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Essay
This page contains a fan fiction written by AuriBear.
This page contains the opinions of the original author(s), and is not patrolled for factual accuracy.
Remember that this story is non-canon. It may contain false characters, plots, or locations.
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The following story is rated Moderate.
Return of the Warriors
Preceded by:
None.
Tides Succeded by:
Broken

Tides- Return of the Warriors Trilogy

Welcome to my first fanfiction, Tides, the first book in the Return of the Warriors Series

Last update: August 6th

The first book is now complete! I hope you enjoy reading it and continue with the next one, Broken!

Allegiances

ThunderClan

Leader- Foreststar- An immense brown tom with deep hazel eyes.
Deputy- Fallentail- A black tom with a white chest and a dipped tail. (Ravenpaw)
Medicine Cat- Poppycloud- Petite black and white she-cat with blue eyes
	Apprentice- Emberpaw
Warriors-
Whitestorm	Frostcloud- Large white tom with yellow eyes
Millie		Honeywhisker- Silver tabby she-cat with blue eyes.			
		Hazelnose- A brown tom with white accents and yellow eyes.
Jaggedtooth	Fangfur- Large ginger tabby tom with amber eyes.
		Lightningstrike- A yellow tabby tom with matching yellow eyes
Yellowfang	Rosethorn- Dark gray she-cat with orange eyes.
Firestar	Sunfang- A flame-colored tom with dazzling green eyes.
Squirrelflight	Rustflower-  Dark ginger she-cat with a fluffy tail and green eyes.
Brambleclaw	Strikefang- Muscular dark tabby tom with amber eyes.
Spottedleaf	Petaleye- Beautiful tortoiseshell she-cat with warm amber eyes.
Queens-		
		Morningsun- Pretty golden tabby with hazel eyes. Mate is Nettlefur
			Kits: Hawkkit, Cavekit, Drizzlekit
		Greentail- Silver she-cat with large ears and gray eyes. Lightningstrike
Apprentices-
		Emberpaw- Deep orange she-cat with gray eyes.
Elders-		
		Ravenwing- An old black tom with many battle scars and blue eyes.
		Shrewleg- A light tabby tom with yellow eyes.
		Nettlefur- A sleek black tom with a white muzzle from age.

ShadowClan

Leader-  	Cloverstar- A silver she-cat with white boots and beautiful green eyes.
Deputy-		 Frozenwhisker- Black tom with short-stiff whiskers.
Medicine Cat- 	Elkberry- Brown tom with a cream underbelly and grey eyes.
	Apprentice- Rabbitear
Warriors-
Graystripe	Blazeclaw- A large, thick furred gray tom with orange eyes.
			Apprentice: Bugpaw
Darkstripe	Sparkclaw- Dark grey tabby tom with yellow eyes.
			Apprentice: Littlepaw
Tawnypelt	Fawnleap- Slender, dark tortoiseshell she-cat with green eyes.
			Apprentice: Mothpaw		
		Rumblefur- Black and brown tom with amber eyes.
			Apprentice: Spottedpaw
Lionblaze	Burnstripe- Golden tabby tom with amber eyes.			
		Brightcloud- White and grey tom with orange eyes.

Queens-
		Wildflower- Silver she-cat with  darker stripes and green eyes. Mate is Rumblefur
			Kits: Silverkit and Mousekit
		Treetail- Thickset brown she-cat with amber eyes. Mate is Brightcloud. 
			Kits: Waspkit and Oakkit
Silverstream	Dewshower- A slender silver tabby she-cat with bright blue eyes. Mate is Blazeclaw
			Kits: Cloudkit, Boulderkit, Dapplekit, Splashkit
Cinderpelt	Fernleaf- A fluffy dark-gray she-cat with blue eyes. Mate is Fallentail of ThunderClan
			Kits: Shinekit

Apprentices-
Mousefur	Littlepaw- Small dusky brown she-cat with amber eyes.
Hollyleaf	Bugpaw- Black she-cat with green eyes.
		Rabbitear- Small gray tom with unusually large ears.
		Mothpaw- Silver tabby she-cat
		Spottedpaw- White and black spotted tom. 
Elders-
		Riseheart- Once-pretty calico she-cat with green eyes.

RiverClan

Leader-  	Marshstar- Beautiful white and gray she-cat with green eyes.
Deputy- 	Redlake- Muscular dark ginger tom with blue eyes.
Medicine Cat- 	Leapbelly- Tall calico she-cat with silver eyes.
Warriors-
Jayfeather	Bluestorm- Gray tabby tom with blue eyes
		Dustyrose- A pale orange she-cat with amber eyes.
			Apprentice: Lilypaw
		Salmonpelt- Pale ginger tom with silver eyes.
Hawkfrost	Icepad- Large dark tabby tom with ice-blue eyes.
			Apprentice: Mintpaw
Oakheart	Swiftstorm- Reddish-brown tom with amber eyes.
Crowfeather	Nightheart- A dark grey tom with brilliant blue eyes.
Feathertail	Streamfrost- Slender silver tabby she-cat with blue eyes.
Leafpool	Robinflight- Slender, light brown she-cat with amber eyes.
Russetfur	Brindlefur- Dark ginger she-cat with sharp green eyes.
		Fireshine- A brilliant red tom with silver eyes.		

Queens-
		Brownwhisker- A pretty brown tabby with pale yellow eyes. Mate is Salmonpelt
			Kits: Stripekit, Stormkit, Fogkit 
		Grassbreeze- A soft grey she-cat with dark stripes. Mate is Redlake.
Apprentices-
Bluestar	Lilypaw- Blue-gray she-cat with a silver muzzle and blue eyes.
		Mintpaw- White she cat with light green eyes.
Elders-
		Rockpelt- A dark gray she-cat with blue eyes.
		Goldenleaf- A golden tabby tom with a white underbelly.

WindClan

Leader-  	Tinystar- Small white tom with unusually long claws.
Deputy- 	Juniperheart-  Beautiful calico she-cat with dazzling blue eyes.
Medicine Cat- 	Ivyshadow- Pale yellow she-cat with an unusually long tail.
	Apprentice- Mudpath
Warriors-

Tigerstar	Applefang- Big dark brown tabby tom with burning amber eyes
Dustpelt	Falconflight- Dark brown tabby tom with amber eyes.
			Apprentice: Ringpaw
Sandstorm	Dawnpelt- Pale ginger tabby with green eyes,
		Thornvine- A pale ginger queen.
Cloudtail	Creekwhisker- A white tom with blue eyes and a fluffy pelt.
Thistleclaw	Raindrop- A thick furred gray tom with white and gray accents.
			Apprentice: Ashpaw
Brokenstar	Darkcloud- Large brown tabby tom with orange eyes.
Clawface	Sleetpelt- Brown tom with orange eyes.
			Apprentice: Blossompaw
Heathertail	Skysong- Light brown tabby she-cat with heather eyes.
			Apprentice: Owlpaw
Brightheart	Clearsky- White she-cat with ginger patches and green eyes.

Queens-
		Birdflight- A calico she-cat with amber eyes. Mate is Applefang
			Kits: Volekit
Ferncloud	Dappleheart- Pale gray she-cat with darker flecks and light green eyes. Mate is Falconflight. Is expecting
Apprentices-
		Mudpath- Brown she-cat with amber eyes.
		Ringpaw- A white and black tom with several black rings along his tail.
		Owlpaw- Light gray tom with white chest and mask and large amber eyes. 
		Blossompaw- A dark gray tabby she-cat with green eyes.
		Ashpaw- A dark gray tom with orange eyes

Tides

Prologue

“It's sickening!” hissed a blue-gray she-cat. Her tail was lashing in anger as she looked down onto the Clans through a pool along with the rest of StarClan. “What do they think is the meaning of being a warrior? Do they take no pride in it?”

“I agree, Bluestar,” a large golden tabby growled. “They have forgotten what it means to be great! Boarder patrols are being forgotten and ignored, prey is eaten on hunting patrols, and strange cats are practically greeted into the camps!”

“It has gotten out of hand, Lionheart,” agreed a flame-colored tom. “But what can we do?”

“We need to remind them what it means, Firestar! Like back in the old days!” Lionheart roared. The cats of Starclan joined in, outraged.

“But how?” Firestar asked, digging his claws deep into the soil. He was one of Starclan now, and he felt like he should know what to do.

Two warm tails touched him, and he looked to see Sandstorm and Spottedleaf looking at him with sympathy.

“They’re not us, and they haven’t had to deal with what we had to in the past,” Graystripe pointed out. “But do we really want to send after them dogs, floods, droughts, or give them a new territory? They have no motivation. No passion!”

“But what if they were?!” a cat croaked. The cats of Starclan parted and laying in the open space was a thin tom with incredibly pale yellow fur. His body was faded and nearly translucent. He was one of the forgotten cat and everyone knew he was close to crossing over. No one dared to move for a moment, shocked that he had spoken. Cats like this never interacted with others.

His eyes remained closed as he walked towards Graystripe, but he moved with confidence of his path.

“I’m sorry, who are you?” Firestar asked politely. He had never met this cat before.

“I am me,” the cat scoffed as if Firestar was missing the obvious. He opened his eyes to reveal light blue irises, almost white. “But if you’re looking for a name, it’s one I’ve long forgotten and no one remembers.”

“More importantly,” Bluestar meowed, “what do you mean?”

“I mean, what if they were you?” the elder growled, growing impatient. “You go back into the clans and reignite that passion! You get another chance to be in the clans, guide them, and help!”

The cats of Starclan murmured, but some caterwauled indignantly.

“That’s ridiculous!” Blackstar cried. “I say if they can’t do this themselves and don‘t care to, then why should we help?”

“Do you have a better idea, Blackstar?” Graystripe growled. When the old ShadowClan leader said nothing, he continued. “You don’t have to help, but I think we should. It’ll be just like with Cinderpelt. Those who want a chance to help the clans can be reborn, those who do not wish this, can leave.”

After majority of the cats left, Bluestar piped up. “How can we do this?”

The sun-bleached cat reached down and touched the pool with his nose. The water began to twirl, creating an opening. “Those of you who wish to return the world of flesh, hop through the rabbit hole. Be warned, you will have a fresh slate. Your memories? Gone. Everything you have ever done will be forgotten until you return to us. You will also all be born at different times, and possibly into different clans. You can’t expect one queen to have this many kits now, can you? And remember that your affections may change while down there, as no memories means no love. Now, if you will please proceed. This hole will only remain open for so long.” But the elder’s warning was wasted as the StarClan cats had already jumped in.

So many jumped in, he mused. I wonder if there are ulterior motives? Regrets that they hope to fix? Ah well, no matter.

“Go!” a voice behind him cried.

The elder turned around to see eight cats rushing into the portal. They were lead by a dark and muscular tabby tom with unusually long claws.

“Must’ve changed their minds,” he muttered. “No matter, passion is passion.” The elder cackled at his remark, leaving an eerie sensation over the field.

Ch. 1 - Meetings

“Hello?” called a pretty young she-cat. Her light brown fur glowed softly in the moon light as she peered around.

She was in a clearing with soft green grass tickling her paws. Something touched her foot and she looked down to see a small blue berry nudging her. She looked around to see where it had come from, but found nothing. Looking back down, the she-cat gasped in horror as all around her blood was being smeared all around.

A small noise from the berry pulled her from this. As she peered down, a cat burst from the berry, claws extended coming right for her.

“Skysong! Wake up!”

Skysong jerked awake, startled by her dream. She looked up to see her sister, Dappleheart‘s, pale green eyes gazing at her in amusement.

“Bad dream?” her sister purred.

“Must’ve been. I can’t really remember it. Something about a blue berry?” Skysong yawned.

“You have the strangest dreams. Anyway, come on out to the TallStump, Tinystar is going to announce which cats are going to attend the gathering tonight!” Dappleheart mewed, excited.

Skysong followed her sister out of the warriors den and into the center of the WindClan camp, stifling a yawn as she greeted her clanmates.

“Good morning Skysong,” a calico she-cat purred. “Looks like someone had a nice sleep?”

“Good morning Juniperheart,” Skysong nodded.

Juniperheart was a beautiful cat, talented too; that’s why she was picked to be the deputy. But the she-cat was already sitting in a group, consisting of some of the scarier cats in the clan.

Skysong peered inconspicuously over, stealing a look.

Darkcloud was laying down, looking bored and annoyed as always. He was a fierce brown tabby with orange eyes that still gave Skysong the chills.

Next to him was Raindrop, a thick furred gray tom who had been Skysong’s mentor. He was violent as they came, and never had an ounce of mercy.

On the outskirts of the group was Sleetpelt, probably the easiest to get along with out of all of them. His brown coat was a comforting color to the onlooker, and his orange eyes managed to look so different from Raindrop’s; always seeming to convey calm and cool.

But the cat who unsettled Skysong the most was Applefang. He was the largest out of all of them with extraordinarily long claws and piercing amber eyes had made quite a few appearances in her nightmares.

Applefang turned his head to look at Skysong, and she quickly whipped her head away to look for her sister, hoping he hadn’t noticed anything. I’m just glad they’re on my side, she thought.

“Over here!” she heard her sister’s voice call. Dappleheart was sitting about as close as she could to Falconflight without touching him. Ever since her apprenticeship, Dappleheart had had a crush on the warrior, and now that they were both on the same footing, the two had started getting closer.

“Good morning Falconflight,” Skysong mewed, settling down.

The tom nodded a hello but before he could say anything, a yowl cut him off. All cats turned to watch Tinystar leap onto the TallStump. His white pelt reflected the light in a way that made him glow. The only sign of his age was given away when he began coughing before he spoke.

“Those attending the gathering are as follows; Myself, Juniperheart, Ivyshadow, Mudpath, Dawnpelt, Skysong, Dappleheart, Applefang, Falconflight, Creekwhisker, and Clearpaw,” the WindClan leader announced. “The rest of you go to Juniperheart for instructions. That is all.” The tom leaped off the TallStump and padded his way back into the den.

“How boring,” Skysong sighed.

“Going to a gathering is an honor!” Dappleheart hissed, shocked.

“No, not that,” the brown she-cat corrected her sister. “I mean the waiting around until nightfall part.”

“Oh, you’ll survive,” Dappleheart mewed, eyes amused.

“Skysong,” called a pale ginger she-cat. It was Dawnpelt, and she was making her way over to the group. “I heard you’re bored too. Would you like to join me in a quick hunt? We’ll stay away from the patrols.”

“Yes please,” she purred, shaking her fur clean as she stood up.

