|The Soaring Wren Series|
|Wren's Wing||Succeded by: |
NOTE: This is Book 3 in a series, if you want to read Book 1, Wren's Flight, click the link. :)
Blurb: Wrenfeather is now a warrior, yet she has her eyes on a cat. Does she have the strength - as well as he - to say that she likes him?
Dewfrost is now a warrior alongside her - but soon a cat will approach him, and his secret will be shared by another...
Soaringstar now has less to do - but the prophecy is still in his mind as he leads the Clan. Should he console in someone - or endure it for longer - like he has done for countless moons already?
Life has returned to what it was before Bramble had her kits - but she is grief-stricken. Now what should she do - endure, or return to where her kits left her?
Their lives will all intertwine, and soon a cat will reveal a secret that will surprise a cat - one whose belief about everything will be shattered.
This is the third book in The Soaring Wren Series.
The tabby ran away, fleeing. He wanted to leave.
He had now left.
He was free.
Free to search for his littermates.
Find the willows, he thought. Find the willows. It was there where his mother had accidentally abandoned his sister, about twelve moons ago. His brother had fled there, in a fire, about six moons ago.
Now it's my turn.
Birch trees and oak trees rushed past him as he ran. He needed to flee.
To find his brother and sister.
Run to the willows. His thoughts were to find the willow trees that his mother had to him about. To the willows.
I need to find them.
His mother told him that willows had big, drooping branches, so they were easy to recognize.
Easier to search for my littermates, he thought happily. I'm pretty sure my parents think they're both dead.
The undergrowth was becoming more open. Less birch and oak. And more of...
Big, drooping branches touched the ground. Leaves were on there, but slightly spaced out.
The miserable grip of leaf-fall.
Skittering on the fallen leaves, he knew he must find them.
A strong smell brought him to attention. A smell of cats.
He smelled it again, to check, and he perked up.
He recognized a scent.
Now he knew he had come.
Wherever my littermates are, I'm going to find you.
Hiding nearby, under the darkening sky, the tom went to find a place to sleep. The run to the willows exhausted him, and he knew he must find them.
I'll search tomorrow, when it gets light.
Padding away, he made sure he was near the scent marker.
He had to find them.
And he was one step closer to achieving his goal: finding them.
Chapter 1 (POV: Dewfrost)
"Hey, Lilyleaf," Dewfrost meowed smoothly, "do you mind if I go for a spot of hunting on my own? I'm a warrior now, don't forget."
It was the day after Dewfrost, Wrenfeather, Hareswift, and Fennelcloud had become warriors. The frosty leaf-fall vigil had chilled him to the bone, and he was happy when Tinywish told them, in dawn's light, that their vigil was over.
That night was one of the coldest I remember, Dewfrost thought.
"Fine," Lilyleaf mewed. "Just warning you, on the far border, a rogue has been scented again. No, it's now Snarl," she answered quickly, when Dewfrost stiffened, "It's another one. Be careful if you're going down there." Her green eyes burned into Dewfrost's dark gray pelt.
"Yes, Lilyleaf," Dewfrost meowed, as he wandered out of the camp entrance, branches swishing in the breeze.
Dewfrost wandered for a while, until he reached the Great Willow. He remembered that it was the biggest tree in WillowClan territory.
Dewfrost scented the air, looking for prey scents, but when he scented it, he stiffened.
A thrill rushed through Dewfrost's veins as he sniffed again.
Hey, wait a minute...
Dewfrost tensed slightly as he smelt another lot of cat-scent. He relaxed when he realized it was only Molewhisker.
Molewhisker nodded to him before padding away.
He must be busy doing something with Stormpaw.
To make sure, he sniffed it one last time. Delight filled him.
I recognize that scent. I haven't seen that cat, let alone smelled him, for six moons. Maybe another piece of me could join the Clan.
Catching a mouse on the way, and burying it under a pile of dead leaves, Dewfrost tracked the scent trail to the border. The sunhigh patrol approached: Burninggaze in the lead, with Finchsong, his apprentice, Thunderpaw, Bluemist, and Smallspeck with him.
"Did you hear the news?" Burninggaze greeted him. "Bluemist is expecting my kits."
Dewfrost nodded, and mewed congratulations.
"Anyway," Burninggaze muttered, flicking his white-tipped tail, "what are you doing here?"
"I smelt rogue scent inside our territory," Dewfrost mewed. "I tracked it over here."
"Rogues!" Bluemist spat under her breath, looking at her swollen belly worriedly.
"Okay, then," Burninggaze mewed cheerfully. "I'll tell Soaringstar. See you back at camp later." The five cats wandered away.
A rustle in the bushes alerted Dewfrost. A cat's voice alerted him:
"Okay, first hunt, then find Dew and Wren, then find Bramble and Rock again..."
Uh-oh, I know who that is, Dewfrost thought.
