottled tom hissed furiously, "Are you mad? She's an intruder! Of course we wish her harm!"
A mottled brown she-cat flicked her tail angrily at him. The two were so alike that the young she-cat wondered briefly if they were related.
"Just hush for a moment, Toadfoot, and let Rowanstar speak!"
The ginger tom waited until silence fell, and meowed, "Can you explain why you're running?"
A black-and-white patched tom stalked forward. "Unless you'd prefer to just leave?"
She raised her head high, refusing to cower in fear anymore. This was a confrontation and she was no stranger to those. "I am only passing through, and I wish you no harm--if anything, because the last I need are more enemies."
A dark tortoiseshell pushed out of the crowd, whiskers twitching in amusement. "Well said. Crowfrost, I think that we should give her a bit of space."
The black-and-white tom lashed his tail at her. "You would, half-Clan!"
The ginger to turned, eyes glinting with anger, but a dark brown tabby tom beat him to it. "You take that back, or you're crowfood!"
Her pelt prickled with worry, and she realized that a battle might not be too far away. No! I can't handle another battle so soon! She stepped forward, set upon distracting the bristling cats.
"Clan? What's a Clan?" she mewed innocently.
The plan succeeded, and most cats glanced her way. The ginger tom swiveled back around to look at her. "A Clan is what you're in right now. Around this lake, there are four Clans. This Clan--" he waved his tail proudly at the cats surrounding him "--are ShadowClan."
Her eyes were wide, and she stared at him in wonder. "You mean you all live here in peace? No fighting, no troubles, no hunger?"
He tipped his head to the side. "We fight with the other Clans, if they threaten us, and there's plenty of hunger in leaf-bare. As for troubles, we've had our fair share. But as long as we rely on each other--and the warrior code--we can survive through anything."
Her fur was on end in awe, and she wished fiercely to be part of what he was describing. She didn't know what the Warrior Code was, but if it kept them together through all of that, it must mean something.
The dark tortoiseshell gave her a strange look. "Perhaps you'd like to join us?"
Her jaw dropped. "Can I? I mean, you'd let me?"
The ginger tom nodded. "I don't see why not. I think you should live here with us for a few days, and seeif it works for you. After that, you can decide if you'd like to live her permanently or not. But, you'll have to work hard, and prove that you can be a dedicated and loyal member of ShadowClan. Otherwise, I see no reason to let you join."
She nodded eagerly, ready to do anything to join. She could tell that if she did learn how to live here, then it would be a new chance, a new life, and she wasn't about to let it slip through her paws.
The ginger tom waved his tail, and slowly, the cats starting going about their business again. The dark tortoiseshell slipped up, blinking welcomingly. "I think you'll love it here. I'm Tawnypelt. I thought that I could help you while you get adjusted to Clan life. If you need anything, just ask."
She dipped her head and turned to pad away, before glancing back. "Oh, wait. I almost forgot to ask, what's your name?"
The young cat dropped her gaze, pushed the fear to the back of her mind, and mewed quietly, "Moon. It's Moon."
"ShadowClan, follow me!" Rowanstar called, flicking the tip of his tail slightly.
Moon took a deep breath and gazed down at the island. There were already cats swarming on it, and she swallowed nervously. When Tawnypelt had explained about the Gathering, she hadn't guessed that she would be chosen to go.
"You'll be fine. ThunderClan lets tons of kittypets join them." Tawnypelt meowed comfortingly.
Moon felt a surge of anger, but Tawnypelt wasn't done yet. "Besides, you're a rogue, and our old leader Blackstar and his deputy Russetfur were both rogues when they joined."
Moon blinked gratefully at the dark tortoiseshell, relieved to hear that a rogue had become leader. All she wanted was to be a warrior, so surely she would be able to?
Tawnypelt's two kits slipped up behind her, the dark cream one waving her tail. Over the quarter moon that Moon had lived in ShadowClan, Dawnpelt had become her closest friend, and Tigerheart was often there when they patrolled together. Moon suspected that either Tawnypelt, or her mate, Rowanstar, had told their kits to keep an eye on her.
Dawnpelt rolled her eyes at Moon. "Great StarClan, are we going to sit here forever?"
Tawnypelt flicked her daughter's ear with her tail. "Dawnpelt, if you used your head, you'd see that WindClan and ThunderClan are arguing up ahead. Rowanstar doesn't want us to get caught up in that."
Moon peered down at the riverbanks below. Now that Tawnypelt had mentioned it, she noticed the two groups of cats, facing each other and lashing their tails.
