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No, you may not adopt this unless I give you specific permission.

:)

Oh yeah. The prologue will be past-tense, but the other chapters will be in present tense.

~Ebony

PS: Oh yeah, the stuff in this story might get a bit gory and controversial, so just a heads up.

Wings

Prologue

"One more!" Gorsefur encouraged. Skyheart closed her eyes and let out a shriek as a pathetic little kitten rolled into the nest to join her two sisters.

Gorsefur went to work on the little kitten, nipping the sac and rubbing her fur with his front paws. Soon her sat back, and feeling the silver queen's stomach, he announced, "No more. That was the last one." He peered closer at the last she-kit, and his heart thudded against his chest. Gently, he pushed her back with his paw, and a little white thing spread out.

She has wings.

Skyheart twisted her head to look at her kits, and her green eyes widened at the sight of her last kit. "What's the whiet thing?" she asked crossly.

"It's a wing," Gorsefur quietly meowed. "She has wings."

Skyheart stared at her daughter, and wrapping her fluffy tail around her other daughters, scooted away from her. "A curse!" she hissed, fur bristling. The she-kits mewled in protest. "She's a curse!"

Gorsefur glared at the queen. "She's your daughter!" he spat furiously. "How could you think of her like that?"

"She's not my daughter," Skyheart hissed. "I don't have wings! She's a monster! Kill her now!"

The gray tabby stared at her in disbelief. "Your daughter!" he snarled. "Remember?"

The queen ignored him. "She's the reason Stormcloud died!" she wailed, eyes glazed. "Because I would give birth to a monster!"

Rainwhisker, another queen, looked over from nursing her kits. "Skyheart, she's your kitten! Not a monster!" she gasped.

Skyheart glared at the dark gray queen. "Stay out of this!" she spat. "I know what I'm doing!"

Rainwhisker hissed, and then carefully picking her way around her two kits, made her way to the medicine cat. "I'll take care of her," she volunteered.

"You'll be cursed!" Skyheart warned, but Rainwhisker ignored her as she looked to Gorsefur. He nodded.

"Good job," he meowed.

Rainwhisker gently picked up the she-kit at the scruff of her neck, carefully avoiding her snow-white feathery wings, and bringing her back to the warmth of her nest. The she-kit mewled in satisfaction as she latched onto Rainwhisker, and snuggled into the warmth of her foster siblings.

"I'll name her Dreamkit," Rainwhisker mewed, gazing on her foster daughter's glittering silver-and-black tabby pelt. She had delicate black paws and tail-tip, and a narrow black muzzle. Her wings stood out against her pelt, and Dreamkit seemed to nod in satisfaction.

Skyheart glared at her, and then focused her attention on her kits. "Hopekit," she decided, taking in the she-kit's pale silver pelt and white-tipped fur.

"Wishkit," the queen meowed, noting the similar white-flecked silver pelt to her sister.

Gorsefur snorted. "Wasn't that hard, hm?" With that, he padded out of the nursery.

Just as he reached the medicine cat den, something meowed in his ear.

"We gifted her," it murmured. "But she will live of life of sorrow because of her gift."

Chapter 1

Colors always interested me. There were so many ways of describing them. Like mother. She's the dark gray storm cloud that gathers at the horizon, with the rain-colored eyes that are gentle and warm.

As for me, well, I look over myself in a puddle, and think about it. I have a pale, pale, pale silver pelt with dark, sudden, jet-black stripes that shoot across my fur, with small, delicate jet-black paws and tail tip, and a neatly-tampered narrow black muzzle. My ears are tipped with the same black, and my eyes are the fresh, fresh green of newleaf grass that sprout from underneath the heavy, bright white snow.

Then, of course, there are my wings.

They are snow-white, white as the just-fallen snow, with light, long feathers that flutter whenever I wish, that are folded neatly against my spine. It's all natural for me, really, but by the way others look and talk about me, you'd think I was a freak.

In my eyes, I think of myself as beautiful, but to others, no. I am ugly, unnatural, a freak, a monster, nothing like a cat.

"Dreamkit?" a voice calls. I turn to see my brother, Thistlekit.

Thistlekit is bigger and larger than others his age, especially me, Wishkit, Hopekit, and Hollykit. He has long, thick, spiky dark gray fur like our mother, with a dusky white throat area, jaw, and tail. His eyes are like pools of the soft, milky sky, with little flecks of a darker water-blue.

Hollykit appears beside him, her fierce leaf-green flashing dangerously. Her already-spiky jet-black fur like the oily feathers of a raven was bristling furiously.

"Do you want to play?" my brother asks.

Hollykit hisses. "Why should we ask the freak to play with us?"

Thistlekit flashes his sister a look, and I feel a rush of love for him. He doesn't bully me, just accepts my wings and treats me like any other cat. Nothing like the others. A few are like him though.

"Okay," I answer, and my wings flutter a bit.

Thistlekit nods and pads back into the Nursery, Hollykit flashing me one more glare before turning tail on me. I follow them, and my hearts sinks as I see Wishkit and Hopekit waiting for us.

Wishkit and Hopekit look the same, with the pale silver pelt and white flecks scattered across their shining pelt like the stars in Silverpelt up in the sky. They both have the grass-green eyes, a bit like me. The only difference I can spot is in their eyes. Wishkit has a darker section, shaped like a five-petaled flower. Hopekit has one shaped like a four-petaled flower.

"Monster, you done dreaming now?" Hopekit sneers.

I don't respond, although my jaw's trembling now. I don't understand. What's so bad about me?

"We're gonna play moss-ball," Thistlekit announces. He hooks his claws around a section of one of the musky nests and quickly forms it into a rough ball. He launches it into the air, and Hollykit leaps up to catch it.

I take in her long hind-legs, and note the powerful spring she gets when she jumps. My legs aren't anything like that, a bit shorter, and not as powerfu-

"Ow!"

The moss-ball catches me on the nose, and I tumble backward, my wings spreading out for balance. They do nothing to help, and they get banged up on my fall.

"Aw, what's wrong, little itty-bitty freak lost her balance?" Wishkit taunts, and I bite down on my tongue, to stop the words, but already, tears are forming in my eyes. I blink harshly to stop them from coming, but it's too late. A cold tear is already slipping down my muzzle.

"Oh look, the monster's crying now!"

Thistlekit jumps down beside me, and I see concern in his sky-like eyes. "Are you okay, Dreamkit?"

Another tear slips down my muzzle, and without another word, I rush outside of the Nursery, to escape the jeers and taunts coming from there.

Chapter 2

Bright sunlight pierces my vision, and as I run, a tear blurs my vision, and I trip over my paws, falling to the ground again. My wings are still a bit battered, and my paws and wings ache as I get to my black paws. A cat stops in front of me.

"Monster?" a voice growls. I look up to see a mottled dark brown tom glaring down at me, his amber eyes piercing me so much like Hollykit's. "What are you doing here?"

I stifle a sob, and run the other way. Insults follow me, and I bite my tongue to keep me from screaming back at them. I taste the salty tang of blood in my mouth, and I cherish it.

I see a gap in the stone, and I leap at it. I shove my way through, ignoring the thorns that tear ferociously at my pelt and feathers, and as soon as I'm out there, I run as fast as I can, away from ThunderClan camp.

An oak tree invites me forward, and I thank the tree as I snuggle into the hollow. The hollow is padded with rotten, old, soft leaves, but it creates a musky smell that reminds me of the Nursery. I don't know if that's a good thing or not, but I welcome the smell, shifting my body down into the hollow, where no one can see me, where I'm hidden in my own home, where I'm safe from the stinging words that they all throw at me.

I close my eyes, and I wait, hidden in the leaves that hide my silver-and-black pelt. I start dreaming.

I'm playing a bright, grass-green meadow with dancing, vivid flowers and swaying green grass. I am following a bright, golden-yellow butterfly that is always dancing forward gracefully.

Something shakes me and I wake up, trembling. I look up, and see a fiery amber eye staring back down at me.

"Well, good hiding spot," the she-cat mews, and as I sit up, I look at her pale golden-brown fur. It catches the dying light, and I'm astounded by how radiant she looks, her fur shining like she's the sun herself. Her position makes her look regal, and as I look down at myself, rotten leaves sticking to my tabby pelt and my muzzle-fur ruffled by my tears, I feel ashamed and embarrassed compared to this warrior.

"Found her!" the warrior yowls, and she gently picks me up by my scruff, carefully avoiding my limp, ragged wings. "Acornstar's been sending out a patrol since sun-high," she mutters, muffled by my fur. "Lots of trouble you are, Dreamkit."

I stay quiet, hoping that she would ignore me and that I could sink through into the forest ground and that she couldn't find me and that I would be invisible and that I could escape ThunderClan forever.

Something moves at the edge of my eye, and I see Skyheart, the other queen in the Nursery. She's Wishkit and Hopekit's mother, and she has their faint, silvery pelt, although her eyes are a piercing golden honey-yellow.

"Found the curse?" Skyheart spits acidly, and I close my eyes so that if I didn't see her, maybe she wouldn't be here at all and that she was just fake.

