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Chapter 1- Cherrypaw

'Ahh,' I thought. 'I love this nest...'

I was curled up in my nest in the Apprentice's Den. When the sun rose in the morning, the sunlight came straight through the entrence and warmed my fur, and I was happy the whole day long. I stretched and opened my eyes, glancing about. My sister, Goldenpaw, was purring in her sleep, also warmed by the sun. I smiled and stood up, glancing into the darker part of the den. Sootpaw and Shimmerpaw were sleeping on either side of the den's entrence wall. To an untrained eye, it would seem that this is all there is in the den. But at the very back, there was a gap in the soil, leaving room for only an Apprentice or very small Warrior to sqeeze through.

That's where Darkpaw, the oldest Apprentice, slept. Most Apprentices preferred to be with the others, but ever since Darkpaw's sister, Fernpaw, died, he wanted to be alone. This was over five moons ago, and he was still moody and stubborn. We usually leave Darkpaw to his own thoughts, but let him join us whenever he wants to. I couldn't even remember what he was like then, because I was more interested in learning about hunting and battles. Now that I was ten moons old, I was curious about the cats themselves, and how they behaved with different situations and cats.

I slipped out of my deep thought and walked into the Clearing. It was past Sun-Rise, and most of the Clan were awake, or starting to rouse from their sleep. I noticed that my mother and father were sharing a rabbit, and several other Warriors were eating happily too. Usually the Apprentices would be awake and already out hunting by now, but there was a Gathering last night, which was very long, but very boring. All the Apprentices went, meaning we got to sleep in for a bit longer.

Our Leader, Swanstar, was busy discussing things with Thunderstep, the Deputy. Thunderstep was a loyal and brave Deputy, but he was dull and never really disobeyed the rules ever. Thunderstep dipped his head to Swanstar, who was also my Mentor, and walked over to the Camp Entrance, looking over his shoulder. Rabbitnose, the youngest Warrior, and Mosspelt, a wise and trusted Warrior, walked over, and they headed through the hollow tree, which was the Camp Entrance.

'The Sun-Rise Patrol,' I thought. Swanstar looked up to me and flicked her tail twice. I nodded, knowing she meant that I should eat and get ready to go and train. Because Swanstar was leader, she couldn't train as much with me as other Mentors do, but in a way, it's an advantage. When she does train with me, she's very serious and teaches me a lot of stuff, as well as things other Warriors might not know. When she's busy, and I go with another Warrior or Apprentice to train, I get to learn their way of doing things.

I padded to the centre of Camp, where the Fresh-Kill Pile was. I took a thrush from it and walked to a patch of short grass, and started to eat. I found I was very hungry, and soon wolfed it down. Licking my lips and teeth for any flavors, I sat down, then started to lick my fur. It was a mess, since I hadn't cleaned it properly for the last few days. I picked out the moss and grass that had got snagged in it, then roughly licked it to remove dirt and soil.

I was almost finished cleaning my pelt, by smoothing it down and making it shiny, when I noticed a different scent in the air. I stopped and lifted my nose, taking a deep sniff. It was hard to tell what it was. It smelt like dirt, but there was the tiniest bit of... fox! I leaped up and turned around. The wind became stronger, and so did the scent. Goldenpaw came up behind me.

"Hey," She meowed, pressing her muzzle to my shoulder. I relaxed and smiled.

"Morning, Goldenpaw," I greeted her, giving her a quick lick on the head. She smiled and stretched.

"Wow, my legs are killing me," She remarked. I grinned and opened my mouth to tease her, when I heard, "Cherrypaw, Goldenpaw, we're going now."

"Oh, come on," I meowed and ran over to Swanstar and WIllowtree, Godenpaw's Mentor. Goldenpaw came beside me and we walked out of Camp, and I forgot about what I'd smelt earlier on.

Chapter 2- Darkpaw

"Darkpaw, help me!" I spun around, fear in my eyes and my scent.

"I'm coming!" I yowled, and started to run through the trees. The fox was growling and I jumped onto it's face, digging my claws into it's eyes. It whimpered and leaped away. I bit it's leg and it ran away. I spun around and jumped to her body.

"Bye, Darkpaw," She whispered, blood pouring from her side.

"Don't die! You can't! Please!" I pleaded, pressing my face into her fur, crying. I licked her wound and the blood stopped, and the cut closed. She stood up, and smiled.

"I-I'm alive!" She cried, and I was taken away...

"Darkpaw," I looked behind me, and Fernpaw was stood there, her pelt silver and starry.

"It's a dream," I sighed, and hung my head low. "You're dead!"

"Darkpaw," She repeated. "Do not mourn anymore. You have a new life ahead of you. Your path has been merged with another's. A new destiny. Do not be sad no longer, or your path will change again, when the other cat is lost, like me. Please. For me."

"Fernpaw... I'll try, but I can't just not miss you anymore," I replied. She smiled and touched noses with me.

