|The Evil Rising Saga|
|Preceded by: |
The Rise of Evil: Six
|The Rise of Evil Special: And Then There Were Four||Succeded by: |
The Rise of Evil 2: One
Leader: Oakstar - Creamy brown tabby tom with dark blue eyes.
Deputy: Braveheart - Dark brown tabby tom with amber eyes.
Medicine Cat: Mistcloud - Dark grey she-cat with green eyes.
Starshine - White tom with black ears and paws and mismatched olive and amber eyes.
Peppermist - Ginger she-cat with cool green eyes.
Stripefur - Cream tabby tom with amber eyes.
Darkcloud - Dark grey she-cat with green eyes.
Hawkpoppy - Dark tortoiseshell she-cat with white paws and underbelly and beautiful dark amber eyes.
Sparkfire - Auburn pelted tom with amber eyes and white underbelly.
Silvershine - Silver tabby she-cat with dark tabby stripes and bright amber eyes.
Crescentmoon - Fluffy grey she-cat with light olive eyes.
Sunfeather - Golden tabby tom with pale blue eyes.
Gorsecloud - Slender tortoiseshell-and-white she-cat with blue eyes.
Browntail - Brown tom with black eyes.
Stonesun - Mottled grey tom with black eyes.
Dawnlight - Slender tortoiseshell she-cat with amber eyes.
Icemoon - White-and-silver she-cat with blue eyes.
Blackpatch - Black-and-white tom with amber eyes.
Shadowfang - Black tom with coal black eyes.
Lilyfern - Beautiful white she-cat with pale blue eyes.
Falconpaw - Brown tom with slightly darker paws and face and brilliant blue eyes.
Ravenpaw - Black she-cat with cream paws, blue eyes and a feathery tail.
Kestrelpaw - White tabby tom with green eyes.
Wildpaw - Calico she-cat with green eyes.
Pebblepaw - Pale grey tom with blue eyes.
Lionpaw - Golden tabby tom with amber eyes.
Flamepaw - Dark ginger tom with vivid amber eyes.
Toadpaw - Slender tortoiseshell-and-white tom with blue eyes.
Snowdapple - Pure white she-cat with bright white eyes, mother of Shadowfang's kits.
Daisypetal - Pretty black-and-white she-cat with bright blue eyes, mother of Redpelt's kits.
Cloudkit - Fluffy grey-and-white tom with blue eyes.
Leafkit - Tawny brown tom with a long tail and amber eyes.
Ashkit - Black she-cat with deep green eyes.
Larchkit - Dark brown tom with amber eyes.
Poppykit - Black-and-white she-cat with dark amber eyes.
Maplefrost - Golden tabby she-cat with blue eyes.
Hopeheart - Grey she-cat with green eyes.
Beavertooth - Brown tabby tom with black eyes, retired early due to a shoulder wound.
Honeyfur - Golden tabby she-cat with green eyes, retired early due to failing sight.
Leader: Fangstar - Black tom with coal black eyes.
Deputy: Leopardspots - Spotted golden tom with amber eyes.
Medicine Cat: Vipertongue - Dark brown tom with green eyes.
Dashfoot - Tabby tom with green eyes.
Orangepelt - Orange furred tom with vivid green eyes.
Beantail - Brown tom with long tail.
Leafmask - Tabby brown tom with amber eyes.
Petalear - Beautiful cream tabby she-cat with amber eyes.
Breezefur - Pretty tortoiseshell she-cat with amber eyes.
Cloudfur - Fluffy white tom with blue eyes.
Racefoot - Brown tom with mismatched amber and green eyes.
Appleheart - Dark brown tom with dark amber eyes.
Mossheart - Pretty tabby she-cat with green eyes.
Owlfur - Brown tabby tom with dark brown eyes.
Nightpaw - Black she-cat with green eyes.
Brookpaw - Tabby brown she-cat with black eyes.
Hailpaw - Pale grey tabby tom with amber eyes.