Skysong kneaded the ground impatiently as cats slowly made their way across the TreeBridge. Unfortunately, all the Clans seemed to have picked the exact same moment to show up and it was taking so long that quite a few RiverClan cats had already swam all the way over.

“What clan is crossing right now?” she hissed.

“ShadowClan,” a cat nearby mewed, drenching the word with irritation.

Skysong looked to see a golden tabby tom with burning amber eyes. A quick sniff identified him as a ShadowClan cat.“Well, what is the hold up?” Skysong asked.

“We have four new apprentices. They got their names just a few sunrises ago, and all of them are here,” the cat sighed.

Skysong looked at the bridge more closely and saw four tiny cats making their way across, slowly. She sighed and gave up, laying down and making herself comfortable. She was surprised when the golden tom did the same.

“I’m Burnstripe,” he greeted.

What a fitting name. “I’m Skysong.”

Ch. 2 - Gathering

“Bugpaw! Hurry up!”

Bugpaw lifted her green eyes to see her mentor, Fernleaf, standing at the end of the tree. Come on, you can do this. One paw after another, she told herself. After a few more minutes of motivation, she finally made it to the end of the branch, yowling her victory to StarClan.

“Finally!” several cats mumbled, and she turned to see the rest of her siblings leaping off the bridge as well. Embarrassment flooded her fur and she ducked her head. Had they really taken that long?

“You did fine for your first time,” Fernleaf assured her. Bugpaw looked into her mentors blue eyes and nodded, believing her. “Now go meet some cats and get acquainted. This is one of the few times we can meet others outside of our clan.”

“Yes Fernleaf,” Bugpaw smiled. She started walking towards, head held high. But some cats were glaring at her with outright hostility. She looked back to find Fernleaf, but all she saw was her mentor’s gray tail disappearing in a group of ThunderClan cats.

“Thanks for the hold up,” A cat growled behind her.

Bugpaw whipped around to see a dark tabby apprentice leaping off the TreeBridge. His amber eyes matched several around him, all hostile.

“Oh please Strikepaw, like you weren’t just as bad your first time,” a voice countered behind him. Following was a pretty tortoiseshell she-cat with the same amber eyes, but this set was filled with amusement.

“Was not!” Strikepaw meowed, outraged.

“Was too!” the she-cat purred. Turning to Bugpaw, her eyes went wide as she imitated him, her legs wobbly and flying all over the place. “Sunfang! Help me help me!” she cried mockingly.

Bugpaw coughed a laugh as Strikepaw’s eyes flashed indignantly.

“What’s wrong Petalpaw?” an flame colored tom asked, worried.

“Oh, nothing, sorry Sunfang,” Petalpaw apologized. “Strikepaw was making fun of her, and I was just reminding him of the first time he crossed the TreeBridge."

Sunfang’s eyes lit up and he chuckled. “Oh yes, that was a good day,” he mewed, turning around. His tail still twitched, remembering the night.

“So what’s your name?” Petalpaw asked, sitting down. Strikepaw sat next to her, tail sweeping the ground with annoyance but he seemed friendlier now.

“I’m Bugpaw,” she smiled, glad to have made a new friend.

“I think I’ll introduce myself properly. I’m Petalpaw and this is my brother, Strikepaw. He’s really a decent cat when you get to know him, just not a fan of waiting,” Petalpaw explained.

“Oh, but of course,” Strikepaw mocked, laughing.

He was cut off by a yowl from the middle of the island, and the three made their way over, eager to get started.Petalpaw leaned in close, putting her mouth right next to Bugpaw’s ear. “Next time the two of us will show you around the island.”

Bugpaw nodded, pleased at how well the night was turning out. They settled down to listen as the four leaders leaped onto their branches.

She was in awe of their grace and deftness, but also with their age! WindClan’s leader looked ill, and Thunderclan’s leader’s muzzle was pure white. She wondered how many lives he had left, but she wasn’t about to ask.

“Foreststar,” RiverClan’s leader, Marshstar, called the ThunderClan leader. “Would you like to start?” she offered.

“Thank you, Marshstar,” Foreststar nodded and walked out to the edge of the branch, keeping his balance despite how it shook. “ThunderClan’s medicine cat, Poppycloud, has taken an apprentice. We welcome Emberpaw to the medicine cat ranks.”Cats from all clans cheered loudly as the medicine cat apprentice puffed out her fur in pride.“ ThunderClan,” Foreststar continued, “has been keeping an eye on a fox that seems fond of wandering onto our territory. We urge ShadowClan to keep an eye out for it as well, as it’s scent trail has crossed over your boarder a few times. I have nothing else to report,” he finished, taking a step back.

ShadowClan cat’s murmured, worried and nervous. Bugpaw’s spine tingled with fear and her pelt puffed out a bit.

“Don’t worry,” Strikepaw mewed quietly. “It seems to stick to our territory, and we’re going to take care of it.” The tom’s eyes flashed as he caught his mistake, and scrambled to fix it. “Not that you couldn’t, I just mean…” he trailed off.

Bugpaw let out a chuckle. “You’re fine Strikepaw, I know what you meant. You were just trying to help. Thank you.”

Strikepaw nodded and turned back to watch as Cloverstar took over the meeting. “Thank you Foreststar, we’ll keep an eye out for that,” she nodded. “ShadowClan is proud to announce that we have four new apprentice joining us this evening.” Cats mumbled, recalling the TreeBridge. “They are Mothpaw, Spottedpaw, Littlepaw, and Bugpaw.”

ShadowClan cats yowled happily as the names were called, Strikepaw and Petalpaw joining in, but the rest of the clans seemed quieter, still annoyed over the earlier delay. Bugpaw watched as her siblings ignored them, puffing out with pride as each of their names were called and she did the same. No cat was ruining this night.

“Aside from that, prey is running but not escaping, and all is well,” Cloverstar finished.Bugpaw let out a sigh of relief as all eyes returned to the leaders.

Ch. 3 - Comfort

“I sincerely hope that those four learn how to cross a bridge during their apprenticeship,” Swiftstorm mumbled, shivering a bit.

“It’s not their fault you decided to swim over instead of waiting,” Lilypaw reminded him, giving his fur a few quick licks before scooting closer to him.

“Well I wasn’t going to wait forever. It was ridiculous,” he growled.

“Yes, well maybe it will all be put in perspective tomorrow when you have a cold, goodness,” she sighed.

“If I may,” Marshstar spoke loudly, calling attention back to her. “RiverClan also welcomes a new apprentice, Mintpaw.” As Marshstar spoke, Mintpaw shuffled her paws, looking embarrassed. “The rivers have been over flowing recently, but not to the point of flooding, so I don‘t believe we have any reason to worry. RiverClan is well and the fish are healthy,” the grey and white she-cat sat back down, motioning for Tinystar to take his turn.

It was almost painful to watch the old cat walk to the end of his branch, and excruciating as he coughed.

“He doesn’t have much longer,” a cat mewed quietly. She looked back to see it was Icepad. Cat glared all around him, but Lilypaw knew everyone was thinking the same thing.

“WindClan is doing well. The twolegs have brought their dogs and a few ventured onto our territory, but we soon showed them their place!” WindClan cats caterwauled happily. When the noise settled, he continued. “Other than that, the rabbits have been plentiful and all is well. This gathering is over.” As the WindClan leader leapt to the ground, many cat, even some not in his clan, tensed, but he had no trouble.

“Hurry up!” grunted Swiftstorm, hefting himself onto his paws. “Before ShadowClan gets to the TreeBridge first!”

Lilypaw rolled her eyes but followed behind him, keeping pace as he raced across the tree. She looked back to see Mintpaw making her way across more slowly, but determined to not slow anyone down. Lilypaw let Swiftstorm go ahead to the camp, waiting for the new apprentice to catch up.

“How was your first gathering?” the blue she-cat asked as Mintpaw leaped off the bridge, pleased.

“It was amazing!” the white she-cat meowed in awe, her eyes widening. “I met some other apprentices, they seemed pretty friendly. I was nervous though, I hope I didn’t make a fool of myself.”

Lilypaw shook her head, “I’m sure you did fine. Besides, the apprentices that were the talk of the night were the ShadowClan siblings.”

“If you say so,” the apprentice mewed, but she seemed convinced. Mintpaw shook her head, trying to change the subject. “So what do you want your warrior name to be?”

The question took Lilypaw by surprise and she paused mid-gait. “I’m not really sure. I guess I don’t think about it much since if I find one I really like and I don’t receive it, I’ll just be disappointed. And that’s the last feeling I want on that day,” she explained. Looking over at Mintpaw, she added, “Why, do you have one you really like?”

Mintpaw shrugged. “I’ve thought of a few, but none of them I love. But it’s as you said, no warrior can pick their own name.”

“It’s happened before. Two or three times,” a voice jumped in.

Lilypaw turned to see Nightheart padding towards them. “But that’s impossible!” she exclaimed. “Leaders pick a warrior’s name.”

“Yes, usually. As I’ve said, it’s only happened two or three times in history,” Nightheart pointed out. “Of course, they were for very good reasons so its not like just any cat can pick their name.”

“Where did you hear that?” Mintpaw asked, curious.

The black tom flick his ears and cocked his head, trying to remember. “I’m not too sure. It was probably a story I heard as a kit. The last cat to pick his name was a tom during the journey to the lake.”

Lilypaw’s eyes widened as she recalled the story had had been passed down through generations.

“A tom requested that he take part of a lost lover’s name,” Nightheart yawned, exposing his long fangs. “Well, I’m off to my nest. Good night.”

“Good night Nightheart,” Lilypaw nodded. “Thank you.”

A large tabby tom came up behind them, his piercing blue eyes aimed at Mintpaw. “We have battle practice in the morning, so get back to your den.”

“Yes Icepad,” Mintpaw mewed obediently. She ducked her head, as if trying to avoid his eyes.

Lilypaw’s mentor, Dustyrose, came up beside her. “We’re going to be training with them as well, so get some rest.

She nodded, exchanging a quick look with Mintpaw before the two dashed off in a mad race. Up ahead they could make out the camp. Over many years, a willow tree had grown over the camp, leaning protectively over the years as winds had mangled it. The branches draped all around.

To Lilypaw, it was a gift from StarClan, sheltering them from the harshest rains and cruelest storms. It was an incomparable comfort, second only to snuggling up closer to your mother as a kit.

“I’m going to win!” Mintpaw crowed, putting on the speed.

Lilypaw did the same, claws flinging up soft soil as she tried to take the lead.

“Be quiet!” Icepad hissed, poking his head out between the limp branches. “Cats are sleeping, now get into your dens!”

Ch. 4 - Adapting

The morning sun filtered through the reeds that lay over the apprentice den, awaking a groggy Lilypaw. She arched her back habitually. Next to her was Mintpaw, snoring through her morning. Lilypaw reached over and poked her denmate awake.

“Wha-?” the white she-cat leaped up, alarmed. She peered outside, her light green eyes drooping with sleep. “It’s so early,” she mewed, shaking her head. Mintpaw had only recently been apprenticed and hadn’t had any siblings, so the she-cat was used to taking her time when waking up.

“Lets get out and stretch. Icepad will be up by now, and you don’t want him thinking we’re shirking the day away,” Lilypaw mewed softly. She could see the new apprentice flinch as Lilypaw mentioned her mentor.

“Is there something going on with Icepad?” she blue she-cat asked, concerned.

“No, nothing,” Mintpaw assured her, smiling. Her eyes slid over the apprentice den. “Why doesn’t Leappaw sleep in here?”

“She prefers to sleep in the Medicine Cat den with Goldenleaf,” the she-cat shrugged. “I don’t pretend to know how she does it, the smell of herbs makes me choke when I spend too much time in there.”

The two padded out into the early light and saw that a hunting patrol had already returned with fresh-kill. Mintpaw dashed forward to grab a tasty looking rabbit, but Lilypaw bit her gently on the tail, stopping the she-cat in her tracks.

“We can’t eat until queens and elders have been fed, remember?” Lilypaw reminded her. “Dustyrose and Icepad must be out, so we can finish that up now.” She padded towards the pile, picking up the rabbit. “I’ll take this to Brownwhisker, you take that finch to Rockpelt,” Lilypaw mumbled around the rabbit.

Mintpaw nodded, snatching up the bird and trotting off to the elder’s den. They lived tucked in between the large roots that protruded from the ground, and warriors had mad a roof from brambles and reeds.

Lilypaw took off in the opposite direction towards the nursery. It was previously a dip into the ground, but over time RiverClan had deepened and widened it until it was large enough to house many queens and kits. The inside was blanketed in thick layers of moss, feathers, and tall grass.

As the blue apprentice padded in, the lone queen, Brownwhisker, turned her head. “Lilypaw, is that for me?” Her eyes lit up as she dropped the rabbit. “Thank you.”

“Of course Brownwhisker, it’s my pleasure,” Lilypaw assured her. Peering down, she saw the three kits. They were barely a quarter moon old, their eyes not yet open. “Have you decided on their names yet?”

The brown queen nodded. “The black tabby tom is called Stripekit, the dark gray she-cat is named Stormkit, and the fluffy she-cat is Fogkit.”

“They’re all beautiful,” Lilypaw purred.

“And young,” Brownwhisker murmured, nuzzling her kits. “Train hard Lilypaw, and you might get a chance to have one as your apprentice.”

Lilypaw’s eyes lit up at the idea. “I will! Thanks Brownwhisker!” She liked the brown she-cat, despite the bad reputation she had garnered. Ever since her mate, Salmonpelt, had picked her over Brindlefur. Lilypaw didn’t know the whole story, but she knew there was more than what the clan was judging on.

Walking outside she saw Icepad, Mintpaw, and Dustyrose waiting for her.

“Took you long enough,” Icepad mewed coldly.

“We’re going to the marsh to train,” Dustyrose told both apprentices. “Although most of our territory isn’t that wet, it’ll just make everything else seem easier. Especially against other clans who aren’t used to our terrain. Many Clans believe that the reason some RiverClan warriors are a little bigger than most other clans is because we eat more. While it’s true that our food supply doesn’t usually change much throughout the seasons, it’s also because we gain so much muscle because we have to trek through the thick mud and use so many muscles in the water. RiverClan warriors have such a unique terrain that we have to fight on, one that no other clan really comes close to, so we must learn to master our own land as well as how to fight on dry land, got it?” The apprentices nodded. Lilypaw had heard this speech before, but Mintpaw looked a little concerned. “Let’s go.”