"Why bother? Just a burden on the clan."

Nope, she's real.

The warrior holding me replies, "Shush Skyheart. StarClan knows how you treat your own kits." She puts emphasis on "own," and I don't understand why. Why did the warrior say it like that?

Skyheart snorts. "My kits aren't messed up like her. They don't have misfortune or mistakes like her." Her words are like stinging nettles. They pierce my heart and I close my eyes harder to avoid the tears that are thinking about forming in my eyes.

The she-cat holding me snorts. "Filthy hypocrite," she mutters and brushes past the queen.

What's a hypocrite, I want to ask, but I fear a sharp rebuke from my carrier, and I stay quiet.

She lowers me down onto a familiar platform, and as I open my eyes, I find myself in Rainwhisker's nest.

"Dreamkit!" My brother scrambles up into the nest, his blue eyes flooding with relief. "You're safe!"

I don't say much, but smile a bit, until Hollykit moves into view. There, I lower my eyes to the nest, investigating the carefully woven-together grasses and moss.

"Oh, you found the monster. Big deal," my sister growls. "Why are we wasting prey on her, remind me?"

"Because she's your clanmate," someone responds sharply, and I remember the warrior that had brought me here hadn't left. "Warriors look after warriors, but if you didn't you wouldn't a warrior, you'd be a rogue. Would you like to be a rogue, Hollykit?"

"No," she mutters after a hesitation, but then adds with certainty, "But Dreamkit isn't even a clanmate! She's not even a cat! She has wings, for StarClan's sake!"

Thistlekit doesn't say anything, and I feel a rush of anger. Defend me, I will.

"Right. I'll go tell Acornstar that Hollykit doesn't want to be a warrior and that we're going to throw you out." She's walking away, and as I look up, Hollykit shoves me aside as she chases after her.

"Wait, please don't!" she begs as she runs pathetically. "Don't tell Acornstar, please!"

I have to stifle a snort of laughter to hold myself together. Thistlekit, however, doesn't stifle a laugh at all, and just looks concerned. "I do hope she isn't taking her seriously......... I'd want Hollykit as a warrior with me, wouldn't you, Dreamkit?"

I stare at him, and then remember we're siblings. I growl lowly, and hunker down, closing my eyes.

Chapter 3

I stay inside the nursery all day. To be more specific, I stay in the nest all day, my ears flattened against my head and my tail curled around me.

Thistlekit attempts to get me out and to play with him. "Hey Dreamkit, lets go out! Rainwhisker is letting us explore camp today!"

I curl my tail up tighter around myself, and close my eyes shut tightly.

"Dreamkit, we can go play with Whitepaw and Snowpaw!"

I wonder how long he's going to stand there, pestering me.

"Dreamkit, Whitepaw and Snowpaw's warrior ceremony is today."

His voice is completely flat, but excited, I scramble to my black paws. "Can we watch?" I ask.

Thistlekit shrugs. "I guess." He pads away, and I follow him, thinking about the two pure-white apprentices. They join in on the taunting but they otherwise leave me alone.

I open my wings and I jump off the ground, all the while forcing my wing muscles to move. I gain a few mouse-lengths and then come crashing down again.

My heart sinks when I realize that Wishkit, Hopekit, and Hollykit are watching me. "Monster can't fly, yet she has wings. I think that proves how worthless monster is," Hollykit snickers. But instead of seeing the usual hatred, anger, and enjoyment, there's something else in her eyes and voice that backs up the taunt. Her green eyes have a glint in them that I can't exactly define.

"Why's the freak here?" Wishkit's mew sounds a tad curious, but the hatred and amusement almost covers it up.

Before either Thistlekit or I can respond, Hopekit beats me to it. "I suppose she's here for the warrior ceremony. Probably since she won't be able to get one." The three she-kits all burst out laughing, and my eyes threaten to tear up.

Thistlekit doesn't reply, instead shushes us and gestures toward Highledge, where Acornstar yowls, "Let cats old enough to catch theif own prey gather at Highledge!"

Acornstar is a sleek, broad-shouldered chestnut-brown tom, with rather large paws, a long, thick tail, and amber eyes that glow like the sun. He stands there, radiating confidence, and that I find myself wishing to become like him, so confident and leader, and then almost instantly, I dismiss that thought. What cat would ever follow the lead of.... me? A cat with wings.

"Snowpaw and Whitepaw, please come up here," he mews, and as though already prepared, they leap up gracefully onto Highledge.

The two older apprentices are brother and sister, and it's obvious. They both have the same pure, snow-white coat as detailed as a fluffy cloud floating in the skies, with the same sunset-like amber eyes that glows. Their pelts are touched by the dying sunlight, and the bright white coat turns a beautiful shade of orange-pink.

"Snowpaw and Whitepaw, do you promise to uphold the warrior code and to defend ThunderClan to your last breath?"

"I do." Their voices are almost identical, and as I stare at them in awe, someone shoves into me.

"Watch it!" Hollykit hisses, and I move, a bit shaken.

"Then from this point on, you will now be called Snowcloud. StarClan honors your bravery and courage and we welcome you as a full member of ThunderClan." Acornstar rests his head over the new warrior, and she licks his shoulder as tradition. The tom then turns to the almost-warrior.

"From this point on you shall be called Whitesky. StarClan honors your battle skills and positivity, and we welcome you as a full member of ThunderClan." Like with Snowcloud, Acornstar rests his head over his shoulder, and Whitesky licks his shoulder as the cats below cheer the siblings' names.

"Whitesky! Snowcloud! Whitesky! Snowcloud!" I cheer along with my clanmates. The new warriors have their chests puffed out and their amber eyes are shining with pride.

The crowd slowly disperses, and I watch as the new warriors go to the camp entrance for vigil.

Wishkit sighs. "I want to be a warrior! I want a beautiful name..... like Wishshimmer!"

Thistlekit pokes her affectionately. "Well, we have to be apprentices first. One more moon!"

My fur bristles in anticipation as I imagine who would be my mentor. My wings shift around my back, and my heart sinks. Who'd want to mentor me?

As I turn around to pad back into the nursery, something catches the edge of my vision and I turn to see a familiar golden-brown she-cat disappear into the leader's den. What's she doing?

Chapter 4

"Hold still," Rainwhisker murmurs as she rasps her tongue over my head. I can't help but let out an undignified squeak as a little tuft of silver fur flops over my eyes. "You want to look good for your ceremony, don't you?"

I mutter something, and then nod. Rainwhisker purrs and then washes me all the way down to the tip of my tail, and she sits back as she looks at my wings.

I can't help it. "What's wrong, Mama?" My voice quakes a little as I ask that question.

She shakes her head. "It's nothing. I just don't know what to do with your wings. I might injure them."

I shiver a little, wondering if I really would mind it. Then I shake my head. "It's okay. I'll do them myself."

My mother studies me for a while, then nods. "Alright then." She moves onto Hollykit who squirms and struggles as though the whole of ShadowClan was attacking her.

I open my wing, stretching it outwards, and as I study the long feathers, I reach out with my head, and gently lick my feather downwards to the tip. It tickles a bit, and I stifle a little giggle. I repeat my action with each feather, which takes quite a long time, and by the time I finish, Acornstar's yowl rings throughout camp. "All cats old enough to catch their own prey gather around Highledge!"

Rainwhisker nudges me out. "Come on then," she purrs. "You look beautiful."

I flush as I stumble outside of the nursery, where Hollykit and Thistlekit stand, their fur equally shiny and neat, although their fur still naturally sticks up. Hollykit narrows her eyes at me, and I flatten my ears. Wishkit and Hopekit are already next to Highledge, chests puffed out.

"We have five new apprentices," Acornstar announces, voice clear and bold. "Wishkit, Hopekit, Dreamkit, Hollykit, and Thistlekit, please come up here."

"Come on," Thistlekit murmurs, and we follow him up to Highledge.

Acornstar looks down at Wishkit, and I notice the extremely-obvious size difference. "Wishkit, from this moment on, you will be Wishpaw. Applenose is an experienced warrior, and I hope you learn much from him."

The mottled brown tom whom I ran into a moon ago comes forward, and they touch noses as Acornstar continues.

"Hopepaw, your mentor will be Jaywing. Jaywing is a brave and courageous warrior, and I hope you learn well from him."

Hopepaw touches noses with a dark gray tabby, and I watch as Hollykit steps forward, fur bristling excitedly.

"Hollypaw, your mentor will be Snowcloud. She is young, but she is responsible, and I hope you learn much from her."

They touch noses, and I try hard to stop my fur from bristling when I see them. Responsibility? Hah. Not a chance.

"Thistlepaw, your mentor will be Shadedwhisker. He is resourceful and compassionate, and I hope you learn from him."

My brother? With the deputy? I have to stop myself from cheering as Thistlepaw touches noses with the dusky dark-gray tom, and I turn toward Acornstar in anticipation.

A thought strikes me. Will my mentor like me, even with my wings? I take a quick glance at the crowd of cats, and they're all staring at me harshly, some with flattened ears or bristling fur. My heart sinks.

