Around me you will always be welcome…
“Come on, Aquapaw!” Mistypaw shouted as she bounded out of the den, and waited at the entrance for me to catch up, “Come and see what's happening!”
I groaned, hardly able to push myself off my nest, my eyes were dropping, “I’m so tired,” I wailed, “Can’t I rest a little first?”
She rolled her eyes at me, but I refused to give up my cozy nest, until she stormed over to me, stuffed my paw in her jaw and dragged me out of my nest and to the entrance of the den, where she waited for me to get up, “You shouldn't have spent so much time goofing off, and doing whatever you did with Rainpaw last night,” she rolled her eyes, “Now get up before I bite you.”
That did the trick. Mistypaw might be my friend and I don’t doubt that she wouldn't hesitate to do anything for my good, but she would bite if she claimed so. I was more than ready to believe it, and the last thing I wanted was another cut on my paw. So within a second I was standing and following Misty towards the center of camp, curious as to what she had to ruin my beauty sleep to show me.
When we reached the center of camp, there was a crowd of warriors gathering around something while Wetstream and Redpoppy were trying to disperse the large crowd of cats. Snowpaw and Fuzzypaw were sitting in the corner trying to get a glimpse of what was going on.
Mistypaw dragged me over next to them, “Hey,” she called, “Do you know what happened that's making everyone so excited?”
Snowpaw shrugged, “I think there is a new cat,” she claimed as she craned her neck, trying to get a glimpse of whomever the newcomer was.
“She’s going to be an apprentice,” Fuzzypaw claimed, “That means she can train with us!” her eyes brightened, “I wonder who she will get for a mentor?”
But before the any of us could respond they were cut off by Bramblestar’s call from the top of the HighRock.
“Can all cats who are old enough to catch their own prey gather beneath the HighRock for a Clan meeting,” we didn’t hesitate to follow the swarm of cats underneath the leader of WaterClan, who had a confident and relieved smile on her face.
“When I grow up,” I whispered, “I am going to take Bramblestar’s place,” she grinned, “So that I can lead WaterClan against FireClan!”
“By the time Bramblestar is dead,” Mistypaw rolled her eyes, “We will have solved any issues with them. She is a really young leader,” she paused for a moment before quickly adding, “Besides, I am going to become leader. You can become my deputy!”
“Hey!” I protested shoving my paw in her face, while she purred with amusement. Fuzzypaw laughed, her glossy white pelt shaking along with her breath, while Snowpaw watched, smiling.
“I have gathered you all here,” Bramblestar announced giving us a warning glance which was enough to get us to sit upright and listen quietly while she continued, our faces red from embarrassment, “To welcome a new member of our Clan.”
Murmurs of excitement broke among the Clan but Bramblestar silenced them with a flick of her tail, before looking down, “If Mischief could please step up.”
For a moment there was silence. Then a quiet and pretty pale ginger, sandy colored she-cat, with her eyes turned down took a small step forward followed by another, before jumping on top of the HighRock.
“Mischief is joining our Clan,” she announced, to us before turning to the apprentice, “Mischief, you have joined our Clan, previously a loner but now an apprentice. From this day on, until you receive your warrior name you will be known as Ivypaw.”
She paused for a moment and the clan cheered for the new cat, while I turned to Snowpaw, “It was a new apprentice!”
“Your mentor will be Emberclaw,” Bramblestar summoned the dark ginger warrior with a flick of her tail.
When he had reached the HighRock she continued, “Emberclaw, you have shown yourself to be strong and fearless and I expect you to pass down these traits to Ivypaw,” she took a step back so that the two cats could touch noses while my friends and I watched with excitement.
“How come she gets Emberclaw,” Fuzzypaw protested, “I always wanted to get Emberclaw as my mentor.”
“I’m going to tell Fallendawn,” Snowpaw grinned, her eyes glittering as alarm entered that of Fuzzypaw’s.
“No!” she protested, “Please don’t!”
But Snowpaw just turned away and continued to watch the ceremony while Mistypaw and I giggled.
Ivypaw took shy steps up to her new mentor before softly touching noses with him, then pulling apart. Bramblestar nodded, dismissing the clan as they split up to go and do the days errands.
“Let’s go greet the new cat,” Fuzzypaw claimed before running under the HighRock where there were a few cats greeting Ivypaw. Mistypaw, Snowpaw and I quickly run after her, to where Rainpaw and Nightpaw have already beat us.
“I’ll show you the apprentice den,” Rainpaw purred, “There are a lot of us, but it is a big den so it won’t get too crowded.”
“You are really lucky to have Emberclaw as a mentor,” Nightpaw quickly added, “All of the apprentices either want Emberclaw or Bramblestar.”
