You have never really left me... you were always there deep inside
“Come on Aquapaw,” Rainpaw moaned, as Nightpaw and Ashpaw traveled alongside her, “Why are you always so slow?”
“Shut up,” I resisted the urge to throw a ball of moss, lying on the ground at her, “It’s not my fault I can’t walk as fast as you.”
“It’s your fault,” she hissed, “For not trying to move faster. If we got caught the whole purpose of this quest is gone.”
“I’m am trying though,” I moaned, “Trying just doesn’t pay off for me when it comes to long walks.”
Ashpaw purred from the front, “It’s not a long walk,” she claimed, "We are only walking out to the edge of the territory. I come here a lot when I am bored.”
I ignored her and let out a huff as I continued to put one paw in front of the other one, loud pants following each other, while Nightpaw, Rainpaw and Ashpaw took comfortably steps, drowned out by the sound of my panting.
“Do you think she will remember us?” Rainpaw asked, looking down at her paws, “What if she thinks we are there to attack her?”
“She wouldn't,” Ashpaw insisted, “She might not have been in the Clan for long, but surely she would remember us from her kitship. We did too much together for her to forget us.”
“But what if we look different?” Rainpaw seemed insistent on being worried and Aquapaw sighed. She personally had no doubt that their friend would remember them.
Nightpaw was bobbing up and down, gleefully, clearly not worried but happy instead; that she would finally get to see a familiar face.
“I’m worried that she might not be there anymore,” Ashpaw confessed, “What if she moved, and now lives somewhere else.”
“Stop moaning and start walking,” I mumbled from the back which earns me two very sharp glares and a snort from Rainpaw, which I shrug off.
“Can we please slow down?” I asked, "I am as excited as you but my pads are aching and I want to be smiling when I see her again, not half-dead because you walked me so much.”
“Whose idea was this?” Ashpaw gave me a teasing glance and I huffed.
Nightpaw was about to cut in but a soft rustling noise threw our attention away from each other as we desperately searched for where the noise was coming from.
“That was very good Featherpaw,” It was Rivershine, “I can’t wait to test how you hunt in water as well. Why don’t we move onto the other crouch that I showed you before?”
“Thanks,” we heard Featherpaw purring before the crunching of some twigs. We exchanged worried glanced and a harsh stare from my friends was all it took to know I could no longer play the wimpy apprentice.
Nightpaw flicked her tail, taking the lead as we quickened our pace but lowered our volume so that we couldn't be heard. We were supposed to be out battle training and although Bramblestar was a very understanding leader who had a soft side for the apprentices, my mentor, and especially Ashpaw’s; being Rainheart, was not.
Not that we really had much to lose. We would get into trouble and be told not to do it again, maybe be sent to the elders den. But what we were out to do was something we would be unable to sleep until it was done.
Suddenly I felt my foot slipping as I lost balance and hit the ground with a hard thud. We all stopped for a moment; waiting for Rivershine to give away our cover by walking in on us.
At first nothing happens. We wait a moment longer and we are still greeted by silence. After several long moments I let out a relieved sigh and carefully pull myself back up to my feet.
“What was that?” Rivershine asks suddenly, turning around, “Is anyone there? I hope it’s not apprentices messing around again.”
I swallowed hard, expecting the worse, and Featherpaw stepped in, “I’ll go check,” she offered, and we heard soft footsteps, before she was standing before us.
No words were exchanged, as she knew where we are going. She was supposed to be coming with us but Rivershine refused to give her a day off. After a moment of ‘searching’ she gave us a good-luck nod before turning around and walking back to Rivershine.
“It was nothing,” she claimed.
“Good let’s continue.”
We breathed a sigh of relief before I turned to the others, “Sorry,” I whispered, meaning it.
Nightpaw flicked her tail, indicating that it is okay and we continued our quiet walk across the bushes, our pads barely touching the grass before we would take another step.
We were soon far away enough from the two training cats to raise our voices, “That was close,” Ashpaw breathed, “It’s a good thing Featherpaw had been planning to come with us or we would be taking the 'shame walk' home now,” she giggled.
