|Preceded by: |
|Wolfsong's Loyalty||Succeded by: |
A damp, foggy air swirled around the cats as they trudged through the forest in the pale, sickly light of the forest. The scent of death was all around them. Suddenly the trees parted to make an entrance to a clearing. In the centre of the clearing, there stood a large brown tabby tom, his gaze burning into the three cats. “Greetings, Mapleshade, Hawkfrost, Brokenstar,” mumbled the tabby. “We have gathered to decide on new recruits. It’s been a long time since any clan cats walked this forest.”
A dark brown tabby stood up. “We should start training them as soon as possible, Tigerstar. We need these cats to have loyalty, a taste for blood, and a need for power, and maybe a natural-born leader,” he meowed. “There have been rumours of a kit with extraordinary powers in Thunderclan. Five moons old, strong, fast as a rabbit, high jumper, agile, and I’ve heard she wants to kill her pathetic leader, so she can make Thunderclan strong again. Despite being a she-cat, she’s exactly what we’re-OUCH! THAT HURT, MAPLESHADE,” he yowled as the tortoiseshell’s thorn-sharp claws raked his ears. Blood was now flowing onto the ground.
Without warning, Tigerstar leapt off of the rock and bounded down into the Thunderclan camp. He led them towards the nursery, where the scent of milk and kits clouded their noses. “This,” whispered Tigerstar, pointing to a long furred she-kit, “is Wolfkit.”
The fluffy white kit, was clawing the moss in her sleep, squealing: “Die, Sweetstar, die! And take all of your mangy kittypet-loving clanmates with you! I deserve to rule the clans, not some fleabrained excuses for cats!” Her teeth glinted in the moonlight, and she looked as if she was fighting badgers like the most experienced Dark Forest warrior.
“She’s perfect! We’re going to train her as soon as possible! And it’s about time I had another apprentice,” hissed Mapleshade. The old she-cat was one of the oldest cats in the Dark Forest, and it had been years since she had trained an apprentice, her previous one being Crookedstar. “The other kits are pathetic,” she spat. “They all have loyalty to their own clans, and all they care about is the stupid warrior code. They don’t care about strength, they care about their flea-bitten clan. Elders are a waste of space and prey. That so-called leader, Sweetstar, couldn’t scare a leaf. This clan is pathetic, and their is only one cat who can make it strong again.”
Mapleshade glanced at Wolfkit. “I’m training her. I need an apprentice, and I am going to help her become leader. She doesn’t need to make sacrifices. She would kill a cat, Starclan or living, without a problem.” Mapleshade touched Wolfkit with her nose. “She’s going to be the best leader the forests have ever seen,” she whispered. “Sleep well, Wolfstar.” Then she turned and followed Tigerstar out of the camp, and back into the Dark Forest.
“Wake up, Wolfkit! The other kits are already outside!” squealed Foxkit. Wolfkit woke to the squeals of kits play-fighting outside. Her nose caught the scent of prey, and sped out of the nursery, and straight into the golden-brown fur of her father, Braveheart, who had just returned from a hunting patrol. Several mice were dangling from his mouth by the tail, and Wolfkit leapt up and grabbed the mouse’s back with her claws, and clamped her jaws around its spine. She bounded off of the mouse as soon as it landed on the fresh-kill pile, and turned to see the ginger pelt of her sister, Foxkit, and the smooth black pelt of Nightkit, another kit in the nursery, running towards her at an alarming rate.
“Are you OK?” Foxkit panted. Nightkit helped her get up, and he started cleaning Wolfkit’s fur.
“Get off, Nightkit, you’re not my mother!” squealed Wolfkit. She rolled away from him, dived underneath his belly, and flung him off. Nightkit quickly regained his stance, and jumped on top of Wolfkit, and they rolled around, until Wolfkit had him pinned down. Suddenly Wolfkit noticed Sweetstar walking towards her, and bending down so that the clan leader was facing her.
“Come on, Wolfkit, it’s time to go back to the nursery now,” she soothed. Wolfkit felt rage boil inside her. She hated the Thunderclan leader, with all of her sweetness and weakness. She hadn’t led a battle for seasons. Hesitating, Wolfkit let Nightkit escape, and stood to face Sweetstar in a battle position. Without thinking, Wolfkit dived to the side of Sweetstar, planted her paws underneath Sweetstar’s belly, and flung her so far that the Thunderclan leader sailed through the air, and landed with a thump against the stone walls of the camp, then on to the sandy ground below.
“Woah!” gasped Nightkit. “That was awesome! I never knew you could fight like that! You must have a superpower or something!” Soon the whole clan was gathered around the three kits, and Wolfkit’s mother, Blossomheart, shouldered through the crowd and picked up Wolfkit and Foxkit to the nursery, followed by Nightkit. The nursery was full of queens and their kits. Their was Cherrysky, with Cloudkit and Ravenkit, Dawnflower, with Nightkit, Bramblekit, and Sunkit, and Whitestripe with Dragonkit. So the nursery was very crowded.
“Did you see Wolfkit?” bursted Nightkit as soon as they were in the nursery. “She got mad at Sweetstar for no reason, so Wolfkit threw Sweetstar towards the walls of the camp, and now some cats think that she’s lost a life! I’ve never seen another kit fight like that! It was so awesome!” Nightkit flopped down onto his nest, and Dragonkit stood up.
“Shut up, Nightkit,” snorted Dragonkit. “We all know you’re only saying that because you like Wolfkit.” There were a few giggles in the nursery, and Nightkit took a few steps back, his face red with embarrassment. Wolfkit bowled into Dragonkit, and swiped his muzzle. Dragonkit snarled as he tried to fight back, but Wolfkit was too fast for him.
“Enough!” shrieked Blossomheart. “Wolfkit, I am sick of this fighting,” she spat. “You’re only a kit, but you fight like a warrior. If this happens again, I’m asking Sweetstar to make you a medicine cat apprentice!” Wolfkit thought of a life of a medicine cat. Creepy dreams, no fighting, no chance to be a leader, sorting herbs all day, no mate, no kits, no life.
Her thoughts were disrupted by a squeal of “Hey, everybody! Lets go to the elder’s den! I hope Frostflower has a story for us!” Foxkit raced off to the elder’s den, overtaken by Bramblekit and Sunkit. Well, at least Sweetstar isn’t dead, thought Wolfkit.
The elder’s den was underneath a hazel bush, with walls reinforced with honeysuckle, giving the den a calm, sweet smell. Frostflower was in the middle of the den, and Skypaw was smearing mouse bile across Frostflower’s back. Frostflower had the ability to see in the past, so she could tell the kits a story about anything. Tigerstar, Bloodclan, Crookedstar, the Warrior Code, anything.
“Oh hello, kits,” she rasped. “Come for another story then? Hmm, let me see… how about Mapleshade?” The kits nodded in excitement. “Well, here we go. Mapleshade was a loyal Thunderclan warrior, but at the same time, she was breaking the warrior code.”
The kits eyes brightened, eager to hear the rest of Mapleshade’s story.
“Mapleshade was secretly seeing a Riverclan cat, Appledusk. When Appledusk found out that Mapleshade was expecting his kits, he became mad at Mapleshade, and never talked to her again. Mapleshade later gave birth to his kits, alone, with nobody except the medicine cat. When they were born, Mapleshade couldn’t bear to see them without thinking of Appledusk, so she drowned them. Thunderclan soon found out, and they exiled Mapleshade, so she joined some loners, and killed some Riverclan cats. She then ate deathberries, and vowed to get revenge on Thunderclan. She went to the Dark Forest, and she did get revenge, many years later, in the Great Battle.”
Wolfkit stood up. How could’ve Frostflower gotten this so wrong?
“You’re wrong, Frostflower,” snarled Wolfkit. “Mapleshade didn’t kill her kits. She decided to take them to Riverclan, and the river took them out of their her grasp. That’s how they died. Mapleshade went against the warrior code to follow her heart. She’s now in the Dark Forest, with lots of other cats, plotting to destroy the clans. In my opinion, she’s the bravest cat I’ve ever heard of.” All of the kits were now staring at Wolfkit.
“Wolfkit, how do you know all this?” It was Foxkit, with her head at one side and a puzzled expression on her face. Wolfkit hesitated.
“It was a dream,” she managed to splutter out. “I had it a few days ago. I dreamt I was in the Thunderclan nursery, and I was being called Maplekit, and I was seeing Mapleshade’s life happen before my eyes. I swear that’s what happened.” Frostflower looked at her with slitted eyes. Wolfkit was breathing heavily. “I saw Mapleshade’s kits die, I saw her leader exile her, I saw her eat deathberries, I even saw her arrive in the Dark Forest. I saw her kill Spottedleaf in the Great Battle. Mapleshade is amazing,” she panted. The other kits stared at her, their eyes wide in shock.
Soon Happyheart, the Thunderclan deputy, walked into the den carrying some fresh-kill.
“Hey kits! I thought you would be in here. Nice place, isn’t it? Anyway, you must be hungry, so I bought you something.” Happyheart laid the fresh-kill on the ground, and Wolfkit grabbed a mouse and hurried over to Foxkit. The meat felt warm and delicious in her mouth.
“So, after your meal, do you want to do hunting training?” enquired Happyheart. He strolled out into the middle of the clearing, followed by the kits. “Right,” she meowed. “There are several feathers scattered around the camp. The aim is to hunt them properly, using the hunter’s crouch. He demonstrated the hunter’s crouch, and stalked the feather silently, and pounced, gripping the feather with his claws. “Right, now you have a go,” he meowed, and went to help in the medicine den.
Wolfkit scampered towards a feather at the end of the camp. She crouched, and began to stalk the feather, unaware that Braveheart was watching her. She darted forward, grabbing the feather in her claws. Happyheart padded over. “That was astonishing, Wolfkit! You hunt better than your father, and he’s the best hunter in the clan!” Nightkit walked over, a feather in his jaws.
“Did Wolfkit hunt like a warrior?” he asked. Braveheart nodded. “That’s so awesome! You’re so amazing, Wolfkit!” Wolfkit heard a snicker coming from her sister. Nightkit took a deep breath and ignored Foxkit. “It would be so awesome if we trained together! We could go on patrols, we could help eachother hunt, we could fight in battles together, and it’s our apprentice ceremony tomorrow! I wonder who our mentors will be! Wouldn’t it be so cool if we had the same mentor?” Wolfkit nodded in agreement. Nightkit really likes me, she thought. And it would be good if we trained together. Suddenly Foxkit knocked Wolfkit over and dragged her by the tail to the nursery.