"Dreampaw, your mentor will be Ambersky. She is intelligent and disciplined, and I hope you learn well from her."

A pale golden-brown she-cat pads up to me, and from her familiar short fur and tail, white paws, and sharp amber eyes, I recognize her as the warrior who had found me when I ran from camp. She gives me a smile as we touch noses, and she whispers, "If it makes you feel better, I requested you."

My eyes widen as we step back. Why would she request me as an apprentice?

"Wishpaw! Hopepaw! Hollypaw! Thistlepaw! Dreampaw!"

The cats cheer my name, and slowly the crowd disperses, leaving us and our mentors alone in the clearing as they go off to their duties.

"Follow me Dreampaw," Ambersky calls, flicking her short tail as I hurry behind her. "We're going into the territory."

I follow her. "Are you showing me territory?" I ask curiously.

She snorts. "No! With you, why would we learn something like that?"

I don't know if those were supposed to hurt me, but it pierces my heart, and I pad after her less enthusiastically. After a while, we come to a small clearing, and we stay behind a bush, Ambersky studying me. She says later on, "Do you know how to use your wings?"

"N-n-no," I stutter, surprised at that question.

"Great. You're going to learn."

"How?" I question. "You don't have wings, so how would you know?"

Ambersky lets out a bark of laughter. "I'm not that stupid, Dreampaw. Your wings look like a bird. In theory then, birds would have a similar mobility and style of flying to yours. We're going bird-watching, and I'm going to make sure we can make the most out of your wings." She nods at the clearing, and lowers her voice. "Bird-watching begins now."

A bit surprised at her speech, I crouch down as well, and I study the bird, wondering if her theory would be correct.

Chapter 5

"Alright then. It's been a moon so far. What have you learned?" Ambersky sits in front of me, her piercing gaze placed intently on me.

I shift uneasily. "Well, um, I've learned, uh-"

"Stop," Ambersky interrupts, eyes closed. "Stop being so uncertain, and don't make me regret wanting to mentor you."

I flatten my ears in anger. Didn't she understand what I was going through? "Everyone regrets to mentor me," I growl angrily.

Ambersky sighs, whether impatiently or out of sympathy, I don't know. "Stop pitying yourself," she says. "It doesn't help any cat, especially not you."

"I'm not pitying myself," I retort, and then flatten my ears again in guilt. I was, wasn't I?

"Ah, good," Ambersky meows approvingly, her pink nose twitching. "Getting started, eh? Now then, tell me what you've learned. And be confident?"

I inhale, and puffing out my chest, I reply, "I've learned that there are many kinds of birds. My wings have a some-what similar shape to them, but I think that my wings look most similar to a jay." I unravel my left wing to prove a point. "They're a different shade, but the point is is that the feathers are all slightly pointed and narrow. So I figured that if they're shaped the same, we'd have the same way of using our wings."

"And?" Ambersky prompts, an excited glow in her eyes. I look down sheepishly.

"That's as far as I got," I mutter.

My mentor snorts. "That much only?"

"Well, I had to catch a jay first to prove my point, and you didn't exactly teach me how to hunt," I say defensively, and Ambersky grumbles something under her breath.

"Fine, fine," she mutters. "Have you at least seen a jay take flight?"

"Yeah, I think so." I flashback to when I had stepped on a twig accidentally, and the jay took off. It had taken a few hops, and then its wings shot out and they flapped it once before being fully in flight.

"Imagine them, and then show me." Ambersky backs away from me to give me space, and as I close my eyes, I imagine the small blue jay hopping, and with my small paws taking two steps, I unravel my wings, and flap them hard.

I open my eyes in time to see my muzzle smacking into the dusty ground.

"Well, it's a good start," Ambersky meows, and I can hear her struggles to not giggle. "I think the purpose is to gain momentum and to keep flapping to gain altitude."

My skin heats up as I realize she was right. "Yeah," I mumble. "Yeah, I guess."

"Keep trying," Ambersky urges. "When you begin to fly, we can revise battle moves and hunting tactics to suit you." Her eyes gleam with confidence. "We'll use everything we can."

I nod, my spirits rising a bit. Maybe Ambersky was right. Maybe I can become a real warrior, with my wings helping me along the way.

I crouch down again, imagining the jay in my mind, until I hear a frosty voice. "Stop."

I get out of my crouch to see the newcomers, a dark ginger tom named Foxfoot and a younger tom with long light brown fur. I think he's one of the older apprentices, named Featherpaw. Both are staring viciously at me, and I try hard to keep my fur from bristling.

"Yes Foxfoot?" Ambersky asks coolly. There's something in her eyes that gives me an uneasy feeling, like she wishes to never see Foxfoot again.

Foxfoot's left eye twitches, and I can't help but shiver at his eyes, which look like little smoldering pools of fire. "We reserved the clearing here," he purrs silkily, and Featherpaw nods, his yellow gaze sharp and piercing. "You aren't allowed to be here."

Ambersky looks as though she was about to shred his muzzle to pieces, and from the way her long claws are digging into the ground, I can imagine it. "I reserved the clearing as well," she mews, her voice just barely hiding her venom and ice, "at the crack of dawn. You have no right to be here."

Foxfoot snorts. "No right? You don't either, with that bird-apprentice of yours-"

My heart clams up when he calls me that, and fury flies through me. How dare he? I wasn't a bird, I was a cat! There was no problem with that at all!

Ambersky must've noticed my muscles tensing, preparing to spring, because she shoots me a warning look that says Don't. She replies smoothly, "My apprentice was chosen by Acornstar to be mentored by me. I have more rights than you do."

For some reason, Foxfoot softens like honey. "Amber," he says softly, and with a jolt, I realize he's calling her by her prefix-name. Featherpaw also looks slightly worried and shocked at his mentor. Ambersky has stiffened to look something like a tree, and her eyes are starting to narrow.

"Amber, please listen to me." He's only gotten that far when Ambersky snaps.

"Never," she spits angrily, a familiar fire lighting up in his amber eyes. "We're not related like that, remember?" She whips around and stalks out of the clearing. "Come on Dreampaw," she snarls, not looking back. "We're leaving."

I turn back to glance at Foxfoot, and seeing his eyes harden and his jaw open to say something, I hurry away, my wings still fluttering as I dive into the undergrowth after my mentor.

Chapter 6

"Right, duck, left, forward, down, left, right!"

Panting, I slash at an invisible enemy with my right forepaw, and then dipping my head down I whirl to my left side and strike out with my left paw. Quickly, I throw myself forward toward the ground, and turning to the left as well I flash out my paw and then whipping around I bat at the air with my right paw. I drop back to all fours, panting as exhaustion flows through me.

Ambersky is watching me coolly, and she comments, "Very good, but too slow and too lazy. You need to be quick and agile on your paws. You can't get tired so quickly." I manage a weak nod, and then forcing myself onto my hind paws, I flash back to the past couple of days.

Several of the patrols had recently found WindClan scents on our side of the border, and Acornstar was debating about sending a battle patrol to fight them. Ambersky was extremely tense as well, and was drilling me into battle techniques, including some improvised moves with my wings.

"Take one, wings," she commands, and flashing back to a recent training session, I sit back onto my back legs and picking my forepaws off the ground I arch my back.

"Air, soar, brake, slash!" my mentor calls.

I launch myself into the air, spreading my wings out at the same time, and in the split second I'm in the air, I flap a little, gliding toward the earth ground. Just before my paws touch the ground, I snap my wings to face forward, causing me to slow down drastically. In that slow slow-down, I lash out with my forepaws, and instinctively my backpaws shoot out from under me and batter the air as well. Unfortunately, my balance is lost in those quick heartbeats and I land on the base of my tail. I let out a little yelp as I tumble onto my side, my tail aching.

An irritated snort comes from Ambersky and I see my mentor stalking over toward me. "That was pretty good, but don't let your reflexes take over unless you're absolutely sure that the results will be good. Otherwise, like in your case, you'll end up on the ground, and who knows will happen." She considers her words again. "But that was still pretty good. I'm impressed. Let's take a break, and I'll ask Acornstar is you can come to the Gathering tonight."

I stare at her, completely surprised, and then wince as I feel Ambersky's cuff around my ear. "Now stop looking like a mouse and try some hunting moves," she chides, amber eyes gleaming with something. "Improvise your battle moves."

I shake my head to break out of my spell, and then nod, still flabbergasted at Ambersky who pads out of the clearing. It wasn't everyday my mentor praised you, I knew. If she were biased, it would be even harder to squeeze a little praise out of her.

Padding into the undergrowth, I wonder what to catch until I hear a skittering sound. I freeze instantly, and looking around I catch sight of a bushy tail darting up a tree. My muscles relax and I watch sorrowfully as the squirrel stops on a branch about two tail-lengths off the ground. I could've caught that, but perhaps if I had been a bit quieter.......

Then the squirrel makes a chattering noise at me, and with a jolt, I realize that it was laughing at me.

My fur bristles, and I just barely stop a snarl from coming out my throat. That pathetic little fur-brain! Well, I was sure going to catch it.