Taking a deep breath, making sure the patrol was out of sight, he mewed loudly:
"Adder? Come out, I know you're there."
Chapter 2 (POV: Wrenfeather)
"Rosefall, you can lead the sunset patrol. Take Sunfrost, Ravensong, and Wrenfeather."
Wrenfeather raised her head. Pride glowed in her. This was her first patrol as a warrior.
"Wrenfeather? Are you coming?"
"Coming, Rosefall." Wrenfeather went to see the patrol. Rosefall led the way out of the camp, thick cream tail in the air.
"We're going to check the far border," Rosefall decided.
"I thought the sunhigh patrol went there?" Ravensong asked, raising his sleek, black head.
"Soaringstar sent two patrols at sunhigh, as there has been rogue scent," Rosefall snapped. "The near border is peaceful."
Calm down, you don't need to be crabby, Wrenfeather thought.
They trekked the rest of the way to the border in silence. When they got there, Rosefall flicked an ear worriedly.
"What now?" Sunfrost complained.
"Smell this," Rosefall whispered.
The four cats crowded around. Wrenfeather tasted the air. "Rogue," she declared. "Fresh. And the scent is mingled with another cat's."
"You're right," Ravensong admitted.
Sunfrost nodded approvingly, as he sniffed it. "Wrenfeather's right. The other scent is Dewfrost's, I think."
"There's a trail." Ravensong flicked his tail. "Heading that way." His tail pointed in the direction of the scent.
I hope that Dewfrost isn't thinking of joining his rogue buddies again, Wrenfeather thought skeptically.
"Ravensong and I will mark the border," Rosefall mewed loudly over the clamor of voices. "Sunfrost and Wrenfeather can track the scents."
Sunfrost and Wrenfeather nodded to Rosefall, then they set off, Sunfrost in the lead. As the light dimmed, the leaf-fall breeze ruffled the remaining leaves on the trees.
"Brr," Sunfrost muttered under his breath, as he worked his way through the drooping willow branches.
The scent gradually got fresher, and fresher... and the scent was heading towards the camp.
Oh no, Wrenfeather thought. Has Dewfrost taken a rogue into the camp?
Wrenfeather and Sunfrost raised their heads in unison. Ravensong and Rosefall were back.
"We're still tracking," Sunfrost replied. "Follow me."
It wasn't long before they reached the camp. Yowls were splitting the air:
"You don't belong here!"
"Wait, where's Soaringstar?"
Commotion was through the camp as the patrol entered. Dewfrost was back - but there was a dark tabby rogue with him.
"He's my brother," Dewfrost meowed. "Don't harm him."
Wrenfeather came forward, close to the rogue. Crouching, she snarled, "What are you doing here?"
Chapter 3 (POV: Dewfrost)
The bushes rustled as a dark brown tabby tom stepped out.
I was right, I was right, Dewfrost thought gleefully. I was right.
Turning around, the tabby stared into his eyes. "Dew?" he croaked. His mouth fell open.
"Dewfrost," Dewfrost snarled.
"What? Er... okay..." Adder mewed hurriedly. "What's up with your name?"
"I like my name," Dewfrost spat. "It's part of where I belong."
"What? Belong where?" Adder mewed, confused.
I bet he hasn't even heard of WillowClan, Dewfrost thought.
"WillowClan," Dewfrost said simply.
Dewfrost suppressed a sigh. How will I be able to explain this?
"It's a group. A group of cats. We protect each other."
Adder nodded, and touched his paw against the ground. "And why did you join?" he purred softly, in his deep voice. It was something that Dewfrost wasn't used to, but then again, it had been six moons since they last saw each other.
"I... I found someone. Someone who I know, but yet she doesn't know me. She is shattered, and I am the missing link, the last cat that can remember... her." He whispered the last word.
"You mean... Wren? Wren's still alive? I knew it."
"She's Wrenfeather. And don't bother asking her about Bramble and Rock. She doesn't remember them."
Adder nodded slowly. "I was right to leave Bramble and Rock," he whispered under his breath.
What? He left his parents? "Wh-why did you leave them?" Dewfrost stammered.
"Bramble had been very upset since you got lost in the fire," Adder explained. "About you and Wren - Wrenfeather. She had been very depressed - doing nothing. And a couple of days ago, she got upset again, and I was sick of it. I said I was leaving, and I left." Adder took a breath. "I was sick of it. But now, I need you. I'll come with you, live with you - I need you, and I want to see Wrenfeather - I have not laid my eyes on her for almost twelve moons."
"Are you sure?" Dewfrost exclaimed, hope rising in him.
"I'm sure." Adder replied confidently. "Let's go now."
"Now," Dewfrost echoed, as the wandered away, side by side.
Once again, they were together, brother and brother, as they should be.
Chapter 4 (POV: Soaringstar)
Soaringstar padded calmly back to camp, a few mousetails in his mouth. A peaceful hunt on his own was what he needed to relax.