“Wouldn’t it be cute if you and Nightkit had kits together?” she squealed. “You would make the cutest couple! Also, Nightkit really likes you!” Wolfkit stared at her sister, eyes wide. Foxkit rambled on. “You two seem perfect for eachother! Every other kit thinks so! I think the queens and elders do too. Maybe Starclan.” Foxkit gasped. “What if Starclan WANTED you to be together? That would be so cool!
Wolfkit started to get a headache. “Calm down, Foxkit. Tell Nightkit I’m to young to be thinking about a mate now OK?” Foxkit looked as if she was going to vomit with laughter. Wolfkit cringed at the thought as Foxkit bounded over to Nightkit, into the sunshine. For a second, Wolfkit saw a tortoiseshell cat in the camp, staring at her. Wolfkit blinked, and the strange cat was gone.
Wolfkit found herself in a forest which definitely wasn’t Thunderclan territory. The whole forest smelled of death, and no leaves clung to the spiky trees that surrounded the clearing. There wasn’t a single star in the sky, and the moon was nowhere to be found. Wolfkit realised where she was: the Dark Forest. Wolfkit’s paws were tingling in excitement. The Dark Forest! She had always wanted to go here!
Several cats stepped out of the shadows, one of them was the cat she had seen earlier: Mapleshade.
“Welcome to the Dark Forest,” announced a brown tabby tom. Wolfkit instantly recognised the cats around her. The one who had just spoken was Tigerstar, behind him was Hawkfrost, Tigerstar’s son, the cat next to him was brokenstar, and then there was Mapleshade, the old tortoiseshell she-cat. Tigerstar continued his speech. “We have summoned you, because we believe that you can make the clans strong again. Brokenstar, the cat who is next to me, has heard rumours that you have powers that can make you more skilful than many other cats. We are here to offer you training, but first you must answer these questions.”
Tigerstar sat down. “Question one: What do you think about Thunderclan at the moment?”
Wolfkit hesitated. “Well, at the moment Thunderclan is weak. It’s full of mangy kittypets, and The elders are a waste of prey. The other kits don’t care. There hasn’t been battle for seasons, and Thunderclan deserves a new leader.”
Tigerstar nodded. “Excellent. Question two: What do you think of Sweetstar?”
Wolfkit started to feel uncomfortable. Sweetstar is my clan leader, but she’s terrible, and I’m free to speak my heart. Wolfkit narrowed her eyes.
“Sweetstar? Don’t get me started. She’s as useless as a newborn kittypet! She believes in the pathetic warrior code, she respects elders, she never does any battle training. She’s a horrible leader. I would make a better leader, and I will make the clans strong again. That’s why I tried to kill Sweetstar. She didn’t lose a life though, which is stupid.”
The corners of Tigerstar’s mouth flickered, and his eyes brightened. “Question three: What do you think of the Dark Forest?”
Wolfkit gasped in delight.
“The Dark Forest! It’s amazing! Its full of amazing cats who broke the useless warrior code to follow their hearts and do what’s right! And I’m so lucky to be offered to train here! I will be so loyal to the Dark Forest, I’ll even kill those weak Starclan cats to prove myself! I have a good taste for blood, and I’ll drink the blood of my enemies! My favourite Dark Forest cat is Mapleshade, she’s so amazing! She killed her mate and some other Riverclan cats to do whats right for her, and she killed Spottedleaf in the Great Battle. She was doing everyone a favour then! Is she going to be my mentor?” asked Wolfkit.
Tigerstar turned to Brokenstar.
“You’re right, Brokenstar, she’s exactly what we’re looking for,” he murmured.
He turned his head towards Wolfkit. “Very well, Wolfkit. We give you permission to train as a Dark Forest warrior. Mapleshade will be your mentor.”
Wolfkit leapt up and ran towards Mapleshade.
“I’m so glad you’re my mentor,” meowed Wolfkit. “I’m going to be the strongest apprentice ever.” Mapleshade’s gaze burnt into Wolfkit.
“And I’m so glad that I have the chance to help you become leader,” she meowed back, a determined glint in her eyes. Mapleshade got up, and padded towards Tigerstar. “Have a nice apprentice ceremony, and don’t let the other kits boss you around!” she called.
Wolfkit woke up, joy fizzing inside her. Today was the day of her apprentice ceremony. Foxkit was being licked by Blossomheart, and as soon as she was done, Foxkit trotted out of the nursery, followed by the all of the other kits except Nightkit. Wolfkit leapt away from Blossomheart.
“No! I want to look fierce for my apprentice ceremony! I don’t want to look like a kittypet!” But Blossomheart wouldn’t give up. She kept licking Wolfkit’s fur, even if Wolfkit tried to scratch Blossomheart.
“Fine,” sighed Wolfkit after what seemed an hour of licking. “Can I go outside and play now?”
Nightkit nuzzled her side, and licked Wolfkit’s ears. “Come on, Wolfkit,” meowed Nightkit. “Lets go outside. I’ll race you!” Nightkit ran out of the nursery.
As if by instinct, Wolfkit zoomed forward, overtaking Nightkit in under a second. Sweetstar was already on top of the Highledge, and the clan was gathered.
Sweetstar’s voice rang out across the clearing. “We are gathered here today to apprentice these young kits.” She glanced down at the kits. “They have now reached six moons of age, and I am honoured to make them apprentices.” Sweetstar beckoned Foxkit and Wolfkit with her tail. Foxkit, from this moment on you will be known as Foxpaw. Snowstone,” she looked at the large snowy-white she-cat. “You will be Foxpaw’s mentor.” Foxpaw touched noses with Snowstone.
“Wolfkit, from this moment on you will be known as Wolfpaw. Briarfire will be your mentor.” Wolfkit tried to stifle a purr of laughter. Briarfire! Such a stupid name! Even the ginger and brown she-cat was felling uncomfortable. Probably because of her silly name, Wolfpaw thought to herself. She reluctantly touched noses with Briarfire.
“Now its time for Cloudkit and Ravenkit to become apprentices. But first, I would like to say something.” This sent ripples throughout the clan. “Cloudkit would like to become a medicine cat apprentice, so from now on he shall be known as Cloudpaw, and his mentor shall be Thunderclan’s outstanding medicine cat, Hollyberry.” Cloudpaw clumsily bounded to Hollyberry, who had a surprised look on her face.
“Ravenkit,” continued Sweetstar, “will now be known as Ravenpaw. Eagleclaw will be your mentor.” Ravenpaw went to touch noses with Eagleclaw.
The ceremony continued, Nightpaw had Braveheart as his mentor, Sunpaw had Rivershine, Bramblepaw had Smalltail, and Dragonpaw with Shadowrunner, and by the time it had finished, it was sunhigh.
Wolfkit and Briarfire decided to explore the territory, along with Foxpaw and Nightpaw. “Mind the brambles,” warned Briarfire. “Don’t be afraid to report anything you-BADGER!”
she screamed. Snowstone and Briarfire ran to the camp to get help. Foxpaw dived under a bush, and Nightpaw tried to drag Wolfpaw towards the shadows, where Braveheart was standing. Wolfpaw turned.
“I’ll be fine. I know what I’m doing, just hide,” she urged.
The badger snarled, its small beady eyes full of menace. It reared up on its hind legs, trying to intimidate the small apprentice standing on the ground. The badger swiped at her. Wolfpaw jumped up, and raked her claws across the badger’s eyes. It screamed in pain, and the noise could probably be heard in Riverclan.
Braveheart stood behind her in awe. Wolfpaw continued to attack, her eyes glinting with the sense of battle. She dived, turned, and sliced the badger’s belly open. Blood and badger organs started to spill everywhere. Wolfkit couldn’t stop. She gouged out the badger’s eyes, and snapped off the lower jaw of the badger with an ear-splitting crack. She then kept slicing the badger with such force, after a few minutes, it was unrecognisable. The badger was dead.
Braveheart stepped forward. “I’d better report this,” he muttered. “We have an apprentice who can kill badgers. And she’s my daughter.” He raced off to the camp. “Stay here while I fetch Sweetstar,” he called to the apprentices.
The three apprentices huddled together underneath an oak tree. “That went well,” grumbled Foxpaw. We never got any training, and one of us almost got killed.” She shot a look at Wolfpaw. “But at least Wolfpaw didn’t die, and she protected the clan from a badger.” She glanced up at the sky. Dark clouds were beginning to gather above the forest. “We’d better get back to camp,” she murmured. Foxpaw led the way, leaving Wolfpaw and Nightpaw behind her.
“You’re going to be a great warrior,” meowed Nightpaw. Wolfpaw’s pelt bristled with ambition. “Do you want to go hunting?” asked Nightpaw. “There’s a lot of prey by the lake, and we could try and catch something.”
“OK,” agreed Wolfpaw. Nightpaw walked towards the Shadowclan border, and disappeared out of sight. She imagined bringing ten fat rabbits back to the camp, and suddenly there was a rabbit, fat enough to feed five clan cats. she stalked the rabbit, then darted forward and sunk her teeth into the rabbit’s spine. Wolfpaw was amazed at her catch. The rabbit didn’t even move! As if she had summoned it, another rabbit appeared in front of her. She swiftly killed it, and buried it. Wow, Nightpaw was right. I really do have superpowers!
The sun was setting by the time Wolfpaw arrived at the camp. She strolled in, a smug expression on her face. Ten fat rabbits were hanging from her jaws, and she felt lots of envious pairs of eyes on her prey. Standing by the fresh-kill pile was Foxpaw, her eyes wide and her mouth open.
Foxpaw charged at her, attempting to snatch the rabbits out of Wolfpaw’s mouth. “You!” shrieked the ginger she-cat. “You’ve been hunting on Windclan’s territory!”
A shocked gasp rippled through the clan. Wolfpaw dropped the rabbits, and began to throw Foxpaw off her. She swiped her claws across Foxpaw’s muzzle, and blood was starting to trickle out of the wound. Foxpaw backed away from her, and sprinted towards the medicine den.
Wolfpaw wanted to disappear. Blossomheart padded up to her, grief welling up in her mother’s eyes.
“You don’t smell of Windclan,” she meowed, puzzled by Foxpaw’s sudden accusation. The camp was eerily silent, apart from Foxpaw’s screams coming from the medicine den. Blossomheart collapsed to the ground and started to yowl. “You’ve killed her,” wailed Blossomheart. Murmurs swept across the clan, and Sweetstar leapt on top of the Highledge.
“According to Blossomheart,” she announced. “Wolfpaw has not been near Windclan territory, so I shall refrain from punishing her. Meanwhile,” she continued. “Happyheart will continue to send patrols out as usual, and they will report to me if they find any of Wolfpaw’s scent near the Windclan border. Also, earlier today, Briarfire, Braveheart, Snowstone and their apprentices found a badger on our territory.”
Somewhere in the crowd of cats below the Highledge, a cat screamed.
