|The Evil Rising Saga|
|Preceded by: |
The Rise of Evil 2: Two
|The Rise of Evil 2: Three||Succeded by: |
The Rise of Evil 2: Four
Leader: Sunstar - Pale ginger she-cat with light blue eyes.
Deputy: Flashmark - Pale golden-brown she-cat with large blue-green eyes.
Medicine Cat: Leafshadow - Dark brown tabby she-cat with amber eyes.
Thornclaw - Dark brown tabby tom with pale blue eyes.
Mistysun - Grey she-cat with friendly yellow eyes.
Tanglewhisker - Dark brown-and-white tabby tom with pale yellow eyes.
Whitepelt - Large white tom with pale blue eyes.
Dapplefur - Brown-and-white she-cat with dark amber eyes.
Oliveleaf - Dark tabby she-cat with deep green eyes.
Larkpelt - Black tom with pale blue eyes.
Sagepaw - Pale tabby she-cat with deep green eyes.
Petalpaw - Pale red tabby she-cat with dark amber eyes.
Foxpaw - Dark red tom with bushy tail and amber eyes.
Honeypaw - Pretty golden she-cat with pale blue eyes.
Ashpaw - Pure black she-cat with grey eyes.
Duskpaw - Handsome black tom with vivid green eyes.
Sandwhisker - Pale ginger she-cat with light amber eyes, mother of Whitepelt's kits.
Snowkit - White she-cat with a sandy-coloured front paw.
Stormkit - Dark grey tom with sandy-coloured splotches.
Lightkit - White she-cat with pale yellow eyes.
Palemist - White-and-grey tabby she-cat with blue eyes.
Spottedpelt - Spotted brown-and-black tom with amber eyes.
Leader: Talonstar - Dark brown tabby tom with amber eyes.
Deputy: Nightflash - Jet-black tom with grey patches and sea-blue eyes.
Medicine Cat: Skyflight - White she-cat with light blue eyes.
Duststreak - Rusty golden-brown she-cat with blue eyes.
Vinecloud - Light brown tabby she-cat with dark green eyes.
Darkbranch - White-and-brown tom with green eyes.
Swallowtail - Dark brown tom with a white-tipped tail and amber eyes.
Feathersky - Bright silver tabby she-cat with light blue-grey eyes and darker paws.
Raggedpelt - Huge dark brown tom with yellow eyes.
Moongaze - Grey she-cat with white underbelly, a black stripe along her back, and bright blue eyes.
Silvertoes - Pale grey tom with amber eyes.
Birdpaw - Dark grey, almost black tom with green eyes.
Wildpaw - Calico she-cat with amber eyes.
Littlepaw - Attractive small, skinny white she-cat with flowing fur, a strikingly pink nose, and deep blue eyes.
Dustpaw - Long-haired brown she-cat with pretty amber eyes.
Redpaw - Dark ginger tom with deep amber eyes.
Birchheart - Tortoiseshell she-cat with dark green eyes and a fluffy tail, mother of Silvertoes's kits.
Deerkit - Pretty brown she-cat with a dappled pelt and amber eyes.
Wolfkit - Small tom with a light grey pelt and blue eyes.
Crowkit - Black tom with blue eyes.
Tumblefoot - Dark brown tabby tom.
Duckleap - Pale ginger she-cat.
Cavelight - White-and-grey tom with amber eyes.
Leader: Maplestar - Orange tabby she-cat with dark amber eyes.
Deputy: Waterwing - Blue-grey she-cat with light blue eyes.
Medicine Cat: Silverpad - Silver tabby she-cat with ice-blue eyes.
Sunheart - Yellow-brown tom with blue eyes.
Hawkclaw - Black-and-white tom with green eyes.
Tigerfur - Black-and-orange striped tabby tom with dark amber eyes.
Lilyfur - Silver she-cat with vivid green eyes.
Birdflight - Grey tom with brown paws, a white muzzle, and yellow eyes.
Waveheart - Dark grey tom with blue eyes.
Pebbleheart - Pale grey she-cat with blue eyes.
Bluetalon - Dark blue-grey she-cat with pale amber eyes.
Autumnfall - Orange-brown she-cat with pale blue eyes.
Riverpaw - Blue-grey tabby tom with blue eyes.
Darkpaw - Dark grey tom with ocean-blue eyes.
Dewpaw - Light creamy-brown tom with a white tail-tip, paws and underbelly and amber eyes.
Cloverpaw - Dark brown-and-white she-cat with amber eyes.
Streampelt - Sleek silver she-cat with light blue eyes, mother of Tigerfur's kits.
Owlkit - Large light-brown tom with dark brown paws.
Wadefoot - Pale grey tabby tom.
Fireblaze - Dark ginger tom with amber eyes and a fluffy tail.
Leader: Beestar - Black-and-grey tabby tom with pale yellow eyes.
Deputy: Cricketclaw - Brown tabby tom with green eyes.
Medicine Cat: Streamheart - Light grey tom with yellow eyes.
Blacktail - Black-and-white she-cat with amber eyes.
Gorseclaw - Brown tabby tom with green eyes and a white muzzle.
Pinemist - Grey tom with green eyes.
