Series: The Forgotten Clan Series
Preceding: 4 other stories
|Sunstreak, great deputy of WolfClan, is murdered by Snowmane of LionClan. His son, Snowkit, named for the cat that killed his father, lives on.
Snowkit has been chosen. He alone can save his Clan.
A Quick Note...Edit
When I say that WolfClan cats turn into wolves, I don't mean like the gray wolf, and all those other "normal wolves". They look more like the werewolves in Twilight *vomits*, just not as huge.
"How much further, Sunstreak? Surely there must be prey somewhere around here," Sunstreak heard Dawntail mew wearily. He looked back to see her, tail down and eyes drooping, falling behind. He stopped, allowing her to catch up.
"Don't worry, we'll find something soon. You should have stayed in the nursery like I said," he whispered, licking the top of her head and eyeing her swollen belly. Soon, she would have kits. He hoped it didn't happen while they were out here.
"I just wanted some time out of the nursery," Dawntail insisted, nudging his shoulder. Pushing ahead, she called, "Come on, let's keep going!" Her eyes brightened as she ran ahead. Energy rising inside him, Sunstreak bounded after her, slowing down as he came up beside her. The trees, the rocks, and the bushes all passed in a blur. Sunstreak tasted the air, eager to find a prey-scent.
Suddenly, he caught the smell of rabbit. Coming to a stop, he pricked his ears, listening. Dawntail halted as well, peering around the trees.
Sunstreak then spotted a white tail sticking up from a clump of nettles. Quickly crouching down, he padded forward on silent paws. Right as the rabbit poked it's head up, he leaped into the air, hooked it with a claw, and slammed it into the ground as he landed.
"Good catch!" Dawntail mewed as he carried his prey over to her. Setting it down, he nudged it forward with his nose.
"Eat. You need your strength."
Dawntail snorted, but bent down and took a bite out of the rabbit. Sunstreak's belly yowled. He searched the area thoroughly, peering under rocks for grubs, and gazing up into the trees for squirrels.
A crunch in some bracken behind him alerted Sunstreak. The tom turned to see a lean, muscular lion standing before him, mane groomed, pelt glossy.
"Snowmane," Sunstreak growled. He felt his body grow as he became a brown wolf.
"Well, if it isn't Sunstreak and his latest lover. Think her kit will make it through leafbare?" the lion snarled, stepping closer.
"Shut up and get out of here," Sunstreak meowed, his voice rising. Snowmane remained perfectly calm.
"I don't think I will. I'm quite hungry, you see."
"You have enough prey, and you know it! WolfClan is having enough trouble finding their own without you mangy mousebrains stuffing your faces here every day!" Sunstreak yowled angrily. Behind him, Dawntail shrank behind a bush, her fur straight up along her spine.
"I'm sorry to hear that," Snowmane said calmly with a false sympathetic tone. "But it's for the best. WolfClan doesn't seem to quite...fit in..."
Sunstreak bristled. He'd had enough. Ignoring Dawntail's cry of "Don't!", he launched himself at Snowmane. The lion looked up in surprise as he hit him square in the legs. The two rolled and tumbled along the ground, snapping and clawing at eachother. Sunstreak managed to give him a few scratches on his side before they came to a stop in a clump of ferns, Sunstreak on top.
Snowmane struggled beneath his weight. Sunstreak raked his claws along the tom's belly, leaving tracks of scarlet. Snowmane let out a pained yowl and heaved him off with his hind legs. Sunstreak landed in the dirt, but sprang up instantly just in time to see Snowmane coming at him again. Sunstreak felt his back hit the ground hard as the lion pinned him down. Sunstreak tried to nip at his forepaws, then, too late, realized his belly was exposed. He howled out as Snowmane's claws pierced his skin. Blood welled on his pelt.
Out of the corner of his eye, Sunstreak spotted Dawntail creeping up behind Snowmane, now a ginger wolf. Fear and worry surged through Sunstreak. She couldn't fight! Not while expecting kits!
"Stay there!" he snarled, showing his teeth. She backed away, nodding.
Sunstreak tried to get his hindpaws beneath Snowmane, but the tom shoved a forepaw into his belly, distracting him with the pain. Leaning, he whispered:
"So ends the famous Sunstreak. Want to say goodbye to your worthless Clan?" he whispered, his eyes gleaming with triumph and amusement.
Sunstreak barely stopped himself from crying out in agony as Snowmane's teeth pierced his throat. Blood rose inside, blocking his air.
As he gasped for breath, Sunstreak watched as Snowmane looked over at Dawntail.
"I'll spare you today. I'm not in the mood to kill another weakling," he said menacingly. Shooting a last evil look at Sunstreak, he shot off into the trees.
Just as the darkness closed around him, Sunstreak spotted Dawntail's face, full of fear, as she stared down at him.
Dawntail....my unborn kit...my Clan...I'm so sorry, he thought as the world around him vanished into nothing.
Chapter 1 ~ Like Father, Like SonEdit
Snowkit opened his eyes, a feather from his nest tickling his nose. He sneezed, waking his mother beside him.
"Snowkit, what are you doing?" she asked sleepily, cracking open one of her amber eyes.
"This stupid feather woke me up!" Snowkit squealed, grabbing it in his teeth and shaking it around fiercely.
Dawntail rose above him, the muscles in her legs rippling as she stretched. She gave her light brown coat a few licks before sitting back down. Grabbing Snowkit, she began to wash his pelt, rasping her tongue over his silvery fur.
"Ugh, mother, I can do it myself!" he protested, squirming. "I want to go outside!"
"Wait for Icefern's kits."
"Awww, but they're boring!" Snowkit threw his eyes over to where the white queen and her two kits, both a moon younger than him, slept.
"Hush, little one. Are you hungry?" Dawntail ran her tail down his spine. He shook his head firmly and sat down beside her, impatiently thumping his tail on the ground.
"Why don't you practice turning into a wolf?" she suggested.
"Okay," he mewed eagerly as he got up and stood in front of her. Focusing, he pictured the huge creature in his head. Snowkit felt his body lengthen, his pelt grow coarser and thicker. Finally, he stood before her as a silvery wolf.
"Well done!" Dawntail mewed proudly, growing into a brown wolf. "You're still small." Amusement shown in her eyes as she towered over him.
"Well, you're a lot older!" Snowkit said as they both changed back.
Just as he sat back down, a fluffy white kit bounded over and skidded to a stop in front of him. Skykit.
"Hey, Snowkit! Are we going outside today?" he squeaked, blue eyes wide.
"Shut up, Skykit, you'll wake the whole forest!" Petalkit, his tortoiseshell sister, snapped as she padded over, blinking her green eyes, which burnt with irritation. They softened, however, when they landed on Snowkit. The tom felt his pelt prickle slightly. Petalkit was so beautiful, with her flowery scent and soft fur....
"Want to go out into camp, Snowkit?" Petalkit's voice, much quieter and kinder, drifted into Snowkit's ear, interrupting his thoughts. He blinked several times and shook his head fiercely, embarassed.
"Uh, uh, y-yeah," he finally managed to get out, his tongue turning to stone. A purr rose in Petalkit's throat, only to be drowned out by a sharp mew from Skykit as Icefern, his mother, pulled him closer and began to wash him, smoothing down his fur.
"Mother! I want to go see the camp!" he complained, clearly annoyed.
"Just be patient," Icefern soothed, finishing up and pushing him away. Petalkit then calmly walked over, silently allowing her mother to do the same, her face calm and relaxed. Admiration rose in Snowkit like a great bubble as he watched. How could she be so patient?
