|The Evil Rising Saga|
|Preceded by: |
The Rise of Evil 2: Three
|The Rise of Evil 2: Four||Succeded by: |
The Rise of Evil 2: Five
Ashpaw - Pure black she-cat with grey eyes, a member of WonderClan.
Foxpaw - Dark red tom with bushy tail and amber eyes, a member of WonderClan.
Dustpaw - Long-haired brown she-cat with pretty amber eyes, a member of GorgonClan.
Cloverpaw - Dark brown-and-white she-cat with amber eyes, a member of MoonClan.
Dewpaw - Light creamy-brown tom with a white tail-tip, paws and underbelly and amber eyes, a member of MoonClan.
Bramblepaw - Brown tabby she-cat with one white paw and sparkling green eyes, a member of AshClan.
Forestpaw - Grey tom with a tuft of fur on his head and bright green eyes, a member of ThunderClan.
Smokepaw - Grey she-cat with short fur and a slender body, a member of ShadowClan.
Birdpaw - Black she-cat with one white paw and ice-blue eyes, a member of ShadowClan.
Mistpaw - Grey she-cat with friendly yellow eyes, a member of WindClan.
Wetpaw - Dark grey she-cat with one white paw and tinted yellow eyes, a member of WindClan.
Leopardpaw - Golden tabby she-cat with amber eyes, a member of RiverClan.
Cats Outside of Clans
Emerald - Black she-cat with bright green eyes.
Scout - Orange-and-black tabby tom with amber eyes.
Toggy - Pale brown tom with brown eyes.
Spots - Spotted yellow-and-brown she-cat with bright amber eyes.
Swift - Grey tom with dark eyes.
Snowflake - White-and-black she-cat with pale blue eyes.
"Nettlefang," someone called. The brown she-cat turned around, her long fur fluffed out.
"Oh, it's you," she muttered. "What do you want?"
"Don't be angry," the tom pleaded. "I know we haven't spoken to each other for a while, but...."
Nettlefang cut him off. "But nothing, Oatstar. I have things to do, and none of them seem to involve a backstabbing traitor!"
Oatstar opened his mouth, but Nettlefang shot him a furious glare, and he closed it again. Suddenly, he took a deep breath and jumped right in. "There's a new prophecy."
"What?" Nettlafang asked, staring at him. "Why did no one tell me?" Her voice rose to a shriek.
"Um... so... I've been spending a lot of time with the kits lately," he said, quickly changing the subject. "I really think I'm starting to grow on them! Especially Cloudkit, since...."
Nettlefang swiped at him with a forepaw. "Don't make this miserable experience any longer than it has to be," she snarled. "Just tell me the prophecy and leave me alone."
"I don't... actually know the exact wording," Oatstar said awkwardly. "Shrewkit was the one who..."
Nettlefang barged past him, hurrying out of the clearing. She knew where to find the younger she-cat.
Arriving in front of a partially see-through cave shimmering with starlight, Nettlefang was surprised to see her former mate still following her. "Get lost, already," she told him, and entered the cave.
Shrewkit was sitting, perfectly still, in the centre of the cave. A hole in the roof sent a shaft of sunlight beaming straight down onto her, making her dark brown fur shimmer with hidden highlights.
Nettlefang dipped her head with respect, although she was complaining inwardly. It was bad enough that her betrayer was in StarClan with her, without the most important prophecy cat being his daughter with his second mate. It felt like StarClan was a place of eternal punishment, not peace.
"Shrewkit, I was informed there was a prophecy," Nettlefang began.
"There is," Shrewkit agreed, her tones light and ethereal. Nettlefang rolled her eyes.
"Will you tell it to me?"
Nettlefang waited. And waited.
"Will you tell it to me... now?"
"Darkness is rising in the hearts of the Clans below. Sometimes a leader's choice may not lead to prosperity for their Clan. A cat is looming on the horizon. She will hold great power, and the world will change around her. Her kin will shape the future of the Clans, and decide whether they will live, or perish in a river of blood."