Ivypaw nodded slowly, trying to process the information.
“Hey, Aquapaw,” Nightpaw purred when she saw me, “This is Ivypaw,” I dipped my head at the new cat, and she looked a little familiar to me in a way that I couldn't seem to tell. I didn’t say anything though.
“Hi!” Mistypaw quickly added, poking her head between Nighty’s and mine, “My name is Mistypaw. And these are Aquapaw, Snowpaw and Fuzzypaw,” she indicated towards us with her tails. She was opening her mouth to say something else when she was cut off by a loud call.
She let out a groan, “My mentor wants me for training,” she shrugged, “Have fun! And be grateful that you found WaterClan instead of FireClan. All FireClan ever does is steal prey, cross our borders and threaten our cats.”
Another call followed and she flicked her tail, “I’ll see you around,” she called before turning around and bounding off, to join her mentor.
“Do you want us to show you around camp?” Nightpaw asked, with excitement, “I think Emberclaw will be fine with it.”
She paused for a moment before shrugging, “Sure I guess...” she trailed off and the apprentices cheered.
“I have a hunting assessment today,” Fuzzypaw admitted, “And I wouldn't want to keep Birdsong waiting. So I guess I will see you around,” she waved her tail at them before turning around and taking the same path Mistypaw had taken to the entrance to camp.
“Well since they ditched us I guess we are on our own,” Rainpaw sighed, before brightening, “Why don’t we start with the apprentice den? You are going to be spending most of your time there, anyways.”
Ivypaw shuffled her feet quietly, “Sure, I guess.”
We exchanged grins before leading Ivypaw to their den, “I’ll set up your den!” I quickly offered, “It can be next to mine.”
“It’s fine, Aquapaw,” Nightpaw shoved me back, “I can set up your den, Ivypaw.”
“I can set up her den!” Snowpaw volunteered, “You don’t have to bother, Nightpaw. You too Aquapaw! I don’t mind at all.”
“Shut up,” Rainpaw muttered, “I already asked her if I could help her making her nest, you guys. So quit your pathetic fights.”
All three of us turned to Ivypaw expectantly, “Did she?”
“Yeah,” she muttered, “She claimed that she would do that for me as soon as she welcomed me.”
We all let out frustrated huffs, while Rainpaw strutted along confidently, a wide smile on her face, as she turned her nose up. And then she tripped.
We all burst into laughter, even Ivypaw, while Rainpaw muttered at us, pulling herself back up to her feet and shooting up a dirty glare, telling us to shut up.
Of course, none of us did.
We kept laughing and poking each other, imitating Rainpaw while we knew she was looking so that we could further annoy her. She was obviously itching to snap at us, but she avoided it while Ivypaw was with us and we showed her around the apprentice den.
“That is where Aquapaw was sleeping last night,” Nightpaw claimed, pointing towards a clump of moss on the floor, and I felt my face flushed while the other cats laughed at me. Rolling my eyes, I flicked my tail towards the corner of the den.
“That is where we usually share news and socialize as well as eat our prey. Sometimes play-fights can break out there, and it is the prey that usually ends up getting hurt from them so I recommend you are either careful while eating or you eat near your nest instead.”
Ivypaw nodded, taking in all the information.
“Also,” Nightpaw added, “Our mentors aren't allowed to enter so when you hear your name being called it is a good idea to get up as quickly as you can unless you want a cranky mentor who you have started the day off badly with for being late.”
Ivypaw nodded again, and we let her take a final glance before leaving the den, and taking her to the clearing, where we continued to show her around camp, showing off our Clan and introducing him to warriors who would smile at the new apprentice before rolling their eyes at us for being too immature.
We would give them a curios and innocent smile in return.
When we were finally done showing Ivypaw around camp, Nightpaw gave an excited jump, “Let’s show her around the territory.”
“But won’t her mentor want to do that?” Rainpaw asked, “Show her around the territory and what to do.”
“I’m sure Emberclaw wouldn’t mind,” I put in, “We would be doing him a favor. He wouldn't have to show Ivypaw the territory tomorrow and they could get straight to training.”
The other cats paused for a moment before nodding and running out of camp, as I tried to keep up and Ivypaw followed from behind. After a moment, I slowed down, letting the others catch up, and turned around to speak with Ivypaw.
“So where did you live before?” I asked her, “Were you a loner or a rouge.”
“I was a loner,” she replied quietly, “I lived near the twoleg place with my mother’s friend who was also my best friend,” she paused, “But then she sent me here so that I could have a better life. She escorted me to the edge of the territory where I was greeted by one of your warriors.”