The four RiverClan cats made their way to the marsh, all paws becoming drenched in muddied water. When they got there, Dustyrose motioned for the apprentices stop.

“In the marshes,” Icepad began, “you are going to sink, going to get wet, and it’s going to be hard to move. RiverClan has never wasted time trying to find ways around this, but rather to find ways to use this to your advantage. Most of our territory, although wetter than most Clan’s, is not this bad. But if you practice in the extremes, everything else will seem easy as can be. Mintpaw, can you think of any ways that we can use the marsh to our advantage?” he quizzed his apprentice.

Mintpaw’s light green eyes narrowed as they darted around the area, searching. “The only one I can think of is to throw mud into another warriors’ eyes, but that’s rather underhanded, isn’t it?”

Dustyrose’s nod confirmed this. “It’s not something RiverClan would like to be known for, but in a matter of life and death, don’t count it out. Using the terrain was a good start.” Her tail flicked towards the variety of plants that sprouted from the ground. “ Using things like this can hide you and your scent.” The she-cats tail then pointed directly at the slushy ground. “The mud allows you to do things that you couldn’t normally do on regular earth. Lilypaw, you’ve already learned the bucking kick. Demonstrate on me,” she told her apprentice.

Lilypaw nodded and padded forward. She set her body into a crouch, her chest lightly touching the cold floor. Her mentor nodded and took a running start before leaping into the air. Lilypaw shifted her weight onto her front paws, leaving her hind ones free. She twisted around and at the right moment, pushed on the ground and shot her legs into Dustyrose’s chest. She could feel the impact her move had made, and heard her mentor’s breath desert her lungs as she fell down.

“Very well done, Lilypaw,” Dustyrose purred unsteadily as she regained her breath.

“You can do that move on land as well, but it’s much less effective and even if you don’t miss your target, you’re still very likely to fall,” Icepad explained. “The mud gives us something to push against and stabilizes us. The key is the shift all of your weight onto your front paws as you turn around so you’re really secure. Take a whack at it. Lilypaw, would you do the honors?”

Lilypaw nodded, taking a few steps back as Mintpaw prepared herself. The apprentice nodded and Lilypaw ran forward and leaped. She braced herself for the impact, but it didn’t come and she barreled into Mintpaw, pinning her down.

“Sorry Icepad!” Mintpaw squeaked, pushing Lilypaw off.

“Try it again,” Icepad growled.

Lilypaw leapt at Mintpaw again, but they got the same result.

Icepads’ eyes narrowed. “Dustyrose, I think that’ll be enough for today. I’m going to practice with Mintpaw alone if you don’t mind.”

“Sure,” Dustyrose shrugged. “Lilypaw come with me. We’ll catch some fish and call it a day.”

“Okay,” Lilypaw shrugged, picking herself up. As mentor and apprentice padded out of the marsh, Lilypaw turned her head to see Mintpaw trembling slightly as her large eyes looked up to her mentor.

Ch. 5 - Revealed

Terror washed through Fernleaf, churning and twisting in her stomach until she felt as if she was going to throw up. What was she going to do?

“Fernleaf?”

A petite voice snapped Fernleaf out of her state of shock. She looked down to see her apprentice, Bugpaw, waiting.

“Are you okay?” her apprentice asked, cocking her head to the side.

Fernleaf shook her head clear. “Yes, I’m fine. There’s just something I need to do today.” Her eyes scanned ShadowClan’s camp. “Burnstripe.” The golden cats’ ears pricked up and he padded over. “I’m going out today, would you mind taking Bugpaw for some battle practice?”

“Sure Fernleaf,” Burnstripe shrugged. “Come on Bugpaw, I’ll show you how to take down even the biggest cats.”

The fluffy she-cat ran out of the camp, trying to seem calm but she couldn’t get a handle on it. Calm down, she told herself. Psyching yourself out isn’t going to help anything right now. Her nerves subsided, but she suspected it was the first of many. Fernleaf slowed to a brisk jog. She kept low, slinking under bushes and keeping close to trees.

She reached the twoleg path, and crossed over as a quick check confirmed that no twolegs had not been there recently. Her hackles shot up as she crossed the scent boarder with ThunderClan. All her training and instincts screamed danger, but she ignored them and continued deeper into the heart of ThunderClan territory.

Fernleaf wasn’t exactly sure of her plan, or how far into the territory she would have to go, or if she would even find the tom she was looking for, but she knew it couldn’t wait until the next gathering.

“Fernleaf?” a voice behind her hissed.

Fernleaf spun around, unsheathing her claws, ready to defend herself. But she relaxed slightly as she saw it was Hazelnose.

The tom glared at her, but she saw a glimmer of worry. He leaped up into a nearby tree and motion for her to do the same. She was already impressed by the leap, and her struggle to climb up made his grace all the more impressive.

“What are you doing here?” Hazelnose hissed. “You two agreed only to meet during gatherings! That‘s the only reason I agreed to keep your secret!”

Fernleaf snapped her tail over his mouth and looked him in the eye. His yellow eyes were frightened. He must’ve guessed. “Hazelnose,” she started. “You know me well enough to know that I would never jeopardize myself or one of his closest friends like this unless it was important, and this is important. Can you bring him here for me, please?” she begged.

Hazelnose hesitated. He leaned forward, giving Fernleaf a quick but comforting lick on the head before leaping out of the tree.

Fernleaf sighed. Hazelnose was too good to her. She settled down in a fork of the tree, trying to relax. She peered down through the thick layers of leaves to the forest floor. ThunderClan territory was so different from ShadowClan’s forest. The many bushes that cats had to weave around to get anywhere would’ve driven her insane; it was like a maze. But still, it does have give a cat a sense of comfort. Like they’re tucked away in their own little world. But still, ShadowClan’s forest suits me best. Just enough cover but still room to stretch your legs. And the prickly forest floor here would annoy me to no end!

“Fernleaf?” a voice hissed from below. She knew who it belonged to before even seeing him.

“It’s me, Fallentail,” she whispered back.

The black tom leaped into the tree with ease, his eyes happy but full of concern. “What’s going on? Hazelnose said it was urgent?” he asked, nuzzling her. He could easily see the fright in her eyes.

She stared hopelessly at him. “Fallentail, I’m pregnant.” Fernleaf watched his expression carefully, expecting the worst.

What she didn’t expect, was for him to start making such a ruckus. He threw his head to the sky and yowled with a pure joy that lifted Fernleaf’s heart a bit.

“What’re you doing you crazy furball?! Keep it down!” she hissed, swatting his head gently.

“Sorry,” he apologized, “but I’m just so happy! Do you know how many? What genders? Oh don’t tell me, I want it to be a surprise. When are they due?”

Fernleaf stopped his questions on one she could actually answer. “Soon, a little less than a moon. So sometime around the next gathering.” The next question he asked, she expected.

“When can I see them?” he asked, suddenly worried.

Fernleaf hated to disappoint him. “I’m not sure,” she said honestly, her tail twitching. “It may not be until they are apprenticed, but should we even tell them? I mean, think about what that would do to our kits? Who wants to be a half-clan cat?”

“We can’t keep this hidden forever,” Fallentail pointed out. Before Fernleaf could say anything he nuzzled her cheek. “We’ll cross those bridges when we come to them. For now, keep healthy, okay? I’ll escort you to the boarder and cover up your scent when you leave.”

“Thanks Fallentail,” Fernleaf mewed, leaning against the ThunderClan warrior. Although she knew that there was a lot more to overcome, for now, she felt safe.

Ch. 6 - Encounter

Petalpaw’s mouth turned up slightly in a smile as sun soaked into her fur. She hadn’t been able to sleep the night before, so she had climbed to the top of the walls that hugged their camp and had been there ever since, waiting to greet the sun. It had been a few days since the gathering, and the tortoiseshell she-cat wondered how the ShadowClan apprentice, Bugpaw, was doing.

“Petalpaw!” Fallentail called from the center of the camp. He climbed the rocks up to his apprentice. “What’re you doing up here?” he asked.

“I just woke up early and couldn’t get back to sleep,” she explained, getting up to stretch.

“Well, that’s a stroke of luck,” Fallentail meowed, “because you and I are on the dawn patrol. So are Honeywhisker and Strikepaw, could you go wake your brother up?”

“Only if I get all of LionClan to help me,” Petalpaw muttered. Her brother slept like he was dead. She leapt down back into the camp, pleased with the ease of the move. Padding into the apprentice den, she saw her brother and Emberpaw sleeping soundly. Careful to not bug the medicine cat apprentice, she began to prod Strikepaw. After a multiple attempts she started to call his name and when that didn’t work she dug her claws into his scruff.

“Ow!” Strikepaw yowled, finally waking up.

“Get up you lazy lump! We’re on dawn patrol this morning,” Petalpaw whispered.

“There is no point in being quiet anymore, Petalpaw,” Emberpaw sighed. “Honestly, do you really think any cat could sleep through that?”

“Sorry Emberpaw,” the siblings said in unison. The two walked out into the clearing, meeting their mentors.

“We won’t grab anything to eat now, but we can catch some food along the way,” Honeywhisker told them, licking her chest. “We’re just waiting on Sunfang.”

Petalpaw‘s ears perked up at the young warrior‘s name and sat much more properly, folding her tail over her paws. She couldn’t help it, it was hard to hide her affection for the young warrior.

“Why a patrol of five?” Petalpaw asked. Normally three was enough, four was rare.

“Because of the fox,” Sunfang informed her, coming from the warriors den. “We need to get rid of it, so if patrols are to see one, we need to take care of it on the spot.”

“You’re here, now we can get going,” Honeywhisker said, getting up. “We’ll start at the ShadowClan boarder,” she decided. “Come on.”

The patrol walked through the thorn barrier, and Petalpaw remembered when Strikepaw had gotten a thorn stuck in his pad and Poppycloud had to remove it. She had never heard a cat make more noise!

“So has Fallentail planned your assessment yet?” Sunfang asked, walking up next to Petalpaw.

The tortoiseshell looked at Fallentail who was chatting with Honeywhisker. Strikepaw seemed to be looking for his breakfast.

“Not yet,” she replied, flicking her ears. “I know most apprentices can expect to get their warrior assessment around now, so I’m fine waiting a little longer. Besides,” her eyes rested on Fallentail, “the last few days he has seemed really distracted.” She looked back at Sunfang, his eyes looked thoughtful.

“Well, there is no reason to neglect your training, but you don’t want to be insensitive,” Sunfang trailed on. His green eyes suddenly lit up. “Well, if there is a day Fallentail can’t train you or is too busy, come find me and I’ll take you on a hunting patrol or take you out for battle practice. As long as it’s okay with Fallentail, of course.”

Petalpaw’s torso quivered with joy. “I’m sure it’ll be fine, thanks Sunfang,” she purred.

Her senses became more and more alert as they neared the ShadowClan boarder.

“You both know how to mark the boarder,” Honeywhisker told the apprentices. “You both mark up ahead and we’ll catch up.”

“Okay Honeywhisker,” Strikepaw sighed, his tail scraping along the ground.

When they were out of earshot, Petalpaw gave him a quizzical look. “What’re you so depressed about?” she hissed.

“I missed a mouse back there,” he sighed. “It was lovely and plump.”

Petalpaw let our a mroow of laughter and cuffed her brother over the ear. “I’ll catch you one later,” she promised him. The tortoiseshell apprentice hugged her body around a tree as she remarked it, her brother copied the act on a few saplings nearby.

While waiting for the warriors to catch up, she gazed out into ShadowClan’s territory. Their forest slightly resembled ThunderClan’s, but they had mostly pines trees and a lot less cover. I would feel so insecure there, and where do you find prey hiding? Also, how did they ever get their taste for frogs? “Disgusting,” she said aloud, imagining eating one of the green creatures.

A low hiss from her brother snapped Petalpaw out of her thoughts. In front of her were three ShadowClan warriors she didn’t recognize; a gray tom, a black and brown tom, and a dark gray tabby.

“ShadowClan is disgusting now, are we?” the black and brown warrior growled threateningly. “You’re lucky you’re on that side of the boarder apprentice.”

“She didn’t mean anything by it,” Strikepaw hissed, crouching low. “And she wasn’t referring to you."

“She was looking right at us,” the dark gray tabby snarled.

“What’s going on here?” The ShadowClan cats turned to reveal another warrior joining them. Petalpaw’s heart sank as she recognized him as Frozenwhisker, the ShadowClan deputy.

“I would like to know the same thing,” Honeywhisker growled, leaping in front of Strikepaw and Petalpaw, right onto the boarder.

Fallentail and Sunfang did the same, their orange and black pelts fluffed up and teeth bared.

“You’re apprentices need to learn their manners,” the gray tom hissed.

“And?” Honeywhisker asked. When the ShadowClan cats looked at her questioningly, she went on, giving her whiskers and irritated twitch. “Blazeclaw, is there anything else?”

“What else are you looking for, Honeywhisker?” Blazeclaw hissed finally, puzzled.

“Something that ShadowClan doesn’t have a habit of doing daily,” Honeywhisker pointed out dryly. “If that’s all you have, then we’ll be leaving.” The she-cat flicked her tail and the patrol stood up and followed.

Petalpaw had to force herself not to look back. With a jolt of alarm, she realized Strikepaw wasn’t next to her. Before she could turn around and panic, he appeared right next to her.

“What were you doing?” she asked after the ShadowClan cats had returned to their duties.

“I marked the boarder right in front of them,” he growled with pride.

“Way to go, kid,” Fallentail nodded approvingly.

“Are you okay?” Sunfang asked Petalpaw, worried.

“Yeah, they didn’t touch us,” she told him, grateful.

The warrior sighed and leaned into her as they walked, giving Petalpaw a rush of excitement.

“Strikepaw, Petalpaw, we’re far from where the fox is now,” Honeywhisker mewed. “I want you two to go back to camp and tell Foreststar what just happened. We can take care of the rest of the territory.”

“Yes Honeywhisker,” Petalpaw sighed, disappointed as she broke contact with Sunfang.

“Can we catch breakfast on the way back?” Strikefang begged. It was almost sunhigh and none of them had eaten anything.

“Yes, but make it quick!” Fallentail purred.

“I bet I can catch a squirrel before you!” Strikepaw crowed.

“You’re on!” Petalpaw cried, racing into the forest behind her brother, most of the incident already forgotten.

Ch. 7 - Promise

WindClan was in chaos.

“It’s not right!” caterwauled Falconflight.

“WindClan is growing bigger by the moon, you should know that much,” Applefang reminded him with a hiss.