Finally, Icefern finished and the three kits stood together in front of their mothers, tails thumping faster than a rabbit, eyes bulging in their heads.
"Please, can we go out?" Petalkit begged in the sweetest voice possible. The two queens exchanged rather amused glances, then nodded.
"Be back soon," Icefern mewed as Skykit jumped up, crying "Yes!"
"And don't leave camp!" Dawntail added, her voice following the three as they padded out of the nursery. A blast of sunlight nearly blinded Snowkit. The air was cold, with white flakes sparsely dotting the ground, but the pale light warmed his pelt. His eyes grew enormous as he saw the camp in front of him.
It was huge! Over to the right stood a part of a tree trunk, laying on its side, a hole in the middle. Hushed voices could be heard from its interior.
"The elders den," Snowkit told his companions. He had been out here before, but could scarcely remember. Along the back of the camp was a huge cliff, towering over the three. They stared up at it, craning their necks to get a good view. Many catlenghts to the left, on the very edge of the camp, a rock den was built into the cliff. Even from the other side of camp, Snowkit caught the scent of herbs on the chilly wind.
"The medicine cats den!" Petalkit breathed, clearly fascinated. Maybe she would be a medicine cat one day. Snowkit could just see here, sitting in that dark den, sorting out herbs...But then she wouldn't be able to take on a mate...
"Look!" Skykit exclaimed, staring brightly at a thornbush sitting close to the barrier. That had to be...
"The warriors den," a voice said from behind. "And the apprentices den right next to it."
The kits turned around to a see a huge white tom with a triangular gray marking on his head standing before them. His blue eyes were wise and calm, like water.
"Wow! Are you the Clan leader?" Skykit asked, staring in wonder. The tom nodded, purring and touching his tail to the top of the kits head.
"Yes. I am Blizzardstar. Welcome to camp, little ones."
Snowkit had heard of this cat before. He was one of the greatest leaders WolfClan had ever seen, according to Dawntail. Sunstreak, his father, had been his deputy once.
"Would you like me to show you around?" Blizzardstar asked. All three kits nodded eagerly. The leaders eyes lit up as he rose to his full height. The sunlight bounced off his magnificent pelt, making it look like there were stars in his fur. Snowkit was silenced with awe. But he was pulled from it as Blizzardstar turned and bounded away, his feet making no sound. The three tore after him.
"There's Howling Rock!" Blizzardstar flicked his tail at a great piece of rock that jutted out from the cliff. "My den is beside it!" Snowkit caught a glimpse of a lichen curtain on the den before it vanished behind him. Up ahead, near a patch of thistles, he spotted the freshkill pile. A huge, dark warrior was selecting a vole as they flew past. He dipped his head to Blizzardstar then went back to his meal.
Finally, after they raced around the camp, the four stopped in front of Blizzardstar's den. The kits panted heavily, but the leader didn't even look tired.
"Maybe one day," he began quietly, leaning down toward them. "One of you will sit in my den, as a Clan leader."
Skykit's eyes widened in amazement, his fluffy pelt bristling with excitement. Petalkit and Snowkit exchanged glances.
"If he ever becomes our leader, we're in trouble," Petalkit whispered, holding back a purr.
The sun was sinking low into the sky, leaving pink and orange tracks, as Snowkit pushed wearily through the den, Petalkit and Snowkit trailing behind. Even Snowkit's head hung with exhaustion as he gave a huge yawn.
"See you later, Snowkit!" Petalkit mewed, following her brother over to where Icefern waited. They curled up next to her and almost instantly fell asleep.
"How was camp?" Dawntail asked as Snowkit collapsed beside. He tried to go through the blurred memories in his mind. Blizzardstar had shown them everything, and quite fast too.
"Great! Blizzardstar showed us around!" he replied, letting a proud note sneak into his voice.
"That's wonderful. He's such a good leader," his mother purred, giving his head a few licks. Snowkit only nodded numbly, eyes heavy.
"Mother, one day I want to see all of the Clans! I want to travel even farther!" he declared. Dawntail ran her tail down his spine, letting out a mrrow of laughter.
"The world is a big place little one, and you are small. But one day, you will grow big enough to do anything you wish," she whispered in his ear.
Falling into his mothers soft belly fur, Snowkit closed his eyes and let sleep wash over him.
Snowkit opened his eyes and found himself in a wide meadow. The grass around him, dotted with little white and yellow flowers, was greener than Petalkit's eyes. Feeling the sun on his pelt wake him fully, he sat up and began to stretch.
"Am I dreaming?" he wondered out loud.
"You could call it that," a voice said from behind him. Snowkit turned to see a large brown wolf with yellow eyes approaching.
"Who...are you?" he asked suspiciously, sinking lower to the ground as the wolf came nearer.
"Do not fear me. I am Sunstreak, your father."
Surprise rippled through Snowkit's pelt as he rose to his full height. He had only heard of his father in stories. He was the great deputy of WolfClan, yet he had met his demise when a LionClan cat had murdered him.
"Why are you here?" Snowkit questioned.
"Become a wolf," Sunstreak ordered, sitting down before him.
Snowkit obeyed. His body grew and stretched until he stood by his father as a silver wolf. Sunstreak was so big compared to him!
"Now I will answer your question. I am here to tell you something important, something you must not tell any other cat - or wolf."
"What is it?" Snowkit asked in wonder. A prophecy? A telling of the future? He waited in agonizing silence while Sunstreak paused, clearly trying to find the right words. When he had, he looked at Snowkit, his fiery amber eyes never leaving his face.
"LionClan has grown stronger since I...died. They have been attacking the Clan, stealing prey and wounding warriors. And now, with the early leaffall, while will only an early and cold leafbare, WolfClan is in need of more warriors. Prey is scarce as well. Our Clan's existence is in grave danger," Sunstreak explained in a serious voice.
"What can we do?" Snowkit was horrified at the news, although he had heard about border attacks lately.
"Snowkit, only you can save WolfClan."
Snowkit's jaw dropped. He gaped at his father.
"Me?" he squeaked. "How?"
"You were named for the warrior that killed me. You share both mine and his strength," Sunstreak answered.
"But I don't want his strength!" Snowkit protested. "He's a murderer!"
"You will use your strength for good things, unlike him. You will save your Clan with it. It is your destiny," Sunstreak asserted in a reassuring voice. "Now, go, or your mother will be worried."
"Should I tell her I saw you?" Snowkit wondered out loud. But Sunstreak shook his head, sadness appearing in his eyes. He looked regretful as he dipped his head, then turned and walked away without a backward glance.
As the familiar nursery appeared around him, Snowkit thought hard. How would he save the Clan? He wasn't special! Would he be given powers? Or become leader? He shook his head, trying to clear it of all of the jumbled information it had just been filled with. Whatever destiny he had, he wouldn't be fulfilling until he was a warrior. So there was nothing to worry about.
How wrong he was.
Three moons later....
"Snowkit! Snowkit, wake up! You're going to be an apprentice today!" shrieked a familiar voice in Snowkit's ear. Skykit may have grown bigger, but his brain definitely hadn't.
Snowkit swatted sleepily with his paws, his eyes opening to the sun-filled nursery.
"Skykit, go away," he mumbled.
"He's right, little one, you need to prepare for the ceremony," Dawntail whispered, prodding him with her nose. Snowkit sighed.
"Alright, mother," he grumbled, rising to his paws, feeling his small muscles flex as he stretched his legs. His stomach felt as though it were full of bubbles. Today was his ceremony. "Happy now?" he asked Dawntail. She and Icefern both stared at him, expressions full of amusement.