“Do you like it so far?” I asked her, trying not to sound suspicious. How quiet and shy she is acting worried me a little and made me wonder if the apprentices weren't trying hard enough to make her feel comfortable among us.
“Yeah,” she replied, “You were really quick to take me in. I thought there would be suspicion or the cats might think I am a traitor but they were welcoming and didn’t make me prove myself in any way. I have heard that warriors are snobbish and only like those born with their blood but I didn’t even catch a single glare.”
“That’s FireClan,” I quickly put in, “They are stuck-up cats who think they own the forest and all other cats are lower than them.”
“Oh,” she paused, “I guess I found the right cats,” she whispered before looking down at her paws, “Still, it isn't home, and I don’t feel like I belong here, as nice to me as you might be. I feel like a guest. Your Clan is so close, almost like a family, while I am just a friend. I miss my old house and the cats I knew already.”
I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything. I just gave the new apprentice a fierce lick before turning around and walking in silence.
“Hey Ivypaw!” Snowpaw called from where the three other apprentices were paddling, “Come check out the river.”
Ivypaw hesitated for a moment before bounding forward and learning towards the edge of the cold and icy waters.
Rainpaw and I exchange a knowing glance, we had been here just last night on another one of our adventures, but there was no need to advertise that to the rest of the apprentices.
“Do you know how to swim?” she asked, “I don’t really like water, being a cat..."
“You get used to it,” Nightpaw purred, “We are WaterClan, of course we are going to swim. It’s pretty fun and sometimes when we are bored we spend half a day here goofing off. It’s a little too cold now with leaf-bare approaching, but once new-leaf comes we can show you how much fun it is.”
But there was still a doubtful look in Ivypaw’s gaze, as she eyed the river suspiciously, before turning around.
“Now let's show her the FireClan border!” Rainpaw suggested, and we all nodded in agreement; it was something that Ivypaw would have to be careful about if she didn’t want to get in trouble with the Clan as Rainpaw and I had discovered a little while ago when we were captured by them.
Ivypaw paused, “Is this the dangerous group of cats you were talking about?” she asked us curiously.
“They are only dangerous if you cross their borders,” I assured her, “We will just stay back and far away from the border so they can’t attack us.
“I’m not scared of running into them,” Ivypaw shrugged, “I want to see these cats, and know if you just hate them because they are your rivals or because they really are cruel cats with no sympathy who attack kits and apprentices.”
“Both,” Snowpaw claims, before Rainpaw flicked her tail and we lead her towards FireClan territory, while explaining what they had done to us in the past.
“They steal our prey, and use our resources, then they blame us for being thieves of prey and threaten to take the issues to battle if we don’t stop," I explained with anger and frustration, “They claim that StarClan will be angry with us for breaking the code, when really, they are the ones StarClan will be mad at.”
“Their leader, Hawkstar, has a collection of whiskers which he takes from each kit born into the clan,” Nightpaw added, “He likes to hear them cry in pain, and views the whiskers as sign of his power and accomplishment.”
Ivypaw laughed at that one.
“It’s true,” Nightpaw huffed, “I have reliable sources.”
“Mmmhmmm,” I purred, which earned me a soft cuff around the ear.
“We are here!” Snowpaw called, “The border with FireClan! Be careful,” she warned us as we approach, “Remember that FireClan is still not on friendly terms with us.”
Listening to his waning, we kept a fair distance from the FireClan border, “You have to watch out when you come around here,” Rainpaw claimed, “It can get dangerous.”
Ivypaw nodded slowly but before she could reply she was cut off by a snarl coming from the other side of the border. I quickly whipped around to face the cats who had arrived, alongside the rest of the apprentices.
“FireClan,” Snowpaw hissed.
“What are you going to do about it?” the blood-red cat across from us asked, “You are just a group of pathetic apprentices and you are easily outnumbered.”
Looking up I realized, in horror, that they were correct. There were at least eight cats among them, each with unsheathed claws and bared fangs. All of them experienced and skilled warriors. We hardly stood a chance.
“We are on our side of the territory!” I squeaked, “You can’t attack us here!”
“Of course we can,” he pulled back his lips, “We outnumber you and we are stronger,” he paused for a moment and his eyes widened, “Aren't you that cat who got caught sneaking on our territory the other day?”
Feeling my face turn read I nodded a little sheepishly, as the warrior grinned, “I guess I will try for a variety,” he paused, “You two were too talkative and troublesome for my case.”
“Wait, what do you mean?” Nightpaw asked, “You aren't taking any of us!”
“Of course I am,” he sneered, “I have learned that apprentices have a high value in WaterClan and capturing another one of you is exactly what we need.”