We laughed too. The 'shame walk' was something that Rainheart had made up; and convinced all mentors to use. If an apprentice was caught goofing off, lying, or breaking rules and doing something dangerous they would have to be escorted to a pile of fox-dung, roll in it, and be taken back to camp where they would walk through camp, smelling horrible and looking worse, before being sent to the apprentice den, for the rest of the day, where they would receive teasing glances from the other apprentices, and no one would want to sit by them because of their smell.
Since it was new, none of the apprentices had received one yet; all too scared, but Rainheart seemed to have her eyes glued to more than just her apprentice, and was eager to try it on one, and see the effects. Bramblestar was against it, but it was still being prepared to be done anyways.
“I don’t think we would be giggling if we got the walk of shame,” I pointed out, “I groomed my pelt for the first time in days today!”
“Why can’t Bramblestar exile Rainheart from WaterClan?’ Ashpaw protested shaking her fur, “All she ever does is criticize apprentices. She looks more like a FireClan cat to me.”
“Yeah,” Rainpaw quickly butted in, “And remember how Wetstream said FireClan was created to hurt WaterClan. Rainheart is hurting us when she makes threats like that. She belongs with them.”
Nightpaw laughed, “And FireClan really hates apprentices. They keep targeting us. First Rainpaw and Aquapaw, then Ivypaw, and now all of us. We have to warn the Clan about her. She must be a spy sent from FireClan to sabotage us!”
“We should hurry up,” Ashpaw claimed as she took brisker footsteps across the grassy fields, “We don’t want to come back to camp late or Rainheart will know something is up.”
“I hope that when we return to camp all the warriors will know that something is up,” I meowed, “Because that will mean we succeeded.”
Nightpaw kept the lead as we paddled through the grass which soon changed into ferns, our steps growing noisier, as we spread further away from Clan territory, and closer towards the twoleg place at the edge of it.
We were soon standing at the edge of a scent marker, which had been marked early that morning at dawn, causing the scent to still be rather fresh, and making it easier to tell when we finally leave familiar territory and step out into a plethora of small green fields, owned by twolegs.
“Where do you think she is?” Rainpaw asked, looking around, “We can’t search the inside of every house, looking for her.”
“You looking for someone?” we turned our heads up to see a friendly-looking gray tabby tom, a light smile on his face, “I can assure you that I know every cat living from here to the forest on the other side of this large town.”
“We are looking for a cat,” I paused, “It’s a silver she-cat with radiant violet eyes. She is rather shy, and quiet but smart as well.”
“There a lot of cats here,” he purred, “Unless you want to spend the whole day looking at the load of cats here with that description you better give me a name.”
“I’m not sure,” I shrugged, “But the name we knew her by was Silverkit. She might have changed it when he mother dragged her back here.”
“So she came from the forest,” he paused, “And how long ago did she come? Did she come with anyone?”
“She came with just her mother,” I claimed, “It was a couple moons ago, right before we became apprentices. For some reason Shimmermoon didn’t want to stay in the clan and took Silverkit with her. She might go by silver.”
“I know a couple Silver’s,” he claimed, “But I do remember meeting this kitten quite a while ago who said she was from the forest, and was waiting for her mother to return with prey. He mother had a weird warrior name too. I think she might be the one.”
“Could you take us to her?” Nightpaw asked, her eyes widening, “We really need to speak with her, and we have to be back in our Clan before it is nighttime or...” she didn’t bother mentioning the walk of shame.
He nodded, “Of course I can. I love to help the new cats coming around. Do you plan to get adopted by a twoleg or stay here as a loner.”
I opened my mouth to respond saying, that we had no plans at all to leave the forest, but found Rainpaw’s fuzzy tail stuck in my mouth while Ashpaw responded, “We don’t know yet... We are still trying to decide if we would like to stay here.”
"I see," he nodded, and I began to understand what the act is for. He might not have been as eager to show us around if he realized we could be about to take one of what he considered his own cats.
We were soon following him as we weaved through lawns, twolegs, and other street cats. I noticed a couple dogs lurking further away but they didn’t even move at the sight of us unlike what might happen in the Clans.
The place was so different from the life which I knew.