Finchpelt - Sleek, small ginger tom with light tabby stripes.
Brightclaw - White she-cat with brown patches.
Mousepelt - Dusky grey tom with blue eyes.
Smoketalon - Sleek grey tabby tom with black paws, a white chest and muzzle and brown eyes.
Pearlwish - Cream she-cat with blue eyes.
Bramblepaw - Brown tabby she-cat with one white paw and sparkling green eyes.
Nightpaw - Charcoal grey she-cat with green eyes.
Badgerpaw - Black-and-white tom with long fur and blue eyes.
Lilypaw - White she-cat with beautiful blue-green eyes.
Marshpaw - Small brown tabby tom.
Foxcloud - Light ginger she-cat with white belly and tail-tip, going to have Beestar's kits.
Snowtree - White-and-grey tabby she-cat with light amber eyes.
Swiftclaw - Grumpy brown tabby tom with amber eyes.
"This is... ridiculous." Forestpaw rolled his eyes.
"Oh come on, guys, it's only a little stream," Leopardpaw promised. She was already waiting on the other side, water dripping off her fur and pooling by her feet.
"You call that a little stream?" Mistpaw asked, her yellow eyes wide. "It's a lake, for StarClan's sake."
Wetpaw padded forwards cautiously, touched the edge of the water with one paw and leapt back with a squeak.
"Well we're not scared, are we Birdpaw?" Smokepaw said loftily. "ShadowClan don't mind getting their paws wet."
"Oh, let's not start again," Forestpaw sighed. "Leopardpaw, did you have to swim at all?"
Leopardpaw shook her head. "Nope. Wading all the way."
"Alright then," Forestpaw said decisively. As the only tom in the group, as well as the oldest apprentice, he had become the natural leader, although that didn't mean the others always listened to him. "Let's go."
Carefully, Smokepaw stepped out into the water, followed, after a moments hesitation, by Birdpaw. The freezing water swirled around their fur, and Birdpaw shivered. "It's cold!" she complained.
"At least it's not leaf-bare any more," Smokepaw muttered. "I don't think I've ever been so happy to see melting snow in my life!"
Forestpaw hurried along the bank until he was standing beside Mistpaw. As the shortest apprentice, her smaller legs might have difficulty reaching the bottom of the stream, and the two WindClan cats were the least used to water.
"Come on, then," Wetpaw decided, and she stepped into the water ahead of Mistpaw and Forestpaw.
Forestpaw jerked his head in the direction of the water. "It won't get any warmer," he said softly, and Mistpaw nodded, gazingup at him.
"I know," she agreed, and the two cats splashed through their first few steps.
Forestpaw felt the water soaking into his belly-fur, and couldn't hold back an involuntary shudder. Birdpaw was right, the stream was cold, and the water felt like ice, parting his fur and freezing his skin. But it wasn't too large, and before long, he felt rough pebbles under his paws, and then he was clambering out onto the bank, shaking his water-logged pelt and shivering.
"See?" Leopardpaw mewed, bouncing around the shaking cats. "I told you it wasn't so hard!"
"Let's keep going, quickly," Forestpaw suggested, his teeth chattering.
"You don't have to ask me twice," Smokepaw muttered.
As the six cats trooped away from the mountain stream, and deeper into the grasslands, they glanced up, at the horizon ahead of them, where sharp, jagged peaks were outlined against the sky.
"Great," Birdpaw snorted. "More mountains."
Ashpaw struggled to keep her footing on the stepping stones, but they were slippery and wet, and she was starting to fall. Digging her claws into the moss, she glanced up for a minute, peering at the island. She could see the cats of AshClan already there - this moon, a fallen tree had been swept down the river and lodged between the Gathering place and AshClan's territory, which meant that they weren't having to cross using the stepping stones in MoonClan's territory.
GorgonClan were also crossing on AshClan's side, so just MoonClan and WonderClan were using the stepping stones this time.
"Hurry, Ashpaw, before my paws fall off waiting for you," Foxpaw snapped from beside her. Ashpaw hissed. She didn't know what had gotten into him lately. Her brother was always grumpy nowadays. Ashpaw almost envied Honeypaw and Petalpaw, tucked up in their nests back at camp without having to worry about secret meetings, slippery stones and a cranky brother.
"Keep your fur on, Foxpaw," she muttered, leaping to the next stone. Suddenly, swimming near her, she caught sight of a familiar head. "Cloverpaw?" she murmured.
The swimming she-cat's ears flicked, then she hauled herself onto the bank and shook her fur, at the same time beckoning Ashpaw with her tail.
Quickly, Ashpaw bounded over the last two stones, aware of Foxpaw brushing her tail every step of the way.
Why's he in such a hurry?
Finally reaching solid ground, she stood still for a minute, letting the mingled scents of the four Clans wash over her. Foxpaw darted away, brushing rudely past her without another word, but Ashpaw pushed all thoughts of her brother's odd behaviour to the back of her mind and concentrated on finding her friends.
She could still scent Cloverpaw near the bushes where she had been crouching a moment ago, so she followed the trail carefully, weaving around huge, boasting warriors from all four Clans, and huddled, chatting elders. For a moment she thought she caught Dustpaw's scent trail, heading in another direction, but she dissmissed it, and hurried after Cloverpaw.