Sagepaw - Pale grey she-cat with vivid green eyes.
Cocoapaw - Dark brown she-cat with dark green eyes.
Shinefur - Beautiful pale amber she-cat with mismatched green and blue eyes, mother of Leopardspots's kits.
Pineneedle - Dark tabby she-cat with amber eyes, mother of Appleheart's kits.
Finchkit - Pale brown she-cat with dark green eyes.
Birdkit - Tawny brown she-cat with dark amber eyes.
Treekit - Brown tabby tom with bright green eyes.
Snowkit - Pale cream she-cat with light blue eyes.
Dapplekit - Brown-and-white she-cat with black eyes.
Coalkit - Black tom with dark amber eyes.
Scarface - Grey tom with an ugly scar over one eye.
Ripfur - Small, vicious yellow tom with green eyes.
Leader: Moonstar - Pale silver she-cat with dark blue eyes.
Deputy: Rabbitfur - Brown tabby tom with hazel eyes.
Medicine Cat: Petaltail - Reddish she-cat with pale yellow eyes.
Mistnose - Grey tabby she-cat with blue eyes.
Splashear - Blue-grey she-cat with blue eyes.
Embertail - Reddish tom with a dark tip on his tail and amber eyes.
Glowfur - Reddish tom with amber eyes.
Volepelt - Dark brown tom with green eyes.
Shadepaw - Black tom with amber eyes.
Grasspaw - Dark brown tom with blue eyes.
Adderpaw - Dark brown tabby tom with pale yellow eyes.
Eaglepaw - Dark brown tabby tom with amber eyes.
Frostpaw - Light grey tom with amber eyes.
Palepaw - Pale cream tabby she-cat with green eyes.
Fernpelt - Cream she-cat with amber eyes, mother of Embertail's kits.
Mousekit - Dark brown tom with black tip on tail and amber eyes.
Beekit - Cream tom with amber eyes.
Rushtail - Dark brown tom with amber eyes.
Reedfur - Pale she-cat with light olive eyes.
Berrytail - Dark cream tom with blue eyes.
Honeyheart - Golden she-cat with bright blue eyes.
Molepelt - Dark grey tom with hazel eyes.
Daisypetal - Pale ginger she-cat with bright green eyes.
Leader: Stormstar - Pale grey tabby tom with bright blue eyes.
Deputy: Roseheart - Reddish-brown she-cat with amber eyes.
Medicine Cat: Mintleaf - Silvery she-cat with blue eyes.
Dapplepelt - Spotted brown she-cat with green eyes.
Tumbleweed - Brown-and-white tom with green eyes.
Riverfur - Blue-grey tom with dark blue eyes.
Briarfur - Dark brown tabby tom with dark amber eyes.
Tigerstripe - Tabby brown tom with pale blue eyes.
Reedpaw - Pale brown tabby tom with green eyes.
Smokepaw - Pale grey she-cat with green eyes.
Greypaw - Grey tabby tom with blue eyes.
Minnowpaw - Pale grey tabby she-cat with amber eyes.
Mousepaw - Brown tom with green eyes.
Oliveheart - Sleek black she-cat with bright green eyes, going to have Briarfur's kits.
Dawnkit - Grey she-cat with pale yellow eyes.
Falconkit - Brown tabby she-cat with green eyes.
Sagetangle - Brown tabby tom with green eyes.
Fluttersky - White-and-grey tabby she-cat with blue eyes.
Oakstar padded wearily across the sun-dappled camp. The cats of WonderClan, his Clan, the Clan he led, were busy all around him. Oakstar twisted his head sideways, seeing Flamepaw and his brother Toadpaw scuffling together outside the apprentice's den, while two of the older apprentices, Falconpaw and Ravenpaw, watched with amusement. The warmth of leaf-green was all around them, and there was a lazy feeling in the camp. Snowdapple and Daisypetal, the two queens, were lying outside the nursery, sharing tongues and keeping their eyes on the five kits scuffling around them.