At this, Falconflight let out a vicious growl, and Skysong knew that the large tom had gone too far as to bring Dappleheart’s recently discovered pregnancy into this.

“This isn’t your decision Applefang, or yours Darkcloud!” Skysong snarled, putting her face a mousetail away from his. Darkcloud was the one who had started the whole thing, but now the tom was sitting back and watching it all unfold.

“What is going on?” Tinystar snarled, leaping onto the TallStump. “I come back from a quick patrol and this is what happens?”

Juniperheart sat next to the stump, her blue eyes cold and disgusted.

“Skysong?” Tinystar growled after no cat said anything.

Skysong collected herself and walked back next to her sister, Dappleheart. The Clan seemed to be divided into two parts; herself, Dappleheart, Falconflight, Creekwhisker, Dawnpelt and Clearpaw against Applefang, Raindrop, Darkcloud, Sleetpelt and Thornvine. It frightened her; this wasn’t how it was supposed to be.

“Skysong,” Tinystar demanded.

“Darkcloud was planning a patrol,” Skysong told him flatly, still staring at his unwavering, orange eyes. “He decided that WindClan needed more territory and was going to take ThunderClan’s strip of moor across the river. We told him it was stupid and tried to remind him that WindClan has the largest territory already.”

“But we need more. We have four kits in the nursery, Dappleheart is going to have some more soon, and no elders. Our Clan is young and will only continue to expand for a long time, Tinystar,” Darkcloud hissed.

Tinystar’s brown eyes smoldered with fury. “That is what this is all about?” He turned to Darkcloud, his lips curved up in a snarl. “You are not leader and do not make those decisions, Darkcloud.If such a thought finds its way to the tip of your tongue, you do not vocalize it like this! You come and talk to me. Look at what you have done to your clan!” he cried accusingly.

Skysong watched as Darkcloud took everything in, the two sides of cats, the kits who were trembling in the nursery, and Ivyshadow and Mudpath’s disapproving look. What happened next didn’t surprise Skysong, but chilled her to the bone. The tom remained unaffected and merely glanced at Tinystar as if to say, “So?”.

She could tell Tinystar saw this as well. “Darkcloud, for this, you will pay,” Tinystar asserted. “You need to relearn the basics of what it means to be a warrior, and an understanding for what our Clan has. You’re going to be an apprentice again. You will not lose your warrior name, no cat can take that from you, but you will be spending the next moon cleaning the camp and you will be confined as well. No boarder patrols or anything of the sort. You will be apprentice to Juniperheart, and if at the end of this she is not pleased with your progress, you will be punished another moon.”

Darkcloud’s smug look changed to one of horror and rage in the blink of an eye. He opened his mouth to object, but Tinystar wasn’t finished.

“Ringpaw, step forward,” he ordered. The apprentice seemed shocked to have been called out, but he scurried over to Tinystar, not wanting to make him wait any longer. “Ringpaw, from this day on, Darkcloud is no longer your mentor. Until the day you receive your warrior name,” Tinystar emphasized, “Falconflight will be your mentor." Then Tinystar declared. “This discussion is over. Juniperheart, set up patrols.”

The Clan stood frozen for a moment, shocked at what had just occurred. It wasn’t until Juniperheart started sending out patrols that everyone seemed to unfreeze.

“Darkcloud, go clean the warriors den and collect some fresh moss for the warrior’s nests,” she stated. Skysong was shocked that she would publicly state this right after the warrior had just been so badly bashed, but she realized Juniperheart was showing her support of what Tinystar had done.

“Dawnpelt and Creekwhisker, go on a hunting patrol. Try around the twoleg nest, no one has been there in a while. Dappleheart, Raindrop and Sleetpelt are on the sunset patrol. Make sure to not overexert yourself Dappleheart.” The cats who had been assigned quickly dashed out of the camp, hoping for something to distract them.

“Flaconflight,” Juniperheart started. “Grab Clearpaw and Ringpaw and meet me at the top of the hill. We’ll be having some battle practice.”

The camp was pretty much deserted by the time Juniperheart had left. Applefang and Skysong had been the only ones not placed onto a patrol, but the tom had already disappeared. She decided to go check on the queens in the nursery, to see if there was anything she could do.

“Tell us another story!” one of the kits cried, giggling happily. As Skysong pushed through the brush she saw Birdflight and Thornvine in the corner, grooming. In the back of the den were the four kits circled around Tinystar, each more focused than ever before.

Tinystar’s brown eyes met her heather ones with sadness, but his voice was cheery as he meowed, “Oh Skysong, you’re just in time to hear the story about Sun.”

Skysong purred, “I wouldn’t want to miss this.” The she-cat settled in next to Owlkit and Volekit, waiting patiently.

“Long ago,” Tinystar began, “there was a Clan of cats called LionClan. They were majestic creatures with golden pelts and thick manes. Their fangs were long and thick as a warrior’s leg.

“Back then, the world was cold and covered in darkness. Prey was dying from lack of food and soon so was LionClan. So one day their leader let out a mighty roar, leapt into the sky and began to chase the darkness. Well the darkness was so afraid of the mighty warrior that it fled across the sky, running from him. The lion’s name was Sun, and he is still chasing the darkness around the sky to this very day.”

The kits squealed with delight at the story, begging for another.“I will tell you one tomorrow,” Tinystar assured them. As he padded out of the den, he waved Skysong over.

“Need something Tinystar?” she offered.

He waited a moment, scanning her face as if looking for an answer. “Darkcloud was right,” he told her. “We are a clan of youthful cats, and I am the last of my generation.”

“Tinystar!” Skysong gasped, trying to stop him from talking.

“Calm down Skysong, I didn’t mean anything by it. I’m an old cat, older than anyone else in the forest. I am going to die soon, and Juniperheart will become a great leader.”

Skysong sat in silence, but her heart was screaming. Tinystar had been leader since she was born and she couldn’t imagine the Clan without him.

“You’re a good cat,” Tinystar told her. “I’ve watched you grow up, and you have blossomed into a warrior worth admiring. Promise me that you will do all you can for my Clan, Skysong, even after I am gone.”

“Even after Sun stops chasing the darkness,” she swore, nodding solemnly.

“Good,” the tom nodded briskly. The day had taken a toll on him. He padded back to his den without another word.

Skysong walked over to the medicine cat den. “Ivyshadow?” she called tentatively.

“Yes? What can I do for you, Skysong?” the pretty she-cat asked, licking her lips.

“Would you mind taking a look at Tinystar?” Skysong stopped, not sure if she should be asking that.

Ivyshadow nodded, understanding. “I’ll send Mudpath to give him some strengthening herbs.”

“Thank you.”


Ch. 8 - Patience

Burnstripe stretched in the early sun. The camp was uneventful as ever, Dewshower and Blazeclaw were staring into each other’s eyes again, the apprentices were sitting eagerly outside the warriors den, waiting for their mentors to wake up, and Elkberry, the medicine cat, was already busy at work.

I’ll get an early start on the day, he decided, getting up and shaking himself clean. He had big plans for tonight, but didn’t dare to even think about them in the off chance of jinxing himself. I need all the luck I can get.

“Ouch!” Burnstripe hissed, picking up his paw to see what had struck it. Imbedded deeply into his soft pad was a thorn. The tom gave a loud hiss as he removed it, give his aching paw a few licks.

“I saw that,” Cloverstar purred.

“It’s fine,” the golden tom assured her, putting some weight on it with a grimace.

“Uh-huh, sure,” Cloverstar rolled her eyes. “Toms these days. Go see Rabbitear for something to put on that; I don’t want it getting infected.”

Burnstripe sighed, giving in with a flick of his ears and padded over to the medicine cat den, hoping that this wouldn’t delay him too much. “Rabbitear!” he called, hoping the apprentice was awake. Elkberry had already dashed off to collect herbs for the morning and wouldn’t be back for a while.

“What?” the gray tom hissed. “What? What? What? What?”

Burnstripe was shocked by the normally calm cat’s outburst. “Good dream?” he asked meekly.

Rabbitear stared at Burnstripe, his eyes narrowed before giving an exasperated sigh. “What do you need, Burnstripe?”

“I had a thorn in my pad, it was pretty deep,” the gold tabby told him. “Cloverstar sent me over to get it checked out,” he added. He picked up his paw and twisted it over to show the medicine cat and grimaced at the sight.

“Give me a moment,” he yawned, dragging his pads through the cave. Burnstripe waited impatiently for the tom to return. “Here you go,” he said, placing some pulp onto the wound and wrapping it up in cobwebs.

The ShadowClan warrior tested it out, and found it feeling much better. “Thanks Rabbitear!” he meowed happily.

“Yes, yes,” Rabbitear purred. “Goodbye now.”

The forest lay silent with the blanket of night laid out all around. Every cat was asleep except Burnstripe, and he did his best to keep it that way as he snuck out of the camp.

I’m getting better at this, he thought to himself proudly as he marched towards the RiverClan boarder. Up ahead he could see the distant lights of the twoleg nest, but he knew that even they were in a deep sleep by now.

He crossed the wooden contraption that extended far from the house, not even trying to keep himself quiet as no matter what he did it seemed to echo a thousand times louder. He had soon realized it was much simpler to just get it over with quickly.

As he entered RiverClan territory his hackles flew up a bit. That was the one instinct he was unable to tame during his last expeditions through here, and he wasn’t trying to.

Burnstripe kept close to the shore, hoping it would disguise his scent. There wasn’t much else the tom could do. When he reached the river fear flooded his body, holding Burnstripe nearly stiff.

Then the image of the brown she-cat passed through his head and he nodded to himself, leaping onto the stones and trying to convince himself it was just a game.

Up ahead he could see his true destination: the island.

Burnstripe’s chest began to pound as he neared and everything around him seemed to become a blur, all of it inconsequential compared to what was waiting for him.

He made on final leap from the TreeBridge to the island and stood there panting for a minute, exhausted.

“Aww, is Burnstripe tired?” a voice giggled from the middle of the island.

“Very,” he agreed, running towards the sound.

Beneath the branches where the leaders sat at every full moon was Skysong. He walked up and nuzzled her gently, pleased.

“How are you?” he asked, breathless.

“I’ve been better,” she sighed, laying down and shivering a bit.

“What happened?” he asked, settling down next to her. Her wrapped his tail around her shoulders, trying to warm her up.

“It’s a long story,” she warned him.

“I’ve got all night.”

Ch. 9 - Changes

“No!”

Fawnleap flinched as the words hit her ears. She never thought that a single word could hurt her so badly.

She looked up at Sparkclaw, who had spoken the words after Fawnleap had asked if he’d like to go hunting with her. His yellow eyes were confused and worried.

“Ah,” he caught himself. “I’m-”

“No need to say it Sparkclaw,” Fawnleap shrugged, trying to act nonchalant. “Maybe another time.” She said this, but wasn’t confident she could build up the courage to do it.

The ShadowClan tom didn’t say anything but nodded and jogged quickly into the forest.

“Fawnleap,” Mothpaw called, padding over to her, “can we go for some battle practice?”

Fawnleap stared at Mothpaw for a moment; apprentices never picked their own training schedule and Mothpaw was usually a shy she-cat. Now silver she-cat’s eyes glowed with a new confidence and something else Fawnleap couldn’t put her paw on.

“Sure, let’s go to the nearby clearing,” the mentor decided, padding out of the camp. Hard as she tried, she couldn’t shake Sparkclaw out of her head. She liked the tom, and had made that painfully clear, but he hadn’t voiced his feelings yet. Fawnleap hated it; this feeling of vulnerability.

When the two reached the clearing she saw Rumblefur and his apprentice, Spottedpaw, already practicing.

“Mind if we join you?” Fawnleap called.

Rumblefur met her eye and nodded, not breaking from the battle he was already locked in with his apprentice. She was impressed by Spottedpaw’s moves as they were highly advanced.

“Let’s have a practice battle, just so I can asses where you are,” Fawnleap told Mothpaw. The apprentice nodded, clearly pleased.

The silver she-cat made the first move, leaping at her mentor and landing on her back and clawing viciously despite her sheathed claws, then began to leap up again, expecting her mentor to rollover.

Who taught her these moves?! Fawnleap thought, shocked. Not me!

Instead, the tortioseshell stood up on her hind paws, twisting her body around and raked the apprentice’s belly with her paws, pushing Mothpaw onto her back where Fawnleap quickly pinned her.

“You’ll have to do better than that to best me,” she purred, releasing the young cat. The tortoiseshell was shocked as she looked into her apprentice’s gray eyes as they were filled with anger.

“Let’s go again,” Mothpaw insisted, fur bristling. This time she didn’t wait for Fawnleap’s approval as she leaped at her mentor again, this time claws unsheathed.

Fawnleap was unprepared and the apprentice pushed her over, claws digging into her stomach. She let out a hiss as the pain sunk it, fogging over her mind. Her claws unsheathed as they swiped at the apprentice, knocking Mothpaw off and skidding along the ground. Fawnleap flipped up and onto her paws, turning around just in time to see her apprentice charging her.

That’s it, this is over. The tortoiseshell charged the apprentice back, extending her front legs and pushing the apprentice backwards, pinning her again.

“What’s gotten over you?” she hissed into Mothpaw’s ear.

“Nothing,” the apprentice insisted with a growl, trying to squirm free but unable. “Let’s go again.”

“No,” Fawnleap growled. “You’re done for a while. You never,” she emphasized, “ attack a clanmate with claws unsheathed like that. You’re confined to the camp for a quarter-moon.” With that she let the apprentice go, stalking off towards to forest to hunt.

As she left, she noticed Rumblefur and Spottedpaw sitting down as if they had been watching the whole thing. Why didn’t Rumblefur do anything? she wondered, but didn’t think to much about it.


Ch. 10 - Caught

Skysong padded back towards her camp, stifling another yawn. The sun was barely beginning to poke it’s top over the earth as she neared the entrance.

“Skysong,” a voice called her softly, sending adrenaline pumping. She turned to see Dappleheart, who’s tummy was swelling more and more each day, looking at her sadly. “Where have you been going the last few nights?” she demanded, walking up to her sister.

“Have you told anyone?” Skysong asked, worried.

Dappleheart narrowed her eyes but shook her head. “Not even Falconflight.”

At this Skysong relaxed visibly, but she was still tense. “I was at the island,” she answered.

“Doing what?!” Dappleheart hissed, her tail lashed out in irritation at how Skysong was trying to doge the questions.

“Meeting Burnheart,” Skysong admitted, shuffling her paws.

“Who is Burnheart and why are you visiting him?”