At last, she found the sheltered copse of bushes, and she could hear muffled whispering behind them. Slipping through a tiny, narrow gap, she nearly ran headfirst into Bramblepaw.
The she-cat turned and hissed furiously, before relaxing when she recognised the other apprentice.
"Sorry, Ashpaw. I guess I'm just a bit on edge."
"Yeah, so's everyone," Ashpaw agreed, thoughts of Foxpaw again floating to the surface of her mind. "Why the sudden meeting?"
"I had a dream..." Bramblepaw began, then stopped, and looked around. "I don't want to start until everyone's here. Where's Dustpaw?"
"I haven't seen her," Cloverpaw shrugged.
"I thought I scented her earlier," Ashpaw said thoughtfully. "but I haven't seen anything since."
"Maybe she wasn't allowed to come to this Gathering?" Cloverpaw suggested.
Bramblepaw tipped her head. "I suppose," she meowed at last. "Cloverpaw, you or I will have to pass the message on if we see her at our borders."
"Ok," Cloverpaw promised solemnly. "Now, about that dream...?"
"Right," Bramblepaw nodded. "So, I had a dream from StarClan, and a cat called Nettlefang came and spoke to me."
"Nettlefang? Who's Nettlefang?" Cloverpaw asked curiously, her gaze shifting from Bramblepaw to Ashpaw and back.
"Sssh!" Bramblepaw said sternly. "I don't know, ok? She said she was related to me, and," she added, forestalling another interruption from Cloverpaw, "she said that I had to go on a long journey, all the way to the mountains."
"Do we come too?" Ashpaw asked. Bramblepaw shrugged.
"Nettlefang said that was up to me, so I guess that means it's up to you. We'll have to sneak away from our Clans though, and we can't tell any cat where we are going, alright?"
Ashpaw raised her head to look up at the sharp mountain peaks in the distance, glowing in the light of the full moon. "Alright," she said eventually, and Cloverpaw also murmured her assent.
There was a yowl from the main clearing, and the three apprentices exchanged glances, then hurried out of the bushes and towards where the leaders were gathering, perched on the dead tree.
With a glance at the other leaders, Talonstar stepped forward to speak first. Ashpaw settled into place beside Thornclaw, her father, and listened attentively.
"GorgonClan still has plenty of prey, and with the end of leaf-bare, all the streams are running again, which means more water for our queens and elders."
There was a happy murmur from the assembled cats. All four Clans had suffered when the streams froze over, and Ashpaw was as glad as anyone else that they were running again.
"Cavelight, our medicine cat, has retired early due to his bad eyesight, which has been getting steadily worse over the last few moons. Skyflight will be taking his place as GorgonClan's medicine cat."
There were calls of congratulations, and Ashpaw craned her neck to see Skyflight, a pretty white she-cat, looking proud and embarrassed. Sitting next to her, purring and with her head and tail held high, was Dustpaw.
Why didn't she come to meet with us? Ashpaw frowned, suspicion clouding her thoughts, but then shook it off. Maybe she just couldn't find us, or something. It doesn't mean she was trying to avoid us.
Talonstar stepped backwards, and Ashpaw realised she had missed his last few words. She tried to force her attention back to the leaders as Maplestar took front and centre.
"MoonClan too has been suffering from lack of water, and we are glad the streams are running again. Prey is scarce in our territory, but our warriors are putting all their skills to good use, and we are catching what we need."
Ashpaw frowned. She wasn't so sure about that. Now that she came to think about it, Cloverpaw had looked skinnier than usual. But if her Clan was suffering, clearly Maplestar wouldn't say so.
"A large badger invaded our territory, but was driven out by Sunheart, Tigerfur, and their apprentices, Darkpaw and Dewpaw."
Ashpaw glanced over at Cloverpaw, to see the she-cat raise her head proudly, eyes gleaming at her brother's praise.
"The badger headed higher into MoonClan territory, going parallel with the WonderClan border. Other than that, MoonClan have nothing to report."
Ashpaw reminded herself to keep a lookout for the badger. The stream became narrower further up, and the black-and-white animal could easily have decided WonderClan territory was a better home. She could see Sunstar was thinking the same as the ginger she-cat stepped forward.
"WonderClan has little to report. Prey is plentiful in the forest, and we are eating well."
That was true, Ashpaw reflected. Just the other day, Petalpaw had caught the biggest rabbit any of them had ever seen. Everyone was proud of her still, saying what a great hunter she was shaping up to be. Ashpaw purred at the memory.
"WonderClan has also seen fit to take a rogue cat into our Clan."
There were yowls of outrage, and Ashpaw found herself crouching low to the ground, holding her breath in fear. Dusky had become a good friend, and she didn't want the other Clans to hate him. Thornclaw licked the top of her head soothingly.
"Dusky is learning the ways of the warrior code, and will soon have his naming ceremony and become a true apprentice of our Clan," Sunstar continued, raising her voice above the cries. She stepped backwards, and gestured with her head for Beestar to speak.