“Wolfpaw, one of the apprentices in the group, risked her life defending her clan. She killed the badger without any help from senior warriors. Starclan honours her bravery and loyalty to Thunderclan, and I hope that Wolfpaw will make a great Warrior someday, maybe even a leader.” The clan erupted into praise.
“She’s a hero!” exclaimed a tom.
“She deserves her warrior ceremony! I wonder what her warrior name will be!” gushed a she-cat sitting at the back.
“Wolfpaw! Wolfpaw! Wolfpaw!” chanted Nightpaw. The other apprentices soon joined in. Dragonpaw growled and slashed his claws on the ground in frustration.
From the corner of her eye, Wolfpaw saw Foxpaw, who was sitting inside the medicine den. Foxpaw’s eyes were full of hatred for her sister, and her teeth glistened in the light of the setting sun. Wolfpaw’s thoughts drowned out the cheering.
What happened to Foxpaw? she wondered. Will we ever be like sisters again? Is she jealous? Hurt? Bewildered? Questions swirled around Wolfpaw’s head like a storm. The cheering came to an abrupt halt as Sweetstar jumped off of the Highledge and retired into her den for the night. The crowd disbanded, heading for their dens.
As Wolfpaw slunk off to the apprentices den, she looked up at the moon. Stars were streaked across the sky, and shining brighter than all of them, like the king of the night sky, was the moon. It was almost full, so a gathering must be near.
She jumped as her mind drifted back into reality, as Nightpaw came padding up to her, his smooth black pelt invisible against the darkness. His amber eyes burned like fire into Wolfpaw’s bright blue gaze.
“Hi, Wolfpaw.” Nightpaw stretched his legs. “You were amazing at hunting today. How did you catch all of those rabbits? Did you actually go on Windclan territory?” Wolfpaw could tell that he was trying to hide his nerves. Although she was feeling exhausted from the badger fight and the hunting, Wolfpaw started to tell Nightpaw about her hunt.
By the time she was finished, Nightpaw was stretched out beside Wolfpaw, his tail flicking in relaxation every so often. “Come on, we should sleep,” he told Wolfpaw. Wolfpaw walked into the apprentice’s den, with Nightpaw by her side. She settled into her nest by the wall of the den, and drifted into sleep.
Wolfpaw found herself in the Dark Forest. Mapleshade was in front of her, along with Brokenstar and Tigerstar.
“You’re late,” snarled Tigerstar. “Instead of talking to that mange-pelt, you should have come here!” Tigerstar unsheathed his claws. Before he could do anything to Wolfpaw, Mapleshade swiped at him.
“Go easy on her, Tigerstar. She’s my apprentice, not yours. Just back off and let us train in peace, OK?” snarled Mapleshade. Wolfpaw watched Tigerstar vanish into the shadows. After a few moments, Brokenstar shot a look at Mapleshade, before joining Tigerstar. At last the forest was empty of cats, apart from Wolfpaw and Mapleshade. Wolfpaw was amazed at Mapleshade’s dominance.
“Congratulations on defeating the badger.” Mapleshade’s tone had a slight edge of surprise to it. “Despite never being trained before, you did quite well.” She paused, as if wondering what to say next. “Anyway, I thought I could teach you some basic battle moves that apprentices usually learn on their first few visits here.”
Mapleshade stood up, and Wolfpaw shifted her paws so she was standing in a battle position. “First I’m going to show you the shoulder drop. Grab my shoulders, then lock me against the ground. From there you can do anything, like raking your opponent’s spine with your hind claws.” Wolfpaw whizzed past Mapleshade in a blur, hooked her claws into her mentor’s shoulders, then all of a sudden, Mapleshade crumpled to the ground. Wolfpaw suddenly realised that her paws had gone from as light as a feather to as heavy as a boulder. She then dug her hind claws as far as they could go into Mapleshade’s back, tearing up fur and flesh as she dragged them across. Mapleshade rolled over, wincing as her wounds came in contact with the ground.
“That was impressive.” Mapleshade stood up. “Now you shall learn a move called the rear up and slash. When an an enemy is coming at you from the air, rear up on your hind legs and attack them with your claws.” Mapleshade demonstrated the move, attacking her imaginary opponents with brutal force. When she was finished, she leapt at Wolfpaw, and Wolfpaw knocked her out of the air with one paw. Mapleshade’s eyes narrowed into slits. “I told you to use your claws, not knock me out of the air. But you did well. Try again.”
Mapleshade repeated the leap, but this time Wolfpaw clawed Mapleshade’s muzzle, sending the old tortoiseshell cat flying across the clearing. “Good.” Mapleshade staggered to her paws. “Not only did you manage to claw me, you unbalanced and dazed me too. Well done.”
Tigerstar ambled into the clearing, with Brokenstar behind him. “I see you’ve been training.” Tigerstar sat down to face Wolfpaw. “Just a few tips,” he growled. “Nothing important.”
Tigerstar cleared his throat. “ When in a battle, roll over so you can crush your enemy. Tucking in your tail, which requires a lot of balance, can give your enemy less to hold on to. Slick down your fur before a battle, so your enemy can think that you are weaker than you actually are. Then you can underestimate them.”
Tigerstar, Mapleshade and Brokenstar began to retreat into the trees. “Don’t be late for your next visit,” snarled Tigerstar. “I don’t want you to miss your training.”
“Wolfpaw! Wake up! The dawn patrol left ages ago. You’ve been asked to go hunting, and Braveheart said he won’t wait any longer,” whined a voice. Wolfpaw opened her eyes to see the glossy brown and ginger pelt of Briarfire looming above her. “Get up!” shrieked her mentor.
Wolfpaw lazily got up to her feet and padded after Briarfire. The patrol waited irritably outside. Bramblepaw, Sunpaw, Rivershine, Smalltail, Braveheart, and looked as if they had been sleeping with thorns in their nests. Nightpaw, however, looked as normal as ever. He actually looked as if he was happy to see her.
“Seriously, Briarfire, how long does it take to wake your apprentice up?” sneered Smalltail.
“Well how long did it take for your mother to kit you?” retorted Brairfire. “Quite a while, I guess, because you’re so fat!” Briarfire smiled with triumph.
Bramblepaw put his muzzle to Wolfpaw’s ear. “Are warriors usually like this to eachother?” he murmured.
“I think so.” Wolfpaw couldn’t stop giggling. “If warriors behave like this, they belong in the nursery, ‘cause they behave like kits!”
Smalltail was starting to cry now, his claws unsheathed. “Hey!” screeched Smalltail. “I’m thinner than you! If you’re calling me fat, then…” Smalltail trailed off, wondering of what to say to get back at Briarfire. “Then you’re as fat as a queen who’s kits are about to come!”
“More like YOUR MOTHER, Briarfire.” jeered Sunpaw.
“Shut up about my mother,” wailed Briarfire. “She made me Shadowclan cats out of fresh-kill so I could eat the Shadowclan warriors when I was a kit!”
A snarl from Braveheart made everyone stop motionless in their tracks.
“Can you just shut up, all of you?” he screamed. “You’re scaring all of the prey away!” Braveheart turned around so he was facing the patrol. “What is this, a kit patrol? No, it’s a hunting patrol. And do you know what the purpose of a hunting patrol is? It’s to kill prey and to bring it back to the clan, so the clan gets fed. So can you just shut up and start to behave like warriors again?”
The patrol was still. Smalltail bowed his head in apology, while Briarfire was quivering.
Braveheart’s eyes swept over the patrol of cats. “Thank you. Now we will hunt prey, and if I hear another word out of any of you, you’ll be searching the elders for ticks for the rest of your life. Got it?”
The cats nodded their heads in agreement. Braveheart and the patrol padded on, until they reached the lake.
“Now split up, all of you. Hunt on your own. If any cat is following you, tell them to hunt in their own place. Right. Off you go.”
Wolfpaw headed for the Shadowclan border. She desperately wanted to bring back ten rabbits for the clan again, and the world spun as she tripped over what felt like a stone. But it wasn’t. It was a rabbit.
What the Dark Forest? Rabbits weren’t usually as stiff as stone. This one didn’t even move, even when she poked it. Wolfpaw sunk her teeth into the rabbit. It tasted like prey, it smelt like prey, but it wasn’t acting like prey.
Someone give me a sign! She pleaded.
Wolfpaw scented a cat. “Brokenstar?” she gasped. How did you get here?”
“I’ve come to tell you something,” He snorted. “Isn’t it obvious? You can summon things. Prey, extra cats, confidence, anything. That’s how you can hunt so many rabbits. You also cannot get hurt in battle, or die. Not even by sickness. That’s why you killed the badger without getting hurt.”
Wolfpaw was shocked by his words. So this is what Nightpaw meant! “H-h-how do you know?” she stammered.
Brokenstar smirked. “I’ve known it since you were born. The other cats, Mapleshade included, agreed with me to train you, so we could help you become the Thunderclan leader. It was your destiny, Wolfpaw.”
Wolfpaw froze as Brokenstar faded. “Wait!” She cried.
Brokenstar stopped fading. “What?” he snarled.
“I can’t do the training tonight. I have a gathering. So… could we do it now? Hunting can wait until later. I don’t want to miss out on training. You heard what Tigerstar said!”
Brokenstar paused. “I guess we could do that,” he meowed slowly.
Brokenstar jumped onto Wolfpaw’s back, and Wolfpaw rolled over, so all four of Brokenstar’s paws were on the ground behind his back, and planted a paw on his neck. Her other paw whizzed down Brokenstar’s belly, the claws raking the flesh. Brokenstar screamed in pain, and blood was starting to bubble up from his throat.
Oh no, what have I done? thought Wolfpaw as she searched for herbs to heal him. By Brokenstar’s head, a golden plant magically sprung up from the soil. Wolfpaw stuffed the herb down Brokenstar’s throat, and the wounds started to heal.
Brokenstar staggered to his feet. “I was fine, you didn’t need to take care of me. But at least you didn’t kill me. It would be the end of you if that happened, and I know how much you want to become leader.” His eyes narrowed. “Go and hunt. I’ll be fine.” He started to walk towards the shadows.
Wolfpaw killed the rabbit with one swift bite. Then more appeared in front of her, and more, and more. Who cares about ten rabbits, she thought, a wicked grin spread across her face. I’m going to bring back more prey than any other warrior has done before.
“Great Starclan, Wolfpaw, that’s twice as much as you bought back yesterday!” Sweetstar opened her mouth in shock.
With the help of her father, Wolfpaw had successfully dragged the 20 rabbits back to the camp. The clan was clustered around her, nattering questions like a nest of starlings.
“Hey, Wolfpaw,” came a friendly voice. Snowpaw came trotting up to her, unaware of the crowd of cats.
