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Rising Troubles

Author: Nightfern
Status: Complete
Series: Moonlight
Allegiances: Coming soon
Preceding: Night Calls
Succeeding: Snowsong's Secret
Spellcheckers: None
When rouges of DeathClan kidnap all of ThunderClan's kits, Nightfern is furious. Along with her friend Oakblaze, she searches for the kits as a mother would. And one Gathering may change Snowpaw's life forever.

Chapter 1

Nightfern feet rarely skimmed the grassy ground as she pelted into the nursery. The darkness swallowed her
Dusk

Oakblaze

as she looked franticly into the den. Four pairs of green, amber and blue eyes watched her were filled with terror as they wailed. The milky scent of the kits were stale.

“Where did you last see them?" demanded Nightfern as she stalked around the nursery, filled with horror. Spottedstripe answered her.

“We told the kits to sleep and be good while we took naps. After playing with them all day, we were exhausted. When we woke up, they were gone!” Spottedstipe’s gentle voice raised to a wail.

“It’s our fault!” shrieked Creamsplash. Willowfern trotted around the nursery, lashing her pale grey tail.

Warriors had already crowded around the tight entrance, and Hollystar’s voice vibrated through the den.

“Nightfern, take out a patrol of Oakblaze, Cloudclaw, Bluefrost and Dappleleaf. Stormfall, organize two other patrols.” Stormfall nodded and said, “Goldenflower, lead a patrol of Flamefoot, Darkfur, Mosspelt, and Whiteclaw. Cinderfur, a patrol of Sandpool, Firefur, and Dawnfrost, too, please.”

Goldenflower nodded to Flamefoot, a dark ginger tom, Darkfur, a dark brown tabby tom, a blue-grey she-cat Mosspelt, and Whiteclaw, a black tom with white claws and green eyes. Nightfern dipped her head, and Oakblaze, Cloudclaw, Bluefrost, and Dappleleaf followed her as she trotted out of the gorse bush tunnel. Soon they reached the edge of the forest, and caught a strong scent of badger as they entered the darkest part of the forest. The sun was coming down, and an owl’s eerie hoot had Nightfern shudder as the owl’s call was quickly absorbed in the silence.

Fear scent was rolling off Dappleleaf’s cream-and-brown coat in thick, intoxicating waves. The scent of badger became stronger until suddenly, the patrol stopped, and unsheathed their thorn sharp claws.

“I have a bad feeling about this pla-” Oakblaze’s voice was cut of as out of the shadows of a large log, a huge black and white badger flung Oakblaze to the side of a tree in the same manner Blackfoot had done to Snowpaw.

Letting out a fearsome screech, Nightfern leaped up over the badger and landed neatly on it’s back, posed as if ready to leap again. Another badger appeared, slightly smaller than the first but nevertheless large.

Nightfern let her claws tear mercilessly on the badger’s eyes as it roared in pain.

Cloudclaw and Bluefrost were battling the smaller badger; as she watched, the blue-grey she-cat bit down on the badger’s paws while Cloudclaw tore the badger’s fur with his dark grey paws, blue eyes wild.

Dappleleaf joined Nightfern; she scraped his long muzzle so hard he screeched and thudded to the colorful leaf-covered ground. Nightfern, seizing her chance, bit down hard on the badger’s thick neck. It roared in rage, but Nightfern sunk her teeth into it's neck until it's bellow turned into gurgling. Scarlet blood seeped from the wound.

It did not move any longer.

Nightfern had killed the badger.

The horrible, bloodthirsty rage for blood left Nightfern as she watched the other cats drive the smaller badger onto ShadowClan territory.

Now, she rushed to Oakblaze’s side and franticly licked his bracken head. He lifted his green eyes and groaned.

“That didn’t go well, did it?” Nightfern sighed with relief. If he still maintained his sense of humor when he had a brain injury, all was well. The carcass of the badger had begun to smell, so Nightfern heaved Oakblaze to his feet.

“I think the kits have gone onto a badger’s territory... or something much, much worse.” Oakblaze murmured, fear clouding his gaze.

Chapter 2

After Nightfern had gathered up Oakblaze to his feet, the patrol of cats padded on deeper into unknown territory
Dusk

Dusk

than ever before. The comforting forest turned darker and darker.