"AshClan has made two new warriors this moon. Mousepelt and Smoketalon both sat vigil last night, and are sleeping it off in camp tonight."
That got a laugh, and Ashpaw began to hope that people had forgotten about Dusky.
"We also have two new apprentices. Marshpaw and Lilypaw are here tonight."
Ashpaw stretched and looked around, as did everyone else. Marshpaw, a small brown tabby tom, was crouched beside a black-and-white she-cat who Ashpaw vaguely recognised from previous Gatherings, and Lilypaw, a pretty she-cat, was sitting up beside the medicine cats, her white fur gleaming.
"Lilypaw has chosen a special place within our Clan," Beestar continued, echoing Ashpaw's own theories. "She is apprentice to Streamheart, and will be AshClan's next medicine cat."
As the Gathering broke up, Ashpaw hurried towards where she had last seen Dustpaw, but the long-haired she-cat was gone, as if she had vanished. Ashpaw sighed, disappointed, and hoped Cloverpaw or Bramblepaw would be able to catch her and tell her about the dream.
There was a startled squeak, and Ashpaw realised that she was looming over Lilypaw, the new apprentice gazing up at her with eyes stretched wide. For the first time, Ashpaw realised how big she must seem now, and remembered her own first Gathering.
"Hey. It's... Lilypaw, right?"
Lilypaw nodded mutely, and Ashpaw purred. "Congratulations! I hope your training goes well."
"Th - Thanks," Lilypaw managed to mutter, then slunk away, her ears red with embarrassment.
Ashpaw also headed away, and ran back to the stepping stones. Bramblepaw's dream was like a burr of worry, firmly stuck in her mind, and no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't remove it. She would have to make a descision sooner or later, but for now, she just wanted to make it over the stepping stones in one piece.
There was yowling, and wailing, and Mother was no longer there, and neither was Snowkit, and everything was bloody, and dirty, and suddenly the cave was gone, and the sun shone, and eyes hurt, and there was fur, and teeth, and the ground far below and movement, and darkness, and leaves, and then there was Daisykit, and more wailing, and snarling, and a snap, and a branch rushing closer and closer...
Dustpaw jerked awake, panting. Birdpaw was leaning over her, Wildpaw just behind him.
"You coming? It's our last time hunting as apprentices, so we want to make it good."
Dustpaw nodded, and scrambled to her feet, shaking scraps of moss off her pelt and smoothing her ruffled chest fur with a few quick licks, trying to slow her racing heart.
"Are you alright?" Wildpaw murmured sympathetically. "You were crying out in your sleep. It sounded like you were dreaming."
"I was," Dustpaw confessed. "I don't know what about, but I didn't like it."
Wildpaw swiped her tongue over the younger cat's ear. "Don't worry so much! Come on, we'll just hunt. It's all apprentices together, and no warriors either. Talonstar gave permission, so we'd better enjoy it while it lasts!"
Dustpaw purred, knowing Wildpaw's thoughts about her bossy mentor, Darkbranch. The two she-cats hurried to catch up to Birdpaw, Redpaw and Littlepaw, who were already at the tunnel out of the camp.
"Where are we going?" Redpaw was asking as they caught up.
"I thought we'd hunt in the bend of the stream by the MoonClan border," Birdpaw answered.
Wildpaw nodded. "There's plenty of food for prey over there, which means plenty of prey for us."
"I think we should hunt in the grasslands at the other side of camp," Littlepaw sniffed.
"That might be a good idea," Birdpaw answered instantly. Dustpaw and Wildpaw rolled their eyes at each other.
"Let's just stick to our original plan," Wildpaw decided. Her brother nodded reluctantly.
Just as they headed through the tunnel, there was a meow from behind them.
"Wait!" They turned to see Skyflight racing towards them. "Hold on. Can I come? I need some of the herbs that grow by the MoonClan border. Deerkit's got a bad cough, and the herbs we need ran out during the winter illness."
"Yeah, sure," Wildpaw agreed, purring. "The more the merrier. Besides, Deerkit must hate being sick."
Dustpaw purred, thinking of the lively little she-cat. Deerkit and her brothers, Crowkit and Wolfkit, were always getting into trouble. They were four moons old, and no cat in the Clan could wait until they were apprenticed, although there was a long-running joke that Talonstar was prepared to make cats mentor them as punishments.
They hurried out of camp, and ran towards their hunting place, Dustpaw soon drawing ahead of the others. Carefully, she swerved over a fallen tree-trunk, and bounded into a clearing, stopping dead before anything heard the noise she was making. The others arrived behind her, and Skyflight headed off to collect the herbs which grew by the stream, muttering softly to herself; "Chickweed, juniper, feverfew."
Dustpaw winced. Chickweed was often used as a substitue for catmint, and she hoped that little Deerkit wasn't seriously ill. Shaking off her fear, she followed the other apprentices deeper into the trees. Opening her jaws and pricking her ears, it wasn't long before she scented mouse in a nearby bush. Crouching down, Dustpaw crept forward another few steps, before pouncing.