The older apprentice’s silver-grey pelt was scattered with flecks which had a striking resemblance of snowflakes, thus earning the name Snowpaw. Her pelt looked just like snow.
“I always wondered how you hunted better than me. What’s your secret?”
The crowds fell silent at the final sentence. Is this cat trying to challenge me? But Snowpaw and her brother are the biggest show-offs in the whole of Thunderclan. Wolfpaw gritted her teeth.
“If you’re trying to challenge me, then you can just back off!” Wolfpaw unsheathed her claws.
Snowpaw narrowed her eyes. “You wouldn’t dare,” she snarled.
Wolfpaw leapt on top of Snowpaw, grabbing her shoulders. She knocked Snowpaw’s hind legs out of the way, unbalancing Snowpaw and sending them both tumbling to the ground.
Snowpaw saw this as a battle advantage. She pinned Wolfpaw down, but Wolfpaw tucked her hind legs in front of her belly, and pushed Snowpaw off.
“I’ll hurt you badly if you continue fighting.” Wolfpaw locked her gaze onto Snowpaw’s neck, imagining her piercing the skin, tearing out the flesh, drinking the blood of a cat who tried to challenge her…
“Fine,” Snowpaw grunted. “I only wanted to get better at hunting. Us fighting was for nothing.” She took a deep breath. “Friends?” she managed to say at last.
“So…do you want to go for a walk?”
“Sure. Although I just came back from hunting.”
Snowpaw’s face brightened. “What was the patrol like? Was it fun? All I heard was Briarfire waking you up and wailing about her mother, but that’s it.”
“I’ll tell you about that when we start walking. Lets go!” Wolfpaw and Snowpaw ran out of the camp.
“So how’s Foxpaw?” asked Snowpaw.
“Well, she’s not talking to me now, so I guess we’re not wanting to be near eachother. But her muzzle's starting to heal.”
“I was so impressed with the way you clawed her muzzle! You did it like a warrior, so smooth and with the perfect timing! Why did she suddenly accuse you about trespassing when she had no proof?”
Wolfpaw struggled to find a reasonable answer. “I think she was jealous.” Wolfpaw felt like clawing her own ears. That was a stupid answer!
“What was she jealous about? Prey? Nightpaw? The fact that you’re better than her? She might not think that, but it could be anything.”
The word ‘Nightpaw’ stung Wolfpaw like a nettle. She can’t be jealous of Nightpaw, can she? And I am better than her, in a way…
“Wait a second, Wolfpaw, you’re going into the lake!” Skypaw Ran in front of Wolfpaw, trying to block her from having a swim.
“Relax, Skypaw, I’m not Riverclan! Only my paws are in the water, not my whole body! So about the patrol, a really funny thing was Briarfire insulted Smalltail, saying he was fat, then Smalltail said that he was thinner than her, and if she was calling him fat, then he said that Briarfire was as fat as a queen who’s kits are about to come! Then Sunpaw said, LIKE YOUR MOTHER, BRIARFIRE, and Briarfire started wailing about her mother and then Braveheart screamed at us and told us that we were acting like kits. It was the best patrol ever!”
“Wow, I so want to be on a patrol like that! Anyway, how did you get so many rabbits?”
Wolfpaw blurted out the first thing that came into her head. “I went out of the territory, and into a twolegplace. I walked into a twoleg den, and there were loads of fat rabbits. No-one was there, so I killed as many as I could, and I carried them, ten at a time, back into the territory , and I found Braveheart, and he helped me carry them home.”
“Cool, that must’ve been some adventure! Can you take me there next time you go hunting?” Snowpaw looked eager about learning a new hunting secret.
“Sure. Are you coming to the Gathering? It’s tonight, you know.” Wolfpaw was definitely going to her first gathering. All new apprentices did with their first ones.
“I’ll have to ask Sweetstar about that. I haven’t done anything heroic recently, just acted like a normal apprentice.” The two cats observed the sunset. “It’s getting dark. We should go.” Snowpaw started to head back towards the camp.
Wolfpaw followed her. What Skypaw said clouded her mind. Is Foxpaw really jealous of me, just because I have a good friendship with Nightpaw?
“Foxpaw, Wolfpaw, Nightpaw, Bramblepaw, Sunpaw, Cloudpaw, Ravenpaw, Dragonpaw, Happyheart, Braveheart, and Falconfeather will come to the gathering tonight.”
“Are you sure about that, Sweetstar? I think you’re taking too many cats.”
“It’s fine, Happyheart. I always take the apprentices when it’s their first gathering.”
“But eleven cats? That’s just too much, Sweetstar. Maybe you should-”
“Happyheart, I told you, I always take apprentices to their first gatherings. As for eleven cats, the other clans take roughly the same amount to the gathering. Now go and eat, I’ll join you later.”
Wolfpaw and Snowpaw lay at the entrance to the apprentice’s den, lazily watching the leader and deputy bickering.
“You’re lucky that she’s chosen you,” meowed Snowpaw. “You won’t get to go to another gathering until you’re a warrior. I’ll be going to a gathering soon. My assessment’s coming up. I wonder what my Warrior name will be? I’d like it to be Snowflower. It’s such a pretty name. What about you, Wolfpaw?”
“I honestly don’t know, but Wolfrunner sounds like a name that might work. Or maybe Wolfheart. It’s Sweetstar’s decision.” Wolfpaw yawned. “Do you want to eat something? I haven’t eaten tonight, and I’ve heard the journey is long.”
“Ok.” The two apprentices pushed their way through the fresh-kill pile.
A crowd of cats swarmed over to Wolfpaw and Snowpaw.
“Hey! Wolfpaw! Do you want to eat the mouse I caught just for you? I ate your rabbit, so maybe you could do the same for me!”
“Wolfpaw, hey! Can you try catching mice next time! I love mice!”
“Did you really go into Windclan territory, Wolfpaw?”
“How did you catch twenty rabbits, Wolfpaw?
“I love you Wolfpaw!”
“You’re awesome Wolfpaw!”
“Whats up, Wolfstar?”
“Looking good tonight, Wolfpaw! Are you going to the Gathering? You deserve to go!”
Wolfpaw looked at Snowpaw. “Have the elders been fed?”
“It’s ok, Wolfpaw, I fed the elders earlier.” Snowpaw picked up a few mice from the pile.
“Look everyone! Wolfpaw’s going to eat my mouse! Thanks, Wolfpaw!” a cat in the crowd screamed.
Snowpaw walked to the medicine den. When Wolfpaw asked where she was going, Snowpaw replied: “I thought you might like to eat with Foxpaw.”
Foxpaw’s head poked out of the medicine den. “Did someone say my name?” she asked.
“Hey, Foxpaw! We bought you something!” Snowpaw dropped the mice by Foxpaw’s paws.
“Oh, thanks, Snowpaw! I haven’t eaten tonight, and Wolfpaw and I are going to the gathering, so I’d better build my strength up.” She looked at Wolfpaw. “Wolfpaw, I’m really sorry of accusing you, and I deserved to have an injury. Hollyberry says it wouldn’t turn out as a scar, which is good. Why didn’t you choose a rabbit?”
“I was in the mood for mice.” Wolfpaw took a drink from some water-soaked moss. “Anyway, Foxpaw, I wanted to ask you something. Are you jealous of me because I have a good relationship with Nightpaw?”
Foxpaw looked at her, gobsmacked. “What? Do you have bees in your brain? Why would I ever like Nightpaw? As if I would take an interest in him.” Foxpaw sighed. “He’s yours, Wolfpaw. I have no interest in him, whatsoever.”
Wolfpaw felt a tiny bit disappointed. “Foxpaw,” she meowed, in a tiny voice. “What would you like your warrior name to be?”
Foxpaw pondered for a moment. “Well, interesting question. Foxflower sounds nice, so does Foxtail, Foxsong, and Foxwing. It’s Sweetstar’s decision.”
The three cats swallowed up the rest of their mice, and joined the other cats who were going to the gathering.
“Have a nice time, Wolfpaw. I’ll see you tomorrow morning.” Snowpaw followed her brother, Thunderpaw, into the apprentice’s den.
“Are we here, everyone?” called Sweetstar. “Right then, off we go.”
Wolfpaw watched the other apprentices cross over the tree bridge. The moon had only just risen, so Thunderclan was early for the gathering.
“Don’t worry, you’ll be fine.” Foxpaw scrabbled onto the tree bridge, and started to sprint across to the island. “If you run across, it’ll be quicker, and there’s less time to worry,” Foxpaw called.
Wolfpaw’s heart hammered in her ears. She gracefully bounded onto the tree, and ran across the knobbly bark in a smooth rhythm. Wolfpaw felt glorious. The wind was rushing past her ears, the drumming of her paws against the tree cleared her thoughts. But the experience was over as soon as it had begun.
“See? I told you it would be fine as long as you run!” Foxpaw went off to join the other apprentices.
“Hey, Bramblepaw. I bet you can’t get up there!” It was Sunpaw, gesturing to the tip of the tree with his tale.
“Oh yeah? I can climb better than you, mouse-brain. Just watch.” Bramblepaw struggled to hoist himself up onto the lowest branch. A loud screeching sound filed the air as Bramblepaw dug his claws into the bark, and his weight dragged him down the tree, and he slumped onto the ground.
Wolfpaw shouldered her way through the apprentices. She poised, ready to jump.
“You’re both mouse-brained.” Sunpaw laughed at her words. “I can jump right to the top of that tree, as easily as a squirrel can climb.”
“Wolfpaw, that’s ridiculous!” her father exclaimed fiercely. “No cat has ever been able to jump up there. Not even Skyclan!” Braveheart ran forward, trying to block her way, but he was too late. Wolfpaw soared up into the sky like a bird, and she delicately landed on the top of the tree. The cats below her stared at her, their eyes as wide as an owl’s.
“What the…” Sunpaw’s eyes were glued to Wolfpaw. Nightpaw was trying to climb the tree, but was having little success. All the cats were still, except for Braveheart, who was having a panic attack.
“Wolfpaw! I told you! You’re going to fall! What will Starclan think? What will your mother think, if I let you jump up trees like this? What is the tree falls, and you break your back? What if you end up as Briarlight? What if-”
“Braveheart, that’s enough.” The stern meow came from Falconfeather, Braveheart’s brother. “Wolfpaw, come down!” The other clans won’t be pleased to see you up there!”
Wolfpaw dived down to the ground. She was amazed at how she was able to do that. It started as just a challenge, but then she proved it, and now the other apprentices thought her as a miracle cat.
“Act normally,” hissed Sweetstar, as she jumped onto a branch. Riverclan came marching through, their leader, Songstar, in the lead. A black tom, twice as big as Wolfpaw, strutted over to Wolfpaw, Foxpaw, and Nightpaw.