She tipped her head to the side, studying them intently. She had heard a lot about ThunderClan, but never met any cat from there, although she had gathered that Tawnypelt's littermate, Bramblestar, was the leader of ThunderClan.
Dawnpelt noticed her interest, and mewed, "See that dark brown tabby at the front? That's Bramblestar!"
Moon's eyes widened, and she glanced nervously at the island, wondering what the other cats would think of her. Beside her, Tigerheart was growling absentmindedly, and Moon followed his gaze, spotting a fluffy gray she-cat who was standing beside a dark gray tom with thick black stripes.
Dawnpelt let out a mock-hiss and pushed Tigerheart. "Would you stop it? Just because you're impatient doesn't mean you have to annoy us all to death!"
Tigerheart responded by jumping on her, and the two of them rolled around for a heartbeat, until Rowanstar called. "Right, that's it, we're going down."
Instantly, they both jumped up and shared excited glances. Moon didn't share their excitement, and shrank back, feeling sick at the thought of being introduced to all the cats down there.
Moon padded nervously after Tigerheart and Dawnpelt through the thick undergrowth, breaking through in a clearing, big enough to hold four times as many cats as the ShadowClan camp. Moon figured that was most likely because it was packed with almost four times as many cats as in ShadowClan.
Pelts swam before her eyes, tortoiseshell and tabby, brown and ginger, white, black, and gray. She spotted the leader of ThunderClan, and glanced away, feeling shy again.
Beside her, Dawnpelt pointed out a thin and wiry brown tom who was talking to a gray she-cat. "See that? That's Onestar, the leader of WindClan!"
Not to be outdone, Tigerheart quickly gestured to a sleek blue-gray she-cat. "And that's Mistystar, leader of RiverClan."
While still shy, the competitive antics of the two littermates cheered her up, and she felt brave enough to study each of the leaders in turn.
Tawnypelt padded up to greet her brother, and Moon realized what was coming next. She watched in trepidation as the dark brown tabby tipped his head to the side in interest, and she felt her pelt grow hot when he curiously glanced at her.
Before he could say anything, Onestar meowed something frostily, and he shrugged apologetically at Tawnypelt and followed the WindClan leader to the giant tree in the middle.
Dawnpelt steered Moon to where the ShadowClan cats where sitting, finding a spot near the front. Moon glanced up at the four leaders nervously, and mewed, "Couldn't we sit in the back? Or in the middle?"
Tigerheart let out a purr of amusement. "But then the cats might not find you when Rowanstar introduces you."
Looking at all the cats in the clearing, she muttered faintly, "That's the point."
"And we hope that ThunderClan will have the sense to stay off our territory in the future." Onestar finished, nodding pointedly at Bramblestar, who blinked coolly back.
Onestar stepped back, and Bramblestar rose to his paws.
"As I have already explained, Onestar, it was nor more then a mouse-brained apprentice and the apprentice that made it is in the ThunderClan camp right now." He paused, glancing down at the ThunderClan cats below before continuing. "In other news, we are happy to report that Cinderheart has moved to the nursery recently, and will be having kits soon. We have two new warriors, Cherryfern and Molestorm."
Once again, he paused, letting the cats below cheer the names of the new warriors. Moon joined in, while trying not to think about the fact that it would be her turn soon.
Bramblestar started speaking again. "We also have two new apprentices, Lilypaw and Seedpaw. Unfortunately, Lilypaw couldn't be here right now, but her sister, Seedpaw, is here, as Jayfeather's apprentice." He waited until the cheers for the two apprentices died down, then nodded to Rowanstar. "Aside from that, I have nothing to report."
Rowanstar dipped his head to Bramblestar and quickly reported the death of Blackstar, the new deputy, Oakfur, the birth of Ivytail's kits, and the apprenticeship of Kinkfur's three kits.
"And, lastly, we have a new addition to ShadowClan, Moon."
The young brown tabby felt the eyes of all the cats turn on her in a moment that was at once both too long and too short, and she sat up straight, her head raised high, refusing to show how nervous she was.
Then it was over, and the four leaders were leading their cats back to their respective camps, and Moon was following Rowanstar back to the ShadowClan camp, sandwiched between Dawnpelt and Tigerheart once more, who were busily discussing gossip about the other clans.
Maybe being a warrior of ShadowClan won't be so hard after all! she thought joyfully, before remembering a dire threat that followed her still, even now.
Moon sat up and stretched, yawning widely. After the Gathering last night, she had stayed up late with Dawnpelt, supposedly hunting, but mainly just chatting, while Dawnpelt caught her up on the latest news from the other Clans.
Outside, she could hear Oakfur setting patrols, and, after prodding Dawnpelt awake, slipped out to join the cats milling around Oakfur, hoping to be put on a patrol herself.