I crouch down, and getting an idea from the "wings" drill, I spread open my wings. The squirrel is openly confused, cocking his little head, and bringing all my energy into my hind legs I throw myself at it, my wings helping me gain altitude and within a heartbeat, my claws are sinking into the squirrel's pelt and it's squealing. A twang of remorse strikes me and I bite down hard on it's neck to end it's pain. The squirrel shudders and then stops moving, eyes blank.

I'm feeling quite proud of myself until my back half starts falling in air and I remember that I hadn't landed correctly. My hind paws churn in the air and I fall all the way down, writhing in air. I land on my spine, thankfully not my wings, and as I ruefully get to my paws I hear snorting and laughing.

I turn to see Brightpaw, Featherpaw, and their mentors, all sneering at me. "Well," Brightpaw says snobbishly. "Looks like the bird can't even fly."

Brightpaw looks somewhat like her brother, except she has a snow-white coat with lighter brown patches and bright green eyes that look a bit like mine, except duller. Brightpaw's mentor is Birdpelt, and is a pale creamy-tabby with little black and brown markings swirling around on her pelt and piercing amber eyes a lot like Ambersky's. Foxfoot is there as well, and standing there watching them with a squirrel in my mouth, I get the urge to run away.

And I do just that.

I scamper off through the undergrowth, gripping the squirrel tightly in my jaws as their jeers echo through my ears, and I think sadly about the fantasy if I didn't have wings.

Back at camp, the crowd of cats is hustling around excitedly, eyes aglow with excitement. I suppose they know about the gathering, and as I drop off my squirrel in the fresh-kill pile Acornstar's yowl rings throughout camp and I scurry to the area near the medicine cat's den to watch.

"As most of you all know," Acornstar rumbles, "the Gathering is tonight. I will be bringing Shadedwhisker, Gorsepelt, the new apprentices and their mentors, and the elders." Just as he finishes, the crowd cheers, and a trickle of excitement burns through my spine as I watch happily at the rising moon.

Acornstar prepares to jump down, but a gray and white tom, known as Mousewhisker, stands up, fur bushed out angrily. "Why should the freak get to go?" he spits, eyes flashing. "She's not even a cat!"

Instantly, the babble in the crowd dies down, and some cats join in with their jeers at Acornstar. Others, smart enough to know about a fight going to break out, snag a piece of fresh-kill and hide in the dens, watching. Me, I shrink back into the medicine cat's den, until I feel a warm body bump into mine.

"Oop!" I squeak, turning to see Gorsepelt. "S-s-sorry," I stutter, waiting to feel the harsh words lash out at me.

Except to my surprise, Gorsepelt looks openly amused. "No problem," he mews. "Let's wait in here, eh?" His tail wraps me closer to him, and I snuggle into his warm pelt. Quickfoot never let me do that to him, only Hollykit and Thistlekit, so this is a new and fun feeling for me.

"Mousewhisker, her name is Dreampaw, and Ambersky has deemed her worthy of being allowed to go to the Gathering," Acornstar points out, voice even.

Mousewhisker lets out a retort. "But she's-"

"It is tradition to let apprentices to go to their first Gathering," a quiet voice breaks in. Instantly, I can tell it's Shadedwhisker. "Would you rather defy the will of StarClan?"

Chapter 7

Shadedwhisker's quiet comment cuts through the camp, and then I can hear Mousewhisker's incoherent muttering. I pick up little traces of it. ".......fine...... fine...... fine." It occurs to me that he was probably just repeating "Fine" over and over again. Paw-steps echo throughout the silence, but the tension still sparks in the air. Cautiously, I poke my head out to see others doing the same, and then I hear Gorsepelt's soothing mew. "So. Who wants the last mouse?"

I give him a look, and he shrugs. "Well, if no one else wants it, I'll eat it."

"I'll get it for you," I mutter, scurrying forward to snag it. Cats are beginning to cautiously creep out of the dens, and as I drop the mouse off at Gorsepelt's den Thistlepaw approaches me.

"Do you want to share?" he asks politely, a fat squirrel hanging from his mouth. I nod, and he leads me to a lone corner, where splitting the squirrel into rather generous pieces, he pushes some to me and I munch on them, finding the sweet-salty taste nice. Thistlepaw is slowly chewing his share, staring off into nothing, and as I study him, I can't help but notice how blue his eyes are. Like greenleaf skies.

"Dreampaw?"

I jerk out of my wonderland to see Thistlepaw staring at me. "Are you okay?" he asks cautiously.

"Er-yeah," I stammer, my pelt heating up. Did he see me staring at him?

Acornstar is talking, and Thistlepaw gets to his paws. "We should get going," he meows, turning toward the scattered patrol. "We're leaving."

I nod, and getting to my paws, I hurry forward to join the patrol out of camp entrance. Every cat is keeping a respectful distance from me, so I stick by Ambersky's side, who is casually ignoring Foxfoot's glances. I wonder if I should ask her about it, but I remember her outburst a few days ago, and I have the feeling that I may never speak again if I ask Ambersky.

The forest suddenly disappears from our sides and a great big, beautiful lake comes into view. There's a thick, old tree trunk on one end, and I can't help but gasp at the beautiful sight sight of the silvery-white moon, reflected over the lake water. There's already a group of cats crossing by the fallen tree, and as Acornstar leaps onto the trunk to cross as well, I whisper to Ambersky, "Is it always like this?"

My mentor rolls her eyes. "No, we have cats who swim across every single Gathering."

I frown. "But what about the elders and- oh." I look at my mentor who looks extremely irritated. "That was sarcasm."

"Hurry up," was all she said before leaping on the trunk and trotting forward. A feeling of thrill races through me, and I copy Ambersky, leaping onto the trunk, digging my claws in, and somewhat padding toward the island.

At the island, I gape at the sight of a beautiful island, with a grassy meadow in the middle, and a huge oak tree at the far end. Ambersky nods me forward. "Go explore."

I stand around for a bit, just watching all the cats chase each other around or sit next to each other or touch noses. That was something I did not need to see.

I turn around to hear an unfamiliar voice ring throughout the camp. "Let the Gathering begin!"

All the cats begin scurrying around, finding seats and sitting down. Confused, I wander around a bit until I bump into another cat.

"Oh, sorry," I mew a bit hurriedly.

The cat gives me a goofy grin. "S'kay! You need a seat?" Before I can answer, she drags me to a nearby log. "This seat has got the best view out of everything!" she mews happily.

I nod and struggle to keep my mouth from gaping as she goes on. "My name's Flamepaw! What's yours?"

"D-D-Dreampaw."

"Wow, that's such a pretty name!"

I study her as she chatters on. She has sleek, short, glossy dark creamy-brown fur that reminds me a bit of mud just after rainfall, but in a pretty way. I start to wonder how she got the "Flame" part of her name, and start to think that maybe she was named after some cat, when she shifts and suddenly I see flecks of such a vivid, bright, fiery ginger-orange color that look like embers. Her eyes gleam in the dim moonlight and with a jolt I realize they look like pools of fire, like Foxfoot's, but much more vivid and bright. Flamepaw's eyes shine in a nice, warm, friendly way while Foxfoot is just....... no. Her build is extremely light and lithe, and her paws are neat and small. Ambersky once mentioned a clan with cats of extreme grace and I wonder if she's from that clan, WindClan.

"Ooh, look, it's Duskstar!" Flamepaw whispers, and we watch intently as a dusky dark gray tom raises his head, his paws slightly trembling but his yellow eyes bright and confident.

"ShadowClan has a litter of new kits," he announces, "and prey is running well." He nods toward another cat, this one rather bulky yet still carrying an air of grace and elegance around her, her long, silky silver fur glowing in the moonlight.

"RiverClan has two new apprentices," she announces. "Lightningpaw and Icepaw."

The cats begin cheering, me included, and Flamepaw whispers into my ear, "Those are my sisters."

I look at her in surprise, and follow the direction to where her tail is pointing. Two young cats are standing next to each other, and while identical in build and size, I have to gasp at their pelts.

They are both half and half colored. The one on the right is a frosty silver and white combination, and I assume that she's Icepaw. One of her eyes is a bright amber that looks like Flamepaw's eyes, but the other is a bright, vibrant emerald-green. Her sister is still half white, but the other half is a pretty pale bluish-silverish color with little dapples. Her left eye is still a vibrant jade-green, but her right eye is a bright, vivid, piercing ice-blue. Lightningpaw's tail then flicks, and I catch sight of a sudden jet-black marking like a lightning strike. They both have their chests puffed out and are sitting with their heads held high, and for a moment, they glow with confidence.

It then occurs to me that Flamepaw wasn't in RiverClan. "Why aren't you with them?"

Flamepaw suddenly looks bitter. "My dad took me back to WindClan," she says, but it sounds more like a growl. "That was the compromise."

"Your dad?" My mind is whirling. "You mean-"

"Yeah, I'm half-clan," she states bitterly, staring at the ground. "Half WindClan, half RiverClan." She then shakes her head. "But I'm proud of my sisters," she says in a happy voice. "They're going to be great."