I snarled at him, but he obviously realized there was no way I could attack a set of strong and fit warriors.
“I’ll take you,” he finally decided as he crossed over to the border and grabbed Ivypaw’s scruff in his jaws. Ivypaw appeared to struggle a bit but the warrior’s grasp was firm, and if she moved too much she could hurt herself.
“Leave her alone!” Rainpaw protested, “She didn’t do anything to you!”
“She is WaterClan,” he rolled his eyes, “And you can’t tell me what to do unless you would like to come with her. And you should now by now, young apprentice, how hospitable we are.”
Ivypaw’s eyes widened and I felt a stab of pity for the new apprentice. This was no way for her first day to go. My insides filled with guilt. We shouldn't have brought her to such a dangerous area!
But Ivypaw appeared calm as the FireClan warrior dragged her to their side of the territory as cautious but malicious steps followed each other while we watched in misery, wondering how we are going to fix the problem at hand.
“That should teach you not to cross the borders again,” he snarled, as he turned around and stalked off with his hostage, my heart sinking.
“But we weren't on your territory!” Nightpaw protested, “This is-“
“It will be our territory before you know it,” a wicked smile spread across his face, “So you better watch every step you take... because soon you may not have any steps left to take.”
Before Nightpaw could respond however, they were pounding away, leaving us all in anger, fear and guilt.
“Now what are we going to do?” Rainpaw looked nervously at the ground, “This is all my fault! We should have been more careful!”
“We could go after her,” Nightpaw suggested, but we all knew that was not a possibility unless we wanted to be cut into shreds by FireClan.
There was nothing left for us to do.
With a sigh of defeat we turned around and began to walk back to camp. None of us were worried about the reaction we would get from the clan or how we might be punished. We were too busy fearing for Ivypaw’s life, as we knew that FireClan was cruel and saw no limits to punishing a crime which had never been made.
I felt like I had let her down. After how hard I had tried to make her fit it, and feel comfortable, to enjoy the clan, I had let her slip into enemy claws. And now she was at their mercy.
I rolled over miserably. It was hard to sleep, knowing that Ivypaw probably was unable to. Looking over to my side Rainpaw, Nightpaw and Snowpaw were also wide awake. We exchanged a mutual glance before we all slowly pulled ourselves out of nest and creep out of the apprentice den.
We couldn't abandon Snowpaw, and wait for a few more days until the Clan decided to act. She could be injured, lost or even killed by then.
We were going to get her back if it was the last thing we did.
“It’s so smelly,” Nightpaw wrinkled her nose in disgust, “How do they stand this smell every single day?”
“They are FireClan,” Rainpaw huffed, “They probably live on this smell,” she let out a low sneeze which earned her a harsh look from all of us, “What?”
“Be quiet,” I hissed, “If we are caught on here we will only cause more trouble.”
“Is something wrong Snowpaw,” I turned to the pure white she-cat, who looks ready to fall asleep on her paws, just like the rest of us.
She shrugged, “I didn’t say anything.”
I turned around looking at the other cats but they all shrugged too, and the panic in my chest began to grow until I heard to voice again, “Is that you Rainpaw?”
“Ivypaw?” Rainpaw turned around and the pale she-cat stepped out from beneath a bush, “What are you doing here? I thought they were holding you captive.”
“They were,” she claimed, “But I escaped,” Tilting her head to the side, she asked, “The question is what are you doing here?”
“We came here to find you,” Nightpaw claimed, “And to save you from FireClan.” We nod along with her and Ivypaw’s eyes widen in surprise.
“You came all the way here, risking so much to save me?” she asked, “I have just met you and you already risk your freedom for me?”
“You are a part of the Clan,” Snowpaw claimed, “And a Clan is like a family. That makes you our family.”
Ivypaw’s eyes softened as they slowly warm. But before we could say anything else we were cut in half by the pounding of angry paws.
We didn’t need to be told to turn around and run. Snowpaw took the lead while Nightpaw covered the back and we dashed for the border, as the sounds behind us grew heavier and heavier, louder and louder.
But our advantage was enough to take us across the border. We had learned though, that FireClan didn'tt pay too much attention to borders so we continued to run even after that until we were sure we have reached safety deep in the heart of WaterClan territory.
Once the noises behind us had died out, all we could hear for a moment was our panting followed by laughter of relief, Ivypaw joining in, a happy and warm smile on her face, which warmed mine too.
She was one of us now. An apprentice of WaterClan, who had shared an adventure and had yet to share many more with us. She was welcome among us, and we were finally able to make her feel home around us.
She was a part of our family now.