Dawnpelt followed her, looking tired but excited, and sat down heavily next to Moon.
Moon glanced at her teasingly. "Tired?"
Dawnpelt snorted. "Yeah, now why in StarClan would I be tired?"
Moon flicked the cream she-cat's ear with her tail, before turning back to Oakfur, who was meowing, "Crowfrost, if you could take Dawnpelt, Tigerheart, and Moon with you on a hunting patrol, I think we'll be done."
Moon blinked excitedly, while Dawnpelt rose to her paws, shaking out her fur. Tigerheart bounded over, and promptly started teasing Dawnpelt, while Moon waited for Crowfrost to finish the plump mouse he was eating.
He stalked over, eyes narrowed in mistrust. "Well, come on then, rogue."
Moon gave him a steady glance, refusing to flinch from the insult. Dawnpelt didn't have that kind of self-control, and let out a long hiss at Crowfrost. "She's not a rogue, she's a loyal ShadowClan warrior!"
Crowfrost didn't answer her, just gestured with his tail toward the forest. "Going to make an effort for once, and catch something?"
She bit back the angry retort, and merely brushed past him, out of the camp. Dawnpelt caught up with her and nudged her, mewing, "Just ignore him, Moon, it's not worth it."
Moon gave her a wry look. "Just like you?"
Dawnpelt rolled her eyes mockingly, but continued to look worried. Moon bumped her shoulder affectionately. "I know. It'll take a lot longer to convince him of my loyalty, but maybe evantually he'll get it."
Crowfrost shoved her out of the way while padding past, then shot back over his shoulder, "So, if you're so loyal, why do you still have a rogue's name?"
Dawnpelt and Tigerheart both started to retort, but Moon stopped them, replying coolly, "I'd love to get a warrior's name, as soon as I'm able to. Maybe the reason I don't have one yet is because I haven't done anything to prove that I'm willing to follow the warrior code and lay down my life for this Clan."
Crowfrost didn't look too impressed, but Moon thought that she might have made a slight improvement in his eyes. Dawnpelt, I'm totally going to give you the biggest piece of prey I can find for telling me about the warrior code yesterday.
By the time they had finished hunting, it was a little after sun-high. Moon proudly followed Crowfrost into camp, carrying the four mice she had caught. On Dawnpelt's suggestion, she brought them into the elder's den, feeling a little nervous.
One of the elders, a fluffy white she-cat named Whitewater, who was blind in one eye, looked up. "Ah, good, is it time to eat?" she rasped, poking a dark gray tom lying next to her, who was snoring loudly. "Wake up, Cedarheart, or you'll miss your meal!"
Tallpoppy, a long-legged, light brown tabby she-cat, rose and padded over, and pulled one of the mice toward her. She took a bite of it and mewed, "These are very good. Did you catch them all?"
Moon nodded shyly. "Yes." She glanced over to where the last elder, a brown tom with a tabby striped tail was still sleeping.
Tallpoppy let out a purr. "Don't worry about Snaketail. I'll save one for him."
Dipping her head gratefully, Moon left the elder's den and padded toward Dawnpelt and Tigerheart, who were now play-fighting over who got the last frog in the pile. Taking advantage of the fact that neither one had noticed her yet, she quickly slipped past them and grabbed it for herself.
When she had first joined, the idea of eating frogs had disgusted her, but, after remembering what she used to eat, she had forced herself to try them. Surprisingly, after she had taken off the skin, the inside had tasted delicious.
Tigerheart flipped Dawnpelt over, and let out a truimphant meow, only to break off when he spotted Moon finishing off the frog.
Dawnpelt struggled out from underneath him. "What's wrong?"
Tigerheart rolled his eyes at her, and pointed with one paw at Moon. "That."
Dawnpelt purred in amusement. "I suppose that's what we get for not paying attention!"
She grabbed a mouse from the fresh-kill pile and started eating it. Tigerheart joined them, choosing a squirrel. Moon, now finished eating, started to clean her cream paws. She felt the familiar pang when she saw them. Her mother had named her for those, saying that they looked like little moons against her brown tabby pelt.
Dawnpelt must have seen her expression, because she meowed, "Oh, look, there's Ivytail's kits!"
Moon glanced up to see the graceful black, white, and tortoiseshell queen immerging from the nursery, two kits bouncing around her paws. The little she-kit threw herself at her brother, squeaking joyfully.
Moon purred. "They're so cute!"
The she-kit must have heard her, because she came bouncing over. "Hi! I'm Mosskit! That's my brother, Stormkit! Are you the rogue?"