I admire her confidence and optimism, and then I wonder why she hasn't noticed my wings.

Chapter 8

Another cat steps up, this one a wiry, long-legged dark she-cat with hungry, piercing yellow eyes. "WindClan has a new apprentice," she announces in a powerful voice. "Flamepaw!"

I cheer the loudest for my new friend, I'm sure. As she sits there a bit sheepishly but with her head up high, it may have just been my imagination but a dark red-black aura clouds over her before disappearing. I blink and I realize they've moved onto ThunderClan.

"What?" Flamepaw's questioning mew is concerned, and I notice that I was still staring weirdly at her.

"There was this red-black cloud over you," I whisper, still searching her for any evidence of the cloud. "It's gone."

Flamepaw shrugs. "Maybe the moonlight is playing tricks on you," she says.

Just as she finishes that sentence, the cats begin chanting, Thistlepaw's, Wishpaw's, Hopepaw's, Hollypaw's, and my name. I look around, wondering why, until Flamepaw's excited chant makes me remember that we were a the Gathering and my name had been announced.

A bit of fear and uncertainty overcomes me as I see cats staring at me and whispering to each other. Flamepaw I think notices but she ignores them, chanting my name till the very end. Just before the Gathering gives out, Acornstar's voice rings throughout the the small island. "Breezestar, ThunderClan has been scenting WindClan scent on our side of the border. Could you please explain?"

The black she-cat whips around, her eyes alight with rage. "WindClan has never crossed the borders!" she hisses, and I shrink back in shock of her unfriendliness. "Perhaps ThunderClan is just too stupid to realize that!"

Flamepaw utters a low growl in her throat, and I look at her. "You don't like her?"

The brown apprentice is silent, but her narrowed, angry eyes tell me everything I need.

A cat leaps up from his seat, and I recognize him as Applenose. "We're not stupid!" he snarls. "Unlike WindClan scum!"

The unexpected happens.

In a flash, Breezestar is gone from her spot, and is instead in front of Applenose, claws unsheathed. "You dare call WindClan names?" she hisses, her fur bristling. "Very well! In half a moon, we will attack, and then we will see who is scum now!" She whips around and stalks toward the tree trunk. "WindClan, we're going home!"

Flamepaw gives me a regretful look, and says sorrowfully, "See you," before disappearing into the WindClan patrol. I wave my wing back in response sadly, and watch as WindClan makes their way off the island. The other cats are milling around, nervously and anxiously, until the cats deem themselves to be allowed to share tongues. I take that time to go see Lightningpaw and Icepaw, who are talking among themselves quietly.

"Hi," I say quietly, and they look at me, smiles spreading over their faces.

"Hi!" Lightningpaw chirps cheerfully. "I'm Lightningpaw- ooooh!" She suddenly squeals and fixes her two-colored eyes on my flanks. "Oh my spirits, your wings are so pretty!"

Icepaw is watching, a bit disapprovingly as her sister dashes around me and inspects my wings while I sit there, a bit surprised and curious. "So," I say, when Lightningpaw finishes her inspection. "Your sister is Flamepaw?"

Icepaw's berry-shaped amber and green eyes darken. "Yeah," she says, flattening her ears against her head and staring angrily at the tree bridge. "Eagleheart-our dad- took Flamepaw to WindClan when we were six moons old, a few days after our apprentice ceremony. Then Mistblossom, our mother, died from greencough a moon later." Her eyes are clouded and distant, and so is Lightningpaw's.

I realize how stupid I sound. I was thinking my life was hard, but then Lightningpaw, Icepaw, and Flamepaw? They were separated, in different clans, mother dead. Shame washed over me as I remembered my life compared to theirs. Why was I so selfish?

"I-I'm sorry," I say, lowering my gaze.

"It's okay." Lightningpaw's voice is clear, and slightly shaky. "There's nothing we can do about it anyways."

Before I can start up a (happier) conversation with them, Acornstar calls for ThunderClan to go, and I say my good-byes before joining Ambersky. She's unusually quiet, and we're halfway into ThunderClan territory before she finally speaks. "I saw you talking with a WindClan apprentice."

I look at her, a bit surprised. "Er, yeah. I was." Was I going to be in trouble?

"Don't make friends with the enemy," she meows, voice hard as flint. Before I can protest, she adds in a defeated tone, "It makes everything so much harder."

I look into her sharp amber eyes, but I can find nothing but remorse and regret in them.

Chapter 9

"Fight me, mouse-brain! Don't be a squirrel!"

I dive toward the ground, avoiding Ambersky's sheathed paws just barely, before rolling back onto my paws. As her paw swipes at me, I duck, where my cheek gets smacked hard with her other paw. Groaning, I lose my balance and fall onto the ground, where her paw rests on my throat.

"Nice try," my mentor mews, her golden-brown coat looking almost untouched and still as radiant with almost no dust or dirt on it. My pelt was a different story. "But you were too predictable. I did a feint, and you need to recognize the patterns of a feint before getting knocked out."

I groan, but knowing how tense she was about the battle with WindClan, I clamber to my feet, and listen to her lesson.

"A feint will look the same as a normal swipe, except with some tiny but crucial differences." She demonstrates a feint. "If you look closely, you can see their muscles straining underneath their fur. Look closely." She does the feint-swipe, and as I study her front leg, I do notice the tensed muscles under her leg. "You need to be alert for that at all times, otherwise you would be dead before you know it."

Her voice is so flinty and harsh, it scares me. "Ambersky, this is WindClan, other warriors we're fighting. They follow the warrior code; warriors don't kill to win," I say, a bit timidly. "Why would they kill us?"

My mentor is silent for a moment, then responds a bit angrily, "This is Breezestar. She's driven by hatred and rage by what happened to her brother, and she is unstable. She's only out there for blood, and ThunderClan knows. We have to be ready for anything." She shakes her head. "Now back into it."

We start our mock fight again, except this time, I feel strange. A light, airy feeling has taken over me, different than when I was flying. I feel nimbler and more graceful, able to keep up Ambersky's battle moves quickly, a bit like a bird. My paws suddenly feel light and delicate, and it seems as though I'm dancing. I move fluidly, so gracefully, when everything just seems to fade into a pretty light and I'm dancing and-

SMACK!

I find myself again in the harsh world of reality, my cheek plastered with Ambersky's white paw.

"Dreampaw!" she says, exasperatedly. "You were daydreaming! In the middle of a fight! What's wrong?"

I shake my head, a bit confused what happened. "Nothing," I mutter, shuffling my paws as I realize how stupid and weird my thoughts were. "It's just it was nice. Feeling like a bird."

"I'm sorry?"

"Nothing," I stammer, painfully aware of the fact she was staring at me like I had grown two tails. "Let's go, okay?"

"Well, if you feel like a bird, then show me that swooping move I taught you."

My pelt burns as I remember the move that Ambersky devised, where I had to "swoop" down from a tree branch and ended up dislocating my front leg. "Okay."

I trudge over to the nearest tree, and scrambling to the branch, I look down to pinpoint Ambersky's location. I inhale, take a deep breath, spread my wings wide open, and then dive down at her, paws outstretched.

Immediately, she rolls to the side and I see her coming at me with a swing. Remembering back to my lesson, I snap my wings backwards, stalling me, suspending me in mid-air, and as Ambersky's second swipe comes through, she stumbles, her nose low enough for me to lash out at. She growls and then headbutts me, throwing all the air out of me and throwing me onto the ground.

"Ow," I moan, blinking the spots out of my eyes. "Ow."

Ambersky is standing over me, an approving look on her muzzle. "That was good. Good job with the stalling. But you're going to need a better way to come back down so no cat and slice your belly open."

I shudder with the thought of that happening. "Yeah. It's preferred."

"So let's make one!"

Chapter 10

.Ambersky is absolutely desperate to try out the new battle techniques she taught me, and she manages to drag Thistlepaw, Wishpaw, Hopepaw, and Hollypaw with their mentors to a clearing, where we stage mock battles. Wishpaw, however, is keen on leaving me out. "There's five cats," she complains loudly and obnoxiously. I flatten my ears to block out her whining, although it's almost impossible. "Dreampaw has to get out."

Snowcloud smirks. "Good point. Ambersky, what were you thinking when you brought the freak along?" My whiskers twitch in annoyance. I still exist!

"I want her to practice with another cat," Ambersky responds coolly. "I already know what she's going to do, and I want her to be adapted to other cats."

Shadedwhisker nods approvingly. "That's a good point. We can solve the odd number easily as well. Dreampaw can just fight one of us."

Jaywing looks half-bored, like my opponent-picking was a waste of time. "Whatever. I'll just go up against her." He looks to me as though for confirmation, and I nod, a bit surprised. He cared about my opinions?

"Hope you squash the monster Jaywing," I heard Applenose mutter under his breath. The tabby shrugs, then meows, "Hopepaw, you can be with Hollypaw. Wishpaw, you're with Thistlepaw."

Without meaning to, my pelt flares up with heat. Thistlepaw? With Wishpaw?

Jaywing nods toward me. "Ready to go?" He crouches down.