"What?" Snowkit asked confusedly. What were they staring at?
"Just look at your fur!" Petalkit finally burst out, purring loudly and heartily.
Snowkit looked down to see that his messy silver fur was covered in bits of moss and feathers. Before he could rasp his tongue over it, Dawntail grabbed him and began to lick fiercely.
"Mother, cut it out!" Snowkit cried indignantly, pelt burning hot with irritation and embarassment. "We'll be late!"
"Nonsense. The ceremony isn't for a little while yet," she mewed calmly.
Skykit bounced around Snowkit, his eyes wide with wonder and excitement, fur practically crackling with anticipation.
"Wow! An apprentice!" he repeated over and over again, voice now a squeak.
The minute Dawntail released him, Snowkit leaped angrily at Skykit, pinning the younger kit down. Skykit struggled, all excitement washed away.
"Snowkit, get off!" he whined, trying to shove the tom off with his hind legs. When Snowkit wouldn't budge, a large paw gently shoved him away. When he looked up, he saw Icefern looking at him with understanding eyes.
"You're just nervous. Every kit always is. Now come, Blizzardstar is calling," she said quietly.
Nodding and muttering an apology, Snowkit followed his mother out of the nursery, Icefern and the other kits close behind. Petalkit pressed her body against his, soothing him.
"You'll be fine," she whispered, her green eyes full of admiration. Snowkit knew he had to believe her. The entire Clan was gathered beneath Howling Rock. On top sat Blizzardstar, Cloudleaf, his deputy, right beside him. When he saw the soon-to-be apprentice, Blizzardstar looked out into the crowd, his eyes shining.
"My Clanmates! Today we gather to celebrate a very important ceremony! Snowkit is now six moons, and ready to become an apprentice!" he yowled, his words met by cheers from the cats. Snowkit felt the fur arch along his spine as their heads turned in his direction.
"It'll be alright, my precious son," Dawntail whispered consolingly in his ear, running her tail along his spiky fur, which relaxed.
"Snowkit, please come up here!" Blizzardstar called.
For a moment, Snowkit froze, unable to move. Then, he took a deep breath, walked up to the huge cliff, and scaled the rock in a heartbeat. Soon, he stood on top of Howling Rock, the Clan far beneath, looking up in awe.
"Snowkit and the Clan, please become wolves!" Blizzardstar instructed. Snowkit obeyed, and soon stood before his leader as a silvery wolf. He had grown much larger since his meeting with Sunstreak, and felt good in his new body. Blizzardstar gazed at him as a white wolf with faint black flecks, his eyes calm and wise, chasing away the last of the toms nerves. Snowkit liked Blizzardstar as a wolf better. The entire Clan had now become wolves, so the ceremony continued.
"Snowkit, do you promise to uphold the warrior code?" Blizzardstar asked seriously.
"And do you promise to train hard to defend your Clan?"
"Then by the powers of StarClan, I give you your apprentice name! From now on, until you are a warrior, you will be known as Snowpaw!"
Snowpaw....the new apprentice thought. It sounded odd, but he liked it.
Blizzardstar turned toward the crowd now.
"I have not had an apprentice in moons! I will train Snowpaw to the best of my ability!" he announced.
As cheers erupted from the Clan, and his name was chanted, Snowpaw stared at his leader in wonder. He would train him? Wow!
"I am honored, Blizzardstar," he said solemnly, bowing his head in respect.
"No, it is I who has the honor, Snowpaw. You will be a great warrior, just like your father." Blizzardstar's eyes were full of pride, though his voice had a hint of sadness.
Leaning forward, Snowpaw gently touched noses with his new mentor.
Sunstreak, if you are watching, I hope you're proud.
Chapter 2 ~ The Lost Leader Edit
"Come on, Snowpaw! You look dead on your paws! Did you sleep at all last night?" Blizzardstar called to Snowpaw, who walked slowly behind his fast-moving mentor. It had been three days since the ceremony.
"Not really," Snowpaw admitted drowsily.
Blizzardstar stopped, allowing him to catch up.
"What happened? Bad dreams?" he asked in concern.
"Just...have to adjust to the new den," Snowpaw mumbled. His mentor touched the tip of his tail to his head.
"You'll get used to it, Snowpaw. It's the same with every apprentice. Now, let's go; I want to get lots of hunting practice in."
And he bounded away, eyes shining. Snowpaw raced after him, energy suddenly fueling his paws, determined to catch up. Blizzardstar was a great mentor.
Finally, Snowpaw managed to match his pace, though he was panting hard. They ran all the way to the stream, all of the trees flying by in a blur of green and brown, sounds whizzing past their ears without even entering them.
At their destination, Blizzardstar halted abruptly, Snowpaw doing the same.
"Listen carefully, look sharply, and always use your nose," he instructed in an urgent whisper. This was his repeated phrase every time they hunted. Snowpaw had heard it so many times he could recite it in his sleep. He nodded and dropped into a crouch, trying to keep his tail up.
A sudden rustle in the nearby bushes alerted him. Tasting the air, he caught a scent of mouse. Carefully, he crept across the ground, his paws making no sound. Once he had made out the mouse's location, Snowpaw pounced. Spotting the gray creature, he landed and killed it with a blow to the head.
"Wonderful!" Blizzardstar mewed, padding over. "You have fine skills."
Snowpaw's pelt burned. He looked to the ground.
"I see no reason to have you practice mouse-hunting for now. Why don't you go check the elders for ticks?"
Snowpaw suppressed a groan. Nodding, he reluctantly made his way back to camp. Dropping his fresh-kill on the pile, he then turned and entered the fallen tree. Inside, it was dark and damp. By the little light, he could just make out the shapes of Larkflower, Blossomeye, and Raggedfoot.
"Snowpaw! We were wondering when an apprentice would come check us for ticks!" Raggedfoot mewed happily.
"Yes, it's about time!" Blossomeye rasped.
Larkflower just nodded and looked away, her eyes sad.
"What's the matter, Larkflower?" Snowpaw asked as he began to look through her pale tabby fur.
Blossomeye and Raggedfoot exchanged uneasy glances.
"Larkflower, er, had a nightmare last night," Blossomeye meowed.
Snowpaw was puzzled.
"A nightmare isn't all that bad," he said.
"Yes, but, well...it was about her son..." Raggedfoot trailed off.
"Son?" Snowpaw asked.
"Larkflower's son used to be leader of this Clan. But he and his warriors were...uh...driven out by Redstar," Blossomeye explained. "Left the Clan a whole mess."
Larkflower let out a tiny wail of despair.
"He was so young! He still had all nine lives left! My son!"
Snowpaw, finished with her, moved on to Raggedfoot.
"What was his name?"
But they wouldn't answer.
Snowpaw found a tick on Raggedfoot's shoulder. He pulled hard.
"Ouch!" the tom complained.
"Go get some mouse bile," Blossomeye suggested.
Snowpaw nodded and exited, heading for Crowwhisper's den. Pushing through the willow curtain, he found her in the corner, sorting herbs.
"What is it, Snowpaw?" she asked, looking up from what looked like marigold.
"I need mouse bile for the elders."
"Ticks? Here," she mewed, pushing a soaked wad of moss, wrapped in a leaf, toward him. He didn't take it.
"Do you have anything for Larkflower? She's very upset."
"Something about a nightmare about her lost son," he explained. Familiarity flickered in Crowwhisper's eyes.
"Oh...that....here. Take her some chamomile," she mewed quietly, pushing a few leaves toward him.