“Are you apprentices?” He asked. Before any of the cats could answer, the tom spoke. Apprentices? Really? You look more like newborn kits. Useless, weak, still in the nursery. Is Sweetstar breaking the Warrior Code again? I’m not surprised. I probably won’t be surprised, even if—”
“You shut up about us, flea-brained crowfood!” Wolfpaw unsheathed her claws.
“What are you gonna do?” the other cat snorted. “Pounce on my tail? As if. A weakling like you couldn’t even raise a paw.”
“You shut your messed-up face about Wolfpaw!” Nightpaw stepped forward.
“Who are you, runt? Weaklingpaw’s mate? I wouldn’t be surprised if she was expecting your kits yet.”
Wolfpaw had enough. Using the move Mapleshade had taught her, she launched herself into the air, turned, and hooked her claws into the black cat’s back. The cat yelped in pain, falling to the ground. Wolfpaw scored her hind claws against the cat’s back, tearing up lumps of fur and flesh as she did so. Songstar ran over to the wounded heap on the ground.
“My son! Oh, Blackpaw, who could’ve done this to you?” Muffled sobs came from Songstar as she buried her head in Blackpaw’s fur. She stepped back as she allowed some of her other Warriors to take him back to their camp. “SWEETSTAR?” Songstar’s voice was exceptionally loud for such a small she-cat. “WAS THIS THE DOING OF ONE OF YOUR WARRIORS?”
Sweetstar bowed her head. “It was, Songstar, but I’m sure she didn’t—”
“Well if it was one of your warriors, why don’t I punish them myself?” Songstar’s voice had gone from as loud as a twoleg monster to as soft as the bedding in the nursery.
“What she means is that she’s going to fight you,” a Riverclan tom hissed in her ear. “And she’s a good fighter, too, so bad luck if you get wounded” Wolfpaw flinched as the tom’s breath rolled over her. It stank of fish, mud, fox dung, and many other things Wolfpaw didn’t want to mention. Wounded? As if that would happen.
“Wolfpaw, step forward, please.” Sweetstar’s eyes twinkled, as if she wanted to see a cat wounded. Or even worse, dead. Is Sweetstar really the warm-hearted leader I know? Or is she something else entirely?
Wolfpaw shuffled forwards towards Songstar. “I still don’t get how a newly-made apprentice can hurt Blackpaw. He’s Riverclan’s best apprentice. I’ll never forget the time when he—”
“Oh come off it, Songstar. We all know that Blackpaw is the worst apprentice in the clan!” a cat called out. Riverclan murmured their agreement.
“Silence, Brackeneyes!” hissed the Riverclan leader. “I chose you to mentor my son because I thought you were loyal to me. Now I think otherwise.”
By now the other two clans had arrived at the island. Shadowclan’s leader, Ravenstar, padded between the two she-cats.
“Songstar, stop!” Ravenstar yowled. “You’re breaking the truce! I’ll attack you myself if you lay a claw on this cat.” Wolfpaw and Songstar backed away from eachother.
“This isn’t over yet, apprentice,” Songstar hissed in Wolfpaw’s ear.
Wolfpaw studied the Riverclan leader with narrowed eyes. It isn’t over yet, she thought. It’ll be over when I take away all of your remaining lives.
“Can the gathering just start, please?” sighed Sweetstar. “Thunderclan have spent enough time waiting for you to arrive.” As she spoke, the other leaders jumped onto the branches of the tree. Instead of Wingstar, the Windclan leader, a black tom neatly sprang onto a branch.
“Breezepelt? What’s he doing here? I thought he left the clans!” a cat called out.
“He did, Berryflame,” replied the cat sitting next to him. “And he came back. But why?”
“I have no idea, Moonfall. If he is sitting on the branches of the tree, then…”
“He’s a leader, Berryflame. He’s the new leader of Windclan!”
“Excuse me,” Sweetstar called out to the conversing cats. “Lower your voices. We don’t really know if this cat—”
“It’s fine, Sweetstar.” The black tom raised his head to the stars. “I am Breezestar, the new Windclan leader, originally called Breezepelt. You were right, Moonfall. I did leave the clans, but Starclan told me to go back. Before the gathering starts, I have some bad news. Wingstar lost her ninth life two nights ago, of an unknown disease. Windclan misses her terribly.” Breezestar bowed his head.
“Breezestar! Breezestar! Breezestar!” the cats chanted. Wolfpaw looked at the new leader with a sense of distrust. She had heard about Breezepelt in the elder’s den, as Frostflower recalled how he had left the clans, and was training for the dark forest. Now that he was a leader, he was destined to get revenge on Thunderclan.
“Now you can get to know each other a bit more,” Ravenstar beamed. At once, cats began to move places, stopping to talk to cats they had met before, or introduce their apprentices.
“Wolfpaw, Foxpaw, come over here,” meowed Braveheart. He led them to a dark ginger tom who was standing by his apprentice. “It’s nice to see you again, Leafclaw. These are my daughters, Foxpaw and Wolfpaw.”
“Ah, hello, apprentices!” smiled Leafclaw. “Come and meet my apprentice. Her name’s Petalpaw.” The golden she-cat was standing as far away from Wolfpaw as possible.
“Leafclaw? Do I have to acquaint myself with these repulsively-named creatures?” The small cat spoke incredibly haughtily, thoroughly expressing her dislike for the two apprentices. “Ugh, they smell! Does Thunderclan know how to maintain themselves? They hardly know about lavender bubble-scent. Even if they used that to clean themselves, they would still smell like crowfood! Honestly, Leafclaw, out of all the apprentices here, did you have to choose these two? There is an apprentice in Riverclan who I’d like to meet. Flowerpaw. She uses claw-juice! She has her claws a different colour every moon!” Still yakking about Flowerpaw, she trotted off into a crowd of cats.
“Sorry about that,” Leafclaw mumbled. “She’s a spoiled brat. Windclan apprentices, no respect for anything except themselves.” He turned to see a cat calling his name. “Sorry Braveheart, got to go. Nice meeting you three.” He walked off.
Foxpaw yawned. “I’m gonna explore. See you around.” Foxpaw spotted a warrior and ran over to him.
Wolfpaw whipped round to see a white tom, roughly the same size as Wolfpaw, with black paws, a black tail tip, and a black mark on his chest. “I’m Darkpaw. What’s your name?”
“Hi, Darkpaw. I’m Wolfpaw.”
“Cool name! What clan are you from? I’m from Shadowclan.”
“You’re from Shadowclan! That’s awesome! Ravenstar is such a good leader! Thunderclan is boring. It’s full of helpless cats, who live by the Warrior Code. Every day is repetitive. There’s no need for fighting, and Sweetstar is the worst leader Thunderclan has ever had. I’m from Thunderclan, by the way.”
“Thanks.” Darkpaw was impressed that someone from another clan liked Shadowclan. “What do you want your warrior name to be? I want mine to be Darkheart, because it makes me sound strong in battle. Wolfeyes sounds like a name that works. Or Wolfblaze. Maybe Wolfblossom, because you’re so pretty.”
Wolfpaw’s heart skipped a beat. Did this cat just say that I’m pretty? Or is he just pulling my leg?
Warrior names flooded through Wolfpaw’s brain. “Mine would probably be Wolfclaw, or Wolfpelt, Wolfrunner, Wolfheart, Wolfsong, or Wolfsky.”
“Wolfblossom suits you though. Or Wolfmoon.” Darkpaw sat down beside Wolfpaw. “Who’s the fox?” he asked her, flicking his tail in Foxpaw’s direction.
“Oh, that’s Foxpaw, my sister. She got her name because she looks like a fox. Foxpaw’s black paws, black ears, white underbelly and chest, plus her white tail tip gave her a striking resemblance to a fox.
“No wonder she’s your sister. she’s almost as beautiful as you.” Darkpaw pressed his muzzle against Wolfpaw’s and purred. Wolfpaw was starting to feel uncomfortable. Half of her wanted to run all the way back to camp, and the other half wanted to relax and watch the stars with Darkpaw.
A loud yowling bought the two cats back into reality. “May the gathering commence!” boomed Sweetstar. The cats stopped talking and turned to listen to the leaders. “Thunderclan will start first, as we have exciting news to tell. Prey is running well in the forest. We have eight new apprentices, Foxpaw, Wolfpaw, Nightpaw, Bramblepaw, Sunpaw, Cloudpaw, Ravenpaw, and Dragonpaw.
“Foxpaw, Wolfpaw, Nightpaw, Bramblepaw, Sunpaw, Cloudpaw, Ravenpaw, Dragonpaw! Foxpaw, Wolfpaw, Nightpaw, Bramblepaw, Sunpaw, Cloudpaw, Ravenpaw, Dragonpaw! Foxpaw, Wolfpaw, Nightpaw, Bramblepaw, Sunpaw, Cloudpaw, Ravenpaw, Dragonpaw!” The cats struggled to remember all the names.
“Also, Thunderclan found a badger on their territory. A patrol encountered it while their apprentices were training. One of the apprentices, Wolfpaw, killed the badger without any warrior help, despite being a new apprentice. None of my cats were harmed.”
“Oh my goodness, that’s you!” breathed Darkpaw. “You’re amazing, Wolfpaw. You’re going to make a fine leader one day.”
“We have had extraordinary luck with prey this moon,” continued Sweetstar. “Wolfpaw, yes, the same apprentice who killed the badger, has hunted a total of thirty rabbits in the space of two days. Therefore, the clan has been fed well, and Wolfpaw is honoured for her loyalty.”
“Wolfpaw! Wolfpaw! Wolfpaw! Wolfpaw! Wolfpaw! Wolfpaw!” The cheers drowned out everything, even the sound of twoleg monsters.
“Thank you, Sweetstar. Shadowclan shall speak next. Prey is running well, and we have two new apprentices: Darkpaw, and his sister Fangpaw. We also have one new warrior. Everyone please welcome Dawnblossom!”
“Darkpaw! Fangpaw! Dawnblossom! Darkpaw! Fangpaw! Dawnblossom!” cheered the cats.
“Congratulations, Ravenstar,” Breezestar meowed, his voice terse. “As you all know, Wingstar has died, and I am the new Windclan leader. Windclan has one new apprentice, Petalpaw.” The cats cheered for Petalpaw. Prey is good.” He looked at Songstar. “Your turn next, Songstar.”
“Thanks, Breezestar.” The Riverclan leader’s pelt bristled. “We have one new apprentice. Flowerpaw. There is no need for cheering. My headache’s bad enough already.” Flowerpaw looked at her leader in shock.
Flowerpaw’s special moment has been spoiled because her leader is such a mouse-brain! Wolfpaw wanted to claw Songstar’s ears. She’ll pay for what she’s done when I kill her. She ruined someone’s gathering! Even though Flowerpaw is most likely to be a spoiled brat, just like Petalpaw.