Nettlefang paused, but when it seemed like no more was forthcoming, she dipped her head again and backed out of the cave. Oatstar was waiting outside.
"Well?" he asked anxiously.
"We don't have much to worry about... yet," Nettlefang told him. "The prophecy refers to a cat who has not yet earned her warrior name. There is still time for the future to change."
"But if the journeying cats succeed...," Oatstar murmured, fear in his tone.
"If the journeying cats survive, and return, then yes, the prophecy will come to pass," Nettlefang agreed. "If they die on the journey, then the chosen one will never rise to power."
"But the journeying cats have a destiny of their own," Oatstar declared.
Nettlefang nodded. "Then we'll just have to hope that they have the courage and skill to face not only their own destinies, but the destiny of their Clans."
Oatweave sighed. "I really am sorry, you know..."
Nettlefang turned on her heel, and raced back to the sacred pool. Her vigil over the journeying cats was now more important than ever before.
"You never told me, you know," Ashpaw pointed out. "I asked you, but then we had to run away from that eagle, and then we were helping Forestpaw and Dewpaw catch a mouse, and you never told me."
"Fine," Leopardpaw sighed. She shifted uncomfortably in her nest. The snow seemed to get everywhere. Ashpaw couldn't count the number of times she had woken up with snow filling her ears. It felt like everytime someone shook their head you were all splattered with snow.
"It was just before we met you guys," Leopardpaw explained. "We were walking, just like usual, when suddenly, out of nowhere..." She stopped, looking at Ashpaw, who was watching with wide eyes and baited breath. "There was this clump of grass, and I tripped over it," Leopardpaw finished. "I landed on my shoulder, and there was a pretty sharp stone underneath me. That's it."
"That's it? That's how you injured yourself?"
"Yep," Leopardpaw nodded.
"But we've all been helping you limp around without complaining because we thought you must have done something really brave to get a cut that big!"
"Actually, that's not true," Leopardpaw pointed out. "Birdpaw and Smokepaw complain every time it's their turn. So does Dustpaw, for that matter."
"Yeah, but... those three complain about everything."
"If you two are awake, then we're ready to leave!" Wetpaw announced in a fake cheerful voice, her head appearing out of a snowdrift. "Seeing as none of the rest of us can get any rest with all the chatter going on."
"We should probably get going anyway," Bramblepaw decided, crawling out from under a bush. "Forestpaw?"
There was no answer, and Ashpaw leapt to her feet, her heart racing. "Forestpaw!"
"Where is he?"
"Forestpaw, you lazy tom, get out here now!"
Nothing happened, and they were just starting to get really worried when a sleep grey head appeared above the snow.
"Did someone call me?" Forestpaw asked, yawning. The tuft of fur on his head was sticking up again, and his eyes were heavy with sleep.
"Yes, we did, you deaf elder," Wetpaw snorted. "I bet you couldn't hear us because you were snoring so loudly."
"What did you say?" Forestpaw asked, looking confused. He shook his head vigorously, and clumps of half-melted snow flew out of each ear. One landed on Ashpaw's flank, and she wiped it off, disgusted.
"Oh, that's better," the ThunderClan apprentice announced. "I can hear now."
Bramblepaw gave an exasperated sigh, and started digging around in the nearby snow. "We should wake the others and get moving."
"How could anyone sleep through all that racket?" Dustpaw asked grumpily, appearing from behind a large rock with Foxpaw at her side.
"I concurr," Smokepaw nodded, as she and Birdpaw slunk towards the group, their fur pale with snow.
"Come on, then, you lot," Forestpaw announced in his special early morning voice. "We have a long way to go today, and it looks like more snow!"
"He doesn't have to sound so happy about it," Leopardpaw whispered in Ashpaw's ear, as the shorter she-cat helped her struggle to her feet. "That's the voice I'd expect from someone announcing the birth of a litter of kits, not the daily weather, which, by the way, is always the same."