"Thanks!" he said, taking the moss. A bit of bile seeped into his mouth, and he nearly gagged at the foul taste.
As he rubbed the stuff on Raggedfoot, Snowpaw thought hard.
Who is Larkflower's son? And where is he now?
Once he was done, Snowpaw immediately went to the stream and washed his paws. As the cold water ran uncomfortably over them, he tried to think of all the leaders he knew of from WolfClan.
Let's see...Blizzardstar, Wolfstar...I think that's it...I'll ask Blizzardstar. Maybe he knows.
Just as he climbed out of the water, Snowpaw spotted his mentor coming toward him.
"Snowpaw! Have you finished with the elders?" he asked, halting in front of him, dropping two large squirrels from his mouth to the ground.
"Good work! You can go back to camp and get some fresh-kill, if you like." Blizzardstar turned to go.
"Blizzardstar, I had...a question," Snowpaw mewed quickly.
"What is it?"
"Larkflower mentioned...her son. A leader who went missing....do you know who he is?"
Blizzardstar's eyes widened slightly.
"I did know him. I was his deputy. He was driven out a long time ago, along with some of his warriors," he said, not looking at Snowpaw.
"What is his name?" Snowpaw pressed.
"It doesn't matter anymore. That's all over. The leader is gone, he abandoned his Clan and no one ever saw him again," Blizzardstar said shortly. "Now, come, let's get back."
Snowpaw nodded and headed back to camp.
I'll ask Dawntail later, he thought. Maybe Sunstreak or her had heard of him.
Snowpaw stuck his head in the warriors den. The sun was setting, the first few stars had just peeked out. He was looking for Dawntail.
Only one warrior was in there. Otterwind, fast asleep. The minute Snowpaw set a paw in, his eyes cracked open.
"What do you want?" the tabby tom asked grumpily.
"Sorry, but had you seen Dawntail?" Snowpaw asked, dipping his head.
"She's out on patrol. They'll be back soon."
Snowpaw thanked him and ducked out. He stood by the barrier, waiting. Finally, after what seemed like hours, Dawntail, Berrycreek, and Mousepaw, who was two moons older than Snowpaw, pushed through. Once his mother sat down to eat, Snowpaw rushed over and sat beside her.
"Hello, Snowpaw. How was training?" his mother asked, biting into a thrush.
"Wonderful. Mother, I want to ask you something," he said almost impatiently.
"What, dear?" she asked, licking her paw.
"Today, I was in the elders den. Larkflower was talking about her son. He was leader, but then he was driven out. Do you know who that was?"
She thought for a moment, as though going through all her memories in her head.
"I was very young when he left. Your father and I were just made apprentices, then he was gone. I can't even remember his name. Larkflower was very upset when he left. She went half mad if I remember right."
Pity for the elder filled Snowpaw. That must have been hard.
"Why did he just...leave?" he wondered aloud.
"I don't know. The Clan was almost torn apart, though. He abandoned us."
"Did anyone ever go looking for him?"
She shook her head.
"Blizzardstar has been leader ever since. You'd better get some rest, little one." She nudged him to his paws, rising above him.
Snowpaw nodded and, rubbing against her for a brief moment, headed to the apprentice den. Inside, Mousepaw was already sleeping, his tail curled around him. Snowpaw settled down inside his nest and fell asleep. His dreams were haunted by a huge, dark wolf that he guessed must have been Larkflower's unnamed son.
Chapter 3 ~ Shadow's SorrowEdit
One moon later...
"Snowpaw, wake up!" a mew sounded in Snowpaw's ear. He opened his eyes, and found Mousepaw staring down at him.
"Come on, you'll miss the ceremony!"
What ceremony? Snowpaw thought as he rose to his paws. Just as he began to stretch, it hit him.
Petalkit and Skykit's apprentice ceremony!
Snowpaw gave his fur a few quick licks, then bolted from the den. Outside, the ground was hard and cold, and it was covered by a thin sheet of white. Beneath Howling Rock, all the warriors had gathered. Snowpaw and Mousepaw quietly joined them, taking a spot beside Hareflame.
"You're late," the tom hissed. "Blizzardstar is going to speak."
Snowpaw ignored him, turning his attention to Blizzardstar.
"Members of WolfClan! Today we gather to honor two young kits as they receive their apprentice names! Petalkit, Skykit, come forward!" he yowled.
Snowpaw spotted Skykit instantly as he raced straight up to Howling Rock, fur bristling with excitement, and leaped on top. Petalkit, however, took her time in getting up next to Blizzardstar. Her green eyes shone with nerves.
"Skykit, please, become a wolf," Blizzardstar said as he grew into one himself. Skykit's eyes closed as his body lengthened and pelt grew, until he stood as white wolf.
"Skykit! Do you promise to uphold the warrior code?"
"I do!" the tom said firmly.
"And do you promise to train hard in order to defend your territory and Clanmates?"
"Then by the powers of StarClan, I name you Skypaw! Whitetail, you are our newest warrior! You were taught well by Otterwind! I expect you to pass on all you know to this apprentice!"
Whitetail, a dark ginger tom with a white-tipped tail, nodded. Skypaw leapt down and touched noses with his mentor.
Petalkit had already become a sandy wolf. Blizzardstar looked down at her, his eyes piercing but proud as he recited the same questions he had asked Skypaw. Petalkit, now Petalpaw, descended from Howling Rock and touched noses with Shadowsplash, a large, dark gray tom with black patches. His amber eyes were strange and mysterious, as though by a memory from long ago. Petalpaw shrank away from him.
"Congratulations to our newest apprentices!" Blizzardstar cried.
"Skypaw! Petalpaw! Skypaw! Petalpaw!" everyone cheered, the loudest being Icefern and Snowpaw. He couldn't help but noticing that Shadowsplash barely murmured the chant.
That's odd. I wonder what's wrong with him?
Snowpaw, as he sat there, decided that he was determined to find out.
"Catch up, Snowpaw!" Blizzardstar called from up ahead. Snowpaw gave a sigh and quickened his pace so that he came up beside Petalpaw. They were in the forest, hunting with the new apprentices. A day had passed since their ceremony. They had already been shown the territory, now they were being taken on a hunting lesson. Snowpaw was there to practice, while Mousepaw was being assessed by his mentor, Ravensong, off near twolegplace.
Petalpaw looked over at Shadowsplash, then at Snowpaw.
"What's wrong?" he asked, noticing her odd expression. Was that...fear? No, maybe discomfort. He couldn't tell.
"It's him." Petalpaw flicked an ear in her mentors direction.
"What about him? Is he mean? Scary?" Snowpaw had heard that Shadowsplash was one of the best warriors in the forest. He had been around for a long time, longer than Blizzardstar.
"No, he's just...odd. He's a good mentor, but, he seems really unhappy all the time, like something really bad happened to him or something," Petalpaw explained uneasily, dropping her voice when Shadowsplash's head turned in their direction.
"Keep it down, you two," he mewed quietly, voice a deep murmur. Both apprentices nodded and turned their heads forward. Had he heard them?
Blizzardstar came to a halt. Snowpaw tasted the air. They were close to the TigerClan border, but not too close. Whitetail looked around sharply, his eyes narrowed in concentration.
"Mouse," he muttered in his stern tone to Blizzardstar. Whitetail had been a perfect choice as Skypaw's mentor. His strict attitude had helped to keep the bouncy apprentice at bay.
Blizzardstar nodded and turned to Petalpaw and Skypaw.
"Smell," he instructed, flicking his head in the direction Whitetail had scented the mouse. The two obeyed. Snowpaw could already smell the mouse. It made his mouth water.