Night was coming. The stale scent of kits made Cloudclaw’s pure white pelt quiver with delight-or was it terror? Cloudclaw was Pantherkit’s father, but for all the cats knew, the kits could have been eaten by badgers.

Dappleleaf stopped, lashing her cream-and-brown tabby tail.

“We should get something to eat.” she announced.

Her soft voice was absorbed into the dead-silent forest.

Bluefrost nodded, shaking her elegant blue-grey head. Her matching eyes were intelligent.

“Dappleleaf’s right - we must eat to keep our energy up.”

The cats trotted to a clearing, then split up. Bluefrost went with Dappleleaf. Cloudclaw went by himself, while Nightfern stayed watching a still-dizzy Oakblaze.

Oakblaze yawned. “I hope those little kits haven’t gotten into big trouble.” he muttered.

Nightfern nodded, tipping her beautiful silver head to a side. “How are you feeling?” she asked, leaning against his handsome bracken pelt for warmth.

“Well, I supp-” his voice was cut short as a thin, terrified wail rang through Twolegplace territory.

Nightfern hissed. “The kits!” Without waiting for an answer, she yowled back and pelted toward Twolegplace, Oakblaze keeping her swift, steady pace. Soon, the forest turned to hard, narrow, black ground, and it began to rain. Twoleg homes here were strange; they smelled of poorness and despair. Large grey objects were tipped over, spilling rotten foul-smelling food.

Nightfern had heard rouges call it “alley” when she caught them speaking to each other near ThunderClan territory before she chased them away.

Her silver-and-black coat bristled. Somehow, she knew this place was not safe. Oakblaze’s ears were pricked on high-alert, ready for any signs of trouble.

Suddenly, a sleek, cold voice rang across the silent alley.

“Well, well, well. What do we have here?” A huge black tom emerged from a crack in a Twoleg house.

His green eyes were filled with hostility, and his claws were as sharp as an eagle’s.

A smaller, younger, light brown tabby she-cat with blue eyes followed him.

The last cat, a dark brown tom, pressed his scraggly pelt against the pretty she-cat’s while she hissed with annoyance. He wisely moved away as she unsheathed her claws.

“I am Dagger, and this is Lily and Dusk. Who are you?” said the black tom.

“I am Nightfern, and this is Oakblaze...” said Nightfern slowly. She stopped as Dusk began to knead the ground impatiently. He was grumbling.

“Can’t we eat ‘em yet?” he whined softly.

Dagger turned his back to the Clan cats and spat something at Dusk.

“Soon!” snarled the black tom.

He turned back to Nightfern and Oakblaze. “I believe you are looking for these...” he said, and tipped over a small brown box lying at the in the shadows of the rotting filth with his claws.

Eight small, quiet, wet bundles of fur tumbled out.

“The kits!” growled Oakblaze and he charged forward. Lily, quick as a snake, pounced on him and threw him down.

Oakblaze heaved with breath as Lily put her claws against his throat. Nightfern let out a snarl.

“Let go of Oakblaze!” she spat. Nightfern must have looked terrifying because Lily looked surprised and scrambled behind Dagger, leaving Oakblaze laying on the ground.

“If you let us take your territory, we will give you the kits without harm. But if you refuse, the kits will no longer be alive.” Dagger sneered.

As he said that, a darker bundle stumbled into sitting position in the soggy pile of kits.

“Nightfern, help...” Moonkit gasped. Then she collapsed on top of a no-longer-stirring Duskkit.

“What have you done with them?!” cried Nightfern as she dashed forward and licked all the kits as fast as she could. The rouges did not stop her.

“Nothing.” said Lily simply. Her voice was gentle and sweet like honey. Lily was Nightfern’s age. They could have been friends. Lily was the quietest of the group, and she looked at the silent kits with anguish in her blue eyes. Nightfern realized that Dagger and Dusk had hurt the kits, but Lily had not. She felt pity for the kits.

Oakblaze lifted his head, but it was soon knocked down by Dusk’s huge paw. Nightfern spat at Dagger. “You will give us the kits, or suffer.” To prove the point, she snarled and crouched so the cats could see her smooth, lean muscles under her pretty pelt.

Lily looked uncomfortable.

“Why don’t we just give her the kit-” she began.

Dagger lashed his tail over her mouth. Dagger suddenly shrieked.