She stood up with the mouse between her teeth, and continued to hunt. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Birdpaw leap on a starling, killing the bird before it could call out and alert the rest of the prey. It was an impressive catch, and Dustpaw tried to be amazed, even if deep inside her she couldn't help comparing Birdpaw's skinny legs with other, muscular ones, and matching his scruffy dark grey pelt with a sleek, dark red one, and...
Dustpaw stopped dead, and shook her head vigorously, just in case her traitorous thoughts would fly out her ear and leve her alone. Birdpaw was staring at her curiously, but he shrugged when she stopped, and started digging a hole for the mouse and starling.
She headed closer to the border, the rushing sounds the stream made as it splashed over the stones drowning out her own fats breathing, and her pawsteps on the loose pineneedles. Carefully, she inched closer and closer to a rabbit sitting up and washing its whiskers. Her eyes narrowed, and she readied herself to pounce.
The voice came out of nowhere, and Dustpaw gave a hiss of annoyance. The rabbit sat bolt upright and gazed around, then darted away, its white tail flashing in the grass. Furious, Dustpaw spun around, back towards the stream, and saw Cloverpaw watching her from the other side.
"Cloverpaw!" Dustpaw said. She sounded shocked.
"You weren't allowed to come to the Gathering I suppose," Cloverpaw sighed.
"I - I - No, I wasn't."
Cloverpaw narrowed amber eyes. It felt like Dustpaw was lying to her, and she wanted to know why. "Ok, well, Bramblepaw wanted to tell us about this dream she had." Quickly, Cloverpaw poured out the story of everything Bramblepaw had said, keeping it as short as possible, because Dustpaw was shifting restlessly and Cloverpaw guessed that there were other members of GorgonClan nearby.
"Wow, that's scary," Dustpaw meowed at last. "What are you going to do?"
Cloverpaw shrugged. "I'm still thinking it over. It's hard, not being able to talk to anyone."
Dustpaw shrugged too. "Yeah, I guess," she said distantly. "Ok, well, listen, I have to go. I'm sure I'll be allowed to come to the next Gathering, since two of our apprentices are about to be made warriors, and I'll give Bramblepaw my answer then, ok?"
"Yeah, sure," Cloverpaw said slowly. "Ok, well, see ya, then."
She stood by the bank watching for a long time, even after the tip of Dustpaw's tail had disappeared into the darkness beneath the pine trees. Then, with a long sigh, she turned and headed deeper into her own territory, soon leaving the pine fores behind and emerging into the grasslands beyond. The sky was grey, and a cool wind was blowing, flattening the grass. Cloverpaw glanced up, worried about rain.
"Hey! Cloverpaw!" Dewpaw was racing across the grass towards her, his fur flattened, and his eyes slitted. "Hey," he puffed, sliding to a stop next to her.
"Hey," Cloverpaw replied softly.
Dewpaw flicked her lightly with his tail. "What's wrong, little sis?"
Cloverpaw huffed, and shook his tail off. "I'm not younger than you," she retorted.
"Yeah, you are," Dewpaw purred. "Because I actually asked Mother once who was born first, and she said me. I was the most gorgeous tom anycat had ever ever seen."
"You're a liar, Dewpaw."
Cloverpaw snorted, and rubbed her head gratefully aganst her brother's flank. "I'm glad you're here. You always make me feel better."
"Which brings me back to my original question; what is wrong, Cloverpaw?"
"I don't know, just, things."
Dewpaw was watching her through his keen amber eyes, exactly the same shade as hers. Cloverpaw felt a sudden rush of warmth towards her brother, who had always been there for her, and never suddenly turned a cold shoulder on her like Dustpaw just had.
"What sort of things? You know you can tell me anything," he said softly.
"It's a long story," Cloverpaw began.
Dewpaw steered them sideways, into a sheltered bush, then sat down, sweeping his tail around his paws. "I'm listening."
Bramblepaw could hardly bear to think about it. That this might be her last ever patrol with her Clan. She glanced around them, breathing in the familiar AshClan scent. She would miss every one of her Clanmates - even Badgerpaw. She glanced at him, padding beside her, his ears pricked to catch the sounds from the WonderClan side of the border. They were the evening patrol, and tonight Bramblepaw would sneak away to go to the mountains, along with Ashpaw and Cloverpaw. Dustpaw had chosen not to come.
Thinking of her former friend tore at Bramblepaw's heart, so she took her thoughts elsewhere, watching as Pinemist led the patrol downwards, away from the stream, heading back to camp, and Smoketalon lagged behind for an instant to do the final scent marking on the border.
Badgerpaw bounced beside Pinemist, talking eagerly. "When do you think my warrior ceremony will be?"
Pinemist caught Bramblepaw's gaze, and rolled his eyes. "After Bramblepaw's," he said firmly.
"When will Bramblepaw's warrior ceremony be?"
"Soon," Pinemist said, and dropped one eyelid in a wink at Bramblepaw, who flicked her tail eagerly, then remembered that she might not ever return for her warrior ceremony.
Later that night, Bramblepaw crept softly out of her den. Badgerpaw and Nightpaw were breathing deeply in their nests, exhausted after a long days training, and Marshpaw had fallen asleep eventually. Lilypaw slept in the medicine cats den with her mentor, which was one less cat to worry about.