Her littermate, Stormkit, padded over, hissing, "Mother said not to ask her that!"
Moon flicked an ear. "It's fine." Turning to Mosskit, she added, "I was a rogue, but I'm training to be a warrior now."
Mosskit, undeterred by her brother's scolding, mewed excitedly. "Did you kill cats?"
Moon froze, memories rushing back unbidden. Seeing her distress, Dawnpelt jumped in. "Why don't you go ask Sparrowpaw and Dewpaw to teach you some fighting moves, if your mother says it's okay?"
Mosskit nodded, skipping off toward the apprentice's den. Stormkit padded after her, meowing, "Mistpaw's an apprentice, too." As they left, Moon heard Mosskit mew, "Yeah, but Mistpaw's no fun anymore, because now's she's a medicine cat apprentice!"
Dawnpelt glanced at Moon. "You okay?"
Moon didn't meet her eyes. "Yeah. I'm going for a walk in the forest."
Dawnpelt touched her gently with her tail. "You know I'll always be here if you need me, right?"
Moon shot her a grateful look. "I know." For a second, she thought about telling Dawnpelt what her life had been like, but she couldn't stand any cat--even her best friend--knowing about what she had done.
Moon followed the other cats out of the camp, keeping Rowanstar, who was leading the patrol, in sight. She had gotten back late, despite heading out just after sun-high, and, feeling guilty for skipping part of her warrior training--though no cat had actually said she couldn't--she had offered to go on the dusk patrol.
Now, padding tiredly behind Oakfur, she had to wonder if Dawnpelt had been right to say it was mouse-brained to go on the dusk patrol after staying up late two nights in a row. Her paws felt heavy, and she had to struggle not to drag them and lag behind.
A strange smell flowed over her scent glands, and she paused, glancing around, all her tiredness forgotten. No other cat seemed to have noticed it, so she ventured shyly, "Rowanstar?"
He turned, looking back at her. "Yes?"
She ignored the annoyed look that Crowfrost was giving her, and mewed, "Well, there's a weird scent here, and I didn't know if you knew about it..." She trailed off. What if it was something all ShadowClan cats knew about, and just didn't even care anymore? But no, she had been here last night, and it definately hadn't been there then.
Rowanstar paused, scented the air himself and lashed his tail. Moon shivered, worried that he was angry with her. Instead, he nodded at Shrewfoot, a black she-cat who was also on the patrol. "There's a fox in the area. I want you to run back to camp and inform the queens to keep their kits under close watch."
Shrewfoot sped off, and he turned to Crowfrost and Oakfur. "Be on guard. We may have to fight it." He glanced at Moon. "Good job, Moon. I want you to be ready to fight as well."
Crowfrost scoffed openly. "If the precious little rogue even knows how to fight."
She glared at him, for once nettled to action. "Actually, my entire life has been based around fighting, so yeah, I think I can fight."
Crowfrost looked scornful, but didn't reply, instead just turning away.
Oakfur opened his mouth, probably to scold her, but paused, looking over his shoulder. "Rowanstar, I shouldn't we head back to camp? After all, if the fox attacks there, it would be... bad."
Rowanstar nodded, waved his tail once, and then led his patrol back towards the ShadowClan camp.
Moon followed him, pelting at full speed, swerving around trees. The camp came into sight at the same moment that a shriek echoed through the trees, and Moon gasped in fear. "Ivytail!" Somehow, she managed to run faster, bursting through the thick brambles surrounding the camp, with the rest of the patrol right behind her.
The fox was crouched, one paw held over Mosskit, who was struggling weakly. Ivytail was obviously desperate to save her kit, but the fox was making it clear that if any cat came to close, the kit would die.
Rowanstar shared a helpless glance with Tawnypelt, and Moon spotted Dawnpelt and Tigerheart hissing furiously at the fox, but no one seemed able to risk attacking the fox. Moon blinked, suddenly realizing that the fox hadn't seen her yet, since her brown tabby pelt blended into the brambles.
Slowly, she crept around the camp, pressing close to the brambles, unwillingly to give up. Dawnpelt met her gaze, and then started hissing louder, trying to keep the fox from hearing Moon's quiet pawsteps.
She paused right behind it, flicked her tail at Dawnpelt, then let out a growl. The fox spun around instinctively, and Dawnpelt sped forward, grabbed the kit, and retreated to put Mosskit by Ivytail, who began licking her fiercely.
The fox glared at Moon, and lashed out, razor-sharp claws unsheathed, seeking to tear fur and flesh. Moon dodged away and sliced open its shoulder, before spinning away. The fox barked sharply, then glanced around at the camp full of cats. It seemed to realize that this perhaps was not the best spot to fight, and slipped away through the undergrowth, heading for a deeper, quieter forest.