Lily has bitten down on his tail! She looked ticked-off.

Oakblaze shot up and grabbed Meadowkit, Pantherkit and Duskkit. Lily skidded out of the way as Dagger scratched her flank. She gently put Ivykit and Hawkkit in her mouth.

Nightfern sliced Dusk’s jaw open.

He wailed, and she, as quick as a snake, picked up Moonkit, Iriskit, and Violetkit.

The three cats, two Clan and one rouge, united together because of the horror of the bloodthirsty cats.

They pelted into the forest, passing trees and streams before they reached Fourtrees.

“It’s safest here.” she told Lily. Lily nodded her pale tabby head and put down Ivykit and Hawkkit, Oakblaze and Nightfern doing the same.

Chapter 3

Lily began to speak. “The cats- Dusk and Dagger, are part of a “Clan” of cats. They call themselves
Lily

Lily

DeathClan. They are not worse than BloodClan, the story my mother told me many moons ago. But they have more cats. They want territory, and they will kill to get it. The leader, Blood, is the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great cousin second removed from Scrouge, the only BloodClan leader.”

Nightfern was horrified. "And they're attacking?" Lily nodded.

The cats sat in silence, licking the kits. “Moonkit, tell me what happened,” Nightfern murmured to her niece.

Moonkit began.

“We were playing in the nursery, and we heard a weird sound- like a cat’s scream before it dies. It was terrifying. We were afraid, and he huddled up with our mothers. Then the scream stopped. So Pantherkit said we should go out and investigate. We snuck out of the dirt-place tunnel, and we ran through the forest were the sound had come from. Near a Twolegplace. As soon as we put a paw on the hard black ground, it started to rain. Then some cats came. They cuffed us unconscious and threw us in a big box.”

Moonkit shuddered, her dark blue eyes wide.

Lily, who had been quiet all the while, spoke up.

“The screaming you heard...that was Blood. He killed Ron because he said that...he wanted to run away to the forest with his mate. It was too cruel here."

Lily’s eyes were filled with pain and suffering.

“He was my mate,” she cried.

Nightfern felt this she-cat’s pain and pressed her pelt to hers.

“I must go to the new farm near WindClan territory-yes, I know about the Clans. I will be a loner. I don’t want to be a rouge, or a kittypet. And I don’t want to fight. There is too much death in this world.” Lily said.

“I must depart now,” she murmured.

“I will miss you,” Nightfern whispered softly. "Goodbye, and may StarClan light your path.

Oakblaze nodded. Lily stood up and looked at Silverpelt. Nightfern pushed Ivykit and Hawkkit to the comfort of her fur. Lily turned her beautiful head.

“One last thing- Blood will come back, and you will be in more trouble than ever.” With that last happy note, Lily galloped towards WindClan territory.

"Cheerful," muttered Oakblaze.

“Come on, Oakblaze, we have to go home. Nightfern picked up Ivykit, Hawkkit, Violetkit, and Iriskit. Oakblaze grabbed the remaining as they padded through the forest. As they finally made it to the gorse bush tunnel, Nightfern saw two cats in the clearing, laying on their side. It was Half-eye and Graytail. Warriors sat vigil.

“They are dead!” gasped Nightfern. Hollystar was padding toward Nightfern. “They died of old age-nothing else. But strange that they die at the same time. They were born in the same day, though.” Hollystar said softly.

She didn’t seem to notice the kits until Willowfern cried out. “My kits!” she yowled.

Excitement flashed in the queen’s green eyes. The other queens followed her. Nightfern and Oakblaze trotted through the nursery tunnel and dropped the kits in the moss. Nightfern told Hollystar everything.

"We are in dark times," mused Hollystar. Nightfern's earlier patrol had come back to camp after they couldn't find Oakblaze and Nightfern. Nightfern and Oakblaze sat vigil for the wise elders before they went to bed. There was a threat in the air-but always hope.

Chapter 4

Snowpaw yawned and awoke to hear robins and thrushes singing above her. Her head, covered with sticky cobwebs, felt much better after Blackfoot had bashed her head against a large oak tree. She leaned down and gave her snow white pelt a good through lick. The thick, dark green vines covering the entrance of the single separate den shivered, and Featherpaw entered.

Light flowed from the opening, and with it it brought cool, fresh air. Leaf-bare was coming. The light silver tom looked her over and nodded, apparently satisfied.

