There are many kinds of love in this world... my love for you is the greatest of them all.
“Nightpaw!” I called into the apprentice den, “Nightpaw!”
Moments later her dark head emerged from the den a happy smile across it, “Come on!” she called as she bounded out of the den and towards the clearing, “I heard Ashpaw had to take the shame walk today.”
I stopped in surprise, attempting to hide a purr of amusement.
“Of course. Her mentor is Rainheart, and being Ashpaw with a mentor like Rainheart I wouldn't be surprised if she got it every day.”
“It’s been several sunrises since we were the first cats to get the shame walk and no one has had it since,” I pointed out, “But if she really is, I have to watch it. It’s not at all funny when you are the one taking the walk.”
She giggled, “True.”
We quickly paddled to the clearing where there were a couple cats either eating or just waiting, possibly for a cat or their turn to go on a patrol.
We sat in silence after grabbing a thrush. Normally we might be teasing the other apprentices, like we always did when we woke up from our afternoon naps, a total must for the two of us, but now we were just waiting for the laugh to come to us.
And moments later it did.
Ashpaw had a sour look on her face, threatening anyone to laugh at her, as she stormed through camp, Rainheart eying her disapprovingly for whatever she had done this time, covered in dung.
And we took her dare.
Nightpaw and I both began to laugh and dropped our prey at the sour expression on the face of our defiant friend. I didn’t even bother trying to hide my purrs of amusement and Ashpaw’s face only grew sourer as she shot flames at us through her fierce icy blue eyes, identical to that of her mentor.
Nightpaw and I only laughed harder when we noticed the harsh glares she refused to stop giving us. But I could sense a deeply hidden twinkle of amusement in Ashpaw’s eyes as Rainheart sent her into the apprentice den to spend the rest of her day.
“Knowing Rainheart, Ashpaw probably just got caught for practicing the dumb faces she likes to show the apprentices,” I claimed, through purrs of amusement, while Ashpaw now had her head stubbornly turned away.
“I wouldn't doubt it,” Nightpaw claimed as we turned back to our prey, still twitching in amusement. I had to admit that I did feel a pang of sympathy for Ashpaw who would be forced to spend the rest of the day alone, but soon it would be nothing more than a joke which one only pull us ever closer together.
When we were done eating, I stretched before giving Nightpaw a soft lick, “I have to go out for training. My fighting is finally going to be assessed. All I am ever tested on lately is hunting and that never goes well...” I trailed off. Hunting was not one of my strong suites at all, but I was a rather decent fighter, one of the best among the apprentices.
“Good luck,” she purred before getting up as well, “I have to go out for a patrol around FireClan territory with Redscar,” she sighed, “Wish me luck.”
I waved my tail at her as I walked away and towards my mentor who was waiting for me, a tired and disapproving expression on her face, obviously because I spent way too long sleeping.
I ducked my head, eager to make up for myself by doing very well on the hunting assessment.
“Very good, Aquapaw,” Sapphireshine praised me as she pulled herself back up to her paws, panting, “You did very well today. I was starting to think we might have to hold you back because of your inability to hunt very well but your fighting talents have been able to make up for that I think,” her whiskers twitched.
“Thanks,” I purred, feeling my paws tingling at the praise, something I never seem to be able to get enough of.
“Let’s try that last move again,” she offered, “I wanted to correct your footing in that position.”
I nodded and pulled myself into position waiting for her to jump, shifting from paw to paw slowly with anticipation.
Before Sapphireshine could jump into position we were cut off by a loud cry coming from the FireClan border. At first neither of us moved, assuming FireClan is just looking for attention until I could hear Nightpaw’s loud shriek of terror and I felt my blood turning cold as ice.
Sapphireshine didn’t need to indicate for me to quickly dash after her through the bushes and trees towards the most dangerous place on our territory. More dangerous than the snake patch. More dangerous than the twoleg backyards containing dogs and sometimes angry twolegs. More dangerous than the blackpath on the opposite side of the clan territory. Nowhere had WaterClan suffered from more losses than the border with FireClan.
The sound of my own footsteps as well as the sound of Nightpaw’s echoing cry was all that reached my ears as my mentor and I thundered through the fields to the open patch of grass, on the other side of which lied the vicious and merciless FireClan cats.
But Nightpaw was all alone, her head hung low as she stood on the side of the border, small tears gently hitting the ground.
“Nightpaw!” I cried as I ran up to her, slightly confused. She had a small gash across her back but other than that she looked fine, “Are you okay?”
She didn't respond to me, just kept her head hung low.
“Nightpaw?” Sapphireshine’s voice, forced her head to move up the slightest bit, “Is this your blood?” she motioned to a heap of red liquid on the ground which I hadn't noticed before, “Or that of FireClan?”