"Snow, snow, and more snow," Ashpaw agreed.
Dustpaw threw a glance over her shoulder. Her friends were struggling through the snow behind her, trying to stay close together, their eyes slitted against the wind. Dustpaw and Foxpaw were taking their turn in front of the group, blocking most of the icy wind and sleet.
"The path forks!" Foxpaw yelled above the wind. "We need to stop!"
Dustpaw flicked her tail, signalling the cats behind. She knew at least one of them would be looking, and, sure enough, Mistpaw called out, alerting the others. All twelve cats bundled sideways, into the shelter of the rockface.
"What's the problem?" Ashpaw asked, weaving her way to the front of the group and flicking snow off her fur.
"The path ahead of us forks," Foxpaw explained. "It's not clear which one leads to the top of the mountain."
Forestpaw and Bramblepaw hurried to Ashpaw's side, and the three of them went into a hurried conversation. Dustpaw waited, her ear twisting anxiously. Foxpaw flicked his tail over her side, but it didn't comfort her like it usually did.
"There's no way we can try both paths," Ashpaw mewed at last, turning back to the rest of the cats. "If we choose the wrong one, we won't have the strength to go back down and try again."
"You sound like you could use some help," someone called from the back of the overhang.
The crowd of apprentices parted, and six tiny kits strode through, stopping at Ashpaw's feet.
"We know these mountains pretty well," a black she-cat meowed confidently. "If you tell us what you need, we can help you."
Ashpaw, Bramblepaw and Forestpaw exchanged a glance, then Ashpaw spoke.
"Our warrior ancestors sent us to the top of the mountain."
"But you don't know which path to take," the kit guessed. Ashpaw nodded.
The kits hesitated for a while, and then the black one spoke again. "Both paths lead to high points. Do you know which mountain you need to climb?"
Forestpaw shook his head. "No. That wasn't told to us."
The kit shrugged. "Then I guess we can't help you," she said nonchalantly.
"Wait!" Bramblepaw exclaimed. She turned and whispered something to Forestpaw, who nodded. "Our group will split up. We'll take both paths."
Dustpaw opened her mouth in shock, and dimly felt Foxpaw shifting closer to her, as if he thought they might be split up.
"Alright," the kit agreed. "We'll wait while you decide who goes in which group."
Dustpaw stood still while the other cats discussed it. Suddenly, Foxpaw spoke up. "I'll go with Ashpaw and Dustpaw," he said quickly. Dustpaw held her breath, hoping that the others would agree.
"Sure, and Leopardpaw, Smokepaw and Birdpaw will come with us," Ashpaw agreed.
"Then that leaves me, Forestpaw, Cloverpaw, Dewpaw, Mistpaw and Wetpaw," Bramblepaw added.
"That's decided then," Dewpaw nodded. "I'll go tell the kits."
He wasn't gone long before three of the kits came back towards the main group.
"We'll take your group," the black one told Ashpaw. "We'll leave now."
Ashpaw dipped her head in agreement, and Dustpaw followed her group out from under the overhang. Foxpaw pressed close against her side, and she was grateful for his bulk and warmth. Her paws felt like they were about to fall off, and she couldn't believe that the kits managed out here. They were jumping from one clump of snow to the next, always moving, never pausing for more than a second.
"Where do you think their parents are?" Ashpaw whispered.
Dustpaw shrugged. "What kind of Clan would let their kits out here on their own anyway?"
"A very strange one," Foxpaw muttered. "I hope we're not walking into a trap."
"I'm Cloverpaw," Cloverpaw offered. "Now will you tell me your names?"
"I suppose it won't hurt," the tawny tom said cautiously. "I am Toggy, and this is Swift and Snowflake."
"I'm Dewpaw," Dewpaw said pleasantly. "What Clan are you all from?"
"Clan?" Toggy asked, wrinkling his nose at the unfamiliar word.
"Do you live here with your mother and father?" Cloverpaw asked.