“Snowpaw, you’re ready to leave. Your head has healed, and Nightfern misses you.”

“Great! I can’t wait to get out of this den!” chirped Snowpaw.

Her blue eyes gleamed, and she bounded out of the den on slightly unsteady paws. A light brown tabby she-cat crashed into her as she galloped to her mother’s den.

“Snowpaw!” cried Birdpaw, and with those happy words she covered her sister’s ears with licks. Eaglepaw, who was entering camp carrying a huge thrush, dropped it and padded over to Snowpaw, yowling cheerfully.

He circled her and muttered, “Wait till I tell Heatherleaf and Darkfur! Stay here, sister.”

And he padded off trotted towards the warrior den, brown and white tabby tail waving.

Suddenly, sweet, joyful yowling made Snowpaw prick her ears. A slender silver tabby shape flew into her, and soon Nightfern was pushing her sleek muzzle into Snowpaw’s fur.

As well as being Snowpaw’s mentor, Nightfern was also her kin, because Rainfur, Nightfern’s sister’s Willowfern’s mate, was the son of Lionleaf, and Lionleaf’s sister happened to be Heatherleaf, Snowpaw’s mother.

Snowpaw was blissful as she purred and pushed her pelt into Nightfern’s.

“I thought you were dead,” said Nightfern, gazing at Snowpaw with admiration in her blue eyes.

“It’s a miracle you survived,” put in Birdpaw, who was watching the reunion with amusement in her heather-blue eyes.

Snowpaw felt slightly humiliated, and she said, “Nightfern, it’s okay. I was never going to die, really.”

Nightfern pushed back her shoulders, stood tall, and muttered, “Of course you’re right, Snowpaw. Sorry. Let’s go to the sandy hollow with Sorrelpaw, Crowpaw and Mistpaw.”

Snowpaw nodded and dashed to the apprentice’s den to tell the other apprentices.

Eaglepaw was already there, sitting next to Sorrelpaw. He was sharing tongues with her, while Mistpaw was sleeping soundly, her black-and-white pelt rising with each gentle puff of air.

Birdpaw followed Snowpaw. Ripplepaw let out a trill, and he rushed towards Snowpaw and twined his tail with hers, orange eyes glowing.

“Hi, guys! We’re going to the sandy hollow, Sorrelpaw and Crowpaw. And you too, Mistpaw!” Sorrelpaw looked up at her and yawned.

“Already?” she asked. Eaglepaw purred and licked her tortoiseshell head, while she looked at the brown-and-white tabby tom with bright green eyes. Snowpaw stifled a purr of amusement.

Love so soon!

Mistpaw, hearing the commotion, stretched and opened her amber eyes.

“OK, let’s go.” she yawned. The four apprentices leaped over Eaglepaw and made their way through the warriors den, passing the nursery. After the terrible ordeal with Dagger, the queens were fussing over the kits like they were the last piece of fresh-kill for a moon!

“I’ve never seen you fight,” Snowpaw said to Sorrelpaw.

“I know. Cinderfur keeps my training quiet, for some reason.” huffed Sorrelpaw as they galloped to the warriors den and she tripped on a small pebble.

Landing with a huff, Sorrelpaw stumbled and fell head-over-heals. Snowpaw purred with amusement as Sorrelpaw shook off some dust off her multi-colored pelt and squared her muscular shoulders defiantly.

The two friends entered the warriors den, trailing slightly behind Crowpaw, Nightfern, and Mistpaw. Oakblaze, Goldenflower, and Cinderfur had already scented them, guessed Snowpaw as the three cats poked their heads out of the den.

“Training?” groaned Oakblaze. Nightfern purred. “Come on, mouse-brain. You’re acting like the time Greenflower made you clear her pelt-”

Nightfern’s voice was cut off as Oakblaze crashed into her, purring, and landed right on top of her, brownish-red tail lashing.

Nightfern batted her dark silver paws against his broad shoulders, and finally, with a heave, tipped him over and sat triumph on his belly, blue eyes glowing with mirth.

“Haha!” she whispered.

Cinderfur nudged her slender friend’s shoulders. “We should go.” Nightfern nodded, and let Oakblaze get up. His bracken-colored fur was sticking up like static.