"Yeah," I half-growl, still seething about Wishpaw and Thistlepaw. Without warning, I find myself pinned down on my back, Jaywing's face looming into me. Instinctively, I lash out with all of my paws, striking him in the face and his shoulders. He ignores it, and desperately, I aim for his nose and eyes and ears, the sensitive areas Ambersky told me about.

A hard strike to the eye does the trick. He reels backwards, blinking furiously, where I leap to my paws and lunge at him, slamming my paws against his cheeks and then a downwards blow. However, the downwards blow misses, as he's ducked and backwards, and then a paw is flashing at me. I get ready to duck, when my eyes pick up a harsh gleam on his fur.

Immediately I rear back onto my hind legs, and as his second strike unbalances him, I slam both my paws down on his head, bringing him into the dust. I get back onto all fours, panting, wondering if it was, over, when Jaywing lashes out at me, a paw catching a ringing blow in my head. I keel over, where he hits me again, and I sink into the ground, my head ringing and spots swirling in my eyes.

"That was pretty good," the tabby says. "But the move I used is very popular. Never let your guard down."

I nod weakly, or at least attempt to, and then Hollypaw's snickering reaches my ears. "Look, the freak doesn't even know the easiest move!"

I ignore her, and clamber to my paws, back to Ambersky's side, not in a good mood. Yes, I had a great mentor. She taught me awesome moves, but NOPE. DIDN'T TEACH ME THE MOST "POPULAR" MOVE.

I just watch as Wishpaw and Thistlepaw tussle with each other, each battering at each other with small paws ferociously. Thistlepaw momentarily gets into a direct beam of sunlight, and then I notice how glossy his thick fur is in the sunlight. His movements are swift and easy-going, and I envy his flow. Thistlepaw ends it with a blow to Wishpaw's nose, and just sorta stands there as everyone cheers.

"Very good Thistlepaw!" Shadedwhisker meows, eye glowing with warmth. "Although you could sharpen your moves a bit, it's a bit sloppy."

The tom nods seriously, and then there's a tug at my heart.

Chapter 11

"I am bringing Mousewhisker, Applenose, Fawnwish, Ambersky, Skyheart, Foxfoot, Birdpelt, Whitesky, Featherpaw, Hollypaw, Dreampaw, and myself."

My pelt tingles as Acornstar recites the names on the battle patrol against WindClan. Why was I on there? I couldn't beat Jaywing, much less twenty of him! And the thought of battle is scary. Hurting other cats?

Something much like a huge hole in my heart opens up, and it fills with guilt and worry. What if I hurt a cat younger than me? What if I end up killing a cat?

What if I meet up with Flamepaw?

The thought crosses at mind, and then frankly, my mind goes into overdrive.

"Dreampaw, we're leaving!"

I jerk out of my worrying to see Ambersky padding out of the camp, and I hurry to follow her. Just before I make it out, Thistlepaw calls to me. "Dreampaw?"

I turn to him, a little flutter in my heart. "Yeah?"

"Could you take care of Hollypaw?" His voice is concerned, and disappointment weighs over me. "I'm worried about her."

"Yeah. Sure, I will." The disappointment seems to sink down in me.

"Dreampaw, hurry up!"

"See ya," I mew quickly, and chase after my patrol.

We stop at the ThunderClan-WindClan border, and as Acornstar discusses battle techniques quietly, Ambersky nods toward the closest tree to the border. "You stay up there," she whispers. "When a cat comes close to you, get down her and attack, preferably in the air since cats won't be able to get you as easily."

It makes sense, although I feel a bit left out of the main action. Nodding, I clamber onto the lowest branch, about two fox-lengths up, and watch.

It's almost sunhigh, and the cats are drowsy, watching lazily at the horizon. I myself am about to fall asleep, when something appears in the corner of my vision.

I perk up, and see a cat launch themselves down the hill. "WindClan, attack!" it screams, and I recognize it as Breezestar.

There are tunnel entrances everywhere that I didn't notice, and suddenly, cats swarm everywhere, yowling battle cries and slashing furiously. We're caught by surprise, and for the next few heartbeats, struggle, before we eventually fight back. My paw slips, and I shuffle back to my position.

A cat strays the group, as though surveying the battle, and I attack.

Unsheathing my claws, I open my wings and launch myself off the branch, and the claws almost seemingly stab the tom's side. He screams with pain, and as he struggles to see his attacker, I hook my back legs into my torso push off of his back, my wings carrying me into the sky.

Guilt has already taken me over. He didn't do anything to me......... I shake my head. It was for the good of the clan.

Ambersky is doing well, but another she-cat gangs up on her, and suddenly she's slashing everywhere at both of her attackers, but I can tell she's overwhelmed by it. I tuck in my wings, and dive down at the she-cat, where my claws promptly dig into her tortoiseshell flanks. She yowls, but unlike my first victim, is smarter, and she rears up, throwing my balance off and I come crashing down. The tortoiseshell whirls on me, eyes blazing, until I roll to the side and lash out with my hind paws. Ambersky and the tom are somewhere else, and I'm suddenly aware that I'm on my own.

The she-cat lunges at me, teeth bared for a bite, and her teeth sinks into my tail before I hit her on the head.

The skull is very hard, and I'm more likely to hurt myself than her, which proves to a point when she flicks her paw at me and I skid back three tail-lengths. My sight is blurry, and despair weighs me down as she approaches me with long, unsheathed claws. Then her eyes widen, glaze, and then she falls over, revealing a rather small, bulky, jet-black, spiky-furred she-cat with unemotional green eyes. Her paw is held up, and it's bloody.

"Hollypaw....." I manage to rasp, blinking. "You killed her........."

"She was in my way, freak," Hollypaw spits, and to my surprise she approaches me, claws still unsheathed. Her holly-green eyes blaze with something that I can't read, and the claws slowly rest on my throat.

"What are you doi-" My voice is cut off quite unceremoniously as she applies more pressure and weight. Several thoughts are swirling through my mind. What was she doing?

"I hated you ever since you joined me and my brother." Her voice is low, and I strain to see if any warriors could see us. No one. "You took all the attention away from my mother and brother, and you didn't deserve it. And more than that, you had wings!"

Her voice is hungry, desperate, and then my promise to Thistlepaw flashes into my mind.

"I wanted them! To be able to fly, to soar in the sky, everything!" Her voice starts rising higher and higher in pitch, until it sounds like a shriek. She wanted my wings?

"But now you won't be able to fly so high, will you?" Her high-pitched voice is a taunt, and I twist my head to see her hungry eyes, and I know from the damaged light in her eyes that she is insane. "You'll just crash to the ground, and fail, and never be able to FLY!" She finishes with a scream, and just as her claws sink into my neck, I close my eyes.

A gurgle comes from her, half-strangled and choked, and then the pain in my neck lightens. I open my eyes hazily to see Hollypaw's surprised, shocked face before she topples over, blood trickling from her mouth. Behind her is the stunned figure of a dark cream-brown apprentice, with shocked, vivid amber eyes that I remember all too well.

"I-I-I-I'm sorry," she stammers, eyes wide, and I notice the bloody paw she's holding up. "She was your clanmate, and something was wrong when I looked over here........"

I shake my head, the shock and pain still coursing through me. "Just pretend it never happened," I say dully, and she nods before scampering off. I just lay there, the shock still pounding through my head, the blood roaring, and I remember Thistlepaw's plead. Well, there goes that.

Then a loud, desperate shriek reaches my ears, and I manage to drag myself in that general direction to witness Acornstar break away from Breezestar, his pelt scored with scratches everywhere as the dark leader of WindClan scrabbles at the ground, eyes round and wide and panting loudly, struggling for breath. Dark maroon liquid bubbles around her throat, joining the several other wounds on her pelt before she lets out a final, gargled scream before simply collapsing on the ground, eyes now glazed. Her leg twitches a bit, but that's all that's left of the insane, twisted leader.

All the cats are silent. No cat is celebrating, until finally, Acornstar yowls, "WindClan, your leader is dead! Go back to your territory now and never cross the borders again!"

The WindClan patrol slowly gathers themselves together, and carrying Breezestar's limp body, they disappear back over the hill.

The remaining ThunderClan cats let out a ragged cheer, but one thing still remains in my head.

Hollypaw said "When I joined them." What does that mean?

Chapter 12

I'm the only one who carries Hollypaw's limp body, her paws dragging against the earthy ground while Ambersky, Applenose, and Skyheart support Whitesky's and Fawnwish's bodies. I never knew Fawnwish very well, but from what I heard, the pale brown she-cat was very sweet and caring to every cat. Whitesky was a jerk, but they both died defending their leader when he lost a life.

Another thing I learned was that Acornstar had lost a life battling Breezestar, while the she-cat was on her last life.

No cat comes to help me, and my knees begin buckling every step as pain and exhaustion washes over me, until a cat falls into step with me.

"Oh, give her to me," Featherpaw growls, and turning my back so the black body falls onto his back, he picks up pace. It bothers me that suddenly, he accepts me.