Suddenly, his peace was disturbed by yowls coming from camp:
"You don't belong here!"
"Wait, where's Soaringstar?"
Soaringstar paused for a minute, then continued going, picking up the pace a little.
What's going on? he thought.
Then, he stiffened, as he heard Wrenfeather's voice, snarling: "What are you doing here?"
"I want to join the Clan," a reply mewed.
Another rogue wanting to join the Clan? Soaringstar thought curiously.
Soaringstar rushed into the camp. Depositing the mice on the fresh-kill pile, he ran to Bramblethorns, and leaped up there, avoiding the beastly thorns.
"Stop! Be quiet!" he yowled commandingly.
The WillowClan cats below him silenced at once.
"What is going on here?" Soaringstar demanded furiously.
All the cats in the crowd turned to the rogue, a dark brown tabby tom, with amber eyes. He had a strong resemblance to Driftwing - and Wrenfeather, surprisingly. Dewfrost was beside him, their fur brushing.
Soaringstar narrowed his eyes. Does Dewfrost and Wrenfeather have another littermate? he thought.
Dewfrost stepped forward. "While on a solo hunt at sunhigh, I came across my brother, Adder, at the far border."
So he is their littermate, and also the rogue we've been scenting.
"He questioned me," Dewfrost continued, "and then asked me if he could join the Clan."
Ripples of unease went through the WillowClan cats.
"Silence!" Soaringstar yowled. "He will be allowed here! Step forward, Adder."
Adder stepped forward nervously.
"I, Soaringstar, leader of WillowClan, ask my warrior ancestors to look down on this cat. He has asked to become a warrior of WillowClan, and I commend him to you as a warrior in his turn. Adder, do you promise to uphold the warrior code, and to defend this Clan, even at the cost of your life?"
"I do," Adder mewed confidently.
I'm surprised he knew the right thing to say, Soaringstar thought.
"Then by the power of StarClan, I give you your warrior name. Adder, from this moment you will be known as Addertalon. StarClan honors your bravery and honesty, and we welcome you as a full warrior of WillowClan."
Murmurs rippled through the Clan, a few cheered for Addertalon.
Soaringstar dismissed the meeting, and sent the warriors away. After all, he wanted to spend some time alone, and Lilyleaf would organize Addertalon's vigil.
This is all I need, Soaringstar thought. And I am happy.
Chapter 5 (POV: Bramble)
Bramble gazed through the morning mist, eyes scrunched up to stop her from blinking. Leaf-fall had would its way around her and Rock, and soon leaf-bare would bring snow and frosts.
"You all right?" Rock asked. He had been hunting, and had caught a vole and a starling. They were both scrawny.
Skinny and scrawny, because of the lack of food, Bramble thought huffily.
Anger fueled her, and it felt that it wouldn't loosen its grip. A moon had passed since Adder had left, and she still regretted that day.
It's all my fault.
Rock had been constantly annoyed, because of her bad-tempered attitude since that day.
"I'm fine," Bramble mewed. "Let's eat, if that makes me feel better."
Rock mewed in agreement as they lay down on the leaf-strewn ground. The cold wind blew, and the early morning light shone through the branches, and what leaves there were left. She was happy that Rock did the early morning hunting, she did some before sunhigh, and they hunted together just before sunset each night. Bramble had to admit it helped her forget about her kits, the ones she had forgotten.
And I also like the sense of routine.
Rock pawed the vole towards her, as he took the starling. Bramble purred quietly.
They ate in silence, until Rock raised his head, mid-way through eating his starling.
"What's bothering you?" he mewed.
Bramble sighed He had started asking that question every morning since Adder's departure. It really annoyed her.
"Will you ever stop asking that question?" she sighed.
"Not until you give me an answer."
"Really? Nothing's bothering me."
"Prove it. I know something's bothering you."
"I know you're lying."
"Okay, okay!" Bramble couldn't stand it any longer. "Something's bothering me."
"Tell me what it is."
"Adder, Dew, and Wren?"
"Should we go and search for them?"
Those words shook Bramble to the bone. "Not yet," she mewed. "But when it gets warmer, maybe."
"When it gets warmer? That's a long time."
Bramble dropped her voice to a whisper. "When I am ready," she meowed. "I will let you know."
"Okay, so in the meantime, we stay here?"
"So are we agreed?"
"Yes." Bramble's mew was hoarse. "Agreed."
Chapter 6 (POV: Wrenfeather)
"Let all cats gather below Bramblethorns for a Clan meeting!"
Dawn light stretched through the bare willow branches as Wrenfeather emerged from the warriors' den. She stretched, and quickly licked her fur.
I hope Soaringstar agrees to my request, she thought nervously.
Her thoughts drifted back to a few days ago. After slipping into Soaringstar's dusty den a few days ago, she had said something that both shocked him and her.
"I'd like to mentor Silverkit."