The hunting patrol made their way through the forest, and soon they found the sandy hollow. The sandy hollow was Snowpaw's favorite place: a large clearing in the middle of the woods, fine yellow sand, a small pool in the corner filled with ice-cold water, ferns surrounding the hollow, and cold, fresh air smelling of pines, maple, and oak. It was StarClan's gift to ThunderClan.

"Okay, first, I want Snowpaw fighting Crowpaw. It's been over five moons since the apprentices became apprenticed, and time flashed by, even though we couldn't tell," Goldenflower meowed.

She was right- Snowpaw had become so much bigger, and her fluffy fur had become long but sleek and closer to her skin.

She was beautiful, like Nightfern.

Snowpaw trotted to the middle of the clearing, Crowpaw emerging from behind the older cat's.

"I want you to do answer these questions first- what are ThunderClan's weakness to ShadowClan?" asked Nightfern. "ShadowClan uses the night and shadows as their advantage. But they have much pride, and ThunderClan can beat them," chirped Snowpaw curtly.

"Good girl!" praised Nightfern.

"You two, just do an average fight- no unsheathing claws, you," she warned Crowpaw.

Crowpaw rolled his eyes, but sheathed his claws unhappily.

Quick as a flash, Snowpaw leaped on the smoky grey tom and raked her harmless paws over his spine. In a real attack, she would have ripped tufts of fur of his pelt and sent him screeching away.

But Crowpaw was not to be outdone. Hissing, he collapsed to the ground and rolled over out of the way, leaving Snowpaw clawing thin sand. Snowpaw bowled him over, and tail lashing, gently bit down on his shoulder.

"Well done!" cheered Oakblaze as Snowpaw let Crowpaw get up. He shook his fur and growled.

"That was fantastic," said Goldenflower.

"But I want to see Sorrelpaw fight Mistpaw," added Cinderfur.

Sorrelpaw and Mistpaw took Crowpaw and Snowpaw's place in the clearing. Sorrelpaw quickly scooted forward and brought her paw down on Mistpaw's head.

Mistpaw winced and took at few unsteady steps backward.

The Front paw blow, remembered Snowpaw.

Mistpaw growled, and sunk her teeth into Sorrelpaw's scruff. Sorrelpaw shrieked and reared up on her golden paws. Snarling gently, she brought her body down on Mistpaw.

Mistpaw grunted and fell, four legs splayed out in an awkward position. "Bravo!" yowled Nightfern. "Amazing! You guys are gonna be warriors in half a moon!"

Snowpaw was thrilled. Warriors in half a moon! As the eight cats galloped through the trees, white powder began to fall from the sky. It clustered up in bunches, covering holly and ferns in heartbeats. Snowpaw knew it was snow, because she remembered her mother telling her she had named her Snowkit because her fur was the color of fresh snow.

The freezing air around Snowpaw enveloped her, and soon Crowpaw was completely white. Mistpaw giggled.

"Hey, brother, aren't crows black?" she asked. "Well, look at yourself before you say anything!" growled Crowpaw.

Mistpaw wasn't perfect either- her black patches were gone now, and Oakblaze stuck out like a horse on a moor.

Nightfern's coat was even more beautiful now- it was silver and white, with darker grey paws. The cats finally made it back to camp, and Snowpaw ate a rather thin, bony, thrush. Leaf-bare had begun.

Chapter 5

Snowpaw awoke in her mossy bed. It was still dark outside. She was going to a gathering. She had not gone
Holly

Hollystar

last time because of her head, and neither had Nightfern.

Hollystar had said all was well in the clans. Sorrelpaw and Eaglepaw stirred beside her. Snowpaw stood up and walked out of the den to the grassy camp clearing. Hollystar and Stormfall were waiting for her their, along with Dawnfrost, Swallowflight, Dappleleaf, and Rainfur.

Fawnpelt and Featherpaw stood next to the grey flecked white tom.

“Stormfall, please go get Birdpaw and Eaglepaw.” Hollystar commanded.

“Oh, and wake Dapplewhisker, White-eye, and Specklewing,” she added as the sturdy grey tom turned and galloped to the apprentice den.

“Can we go?” asked Fawnpelt. “I wanted to get some thyme from Barkfur. We’re running out.”

Hollystar nodded.

“Here they come,” said Snowpaw. Stormfall had returned, behind him a troupe of five cats. Hollystar kinked her tail over her back.