“Neither,” she sniffed, as she dropped her head back down, “It’s the blood of Riverclaw,” she claimed, “They took my mentor from me!”
“How many of them were there?”
“Too many,” she hissed, “We were cornered and there was no way we could have fought back. They just jumped on us, and I think they were trying to catch me but Riverclaw held them back, telling me to run. I refused, getting confident but mad and thinking I could keep them off. He kept yelling at me... and while trying to keep me safe the FireClan cats caught him,” she sighed loudly, as another couple tears fell onto the blood-stained grass, “I tried to win him back, but they swatted me off like a fly.”
“FireClan has Riverclaw?” Sapphireshine’s eyes widened, “We have to tell Bramblestar so that she can send a patrol immediately.
“I’m sorry,” Nightpaw hung her head and even more tears slipped. I gave her a friendly, assuring lick, but her face remained hung down.
“You shouldn't have been so rash,” Sapphireshine scolded her, “When your mentor tells you to do something the most important thing is to listen. Now you may never see him again as a result of your mistakes.”
More tears fell from Nightpaw’s eyes and I felt my insides boiling with anger towards Sapphireshine. Nightpaw was obviously killing herself already for the mistake she made, and definitely didn’t need it hammered onto her. I was trying to chose between snapping back at my mentor and trying to brighten Nightpaw, when Sappireshine flicked her tail at me.
“Aquapaw, Rainheart should be out with the kits,” she hissed, “Find her and get them into camp. FireClan may just be up to their usual scandals, doing things to knock us off our feet, but it’s best not to risk the safety of the kits. Nightpaw, you come with me. We need to speak with Bramblestar and tell her what has happened.”
I nodded, reluctant to leave Nightpaw’s side, but knowing I didn’t have a choice. I felt my feet taking me the way Sapphireshine had pointed with her tail and racing through the woods as fast as my short legs could take me. I might not have been the fastest runner in the Clan but I was determined.
When I finally reached Rainheart and several kits all playing as they laughed, not aware of what FireClan had done I slowed down and stopped for a moment to catch my breath while Rainheart eyed me suspiciously.
“Is something wrong, Aquapaw?” she asked, “Or do I need to give you a shame walk, just like your friend Ashpaw.”
“Sapphireshine sent me,” I claimed, through deep breaths, “Riverclaw was attacked and kidnapped. She wanted me to warn you about getting the kits out of the way in case they were up to anymore funny business."
She didn’t need being told twice. She flicked her tail, ordering with a loud and scary voice that the kits line up straightly and follow her as quickly as they could, while I walked from behind, making sure that there were no FireClan cats planning to ambush the kits from behind.
We were slow but soon reached camp which was in chaos by the time we arrived. Cats were panicking while Wetstream, Birdwing and Bramblestar were trying to calm them.
I instantly spotted Nightpaw in the corner and dashed up to her. Secretpaw, Driftpaw and Dragonpaw were trying to comfort the apprentice but she was deep in tears and refused to let anything make her feel better.
“It wasn't your fault,” Driftpaw insisted, “That is FireClan. They always do things like this. It was going to be a warrior sooner or later. You just ran out of luck.”
The two other apprentices nodded in agreement, as I slowly approached but Nightpaw still had her head hung low.
Before I could say anything, Bramblestar’s loud voice rang through the camp, “Silence!” she demanded from her place on the highrock, not bothering to gather everyone, “I need everyone’s attention, now!”
We all turned to look at her; and she smiled when she realized she had our attention, “As all of you realize, Riverclaw has been kidnapped by FireClan and after speaking with my senior warriors we have decided to attack without any wait. I am going to take several warriors and a couple apprentices into FireClan territory right now so that we can reclaim one of my most trusted warriors.”
We all nodded and Bramblestar continued, “The cats who I will choose to take with me are Cinderdapple, Redpoppy, Darklion, Ducksplash, Featherpaw, and Ivypaw. The rest of you will remain here and wait. Birchfire is in change for the short period when I will be gone.
Nightpaw’s head shot up, “I should be able to go too,” she murmured, “He is my mentor.”
But Bramblestar couldn't hear Nightpaw and I didn’t doubt that she had a good reason for choosing not to pick Nightpaw to tag along. She flicked her tail and the patrol set off to FireClan territory. I gently waved my tail at Ivypaw, wishing her luck, and she waved back, a light smile on her face as she marched beside Featherpaw who looked prepared and confident, as always.
The cats slowly ran off while Nightpaw continuing keeping her head hung with pain and shame. After a while she lifted it back up and I detected a dangerous gleam in her eyes.
“I'm going too,” she announced, “They stole my mentor because of me...” she trailed off, before jumping back up to her paws, “Promise you won’t tell anyone.”