"Really?" Soaringstar had queried. "You're a bit young."
"I'm pretty sure there would've been another cat who became a mentor younger than me," Wrenfeather retorted.
Soaringstar sighed. "Fine," he mewed, "if no other cat volunteers." He then licked her shoulder comfortingly. "I would like you to."
Thinking back on it now, Wrenfeather realized that he had spoken the last words quite warmly - a bit warmer than most.
Does he like me?
Wrenfeather pushed that thought away. He's older than me. We won't ever be mates.
Wrenfeather went to join Dewfrost and Addertalon near the end of Bramblethorns. The two toms nodded to her as she sat down.
Meanwhile, Silverkit was being groomed by Raindapple, Driftwing watching nearby. The silver she-cat was squirming under her mother's grip.
"Get off me!" she mewed at her mother.
"If you insist," Raindapple purred, shooting a glance at Driftwing.
Newtfoot's kits, Amberkit and Sparrowkit, were with their mother nearby, as well as Bluemist and her young kits: Owlkit, Splashkit, and Flowerkit. The three kits squirmed, excited to watch.
Soaringstar bounded onto Bramblethorns and raised his tail for silence. The cats fell silent.
Soaringstar beckoned his tail for Silverkit to come forward. While he did this, he started to speak: "Silverkit, come forward. It is time for you to become an apprentice of WillowClan."
The tabby padded forward, and stood below Bramblethorns. Pride flashed in her round blue eyes.
"It is rare that I give names to one cat at a time. Let us remember Fernkit, and may her legacy live on in you."
All the cats, including Wrenfeather, bowed their heads. Fernkit was killed shortly after she was born, attacked by rogues who broke into the nursery. Wrenfeather had only been an apprentice then; it had been six moons since that day, and the rogues hadn't turned up since.
Stay away from WillowClan, rogues, Wrenfeather thought.
"From this day, until you receive your warrior name, this apprentice will be known as Silverpaw."
As usual, Darkshade let the chanting loudly.
I hope he didn't volunteer, Wrenfeather thought. Darkshade was expected to be the next cat in line to get an apprentice. Although Raindapple was older than him, she couldn't mentor her kit. However, Raindapple's littermate, Finchsong, had Thunderpaw as an apprentice - did Darkshade have the drive to get one of his own?
Wrenfeather's worries were relieved when Soaringstar beckoned the cat forward, the one who asked for it - and got her way."
"Wrenfeather," Soaringstar meowed, flicking his tail at her to come forward.
Chapter 7 (POV: Wrenfeather)
Murmurs of outrage rippled through the Clan.
"She's too young!" Darkshade roared furiously. "I should have her!"
"She asked for it," Soaringstar retorted. "You didn't."
Darkshade said nothing. Soaringstar beckoned Wrenfeather forward again. Pride swelling in her, she padded towards Bramblethorns.
"Wrenfeather," Soaringstar meowed. "You have asked to mentor this apprentice. Share your speed and courage with her."
Silverpaw padded to her, tail and chin high.
"I'll mentor you well," Wrenfeather whispered as they touched noses.
Silverpaw said nothing.
The Clan broke into a chorus: "Silverpaw! Silverpaw!"
Wrenfeather joined in in welcoming her new apprentice.
After Soaringstar dismissed the meeting, and Lilyleaf had rounded the warriors and older apprentices in for organizing the day's patrols, Silverpaw came bounding up to her?"
"What are we doing today?" she asked eagerly.
"Well," Wrenfeather mewed, "first, we will tour the territory. After sunhigh, if you're up to it, we'll do some hunting practice."
"Wait a moment," Silver meowed quickly, "did you say we would do hunting if I'm up to it?"
Wrenfeather purred at her apprentice's eagerness.
"Apprentice's paws often are sore after their first sightsee," Wrenfeather purred. "When Lightningpaw, Stormpaw, and Thunderpaw finished theirs, they complained about how sore their paws were!"
"Oh," Silverpaw mewed. "That was why they were complaining after that. I saw them."
"Anyway," Wrenfeather interrupted, "are you going to spend all day chatting to me, or are we going to start touring the territory?"
By now, most of the patrols had gone out. Silverpaw looked at the cats left by Lilyleaf, and almost jumped in surprise.
"Oops, let's go," she mumbled.
"Stay behind me," Wrenfeather warned, "and listen to my orders."
Silverpaw nodded as Wrenfeather trotted along the snow-covered ground. She pushed through the willowy barrier, and turned to see where Silverpaw was.
"Come on," Wrenfeather mewed. "You have a lot to see."
Silverpaw bounced out and followed her as she led the way.
This is how life should be, Wrenfeather thought, as she padded through the empty forest, Silverpaw taking the rear.
Chapter 8 (POV: Bramble)
"What should we do now?" Rock asked, as his silver shape loomed over her.
"I don't know. What do you think?"
"Let's move away from here - we've been here for too long. Let's go closer to the willows."