“Follow me. Lionleaf, Darkfur, and Bramblefur, you’re in charge of camp while we’re gone.”

Hollystar called as the group crossed the tunnel. Snowpaw heard the muted voices of the three toms as they yowled back in acknowledgment. Soon the cats were in the middle of the forest, and the night was cold and silent. Snow covered the ground, turning the frosty night alive with the whispers of the wind. A dried leaf crackled under Snowpaw’s paw. Birdpaw shuddered.

“It’s really cold. What if it gets so cold that all the prey die? What will we do then?” she whispered, terror glazing over her blue eyes.

“Ah, don’t worry so much, little one. The prey will run, just not as much,” a quiet voice said behind Snowpaw. It was Dapplewhisker.

The old she-cat fondly drew Snowpaw’s sister to her side.

“When prey runs scarce, it will be thin and chewy. But it's food,” the black she-cat said.

“But what if the snow covers the prey?” asked Birdpaw.

Dapplewhisker’s white-and-cream speckled whiskers twitched with amusement.

“Don’t worry; it won’t happen,” she rasped.

Birdpaw looked relieved. The trees thinned out to revile a full moon and the sound of still water. They were at the edge of a lake now; they needed to cross the log to get to the island. Hollystar went first.

The water under her was topped with thin ice and a veil of powdery snow. The log, having been many moons old now, was bare and frail. Hollystar balanced herself on the dead tree and cautiously walked across the log. Snowpaw’s ears pricked as she heard a sound.

It was a creaking, groaning sound, and with a crash, the log snapped in two and sent Hollystar along with it.

The ice cracked and the black she-cat plunged into the water with a terrified screech. “Hollystar!” shrieked Snowpaw. Without thinking, against the calls of the other cats, she pelted to the bank and dove into the icy water. It swallowed her up and threatened to drown her, soaking her white fur and pulling her down. Snowpaw couldn’t breathe as she desperately tried to pad up to the surface for a breath.

Snowpaw felt her consciousness drifting off. Her efforts were smaller, weaker. Then, a small miracle wave brought her up to the surface.

Coughing and gagging, she took a few breaths of precious air and began to swim strongly towards Hollystar. Snowpaw could see her slender body floating at the surface, next to the sinking log.

She wasn’t moving. Fighting the freezing water, Snowpaw grabbed Hollystar’s scruff and started to swim to the bank- but Hollystar was too heavy. Snowpaw was sinking again. Gasping, Snowpaw dove under the water until she saw the grey pebbles.

Her paws hit the smooth stones and she kicked up against the bottom, coming to the top. The water was shallow now, and Snowpaw stumbled onto the bank, Hollystar motionless. Her legs buckled under her body, and she hit the ground. Snowpaw forced herself up. She was trembling. Stormfall galloped to meet her and yowled.

“Hollystar’s hurt, and so is Snowpaw!” Birdpaw screeched and rushed next to her sister to comfort her.

“Hollystar? Hollystar? Please wake up!” Snowpaw cried. Hollystar did not answer her, but a shudder ran through her body.

She’s losing a life, thought Snowpaw. Stormfall gently moved her aside and nudged Hollystar. He turned her over, and with a cough and gasp, she woke up.

Dawnfrost and Swallowflight sighed with relief, while cranky Specklewing just muttered, “Good riddance,” Dappleleaf and Rainfur turned on the dappled she-cat. “Your clan leader just lost a life, and you say good riddance?!” spat Dappleleaf. Her brown-and-cream fur bristled, and her amber eyes blazed.

“Show some respect. Do you even enjoy Clan life, may I ask?” snarled Rainfur.

Specklewing hissed and turned her back on the cats. Snowpaw turned her attention on Hollystar. She stood up, shaking.

“Thank you, Snowpaw. You saved my life. Er... well, maybe a couple. Anyway, let’s get going. The other leaders will be wondering what become of us,” Snowpaw dipped her head and followed her soaking wet leader to the Gathering.

Chapter 6

Snowpaw was exhausted. The Gathering clearing was tantalizingly close- only a few fox-tails away, yet she was struggling for breath. She stumbled on the rocky path but did not fall. Hollystar was in front. Her head was low and her pawsteps were dragged and slow. She, too, must be tired after she nearly drowned. Eaglepaw and Birdpaw pressed against Snowpaw’s heaving sides.