The sunhigh patrol bounded back into the camp, tails high and eyes eager. Dawnlight, Icemoon, Kestrelpaw, Wildpaw and Sunfeather all hurried over to Braveheart, Oakstar's brother and deputy. He was tempted to go over to them, but Braveheart had it under control.
He turned, dark blue eyes seeking out the cat who had spoken. Silvershine, his mate, was lying on her side near the fresh-kill pile. There were two plump mice in front of her, and she jerked her head at him. Oakstar padded over to her, settling to the ground with a sigh. Silvershine's warm fur brushed against his flank, and he purred, enjoying the good times while they lasted. There was still a hole in Oakstar's heart, left there when his only son, Cloudfur, had been killed after a tree fell on him only a moon ago, just after the Clans first Gathering. Tonight was the second Gathering the four Clans had had together, and Oakstar could tell how eager his warriors were to get into the new routine. Shadowfang in particular was very keen to see his friends in other Clans again. The young black tom had been almost solely responsible for helping AshClan, MoonClan and GorgonClan settle into their new homes.
There was a rustle of ferns at the entrance to the camp, and Oakstar's head whipped around, instantly alert. The wind carried the scent of GorgonClan to him, and he stiffened anxiously, only to relax again when Fangstar poked his head into the camp. He glanced at Oakstar, and called over to him.
"May I enter?"
Oakstar nodded his permission, and Fangstar strode through the tunnel and into the camp. There was a squeal from the apprentices den, and Flamepaw and Toadpaw abandoned their play-fight and dashed over to fling themselves on their father. Fangstar purred and licked them, but his eyes roved around the camp. Oakstar flicked a glance at Hawkpoppy, who padded into the warriors den. A moment later, Gorsecloud emerged. She stepped over to Fangstar, her head held high, and rubbed her cheek against his.
"I came to tell you that Pineneedle has had her kits," the black tom meowed softly.
Gorsecloud's eyes widened in dismay. "Is everything alright?"
Fangstar was quick to reassure her. "Yes, everything's fine. There are two of them, a tom and a she-cat. She named them Dapplekit and Coalkit."
Gorsecloud puffed a sigh of relief. Suddenly, a white she-cat raced over to them.
"Is Pineneedle okay?" Lilyfern asked curiously. She had spotted her father as she entered the camp with Peppermist and Pebblepaw, back from a hunting patrol.
"Yes, she's fine. She has two healthy kits," Fangstar purred.
"That's great!" Lilyfern said enthusiastically. "And speaking of kits, while you're here, do you want to see Cloudkit, Leafkit and Ashkit? I think the last time you saw them they still had their eyes closed!"
"Yes, during Flamepaw and Toadpaw's apprentice ceremony," Fangstar remembered. "I'd love to see them. Lead the way."
Oakstar watched as the GorgonClan leader followed his daughter into the nursery, and sighed again. Everything would be fine, so long as there was peace between the Clans. He just hoped that peace would last.
Ashkit lay flat on her stomach, her small black paws dangling off the edge of her mother's back. Snowdapple shifted herself patiently, moving so that her small daughter wouldn't fall down. Ashkit loved that about her mother. Snowdapple was always thinking of her kits.
"I brought some mouse!" Shadowfang mewed, picking his way into the nursery. Cloudkit and Leafkit squeaked with excitement and rushed over to him. Ashkit clambered down with more care, and followed her brothers.
"How are you?" Shadowfang meowed softly, dropping the mouse to swipe his tongue over Snowdapple's ear.
"We're all doing great," she replied. "Although I can't wait until these great lumps are old enough to become apprentices."
"I can't wait either!" Cloudkit piped up.
"I'm going to be the best apprentice in the whole Clan," Leafkit boasted. "Who's my mentor going to be? Please tell me!"
"Oakstar will decide who your mentors are," Shadowfang reminded his son. Leafkit huffed an impatient sigh, and gripped the mouse with his little claws.