Bramble heaved herself to her paws as Rock moved away. Rock was right - they had been here for too long - since the fire, in fact.
"Let's cross the river, and settle where we used to live, away from the river."
"We'll need to cross."
"You did it when the fire blazed through this forest," Rock retorted.
"Okay, okay," Bramble huffed. "Let's just go."
As they set off, following the familiar path to the river, echoes haunted her mind. A vision came to her...
It was night. The greenleaf breeze blew through the willow trees.
Two cats stood there, one cream-and-black, one pale ginger. The cream-and-black cat's fur was dotted with stars. She approached the other cat, tail high.
""I have come to tell you of a warning," the cream-and-black cat meowed. "Or, perhaps, a prophecy."
The pale ginger cat stared at the other cat.
When the cream-and-black cat spoke again, her voice was smoother than it was. It sounded unnatural.
"You will see the flight, hear the song, witness the flash of a wing, and gaze at the feather of the cat who will change your path."
"What?" the pale ginger cat replied. "Cats don't fly, or sing, or have wings, and they certainly don't have feathers!"
After this, both cats faded away, not to be seen...
Then a cat, a dark tabby with blue eyes, flashed in front of her vision. It looked familiar.
A voice was speaking to her: "Bramble, when you return to the willows, search for this cat, as well as Dew and Adder. You will find everything there..."
The words echoed in her mind: "When you return to the willows, search for this cat, as well as Dew and Adder. You will find everything there."
Bramble jolted awake to see Rock standing beside her. The vision had gone.
"Are you alright?" Rock asked.
"I'm fine," Bramble mewed. "Let's go."
The two cats disappeared into the distance, swallowed up by the large trunks of the birch and oak trees.
Chapter 9 (POV: Soaringstar)
Soaringstar crouched awkwardly under a fallen branch. He was taking his secret way out of the camp, behind Bramblethorns. No cat would suspect him of doing anything - he was their leader, after all, and he was the only cat to go behind Bramblethorns. Only the leader's den was behind there.
Going as low as he could, he squeezed under the branch, and came out again, sighing with relief.
I might want to remove that branch, he thought, but then my path would be more noticeable.
He moved closer to the training area, which was near the short border. Cat yowls were coming from there:
"Okay, Lightningpaw, do this."
"That was a job well done."
"Thunderpaw, you need to do it like this."
Meanwhile, outside the training area, Wrenfeather was taking Silverpaw around the training area. The young silver apprentice poked her head in.
"This is the training area," Wrenfeather meowed. "This is where you will learn to fight. You will also meet for tasks and assessments there."
Silverpaw poked her head in again. "Are Lightningpaw, Stormpaw, and Thunderpaw having fighting practice with Finchsong, Shadebreeze, and Molewhisker?"
Wrenfeather nodded. "They've probably just started training. They were at the ceremony, remember?"
"Oh, yeah. Where are we going now?" she asked eagerly.
"Come on, then," Wrenfeather mewed, flicking her tail towards Silverpaw. She bounded off after her mentor.
Soaringstar purred. Wrenfeather's a good mentor already.
He padded away from the direction that Wrenfeather and Silverpaw went regretfully. As hard as it was to admit it, he had to admit that he had a soft spot for the rogue-turned warrior.
He settled down by a small willow tree near the short border.
When he looked to his left, a small bird perched on a branch of one of the bare willows. It looked around for a moment, then it flew. It soared down, going right by Soaringstar's face. The flash of its wing filled his vision for a moment, then it was gone.
Soaringstar stared around. The bird was gone.
You will see the flight, hear the song, witness the flash of a wing, and gaze at the feather of the cat who will change your path...
For the third time, the prophecy echoed in his mind. He sighed.
Oh no. Only one left.
The thought echoed in his head: Only one left.
Thoughts went back to when he was younger. The medicine cat then, Yellowlight, had told him that he had been prophesized to save his Clan. He had, but it cost the ninth life of Rubblestar, the leader back then. That caused Tansystar, then Tansynight, to travel to WillowClan's sacred place, the Moonfall, to share tongues with StarClan.
Soaring sighed, bathed in memories.
It was my time, then. Whose is it now?
Heaving himself to his paws, Soaringstar turned around and went back the way he came. He had to reflect on this: soon WillowClan would be changed once again - like it had been before.
Chapter 10 (POV: Wrenfeather)
"So, what are we doing?"
Wrenfeather rested her gaze on Silverpaw. The eager apprentice had progressed well in her training. Today, she would be showing Amberpaw and Sparrowpaw, the two newest apprentices, the basic fighting moves.
"You'll be demonstrating to Amberpaw and Sparrowpaw the basic fighting techniques," Wrenfeather meowed.
"Oh, really?' Silverpaw complained. "I don't want to."