“I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t made it...” whimpered Birdpaw.

Eaglepaw nodded, clearly agreeing. Slowly, the smell of cats drifted into Snowpaw’s nose. The clearing seemed to burst upon the group as they pushed their way through a tight fern hidden gap.

The leaders were atop Highrock, while warriors chatted below them. The leaders’ eyes seemed to get worried- but they kept silent as Whitestar lashed his tail, looking troubled.

A few cats shot them some strange, suspicious looks, but a handsome blue-eyed RiverClan apprentice only nodded, seeming to understand their urgency.

“Snowpaw and I are going to get some water,” croaked Hollystar. Stormfall nodded and took his place near Highrock, while the warriors and apprentices spread out into the crowd.

Her soft voice was raspy and pained; the icy water had probably gotten in her throat.

Snowpaw followed her leader under Highrock and near a small, pretty pool with a rivulet. Snowpaw was afraid to take a drink- she was already sodden with frosty water, but as she bent her head to take a drink, she was pleasantly surprised.

The water was warm and seemed to slide down her sore throat, taking with it the pains and aches.

The air around her was still and toasty, warming and drying her pelt. Hollystar looked amazed, too, as she took a long sip of the unusual tepid water.

“StarClan is watching us,” she breathed, hardly daring to believe it.

“I think we should go now,” whispered Snowpaw. “The leaders are getting anxious.”

Hollystar stood up and centered her shoulders, looking again like the brave young leader she was.

She crouched and sprang up the rock, scrabbling with her back paws as she began to slip. Whitestar grabbed her scuff and heaved her up.

Streamstar must have kept his promise; WindClan was strong and not starved by hunger or thirst, because Whitestar was once again a respected leader.

Snowpaw looked around for Echopaw, her friend at the last Gathering, and found her sitting next to the blue-eyed RiverClan apprentice.

“Snowpaw!” cried Echopaw. She jumped to her black paws and nuzzled Snowpaw.

“What happened?” she asked. “Hollystar will explain.” Snowpaw sighed.

The RiverClan apprentice stood up.

“Hello, I’m Bearpaw. Nice to see you. Of course, I already know everything about you, courtesy of my sister Echopaw here,”

He flicked his golden furred tail at the tabby she-cat.

“Well, I told you everything about the Gathering,” she protested. Snowpaw looked at the young tom. He was her age, a little bit older, with a golden pelt and darker streaks- just like brown bears in the mountains. His blue eyes, so much like Echopaw’s, gazed into hers, and Snowpaw felt herself looking away.

What am I doing? she said to herself, shaking her head.

Thankfully, Echopaw created a distraction.

“Look, the Gathering starting!”

“All is well in RiverClan; we have smelled rouges but nothing else,” called Streamstar.

“We thank RiverClan for allowing us to drink water and eat fish; we are well again. We are in your debt, Streamstar. Nothing has happened, either.” Whitestar yowled.

Shadestar took his place, grey eyes piercing.

“Our attack on ThunderClan was right. ShadowClan does not owe you an apology. Your apprentice Snowpaw nearly mauled Brownshade!” he hissed angrily.

Whitestar leaned in to the dark tortoiseshell and whispered something in his ear. Shadestar’s fur flattened, but he still seemed furious.

It was Hollystar's turn, and the black she-cat looked powerful and intelligent again.

“Rouges are threatening to take our kits- they have already stolen eight. We rescued them, but they may be after other clans. They are called DeathClan.” Hollystar screeched.

“As for me and the apprentice Snowpaw, the log snapped and we fell in the water. Snowpaw saved me, but we have no way of getting of the island.”

Fear scent rippled through the warriors as she announced they were stuck on the island.

"How will we get off?" called a WindClan warrior. Bearpaw looked troubled.

"Only RiverClan can swim across- StarClan must save the rest." His blue eyes rested gently on Snowpaw, and she felt her fur flush under his intent, thoughtful, deep blue eyes...

Bearpaw

Bearpaw

How was this possible?

Chapter 7

Suddenly, lightning flashed above her, wrenching her from her thoughts. Thunder clashed above, and wind rustled through the trees. Dark grey clouds covered the shining moon.

The leaders yowled in panic. A flash of white lightning hit a huge oak tree with a clang. And a sound... a sound Snowpaw knew too well for her own comfort. A tree falling.