"Goodbye, my brother. Remember, the fruit of your life will only grow if it's saved from the fox."

I jumped up, panting. I flopped down after realising where I was. 'Just a dream,' I thought.

"Darkpaw! Get up! It's way past Sun-High!" I heard the voice of Greystorm, my Mentor. "You need to go hunting. I have business to tend to here, in Camp!"
I sighed and crept out of my seperate sleeping spot, and into the Camp. Greystorm had disappeared into the Medicine Cat Den. True enough, the sun was clearly up, casting sunlight into Camp from the gap between the trees. I noticed Sootpaw and Shimmerpaw smiling at me. They were the oldest Apprentices under me, because they had recently turned twelve moons. I was thirteen moons old. Apprenticeship lasted from between eight and fifteen moons. It seemed like ages for an Apprentice, or a Kit, but it means we can actually learn to fight from the beginning properly, since eight moons is where our growing slows or speeds. Greystorm says I'm still growing, even though I'd be a Warrior in some other Clans far away from here. And I am. Though I'm tall and muscular, I'm still getting bigger, and had to scrape at the soil for my sleeping area to make sure I didn't get stuck in there after a growth spurt in the night.

Heronwing looked at me. I narrowed my eyes a little and walked out of Camp. At least he wouldn't tell Greystorm I'd hovered in Camp for a while after he'd told me to go out. Heronwing was the only one who really understood me. His parents were Rogues, and had abandoned him with his sister. My parents died when I was a Kit, and I didn't know them at all. I can vaguely remember what they looked like. A black tom and grey she-cat. But even their names had been long forgotten.

I shook my head and walked into the trees, and started to concentrate on hunting. I closed my eyes and emptied my mind of everything. My dream, Greystorm, Heronwing, Sootpaw and Shimmerpaw... I opened them again and took a deep breath. I could smell plenty of things. The border had been marked this morning. The smell of the Clan was obviously there. Swanstar and WIllowtree had been here, with Cherrypaw and Goldenpaw. There was also a good smell of catnip, which Hazelleaf must have gotten today. Then I smelt it. Rabbits.

It wasn't a particularly strong smell, but I followed it, not noticing any of the tiny birds in the trees, silently waiting in their nest for me to hopefully pass by. I used to hunt any piece of prey, but if I found a stronger scent of another prey, I'd dash of, and never really catch anything. It was because of that Fernpaw died. I remember saying I'd just get the squirrel in the tree a fox-length away. But it dashed off and I got a sniff of a mouse, and I was on the other side of the territory within several minutes. I ran like crazy to get to Fernpaw when I knew a fox was attacking. But I changed my ways after that.

The rabbit was in the meadow. It was sat on a rock, nibbling on some grass while it cleaned it's ears. Fernpaw always loved it when they did that, and wouldn't hunt them right there. Other rabbits were sat around it, dozing or eating grass. I couldn't jump in there, because I'd never manage to catch any. Or would I? I glanced up the tree I was stood behind. There were several branches jutting out, making it easy to climb. I leaped up silently, the silent thud of my paw pads touching the bark. I climbed onto a branch that leaned over the meadow. I shuffled along, staying low. Thankfully the sun hadn't reached this part of the forest, so my black fur blended in with the darkness. I crept to the edge of the branch. It didn't move with my weight, since I was hardly stood on it. I sprung off and unsheathed my claws. I'd aimed myself pretty well, and stood on two hares. I bit them quickly and turned to chase one of the slower rabbits.

I snagged at the rabbit's tail, causing it to tumble over. I dug my claws in and bit it, ending it's life quickly. All the other rabbits had escaped now, but I didn't care. Three rabbits was a good catch, and would feed the Elders and Queens. But not all the Clan liked these hares. I knew Heronwing certainly didn't. So, I carried the three rabbits to the river, and buried them. I walked downriver. This was were the biggest fish were. I wasn't keen on them myself, but prey was prey. I sat on the riverbank, my shadow behind me on the grass. I'd made that mistake before. I hung my head over the water, watching the fish dart by. If I reached for the fish, it would escape and they would hide in the reeds. So I waited patiently, watching for a fish to come too close and be within my paw...

BAM! I struck my paw in, scooping the fat, silver fish out of the water and into the air. I dug my claws in and bit it. I dropped it on the rock beside me and waited again. Eventually I had four fish layed on the rock, drying out. I was about to get another when a peculiar scent was in the air. I frowned and spun my head around, trying to see if the source of the smell was visible. I put the fish under the rock, since it curved upwards and wouldn't squash them, and followed the smell. I could also smell Cherrypaw's scent. I started to run lightly, the grass smooth and worn out from the many paws that had tread on it Moons before. As I came to the end of the scent, I froze. A quiet cry of help was shouted out. I started to run.

Then I saw it. Cherrypaw was pressed up against a rock, with a huge, muscular fox snapping at her.