There was a pause, then Ivytail rushed forward, eyes shining. "Oh, thank you so much! I don't know what I'd do if I lost her!"
Moon ducked her head shyly. "It was nothing."
Rowanstar leaped up onto the thick pine branch overhanging the camp. "I say it was something. I'd say that it merits a warrior name."
Moon stared up at him, her mouth falling open. "You mean it?"
Rowanstar nodded."Let all cats old enough to catch their own prey, gather here now." There was a pause while the cats filed to the middle of the clearing. Rowanstar waited until they were all settled, then nodded to Moon, who padded forward.
"I, Rowanstar, leader of ShadowClan, call upon my warrior ancestors to look down upon this cat. She has trained hard to understand the ways of your noble code, and I commend her to you as a warrior in her turn."
He looked down at the young brown tabby standing below. "Moon, do you promise to uphold the warrior code, and to protect and defend this Clan, even at the cost of your life?"
She nodded firmly, eyes gleaming. "I do."
Rowanstar looked up at the stars above. "Then, by the powers of StarClan, I give you your warrior name. Moon, from this moment, you shall be known as Moonclaws. StarClan honors your courage and your loyalty, and we welcome you as a full warrior of ShadowClan."
He jumped down and rested his muzzle on her head, and she licked his shoulder. Behind her, the calls of her new Clanmates rose up into the starry sky overhead, sending shivers through her body.
Moonclaws sat proudly on the branch overhanging the camp, carefully keeping her vigil. Every now and then, a shiver would run through her body, as she reflected on her new name again.
A branch cracked behind her, and she spun around, almost falling off the branch. Her heart almost stopped as she spotted two gleaming orange eyes watching her. No...
A slender ginger she-cat emerged from the bush, her distinctive black tail curled over her back. She looked disappointed.
"Well, well. What have we here? Surely no cat would let you join them, after what you did? Unless... you perhaps have kept it secret?"
Moonclaws opened her mouth to retort, but remembered at the last second that she wasn't supposed to talk during her vigil.
The ginger cat shook her head sadly, a mocking look springing to her eyes. "Tsk, tsk, aren't allowed to say anything? Well, don't worry, I won't attack you... yet. But watch your back, because I'll be waiting for the right moment!"
Without another word, she disappeared back through the undergrowth, leaving nothing but a chilled feeling behind her.
Moonclaws watched as the sun peeked up over the tips of the trees, casting dancing sunbeams in the dew-covered pine trees.
Dawnpelt pushed out of the warrior's den,Tigerheart, Oakfur, and Crowfrost behind her. She spotted Moonclaws, and bounded over, her tail whipping in excitement.
"Hey! I can't believe you're a warrior now!" she paused, studying her face. "Is everything alright? You look a little frightened..."
Moonclaws made an effort to push the ginger cat's threat to the back of her mind. She purred half-heartedly, and stretched, enjoying the early morning sun on her tired and cold pelt.
Dawnpelt glanced around. "Well, it's past dawn, so your vigil's over. Do you want to eat first, or just sleep?"
Moonclaws yawned, glad to be able to jump down from the branch. "I'm going to sleep for a moon."
Dawnpelt purred in amusement, and bumped her shoulder affectionately. "Well, you go do that, and I'll tell Rowanstar that he just lost his best warrior!"
Moonclaws rolled her eyes. "The newest maybe, but not the best."
Dawnpelt gave her a dry look. "And who stood up to the fox yesterday?"
Moonclaws padded toward the den, looking forward to a long sleep. "Me, but that was only luck. Honestly, I was just terrified that my paws would give me away!" She held up one cream paw for emphasis.
Dawnpelt purred and nodded at her den. "Well, sleep, now. When you wake up, we can go for a hunt in the woods!"
Moonclaws flicked one ear at her to show that she had heard, and sank into her soft nest, sighing in relief. She curled up tightly, refusing to think about the ginger cat, and promptly fell fast asleep.
(A/N: Sorry for the short chapter, I couldn't think of much to happen, so I wrote as much as I could and left it at that. Thanks to Arti for helping me with the ginger she-cat's eye color, btw! :) I'll try to make the next chapter longer! Moon)
Moonclaws padded out into the clearing, flicking her tail at Tawnypelt as she made her way over to Dawnpelt. Glancing up from a plump mouse, Dawnpelt let out a welcoming purr.
"Finally woke up?"
Moonclaws sat down beside her and started grooming her fluffy brown fur. "Nope. I'm still asleep."