Ashkit hurried over to him before he scoffed it all by himself. Shadowfang licked the top of her head as she wove by, and she purred happily.
"They're just in here," Lilyfern meowed from the entrance. Ashkit jerked her head up. She loved Lilyfern's visits, she was always dropping by with something new and exciting to play with, but now there was a strange smell in the air.
"What's that icky smell?" Leafkit asked boldly, wrinkling his nose.
There was a purr of amusement from an unfamiliar cat, and Ashkit scurried to crouch behind Snowdapple, peering cautiously at the entrance as a sleek black cat slid in.
"Don't be scared, Ashkit," Lilyfern purred. "This is Fangstar."
Leafkit opened his eyes wide. "The real Fangstar? From GorgonClan?"
"That's me," Fangstar said, twitching his whiskers.
"What are you doing here?" Cloudkit said bluntly.
"Cloudkit, don't be rude," Snowdapple admonished him. "Fangstar is here to see you."
"Really?" Leafkit squeaked.
Larchkit and Poppykit tumbled inside, panting hard, followed by their mother. Daisypetal narrowed her eyes when she saw Fangstar, and swept her tail around her two kits, tucking them close to her body.
"Fangstar," she greeted. There was something in her voice which Ashkit didn't understand, but she didn't think the queen liked the leader of GorgonClan much.
"Daisypetal," Fangstar acknowledged. "Are these your kits? They're beautiful."
"Their names are Poppykit and Larchkit," Daisypetal said. "Redpelt's kits."
"Ah," Fangstar said softly.
"Who was Redpelt, Mummy?" Ashkit whispered, curious.
"He died in the fight for peace," Snowdapple murmured back.
Ashkit wrinkled her nose, then padded out from behind her mother. She stood beside Leafkit, and he pressed his shoulder against hers comfortingly.
"Why do you want to see us?" Poppykit squealed, wriggling away from her mother. Daisypetal stiffened, keeping a watchful eye on the little she-cat.
"Fangstar is my father," Lilyfern said. "And that means he's Shadowfang's father too."
"And Shadowfang is our father!" Leafkit exclaimed, catching on. "Does that mean Fangstar is our kin, just like Gorsecloud?"
"And Flamepaw and Toadpaw?" Cloudkit added.
"Exactly," Lilyfern said. "You have lots of kin in other Clans as well, but you'll learn all about that when you're older."
Ashkit peered close at the big black tom. He looked a little like her father, now she came to think of it. And a little bit like her, she thought, twisting around to look at her own black pelt.
"I should probably be going," Fangstar said. "I really only came to pass on Pineneedle's news. Goodbye, kits."
"Bye!" Cloudkit called.
"Will you come again?" Leafkit begged.
Fangstar nodded, purring, then followed Lilyfern out of the nursery.
"Do we have to join GorgonClan when we grow up, Mummy?" Ashkit asked. "If we have kin there?"
"No," Snowdapple soothed. "Your father and I are both WonderClan cats, so that means you are too." for a second she was deep in thought, then she refocused on the kits. "Now, who needs a wash?"
Ashkit bounced out of the nursery happily, waving her tail in the air.
"Good morning," she said politely as a brightly coloured butterfly crossed her path. "Lovely day."
"Are you talking to that flutterbye?" Cloudkit asked incredulously.
"Butterfly," she stressed. "And Mummy says you should always be kind to everything."
"Not the other Clans," Leafkit said, stretching up and swiping his paws at the butterfly. "At least, not if they attack you first."
"I don't think Fangstar will attack us," Ashkit said. "Or Moonstar or Stormstar."
"Stormstar might," Larchkit said, bouncing out behind them. "He used to be a VanishClan cat."
"That reminds me!" Leafkit exclaimed. "We should go and ask Hopeheart for a story!"
"About the tunnels and the cave," Ashkit suggested.
"About Oatstar!" Cloudkit chimed in.