“May you all have a safe journey home, and may Starclan light your path!” announced Sweetstar as she hopped down from the branch.
Darkpaw stood up. “Meet me at the Shadowclan border tomorrow night,” he whispered in Wolfpaw’s ear.
Wolfpaw’s eyes looked at Darkpaw longingly. How can I meet him if I have to do my training in the Dark Forest? She opened her mouth to ask him, but it was too late. Darkpaw had disappeared into the night.
Wolfpaw and Snowpaw had spent the whole morning trying to find a twolegplace. Their pads were sore, and the two of them hadn’t seen a whisker of prey since they left Thunderclan territory.
“How much longer do we have to walk?” groaned Snowpaw as she dragged her paws across the grass.
“Not much longer. I forgot to tell you it was a long way from the camp.” Wolfpaw saw the shape of a twoleg nest appear over the horizon. “Snowpaw! We’re almost there!” Wolfpaw ran to the red stone walls of the nest. Eventually, Snowpaw managed to heave her paws over the wooden barrier.
“Who are you?” snarled a voice behind her. The two cats turned to see a black kittypet with dark green eyes. Behind the kittypet there were two other cats, a cream one with silver flecks, and a blood-red one with jet-black stripes.
“Leave them, Bottle, they’re just lost,” mewed the cream and silver she cat.
“They’re trespassers! Tresspassers must be dealt with!” shrieked the tabby. Wolfpaw guessed he was mentally-ill.
“Sparkles, Penlid, stop.” It was the black cat again, who Wolfpaw assumed to be Bottle. “If we give these cats what they want, they probably won’t come back for more. They’ve travelled a long way too, as far as I can tell.” Wolfpaw felt relieved.
“We are looking for a twoleg nest full of rabbits,” she yawned. Snowpaw collapsed onto the grass beside her. Wolfpaw felt like doing the same thing, but she decided against it.
“Twolegs? Do you mean humans?” Sparkles’ sweet motherly voice reminded her of birds singing at dawn. “And is a twoleg nest a house?”
“Well there might be one full of rabbits somewhere…” Sparkles sniffed the air, and trotted towards a thunderpath. “This is a road. The scary things that go along it are cars. Some cats call them monsters. Kittypets, like me, Penlid, and Bottle are called pets to most humans. Humans can produce young, called children. Children learn things at a place called School.”
“Like apprentices!” gasped Snowpaw.
“Exactly.” Sparkles’ voice wobbled. “Anyway, lots of children have the same mentor in a school. The mentor is called a teacher. They learn in dens called classrooms, and their food gets cooked for them.”
“That’s interesting. Tell us more.” Wolfpaw was slowly becoming interested in twoleg life.
“We’re finally here. Beware the humans— er, I mean twolegs!” mewed Sparkles. “I’m outside if you need anything.”
Woflpaw and Snowpaw padded quietly into the twoleg den. Inside, as Wolfpaw had said, there was a shiny, woven, grasslike barrier with a horde of rabbits inside. Some twolegs were looking at them, and stroking them with their big, furless paws. A twoleg saw Wolfpaw and screamed something to the other twolegs.
A twoleg kit came running towards Snowpaw, and picked her up. Wolfpaw clawed the kit’s legs, and dropped Snowpaw with a sickening thud. Now twolegs swarmed around the two apprentices with laws outstretched, and Wolfpaw had trouble trying to defeat them all. Grabbing Snowpaw by the scruff, she darted outside and left Snowpaw by Sparkles’ paws.
In a fit of rage, Wolfpaw rammed her claws into a twoleg’s eyes, and watched the white balls come out with a pop. The twolegs screamed, and one of the kits turned bright red in the face and started to yowl. Wolfpaw continued to snap necks, claw faces, and hiss until some heavily—armed twolegs bursted through the entrance, carrying Snowpaw in a shiny woven grass den like the one the rabbits were in, but smaller. In their hands were black, stick-like things pointing at Wolfpaw. Wolfpaw froze in the bright lights of the burning branch-like objects that the twolegs held.
Oh no, thought Wolfpaw. I’m doomed.
Without thinking, Wolfpaw jumped into the rabbit’s territory, killing as many as she can. Twolegs were surrounding her, and Sparkles was nowhere to be seen. She caught a glimpse of Snowpaw, huddled in the den, eyes brimming with terror. Wolfpaw lunged at the twoleg holding the den, but she was pulled back by a twoleg who was holding her legs. All hopes of escape were doomed. Wolfpaw gripped the smooth floor of the den, and thrust her hind legs down. The twoleg came crashing down, and as the other twolegs tried to help it, Wolfpaw made a run for the prey. She desperately wanted a twoleg monster to squash the twolegs flat, or anything that can help them escape.
Suddenly the biggest twoleg monster that Wolfpaw had ever seen broke through the ceiling of the den and landed on top of the twolegs. Their screams were silenced by a crack of bones and stone. Luckily, Snowpaw’s den was unharmed. Wolfpaw hurtled out of the den with a mouthful of prey, and crashed into Sparkles.
“Where were you?” Screeched Wolfpaw. “I’ve been ill with worry! Snowpaw is trapped, and I’ve narrowly escaped a kidnapping!”
Sparkles slunk into the twoleg nest, returning with Snowpaw’s den. “Your friend is trapped in a cage. I know how to get her out. Then I can take you to my twoleg, so you can rest.” Her voice showed no emotion. Soon Snowpaw was out of her cage, and the three of them walked through the endless rows of twoleg nests. Soon Sparkles stopped by a nest and walked up the small path and through a gap in the stone.
“Here we are, now just copy me.” Sparkles’ twoleg stroked her and gave her a dry berry which reeked of twolegs. Wolfpaw ran towards a soft boulder, which Sparkles told her that it was a cushion. “And this is a fireplace,” she explained, looking towards a small cave filled with wood. “Don’t worry, you won’t get burned. it’s warm and relaxing, but it’s too early to lie beside it now. Let’s eat.”
Sparkles’ food consisted of a fishy mush, some mouthfuls of the dried berries from earlier, and a creamy liquid. Wolfpaw was so hungry that she didn’t even care about what it was. She gobbled up mouthfuls of the disgusting mush, and drowned her face in the liquid, which bore a similar resemblance to milk. She could tell by Sparkles’ face that she was disgusted by Wolfpaw’s eating style, as Sparkles ate her food daintily, unlike the two clan cats. After eating, Wolfpaw and Snowpaw jumped onto the soft mountain, and curled up on some of the cushions.
“Oh no, we don’t sleep there. We sleep in our beds.” Sparkles headed towards a nest of yellow moss and curled up inside it. The three cats had to squeeze up inside sit, but it was worth the comfort.
“Being a kittypet is almost as good as being a clan cat,” mumbled Snowpaw as she drifted off to sleep.
Wolfpaw couldn’t settle. She wanted the other apprentices beside her, beneath the stars and the Dark Forest, not beside her best friend and a stranger in a twoleg nest. It was dusk anyway. She thought of what Thunderclan might be doing right now. She thought about her family, about Nightpaw. Nightpaw. He must be sick with worry.
Wolfpaw observed the den. There were white stone walls surrounding her, with a few large gaps of ice in the sides. there was a black reflecting pool on one of the walls, and Wolfpaw wondered if the Dark Forest was watching her. And then she remembered Darkpaw. I let him down. He would be waiting by the Shadowclan border, waiting for a cat who might never come.
Wolfpaw dashed for the door of the den and followed her stale scent trail back to the territories. Her paws hurt, but she didn’t care. She smelled Thunderclan up ahead. Pausing to wash the scent off of her, she advanced towards the Shadowclan border. Darkpaw was standing there, his eyes full of trust.
“I knew you would come.” His purr sent a wave of love rippling through Wolfpaw’s body. The two cats padded towards the lake, tails intertwined. The steady rhythm of the lapping waves made Wolfpaw drowsy. “We should keep seeing eachother, every night.” Wolfpaw and Darkpaw watched the stars together for a while, and the silence was broken by a whisper from Darkpaw. “I love you, Wolfpaw, and I always will.” Darkpaw stood up and started to run. “I know a place where we can go,” he called to her.
Wolfpaw eventually found herself in an old twoleg den, similar to the one in the elders’ tales about Dovewing and Tigerheart. Wolfpaw chased after Darkpaw, jumping onto ledges and wooden logs. Wolfpaw had never felt so happy.
Soon the sky began to grow pale, and Darkpaw turned to her. “I’ve got to go. Dawn patrol. I really enjoyed my time with you tonight. Same time, same place, tomorrow night. See ya.” He licked Wolfpaw’s muzzle and sped into the shadows of the forest. As fast as her paws could take her, Wolfpaw ran back towards the den where Sparkles lived. She lay down just in time for Sparkles’ twoleg to make the food and for the other two cats to wake up.
Snowpaw and Wolfpaw strolled over to the food. Wolfpaw could hear birds singing, and the sun’s light was streaming through the icy wall, giving the den a warm glow.
“Thanks for everything you’ve done for us, Sparkles. We’ll never forget you.” Wolfpaw dipped her head gratefully and started to groom herself.
Sparkles lifted a paw. “May you have a safe journey home, and I look forward to seeing you again. Don’t forget the rabbits!” she chimed as Wolfpaw stepped into the pale dawn light of Greenleaf. Picking up the rabbits, she noticed Snowpaw looking uncomfortable.
“Snowpaw, what’s wrong?” she asked. The white apprentice looked like she didn’t want to leave.
“I’d like to stay with Sparkles.” The words hit Wolfpaw like a claw to the face. Snowpaw continued. “The world of twolegs and kitttypets is so interesting! I would really like to spend more time with Sparkles and learn more.”
Wolfpaw felt disappointed. She walked through a flappy door and turned to pick up the rabbits. Snowpaw was a kittypet now. It was time to move on.
She set off along the long grey thunderpath, basking in the dawn’s pale light. Eventually she made it to the forest. She weaved through warrens and bounded over bushes. The joys of being at home! As she approached the camp, she heard muffled voices. Eerily quiet. Unusually quiet. Wolfpaw padded along the entrance to the tunnel.
“Wolfpaw!” Gasped a voice. As usual, Nightpaw was the first to greet her, licking her ears and purring. Other cats crowded around the two of them.
“Where have you been?
“Where’s Snowpaw? She’s not dead, is she?”
“What happened when you were gone?”
Sweetstar barged through the crowd. “Wolfpaw, we would all like to hear the enthralling tale of your adventure,” she beamed. “But only if you say so.”
“Gladly,” Wolfpaw replied. She started to recite her story, about the three kittypets, the twolegs, and the night in the twoleg nest.