Toggy shook his head. "No. We were all left here by our Housefolk. Emerald and Scout were left first, they're littermates. Then me, then Swift, then Snowflake, and Spots was only left here a couple of moons ago."
"You mean the Twolegs sent you to live in the snow?" Dewpaw asked, aghast. "How have you survived?"
"Emerald's good at hunting, and she's teaching us all," Toggy said. "But we haven't caught any food for a long time, and Scout's sick."
"Was he the little tom who went with the other group?" Mistpaw asked, joining the conversation.
"Yes," said Toggy.
"If he's sick, he shouldn't be walking around," Cloverpaw said anxiously.
"Emerald's looking after him," Toggy said stubbornly.
"Hey! Cloverpaw!" Bramblepaw yowled. "Stop!"
Cloverpaw stopped walking, as did Dewpaw, Mistpaw and Toggy.
"Forestpaw and I reckon now's a good time to do some hunting before resting a while," Bramblepaw panted, running to meet them. "Can you see any prey?"
Cloverpaw glanced around, tasting the air. "Mouse?" she said hopefully.
Dewpaw nodded. "I can smell them too," he purred. "Let's hunt."
Mistpaw dropped into a crouch, creeping towards the closest bush. Every step was slow, and careful, and she barely made a sound. Suddenly, she leapt forward with a crunch of snow. There was a squeak of fear, and a small grey blur shot out of the bush, running straight into Wetpaw. She pounced, catching it easily, and stood up with the tiny body dangling from her jaws.
"Wow," Toggy breathed. "That was great!"
"Thanks," Wetpaw purred. She laid the mouse in front of the three kits. "Here. You guys can eat first."
The kits didn't wait for more encouragement, all three crouching down and digging in. Cloverpaw winced, watching them. They looked ravenous, and she could see their ribs through their patchy pelts.
"How long do you think they've been out here?" she murmured to Dewpaw.
He shrugged, watching the tiny cats with sadness in his eyes. "Who knows."
Forestpaw padded up with a second mouse which he dropped at Cloverpaw's feet. "You wanna share?" he asked.
Cloverpaw nodded. "Thanks!" She crouched down to take first bite, then nudged the mouse over to Forestpaw with her nose.
"I'll go help the others hunt," Dewpaw decided. "Keep an eye on her, Forestpaw."
"Will do," the grey tom mumbled with his mouth full. "Catch plenty."
Bramblepaw zigzagged across the snow, feeling it crunch under her paws. They were so near to the top, and the wind was growing harsher and harsher. Zigzagging helped because it meant that she was moving more, and staying warmer. The others were following in single file behind her, keeping to her pawprints. It was almost time to swap, and let someone else take the lead, while she would head back to the rear guard.
There was a loud meow from somewhere behind her, and Bramblepaw ducked to the ground, flattening her belly against the snow and keeping still. A huge eagle soared overhead, its wings tilted slightly to catch the wind. It called out, the screech echoing around the mountains, then turned and let the air carry it away.
"That was a close one," Wetpaw yowled from her place behind Bramblepaw.
"Too close," Bramblepaw agreed, the wind whipping her words from her and flinging them into the air.
There was a tap on her shoulder, and she turned around to see Wetpaw jerking her head at her. "Swap!"
Relieved, Bramblepaw stood still, letting the line pass her, then fell into step behind Mistpaw.
"Thanks for the eagle warning before," she yelled.
"Welcome," Mistpaw cried back, her meow thin and quiet.
The three kits were struggling just in front of Bramblepaw now, and she kept a close eye on them. Occasionally Snowflake would slip beneath the snow, but the toms would quickly pull her to her paws again. Bramblepaw tried to help as much as she could, pulling the kits out every time they floundered under, and once carrying Snowflake, the smallest, over a drift.
"Thank you," the tiny she-cat piped up, and Bramblepaw dipped her head, pleased that the tough little kits had finally allowed her to help them. Toggy had relaxed a little after the initial hostility and wariness, although still taking his leadership role seriously.