"You will do it," Wrenfeather snapped. "Or I will make you train this afternoon. This late epidemic of greencough has done no good. Three warriors dead already... and Toadleap and Rosefall have got bad cases. If you do it, you can ask Meadowcloud if you can help out in the medicine den this afternoon."
"Okay, fine," Silverpaw whined.
Wrenfeather's memories drifted back to the greencough epidemic. Ravensong, Sunfrost, and Darkshade's lives had already been taken by the deadly disease. Shadebreeze had been very upset about it, as her kit and her mate had both got killed.
Just then, Amberpaw and Sparrowpaw bounded over, with their mentors, Nightfleck and Raindapple.
"You're too eager, you two," Raindapple complained, flicking her tail. "You're more wriggly than Bluemist's kits."
The silver she-cat turned her gaze towards Owlkit, Splashkit, and Flowerkit. The three kits were tumbling into the scarce patches of snow, their parents, Bluemist and Burninggaze, watching.
"How is Fennelcloud?" Nightfleck ASKED.
"She's fine," Wrenfeather replied. "Dewfrost is too proud, I'd say." The dark tabby she-cat had given birth to two kits, Pinekit and Aspenkit, two sunrises ago.
"Anyway, let's go."
The six cats were silent as they trudged through the thin snow layer. When they arrived, they saw Lightningpaw, Stormpaw, and Thunderpaw, with their mentors.
"What are they doing?" Amberpaw asked, as she padded in nervously.
"Mock assessments!" Molewhisker mewed from the other end of the clearing.
"That'll be me in six moon's time," Sparrowpaw mewed proudly.
Wrenfeather silenced the apprentices with a flick of her tail. "Okay, Silverpaw," she mewed. "What is the most basic thing you can do to defend yourself?"
"Put your paws up in front of you," Silverpaw replied, "and try to push the attacker away."
"Vey good. Amberpaw and Sparrowpaw, come here."
The two young apprentices padded forward nervously.
"Attack each other. However, only hold up your paws in front of you. Your aim is to try and push your attacker away."
"By the way," Raindapple added, "Wrenfeather will tell you when to start and stop."
Wrenfeather flashed a grateful look at the older she-cat.
The two apprentices charged at each other, and Wrenfeather felt a glow of pride.
This is the makings of young warriors.
Chapter 11 (POV: Bramble)
Bramble opened her eyes to see Rock in front of her, holding some prey.
"I did the morning hunting."
Bramble stood up and stretched her legs. Leaf-bare was coming to an end, but a cold stretch was currently shaking up the weather. Snow had fallen thickly over the past few days.
"How did your hunting go?"
"Good." Rock purred. "Found a few mice for tea." He pawed at one of the brown, limp bodies.
Bramble purred to. But a feeling awoke in her:
What about my kits?
This cold weather would do no good for cats. Bramble remembered, that before Rock and her became mates, Rock used to cure rogues that had coughing fits with a special herb.
Wherever they are-
Images flashed across her vision. A dark gray tom, and two dark tabbies, one with amber eyes, one with blue. Then they lined up in a line.
"Your kits are still alive," a voice whispered. "When the snow thaws, find them."
"Go to the willows, and you will find the cats with willows in their fur. They will be there."
"Cats don't have willows in their fur."
"Find the willows..." The voice faded.
The words echoed in Bramble's mind: When the snow thaws, find them.
"Bramble jolted awake at the sound of Rock voice.
"Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," Bramble mewed, as she took a bite of a mouse.
The words echoed once again in Bramble's mind. Hope flared through her.
Adder and Dew are alive... and Wren.
Her spirits lifted joyously as that thought reached her.
This is the best news I have heard in a very, very long time.
Chapter 12 (POV: Dewfrost)
Dewfrost padded into the training area. Lightningpaw, Stormpaw, and their mentors were there, along with Wrenfeather and Nightfleck.
"What are you doing here?" he asked.
"Helping with assessments," Nightfleck replied.
"What - what about your apprentices?"
"Don't worry. Hareswift and Tangleleap are helping out with them. Raindapple didn't want to assess them," he added. "She wants to assess Silverpaw. So that's why Soaringstar asked you instead."
A dreamy look entered Wrenfeather's eyes at the mention of 'Soaringstar'.
What, does she like him?
Dewfrost's thoughts went back to Soaringstar and Wrenfeather. The other day, Dewfrost saw them twining tails behind Bramblethorns..
They must be. I know how they feel.
His thoughts drifted back to Fennelcloud, his mate, and Aspenkit and Pinekit, his kits. The two kits liked to jump on him, and they often begged him for rides on his back.
I suppose they can have them, Dewfrost thought. When they're that young.
"Okay, all cats assessing! Gather around!"
Finchsong beckoned the other five cats towards him. Dewfrost joined the mentors, listening to Finchsong's words:
"Okay, so each mentor will be assessing their own apprentice, along with another cat. This is the plan: Nightfleck and Shadebreeze will assess Lightningpaw, Dewfrost and Molewhisker will assess Stormpaw, and Wrenfeather and myself will assess Thunderpaw. Is that clear?"