"I smell it! Mouse!" Petalpaw suddenly burst out, her eyes wide in excitement. Snowpaw suppressed a purr.
"Good. What about you, Skypaw?" He turned his head to the fluffy white apprentice.
"I think so. Something over there definitely smells good," Skypaw answered.
"Well done, both of you. Now, it's time to learn the hunters crouch. Snowpaw, why don't you show them how its done?" Blizzardstar beckoned Snowpaw up with a flick of his tail. He nodded and fell down into a crouch, tail held up. Then, lightly as sunlight falling on the ground, Snowpaw crept forward, following the mouse's scent trail. Once he was close enough, he bunched his muscles and leaped into the air. The gray creature looked up at him but had no time to move as his paws threw it up then slammed it back down.
"Well done!" Blizzardstar came up beside Snowpaw, who looked at the ground, his pelt growing hot beneath his mentors gaze.
"Wow, that was amazing!" Skypaw squeaked. Petalpaw and Whitetail agreed with him too, although much more quietly. Shadowsplash, however, just gave a curt nod, his eyes emotionless. Snowpaw felt very small as he looked up at the dark tom. But then Shadowsplash turned away, and Blizzardstar's voice broke the odd silence.
"Petalpaw, Skypaw, now that you have seen how it is done, your mentors will help you learn it yourself. Snowpaw, let's get off to battle training. I want to make you a warrior as soon as possible."
Giving Petalpaw a joyful glance, Snowpaw followed Blizzardstar away from the others, tail high in the air. But he almost could feel Shadowsplash's cold eyes on him as he went. Shivering slightly, Snowpaw sped up until he was beside his mentor.
"Well, Snowpaw, how do you like your training? Are you happy with my mentorship?" Blizzardstar asked, his tone light and casual.
"It's great. You're wonderful," Snowpaw replied, puffing the words out as he tried to keep pace.
"Good. The Clan wouldn't like it if their leader wasn't even a good mentor!" Blizzardstar's eyes were amused. Snowpaw gave a half-hearted purr as they slowed to a stop in the training hollow. Blizzardstar padded ahead, turning to face him.
"Attack me," he commanded.
Snowpaw got low, bunching his muscles. His mentor was huge! How could he defeat him?
I could put him off balance, Snowpaw thought. Yes, that's what I'll do.
Pouncing, Snowpaw hit Blizzardstar in the forepaws, knocking him backward. But the tom was ready. Spiraling away, he watched as Snowpaw hit the ground.
"I liked that move. You just need to be ready for when I counter it," Blizzardstar explained, nosing Snowpaw to his feet. "You look like something's on your mind. What is it?"
Snowpaw knew he couldn't keep his question from his mentor. It had to come out.
"Blizzardstar, why is Shadowsplash so...emotionless? He seems really cold. Has he always been that way?" he finally asked after a long silence.
Surprise flashed in his leaders eyes, but only for a moment as he drew in a breath.
"You know how Larkflower's son left? The leader? Well, he wasn't her only kit. Shadowsplash was her other son. When he was a kit, Shadowsplash was always sick, getting coughs and fevers. Larkflower neglected him a bit, because she wasn't proud. When her son left, she went a little...mad, and she kind of took it out on Shadowsplash, saying that he wasn't strong enough and he could've stopped his brother and that she wishes he had gone. I think it really hurt him for her to say that. Still, he's one of the best warriors in the forest."
Pity trickled into Snowpaw for the dark tom. He couldn't imagine what it would be like if Dawntail did that to him. But another question formed in his mind, one he had already asked.
"Blizzardstar, Shadowsplash's brother, what was his name? You seem like you don't want to mention it."
Blizzardstar rounded on him, eyes narrowed.
"Why does it matter so much? He's gone. You need to put it behind you. You weren't even there. It doesn't matter," he said, clearly irritated.
But by his mentors sad tone, Snowpaw could tell it did matter.
Chapter 4 ~ Meet the MurdererEdit
"The cats going to the Gathering tonight will be Hareflame, Shadowsplash, Dawntail, Cinderfur, Bramblefall, Mouseheart, Snowpaw, Petalpaw, and Skypaw!" Blizzardstar announced from the Howling Rock. Excitement shot through Snowpaw like a strike of lightning. He was going to the Gathering!
"Did you hear that?" he asked Petalpaw, who sat beside him. "We're going to the Gathering!"
She nodded, eyes shining with anticipation.
"Oh wow!" Skypaw burst out, kicking up snow. The first flakes had fallen around moonhigh, and now the ground had turned bright white, sparkling in the light of the full moon.
"Hush!" Whitetail mewed sternly, giving his apprentice an irritated look. Skypaw immediately snapped his jaws shut and turned back to Blizzardstar.
"Is everybody ready? Yes? Then let's go!" the leader said, leaping down from the Howling Rock and crossing the camp the barrier in a heartbeat. Snowpaw, Petalpaw, and Skypaw joined the warriors and filed out behind him, their heads and tails high.
"This is going to be so exciting!" Petalpaw mewed. Bramblefall, beside her, suppressed a purr.
"Oh, apprentices. They're all the same," he mused. Cinderfur nudged him, annoyed.
"Shut up Bramblefall! Don't be so high and mighty just because you're a warrior! Don't forget you were an apprentice, not too long ago!" she growled, half playful.
"I'd be able to forget if you wouldn't quit reminding me," Snowpaw heard Bramblefall mutter under his breath. Cinderfur took a swat at him and he stepped aside, bowling Petalpaw over. She instantly leaped to her feet, shaking dirt from her fur while the two warriors moved ahead, Cinderfur furiously berating Bramblefall. The two apprentices waited for her to catch up before continuing on. Dawntail appeared next to Snowpaw. They had long crossed the border, and Snowpaw knew they were close to Great Plains, the place where all of the Clans met.
"Are you ready?" his mother asked, smoothing down his fur with an affectionate lick.
"Never been more ready!" he answered firmly as Blizzardstar slowed to a stop. The forest was behind them, a looming shadow in the distance. Before them, however, stretched Great Plains. Snowpaw could see a swarm of cats settled beneath a huge rock.
"That's where the leaders stand," Dawntail whispered.
"Wow! How did it get there?" Snowpaw wondered. It was twice the size of Howling Rock!
"There was a great storm, where a huge cloud of whirling air picked up the rock and moved it from far away. Ever since, the Clans have gathered here."
Snowpaw was about to ask where it had been before when he saw Blizzardstar charge into the crowd, the warriors leaping after him. Without any hesitation, he too surged forward with all the energy he could muster. Seeing that the Clan around him had become wolves, he quickly changed.
"You got big!" Petalpaw marveled from below him. Snowpaw puffed his chest out. His fur was no longer fluffy, but sleek and smooth.
The Clan slowed, and stopped in the midst of many lions, tigers, and leopards. Dawntail headed off to talk to some TigerClan queens, while Bramblefall and CInderfur joined a few leopards, Hareflame taking Mouseheart over too to introduce the new warrior. Shadowsplash sat alone, his eyes on the huge rock where the four leaders stood: Blizzardstar, Goldenstar of LionClan, Redstar of TigerClan, and Lilystar of LeopardClan. Goldenstar's gaze was proud, Redstar's stony, Lilystar's thoughtful, and Blizzardstar's stern. They even looked like leaders.
Maybe one day I'll be up there, Snowpaw thought as he stared in awe.
His thoughts were interrupted as a lion, a bit smaller than he was, sat down next to him.
"Hi! I'm Shrewpaw!" his expression was friendly. "What's your name?"