Dawnpelt rolled her eyes at Moonclaws. "Yeah, right. Hey, Littlecloud was looking for you early."
Moonclaws paused, puzzled. "Why? He has Mistpaw to help him with herbs, doesn't he?"
Dawnpelt shrugged. "Yeah, but he wanted you."
Moonclaws finished grooming her pelt and got to her paws, curious to find out what Littlecloud wanted.
She paused at the fern-covered entrance to the medicine cat's den, and meowed softly, "Littlecloud?"
Mistpaw's spiky silver face appeared. "Moonclaws!" she mewed, sounding surprised. "I didn't expect you here! Are you feeling alright?"
Moonclaws purred. "I'm feeling fine. Dawnpelt said that Littlecloud was looking for me?"
Mistpaw paused, tipping her head to one side briefly, before her eyes lit up. "Oh, that's right. He's out in the forest, by the small pond, getting some more juniper."
Moonclaws nodded, already picturing the bushes by the pond, where the juniper grew in plenty. She dipped her head to Mistpaw. "Thanks."
Without waiting for a reply, she turned and pelted out of the camp, swerving through the trees to the small pond. When she got there, she froze, eyes wide as she spotted the elderly medicine cat.
He was lying on his side, blood staining his flank. Recovering from her shock, Moonclaws raced down the slope, skidding to a stop beside him.
"Littlecloud! What happened? Are you okay?"
He raised his head weakly. ".F-fine..."
She glanced around, hazel eyes narrowed. "Who did this to you?"
Littlecloud lay his head back down, struggling for breath. "R-rogues attacked me... came out of nowhere..."
Moonclaws turned her head away, suddenly aware that she had inflicted this suffering on the kindly old medicine cat, merely by joining the Clan. Maybe I should leave.
Littlecloud took a deep breath, and Moonclaws closed her eyes, instinctively guessing that he wouldn't make it.
"Moonclaws," he rasped, managing to find enough strength to sit up. "You have to-" he broke off, panting awkwardly, then shook himself and continued, "-listen to me."
She nodded. "Okay."
His eyes never left her face, as he meowed in a strangely deep voice, "Claws of moon shall save the Clan."
He collapsed, leaving a bewildered Moonclaws staring at him. In a low mew, she repeated, "Claws of moon shall save the Clan."
Moonclaws slowly padded into camp, clutching Littlecloud's body.
There was a pause as every cat stared in silence at Littlecloud's limp body, then Dawnpelt ran up, her eyes wide with horror. "What happened?"
Moonclaws carefully lay the medicine cat on the ground, looking wearily at Dawnpelt. "I don't know. He was lying at the small pond, bleeding. He said..." she hesatated, not wanting to tell the Clan about the rogues. But he deserves to be honored. And the Clan deserves to know how he died. "He said that rogues attacked him."
There was a collective gasp of shock, then a yowl of pain split the air as Mistpaw hurtled toward her mentor. "No! Littlecloud, you can't be dead!" She collapsed beside him, burying her muzzle in his fur. Sounding muffled, she mewed, "I'm not ready to be a medicine cat yet."
Crowfrost stalked up, eyes narrowed with disbelief. "Or, maybe you attacked him."
Moonclaws gave him a defiant glance. "What would I have to gain from that?"
He opened his mouth, but Rowanstar cut him off. "It doesn't matter, Crowfrost. Moonclaws is a loyal warrior to this Clan, and you need to accept that," he meowed sternly. Turning to Moonclaws, he added, "Did he tell you anything before he died?"
Moonclaws flicked one ear at him, hoping he could read the message in her eyes. Yes, but I'll have to tell you later. "No."
He nodded briefly, turning back to the grief-stricken Clan. "Tawnypelt, would you please help Mistpaw prepare his body for the vigil?" The tortoiseshell she-cat nodded, leading the shaken Mistpaw to the medicine cat's den.
He gestured with his tail at Moonclaws, heading to his den. Feeling nervous, she followed him, ignoring Crowfrost, who was glaring at her.
Inside, she settled down near the entrance, looking down at her feet.
"Well?" he asked, curling his tail over his forepaws. "What did he tell you?"
Moonclaws padded out of the den, feeling exhausted. Rowanstar had listened unwaveringly, and, after Tawnypelt had come in, his tortoiseshell mate had done the same. After she had finished, he had merely nodded, and flicked his tail to show that she could leave.
As soon as Dawnpelt caught sight of her, she rushed over, her green eyes sympathitic. "Are you okay?"
Moonclaws managed a small purr. "Yeah, I'll be fine," she mewed half-heartedly, aware that Dawnpelt was far from convinced. The cream she-cat started to saw something, but seemed to think better of it, and pressed her warm fur against Moonclaws.