Carefully, placing each paw down softly, Bramblepaw crept out of a small gap in the bushes, away from the tree where they normally exited.
She thought she heard a noise behind her, and glanced around quickly, shrinking into the shadows. Badgerpaw seemed to wake up every time she turned over in her nest, but it looked like she had lost him tonight. Moving carefully, she padded towards the WonderClan border. The mountains were beyond MoonClan territory, and she didn’t really want to go through GorgonClan territory. Thoughts of Dustpaw were painful at the
Bramblepaw realised that even though she had told her friends it was their choice whether or not they followed her on the journey to the mountains, she had really been expecting them all to agree. Dustpaw’s refusal had shocked her, and the dreams from her kithood, of an unbreakable bond between the four of them, were starting to drift away.
She crept silently through WonderClan territory, always staying close to the water, and praying that all the warriors were asleep in their nests. With her brown fur wet and plastered to her sides so that it looked almost black, she slipped across the second stream, shivering in the icy cold water, and bounded hurriedly into MoonClan territory.
“Bramblepaw!” The hiss came from a clump of bushes nearby, and she could see Cloverpaw’s face between the branches.
“Am I the last one to arrive?” Bramblepaw asked softly, slinking into the bushes with her friend.
Cloverpaw nodded. “Yes. The others are this way. Follow me.”
Bramblepaw padded after her, towards the crest of a small, grassy hill. Sitting at the top were four cats, barely visible against the dark sky. No moon tonight.
“Who are all these cats?” Bramblepaw asked, her hackles rising.
“Well, I’m Ashpaw,” Ashpaw offered sarcastically, stepping forward.
Bramblepaw rolled her eyes.
“This is Dewpaw, my brother,” Cloverpaw said. “He knows about the prophecy and everything,” she added.
There was a furious hiss from the third cat. “I’ve told you already Cloverpaw, you shouldn’t have told him!”
“But I tell him everything!” Cloverpaw protested. “He’s my brother!”
“Redpaw doesn’t know half the stuff I get up to,” the she-cat retorted.
Bramblepaw squinted into the gloom. “Dustpaw?” she asked uncertainly.
“Of course it’s me, you mouse-brain!” Dustpaw snapped. “Use your nose!”
“You came, then,” Bramblepaw said, still surprised.
“Yes, I did,” Dustpaw said belligerently.
“Oh, and this is Foxpaw,” Ashpaw interjected quickly. “I didn’t tell him anything, he followed me.”
Bramblepaw rolled her eyes. “If I’d known we were going to get plus-ones, I would have let Badgerpaw tag along instead of going to all the trouble of sneaking out of camp.”
Cloverpaw shook her head hastily. "Listen, let's not argue," she said. "Dewpaw and Foxpaw are coming with us, and there's nothing we can do about it. Now can we leave?"
The others nodded grudgingly, with reluctant mutters, and the six cats slunk out of MoonClan territory, towards the mountains.
Ashpaw was glad that Foxpaw had come, but she couldn't help feeling anxious about it. There was a large part of her which didn't believe that he had followed her to 'make sure she was safe'. There were four cats in their litter, and while they were all close, she and her brother had never been as close as, say, Cloverpaw and Dewpaw.
Ashpaw looked over at them. Now there was a pair of close siblings. They were walking beside each other, their fur brushing, exchanging quiet words. Wheras Foxpaw... she looked at him, walking in between her and Dustpaw like he had been since they left.
That was another strange thing. Dustpaw had protested mightily when she found out Dewpaw was joining the expedition, but completely ignored Foxpaw. Ashpaw's suspicions were all starting to fall into place, but she ignored the proof of her mind, trying to pretend nothing was happening for as long as she could.
"So," Bramblepaw began, looking around. "Do we know where in the mountains we're going?"
"I thought you were the one who had the stupid dream in the first place," Dustpaw snapped.
Foxpaw took a half-step towards her, then stopped, with a swift glance at his sister. Ashpaw gritted her teeth. This was going to be harder to ignore than she thought.
"Nettlefang didn't say anything about where to go," Bramblepaw protested.
"Yeah, well, maybe Nettlefang was just a bad bellyache," Dustpaw snarled.
"Ok, guys, that's enough," Cloverpaw said firmly. "Let's rest for the night. We're far away from Clan territory now, and I'm sure everyone will be in a better temper after they've had some sleep."
Dustpaw hissed furiously, and whipped away sideways into the thick forest. "I'm going to hunt!" she yelled back over her shoulder.
"I'd better go with her," Foxpaw stammered. He cleared his throat. "There could be foxes or badgers in those woods," he added, sounding more sure of himself.
Bramblepaw nodded. "Good idea," she told him. "Go on."
Foxpaw bounded after Dustpaw. The remaining four apprentices sat down in silence.
"Don't worry about Dustpaw," Ashpaw said eventually. "We all trust you, Bramblepaw."
Bramblepaw heaved a sigh, and said nothing. Ashpaw looked around at the others nervously. While Cloverpaw was fidgety and anxious, as she always was after an argument, Dewpaw was lying beside her quietly, soothing her with the touch of his fur, and shredding the grass with his claws.