The other five cats nodded.
"I'll call them," Shadebreeze offered. The black she-cat tilted her chin, then mewed: "Stormpaw! Thunderpaw! Lightningpaw! It's time."
The three apprentices bounded over.
"Okay, it is time for your assessment," Molewhisker mewed, shoving the other assessing cats out of the way. "You must catch as much prey as you can by sunhigh. You must meet back here then, with your prey. Our older cats here will be assessing you in your overall hunting skill, so make sure to put in your best effort."
"Well, what are you waiting for?"
The three young cats bounded away through the training entrance, just as Hareswift, Tangleleap, and Raindapple came in with the other three apprentices.
"Heading off for assessments, eh?" Hareswift asked, after they had disappeared.
"Yes," he mewed.
"They seem eager," Tangleleap meowed, swatting Hareswift with her tail.
"Was not!" Hareswift protested.
Dewfrost mewed a greeting of farewell as he went out of the training area. Picking up Stormpaw's scent, he padded in its direction.
This is my first step - to becoming a mentor.
Chapter 13 (POV: Dewfrost)
"Shadebreeze, do you think that Lightningpaw is ready to become a warrior?"
"Yes, he is ready, Soaringstar."
Dewfrost smiled. Yesterday, the assessment had gone successfully. Today, Lightningpaw, Stormpaw, and Thunderpaw would become warriors.
Addertalon, who was sitting on him on one side, asked: "So this is one for cats - like you."
"Unlike you." Dewfrost slapped his brother with his tail. It had been great to have his company - and Fennelcloud's. The dark brown tabby she-cat had been a good mate to him - and a good mother to his kits.
Aspenkit and Pinekit went over to Dewfrost and jumped on him.
"Get off me," Dewfrost grumbled.
"But we want to play!" Pinekit, a tortoiseshell she-cat, protested.
"Go back to Fennelcloud and be sensible," Dewfrost meowed. "This is a warrior ceremony. You'll be having one someday."
The two kits exchanged excited glances, then bounded off to their mother. Fennelcloud wrapped her thick, fluffy tail around them.
"I, Soaringstar, leader of WillowClan, call my ancestors to look down on these three apprentices. They have trained hard to understand your noble code, and I commend you as warriors in their turn. Stormpaw, Lightningpaw, and Thunderpaw, do you promise to uphold the warrior code and defend this Clan, even at the cost of your life?"
Aspenkit and Pinekit stared round-eyed at the WillowClan leader as he spoke. Splashkit, Flowerkit, and Owlkit, who were sitting nearby, did the same. Although the kits were two-and-a-half moons older, they also hadn't seen a warrior ceremony.
"I do," Stormpaw meowed.
"I do," Lightningpaw replied.
"I do," Thunderpaw mewed quietly.
"Then by the power of StarClan, I give you your warrior names. Stormpaw, from this moment you will be known as Stormstrike. StarClan honors your eagerness and your spirit, and we welcome you as a full warrior of WillowClan."
Stormstrike licked Soaringstar's shoulder before backing away.
"Thunderpaw, from this moment you will be known as Thundercloud. StarClan honors your courage and your determination, and we welcome you as a full warrior of WillowClan."
The ginger-and-white tom purred as he licked Soaringstar's shoulder. When he had finished, he backed away to join Stormstrike.
"And Lightningpaw," Soaringstar mewed, as the black tom stepped forward, "you will be known as Lightningsky. StarClan honors your helpfulness and your loyalty, and we welcome you as a full warrior of WillowClan."
Lightningsky, too, licked Soaringstar's shoulder before joining his littermates.
Specklewing and Smallspeck, the parents of Lightningsky, Stormstrike, and Thundercloud, started to cheer for the new warriors: "Lightningsky! Thundercloud! Stormstrike!"
The rest of the Clan joined in: "Lightningsky! Thundercloud! Stormstrike!"
Dewfrost appreciated the sense of unity in the Clan. Without hesitation, he joined in too:
"Lightningsky! Thundercloud! Stormstrike!"
Chapter 14 (POV: Soaringstar)
Soaringstar sat on the ground, watching the Clan cheer for the new warriors. This was one of his favorite parts of being a leader - the makings of new warriors.
When the cheering finally died down, he pounced onto Bramblethorns, gliding through the air. When he was younger, Rubblestar had told him that his ability to glide through the air had given him his warrior name: Soaringsky.
Now one cat had the same ending that I used to have, Soaringstar thought, thinking of Lightningsky.
"This meeting is dis-"
A dark gray she-cat rushed out from the medicine den, fur fluffed up. "Soaringstar," she panted, "I must speak."
"Of course," Soaringstar replied, letting Meadowcloud jump up.
"I have some sad news," she meowed, as she jumped up. "Toadleap has died."