"Snowpaw, of WolfClan," Snowpaw answered, a bit taken aback. This apprentice reminded him of Skypaw, just less bouncy.
"Cool! That's my mentors name! He's Snowmane!" Shrewpaw mewed excitedly.
Snowpaw felt like a stone had sunk into his chest.
His fathers murderer was here. He was talking to his apprentice.
"Oh, that's..er..great," he said shakily, barely able to get the words out. His tongue had turned to stone.
"Who's this, Shrewpaw? I've been looking all over for you," came a voice as a shadow loomed over Snowpaw. He looked up to meet the blue-eyed face of a huge lion. His short, golden pelt was smooth and glossy, his russet mane well-groomed.
"This is Snowpaw, Snowmane!" Shrewpaw announced happily.
Snowmane looked down at the silver wolf, his eyes curious.
"You are the son of Sunstreak, then? Or am I mistaken?" he asked, a slight sneer in his tone.
Snowpaw forced himself to remain calm, no matter how badly he wanted to shred this cats fur in strips and line his nest with it.
"Yes," he answered curtly, dipping his head in respect, though his blood boiled in anger and hatred.
Calm yourself, Snowpaw, came his fathers whisper in his head. You will have to face him one day, but not now.
"Hm, how very...interesting." Snowmane sat down beside Snowpaw, towering over him. "You will make a fine warrior. Sunstreak certainly was."
Until you murdered him, Snowpaw thought.
"Th-thank you." He felt he had to push the words out of his mouth.
Before Snowmane could reply, Lilystar stepped forward, ready to speak. A hush fell over the Clans. The leopards spotted pelt shone brightly in the light of the moon, her large eyes like stars. She was very beautiful, even in a wolfs eyes.
"Greetings to all cats and wolves who have joined us here tonight! I am proud to stand here, as always, and see the hardworking, fighting faces of the four Clans!" Her voice was smooth and clear, ringing out and falling into the ears of the cats like a soft rain.
Lilystar made several announcements, then Redstar came up. Snowpaw found him to be very ambitious, but a solid leader, no matter how much he seemed to like fighting. Next, it was Blizzardstar's turn.
"Cats of the Clans, with great pride, I announce the apprenticeship of three of our kits: Skypaw, Petalpaw, and Snowpaw!"
Snowmane nudged Snowpaw.
"Congratulations," he murmured in his ear, voice full of false pride. Petalpaw shrank down, while Skypaw sat up straight, beaming.
"And I also welcome a new warrior: Mouseheart!"
Mouseheart's head disappeared from the crowd. Hareflame, however, brought it back up with the tip of his tail.
Blizzardstar finished speaking, then from behind came Goldenstar. His eyes held the same proud, haughty look as he stood in the moonlight, which turned his fur to a burning silver.
"Greetings to WolfClan, LeopardClan, and TigerClan! I hope that leaf-fall has not been too harsh on any of the warriors here tonight!" Goldenstar's voice was solid and deep. A few yowls of protest sounded from TigerClan, then silence retook the cats as Goldenstar spoke once more.
"However, I am sad to report that leaf-fall has taken a toll on LionClan! Twolegs have come into our territory, into the hills, bringing pelt-dens! We have been forced out of those hunting grounds, and now prey runs short!"
"I'm sorry to hear that, Goldenstar, but-" Lilystar started before she was cut off.
"Anyway, I propose that WolfClan give up some of its territory to us!"
"What?!" Otterwind growled. Cinderfur leaped to her feet, bristling. Howls of protest sounded from around Snowpaw. He looked up at Snowmane, expecting him to grow angry. But the lion was silent, though his eyes turned cold.
"Silence!" Blizzardstar cried to his Clan. The protests slowly died away as he stepped forward to face Goldenstar. His eyes narrowed.
"Goldenstar, you know that StarClan gave us territories that we were best suited to. WolfClan can't afford to give up any land, and you know it. I'm sorry, but there is no reason for us to do that for you. Your Clan is strong. It should be able to-"
"Such nonsense!" the lion spat. "WolfClan does not belong, and it never will!"
Lilystar stepped between them. Her face showed no anger, but she seemed to radiate a great heat that sent a hush over the crowd and leaders.
"This is not the will of StarClan. Goldenstar, Blizzardstar is right. Your Clan must fend for themselves," she said, her voice soft but strong.
Goldenstar opened his jaw, then snapped it shut under her fiery gaze. Shooting Blizzardstar one last nasty glance, he stepped back next to Redstar, muttering angrily to the great tiger. Blizzardstar too retreated from the edge of the rock, though he stood away from the other leaders.
"This Gathering is over!" Lilystar cried.
Goldenstar gave a shrug of defeat, though his face was defiant, and leaped from the rock. Redstar followed, then Blizzardstar and Lilystar.
Snowmane rose to his paws, looking down at Snowpaw, a smug look on his face.
"Goldenstar won't back down, you know. He's the strongest leader in the forest," the lion boasted, nudging Shrewpaw up.
Snowpaw couldn't hold in his anger anymore. Rising to his full height, he faced Snowmane, bristling.
"I've been taught not to trust the words of a murderer!" he snarled. A surprised look flashed in the lions eyes for a minute, only to be replaced with the same icy calm.
"And I've learned not to kill weaklings," he shot back, taking a step forward.
Before Snowpaw could throw a furious reply, a huge, dark wolf loomed in front of him. Shadowsplash.
"Get back to your own Clan, Snowmane, or my teeth might just find your throat!" the warrior growled, towering over the lion. Snowmane dipped his head respectfully. Even he knew not to challenge the great wolf. With a last glance at Snowpaw, the tom turned and swiftly padded toward his own Clan, Shrewpaw following.
"Bye Snowpaw!" he said, looking over his shoulder. Snowpaw didn't reply, or even nod. He was so stunned at Shadowsplash's defending him that he nearly jumped out of his pelt when the warrior nudged him.
"Come on, we'd better get back," Shadowsplash whispered, his voice emotionless once more.
Snowpaw nodded and reluctantly followed the tom to where the rest of his Clan stood. He wanted to sink his claws into Snowmane's pelt so badly it hurt. But the lion had vanished along with his Clan.
Petalpaw greeted Snowpaw, pressing her fur against him.
"You look troubled. Something wrong?" she asked, concern masking the joy in her face.
Snowpaw responded with a shake of his head. On the way back, he didn't speak, barely aware of what was going on. Memories of the Gathering swam in his head, and he fought with them until at last he entered camp. Ignoring Skypaw's nagging questions, he went into the apprentices den, curled into his nest, and fell into an uneasy sleep.
All he saw in his dreams was blood, pouring from the golden body of his father.
Chapter 5 ~ Battle in the SnowEdit
A freezing wind woke Snowpaw the next morning. He opened his eyes, and for a moment he had no idea where he was. Then he realized the white that had hit him was snow outside in camp. It covered the ground, letting no green through.
Shivering as he rose, Snowpaw stepped forward and gingerly put a paw in the white powder. He quickly withdrew as an uncomfortable wetness spread over his fur.
"Wha-what's that?" came Petalpaw's startled mew. Snowpaw heard her come up beside him, blinking. The top of the Howling Rock was covered in a thin layer of snow, while more white flakes clung to the warriors den and nursery walls. The elders den was almost hidden by the stuff, and the tiny fresh-kill pile had vanished.
This was bad.
Pawsteps sounded as Otterwind, Hareflame, and Shadowsplash exited the warriors den, shivering as yet another wind set chills through their fur. Turning, they headed straight for the barrier, vanishing into the forest.