"I like the story about Shadowfang and Snowdapple," Poppykit said crossly. "That one is the best."
"Nah, that one's boring," Leafkit whined. "It's about Mum and Dad. I like the stories about Bloodstar."
"They're too scary," Larchkit told him pompously. "Last time we listened to one of those, Poppykit had a nightmare and kicked me all night!"
"I did not!" his sister squealed, pouncing on him and batting his ears with her paws. "Meanie."
"Calm down," Cloudkit said bossily. "I think we should just go and see what Hopeheart wants to tell us."
The other four kits grumbled in agreement, following the grey-and-white tom across the clearing. Ashkit trailed behind the others, gazing around in wide-eyed wonder. She liked how the world was different everyday. Today everything was sunny and green and sparkly. Engrossed in staring at the sky, she didn't notice the cat in front of her until it was too late.
"Oof!" the little she-cat exclaimed, bumping into Crescentmoon's front legs heavily. "Crescentmoon!"
"Hi there, Ashkit. Where are you off to in such a hurry?" the she-cat asked fondly. She was Snowdapple's mother, and very fond of her daughter's little kits.
"The elder's den, for a story from Hopeheart," Ashkit explained. "What are you doing?"
"Going to meet Braveheart," Crescentmoon purred.
"Out in the forest?" Ashkit's eyes widened as her kin nodded. "Wow. You're lucky."
"It will be your turn soon," Crescentmoon promised. "Only four moons to go."
Ashkit purred, and bounced on her way. By the time she pushed into the elder's den, the story had already started, and she sat quietly, listening to Hopeheart tell the well-known story about Blackpatch's time in the VanishClan Games. It was a bit of a scary tale, and Poppykit whimpered once or twice, pressing closer to her brother.
Ashkit wasn't scared of silly old Bloodstar, or VanishClan. She knew that the Clans lived in peace now, and VanishClan didn't even exist anymore, it just had some survivors in AshClan. And AshClan definetely weren't scary. They had the same name as her!
"Hopeheart tells good stories," Leafkit whispered as they left.
"I think we should go out into the forest," Ashkit replied.
Leafkit blinked in shock. "Why?"
"Kits aren't allowed," Cloudkit hissed, overhearing.
"But it looks so fun!" Ashkit protested. "We could just go for a little walk."
"To visit Fangstar!" Leafkit added, catching on to the idea. "Come on, Cloudkit!"
"Fine," the little tom huffed. "We can't let Larchkit and Poppykit follow us though, they're too young."
"Let's sneak away now!" Ashkit enthused. "Quick!"
Together, the three kits slipped out through the entrance and ran eagerly deep into their territory.
"This is fun," Ashkit decided, stomping through the leaf litter with her brothers. "We're going on an adventure like real warriors."
"I'm a realer warrior than you are," Cloudkit boasted.
"Where are we?" Leafkit wondered. "I've never seen this place before."
"That's cos we've never been out of camp before, stupid," his brother sneered. Suddenly he paused, sniffing the air. "Do you smell that? It smells icky, but like I've smelt it before."
Ashkit shrugged. "Oh, come on. Look, if we just walk across this really strong patch the smell kind of goes away."
The three of them stumped along, pushing through grass with short, stubby legs, and bounding over pebbles. Somewhere to the east of them, a GorgonClan hunting party caught the scent, and charged towards the possible attack.
"Just over this hill, and then I bet we'll be able to catch a rabbit!" Leafkit said, leading the way.
"How do you know?" his brother argued.
"Because it's a really big hill, and that means there must be rabbits on the other side!" Leafkit proclaimed, the statement perfectly logical in his mind.
"Intruders!" some cat yowled, and all three kits spun around nervously.
"What was that?" Ashkit adked.
"Maybe a badger!" Cloudkit said, trembling.
The three kits drew closer together, their fur bristling, as several cats appeared on the crest of the hill and hurried towards them.
"Why did you scare us by yelling like that?" Leafkit asked crossly. "We thought you were a badger!"