Gasps of shock rippled through the Clan. Toadleap was the medicine cat - he must have been killed by the greencough wave. Rosefall was still sick.
Littlestep and Cinderdust, the Clan elders, emerged from the medicine den with a black-and-white body on their shoulders. Cats moved away from the centre of the clearing as the elderly she-cats laid the medicine cat's body on the ground.
Cinderdust and Littlestep looked down at the body sadly. The last time this had happened, the cat in the clearing was Wolffoot - their denmate, and Littlestep's mate. Littlestep was still upset about his death.
"Also," Meadowcloud continued, "I can do nothing more for Rosefall. She is on her way to StarClan."
More gasps rippled through the cats. Hareswift and Wrenfeather bowed their heads. Fennelcloud twined her tail with Dewfrost's, their kits staring into space.
Does Wrenfeather even know that Rosefall's not her mother? Soaringstar thought.
"Tonight we will sit vigil for our fallen Clanmates. Isn't that right, Soaringstar?"
Soaringstar met the gaze of Driftwing. The dark tabby had proved himself a good warrior, handling the task of mentoring Dewfrost well.
"Er, yes we will," he mewed.
The cats murmured for a moment, then nodded with approval.
"Then this meeting is dismissed."
Meadowcloud rushed into Toadleap's den - her den now - to check on the dying Rosefall. The warriors split up and meandered towards Lilyleaf, who was organizing the sunset and night patrols.
Soaringstar leaped down from Bramblethorns, and arched his back. A thaw was coming - soon newleaf would bring warm weather, and more plump, plentiful prey.
Just then, Meadowcloud re-emerged from her den.
The dark brown she-cat spun around as Meadowcloud spoke her name. "What is it?" she asked.
"Rosefall wished to speak to you - once more, before she's gone."
Uh-oh, Soaringstar thought. I think I know what's going to happen.
Chapter 15 (POV: Wrenfeather)
Wrenfeather padded into the medicine den. The cream she-cat coughed on the bed of moss, her breathing shallow and fast.
"Wrenfeather," she croaked. "Come."
Wrenfeather edged forward nervously.
"You are a great cat," Rosefall rasped. "I wish I could see your future."
"You were a great kit - I just wish..."
"Wish what?" Wrenfeather's thoughts were spinning.
"That you were..." Rosefall coughed weakly. "One of my kits."
What? "What?' she mewed. "You're my mother."
"No, I'm not." Rosefall coughed again and laid her head down. "And Sparrowsong was never your father. Hareswift and Fennelcloud were mine - but you aren't."
"This isn't true."
"Yess... It is...." Rosefall murmured weakly. "Ask Soaringstar if you don't believe me. Goodbye....."
The light in Rosefall's eyes dimmed. Her flank fell still.
She's gone to StarClan, Wrenfeather thought sadly, as she pressed her nose into the she-cat's fur. Then she padded out of the den, where Littlestep and Cinderdust were waiting.
"Is it time?" Littlestep asked.
"Yes." Wrenfeather's mew was thick with grief. "It is."
Wrenfeather moved out of the way so that the two elderly she-cats could get in. She scanned the clearing for a pale ginger pelt. She found it behind Bramblethorns, where a long, skinny tail protruded.
Wrenfeather padded over to him. "Soaringstar?"
"Yes?" The pale ginger cat turned his head towards Wrenfeather. "What is it?" Something could be seen in his eyes, a look of affection. Did the WillowClan leader have feelings for her - like she did to him?
"Was Rosefall ever my mother?"
The light in Soaringstar's eyes faded. His face showed a look of shock, and of sadness.
"No," Soaringstar whispered. "She never was your mother - and Fennelcloud and Hareswift aren't your littermates." Grief showed in his eyes. "I am so, so sorry."
Epilogue (POV: Bramble)
Bramble stretched. The warm sun touched her pelt.
Today, she decided, it was time.
Time to return to the willows.
Rock was dozing, so she had gone for an early hunt. A squirrel and a vole sat near them.
The silver tom nearby opened his blue eyes.
"Good morning," Bramble mewed. "Eat up."
"Fine, then. Have you eaten?"
"No." Bramble nibbled from the vole.
Rock took the squired and started eating from it hungrily.
The early newleaf prey is fattening us up, Bramble thought.
She nibbled the vole until it was gone. Rock licked his lips greedily.
"What are we doing today?"
"Leaving?" Rock was confused. "Leaving for where."
"Time for what?"
"Time to go to the willows."
Rock's eyes lit up with pleasure.
"The willows," he whispered.
"Maybe we'll find our kits there."
"Come on, Rock mewed briskly. "Let's go."
The cats disappeared, leaving their life behind.
Now it was time to return.
Time to return to the willows.
Where them, and their kits, now truly belong.
This is the end of Book 3.
Look out for Book 4, Wren's Feather. It is the final book in this series.
Until next time,