After a while of walking he finally stopped and indicated towards a small pond, a little further in the distance with his tail, “You will find her there,” he claimed, “If you get lost or she is not the one, most cats around here are pretty friendly so I would just ask the first cat you see.”
We nodded before he flounced off.
“This place is so different,” Ashpaw claimed, her eyes wide as the four of us stood there, looking ahead at the pond before us.
“I like WaterClan better,” I claimed.
“I think it beats FireClan though,” Nightpaw responded, “After spending a moment in FireClan I think I might prefer the DarkForest.”
We nodded before continuing our walk to the pond, where we hopped Silverkit; or Silverpaw, was going to be.
Our pawsteps got faster with each one we took, and I felt at home despite being in strange unknown territory. Soon, we had reached the small pond, which a few cats were gathered around. One is a midnight black tom, one is a ginger tabby and the last one is a small silver she-cat with distinct violet eyes. The violet eyes of Silverkit.
For a moment we didn’t move, and then we began to take slow steps towards the cat who hadn't yet noticed us. We were soon running towards her.
Moments later we were standing before her, as she gazed into our eyes softly, and her eyes widened; remembering us.
“Rainkit? Nightkit? Aquakit? Ashkit?” she smiled, “It has been so long since I have last seen you!”
“We are paws now,” I beamed, “It’s good to see you too Silverkit.”
“I go by Silver,” she shrugged, “When we left the Clan my mother wanted to change my Clan name. The cats around here aren't too fond of Clan cats. They won’t attack you but they might not be as friendly.”
“Oh,” Nightpaw looks surprised, as Silverpaw stands up.
“So what are you guys doing here?” she asked, “You didn’t come all this way just to visit me, did you? I’m sorry we haven’t exchanged any words for so long, I just didn’t know how to speak with you when we were so far away.”
“Its fine,” I chirped, “And we didn’t really come here to visit you as much. We actually came here because we wanted to bring you back to WaterClan. We would all love it so much if you returned.”
She seemed hesitant for a moment, “Would they take me back?” she asked, “After my mother ditched the Clan so inexcusably?”
“We aren’t going to blame you for Shimmermoon’s mistake,” I claimed, “The Clan would love to have you back... that is if you would like to come back,” I looked down at my paws awaiting her response.
I looked back up to see her looking down as well, at the small pond where her reflection showed a gorgeous she-cat, with a sad smile.
“I don’t know,” she whispered, “I feel so torn. I have friends here too and I have lived a lot of what I can remember here. I’ll never forget my loyalty to the Clan but...”
“Whatever makes you happy,” Nightpaw claimed, “If you would rather live here in this peaceful place we wouldn't dare hold it against you.”
“How much time do I have to decide?” she asked.
“We are going to leave really soon,” I claimed, “But you could always come by later saying that you wanted to join.”
“Oh,” she paused, before looking up from the pond, “Can I have a moment?”
“Sure,” we all nodded at once and she turned around, running to the trees behind the pond.
“I hope we aren't driving her to make a choice she doesn't feel ready for,” Ashpaw claimed, “I would feel horrible if we were tearing her.”
“I want to follow her,” I claimed, “Maybe I can help her with whatever she needs to do right now.”
“I think she wants to be alone,” Rainpaw claimed.
“But I think she needs company,” I responded, hoping not to sound sharp as I quickly followed her into the woods, the sound of my heartbeat echoing the sound of my pads hitting the grassy floor of the forest.
I have soon caught up to her, as she stands before a large oak tree, gazing at it longingly. She smiles when she sees me.
“Hey, Aquapaw,” her head is still turned up, “What did I miss while I was gone? Did FireClan cause you any troubles?”
“Yeah they did,” I snorted, “They always cause troubles. They stole Rainpaw and I while we were exploring their territory.”
“Not your fault at all,” she smiled.
“And they also stole a new apprentice, named Ivypaw, who wasn't even on their territory. We were just showing her around and FireClan cats on the other side cross the border and steal her. It wasn't nice or fair!”
She purred, “I'm assuming the Clan is still in order. Even when a cat leaves, the Clans will still continue, hardly noticing the disappearance in the order of their lives. But when one leaves the Clan their whole life turns upside down, and nothing really seems right anymore.