“I'm coming with you!” I declared, and the three other apprentices quickly jumped in, nodding as well. Nightpaw put on a forced smile.
“Let's go,” she whispered as she slowly walked out of camp, the four of us following closely behind her.
We easily sneak out of camp, none of the whispering cats notice us, too deep in thought about the step FireClan had just taken.
“I don't know how much longer the Clans can stay in peace when FireClan keeps doing this,” Driftpaw exclaimed with a huff, “They seem to be asking for a war,” her face was angry, “Why can't they leave us alone? They will lose cats too!”
“That’s Hawkstar,” I shrugged, trying to keep the group calm as we walked through the grassy fields, “She doesn't keep kit whiskers because she thinks it's cute.”
“She doesn't keep kit whiskers,” Secretpaw rolled her eyes at ma, and I blushed looking down at my pads, waiting for Nightpaw to butt in saying she had 'reliable sources'.
But she never did.
Her head was down, but all I could have detected in them was seriousness as we continued to walk towards the border with the dreaded Clan.
When we reached it, Nightpaw stopped for a moment and gently sniffed the air, while we stood behind her, shuffling our paws nervously. All we could hear was the sound of wind smacking the trees until Nightpaw finally pushed her head back down and turned to face us.
“Let’s go,” she claimed, “Remember to be quiet. WaterClan may not be far and we don’t want to be caught.”
We nodded, and we taking our first steps across the border when we all jumped back at the sound of thunderous pawsteps hitting the ground. We quickly began to dash back, towards the other side of the border so that FireClan wouldn't attack us, only to discover that it wasn't FireClan but rather WaterClan.
Bramblestar and Riverclaw were leading the way. The old warrior’s pelt was stained red with blood but he seemed to be fine as he led the determined group of cats through the territory of their enemies.
“They escaped!” I smiled, “See Nightpaw? I told you everything would be okay! They saved Riverclaw!”
Nightpaw had a wide smile on her face like a kit during their apprentice ceremony and she took a couple more steps back as the cats continued to run towards their side of the border, grinning with victory.
But their victory smiles wouldn't last long.
Suddenly, FireClan cats erupted from the bushes, flinging themselves onto whichever cat they could find. Both Bramblestar and Riverclaw were quick to be knocked over and deep in a battle, while the other cats were pinned down too.
“Let’s go!” Dragonpaw exclaimed and we followed her to the battle, jumping on the cats that had attacked our Clanmates.
I bit one of the two cats who had pinned down Bramblestar in the shoulder, and he let out a loud cry. With one cat off him, the muscular leader was able to jump back up to her feet and knock the other cat off her, as we began to attack the two FireClan cats together, driving them away.
I felt my paws tingling with the sense of a victory which only lasted for a split moment before a loud ear-shattering yowl erupted from behind us. I whirled around in horror to see a dark blue body on the floor, limp and covered in blood. I tried to turn away but my eyes were glued in horror to the lifeless body of Riverclaw.
The cat who killed him smiled a coy smile, his lips curling upwards as blood began to drip off his face. He flicked his tail and retreated the rest of his cats following him.
I turned to face Nightpaw, but she had already moved before I could say any comforting words. She was dashing towards the retreating FireClan cats and pinned down the first one her claws reached.
The ginger she-cat was taken by surprise as she was whirled around and onto her stomach by the fierce Nightpaw.
Her eyes glittered with anger as she brought her black paws down on the cat. The FireClan tom who had killed Riverclaw turned around for a moment to see what had just happened but flicked his tail indicating for them to continue when he realized his life was not in danger; obviously not caring for that of which Nightpaw had attached to.
The other FireClan cats shrugged and continued to run alongside him, back to their camp while I turned my head away in disgust.
“Nightpaw, stop!” I heard Ivypaw screech and I turned my head up to see Nightpaw bringing down yet another pair of claws onto the cat.
“You will pay!” She yowled, as soft tears fell from her eyes to the ginger pelt; the bloodstain hardly visible from under her ginger coat.
“Nightpaw you are going to kill her!” Ivypaw exclaimed as she reached her friendly and gently tried to fry her off the FireClan cat.
“She killed Riverclaw!” Nightpaw screeched back.
“She didn’t kill Riverclaw!” Ivypaw urged, tugging her friend a little harder this time while I could hardly watch my friend stealing the life of an innocent cat. A FireClan cat, but an innocent one, nonetheless, “The cat who killed Riverclaw is gone and it is too late to catch him. He doesn't care what you do to her. Just please...”
Doubt flickered in Nightpaw’s gaze for a moment before she turned her head away, “Well, someone has to pay, even if it won’t be him!” she exclaimed harshly, “And since she is the only cat around who I can attack, it will have to be her.”