“Stunning,” Sweetstar breathed. “I think you deserve your warrior ceremony. Bravery, killing the badger, saving a friend in need, your amazing hunting ability. This cannot wait another second.” Sweetstar leapt on top of the highledge, followed by Wolfpaw.
“Wait! She doesn’t deserve this!” snarled a voice. Surprise, surprise, it’s Foxpaw. Wolfpaw thought. Why can’t she be happy for once? “Surely the rest of us should get our ceremonies as well?”
“Prove yourself many times and i may consider it,” Sweetstar said. “Anyway, let us begin.” I Sweetstar, leader of Thunderclan, call upon my warrior ancestors to look down on 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.” The cats below held their breath. Foxpaw, Dragonpaw and Thunderpaw looked depressed.
“Wolfpaw,” she continued, “do you promise to uphold the warrior code and to protect and defend your Clan, even at the cost of your life?”
Wolfpaw had a determined look in her eyes. “I do.”
“Then by the power of Starclan,” Sweetstar raised her voice. “I give you your warrior name. Wolfpaw, from this moment on, you will be known as Wolfsong. Starclan honours your fighting ability, hunting skills, and many other things that would take a season to mention, and we welcome you as a full warrior of Thunderclan.
“Wolfsong! Wolfsong! Wolfsong! Wolfsong!” Yowls filled the air.
“Well you took a short time earning your warrior name!” mewed Briarfire happily. “Three moons! That’s the shortest I’ve ever known! You’ve grown as well!” Wolfpaw now looked like the average warrior.
“Wolfsong.” Braveheart looked at her. I’ve made you a nest. Come on, have a piece of prey and some time with the other apprentices. Snowpaw’s loss has affected us all, and we hope that she will someday return. Off you go now.”
The other apprentices were huddled in a group. On the way there, she was ambushed by her mother, Blossomheart. “My little kit!” she squealed. Blossomheart licked Wolfsong’s muzzle, thoroughly embarrassing her. She had been licked enough today, and it wasn’t even midday yet.
The excited she-cat was dragged off towards another part of the clearing.
“How’s warrior life going?” asked Thunderpaw.
“Nice,” she replied. “Apart from Blossomheart reacting from too many strange herbs, thus causing her to become a bit loopy, everything’s fine.”
“Great,” the reddish-ginger tom replied. “This mouse brain,” he said, flicking his tail towards Nightpaw, “can’t wait to become a warrior now. Well, I guess the same thing applies to all of us, but he’s the most excited.”
“Wolfsong!” A black ball of short fur and amber eyes slammed into her. Nightpaw got up and started pacing around her frantically. “Want to go hunting? Want to go for a walk? Want to sleep in the apprentices’ den one more time tonight? Want to have some prey together?” He soon noticed that Wolfsong was on the ground. “Oh, sorry,” he blushed. “Can I help you get up?”
“Yeah, and maybe some prey would be nice too.” The two cats padded side by side, tails entwined, towards the fresh-kill pile. Nightpaw picked up a thrush from the bottom of the pile, and a pile of dangerously-stacked prey crashed on top of them.
“OK, I never knew that would happen, he laughed. “But at least we have our thrush.”
Calls of complaint swept around the camp. “Let it remain like that until the prey has dwindled. Then it will be easier to fix again,” meowed Sweetstar.
Wolfsong and Nightpaw settled beneath the Highledge, and started to eat their thrush.
“Nightpaw,” came a sharp reply from behind them. Braveheart towered over his apprentice. “Training session. Fighting. Lakeshore, Shadowclan border. I’ll be waiting.” He started to walk away.
“Can Wolfsong come too?” Nightpaw asked, eyes full of hope.
Braveheart just snarled. “There’s enough she-cats in the clan for you to be padding after. She’ll only distract you.”
“Sorry Wolfsong,” Nightpaw muttered. “Your dad’s a bit strict. I’ll join you for a walk afterwards.”
“No, you’ll be looking after the elders this afternoon. And the queens. Afterwards, you can help Hollyberry and Cloudpaw gather herbs.”
Nightpaw goaned and put his head on the ground in frustration. “Look, Braveheart, I really want to spend time with your daughter. Can she help me with the elders, queens and medicine cats?”
“Fine,” Braveheart snapped. “Just get to the lakeshore. We’ve wasted enough time already.” He ushered his apprentice out of the camp.
Wolfsong finished her thrush and padded over to her nest in the warriors’ den. She really needed her sleep after the journey home.
Nightpaw returned to camp exhausted and hungry that afternoon. He flopped down next to Wolfsong. Braveheart dropped a vole at his paws.
“You’re lucky you’re getting prey at all,” he growled. He sauntered off towards Sweetstar.
“I’ll fetch mouse bile, while you rest.” Wolfsong entered the medicine cat’s den. She was surprised to see not Hollyberry and Cloudpaw, but Redstep. She was built like a rock, with emerald green eyes. One of the scariest warriors in the clan.
Redstep dumped a ton of mouse bile at Wolfsong’s paws. The smell suffocated her. “Hollyberry is gathering herbs with Cloudpaw. They were going to do it later, but they were low on juniper.” Wolfsong just stared at her. “Don’t just stand there!” snarled the red warrior. “Go!” Wolfsong hurried out of the den. Nightpaw was at his feet now, grooming his short black fur.
“Why is there mouse bile on your paws?” he asked. The look in Wolfsong’s eyes told him everything. “Oh, Redstep. She’s a pain in the tail.” Frostflower greeted them as they entered the elders’ den. Wolfsong started to smear the mouse bile on Frostflower’s back while Nightpaw changed her bedding.
“Aww, young love. Foxpaw was telling me earlier today that you two would make a cute couple.” Frostflower smiled at them. Wolfsong gritted her teeth.
“Maybe we would,” said Nightpaw. “Maybe we would.”
Wolfsong was now in a hurry to get out of the elder’s den. “Queens next,” she meowed to Nightpaw. “That was fast,” she commented, admiring their work. “Lets go.” She ambled over to the nursery as Nightpaw fetched a starling from the fresh-kill pile. Only one queen lay in the den, kits suckling at her belly. Iceflower had given birth one moon ago to Bladekit, Clawkit, and Scarkit.
“Hi, Wolfsong, how is our newest warrior doing?” purred Iceflower. “Just incase you’re expecting Nightpaw’s kits, I saved you a nest.” She glanced towards a nest.
“Wolfsong’s fine, Iceflower. Thanks for making a nest for her, but it’s a bit too early for us to be planning anything yet.” Nightpaw stood beside Iceflower and dropped the starling at her paws. Wolfsong replaced the old moss with fresh moss.
“Hollyberry’s collecting herbs now, so we can take a walk,” said Wolfsong as they exited the den. “Where should we go? The lake?”
“The lake,” Nightpaw agreed. “Race!” he suddenly shouted, and he laughed happily as he sprinted through the trees. Wolfsong overtook him in a matter of seconds.
“Wait,” she hissed. Nightpaw abruptly came to a stop. “Shadwowclan patrol.” The patrol of five cats stopped to renew the scent markers. Wolfsong recognised Darkpaw, his sister Fangpaw, and Dawnblossom, a Shadowclan warrior.
“We can smell you,” called Fangpaw. “Reveal yourselves!”
“Nightpaw, apprentice of Thunderclan. And Wolfsong, warrior of Thunderclan.”
Darkpaw stepped forward. “Wolfsong,” he purred. “A warrior so soon? I’m not surprised.” He was silenced by a sharp glance from Dawnblossom.
“Who were you talking to?” she asked. Darkpaw shook his head.
“No-one important.” Memories of night visits flooded back to Wolfsong. All those visits and he calls me ‘no-one important’. Wolfsong felt like her heart had been split into two.
“Lets go back,” mewed a warrior. The patrol disappeared through the trees.
“Who’s that?” asked Nightpaw.
“A cat who I met at Gatherings. He’s no-one important.” The sky was darkening as the two of them headed back to camp. They were surprised to see Sweetstar on top of the Highledge.
“I’ve been thinking,” she announced, “that Wolfsong’s warrior ceremony was unfair to the rest of the other apprentices.” Wolfsong’s heart was split even further. Is she going to turn me back into an apprentice? “To make this fair, you will all receive your warrior names!” Yowls rang throughout the clearing. Oh thank Starclan!
“Nightpaw, Foxpaw, Sunpaw, Bramblepaw, Dragonpaw, Thunderpaw and Ravenpaw, do you promise to uphold the warrior code and defend this clan, even at the cost of your life?” It wasn’t the most accurate warrior ceremony, but Sweetstar was tired. They all were. All cats replied with ‘I do’. Nightpaw became Nightclaw. He bounded down towards Wolfsong and licked her ears.
“We’re warriors now,” he breathed. “We can finally be mates.”
“Ahem,” growled Sweetstar. Foxpaw became Foxfoot, Sunpaw and Bramblepaw became Sunstrike and Bramblestorm. Dragonpaw earned the name of Dragonfang, whilst Thunderpaw became Thundersnow, in honour of his sister. Finally, Ravenpaw became Ravenwing.
Names were chanted, nests were made, and prey was eaten. Wolfsong, Nightclaw, and Foxfoot padded side by side into the warriors’ den, where nests awaited them.
The Dark Forest. Again. Wolfsong approached the party of cats.
“Your warrior ceremony! Congratulations!” Mapleshade purred. “Next up, deputy.”
All cats were staring at Wolfsong, unusual smiles spread across their faces.
“You don’t know?” gasped Thistleclaw. “You’re expecting kits!”
Wolfsong felt the ground drop beneath her. “Nightclaw’s?” she asked, her throat dry.
“Of course it isn’t Nightclaw!” spat Tigerstar. “Someone more worthy than than mouse-heart.”
“Darkpaw.” She whispered his name.
“Darkheart now,” corrected Brokenstar. “He had his warrior ceremony this evening.”
Mapleshade stepped forward. “Not only are these kits half-clan, they will also give us a second chance.”
A second chance. Wolfsong began to tremble. “That means—“
“We’re being reborn as your kits.” Hawkfrost finished the sentence for her. “Mapleshade, Tigerstar, Brokenstar and I. We won’t be here anymore when we’re born, but there are others.”
Wolfsong stepped towards Mapleshade. “You were the best mentor I could have wished for.”
“I could easily say the same to you.”
“I’ll come back every night. Maybe you could have some new apprentices and I could help with the mentoring.”
“That has already been planned. Three apprentices tomorrow night. Be there.”
“I’m already deciding your new warrior names,” Wolfsong mewed. “Mapleblaze, Tigerfang, Brokenstone and Hawkfeather.”
Hawkfrost’s eyes flickered. There was a long pause. “They are good choices,” he said at last.