I nodded, “I don’t know what I would know if I left the clan.”
Silverpaw leaped onto the first branch of the tree, signaling with her tail for me to follow her, which I did without hesitating as we slowly began to work our way up the tree.
“I still don’t know why we left the Clan,” she admitted, “I cried to my mother for days about it, but she insisted it was for the best. And soon, I grew to understand that my fate had been twisted and I would not be able to grow up and be the mighty warrior I had always dreamed I might become.”
“You have that chance back now,” I whispered, “Just follow us. The Clan will be so welcoming and it would make our days. I don’t mean to pressure you, but my life does feel different. The course of it may still be the same but knowing that you will not be by my side when I become a warrior; just thinking about, scratched deep wounds into my heart. A small part of me left the forest alongside you Silverpaw. I want that part of me back now.”
She smiled, at me as we continued to climb, “I soon began to grow to this place. That pond is where I spend much of my day, fishing or just looking at my eflection, watching me evolve and what I will become. How slow the changes in me occur. This place has slowly changed me to. I might not be a clan cat any more. All of that blood in me may have faded from all the time I spent here.”
We finally reached the top of the tree and the sight beneath us is breathtaking, Ashpaw, Nightpaw and Rainpaw were little specks, looking into the forest, waiting for Silverpaw’s response.
“Maybe not,” I replied, “But there is one thing which I know that you are, Silver. You are my friend. And nothing that is ever done can change that. You will always be my friend, even when you don’t want to be, even when one of us reaches StarClan. Even when we live a forest apart from each other.”
“I will miss this view,” she whispered.
“You’ll be giving it up for a better one,” I replied, “A view of the Clan life. A view of cats who will always be there and fight together. I view of loyalty and joy. A view of family and home.”
“I know,” she responded, “And I guess no view is worth holding onto once an opportunity for that one reaches you,” she grinned at me, “I’ll come back.”
A wide smile, impossible to stop spreaded across my face, and I purred, “Everyone will be so pleased. I can’t believe it! I've dreamed of this day since you left.”
“Me too,” she replied, before flicking her tail, “Let’s get back down.”
We are silent as we climb down the tree, our smiles showing it all. And we soon reach Ashpaw, Nightpaw, Rainpaw and.. Rain...heart... I looked at their faces, feeling mine go read, and I resisted the urge to turn around and run, as much as my feet might itch at the presence of the harsh mentor.
But when she looked at me her expression wasn't mad. In fact, she looked proud as she approached me.
“I was following you four, thinking you were out for trouble, and excited to assign my first walk of shame. But what you did was far more honorable and heart-warming than anything else I have ever seen.”
My eyes widened in surprise. Who was this cat and what had they done to Rainheart?
“I am proud to be a member of a Clan with apprentices so willing to sacrifice for their friends,” she smiled, “and I apologize for judging you all so quickly to be troublemakers.”
The four of us exchanged surprised glances, grinning as we did so, hardly able to believe what we had heard from the tough she-cat. The fear of being the first apprentice to take the walk of shame leaved me.
“Let’s go back now,” Ashpaw flicked her tail and Rainheart took the lead this time as we began to walk back to camp.
Half way back, she flicked her tail and sent us off track leading us to an empty field. She flicked her tail at the four of us, indicating for Silver to stay behind as we walked up to her.
“Look down,” she ordered and I took a quick step back at the giant pile of fox-dung.
“But... but... you said you were proud of us and we had done a very good thing,” I protested.
“That doesn't mean you didn’t break the rules,” she snapped an evil grin spreading onto her face, much akin to the one that she was known for.
Sighing we all laid down, and began to roll around in the dung, our faces flushed with embarrassment and our noses wrinkled with disgust. Rainheart was grinning with glee, like she had finally become a warrior or learned that she was expecting kits.
Silver had her head dipped, trying to hide her purrs of amusement, as we pulled ourselves out of the dung and began to walk back to camp, our pelts smelling horribly.
Silver purred and I tried to ignore her, but I couldn't help smiling. Not because there was dung on my pelt but because I finally had my old friend back forever.
And I would never let her go again.