We arrive at camp, where Birdpelt promptly collapses from either grief or exhaustion, and lets sobs take over her as she grieves for her sister. Snowcloud peeks out of the warriors' den, and seeing the bloodstained snow-white body, she shrieks and rushes over, her nose buried into her fur. Gorsepelt comes hurrying out of the medicine cat den with several herbs ready, and then begins tending to the warriors' wounds.

The pain has numbed away into a tingly feeling, and it isn't until Thistlepaw sticks his muzzle in my face do I register his words. "What happened?" he demands. "Where's Hollypaw?"

I just shake my head, and look downwards as his piercing gaze turns on me.

"You promised," he chokes out.

I flatten my ears. How can I explain to him, "Oh, your sister got killed by my friend in WindClan because she was trying to kill me."

"Dreampaw." His voice is hard and cold, and I look up, frightened by the fire in his eyes. "How did she die?"

This is hard. I have to lie, don't I?

"S-S-She, well, there was a WindClan warrior," I stammer, trying to think of a lie. "They were about to kill me, a-a-and then Hollypaw appeared, and distracted the warrior but they killed her." My jaw trembles. That was half-true, I suppose.

To my dismay, Thistlepaw turns around, tears silently rolling down his cheek, and I hear a harsh whisper that I obviously wasn't meant to hear. "A sacrifice not needed."

My heart clenches, and just when I'm about to break down into tears, a warm, familiar body wraps itself around me, and I recognize the dark fur of Rainwhisker. "Come," she says simply, and numb, I follow.

She guides me to the medicine cat den, and just waits for Gorsepelt while curling around me. I don't make huge sobbing sounds like Birdpelt or Snowcloud, but I just let the pearly tears make their way down my fur and bury my face into Rainwhisker's fur. Maybe I could go back in time, and be a little kit again, where Rainwhisker will gently hush me and tell me stories of the great Firestar, but all she does is simply watch.

I suppose that's why I cry even more.

Thistlepaw wishes it was me instead of Hollypaw dead, and Rainwhisker doesn't want me as her daughter. Joy.

Gorsepelt soon comes, and I feel his soft, controlled paws gently kneading my wounds before spreading herbs over them. It stings even more, but I have a feeling that Gorsepelt won't enjoy me whimpering like a kit so I bite my lip, focusing on the salty taste in my mouth while ignoring the burning sensation all over my pelt.

Soon it's all over, and Rainwhisker nudges me toward the apprentice's den before leaving me in my lonely nest.

I know the apprentices will be coming back soon, to be taunting me and snarling at me for letting Hollypaw "die." So I focus on something else, although it's hard with the battle floating into my mind every so often.

I focus on the simple stuff. I am Dreampaw. I am six and a half moons old. I am an apprentice of ThunderClan. I was born with wings. My mother and brother don't want me. My father doesn't know I exist. My sister died trying to kill me because I had wings. My best friend is in an enemy clan. I don't know what to do.

Then Hollypaw's words come ringing back to me. Joined me and my brother. What did that mean?

Maybe Rainwhisker and Thistlepaw weren't my actual family? Perhaps they fostered me?

An old memory comes back to me. When Ambersky had brought me back to camp after I had ran away, she had mentioned to Skyheart, "StarClan knows how you treat your own kits." Maybe.......?

I shake my head. That was absurd! Skyheart being my mother? Wishpaw and Hopepaw being my sisters? Disgusting thought. Related to those three would be the most terrifying thing in my life.

I close my eyes. Everything seems to swirl away into nothingness, just little fragments. Then they swirl back out me, except turning into a new landscape of bright, lively colors with a beautiful green meadow dotted with stars. Then the stars join together to form a new figure, this one with long, silky fur, stars twinkling in her warm gold eyes.

Another cluster of stars becomes a figure, one I dimly recognize. Her pelt color, somewhat like a greenleaf sky with a thin layer of clouds overcasting, is unfamiliar, but her eyes seem so familiar; a bright water-blue, shaped like juniper berries, and the way she stands, with her chest slightly puffed out and radiating authority.

I suddenly realize who she reminds me of. The shape of her eyes, the way she holds her chin up, her lithe build.

"Mistblossom," I say, remembering what Lightningpaw had told me at the Gathering. I turn to the soft-furred brown she-cat. "You're Fawnwish."

I'm in StarClan.

The silvery-blue tabby nods, an unreadable emotion in her hard eyes. "Dreampaw."

"We have to talk."

Chapter 13

They guide me to a small meadow, sheltered by dense, dark-leafed trees with soft swaying grass and a shimmering pond in the middle.

Mistblossom sits down in front of me along with Fawnwish, and a queasy feeling inches its way up my throat. What was so important that two StarClan cats had to talk to me? Was it because of Hollypaw, and how I had let her die?

I suppose StarClan cats are able to read minds or something, because Fawnwish lets out a growl that worries me. "We aren't here to talk to you that apprentice." She says "apprentice" like she was saying "fox-dung." "How she managed to wind up here is beyond my amazement. We're here to talk about your....... wings."

I stare at her. My wings? What did they have to do with all of this?

"They're a gift," the soft-furred she-cat mews. "A gift from StarClan."

"We saw your path many moons ago." Mistblossom's ear twitches, and I can't help thinking how..... angry she looks. Yes, her posture was somewhat relaxed and calm, yet there was a stiffness in her structure and a coldness in her eyes. Why? "It was full of despair and sorrow, so we granted you wings in order to help you."

The white feathers twitched as I try to process it all. "My wings.... were supposed to help me?"

"Yes," Fawnwish meows. "They would give you a reason to be free."

Mistblossom is watching me very closely as I stare at them in disbelief, like she was expecting this. "Help me?"

My voice has risen higher as everything bubbles up on each other. I was tormented for having wings, I was treated like fox-dung for having wings.... my wings did not help me in anyway!

"They didn't help me," I say in a quivering tone. The two she-cats watch me apprehensively. "They didn't help me at all."

"They made you helpful in battle," Fawnwish corrects almost timidly, like she was scared.

Helpful in battle? "The battle didn't help me," I point out, almost trembling.

Mistblossom shrug. "You helped win the battle for your clan," she says.

Something inside of me snaps. For my clan? "For my clan?" I shout, springing to my paws. Fawnwish shies away, but Mistblossom watches me with those strange eyes. "For my clan?!! How did they ever help me?"

Fawnwish opens her mouth to say something, but I plow on anyways, my anger exploding outwards. All of those times I've been mistreated by my clan were because of my wings, and the wings were given to help my clan anyways! "My clan treated me like fox-dung! They wanted me out because of my wings! They thought I wasn't a cat! My sister even tried to kill me! And my wings didn't help me, they helped my clan because I wasn't important enough!"

Just as soon as I finish, Mistblossom fires back to me, her voice like ice. "Stop being such a kit!" she growls. "Your service is to your clan and your clan only! Each cat in the clan is born only to serve their clan, nothing else! Everything builds upon others, to let the clans rise to a brighter future! We cannot let one cat's opinions stop the clans' rise to glory!"

I shrink backwards, surprised by the tabby's flare of anger. All of my bravado has disappeared, leaving behind only my corpse of fear. Yet her angry words are laced with something like bitterness, as though she hates the words. "No warrior really does matter in the end, much less their opinions! Only the survival of the clan matters!"

I hold my breath, quivering from her rage. Her name is nothing like her personality.

My breath finally comes out of me in a small, gentle, exhale. "So if no warrior actually matters, why was I picked out?"

Mistblossom nor Fawnwish say anything. I plow on. "Why not Thistlepaw? Why not Hollypaw?"

Mistblossom narrows her crystal-clear eyes, and to my complete other shock, she slowly fades.

"What?!" I cry out, leaping to my paws. "What-"

Fawnwish is slowly fading, yet is also giving me a sorrowful look in her pure eyes.

"No! You were supposed to give me answers! Why was I chosen?!"

My words ring and echo throughout the lonely meadow, and then I awake.

Chapter 14

My head shoots up, my heart pounding and my mouth dry. All that I can think about are those eerily beautiful blue eyes, and the angry snarl coming from her throat as if facing an angry badger. And then those words.

A gift from StarClan.

I unsheathe my claws, and they dig into the soft, dry bundle of moss and leaves that is my nest. A gift.

Yes, a gift that ruined my entire life and gave me a dark destiny.

And then there's Mistblossom, with her bitterness that I think is directed toward the clans. Letting myself drift back into her darkness and her kits' words, I think I understand why.

Your service is to your clan and your clan only.

It's coming from a StarClan cat..... and they know all.

Each cat in the clan is born only to serve their clan, nothing else.

So I suppose it's the truth.

Everything builds upon others, to let the clans rise to a brighter future.

And if every cat was truly dedicated to the clans only.......

We cannot let one cat's opinions stop the clans' rise to glory.

Then I suppose that I have to dedicate myself.

No warrior really does matter in the end, much less their opinions.

I shut my eyes, and let my tensed muscles relax. My claws retract back into my paws as I sink back into my ruined nest, and I loosen up my body. My own opinions really didn't matter. Only the clan did.

No warrior really does matter in the end, much less their opinions.