“Training?” she mewed casually. “I beat you last time, Antpelt, and I’m going to do the same to Sparrowfeather tonight.” The cats disappeared into the trees. Wolfsong and Sparrowfeather were alone in the Dark Forest. The fight started. It raged on. It ended with an uninjured Wolfsong and Sparrowfeather pinned to the ground, neck and belly sliced open.
Disgruntled, Sparrowfeather got up. “I’ll heal, he growled.” He retreated back into the trees.
Wolfsong woke up.
“Nightclaw, I don’t feel very well,” groaned Wolfsong. She was lying in her nest, her body throbbing with pain. Her head burned. She felt as if she was going to be sick.
Nightclaw rushed to her side. “I’m on a hunting patrol, but that can wait. Bramblestorm!” The brown tabby poked his head inside the den. “Help me get Wolfsong to the medicine den.” The two of them helped Wolfsong to her paws and prevented her from falling.
“Thankfully Redstep isn’t in the medicine den today,” joked Bramblestorm. He looked at the other two cats’ faces. Wolfsong was exhausted and Nightclaw couldn’t contain his worry. “Not in a good mood today then,” he muttered, then kept his head bowed for the rest of the journey. It was a short journey. It would be over soon.
“Wolfsong,” gasped the black she-cat with ginger patches. “I’ve never seen you like this!” Hollyberry glared at the two toms stood at the entrance. “What is this? A Gathering? Give Wolfsong and I some space to breathe!”
“I’m staying with her.” Nightclaw’s decision was final.
Hollyberry sighed. “Fine. But give me space. Cloudpaw! Examine Wolfsong.” Cloudpaw jerked his head up from his nest.
“What?” complained Cloudpaw.
“Don’t ‘what’ me, go examine Wolfsong.
“Ok, fine.” Cloudpaw felt her head, her belly and asked her how she feels.
“I think she’s expecting kits.” The words lingered in the silence of the den.
“Kits?” gasped Hollyberry. “That’s wonderful news! Cloudpaw, I’ll take over. You go and tell the clan.”
Cloudpaw sped out of the den, knocking a pile of berries over in the process. “Hey, everyone! Wolfsong’s expecting Nightclaw’s kits!”
Cries of ‘That’s wonderful!’ and ‘Congratulations to both of them!’ and various other statements wafted into the den.
“He shouldn’t know,” hissed Mapleshade’s voice in her head.
“Have some juniper, and a poppy seed to help you rest. And straight to the nursery!” Hollyberry placed the herbs by Wolfsong’s mouth.
Wolfsong reluctantly chewed the berries and swallowed the seed. “But—”
“No buts. Go.”
Wolfsong grumbled as she walked out of the den over to the nursery. “I’m going to be a queen!” she wailed. “No more patrols, no more warriors’ den, sitting there and then loads of pain.”
Cats looked at Wolfsong and Nightclaw as they made their way towards the nursery. As always, Iceflower was smiling at them, but this time her kits were playing with her tail.
“Congratulations Wolfsong! You’d be an excellent mother!” she purred. Iceflower nodded at Nightclaw. “Wolfsong’s kits would be honoured having a cat like you as their father.” Nightclaw stepped backwards embarrassed. An off-white blur slammed into him, knocking him into the ground.
“Ha!” snarled Dragonfang. Always be aware of your surroundings! And congratulations,” he added. Dragonfang walked off, and Nightclaw chased after him.
“Prey?” Iceflower offered. “I have plenty of this sparrow left.” Wolfsong merely shook her head.All she wanted to do was curl up into a ball and sleep.
And that’s what she did.
“One moon to wait,” chirped Cloudpaw as he changed Wolfsong’s bedding the following morning. One moon! Why can’t it be longer? “The whole clan is excited, and Hollyberry’s planning to give me my medicine cat name soon.”
Cloudpaw clearly deserved his medicine cat name, or his warrior name at least. Moons of running around collecting herbs had payed off. He looked like a white Braveheart, muscles hidden behind his fluffy, feathery fur.
“I’ll leave now. I heard Foxfoot’s bringing you some prey to share with Iceflower.” Cloudpaw backed out, and Foxfoot entered.
Foxfoot dropped some prey at her paws. A magpie. “Nightclaw’s excited. He never thought you were going to be expecting kits so soon!” She paced around the nursery, as if impatient about something.
Wolfsong sighed. “Foxfoot, I have to tell you something.”
Foxfoot stopped pacing. “What is it? It’s not like those kits are half-clan or something.”
“I don’t want to have kits.”
Iceflower gasped. “But why?”
Bladekit jumped down from Wolfsong’s back. He had a black coat of short fur and silver paws and tail. “But we want to play with Wolfsong’s kits!”
“Take a walk with Nightclaw,” suggested Iceflower. “Maybe that’ll clear your mind a bit.”
Wolfsong slunk out of the den. A menacing snarl filled her ears.
“Are you sure she’s allowed to go outside in her state?” Of course it was Redstep. Wolfsong whirled around. Redstep was twice her size, but fighting her would be as easy as lifting a paw. “Oh, trying to fight me are you?” came the mocking voice.
Nightclaw came to the rescue. “Back off or I’ll summon the Dark Forest to tear your eyes out!” he yowled.
“Nightclaw, I’ll deal with her. I can fight my own battles.” Nightclaw stepped aside. “Nice head injury, Redstep.”
Redstep narrowed her eyes. “What? I haven’t got a head injury!”
A smile crept across Wolfsong’s face. “You’ll have a lot more than a head injury when I’m done with—”
“Wolfsong, no!” Shrieked Sweetstar. “You cannot hurt a fellow clanmate!” She was running beside Happyheart, eyes filled with alarm. She somehow managed to drag Redstep away to the leader’s den.
Sharp teeth pierced Wolfsong’s scruff. She was being dragged by Braveheart into the warriors’ den. “What did your mother tell you about fighting?” he hissed.
“Or threatening. Whatever.” He tried not to explode. “Just go with Nightclaw.”
“Thank you, Braveheart.” She rushed out of the den.
Nightclaw was waiting for her by the camp entrance.“That was quick,” he said as they headed out of camp.
They took the scenic route, beneath the sunlit-dappled trees leading towards the lake.
“Are you going to the gathering tonight?” she asked him as they approached the lake.
“Yeah. Are you?”
“I’d like to go.”
Nightclaw lay down beside the lakeshore with the waves lapping his paws. Wolfsong copied him. “I don’t think a queen should go to the gathering, when her kits are one moon away from being born.”
Wolfsong splashed water onto him. “Cheeky furball,” she purred.
A rustle sounded as a patrol made their way out of the undergrowth. Snowstone was leading, followed by Ravenwing, Smalltail, and Shadowrunner.
“Of course we were going to find you two here,” purred Snowstone.
Shadowrunner glared at her. “You only knew that because you scented them.”
“Well the two of them are inseparable,” informed Ravenwing. “Find one and the other’s always with them.”
Smalltail nodded. “True, true,” he mewed.
“Anyway, enough of this,” said Snowstone. She turned to Wolfsong. “We were hunting. Want to join?”
Wolfsong got up, but Nightclaw stayed put.
“You shouldn’t go hunting, Wolfsong,” he pleaded.
Wolfsong rolled her eyes. “Just this once, please. The clan needs me. And I want my kits to feel the wind in their fur, and share my hunting experience.”
Nightclaw wasn’t convinced. He sighed and started to head back to camp.
“Come on, Wolfsong, we should start,” growled Shadowrunner.
Wolfsong in the direction that Nightclaw had left her. She wanted to be with him, but hunting had to be done. Prey was scarce today. But sometimes, doing the most difficult things are doing the right things.
Wolfsong dropped the prey that she had caught during the patrol: three mice, two starlings, and five voles.
“A variety, Wolfsong, well done,” nodded Braveheart. “Eat and prepare to go to the gathering. We’re leaving shortly.”
As Braveheart turned away, Wolfsong asked him a question: “who else is coming to the gathering tonight?”
“There’s Sweetstar, Happyheart, me, Nightclaw, you, Cloudpaw, Hollyberry, Rivershine, Foxfoot, Sunstrike, Bramblestorm, Dragonfang, and Ravenwing. Not stop pestering me and let me sleep.” He flattened his ears and walked off.
Wolfsong carefully removed a squirrel from the bottom of the pile. Nightclaw was sitting outside the warriors’ den, grooming himself. He looked up from his grooming and purred.
“I’m sorry for going on that patrol instead of hunting with you.”
They silently ate the squirrel underneath the jasmine sky.
“What do you think we should call our kits?” Nightclaw asked as the meal was over.
“Tigerkit, Maplekit, Brokenkit, and Hawkkit.”
Anxiety filled Nightclaw’s face. “Don’t they sound a bit like Dark Forest cats?” Before Wolfsong could answer, Nightclaw decided something else. “Simpler names, maybe. How about Stripekit, Leafkit, Stonekit and Birdkit?”
“But maybe they’re a bit too boring.”
Wolfsong and Nightclaw argued over this all the way to the gathering.
“We’ll decide on names when they’re born, deal?” she offered.
“Deal,” said Nightclaw as they crossed the tree-bridge. All the clans except Windclan were there. Songstar gave Wolfsong a hostile glare as she blended in with the pelts and voices of the gathering.
“Darkheart!” she hissed as she spotted him talking to Dawnblossom under a tree. “Darkheart!” Nightclaw had gone to talk to some other cats.
After a few tries, Darkheart finally noticed her. He stopped sharing tongues with a cat, presumably Dawnblossom, and briefly glanced at Wolfsong.“Oh, sorry, Dawnblossom, someone’s calling me.” He trotted towards Wolfsong. “Yeah?” he asked. “What’s up?”
“What happened the other day?” she snarled.
“Saw you with another cat by the lake, hunted, received my warrior name.” He purred. “I got the name I wanted! How about you?”
Wolfsong forgot her anger for a moment. “I suppose Wolfsong is a nice name…” she snapped back into reality. “You called me ‘no-one important.’ Care to explain?”
“Oh yeah, that thing…” He drifted into thought. “Dawnblossom doesn’t like me talking to strange cats.”
She laughed. “Strange cats? Remember our first gathering? And all those times?” She swiped at the black patch on Darkheart’s chest. He stepped backwards, frightened of the glinting claws. “And who’s Dawnblossom?”
Darkheart shifted uncomfortably. “Dawnblossom says she’s my mate.”
“Yeah, mate. Why do you ask?”
Wolfsong felt her heart shatter into a million pieces. But I’m expecting your kits!
“I just never expected you to get a mate so quickly, that’s all.” Wolfsong started to turn around.
One day I’ll get revenge on you Darkheart. And you, Dawnblossom, and your kits.