"It'll be okay, you'll see," she meowed comfortingly. After a pause, she added, "I just feel bad for poor Mistpaw. Moonclaws... she's not ready to be a full medicine cat yet, but with Littlecloud dead... What are we going to do?"
Moonclaws shrugged helplessly. "I don't know. Unless..."
"So you see, we need Mothwing's assitance," Rowanstar finished, the tip of his ginger tail twitching.
Mistystar looked thoughtful. "Perhaps..." she murmured. "But even with Willowshine, we need both medicine cats here, and besides, how do we know that Mothwing would be safe and comfortable in ShadowClan?"
Moonclaws glanced out of the den, studying the camp curiously. Despite the obvious differences--RiverClan was surrounded by water, for one thing--the cats were still pretty similiar to ShadowClan. One or two cats caught her looking, and glared hositily back, clearly not very happy to have a patrol of ShadowClan cats in their camp.
Aware that Mistpaw wasn't even remotely ready to be a full medicine cat, Moonclaws had tentively put forward the solution of having other medicine cats train her. Surprisingly, most cats seemed to accept that for the good of their Clan, they had to ask for help from others, though they were all unwilling to tell Mistystar just what exactly had killed Littlecloud.
Mistystar sighed. "I'm sorry, I just don't see how we can spare Mothwing, especially with leaf-bare coming."
Moonclaws looked at her in astonishment. "B-but you have Willowshine!"
Mistystar's blue eyes were sympathatic but firm. "I know, and I really would like to help, I just don't think that we can right now. I'm sorry."
Moonclaws turned away, not hearing Rowanstar's reply. When her ginger leader got up and left, she followed him numbly, not glancing back.
Outside Mistystar's den, the other RiverClan cats looked up in surprise. Rowanstar flicked his tail, and the rest of the ShadowClan cats filed in behind Moonclaws. She dropped back, meaning to talk to Dawnpelt, but paused, not seeing any sign of her.
She opened her mouth to ask Tigerheart where Dawnpelt was, but at that moment Dawnpelt hurried out from a shaded part of the camp, her fur flushed. She slipped into line beside Moonclaws, her eyes bright. "So, how did it go?"
Moonclaws shrugged. "Mistystar said no," she mewed, aware that her voice was bitter. Trying to sound more cheerful, she asked curiously, "Where were you?"
Dawnpelt didn't quite meet Moonclaws's gaze. "Um... the dirtplace."
Not wanting to push her friend on the matter, Moonclaws merely nodded. "Okay."
Dawnpelt flicked one ear at her. "I'll just be glad to get back to ShadowClan territory."
"Yeah. Yeah, me too," Moonclaws agreed absently. What could Dawnpelt be hiding? she wondered, following Rowanstar back toward the ShadowClan camp.
(A/N: Lol, forgot to do this last chapter! Rainy helped me A TON with plot fillers, so I'd like to thank her! Most of the ideas I had for the next few chapters were from her, so thanks Rainy! Moon)
Moonclaws gently flicked Mistpaw's shoulder with her tail, purring lightly in a futile attempt to hide her fears. "Oh, come one, relax! One of the medicine cats will have to help us!"
Mistpaw glanced up, blue eyes gleaming faintly with hope. "Do you really think so?"
Moonclaws nodded firmly. "Of course. Why wouldn't they?"
Mistpaw let out a sigh. "Yeah, I guess you're right. After all, StarClan would want them to, wouldn't they?"
"Um... Yeah," Moonclaws mewed quickly, seeing the expression on Mistpaw's face. Privately, she doubted that StarClan would be able to do much, but she didn't want Mistpaw to give up hope so soon. "Anyway, Rowanstar's going to go talk to Bramblestar now, so they'll be sure to help us."
Mistpaw didn't answer at first, rolling a ball of herbs around on the floor. "But..." she seemed nervous, but continued bravely, "But why would they?"
Moonclaws brushed her tail over the medicine cat apprentice's spine. "Why wouldn't they?" she pointed out. She paused, spotting the frustration on Mistpaw's face, and continued gently, "Sorry. Listen, from what I've heard, ThunderClan has more than enough medicine cats, or at least more than enough cats trained as medicine cats to allow one to come over here for a while."
The spiky-furred silver apprentice narrowed her eyes. "You're not going to say that Bramblestar is Tawnypelt's littermate, so he'll feel obligated to help?"
Moonclaws shook her head. "No. After all, they may be littermates, but Bramblestar still has to put his Clan first. But I do think that he'll want to help if he can. And I think that he can help. Does that make you feel better?"