"Badgers can't speak, mouse-brain," a tabby apprentice snickered.
"Where did you come from?" a golden tom asked, flicking the apprentice's ear with his tail to keep him quiet.
"Over there," Cloudkit said, waving his tail back the way they had come. "Who are you?"
The tom purred wryly. "I'm Leopardspots. I'm GorgonClan's deputy. Are you WonderClan kits?"
Ashkit looked thoughtful. "Does that mean Fangstar is here? He came to visit us the other day."
"You're Fangstar's kits?" a brown tabby tom asked.
"No," Leafkit snorted. "His kin."
"Grandkits," his sister corrected. "Our Papa is his kit."
"You must be Shadowfang's kits!" a fluffy white tom exclaimed. "Nice to finally meet you! I'm Cloudfur."
"I'm Leafkit," said Leafkit bossily. "And this is Cloudkit and Ashkit."
"We have the same name!" Cloudkit said, looking at the large white tom in awe. "That's cool."
"I was named after Fangstar's brother," Leafkit boasted.
"That's me," the tabby tom purred. "Leafmask."
"Do we have to go home now?" Ashkit asked sadly. "Cos we were trying to explore!"
"I'm afraid you do," Leopardspots said. "I'll escort you back to your camp. Leafmask, you can lead the patrol home. Hailpaw, I expect you to have caught something by this evening, alright?"
The tabby apprentice nodded sulkily. "Alright," he agreed, turning and following the two warriors away.
"Now, let's get you three home," Leopardspots said cheerfully. "You know," he added as they started walking, "I have four kits of my own who are about your age."
"Can we join your Clan?" Leafkit asked instantly, a purr in his mew. "Poppykit and Larchkit are too young to play proper games."
Leopardspots flicked his tail lightly over the little tom's ear. "No, you can't, but you'll see them at the sunhigh gathering next moon. Kits are allowed to come too."
"Yay!" Cloudkit exclaimed, leaping into the air with excitement. "It's going to be great."
He babbled about the gathering all the way back to camp. Snowdapple met them at the entrance, worry in her eyes.
"I was just about to go out and look for you!" she exclaimed, covering their ears with licks. "Thank you, so much," she added to Leopardspots. "I had no idea they'd gone!"
"They wandered over the border," he told her.
"Say thank you to Leopardspots," Snowdapple told her kits.
"Thank you Leopardspots," they chorused obediently.
"You're very welcome," he purred. "I'll head home now. I hope to see you soon, Snowdapple. And you, kits."
They watched him leave for a few minutes, until Snowdapple snapped into protective mother mode.
"Where did you think you were going? You could have drowned, or starved, or been eaten by badgers, or foxes, or eagles, or crows, or fallen in a hole, or - ,"
"But we didn't," Leafkit interrupted. "We're sorry, Mama. We just wanted to explore."
"It was my idea," Ashkit added sombrely. "Sorry, Mama."
"You're lucky my brother found you," she scolded.
"Your brother?" Cloudkit asked in shock. "Does that mean he's our kin too?"
"Yes, of course," she said absent-mindedly.
"We sure have a lot of kin," Ashkit hissed in her brother's ear. He nodded in wide-eyed agreement.
"It's today, it's today, it's today!" Poppykit shrilled, bouncing around the nursery. She stumbled over the mossy nest where Ashkit and her brothers were curled up in a gently heaving heap, and fell onto her nose. Undeterred, she bounced up again and continued her chant.
"Make her stop," Larchkit moaned sleepily, rolling over. "Please."
"What's today?" Ashkit asked, sitting up and swiping her tongue over her pelt.
"The daylight gathering!" Poppykit responded with a flourish. "The greatest thing ever, because we get to go out of camp!"
"Hurrah!" Larchkit cheered, then slumped back into sleep.
"Where's Mama?" Ashkit asked, looking around. "And Daisypetal?"