“He’s. . . “ the brown she-cat trailed off, unwilling to answer. “A ShadowClan warrior, and because I like him. A lot,” she blurted finally.

“Are you crazy?” Dappleheart hissed. “What if you’d been caught?”

“I believe I just was.” Skysong sat up straight, unashamed. “Are you going to tell Tinystar?”

Dappleheart closed her eyes and sighed, “No. I won’t, but please don’t visit him as frequently anymore. You’re going to get caught by someone who doesn’t love you as much as I do, and there is nothing I can do for you then.”

Skysong stared at her sister, eyes full of gratitude. “Thank you,” she mewed, licking her sister’s cheek.

Dappleheart purred, “This tom better be worth your time. Now off to bed! You owe my kits and I a juicy rabbit for tomorrow for this one.”

“Let all cats old enough to catch their own prey join me beneath the TallStump!” Tinystar yowled.

All the WindClan cats gathered around, excited. Today was a big day; Clearpaw was getting her warrior name and Thornvine’s three kits were going to become apprentices.

Skysong took a seat next to Falconflight and Dappleheart as she waited for all the other cats to settle down as well. Clearpaw was sitting next to Dawnpelt her mentor and Creekwhisker who was helping her groom her white and ginger fur.

“Today,” Tinystar began, “is a very great day for WindClan.” The leader looked down on his clan with pride. “Clearpaw,” he called.

The eager she-cat stepped forward, almost tripping over her own paws.

“Dawnpelt, are you satisfied that this apprentice is ready to become a warrior?" he asked, turning to the pale she-cat. Dawnpelt nodded. “Yes, she is ready.”

“I , Tinystar, leader of Windclan, call upon my warrior ancestors to look down upon this apprentice. She has trained hard to understand the ways of your noble code, and I commend her to you as a warrior in her turn. Clearpaw, do you promise to uphold the warrior code and defend this clan, even at the cost of your life?" he asked.

There was no hesitance in her voice. “I do”

“"Then by the powers of Starclan I give you your warrior name. Clearpaw, from now on, you will be known as Clearsky. WindClan welcomes you as a full warrior." Tinystar leaped down so that the newly named Clearsky could lick his shoulder.

“Clearsky!” the Clan cheered proudly, Creekwhisker loudest of them all, making the new warrior shuffle her paws.

“As is custom, you will serve a silent vigil tonight over the camp,” Juniperheart reminded her.

“As you all know,” Tinystar meowed, calling the Clan’s attention back, “Owlkit, Blossomkit, and Ashkit have all reached their sixth moon and are ready to be apprenticed. By naming apprentices, we show that WindClan will survive and remain strong.”

The three kits padded forward, proud.

Ashkit was first. “From this moment on, until he has earned his Warrior Name, this Apprentice will be known as Ashpaw,” Tinystar declared. “Raindrop,” he called the warrior forward, “you are now ready to take on an apprentice. You will be mentor to Ashpaw. Raindrop, you have shown yourself to be a warrior of strength and courage. I'm sure you will pass on all you know to this apprentice."

Ashpaw stepped forward and licked his mentor’s shoulder, then they both moved aside so his sibling could receive their names.

“From this moment on, until she has earned her Warrior Name, this Apprentice will be known as Blossompaw,” Tinystar continued. “Sleetpelt, You will be mentor to Blossompaw. Sleetpelt, you have shown yourself to be a warrior of strength and fierceness. I'm sure you will pass on all you know to this apprentice."

Tinystar turned toward Owlkit. The tom stared at him with confidence and trust, a bizarre expression to find on any kit. The WindClan leader acknowledge this with a smile.

“From this moment on, until he has earned his Warrior Name, this Apprentice will be known as Owlpaw,” Tinystar paused, as if undecided.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Applefang stand up and stretch, his amber eyes expectant. This irked Skysong, and she wanted to let our a hiss. Anyone but him, she begged. Her heather colored eyes drifted over the cats of WindClan before settling on Creekwhisker. He’s probably best for the job, and hasn’t had an apprentice yet.

“Skysong,” Tinystar announced. “You will be mentor to Owlpaw. Skysong, you have shown yourself to be a warrior of bravery and commitment. I'm sure you will pass on all you know to this apprentice,” he finished, leaping off the rock and padding back to his den.

Ch. 11 - Teachings

Skysong padded up to her new apprentice, shocked as he licked her shoulder.

“Is there something wrong?” Owlpaw asked, concerned.

“No,” Skysong answered shaking her head. “I was just a little shocked.” Her eyes landed on Applefang, who was snarling viciously, but he said nothing and left.

“What’re we going to do first?” Owlpaw asked, excited.

Skysong evaluated the apprentice. He was bigger than his siblings, but not by much. He had thick but not long light gray fur with a white chest and legs, along with a white mask. His large amber eyes matched his mothers.

“We’re going to explore the territory,” she told him, letting out a small purr as she watched his face light up.

The two padded out of the camp. Owlpaw was barely able to contain his excitement as they crossed the moor, about ready to burst out of his skin.

“WindClan,” she told him, “has the largest expanse of territory. Today we’re only going cover half of it, and we’ll finish the rest tomorrow.” They reached the top of the hill next to WindClan’s camp. Skysong pointed down the other side with her tail, “Down there is a large warren of rabbits, and the best place to find them. We make sure not to hunt there every day otherwise they will abandon the area for a long time, so don’t go down there without myself or a hunting patrol.” The apprentice nodded jerkily.

The two headed down the slope, away from the warrens and towards the twoleg place. “Inhale deeply,” she instructed him.

Owlpaw obeyed, puffing out his chest as he did and coughing horribly after. “Yuck!” he exclaimed, suddenly very cross. “What was that?”

“That is twoleg and monster stench. Avoid those at all costs,” she purred.

“You knew that was going to happen, didn’t you?” Owlpaw asked, annoyed,

“Yes,” she replied, a twinkle in her eyes. “My mentor did the same to me. It’s the fastest way to learn it.”

“Got that right,” muttered Owlpaw, sneezing. “Gah, I think it’s all out, but can we please move on?”

Skysong let out another purr as they walked towards the great marsh, enjoying his already large eyes expand. “This is the great marsh,” she told him, padding right up to the waterline. “You won’t be needing much in here, and on the other side of this is RiverClan, but you won’t be able to scent them until the gathering.”

“It this our territory?” he asked, confused.

“No, it’s neutral, only medicine cats use it, because there are many rare herbs in there,” she explained. “Stay out of there unless assisting a medicine cat, because you don’t want to mess anything up.”

“Is that the island?” he asked, pointing to a large land mass on the lake.

“Yes, that’s where gatherings are held; remind me to teach you how to cross a bridge before you go,” she laughed.

Skysong returned to camp with Owlpaw, both of them had mouthfuls of moss and feathers for his new nest. While he was setting up his nest, Skysong grabbed them both a rabbit to celebrate. When he was done she beckoned him over.

“Enjoy,” she told him, “you deserve it.”

“Thanks Skysong,” he meowed, his eyes warm.

Owlpaw turned his attention to the camp entrance as his brother and sister came in from their first day. He waved them over after they grabbed a piece of fresh-kill.

“How was your first day? We explored the territory,” Owlpaw boasted, puffing out his chest.

Ashpaw and Blossompaw exchanged looks. “Our mentors said that we shouldn’t waste our time learning something that’s going to change soon,” Ashpaw told him. “They said that if we were strong enough, it wouldn’t matter where we went.”

All three apprentices turned their confused looks toward Skysong, who’s eyes were narrowed in anger, but she didn’t want to worry them. “Today I showed Owlpaw all the places to avoid and be careful until he is stronger, you’re mentors we’re just toughening you up for them. That’s what they meant,” she told them, feeling bad about the lie.

The siblings’ faces cleared up and Owlpaw declared, “Yeah, you two need to toughen up before you can catch up to me!”

“I’m way stronger than you after the training I had today!” Ashpaw yowled, leaping onto his brother.

“I can beat you both!” Blossompaw asserted, joining in on the battle.

Skysong stood up an briskly padded to the warrior’s den, curling up into her nest. It wasn’t late, but she hoped that sleeping on what had happened today would help.

Ch. 12 - Kits

Lilypaw trotted through her camp, head held high as she dropped her impressive catches into the fresh-kill pile. Dustyrose had taken her out fishing for the day, and she had caught more fish than Dustyrose had even seen an apprentice bring in.

“Is that all yours?” Swiftstorm asked, impressed.

Lilypaw nodded, proud. “Yes.”

“That’s excellent!” he purred. He picked up a fish and began to pad to the elders den. “Take some to Brownwhisker,” he told her around the fresh-kill.

“I’ll help you if you like,” a voice offered. Lilypaw looked up to see Robinflight, a light brown she-cat with amber eyes. “Brownwhisker’s kits are starting to eat fish now,” she explained.

The blue apprentice nodded, thankful, picking up two fish and trotting over to the den. “Brownwhisker?” she mumbled around the food.

“Over here, Lilypaw,” the queen purred. As Lilypaw padded, she gave Brownwhisker a quick nod, dropping the fish before her; Robinflight did the same.

“Where are your kits?” Lilypaw asked, looking around.

“Get her!” a small voice yowled. Robinflight leaped out of the way as Stormkit, Fogkit and Stripekit came barreling into Lilypaw, they tiny claws outstretched.

“Oh no!” the apprentice cried as she was buried under a mountain of fur. “Someone, help me!”

“No one can help you now!” Stormkit growled.

“Nope, but someone should probably come and help you,” Lilypaw told the kits. She rolled over onto her back, pinning them.

“No fair!” Fogkit meweled, struggling to get free.

“That’s what you get for biting the cat that feeds you,” Brownwhisker chuckled.

“Let us go!” Stripekit begged, noticing the fish. “I’m hungry.”

“Only if you promise to do as your mother says,” Lilypaw growled playfully.

“We do!” they yelled. Lilypaw let our a mroow of amusement as the three kits rushed over to their food, snapping at it ravenously.

“Thank you, Lilypaw,” Brownwhisker rolled her eyes, “for everything.”

The apprentice nodded and turned around to leave the den and was surprised to see Robinflight still there.

“You’re going to make a great mother,” she smiled.

This caught Lilypaw off-guard, nearly sweeping her off her paws when Brownwhisker meowed her agreement.

“Thanks, but I’ve got to focus on becoming a warrior first,” Lilypaw pointed out.

“Of course, but after that,” Robinflight insisted.

Lilypaw took a step back, thoroughly confused. “Am I missing something here?”

“Don’t you know how much Swiftstorm likes you?” Brownwhisker asked. “He’s been mooning after you for a while now.”

Warmth flooded Lilypaw’s face as she thought of the tom. Did he really like her?

“You really didn’t know?” asked Robinflight, dumbfounded.

“No!” Lilypaw mewed softly. She was about to ask the two she-cats more but Swiftstorm poked his head into nursery.

“Lilypaw, come on before your catches are gone,” he purred.

“Coming Swiftstorm,” the apprentice called back, turning her back on Robinflight and Brownwhisked. Her blue eyes searched his face, questioning.

The tom’s amber eyes met her’s, happy but quizzical. “What’re you looking at?” he asked, giving her a skeptical look.

Lilypaw shook her head. “Nothing. Race you to the fresh-kill pile?” She didn’t wait for an answer as she took off.

Before she could take a piece, a yowl came from the middle of the camp and cats began to gather. The cat who gave the yowl was Goldenleaf, a golden tabby with a white underbelly and the RiverClan medicine cat. Next to him was the medicine cat apprentice, Leappaw.

“RiverClan,” he mewed, “As you know I am not a young cat anymore. Tonight is the night of the new moon and Leappaw will become a full-fledge medicine cat and tomorrow I will be retiring.” Cats were all clearly sad to see that Goldenleaf was leaving, but they congratulated Leappaw with heavy purrs if congratulations.

“You’re going to make a great medicine cat,” Lilypaw assured Leappaw when it was her turn.

“Thank you,” the apprentice mewed, her silver eyes still nervous.

“The apprentice den is going to feel even emptier than before,” Mintpaw remarked as they padded towards their nests.

Lilypaw stared at the white she-cat. “But Leappaw never slept in here anyways,” she pointed out.

“I know!” Mintpaw squeaked, “but it was the idea of her being in here, you know?”

“You’re crazy,” the blue she-cat sighed, shaking her head.

“Thanks,” Mintpaw mewed bitterly, settling into her nest.


Ch. 13 -Clearing

“Would you like to go hunting?”

Fawnleap looked up from her grooming session to see Sparkclaw standing next to her.

“Sure,” she nearly stumbled over her own words as she shot up. The she-cat had already finished up her patrol for the day and her apprentice, Mothpaw, was confined to the camp for a few more days.

The tom looked amused but tense as he padded out of the camp, keeping low as his eyes swept over the area like a mouse being stalked.

By the time that they reached a thicker part of the woods no words had been exchanged.

Fawnleap spotted a mouse scuffling around nearby and leapt at it lazily, delivering a quick death blow. She turned around and offered it to Sparkclaw.

“No, you should eat it,” he told her, shaking his head vehemently.

“I ate on my patrol today, you however, were on a hunting patrol and not allowed to eat,” she pointed out, dropping the mouse below him. The ShadowClan she-cat sat there, a little smug as he sighed and dug in.

“I haven’t been avoiding you,” he voiced suddenly, looking her in the eye.

“Oh really? Could’ve fooled me,” her words came out like a whip and she could see him flinch a little. Fawnleap hadn’t meant to sound so cruel, but she wanted answers.

“I’m sorry, I’m just really confused right now,” he confessed, flicking his ear and avoiding her gaze.

“About what?” she challenged, narrowing her eyes.

“A lot.” Fawnleap didn’t say anything, waiting for more.

“Care to be more specific?” she finally prompted. Toms.

“I . . . can’t,” he confessed. Glancing at her he added, “Not now at least.”

“What am I supposed to do with this?” she demanded, tired of games. “What should I do?”

Sparkclaw looked at her, alarmed by her outburst. “Nothing,” he whispered. “There isn’t much anyone can do.”

Fawnleap’s heart sank as she approached her final question: “Then why are you telling me this?”

“Because it’s the truth, well some of it, and it’s more than I’ve told any cat.” Sparkclaw looked her dead in the eye. “I don’t want to push you away, but it’s hard not to.”

Fawnleap stood up, her body moving of it’s own accord as it tried to get out of the conversation. “Sparkclaw, I want to help you, I do, but there is only so long I can do that on so little information . . . ”

“I know,” he said looking down at his paws.