Mistpaw nodded, looking grateful. "Thanks, Moonclaws."
Moonclaws purred, heading out of the den. "No problem. If there's anything else I can do to help, just tell me."
Mistpaw shot her a sneaky look. "Well..."
"Remind me why I'm doing this again?"
"Because you offered to help," Mistpaw mewed smugly, her whiskers twitching with amusement.
"Yeah, but I didn't know that I'd have to help gather herbs!" Moonclaws retorted playfully, flicking the apprentice medicine cat's ear with her tail tip.
Mistpaw shrugged. "Well, now you do."
Moonclaws gave a mock growl, glad to see the young she-cat playing. Ever since her mentor's death, she had been downcast, understandably. Mistpaw delicately picked off one more stem with her teeth, then straightened up and turned to Moonclaws. "I think we have enough for the time being."
The brown tabby nodded, feeling relieved. "That's good. I don't think that we should stay out here that long with the rogues running around."
Mistpaw looked shocked. "Surely they wouldn't kill a medicine cat?" she asked, then lashed her tail in embarrassement and grief. "Oh right, I guess they would."
Wanting to take her mind of Littlecloud, Moonclaws meowed soothingly, "Well, this time I'm out here, so I could protect you."
Mistpaw nodded gratefully and turned, slowly padding back to camp.
When they got there, Dawnpelt bounded up, eyes wide with excitement. "You're just in time!" she mewed. "Rowanstar's about to take a patrol over to ThunderClan!"
Moonclaws swallowed, feeling nervous. "Great! Um, am I going?"
Dawnpelt rolled her eyes. "Yeah, you're going! You were with him when he died!"
Moonclaws winced. "I'm not quite sure if that's really a point in my favor, but whatever, I guess."
Mistpaw glanced up at the two she-cats, her tail bushed out. "Do you... do you think that I could go? Maybe the presence of a medicine cat--even if it's just an apprentice--would help."
Dawnpelt purred. "That's a great idea. Come on; I'll ask Rowanstar."
The two of them padded off, with Moonclaws following a little more slowly.
Even though she knew that they desperately needed help, she wasn't really very sure anymore that other Clans would give it to them. After all, even though ShadowClan wasn't currantly attacking any cat, it might make other leaders uncomfortable to be helping rival Clans at all.
Dawnpelt dropped back, looking concerned. "You okay? You're not usually so quiet." She paused, seeming to consider that. "Well, yeah, actually, I guess you are. But you're not usually so serious."
Moonclaws flicked her tail across the cream she-cat's shoulder playfully. "Well, thanks for that. Yeah. I'm fine. Just... worried."
Dawnpelt waited, obviously expecting more. Moonclaws angled her ears toward Mistpaw, unwilling to share her fears in the young apprentice's presence, fully aware that Mistpaw was already experiencing doubts.
Dawnpelt nodded, but her eyes told Moonclaws that she would bring the matter up again later.
"I'm afraid I'll have to say no," Bramblestar meowed slowly.
Moonclaws glared at the ground, hardly surprised. She hadn't really expected him to agree, but it was still a disappointment to hear him say it.
"Why not?" Rowanstar asked, sounding a slight bit frustrated.
Bramblestar sighed, amber eyes flashing. "With leaf-bare so close, I just don't think we can spare any cat."
Tawnypelt was watching him, eyes narrowed. Mistpaw was turned away, tail limp.
Dawnpelt mewed angrily, "That's stupid! Mistystar said the same thing. What is going on with you leaders?"
Tawnypelt brushed her tail over her daughter's mouth. "Hush, Dawnpelt."
Dawnpelt shot a furious glance at Moonclaws, but didn't say anything.
Bramblestar looked fainly amused. "I would like to help, I just don't think I can."
Mistpaw raised her head dejectedly. "StarClan would want you to help."
Bramblestar shrugged. "StarClan will understand that I can't, for the sake of my Clan."
"But ShadowClan could die if I don't get a mentor!" Mistpaw burst out, tail fluffing up.
Rowanstar looked at her sternly. "Mistpaw, ShadowClan will be fine. Come on, we should be leaving."
Slowly, the small patrol filed out of Bramblestar's den, with Dawnpelt shooting one last hostile glance at him.
Mistpaw sat huddled in the middle of the clearing, while cats murmured quietly to their friends. Dawnpelt padded up to Moonclaws, green eyes troubled.
"Why won't any cat help us?"
Moonclaws shrugged helplessly. "I wish I knew."
Dawnpelt frowned, looking at Mistpaw sadly. All of a sudden, her eyes widened, and she turned to look at Moonclaws, her tail lashing with excitement. "Moonclaws! I know what to do!"