"What'd the grass ever do to you?" Ashpaw said, trying to sound light-hearted.
Dewpaw looked up at her and purred. "I look bad in green," he said.
"Hey," Bramblepaw protested. "I like green!"
Ashpaw purred, amused, and the tension in the group dissipated.
Dustpaw pressed her muzzle into Foxpaw's side, trying to pretend that the dark red fur was the only thing in the world. It didn't work. Her mind was full of fears about the journey, and she was missing her Clan already. Not just the beautiful territory that she knew so well, but the cats as well.
"Do you miss your Clan?" she mumbled into Foxpaw's fur.
He nodded, never taking his eyes off her. "Of course I do! But the most important cat is here with me."
"No, silly! You."
She looked up at him then, her amber eyes sparkling, and purred softly.
"Now, why don't you tell me what possessed you to pick a fight with Bramblepaw?" he asked quietly.
She shrugged. "I don't know, really. But the mountains are a long way off, and no cat's ever been there, and...." She let her voice trail off.
"Don't worry about it," Foxpaw murmured. "I'll protect you, remember? That's why I came on this journey. To look after you and my sister."
"I only came because you persuaded me to," Dustpaw grumbled.
Foxpaw purred. "Admit it already, you can't resist me!"
Dustpaw gave a mock growl, and hurled herself on him, but he rolled in a circle until she were underneath.
"Now," he panted, his breath warm in her face. "Shouldn't we be hunting?"
"Bet I catch more prey than you!" Dustpaw yowled, and she wriggled out from under him and dashed away.
"You wish," Foxpaw called, his paws thundering behind her. "I'm the fastest cat in the world!"
Cloverpaw's eyelids flickered, and she stumbled over a tussock of grass. Dewpaw pressed his shoulder against her, keeping her upright.
"Are you okay?" he asked softly.
She nodded. "Just tired," she answered with her eyes still closed. "I didn't sleep well last night."
"Me neither," Bramblepaw called, joining the conversation. She let her step lapse for a minute, slowing down until she was walking beside them.
"Well, I'm bright-eyed and bushy-tailed," Ashpaw claimed. Her words were betrayed by the tremendous yawn that followed them.
Cloverpaw purred, and Ashpaw ran a few steps to catch up with her friends.
"You guys walk too fast," she complained. "I have little legs."
Bramblepaw snorted, her eyes amused. "I know, you're practically jogging to keep up with us," she commented, lengthening her own stride.
Ashpaw rolled her eyes. "Spiderlegs," she said crossly.
"Shortie," Bramblepaw retorted.
Cloverpaw purred softly, glad that her friends were joking together again. She hated it when cats argued. Even when she was a kit, she had gone to great lengths to get her brother to forgive her every time they fought. Of course, it hadn't always worked, but everycat knew it was the thought that counted.
"I think we're here," Foxpaw called suddenly from up ahead. He and Dustpaw had stopped at the foot of a tremendous slab of rock, leaning against another, and another.
"I thought mountains began more... gradually," Ashpaw said. She touched her nose to the nearest rock, and jumped back with a squeak. "It's cold!"
"Of course it is, mousebrain," Foxpaw laughed. "Anyway, I don't think this is the whole mountain. Look up."
They all did. A tall peak towered above them, disappearing into the clouds. Flakes of snow were drifting down slowly, landing on the ground around them. One landed on Cloverpaw's ear, and she jumped with surprise, shaking her head. The rocks above them were pointy and menacing, and the screech of an eagle echoed down towards them, muffled by the clouds.
"I don't want to go up there," Dustpaw said, voicing everyone's thoughts. "Can we go home now?"
At the same time, a complaintive voice from behind them spoke. "I don't want to go up there! Can't we go home now?"
All six cats spun around, hackles rising. Three cats were standing there. The smallest was gazing up at the mountain, her mouth open, but the other two were watching them. One hissed, openly hostile, but the other was just looking curiously wary.
"Guys?" he called over his shoulder, not taking his eyes off the six apprentices.
Three more cats emerged from the mist behind him, two of them supporting a third one who was limping painfully. They stopped dead when they saw the other cats.
"Who are you?" a scrawny she-cat asked.
Cloverpaw and Bramblepaw exchanged a nervous glance, then Ashpaw stepped forward. Surprised, Cloverpaw watched. Dustpaw looked surprised as well. Bramblepaw had seemed the natural leader, and Cloverpaw always smoothed over fights, so they had each been expecting the other one to start the conversation. Apparently Ashpaw had stolen their cue.
"We're travellers, from the Clans. I'm Ashpaw, that's my brother Foxpaw, Dustpaw is next to him, then Dewpaw, his sister Cloverpaw, and Bramblepaw."
The grey tom dipped his head politely. "Nice to meet you. We're travelling too. My name is Forestpaw, of ThunderClan, this is Mistpaw and Wetpaw of WindClan...,"
"We're Smokepaw and Birdpaw of ShadowClan," the dark grey she-cat beside him interrupted.
"And I'm Leopardpaw of RiverClan," the injured she-cat finished up. "Hi." Her voice was strained with pain, and Cloverpaw winced in sympathy.
"You said you were from the Clans?" Forestpaw asked.