“So you’d better figure this out quickly,” the tortoiseshell growled, turning around and leaving. Stupid toms, she thought.

Fawnleap couldn’t help herself from taking a peek back. He was looking down at his dark gray paws seriously, but she could see the faintest smile playing at his mouth.


Ch. 14 - Retaliation

Rustflower powered through the thick snow, the violent wind nearly keeping her in place. Where am I? she wondered. With a shock, she realized she wasn’t in control of her own body as it turned to the left. Next to her was a dark tabby who’s face she couldn’t quite make out.

“This’ll pass soon,” he assured her, giving her a comforting lick on the head. “The salt water signs told us this is the right path, it can’t be much longer.”

“Rustflower.”

A voice snapped the ginger she-cat from her dream. She looked up to see a pair of amber eyes gazing at her in amusement.

“You we’re shivering in your sleep,” Fangfur explained.

Rustflower let herself yawn before nodding. “I can’t remember it. Just snow and that there was a tabby tom.”

“I’m flattered,” he purred.

“Maybe in your dreams,” she remarked, stretching.

“Rustflower, I’m hurt!” he cried. “Anyways, Foreststar called a clan meeting not to mention it‘s sunhigh.”

“Why didn’t you tell me that first?” she asked, dashing out to the Highrock. Most of the cats had already gathered, but she didn’t seem to be late.

“Good morning Rustflower,” Strikepaw greeted enthusiastically.

Rustflower acknowledge him with an annoyed flick of her ears. The tom had been everywhere she was recently and it was impossible to shake him.

“As you may or may not know,” Foreststar began, “this morning on the dawn patrol, both Honeywhisker and Frostcloud were badly injured by the fox at the clearing by the ShadowClan boarder. Both of them are going to live and be able to resume their warrior duties soon,” he assured the Clan before any cat got too worried. “But this means that we can no longer wait for the fox to come for us, but we must go after it. I will lead the patrol myself.”

ThunderClan cats waited eagerly as the tom’s eyes scanned over each of them, deciding who would join the fight.

“Fallentail, Hazelnose, Fangfur, Sunfang and Rosethorn will be joining me. Everyone else must stay in the camp and be alert,” Foreststar declared. With a wave of his tail the patrol assembled quickly and raced out of the camp, eager to finish the problem.

Rustflower noticed that Rosethorn look distraught as she exited the camp, her yellow eyes glazed over slightly with a thirst for revenge.

“So are we just supposed to sit here and wait?” Strikepaw asked Petalpaw, already bored.

“Guess so,” his sister shrugged, laying down to soak up some sun.

Rustflower padded over to the medicine cat den to check up on her wounded clanmates. Inside she saw Poppycloud and Emberpaw creating polituces and mixing herbs.

On the floor next to them were Honeywhisker and Frostcloud, both awake and looking irritated that they couldn’t get more fox fur between their claws.

The white tom’s pelt was missing a few patches of fur and his front leg was covered in webs but other than that he looked fine.

Honeywhisker’s pelt look similar but Rustflower failed to see anything wrong with the rest of her body.

“Hello Rustflower,” the silver she-cat greeted, turning her head.

The ginger warrior couldn’t contain her gasp when she saw the blood soaked cobwebs over the right side over Honeywhisker’s face.

“That bad?” Honeywshiker asked dryly.

“It’s much better than it looks,” Poppycloud assured her. “It’s deep and you’ll have scars, but nothing that’ll be terribly deforming.” The medicine cat turned her attention to Rustflower. “You, get out. You’re disturbing my patients.”

The she-cat padded out quietly. She looked around the camp, bored already. Maybe I can sneak out. I’ll just go hunting, nothing dangerous, and I’ll stay near the camp.

Rustflower quickly snuck out. All the cats were distracted so it was fairly easy. She raced away once the coast was clear, loving the stretch her muscles received from the work out.

The only thing that managed to stop her was the scent of squirrel. She didn’t stop to assume the hunter’s crouch as she leaped at the furry creature, dealing it a quick death blow to the neck.

Before she could dig in the bushes nearby rustled as something approached.

Rustflower’s hackles flew up and she began to back up slowly. Please, not the fox!


Ch. 15- Fox

Rustflower sniffed the air and hissed, “What are you doing, Strikepaw?”

The large apprentice bounded out of the bushes. “Did I scare you?” he asked, his eyes looking pleased.

“Of course you did! I thought you were the-”

Rustflower was cutoff as Strikepaw smacked his tail over her mouth, his amber eyes narrowed into slits as he leaped over her, claws unsheathed.

Behind her came several feral growls, some from Strikepaw and some from another creature. The she-cat whipped around to see the tom grappling with the fox. His long claws swiped at it’s orange face, leaving rows of long bleeding scratches.

What’re you doing? Get into gear! she told herself, leaping on top of the fox’s back. Her claws hooked into it’s pelt and she tore at it violently.

The fox yelped in pain and it rolled onto it’s back, squishing Rustflower and forcing the air to desert her body. All she could do was claw at nothing and flinch feebly as it crushed her more and more.

The fox made a screech unlike any she had heard before. It rolled to the side just enough for her to escape.

She saw Strikepaw tearing at it’s exposed belly. The fox flung him off into a tree and flipped itself over, stalking towards the tom. Before it could reach him, Rustflower again leapt onto it’s back, bracing herself for when the fox rolled over.

A fierce growl came from somewhere, but she couldn’t tell from who as she tried to break herself free from under the massive creature.

Confusion swept through her body as the fox went limp. She looked over to see it’s neck covered in blood and Strikepaw standing over the fox, eyes slowly becoming clearer and clearer. They slid over to Rustflower, unreadable as he heaved the fox’s body off her.

“Are you okay?” he asked, licking her cheeks clean.

“I- I should be asking you that!” she exclaimed jerking her head back to asses him. His body was laced with scratches, none of them too serious aside from one running along his back, but he still sat up straight and his eyes gleamed with pride. He looks like a true warrior.

Rustflower began to clean his wounds, trying to relax her racing heart. Calm down, she ordered it, but it didn’t listen.

“What is going on here?” Both cats turned to see the patrol staring at them in shock. Foreststar looked at them with mixed emotions.

“It’s my fault,” Rustflower admitted, glancing Strikepaw to let him know he needed to be quiet. “I snuck out because I was bored. I wanted to go hunting.” Of course he didn’t listen.

“It’s mine too,” he declared, lifting his chin up defiantly. “I followed her out because I was bored too.”

Foreststar’s eyes bore into them, appraising. “You both should have stayed at the camp,” he growled. “What if it had chosen to make some of Morningsun’s kits snacks?” Rustflower ducked her head, waiting for the punishment. “But,” he acknowledged, “it didn’t and I don’t base my judgements on what didn’t happen. You killed the fox, and for that you shall be rewarded,” he nodded.

“Killed it? Just the two of them?” Fangfur asked, shocked.

“Check it for yourself,” Foreststar offered.

“It was Strikepaw who gave the final blow,” Rustflower felt the need to throw in.

Foreststar stared at Strikepaw decisively. “Fallentail,” he beckoned. “Is Petalpaw ready to be a warrior?”

“More than ready,” the black and white tom purred,

“After this display, so is Strikepaw. Tonight we shall hold their warrior ceremonies.”

Ch. 16 - Names

Strikepaw could barely contain himself as he walked back to camp to receive his warrior name. He wanted to jump out of his pelt and yowl his joy to StarClan but Rustflower was padding by his side and he wasn’t about to do something so kit-like.

The group was greeted with concern at first, but after they realized everything was fine there was cheer all around.

“All cats old enough to catch their own prey gather beneath the Highrock!” Foreststar yowled, although most cats were already there waiting. “Our patrol didn’t find the fox, but instead it crossed paths with Rustflower and Strikepaw and will never bother us again.”

“How do you know?” Morningsun challenged. Her body was wrapped around her kits protectively.

“Because they killed it,” Rosethorn told her in a soothing tone.

Quite a few cats gasped and looked at Strikepaw with new eyes, reassessing him.

“Petalpaw, Strikepaw, please step forward,” Foreststar called.

Strikepaw bounded forward happily, but his sister was shocked, not having expected this.

“I, Foreststar, leader of ThunderClan call upon my warrior ancestors to look down upon these apprentices. They have trained hard to understand the ways of your noble code, and I commend them to you as a warriors in their turn.” His hazel eyes locked onto the siblings. “Petalpaw, do you promise to uphold the warrior code and defend this clan, even at the cost of your life?”

“I do,” she mewed solemnly.

“Then by the powers of Starclan I give you your warrior name. Petalpaw, from now on, you will be known as Petaleye. ThunderClan welcomes you as a full warrior,” he leapt down off the Highrock and Petaleye licked his shoulder.

Foreststar turned his gaze onto Strikepaw. Strikepaw, do you promise to uphold the warrior code and defend this clan, even at the cost of your life?”

“I do,” he promised.

“Then by the powers of Starclan I give you your warrior name. Strikepaw, from now on, you will be known as Strikefang. ThunderClan welcomes you as a full warrior.”

Strikefang was filled with pride as he padded forward and licked his leader on the shoulder, and even more when the clan started cheering his name.

He looked around, searching for Rustflower. He spotted the ginger she-cat working her way through the crowd towards him.

“Okay everyone, move aside!” Poppycloud hissed. Cats parted immediately for the medicine cat.

“Did no one think for a moment, ‘hmm, perhaps those wounds may get infected?’” she asked, sighing. Her eyes locked with Strikefang’s and Rustflower‘s. “You two, come with me. You will be spending the night in my den.”

“But he has to serve his silent vigil!” Petaleye objected.

Poppycloud let out an angry hiss. “Fine, you may serve your vigil, you must get my clearance before doing any warrior duties. Now lets go get you cleaned up.”


Ch. 17 - Nursery

“You know, you should probably move into the nursery soon.”

Fernleaf gave Burnstripe an indignant glare before she leapt at a mouse that had been hiding behind a fern, killing it. She trotted back to her patrol, smug. “I’m fine,” she assured him. “I can still hunt, plus, I don’t want to give up on Bugpaw’s training.” Fernleaf had been putting this off as long as she could, but now her belly was more swollen than ever. She was less than half a moon away from giving birth, and she knew it was irresponsible to put it off anymore. I wonder if they’ll be born on the night of the gathering.

“Fernleaf,” Fawnleap sighed, “you’re not going to be able to complete training with her. She is barely a moon in!”

“I know, but I feel responsible for her,” Fernleaf objected.

“You’re about to be responsible for a few more,” Dewshower pointed out.

Fernleaf looked helplessly at her friends before giving in. “Who do you think I should recommend to take over her training?” she wondered sadly. “Burnstripe, would you like to mentor her? I’d trust you to do it right.”

Burnstripe froze, shooting her a guilty look, but before he could say anything Dewshower interrupted.

“Actually, Blazeclaw was wondering-” she began.

“Neither of you have an ounce of humility,” Fernleaf chuckled. “Do you mind, Burnstripe?”

“No, not at all!” he sounded relieved, bizarre considering he hadn’t had one yet.

“Thanks,” Dewshower purred. “Now he’ll have something to do during the next few moons.”

The three other cats stared at her, confused.

“I’m having kits!” she exclaimed, rolling her eyes.

“Congratulations!” Fernleaf and Fawnleap cried.

“Are they Blazeclaws?” The words tumbled out of Burnheart’s mouth.

The three she-cat stared at him before exchanging glances with one another.

“No, Burnstripe,” Dewshower started, shooting him a nervous look. “I’ve been meaning to tell you. . . They’re yours.”

The golden tom stared, dumbfounded and scared until the three burst out laughing.

“Ha ha very funny,” he growled, stalking off to find some prey.

“So does Blazeclaw know?” Fawnleap asked.

“I think so, but I haven’t formally told him yet.” Dewshower turned to give Fernleaf a smug look. “You and I are moving into the nursery tonight, no exceptions.”

“Fine,” the dark she-cat hissed.

“The nursery is going to be full,” Fawnleap remarked. “Treetail had her kits a few sunrises ago.”

“ShadowClan is going to be thriving,” Fernleaf purred.

Ch. 18 - Alone

“Come on, you promised!” Dewshower growled, trying to nudge Fernleaf into the nursery.

“I never did such a thing. You just declared it,” the gray she-cat huffed, but she padded in anyways.

Cloverstar had already given Bugpaw to Blazeclaw and Dewshower had told him about the kits, so everything was already set, but Fernleaf still felt like she didn’t belong in here.

The two queens walked in to see that the apprentices had already set up their nests and left some fresh-kill. They were warmly greeted by Treetail and Wildflower, along with Mousekit and Silverkit.

Ferntail settled in as close as she could stand being next to Dewshower. The nursery was warmer than she was used to and the excess body heat didn’t help.

“You’ll get used to it,” Wildflower purred, noticing.

“Yes, I’ve been meaning to ask when that was supposed to happen,” Treetail rolled her eyes. “I’ve been in here almost a moon and still can’t stand it.”

Fernleaf chuckled, amused. Maybe this wouldn’t be as bad as she'd originally thought. “So what are your kits names'?” she asked Treetail.

“The tortioseshell is Waspkit and the brown tom is Oakkit,” Treetail informed her. The queen looked down on her two kits with enviable love and passion.

“Do you have any idea’s for your kits names'?” Wildflower asked. Before Dewshower or Fernleaf could answer, Silverkit and Mousekit began a scuffle and she sent them out to play.

Fernleaf looked down at her paws, ear’s burning. Was she supposed to have already picked out some?

“I’m going to pick them out when I see them,” Dewshower replied. “But knowing Blazeclaw he’s already picked out a few,” the silver she-cat purred.

“I’m going to wait as well,” Fernleaf decided.

“Oh, you should have heard Brightcloud a few days ago!” Treetail laughed. “He’s got so many names in mind I’m going to be having kits every season just to use them all!”

“Rumblefur kept insisting that I pick the names until I finally told him to choose at least one, and about fifty seemed to pour out,” Wildflower sighed.

“I’m craving a toad,” Fernleaf announced, shooting up. She quickly trotted out of the nursery. The she-cat was a little hungry, but the main reason was because she suddenly felt very alone. All three of those she-cat had their mates by their side throughout the whole thing, but Fallentail was a ThunderClan cat and, she realized with a jolt, she nor her kits would be able to see him until after they were apprenticed.

Curse that tom, she thought with a sigh. I’m going to visit him before that. Fernleaf vowed. And so shall my kits.

Ch. 19 - Unsettled

“Burnstripe, are you okay?” Skysong asked. The tom was being unusually silent.