"Dawn patrol," Petalpaw murmured. Snowpaw nodded and, finally gaining his courage, padded out into camp, stepping lightly and quickly in order not to get soaked. Cinderfur and Bramblefall emerged from the warriors den.
"The fresh-kill pile! It's gone!" Cinderfur exclaimed, rushing over to where the pile should have been. Snowpaw walked up behind her, curiously watching as she dug frantically to expose the frozen prey. He knew there was no way any of it could be salvaged.
"No!" she mewed loudly. "There was already a shortage of prey, and now this!"
Ravensong, a jet black she-cat with white paws, ran her tail down Cinderfur's spine to calm her. Cloverspring and Yellowpelt appeared behind her, their faces worried.
"What do we do?" Cloverspring, a dark tortoiseshell she-cat, wondered.
"We must hunt even more!" came a voice. Cloudleaf, his pelt almost blending in with the snow, padded up beside her, a determination sparking in his eyes.
"Snowpaw, Cloverspring, Cindefur, you go and hunt near the pine trees. Yellowpelt, Ravensong, Petalpaw, you hunt by twolegplace," he commanded.
Snowpaw nodded and, joining the two she-cats, followed them out of camp, the other patrol trailing silently behind. Once out in the forest, they split up, heading in the opposite direction.
Cinderfur was frantic, her tail lashing back and forth.
"How could this happen? How? Are StarClan that angry with us?" she demanded to the ground. Cloverspring shot her a questioning and irritated look.
"What has gotten into you? Calm down! Why are you so worried?"
An uneasy expression passed over Cinderfur's face as the pine trees loomed ahead. Snowpaw waited for the she-cat to answer, now interested.
"Well...I'm...I'm expecting kits," she finally mewed, voice only a murmur.
Cloverspring's eyes widened.
"You should be in the nursery! Not out here, hunting!" she meowed. "Go back to camp!"
"I can't!" Cindefur snapped. "The Clan needs me now!"
Cloverspring's eyes narrowed. Slowing to a stop, she turned and faced the she-cat. Snowpaw halted alongside them, now annoyed. Did she-cats always argue this much?
"Would you rather risk the safety of innocent, unborn kits than bear healthy ones? Would you rather die and send new lives to StarClan along with yours?" Cloverspring asked, her tone dangerously stony.
Cindefur gave her a very defiant look, but turned and padded away, slowly vanishing into the white, tail and head down.
When Cloverspring simply sat there, watching her go, Snowpaw nudged her.
"Are we hunting or not?" he asked impatiently.
"What? Oh, yes! Sorry, I just don't want to have anything happen to her."
The two carried on in silence. The scent of the border drifted by, filling their noses.
"Ugh, LionClan stench!" Snowpaw wrinkled his nose. "You could smell it ten foxlengths away!"
Cloverspring only nodded, ears pricked, eyes concentrated. Snowpaw caught the whiff of vole that she was focused on. Falling into a crouch, the dark tortoiseshell crept forward, the snow muffling any noise her paws made. Once she pinpointed the voles location, she pounced, a few flakes of white flying up in the air. Her paw swiped the ground just in front of a bush, bringing with it a thin, brown body. A quick blow to the head and it went limp.
"Wow, excellent catch!" Snowpaw congratulated, amazed at her skills. He had heard that Cloverspring was a good hunter.
"Thanks. Let's see you now," she instructed, holding the tone of a mentor.
Too bad Blizzardstar isn't out here. Oh well, I guess he's busy with other things, Snowpaw thought, tasting the air for preyscent.
But before he could detect anything, a huge lion stepped out across the distant border, claws unsheathed, teeth bared.
"I am Featherpelt, deputy of LionClan. I've been sent to kill you," she growled threateningly, directing the words at Snowpaw. He instantly changed into a wolf, now almost her size. Cloverspring, also a wolf, stepped in front of him, ears pinned back.
"You'll have to face me before you come anywhere near him," she responded, just as menacingly.
Why is she protecting me? I can fight this cat off!
Featherpelt simply nodded.
"Very well," she mewed smoothly. Launching herself into the air, she aimed for Cloverspring's belly. But the dark wolf was fast. Leaping aside, she waited until the cat was close enough to slam her backward, knocking her onto the ground. Featherpelt gave a yowl of agony as Cloverspring's claws found her flesh. Battering her with her hind legs, she successfully threw the wolf away. Cloverspring hit the trunk of a tree with a sickening thud, landing and laying still, a trickle of blood appearing from her head.
Featherpelt's eyes shone with triumph as she advanced on the injured warrior.
"No!" Snowpaw cried, throwing himself at her. Her face turned, full of shock, as his paws entangled in her own, unbalancing her and throwing her onto her back. Featherpelt squirmed, but Snowpaw's paws had grown strong during his training, and he held her down while giving out a howl for help. What if reinforcements came? He couldn't hold off a whole patrol!
"Think that'll help?" Featherpelt snarled. "You'll be dead before any of your friends get here."
Snowpaw responded by running his claws along her sides, tearing out clumps of fur. Featherpelt's teeth found his forepaw, and he was distracted by the pain. Featherpelt gave a thrust upward and rolled him onto his back. Now it was Snowpaw's turn to feel agony as her claws tore his soft belly, releasing blood. It welled on his pelt, hot and sticky. Snowpaw dug his hind paw into her and threw her into the air. Leaping to his feet, he saw her laying in a heap of fur. But she didn't stay that way for long. Before he knew it, she charged again. Snowpaw jumped aside, then, just as she flew past him, leaped onto her back, sinking his long teeth into her. Featherpelt yowled and tried to shake him off, but Snowpaw held on tight. Maybe he had a chance!
That thought was pushed away as teeth fastened into his shoulder fur, dragging him off Featherpelt. Snowpaw was thrown backward, wincing as he hit the frozen ground. He looked up into the eyes of another lion, a tom.
"Looks like your luck has run out," he growled, raising his claws to slice at Snowpaw's throat. Snowpaw prepared to feel his fur tear, but the blow never came. A dark shape had thrown the lion away, while a yowl sounded from Featherpelt.
Lifting his head, Snowpaw saw Shadowsplash pinning down the tom, while Otterwind nipped at Featherpelt's paw, dodging a swipe of her claws. Hareflame sniffed Cloverspring, sighing in relief when he discovered she wasn't dead.
Shadowsplash scourged his claws down the lions back, leaving long cuts.
"Had enough?" he asked, clearly furious. The tom nodded weakly. The minute the wolf released him, he shot across the border, leaving a scarlet trail behind him. Otterwind gave Featherpelt a hard bite on the shoulder before she too tore away from him, following her Clanmate into her territory.
Shadowsplash's face appeared over Snowpaw's, his eyes concerned.
"You alright?" Otterwind asked, joining the dark wolf. Snowpaw nodded numbly, pain whipping like fire through him. He shakily got to his feet, though he leaned on Shadowsplash in order to stay standing. Hareflame had Cloverspring by the scruff, lifting her from the ground.
"You were very brave," Shadowsplash whispered as they trudged back to camp. "Fighting off a Clan deputy when you're an apprentice is far beyond an ordinary achievement. You deserve to be made a warrior for this."
"Thanks," Snowpaw replied, exhausted. The minute they got through the barrier, he collapsed, unable to continue. He could hear worried voices around him, but they soon faded as he slipped into darkness.
Chapter 6 ~ A New WarriorEdit
"Snowpaw. Snowpaw," came a voice in Snowpaw's ear, growing steadily louder.