"Yes," Ashpaw nodded. "WonderClan, GorgonClan, MoonClan and AshClan. We've never heard of any other Clans."
"Neither have we," snarled Smokepaw. "So obviously you six are imposters."
Wetpaw rolled her eyes, and Forestpaw sigehd patiently. "Smokepaw, for all they know, we could be imposters. Keep your claws in."
"Where are you headed?" Ashpaw asked.
"These mountains, apparently," little Mistpaw grumbled, gazing upwards. "Although we don't know why."
"Did your warrior ancestors send you here too?" Leopardpaw asked eagerly. Forestpaw sent her a warning glance.
"We think so," Ashpaw admitted. Dustpaw huffed crossly.
"Maybe we should travel together for a while?" Forestpaw suggested.
"That seems like a good idea," Ashpaw agreed. "We could help one another." She tipped her head at Leopardpaw.
"Are you insane?" Dustpaw and Smokepaw asked at the same time, then looked at each other furiously.
"They'll murder us in our sleep," Dustpaw added, turning her back on the strange cats.
"No one's murdering anyone," Ashpaw told her firmly. "We could do with some help."
"We could too," Forestpaw added, trying to calm things down. "We don't know this territory very well."
"Then it's decided," Bramblepaw said, stepping forward beside Ashpaw. "We should start in the morning."
Bramblepaw crouched in the undergrowth outside the AshClan camp. It was so familiar to her, and yet her mind was still filled with images of snow, and rocks, and the roaring of the harsh mountain wind. She could see kits tumbling around together inside the camp, and there was an excited chatter from the apprentices den. She recognised Badgerpaw and Nightpaw, playfully wrestling on the grass.
Pinemist emerged from the warriors den, stretching in the sunlight. Bramblepaw watched him eagerly. She had no kin in her Clan, and her mentor and the other apprentices were probably the people she felt closest to.
Carefully, Bramblepaw stepped forward, and then she could bear it no longer. She bounded into the camp, and stood in the centre of the clearing, gazing around happily. Her fur was warm from the sunlight, and the grass was soft under her paws. The sweet scent of cats mingled with the delicious fresh-kill smell wafting from the pile, which was stocked full.
Slowly, everycat in camp turned and stared at Bramblepaw. She waited for the greetings, but none were forthcoming. Eventually, it was Badgerpaw who stepped forward and spoke.
"Who are you?"
"Bramblepaw! Wake up!"
Bramblepaw jerked awake. She was confused for a minute. The lush green grass beneath her had been replaced by snow, and Ashpaw was bending over her, outlined against a sky white with yet more snow. The apprentice's breath puffed out in little clouds, and the cold was so deep it felt as if it went right into Bramblepaw's bone.
"We're leaving," Ashpaw reminded her. "Now. To climb the mountains."
Bramblepaw's eyes widened. "Right. Right!"
Ashpaw frowned. "What's wrong?"
Bramblepaw shrugged. "Bad dream."
Ashpaw nodded sympathetically, and swept her tail across her friend's shoulder. "I know. I think we've all been having them."
"Well," Bramblepaw began, gesturing at the other cats waiting in front of them. "Should we begin?"
Ashpaw nodded. "I guess so," she agreed. "You ready?"
Bramblepaw took a deep breath. "No. Let's go."
Ashpaw purred softly, and the two of them hurried over to where the others were waiting for them.
"There's a path up this way," Wetpaw called. "It looks easier than scaling the rocks."
Leopardpaw limped up, Dewpaw standing beside her, letting her lean on his shoulder. "Ok then," he said cheerfully.
Bramblepaw stepped up on Leopardpaw's other side, and together all twelve cats walked forward, towards the rocks, and the snow, and the eagles.
"Did you find anything?" Swift asked, his grey fur fluffed up against the cold.
Emerald shook her head. "Nothing," she admitted. "Toggy almost got a mouse, but it was bigger than he was, and he couldn't hold it long enough for Spots and I to come and help. How's Scout?"
"He's doing better," Swift said quietly. "Snowflake's helping him keep warm, but he needs food."
"I know," Emerald sighed. "I'll go out again now, I think. Tell Toggy that he's not to leat anyone else leave until I'm back."
"Will do," Swift agreed.
Emerald nodded, then padded over to the back of the cave, where Snowflake was curled around Scout's skinny body.
"I'll keep him warm for a while," Emerald whispered. "Just until I go out again."
Snowflake nodded, and Emerald took the she-cat's place wrapped around her brother's body.
"I don't know how much longer we can do this, Scoutie," she told him. "I can't seem to catch anything, and we all need to eat. I hate to say this, but I think we're in over our heads here. We need help."
"Emerald?" Scout rasped. She bent her head down to him. "Will I die?"
She shook her head vigorously. "Don't even ask that, Scoutie. I'm your sister. I've always looked after you, remember? Even when we were in the pet shop, and you were scared. I have always taken care of you, and I always will." She beckoned Snowflake with her tail. "I'm going out now, and when I come back, I'll have some food for you. I promise."
End of Book 3
Book 4 is called The Rise of Evil 2: Four.
The whole series can be found here.
Thanks for reading!