“Yes, I’m fine, it’s just been a long day,” he yawned, leaning into her. They were on the island’s shore, laying next to each other and staring up at the almost-full moon.

“What happened?” she prompted, shifting slightly to get a better look at him.

“Well, both Dewshower and Fernleaf moved into the nursery and I barely get a moment alone with Fawnleap anymore because she is so busy trying to woo Sparkclaw,” he shook his head, not understanding.

Skysong tried to put aside her jealousy of the she-cat who could be with him at any time. “Don’t you have any toms as friends?”

“Blazeclaw, but he’s obsessed with Dewshower and is catering to her cravings and whims,” Burnstripe chuckled.

“What about Fernleaf’s mate?” Skysong suggested.

Burnheart tilted his head to the side slightly, thinking. “I’m actually not sure who that one is,” he finally admitted. “I’m not about to ask her though. What an amazing tom he must’ve been to win her favor.”

“Well, it’s a queen’s right not to disclose that I guess,” the she-cat noted, although she couldn’t help but be curious. “So I got an apprentice,” she shared. “His name is Owlpaw.”

“Really? Congratulations!” he murmured.

“Yeah, I was really lucky to get him, he’s such a quick learner and is going to turn into a great warrior. However. . .” Skysong’s eyes glazed over as she remembered the conversations she had had with his siblings. “Ashpaw and Blossompaw, his siblings, are apprentices to Raindrop and Sleetpelt. They seem to be almost brainwashing the pair. At first it was easy to keep them on the right path, but now they seem to be eating it up. And the way those two fight, it’s almost like they’ve been battling for years!” she confessed.

Burnstripe let out a hiss. “Something is definitely going on there. Have you mentioned it to Tinystar?”

“No, I can’t worry him, but I have to Juniperheart,” Skysong flicked her ears. “She said she’s keeping an eye on the situation and will have a word with them if it continues.”

“Sounds like it will all be settled then,” Burnstripe nodded.

Skysong let out a long yawn before standing up.

“What do you think you’re doing? The golden tom growled.

“Going back to my nest!” she giggled. “I’m tired and we have battle practice in the morning. Owlpaw gets up before any other cat.”

“Just a little longer?” he begged.

Skysong was tempted, but she shook her head. “I’ll see you in a few sunrises at the gathering.”

“Fine,” Burnstripe sulked, but he got up and nuzzled her cheek softly. When he pulled back, his amber eyes burned into hers. “I’ll see you then.”

Ch. 20 - Redemption

Bugpaw stared at the Treebridge, proud. This time, she had been able to cross just as quickly as any warrior.

She followed her new mentor, Blazeclaw, to the center of the island. She watched as his eyes landed on a silver tabby she-cat. ThunderClan. She turned her head to reveal puffy pink scars that ran along her cheek.

“What happened to you?” he hissed.

Her blue eyes flashed. “I battled the fox,” she informed him. Her attention turned towards Bugpaw. “Who is this?”

“Honeywhisker, this is my new apprentice, Bugpaw,” Blazeclaw said, smug.

"Hm, perhaps she can teach you a lesson in manners," Honeywhisker purred, eying the apprentice.

Blazeclaw growled. "Yes, then I can pass it on to you."

Bugpaw looked back and forth between the two cats, confused. Did they hate each other or like each other?

“What happened to her old mentor?” Honeywhisker asked.

“She went to the nursery along with Dewshower.”

Bugpaw wasn’t quite sure, but she thought Honeywhisker stiffened at that sentence. The ShadowClan apprentice scanned the hoard of ThunderClan cats before finding the two cats she was looking for.

“Petalpaw! Strikepaw! Yes, you promised to show me around the island, remember?” Bugpaw greeted with a purr.

“We got our warrior names,” the ThunderClan tom interrupted before his sister could get a word in. “I’m Strikefang now, and she is Petaleye.”

“Congratulations!” Her eyes were pulled to the long scar that ran along Strikefang’s back. “How did that one happen?”

Before he could answer Petaleye let out an amused purr and pointed to the TreeBridge, where three new WindClan apprentices were making their way across. The gray tom in the front was doing fine, but the two behind him were having a much harder time.

“Remind you of anyone?” Strikefang coughed, giving a pointed look at Bugpaw.

“Nope,” she chuckled. “They’re much better.”

The gray tom leaped off the bridge with a victorious yowl.

“Now that brings me back,” Bugpaw mewed. “Nice job,” she hollored to the new apprentice, beckoning him over with her tail.

The tom looked for his mentor’s approving nod before making his way over. “Hi!” he grinned as he padded up. “I’m Owlpaw.”

“I’m Bugpaw,” she greeted. “This is Strikefang and Petaleye.”

“Nice to meet you,” Owlpaw nodded to each of them. He seemed eager but uncertain, as if it was too good to be true.

“I will start by speaking for ThunderClan,” Foreststar caterwauled, calling the cats to the meeting. “We welcome two new warriors to our ranks, Petaleye and Strikefang.” He waited for the welcoming yowls died down before continuing. “Also, thanks to Strikefang and Rustflower, the fox is dead and won’t be a bother anymore. Other than that ThunderClan is fine.”

Bugpaw along with several other cats turned to stare at Strikefang, shocked. That would explain those scars.

“ShadowClan is also doing well,” Cloverstar padded towards then end of her branch commandingly, almost challenging others to stop her. “ We have three new kits and two queens that have moved into the nursery,” she boasted. “ShadowClan is thriving and I have nothing else to report.”

Tinystar stayed at the base of his as he spoke, “WindClan also welcomes a new warrior to it’s ranks. Clearsky is now a full warrior.” Bugpaw could tell that the young she-cat was popular as cats of all clans cheered loudly. “We also have three new apprentices, Owlpaw, Ashpaw, and Blossompaw. WindClan has nothing else to report.”

Marshstar padded to the end of her branch, glancing around before starting her report. “Goldenleaf, our medicine cat, has retired. RiverClan’s new medicine cat is Leapbelly. Other than that, RiverClan has nothing to report,” the leader waved her tail, ending the meeting.

Ch. 21 - Intruder

Fernleaf looked down on her beautiful kit, almost unable to comprehend that she was hers and couldn’t keep from staring. The she-kit had a pale brown base with a dark mask, legs, ears and the tip of her tail and beautiful blue eyes like Fernleaf’s. It had taken her a while to choose a name, but she had finally settled on Shinekit.

The birth had been hard, especially because it was earlier than expected, but she was just glad there were no complications.

“You’re going to grow up to be so amazing,” she purred, nuzzling the sleeping kit. Fernleaf looked around to make sure her words hadn’t awaken any of the other queens, but they were all sound asleep.

The full moon shone through the tightly woven den and she was unable to sleep, wondering what was going on at the gathering right now.

The gray she-cat was pulled from her thoughts as the ferns behind the den rattled noisily. Her blue eyes became black slits as she carefully picked herself up and stalked out of the den, remembering ThunderClan’s warning about the fox.

Mothpaw, Brightcloud, Rumblefur and all the queens are here, we can take it, she let out a quick hiss as she went to inspect it. Instead, she saw the outline of a cat behind the nursery. It’s green eyes flashed in the moonlight as it noticed her and began to take off.

Was it trying to steal kits? Anger pulsed through her body as she raced after the intruder. As Fernleaf passed the scent, she recognized it.

“Fallentail?” the queen called.

Fallentail came to a sudden stop, turning his head to get a better look at her. “Fernleaf!” he cried happily, racing back over to nuzzle her cheek.

“What’re you doing here?” she asked between purrs.

“I came to check up on you!” he pulled his head back to take a look at her, staring at her now empty belly. “Did you have our kits?” he asked softly.

Fernleaf nodded. “One gorgeous she-kit, Shinekit,” she told him.

Fallentail hesitated before asking, “May I meet her?”

“I would want nothing more,” she purred. “Wait here.” The ShadowClan queen trotted silently back to the nursery, making sure to not disrupt the sleeping cats. “Shinekit,” she whispered quietly into her kit’s ear.

Shinekit opened her large blue eyes slowly, looking slightly alarmed at first but then relaxing.

Fernleaf picked her up carefully by the scruff and padded back out to meet Fallentail. The tom’s eyes shone with wonder as she placed their kit on the ground.

“She is amazing,” he meowed.

“Of course,” Fernleaf declared. “Shinekit, meet your father, Fallentail,” she introduced them, although Shinekit wouldn’t remember this.

Fallentail didn’t say anything but he nosed the kit softly. Shinekit let out a yawn that shook her entire body and she snuggled closer to her father, cold.

“I should probably take her back,” Fernleaf murmured after a few moment. “Fallentail, I’m very happy that you came out here, but-”

He cut her off, “Yes, I know. I will wait until she is apprenticed.” He gave her a quick lick on the cheek. “Thank you.”


Ch. 22 - Mistake

“How are you feeling?” Blazeclaw asked Dewshower.

Bugpaw rolled her eyes. If he is going to worry so much, then why did he bring her out here? She was told that they would be going hunting, but then Dewshower wanted to go on a walk, despite how pregnant she was, and Blazeclaw had changed the assignment to watching over her.

“I’m fine, Blazeclaw,” she assured him. Dewshower was splayed out in the warm sand along the lake. They were pretty close to the twoleg nest, but they had seen them all leave in a monster a while ago.

“Blazeclaw, while we’re here, can we at least do some battle practice?” Bugpaw begged. Spottedpaw and Mothpaw had been exceptionally good recently, and Bugpaw had barely been able to beat them in the last practice battle.

Blazeclaw looked hesitant, but Dewshower rolled her eyes. “What would Fernleaf think if she saw this?”

The gray tom shivered at the thought of the queen’s fury and nodded. “Okay, let’s just go a round or so then we can go hunting on the way back.”

Blazeclaw nodded. The ShadowClan tom and his apprentice began to circle each other, hissing instinctually. Bugpaw took a running start and feigned a leap, making Blazeclaw stand up on his back legs. She barreled into him, pushing her mentor onto his back and taking a swipe at his soft underbelly.

The tom retaliated by hooking his foot onto her stomach and flinging her into the soft sand. Before Bugpaw had a chance to recover, he leapt on top of her, leaving her immobile.

“Not fair!” she cried, struggling to get up.

“Is too,” Blazeclaw growled playfully. “You have your own advantages too,” he pointed out.

“Like what?” Bugpaw huffed, shaking her fur free of sand.

“You’re slender and small, so you can dodge easily and get out of tough places,” he said matter-o-factly.

“Blazeclaw!” Dewshower called. “Come look at all the fish!”

The tom trotted over and so did Bugpaw, albeit reluctantly. In the shallow water were five fish about the length of Bugpaw’s forearm.

“I miss the taste of fish,” Dewshower murmured, Bugpaw and Blazeclaw both shot her a strange look, but she didn’t seem to hear them as she crept closer to the fish, making sure her shadow didn’t fall onto them. Her slender silver paw darted out and two fish came flying out onto the shore.

“What are you doing?” Bugpaw hissed. Out of the corner of her eye she saw some movement on the other side of the lake. To her horror, she saw a RiverClan patrol staring at them. A small white apprentice started running in the direction of the camp.

“Blazeclaw!” Bugpaw yowled, calling his attention to the RiverClan patrol that was making their way to the boarder, their outraged yowls ringing in the ShadowClan cats' ears loudly.

“Uh oh,” the tom’s eyes widened. “Bugpaw, take Dewshower back and bring some cats back with you.”

“Bugpaw, stay here,” Dewshower countered. “I’ll go bring some cats.”

“Someone just hurry!” Blazeclaw hissed, and Dewshower took off.

Ch. 23 - Claims

Hurry up, Mintpaw, Lilypaw thought as she raced to the boarder with the rest of her patrol. Redlake and Swiftstorm were with her and she felt confident as they reached the boarder with ShadowClan.

Blazeclaw!” Redlake’s growl almost made Lilypaw flinch. “What are you doing? You know that RiverClan has claim to the prey in the lake.”

“Relax Redlake,” Blazeclaw told him.

Swiftstorm let out a growl and Lilypaw a hiss. Don’t tell us what to do!

“You stole prey!” Redlake snarled, his tail lashing.

“It was a mistake!” the black apprentice objected with an exasperated tone.

“They said it was a mistake, so it was a mistake,” a voice snarled from deeper in ShadowClan’s territory. It was Frozenwhisker, the deputy, with a patrol of several other ShadowClan cats, including Cloverstar.

“I know what I saw, Frozenwhisker,” Strikestorm insisted.

“Are you calling us liars?” Redlake demanded.

“Are you calling us thieves?” Cloverstar growled, taking a step forward so she was right on the boundary line.

Redlake’s eyes narrowed. “Yes.”

Cloverstar lifted her paw and the ShadowClan warriors bounded across the boarder, attacking.

Lilypaw was buried under two apprentices, Spottedpaw and Mothpaw. She let her claws fly around until they made contact with both cat’s faces, sending them sprawling back.

“Do ShadowClan cat’s not fight fairly?” Lilypaw challenged. She stole a quick glance at her clanmates.

Redlake was grappling with both Cloverstar and Sparkclaw, while Strikestorm was trying to handle Sparkclaw and Rumblefur. Another tom, Brightcloud, was circling the two squirmishes, aiding where he could. The black apprentice, Bugpaw, hung back, appearing appalled by what was happening.

Where is Mintpaw? She leapt at Spottedpaw, leaving him with quite a few nasty scratches before his sister pulled her off him, raking Lilypaw's back.

The weight was lifted as Mintpaw tackled Mothpaw, pinning her to the ground. Lilypaw watched with relief as Marshstar brought a fresh wave of warriors. The young leader leapt at Cloverstar leaving Redlake free to take on Sparkclaw, while Bluestorm and Dustyrose sent Rumblefur running for his camp. Icepad locked into a violent battle with Brightcloud, but in the end the ShadowClan tom was sent away.

“Look out!” Mintpaw yowled to Lilypaw.

Lilypaw turned to see Bugpaw and Mothpaw leaping at her. She mimicked them, taking Mothpaw down and giving her a hard bite on her chest. The apprentice wiggled her way out of Lilypaw’s grip, but before she could do anything, Cloverstar was ordering a retreat.

“This isn’t over,” Mothpaw snarled, trotting back to her camp. Bugpaw followed behind, but her eyes seemed to be full of regret rather than hatred.

The RiverClan cats all gathered around Marshstar for damage assessment. Her green eyes scanned over her warriors. “I want you all to visit Leapbelly.”