Was that what all the other cats were trying to tell me? That just because I had wings, didn't mean I received special treatment? That I had to work toward our clan?

Only the survival of the clan matters.

I suppose so.

As much as I hated that idea.

Chapter 15

No cat has visited me in my dreams since. It's been maybe three moons now. Two moons of relentless taunting and sneering and torture. It's stopping though. I've become almost a senior apprentice now, at 10 moons old. There are two kits in the nursery now, Jaywing's and Silvermoon, another she-cat. They're one moon old, named Flutterkit and Eaglekit, both silver tabbies like their parents, except Flutterkit's stripes are pale and Eaglekit's stripes are black. Otherwise, they're both identical.

I don't recall talking much in that time. I think I only nodded and agreed and went with the flow, just like a dedicated warrior should. Ambersky has been snapping at me, but that's only because I won't argue back with her, but there might be something else too. I'm thinking it might be Foxfoot; he's been more tense and angry whenever Ambersky is within ten paces from him. I don't know what happened between them, but it might have something to do with the scars on the back of her neck, hidden by the ring of fur around her skull.

I asked her about them once, a moon ago. She whipped around, flattened her ears, and her eyes were so scary and venomous that I shut up immediately and looked away. It must've been bad though.

Today is my day for cleaning the elders, so I snatch some moss and mouse-bile, then head on out. The elder's den nests only one elder, Cloudchaser. Jaggedwhisker and Weaselfoot passed one moon after the battle in their sleep.

The white-patched gray tom is half asleep when I enter, but as soon as I set my moss down in front of him, his golden eyes open slowly, like he's still asleep.

"Ah." The tom lifted his head and peered at me, slightly squinting. "You're Dreampaw, aren't you? The one with wings."

I nod shyly, and flatten my wings to my sides. However, to my surprise, he asks me in a low rumble, "May I see your wings?"

I open my right wing up for inspection, and wait as he rakes his gaze over each of my preened feathers. "Pure," he murmurs.

I don't know what he's talking about, but I nod my head in thanks and move on over to his back. Cloudchaser hasn't realized I've left, I notice, as I dip the moss in the bile and begin parting his fur softly, looking for any ticks as he mumbles on.

"Ambersky is your mentor, no?" He goes on without waiting for my answer. "My sister was her mother...... she died during the birth, and she grew up with only her father and sister."

I try not to show my surprise as I dab at a tick furiously. Ambersky has family? She never talks about them.

"Smokewisp was kind and caring, and so was Sunkit. They supported one another, and Ambersky had it wonderfully. She met Foxfoot and started a strong relationship." Cloudchaser chuckles while I choke on the mouse-bile soaked moss, trying to let it sink in. "Foxfoot was a handsome tom back then, very popular. I watched on proudly while they grew up."

Without warning, all of his muscles in his back relax suddenly, and he droops his head. "I don't know what happened. There was a battle. Smokewisp died. I dragged his body out of the claws of WindClan cats. I raced to the hollow, but he was gone."

There are no more ticks left, but I still keep dabbing mindlessly at his fur, too caught up in the story to notice.

"When the sun began to set, we found Ambersky. Sunlight's body was in front of her, and Foxfoot was next to her, comforting her. He told us that a rogue WindClan she-cat had attacked out of nowhere, and got Sunlight. Ambersky was next, but Foxfoot came and chased her off."

Cloudchaser sighs and flattens his ears. I get the sense to stop dabbing and back away. "That battle was terrible," he murmurs. "Ten cats died."

I leave him there while I race back to the medicine cat den, my heart pounding. Ambersky had lost her entire family. So why did she leave Foxfoot? They were close, I knew. Then they broke apart.

The next day, Cloudchaser dies. He was sleeping peacefully when he went.

Chapter 16 (Trigger Warning: Gore+Vomit)

Two sunrises after our only elder's death, I pad out of the apprentices' den at sunrise when I hear Acornstar call my name.

"Dreampaw, you'll go along with Ambersky and Rainwhisker on a dawn patrol," he mews, and I bound toward Ambersky and Rainwhisker, who are waiting by the exit to the hollow. Ambersky twitches her whiskers in amusement as I skid to a stop at the two senior warriors.

"You seem more enthusiastic today," Ambersky meows, a twinkle in her eyes. "I guess it's because your mother is here?"

Rainwhisker lets out a purr while I flatten my ears in embarrassment. It might've been because of my new idea of loyalty, but I don't say anything.

Ambersky leads occasionally barking out random questions like "What kind of tree is that?" or "Do you smell anything?" or "Hurry up, will you?"

Rainwhisker is trotting at a steady pace beside me, and I feel an extreme sense of comfort as my mother, who I had rarely spent time with since I was an apprentice, walks beside me, but it's diminished by my doubts about her being my mother. It would explain why I didn't look anything like my litter-mates, but who would be my parents anyways?

We've arrived at the ShadowClan border, in which Ambersky leaves her scent mark and moves on, keeping the scent lines in check. I open my jaw to taste the air when an unfamiliar smell floats over me.

"Ambersky?" I call uneasily. "What's that smell?"

Ambersky sniffs the air, but Rainwhisker recognizes it faster than I do. "Badger!" she gasps, and claws of panic grip my heart. I had heard about them. They were vicious and powerful and even more dangerous than foxes.

My mentor springs back toward us, and sniffs the air. "Yup, badger scent," she growls. "Strongest here, although it's moved on."

"Should we follow it?" I ask worriedly.

Ambersky thinks for a moment, then replies, "You two stay here. I'll go on ahead to check for it. Don't go anywhere." Then her well-muscled body disappears into the ferns and leaves the two of us alone.

Several heartbeats pass. After that, I look up at my mother. "Rainwhisker?"

"Yes, dear?" She meets my eyes.

"Are badgers really scary?"

"Oh yes, they," she whispers, "but there's nothing to be afraid of. It's moved on now, hasn't it?"

I don't know if she's lying, but there's something deep in her pure eyes that makes me wonder. "Mother?"

"Yes?"

"Are you....." I don't know how to force it out. "Are you really..... my mother?"

I expect her to purr in amusement or shake her head or something. But instead of doing anything even remotely similar to those, she hangs her head. Her shoulders begin to shake, and I realize with a jolt she was crying.

Alarmed, I spring to my paws. "Rainwhisker? Are you-? I'm sorry-"

The dark she-cat sighs then lifts her head and meets me with tear-filled eyes. "No. I'm sorry. I lied to you your entire life. It wasn't right. I should'v-" She sighs again, then shakes her head. "I should've told you sooner."

My head spins. What was going on? "Mother?"

She shifts her broad head gives me a sorrowful look glimmering in her rain-colored eyes. "No, I'm no-"

A huge crashing sound echoes throughout the forest, and my heart shoots up to my throat. Rainwhisker's eyes widen to the size of leaves, and she lets out a screech loud enough to be heard from WindClan when something slams into my right flank. It's as if a huge rock were thrown at me- only with much more force and with sharp claws. I hit something with a ridiculously loud THUD! and collapse to the ground, eyes watering and vision blurry. I can't see anything- just a huge gray-and-white blob towering over a much smaller cat-

Rainwhisker.

I scramble to my paws in desparation, but they crumple beneath me, and I hit the ground again, the breath knocked out of me. I gasp and choke on my throat, just as an ear-piercing screech rips through me. It seems to drag on forever and I want to flatten and cover my ears and never ever hear that again and there's this strangled wail and the sound of something being torn apart and I just want it to stop to stop to stop but I can't do anything because I cannot control myself, I cannot see, thank StarClan, but I can hear everything and I just want it to stop.

Where is Ambersky where is Ambersky please let her come she's strong she can fight off badgers she can do it.

It seems like eternity when the wailing finally dies off and I finally dare to open my eyes, only for me to wish I never had eyes in the first place.

There is blood everywhere, and it's even more vibrant than Hollypaw's. It's a stunning crimson blood, and it's everywhere, and I think it's on me. It's everywhere, coating the earth and leaves and the badger, and the smell in the air is so much worse than the squirrels or rabbits that are eaten at the fresh-kill pile. It smells tangy and sickening and I never want to ever, ever, ever smell this again.

Bile rises, but I swallow it and stagger to my paws, sides feeling like they've been shredded. My vision blurs, and I stumble, but I keep my paws on the ground. There's noises coming from the badger, and something drops to the ground, something gray and-

Oh StarClan, is it eating Rainwhisker?

I scream, and the badger lumbers around slowly, chewing something, and despite my screaming legs and muscles, I fling myself at it, wings coming out instinctively, claws unsheathed and prepared to tear fur because it killed my mother and it's eating her and I want it to die--

But it lifts a bloodstained paw almost lazily swats me out of the air like a fly and I crash into the ground again, except this ground is soaked with blood, her blood, Rainwhisker's blood, and the bile does come up again and I vomit and the smell is everywhere and it's coming towards me and there are pawsteps coming slowly and distant screaming like someone's shouting, "Dream! Rain!" or something and the badger's paws are coated with bright vivid blood and-

Everything goes to black.

Chapter 17

tbc

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