I swallowed hard as she pulled up another pair of claws, to bring the life of the she-cat who refused to struggle to the end. My eyes closed as I heard the sound of something slicing through the air then the loud call of Bramblestar.
She looked up in surprise, “What’s wrong, Bramblestar?” she asked, “It’s okay, she refuses to fight back. I’ll be fine.”
“I’m not correcting any battle positions or accusing you for threatening your health,” Bramblestar claimed, “I’m ordering you to leave the poor cat that refuses to fight an apprentice like you, alone.”
“But...” Nightpaw stuttered, “She is a member of FireClan... and FireClan killed Riverclaw. They killed my mentor!”
“She had nothing to do with it,” Bramblestar insisted again, walking straight up to the black apprentice, “Now get off her.”
With a loud and frustrated sigh, Nightpaw pulled herself of the cat she had been so intent on killing just moments before while Bramblestar apologized to her, and helped her getting back to your feet.
“What’s your name?” she asked the FireClan cat.
“Hopeflare,” she responded, “I am-was- a member of FireClan. But they just ditched me...”
“You can join WaterClan,” Bramblestar offered, “All we ask from you is loyalty.”
Hopeflare nodded and leaned against Bramblestar for support, her wounds causing her to limp.
Nightpaw walked behind the clan, her head down in shame, “I can’t believe I lost him again,” she whimpered, “After I was so scared that I would never see him again...” she trailed off.
“It’s not your fault,” I urged her, slipping back, trying to comfort her yet again. Ivypaw was on her other side, looking sad and distressed.
“It was not your fault,” I urged again but her head was down yet again. The death of her mentor seemed to bear such a large effect on her... one that it didn’t seem like we would ever be able to get her out of.
“It was,” she whispered again hanging her head, to show us that nothing we said would change her mind about that. She was determined to feel miserable and none of our efforts would be able to change that.
I sighed, and exchanged a glance with Ivypaw, understanding that she, too, had quit. There was nothing we could do about Nightpaw.
“Aquapaw get up!” Rainpaw looked frantic while Ivypaw was shuffling her paws with a sick and nervous feel to her, “You have to get up right now! Before Nightpaw does something really stupid!”
I quickly jumped to my paws, landing on them lightly, “Where did she go?”
“We just saw her exiting camp,” Rainpaw explained, “I don’t know where she plans to go, but I’m afraid she might let out the death of Riverclaw on another FireClan cat. Or worse... herself.”
I didn’t need to be told how serious the situation was. The three of us were quick to run out of the den and dash out of camp, not caring that it was the middle of the night and following the light and lingering scent of Nightpaw which still loomed.
As we ran through the grass I heard Ivypaw sigh loudly, “I think she is heading towards the river. It’s not hard to guess what she wants to do there.”
I felt my heart skip a beat in fear, and all of the moments I spent together with Nightpaw rolled back into my head. The laughter, the adventures, the tears, the pride, the moments... I could be about to lose them all.
As we reached the shore of the river, I could barely make out the border of a dark pelt standing before the river, her head tilted towards the sky.
“Stop, Nightpaw!” I shrieked as I approached her, “I won’t let you do this!”
“I’m sorry,” she sighed, “I don’t deserve to live after Riverclaw died because of me. I’ll miss you all but I guess this is good bye.”
She took a soft step into the river as if it were land, and her body began to sink.
“Nightpaw, no!” the three of us shrieked, but she wouldn't listen to us, covered in the despair of her guilt.
“Please Nightpaw,” I whirled around to find a faint outline of a spirit. The dark grey pelt bobbed up and down, as Nightpaw actually turned to see the cat who was addressing her.
“Riverclaw?” she gaped, before ducking her head, “I’m so sorry that you died because of me.”
“I didn’t die because of you,” he assured her, “And you need to stop ruining your life by trying to convince yourself of that. I loved you like I’d love my daughter, Nightpaw, and I wouldn't want any pain upon you. These cats who have comes to help you love you too. They love you more than you could ever imagine. By taking your own life, you are stealing an important part of theirs.”
Nightpaw’s face turned red, “Really?’ she whispered, “You don’t blame me... you want me to be... happy?”
“Of course,” he gave her a soft lick on the head before he began to fade away again.
There was a moment of silence between us, until Nightpaw finally sniffed, “I’m sorry for not listening to you,” she claimed softly and sincerely.
“It’s fine,” we all assured her at the same time, and I added, “What matters is that you are still here.”
“Thanks,” she whispered, her voice echoing into the dark of the night.
“Of course,” I claimed, “Besides, who would I tease Ashpaw with tomorrow when she has to return from the shame walk for making silly faces again.”
Nightpaw laughed alongside the rest of us for a change and I felt a warm sensation spreading through me. I finally had the old Nightpaw back. And that was worth more than anything else.
Even watching Ashpaw take the shame walk.