Chapter 2- Cherrypaw

I remember Bluegaze saying that your life flashed before your eyes when you're about to die. I don't know if it's true, but I certainly saw something from the past in my mind. From the moment I stepped out of Camp this morning. I closed my eyes and watched.

"Hey, Goldenpaw, wait for me!" I cried, running after my sister. Willowtree smiled and Swanstar laughed. My sister was running ahead, but I was faster than her, and caught up. We ran to the training Hollow, grinning and breathless. We took a long drink from the pond, still panting. Goldenpaw walked out of the rocky hollow, and sat on a boulder that was there. I climbed up the ledges and sprung onto the arrow-shaped rock that jutted out above the entrance. Swanstar and Willowtree eventually walked in and I jumped down.

"Now, today is your last hunting assessment," Swanstar told us. We nodded. Goldenpaw and I did every assessment and test together. In fact, we were together with everything. We always hunted in pairs, unless told otherwise, and weirdly enough, we'd catch exactly the same stuff without knowing. There was a special bond between us.

"You have to show the different hunting techniques. Fishing included, Goldenpaw," Willowtree looked down at her Apprentice. She gave an embarrassed smile. I laughed, remembering that moment. Swanstar frowned.

"Why do you say that, Willowtree?" She asked, curious. Willowtree looked at me, and I started to tell her.

"Well, one day when Willowtree took us out hunting, she told us to hunt five things. A rabbit, a bird, a mouse, a frog and a fish. I got all mine, but Goldenpaw forgot to get a fish. We were racing the Sun, trying to finish before Sun-High. She darted to the river, and the time was almost up, so she stretched her leg for a fish in the middle and fell in. She was drenched and moody afterwards, and didn't get the fish," I meowed, giggling at the end. Swanstar smiled, holding back a laugh.

"At least I tried!" Goldenpaw piped up.

"Yes, which is why you'll be a brilliant Warrior. Go on, try and find as much prey as you can. Goldenpaw, you'll hunt in the north. You'll have the river, the field and the Warm-Rocks, as well as the forest of course." Goldenpaw nodded to Swanstar. "And Cherrypaw, you'll take the south, with the quarry, the edge of the moor and the waterfall. I expect at least a rabbit and fish, but do all you can for the most prey. And... go!"

I darted out of the hollow. I headed right and Goldenpaw turned left, dashing to her zone. I ran past the camp and started to walk, coming to the moor. I easily hunted a hare down, and killed it. Picking it up by the neck, I quickly walked to my usual Prey-Ground. It was near a leafless tree, in a rock. I lifted it up and put the prey in the little ditch, and pushed it back over. I ran off into the trees, and spotted a pheasant. I stalked it silently, and gave chase. It took some time to chase it down and wear it out, but I knew the territory like the back of my paw, so a pheasant was added to my catch.

By the time it was Sun-High, I'd caught another rabbit, two birds, a squirrel and three fish.

'Not bad,' I thought. 'Not bad at all.'

I heard scuffling in the bracken behind me. Slowly, I turned and saw the flick of a tail. It was a dormouse. They weren't as common as the average mouse, but they were worth the time. They were chubby and seemed cute, and tasted delicious. I stalked it but a twig snapped in the bushes, and I huffed. The dormouse scurried to a rock in the clearing, and I chased it. The little rodent scrabbled through a hole and I stuck my paw in, hoping the nest wasn't too deep.

Then the growl startled me, and I snapped back into the present.

The fox snarled, licking it's jaws, amber eyes watching. Always watching. I hissed but pressed myself against the rock. This fox was obviously well fed and strong. No match for a small Apprentice, like me. The only way I could escape is if I could run.

But I was trapped.

I closed my eyes and waited. The fox swiped at me, and I leaped up, the fox biting my leg. I hissed.

"Get away from her!" I opened them with shock at the sound of a hiss. From the trees came... Darkpaw! He leaped on the fox, biting it's neck. The fox growled and rammed himself into the rock, but Darkpaw leaped off and the fox smashed it's face into the rock. Darkpaw jumped down and bit it's face, his claws digging deep into the fox's fur so he couldn't be shaken off. The fox whined and backed up.

But Darkpaw didn't release his grip. He jumped down and clawed at the fox's bare chest, and I came out of my frozen state and helped, biting it. The fox fell to the floor, and we backed away.

"Are you okay?" Darkpaw asked. I was surprised at the tone of concern in his voice. His blue eyes were filled with worry, as he glanced from my leg to my eyes.

"Me? I'm fine!" I smiled cheerfully. He didn't look convinced.

"You're bleeding. A lot," I glanced down and gave a little mew of surprise. My ginger fur was darker with blood. I has scratcheson my sides and back, and my back right leg has bite marks in it. Since I was occupied with attacking the fox, I didn't feel the sting of pain, which hit me.

"Ouch..." I mumbled. I lifted my gaze back up and smiled.

Darkpaw grinned back and suddenly yelled, "Look out!"

I turned around and the fox crashed into me, shoving me against the rock, and I fell unconcious.

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