Snowpaw's eyes snapped open to unfamiliar surroundings. He was in a warm, dark cave, the entrance shrouded by a willow curtain. Along one wall, various leaves and roots were pushed into cracks in the rock. Moss lay beneath him, fresh and dry.
This was the medicine cats den. Crowwhisper, a slender black she-cat with yellow eyes, stood over him, prodding him in the side.
"Snowpaw, everyone wants you outside."
Snowpaw yawned and got up, finding no pain from his wounds.
"You're fully recovered," Crowwhisper mewed warmly, running a paw over the freshly healed cuts on his belly. Snowpaw dipped his head in thanks and pushed through the willow curtain, anxious. Outside, he found the whole Clan sitting beneath the Howling Rock, Blizzardstar and Cloudleaf on top. The minute they detected him, all eyes turned in his direction. Snowpaw felt uncomfortable beneath their gazes as he joined Petalpaw beside Shadowsplash.
"You're better," she murmured, pressing against him.
"Good to see you, Snowpaw," Shadowsplash said, touching his tail lightly to the apprentices head. Whispers rippled through the crowd as they waited for Blizzardstar to say something. His eyes lingered on Snowpaw before he addressed them, standing tall on the tip of the rock.
"My Clanmates, as you know, yesterday three LionClan warriors invaded our territory, including the deputy Featherpelt. One brave apprentice fought her off, with the help of four brave warriors. But this apprentice deserves special recognition. Come up here, Snowpaw!"
Cheers sounded around the apprentice as he approached Howling Rock and leaped on top, his pelt crackling with nerves.
"It is time for Snowpaw's warrior ceremony!" his mentor and leader announced. The Clan fell silent as Blizzardstar faced Snowpaw, staring him down with that piercing gaze.
"Snowpaw, do you promise to uphold the warrior code?"
"I do," he replied, voice slightly raspy.
"And do you promise to defend your Clanmates with your new skills?"
"Then by the powers of StarClan, I name you Snowfire. We honor your bravery and skills, and welcome you as a full warrior of WolfClan!"
"Snowfire! Snowfire!" The chant erupted through the Clan, the loudest being Dawntail and Petalpaw. While they cheered, Blizzardstar leaned in closer to Snowfire.
"I am proud to have been your mentor. You're just like your father, always brave, always loyal," he added quietly. Cloudleaf nudged Snowfire heartily, murmuring a congratulations, before the new warrior joined his Clanmates below Howling Rock. Petalpaw was right next to him when his feet touched the ground, her eyes shining.
"Congratulations, Snowfire!" she mewed, brushing against him. She wasn't the only one. More and more warriors pressed in around Snowfire.
"Well done!" Otterwind said. For once, he didn't seem grouchy.
"You deserved it!" Cloverspring, back to full health, meowed happily.
Dawntail pushed through the crowd, nuzzling Snowfire.
"I'm so proud of you!"
"Mother, ugh..." Snowfire complained. He wanted to get to Petalpaw and Skypaw.
"Come on, Dawntail, let him breathe," Shadowsplash mewed, gently giving her a nudge. His eyes met Snowfire's, the blue irises full of pride.
"Congratulations. You will do well."
Snowfire thanked him before breaking away, finally joining Petalpaw. Skypaw was in conversation with his mentor.
"Want to go hunt?" Petalpaw suggested, flicking her tail toward the barrier.
"Sure." Snowfire wanted to get away for a while and have some peace and quiet.
The two silently made their way into the forest, heading for pine trees. The forest was cool and crisp, every sound seemed magnified by the cold. The snowflakes continued to fall, slowly and evenly. The frozen trees sparkled magnificently, as though their branches held stars and not ice.
Just as they had reached the pines, Petalpaw turned and faced Snowfire. Her expression was very strange, a bit awkward, a bit nervous.
"What?" Snowfire asked. He was anxious to get his claws on some prey.
"Snowfire....I wanted to tell you something," she began, her words cautious, as those she was afraid to say the wrong thing. "I know I'm young, but I think I'll become a warrior soon and...when I do...I want someone to be there for me."
"I'm always there for you, and you know that," Snowfire mewed. "And you have Skypaw."
"I know. But, I mean more than just a friend...Someone who I trust, someone who loves me."
Snowfire's head cocked sideways in confusion. What was she talking about?
"I want you."
"Oh..." He felt as though he were falling into a pit of shock. She wanted to be his mate? Snowfire had been so wrapped up in training that he had never considered a mate. Was Petalpaw right for him?
Snowfire thought back to his nursery days, the days of playing with his two denmates, going out into camp for the first time, wrestling with Skypaw. Petalpaw seemed to dominate all of his memories.
Yes. She is the one.
"I know," he finally answered. "I want you too." Petalpaw breathed a sigh of relief, then pressed against his shoulder, purring. Snowfire licked her cheek affectionately, now able to let out his emotions he had felt for her for such a long time.
"I will always be there for you. Always," he promised.
Chapter 7 ~ Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?Edit
The moon was just rising as Snowfire ducked his head to enter the warriors den for the first time. It was already full of cats. Carefully stepping over Whitetail and Mouseheart, Snowfire made for the back. An empty nest, full of fresh moss, had already been prepared for him. Skypaw's scent clung to it.
Purring as images of the young apprentice building his nest entered his head, Snowfire settled down into the warm moss, curled up, and closed his eyes.
Suddenly his body was fading from the den. Snowfire desperately fought it, trying to open his eyes and awake, but it was no use.
Warm sunlight hit his pelt, the sound of birds chirping filled his ears, and Snowfire found himself in the meadows of StarClan. A warm breeze rustled the grass, the green blades rustling around his paws. He suddenly realized that he was already a wolf.
"Welcome, Snowfire," a deep voice said as Sunstreak sat down beside him, also a wolf. His eyes shone with pride. "I see you have become a warrior, and fought off Featherpelt. Congratulations. I always knew you would go far."
"Thank you." What did his father want now?
"But Snowfire, hard times are coming. It has already begun. Leafbare is settling in fast. LionClan is growing more ambitious by the day. It is time for you to fulfill your destiny. You alone can save your Clan."
A sinking feeling appread inside Snowfire. How was he supposed to save them? One warrior couldn't fight off an entire Clan, or stop leafbare, or cure sickness, or do anything. He was no better than any of the others.
"Snowfire, soon you will receive a message. Another cat will come. She will tell you all you need to know. Be prepared to meet her."
"What can I do? I'm not any different from my Clanmates. I'm not a great warrior like Shadowsplash or Otterwind. I'm not a healer like Crowwhisper. I'm not a leader with nine lives like Blizzardstar. I'm nothing!" Snowfire burst out. He couldn't help it. Confusion spun around his head like a cloud.
"A long time ago, another warrior said the same thing. He was the opposite though. The most powerful warrior in the forest, everyone would call him. He was the hero of WolfClan. But he didn't know how to use his skills to stop his enemies. He didn't know how to defend his pride without a battle. Snowfire, you will learn, just like he did. That is all I can tell you. Wait for StarClan's message. They will help you. I know it. Goodbye, my brave son. I only regret not being able to stand beside in you battle, or bring you up like a true father should."
Snowfire was fading again. StarClan's meadow grew farther and farther away until...
He was back in the warriors den. Sunstreak was gone. Darkness showered him. The starry scent was overtaken by moss. His fathers words echoed in Snowfire's head.
A long time ago, another warrior said the same thing.
You will learn just like he did.
Snowfire had a feeling he knew who that warrior was.
In the middle of the warriors den, Shadowsplash woke with a start, panting. With wide eyes he looked over at Snowfire, then down at his own paws.