"They went to prepare everything," the younger she-cat said importantly. "We're going to leave very very soon."
Ashkit swiped her tongue across her paw, excited. My first gathering!
It didn't take long before they were ready to leave. The entire Clan was going - even the elders and medicine cats. Snowdapple and Daisypetal shepherded the kits along in front of them, keeping watchful eyes on them all the time.
Ashkit looked around with excitement. It was only her second time out of camp, and her first with all the older cats as well. Poppykit and Larchkit stumbled ahead of her, and she peered eagerly at the clearing she could see ahead. The scents of the other Clans mingled in front of her, and she wrinkled her nose distastefully.
As they neared the clearing, the queens peeled off from the other cats, leading the kits into a small hollow filled with soft moss and pine needles. Other queens were sitting around the sides, watching their kits play in the dip.
"Wheeee!" Poppykit yelled, rushing down the slope.
Ashkit followed more slowly, eyes wide. What if they want to fight me? I can't fight!
A dark tabby she-cat rushed up to Snowdapple as she arrived, talking to her animatedly and gesturing with her tail to two very young kits curled in the side of the hollow. Ashkit tipped her head to one side curiously, watching the exchange. Her mother saw her watching and purred benevolently.
"Ashkit, this is Pineneedle. She's Shadowfang's sister."
Papa's sister! That must mean she's Lilyfern's sister too! Papa said she moved to GorgonClan when they were apprentices.
"Nice to meet you," she said politely. "Are those your kits?"
Pineneedle purred. "Yes, Dapplekit and Coalkit. They're just one moon old."
"I'm three moons old," the kit boasted. With a flick of her tail, she turned and scampered down the slope.
"Look, Ashkit," Leafkit said, beckoning her over. "This is Treekit. He's Leopardspots' son."
"That must mean you're our kin!" Ashkit announced. The brown tabby nodded.
"I already told him that," Leafkit snapped.
"Is this your sister?" Treekit asked. Leafkit nodded, and the other tom purred and continued. "I have three sisters. They're over there."
Ashkit followed his gaze, and bounded over to the three she-cats. "Hi, I'm Ashkit," she mewed. "My mother is Snowdapple!"
"I'm Finchkit," a pale brown she-cat responded. "And this is Birdkit and Snowkit."
"Did you know we're kin?"
Finchkit frowned, but Snowkit nodded excitedly. "Yes! I was named for Father's sister Snowdapple!"
Ashkit purred, pleased to meet her kin at last, then spun around searching for Cloudkit. He was at the other side of the hollow, talking shyly with two MoonClan toms.
Satisfied that everyone was ok, Ashkit continued to talk cheerfully with Leopardspots' three daughters. I like daylight gatherings, she decided. It's a jolly clever idea.
"Cloudpaw! Leafpaw! Ashpaw!"
The newly named black apprentice held her head high, listening to the Clan calling for her. She turned nervously to her mentor, Falconstretch. "What are we going to do first?"
He purred at the anxiety in her eyes. "Don't look so worried! Exploring the territory comes first."
"I've already seen the territory twice," she explained. "Once at a daylight gathering, and once when Cloudkit - I mean paw - and Leafpaw and I got lost."
"Well this time we'll go much further," he explained. "Come on!"
Ashpaw followed him eagerly, racing out of camp and through the trees. Everything was bright and sunny, the shadows of the canopy making patterns on the forest floor. She scrambled to a halt just behind her mentor, and gazed around with wide green eyes.
"Where are we?"
"This is the AshClan border," he explained. "We're going to ask for some catmint from their medicine cat."
"I thought we were just exploring the territory," Ashpaw accused. Her mentor purred.
"And going on a special mission," he explained. "Come on."
She followed him across the border and into the forest on the other side. AshClan's territory looked very similar to her own, but it was filled with unfamiliar scents. Falconstretch led her right to the camp, and then through the entrance. Stormstar leapt over to them, head held high.
"Greetings," he meowed politely. "What business do you have here?"