Snowpaw screeched and leaping to her paws, grabbing Bearpaw's thick scruff and dragging him to the edge of the clearing, into the brambles.

Echopaw looked around wildly for her brother and friend. "Echopaw!" screamed Snowpaw.

Other screeching cats were scrambling out of the way as the huge oak tree near Highrock tipped over, smoke smothering from its long branches.

But Echopaw just looked at the plummeting tree in a state of shock. Snowpaw bolted out out the shadows. Snowpaw snatched Echopaw's tail and tugged her to the safety of the brim of the clearing, where Bearpaw covered Echopaw in licks while she wailed.

The tree fell with a thud, crashing through the other trees. He looked at Snowpaw gratefully and flicked his tail, signaling to hide in the ferns until he was done. Mystified, Snowpaw slunk into the shadows, waiting for him. Heartbeats later, the handsome tom squeezed into the covered ferns and sat in front of Snowpaw.

"Thank you." he said simply.

"You saved her." Snowpaw nodded. She was still trembling from the horror of almost dying.

Bearpaw moved closer. "Snowpaw . . .we need to see each other." he whispered.

Snowpaw looked up, alarm flaring in her blue eyes.

"I don't even know you!" she protested weakly. "I can't love you so soon."

"Snowpaw..." whispered Bearpaw. "Please." Snowpaw couldn't resist his pleading voice.

"Bearpaw, but I can't betray my Clan. Or Nightfern, or anybody."

Bearpaw's eyes lost their hope, but regained it quickly.

"We'll find a way, Snowpaw. I know I've only met you today, but I think StarClan want us to be together." Bearpaw whispered.

He twined her tail with his and rubbed his warm cheek against hers.

A thought hit Snowpaw like a Twoleg's monster.

What about Ripplepaw?

He loved her, and so had Snowpaw for a time. He would be crushed.

But she had feelings for Bearpaw - even though she had only met him today. They were meant to be together.

"I must go - meet me tomorrow at midnight," hissed Bearpaw.

Snowpaw heard the clan cats regaining their minds, moving, calling for others. Snowpaw nodded and slipped out of the shade, heart beating fast. Bearpaw loved her too- but she was a traitor to ThunderClan.

Echopaw was still laying on the grass, chest heaving.

"It's ok, Echopaw. You're okay- I'll see you again. Be safe," she murmured, and licked Echopaw's head.

She managed a nod of gratefulness. Snowpaw trotted toward her Clanmates. Hollystar spotted her first.

"You saved Echopaw's life," she exclaimed. "You are a hero to the Clans," Birdpaw breathed.

"Great StarClan," croaked Specklewing. The cranky, outspoken she-cat wasn't at all impressed, and Fawnpelt shot her a piercing look as she checked Snowpaw for wounds.

Snowpaw knew that the light brown tabby wasn't fond of the crabby elder.

A yowl sounded over by Highrock. It was Streamstar.

"The log has made a new, fresh path for entering and leaving the island. StarClan favors the Clans!" yowled Streamstar.

The old leader's watery blue eyes gleamed, and his mottled grey coat bristled with thankfulness. He was right, of course. The tree had knocked all the others down at the edge of the bank, creating a safe and wide route to leave the island. The sky had cleared quickly- it was already dark blue, and Silverpelt twinkled above her. The Clan cats cheered, but Snowpaw heard whispers among the other Clan cats.

Snowpaw's amazing feat had shocked them.

"She was a ghost. A slender white figure." Snowpaw heard a cat whisper.

The Clans slowly left the island, until only ThunderClan was left.

"Snowpaw will be honored by all the Clans- and this is why Snowpaw will receive her warrior name tomorrow." Hollystar called. Snowpaw looked up, pleasure rippling from her pelt.

"Thank you, Hollystar. I am honored," she said.

Bearpaw would be so proud. The ThunderClan cats filed in line to leave the island, and when they got back, Snowpaw fell into a deep sleep, dreaming of Bearpaw.

The End

Alright, let me end off with this: I wrote this a long time ago, before I joined WSW, and I'm going to re-do everything by the end of 2012. I know it sucked, and please don't not read my other fanfiction because of this one. I was 9 when I wrote it. Go read the newest books of the series, or, my other work!

Thanks!

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