“Some cats should stay here, remark and patrol the boarder,” Redlake suggested. The large tom was holding his back leg up, unable to put pressure on it.

“I already told Brindlefur to organize one and she should be coming by soon,” Marshstar told him. Her gaze landed on Lilypaw as the group padded back to their camp. “You fought well, Lilypaw, like a true warrior.”

“Thanks Marshstar,” the blue apprentice’s eyes lit up.

“I’m going to have her take her assessment soon,” Dustyrose informed her leader.

“Good, it’s about time she became a warrior,” Marshstar nodded.

Lilypaws tail curled with delight, but something didn’t feel right. Her eyes drifted to Mintpaw, and she remembered the two moons she spent alone in the apprentice den. “Marshstar, Dustyrose, I’m honored by the offer, but I don’t want to leave Mintpaw all alone in the apprentice den. I know it wasn’t very fun for me,” she trailed on, not sure if they would like what she was saying.

“I understand,” Dustyrose nodded.

“Mintpaw won’t be an apprentice for much longer,” Marshstar remarked. “Icepad has done well with her training.”

Lilypaw nodded. Over the past few quarter-moons the she cat had become an exceptional fighter. She has come a long way, I wonder what Icepad did.

Ch. 24 - Talonpaw

(A/N: This chapter is by far my favorite, and it's the first chapter that is centered around Brindlefur. Expect a lot more from her in the next book, Broken)

“Streamfrost, Nightheart,” Brindlefur called. “Let’s go remark the boarder.”

The two warriors hefted themselves up quickly to join her as they left the camp.

“Who does ShadowClan think they are, stealing our prey?” Nightheart growled.

“They won’t be messing with us anytime soon,” Marshstar yowled. The returning patrol that walked behind her did the same and the rivers and marshes rang with pride. “Double mark each blade of grass if you must, just make sure ShadowClan gets the message.”

“Of course,” Brindlefur dipped her head, fully intending to. She picked up the speed and her patrol kicked it up a notch, eager to get to the boundary line.

“Look at this,” Streamfrost breathed. The battle had clearly been very vicious as plants and fronds were broken and tufts of fur littered the ground.

“This is Frozenwhisker’s!” Nightheart exclaimed, sniffing a pile of black hairs. “What I would’ve given to have pulled them out myself.”

“How kind of you,” Streamfrost rolled her eyes but got to work. “When did ShadowClan learn how to fish? Mintpaw said that the she-cat was able to snatch up two fish at once; that’s something only a few of us can do even on the best conditions.”

Nightheart’s hackles crept up slightly at what she was inferring. “If those toad-mouthed cats are learning to fish!” he was unable to finish, too enraged.

“Marshstar will probably say something at the next gathering, and plenty of patrols are going to be here watching,” Streamfrost soothed him.

Brindlefur looked back and forth between the two cats. I wonder if they like each other. Poor Robinflight. The pretty brown she-cat had been mooning after Nightheart for a while, but wasn’t able to get much of a response.

The three cats finished up quickly since the boarder was so small and began to head back to camp.

How anti-climactic, Brindlefur thought dryly. She hesitated a few moments by the lake, watching the sun make it’s way to the horizon.

“So Brownwhisker’s kits are going to be apprenticed soon,” Streamfrost tried to change the subject, but then shot a horror filled glance towards Brindlefur.

“You’re fine, Streamfrost,” she told her, trying to prevent the memories of her past from flooding her mind now. “Let’s just not talk about it.”

“Why not?” a voice challenged. The three cats turned to see Salmonpelt making his way over. “Is there something wrong with my kits being apprenticed?” he asked, innocently.

Brindlefur narrowed her eyes but said nothing, continuing to walk to the camp.

“Why are you here, Salmonpelt?” Nightheart growled, uncomfortable.

“Redlake said that he would feel better if there were four cats instead of just three, but I guess I wasn‘t need,” he shrugged. “Brindlefur,” he demanded, “what is wrong with my kits becoming apprentices?”

That’s it. The she-cat had had it. “Stop playing stupid, Salmonpelt,” she snarled.

“It’s not like you to beat around the bush, Brindlefur,” he whispered, walking closer and closer to her.

“You don’t know anything,” Brindlefur hissed.

The tom’s eyes grew round as the moon. “Wouldn’t I?” he purred into her ear.

Brindlefur wasn’t quite sure of what her claws did next, but with Salmonpelt’s hiss of pain she didn’t mind.

“Attacking your own clanmate?” he yowled, shaking his head wildly to get rid of the pain. Right along his muzzle were four, long claw marks. “Marshstar will hear about this,” he vowed, racing back to camp.

“Serves him right,” Nightheart spat.

Brindlefur ignored her patrol as she ran away from them, mad for losing her control. She made her way to the shoreline. The sand was still warm from the day’s warm sun, and it would be until morning.

Brindlefur splayed herself into the comfy sand, trying to force herself to sleep but was unable.

Why can he still hurt me like this? she cursed silently. He chose Brownwhisker over me, I know that and I hate him for it, but I also hate myself for not being able to get over it.

Brindlefur lay there, recalling the moon she spent trying to get his attention and how he had played her the whole time with no intentions of being with her, and then how Salmonpelt had so publicly announced that he had chosen Brownwhisker as his mate.

How will I get over this? she wondered, slowly drifting into dreamland.

“Brindlefur.”

A voice startled her awake, and she stood up immediately. The voice was barely there, and she wondered for a moment if she had dreamed it, but it called her again.

“Who is there?” she challenged, unsheathing her claws. Behind her came to soft sound of breathing and she twirled around. Before her was. . . Brindlefur? No, my body, she realized. I’m dreaming.

The RiverClan she-cat retracted her claws.

“Brindlefur.”

The voice was coming from the lake and she took off after it, leaping into the water and preparing to swim, but her paws hovered above the surface, remaining dry, and she continued running.

“Brindlefur.” The voice was closer now, and in the distance was the outline of an small, deep red, tabby tom.

It can’t be. “Talonpaw?” Brindlefur called, her voice nearly cracking at the end of the name. She raced closer to the cat, coming only a mousetail away.

“It’s me, Brindlefur,” he purred.

“Oh, Talonpaw!” she cried, nuzzling her lost brother. He had died during their apprenticeship defending the nursery when a badger attacked the camp. “Are you okay?” she demanded, covering him in licks. “How are you doing?”

“I’m fine!” he growled, ducking out of her reach.

“I miss you,” she confessed, her eyes watering up.

Her brother’s identical green eye’s matched the longing in her own. “Me too. Brindlefur, I can’t stay much longer, but I’m here to help you.”

Brindlefur’s wanted to stop him from leaving her again, but knew there was nothing she could do.

“Brindlefur, Salmonpelt has what he deserves coming, but it’s not going to be from you,” Talonpaw told her, his green eyes held her for a moment. “I have to go now. Goodbye.” The StarClan apprentice began to fade, returning to the stars.

“I love you, Talonpaw! Goodbye,” she yowled the final word to StarClan, hoping he heard it.

Ch. 25 - Runt

“But what if she dies?!” Blazeclaw objected, trying to push his way into the nursery.

“She’s not going to die!” Fernleaf gave him one final shove out. Dewshower had just gone into labor and the tom was understandably nervous.

“Bugpaw,” she called her former apprentice over. “You and Blazeclaw take the kits out on an expedition around the camp, make sure they stay out of trouble!”

“Got it,” Bugpaw nodded. Her eyes turned to the five energetic kits that were all playing around. “Oakkit! Get off Shinekit! She is too young to play so roughly!” she scolded. “Come on, let’s go on an adventure!”

“Yay!” the kits giggled, chasing after Bugpaw. Blazeclaw followed reluctantly.

Fernleaf padded back into the nursery, watching with concern as Dewshower let out another pained yowl.

“You’re doing fine, Dewshower,” Elkberry tried to comfort her but the queen seemed not to hear it.

“I’m going to go,” Treetail mewed softly, and Wildflower followed shortly after.

“Is there anything I can do?” Fernleaf offered.

Rabbitear shook his head quickly before returning his attention to Dewshower.

“The first kit is coming!” Elkberry exclaimed. “You’re doing great, just push!”

Dewshower let out an excruciating yowl as a small bundle fell out onto the ground.

Rabbitear bit open the sac and began licking against the newborn’s fur.

“Another one is coming!” Elkberry announced. His head whipped to the seemingly empty entrance of the nursery. “Blazeclaw, get in here,” he commanded, flinching as Dewshower let out another yowl. Another bundle plopped onto the ground.

The gray warrior padded in, unashamed that he had been secretly watching.

“Lick,” he instructed the tom. “Dewshower, there is one more kit coming out, get ready.”

The laboring queen gave one last heave and out came one bundle, and then another one, much tinier than all the others.

Elkberry froze for a moment, taken off-guard, but got back in step a moment later. “Lick,” he told Fernleaf, pointing to the smaller kit.

The dark-gray she-cat nipped the sac and began to lick the little calico she-kit. “This one isn’t breathing,” she whispered sadly to Rabbitear.

“The runt,” he mewed sadly. “Keep trying.”

Fernleaf obeyed, lapping at the kit’s fur more roughly than before. “Come on,” she muttered giving the kit a quick rub with her paw.

“They’re beautiful,” Dewshower mewed in awe. “Our three beautiful kits.” She looked down at them with unconditional love as they latched onto her belly.

“Dewshower,” Fernleaf called her attention over between laps. The she-kit still hadn‘t taken her first breath, and she was growing nervous.

“Is my kit okay?” the queen wailed.

“She will be,” Fernleaf growled.

A small mewl escape the lungs of the kit as it took it’s first gasping breath. The dark gray she-cat picked her up and placed into her mother’s curve.

“Thank you,” the queen let out a tired purr.

“What do you want to name them?” Blazeclaw asked softly.

Fernleaf shot him an exasperated look, but Dewshower answered anyway. “I think you should pick for the two she-kits, and I’ll pick for the two toms,” she suggested quietly. “What about Boulderkit,” she pointed to the black tabby, “and Cloudkit?” Dewshower offered, pointing towards the pale gray tom.

Blazeclaw nodded, liking the names. “Dapplekit for the tortoiseshell and. . .” he hesitated, searching for just the right one. “And Splashkit,” he decided.

“Boulderkit, Cloudkit, Dapplekit and Splashkit,” Dewshower sighed lovingly, her voice no more than a whisper as she fell asleep.

Ch. 26 - Deputy

“Let all cats old enough to catch their own prey gather beneath the Highrock!” Foreststar crowed.

Fallentail along with the rest of his clan migrated to the center of the camp, confused. “Why?” he asked Hazelnose, but the brown tom shrugged. Fallentail’s green eyes flickered over to Morningsun’s three rambunctious kits. They were nearing their sixth moon, but still a bit off.

“Cat’s of ThunderClan,” Nettlefur called for their attention. “As you know, I am not a young cat by any standard. I cannot keep up with patrols and my vision in going. In order to move forward, ThunderClan needs fresh blood to keep it thriving in the hardest of times. So, I have requested that Foreststar choose a new deputy.”

ThunderClan cats murmured sadly. They all agreed that Nettlefur was older than the average deputy, but none wanted to see him resign.

"I don't see what the big deal is," Hazelnose whispered in Fallentail's ear. "It's not like he's dying, and we could use some fresh blood."

Fallentail shot the tom an angry look but said nothing.

“Nettlefur,” Foreststar filled his name with sadness, “is it your wish to give up the name of deputy and go to join the elders?”

The black tom nodded with no hesitance. “It is.”

“Your clan honors you and all the service you have given us. I call upon Starclan to give you many seasons of rest,” Foreststar wished him, the rest of the clan joining in loudly.

“Thank you,” Nettlefur dipped his head, unused to the attention as he padded over to join Ravenwing and Shrewleg.

“Who is going to be deputy now?” Greentail asked, her gray eyes looking at Lightningtail with undisguised hope.

Foreststar locked eyes with Nettlefur, and Fallentail realized the two had already picked a new cat beforehand.

“I say these words before StarClan, so that they may hear and approve my choice,” Foreststar declared. His hazel eyes scanned over each cat in the camp, drinking in their expressions. “Fallentail will be the new deputy of ThunderClan.”

The eyes of his clanmates turned onto him, most shocked but some pleased and proud.

“Congratulations, Fallentail!” Petaleye, his former apprentice, yowled, prompting the rest of his clan to join in.

“Good job.”

“You earned it.”

The praises flew into his ear and out the other, and Fallentail nodded, unable to speak. His eyes finally landed on Foreststar, who motioned for him to come with into his den.

“Don’t ask, ‘Why me?’, Fallentail,” Foreststar sighed once they were alone. “It’s not what someone in your position should be asking.”

Fallentail nodded, slowly recomposing himself. “Foreststar, I promise-”

“Just promise me,” the ThunderClan leader interrupted, “that you will take care of my clan when I am gone.” Once Fallentail had nodded, the old tom dismissed him, saying, “go organize patrols.”

Fallentail settled into his nest, absorbing all that had occurred throughout the day. He had come to realize that he enjoyed his new position more than he had ever dreamed.

What about Fernleaf? the thought popped the bubble of his happiness immediately, wracking him with nerves. His new post meant it would impossible to sneak out and see her until the next gathering, and she wasn’t going to those until Shinekit was apprenticed. What am I going to do?

Epilogue

The screech of battle-locked cats echoed through a dimly lit forest. No moon or stars granted it light, only perverse mushrooms and trees. A dark gray tabby trotted his way toward the yowls, frightened and more afraid than he had ever been. The bushes cleared, revealing a clearing filled with cats, each concentrating on honing their skills. Only two cats stood aside from the fighting, evaluating them.

“Tigerstar,” the tabby called one of the onlookers.

The immense tom turned his amber gaze to the newcomer. “Darkstripe,” he greeted. “Snowtuft should be here soon, you can practice with him.”

“No.”

All the cats in the clearing froze, turning their attentions to him.

Tigerstar shot him a confused look. “What do you mean, ‘no’, Darkstripe?” he challenged.

“I’m done, Tigerstar. I can’t do it,” Darkstripe informed him. “I won’t. I enjoy my new life, and I’ll do anything I can to protect it. This is the first time I’ve been without your influence, your curse, and I’m not going back. I am now and forever, Sparkclaw,” he declared.

Tigerstar’s eyes flashed with anger and shock, along with something else. . . betrayal?

“Fine,” he hissed. “Sparkclaw, you can enjoy your soft life with the rest of your clan, but don’t come crawling to me when your new friends are mousetails away from meeting StarClan.”


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