"We came to speak with Mintleaf," Falconstretch replied.
Stormstar nodded, and gestured to a den with his tail. "She's in there."
"Thank you," the WonderClan warrior replied, dipping his head. Ashpaw followed him into the den.
"Mintleaf," Falconstretch called softly, and the medicine cat emerged from behind some ferns.
"Falconstretch!" she exclaimed happily.
"We were wondering if you had any catmint," the tom asked, flicking a glance at Ashpaw. She frowned, wondering what else was going on.
Mintleaf shook her head, sorrow in her eyes. "I'm sorry. We don't have any left. Greencough swept through the camp about a moon ago. We lost Falconkit. Her sister, Dawnkit, is one of the last VanishClan cats left now."
Falconstretch bowed his head. He moved jerkily towards the she-cat, then glanced at Ashpaw awkwardly.
"Um, Ashpaw... this is a great learning experience! Why don't you head outside, ask Stormstar some questions..." he trailed off.
Ashpaw frowned, wondering why he wanted her to leave, but nodded her consent, heading into the clearing and looking around for the leader of the Clan. He was sitting tidily in a corner of the camp, his tail wrapped around his paws.
"Hi, Stormstar," Ashpaw meowed cheerfully. He started when he heard her, and turned his head towards her.
"Hello," he said formally.
"I'm Ashpaw," Ashpaw explained. "My mentor told me talking to you would be a good learning experience."
Stormstar purred softly. "What would you like to know?"
The apprentice frowned, thinking. "What Clan were you from before AshClan?"
"I was a VanishClan cat," he explained. "I was actually only an apprentice when VanishClan was disbanded, but StarClan chose me to be leader of AshClan. They sent dreams to Oakstar, Fangstar and Moonstar."
"Wow," Ashpaw breathed. "That's so cool! I'd like to be a leader someday."
"Well, maybe you will," Stormstar meowed. "Some day."
"Pay attention, Ashpaw!" Falconstretch snapped crossly. "You're fighting like a one-legged badger!"
"Badgers are great fighters," the apprentice retorted.
"Not when they're hopping around like you are," her mentor returned. "Concentrate on your technique!"
"Yeah, Ashpaw," Larchpaw jeered, weaving back and forth in front of her. "Come get me!"
"Shut up," she mumbled. "Stupid tom."
Poppypaw flicked her tail over Ashpaw's haunches. "I can't see or scent the others," she warned.
Ashpaw ducked as Larchpaw leapt at her with outstretched paws. She watched as he sailed over her head, then scrambled over to him, pinning him firmly with two paws on his chest.
"Attack!" Cloudpaw screeched, suddenly dropping down through the branches of the tree above her and landing squarely on her shoulders. Ashpaw twisted and lunged, trying to throw him off, and he slithered down over her tail.
The second she was distracted, Larchpaw leapt up again, battering at her ears with soft paws. Ashpaw yowled for Poppypaw to come to her aid, but her teammate was distracted by Leafpaw, who was forming a barrier between the two she-cats so that they couldn't help one another.
After several minutes of irritating attacks, Ravenfeather called a halt. The black she-cat padded forward, nodding with approval towards the toms.
"We won!" Larchpaw crowed, squirming around on the dusty ground. "Toms rule!"
"That wasn't fair," Poppypaw complained, sitting down and swiping her tongue over her paws. "There are three of them and only two of us."
"That was the purpose of the exercise," Falconstretch pointed out. "We'll head back now."
Ashpaw rolled her eyes, padding with her friend back towards the camp. Poppypaw shook her head in disgust as they walked together. "That was ridiculous," she exclaimed.
"Yeah," Ashpaw agreed. "I don't think Falconstretch likes me very much," she added in a confiding tone.
"Why not? You're a good enough apprentice."
She shrugged. "I don't know. I just get a feeling, I guess."
Poppypaw purred. "You're such a silly furball," she said affectionately, nudging her friend's shoulder.