|Preceded By||Succeeded By|
|N/A||Waking Clouds (Unreleased)|
Leader: Ryestar – dark ginger tabby tom
Deputy: Sweetdapple – orange tabby she-cat with bright green eyes
Medicine Cat: Swanthorn – white tabby she-cat with extremely long claws
Warriors: Mistlebush – dark brown-and-black tortoiseshell tom with brown eyes
Ivypelt – light gray she-cat with pine green eyes
Olivetooth – dark brownish-green tom with brown-green eyes
Splashfang – cream tom with fierce blue eyes and sharp fangs
Blackfur – black tom with stern green eyes
Dawnstripe – yellow tabby she-cat with orange eyes
Primrosefall – white she-cat with specks of light orange and yellowish orange eyes
Starlingfox – gray-and-red tortoiseshell she-cat with bushy tail and amber eyes
Timberclaw – light brown tabby she-cat with ginger eyes
Twistedfoot – ginger tom with a twisted foot and blazing blue eyes
Fawnheart – brown she-cat with white dots and pale brown eyes, formerly a kittypet
Apprentices: Emberpaw – dark ginger she-cat with yellow eyes; muscular and sleek
Vinepaw – dark gray tabby tom with green eyes; scrawny and weak
Shortpaw – tiny speckled tom with white tip and short legs; fierce orange eyes
Queens: Mintwhisker – smooth furred silver queen with warm hazel eyes (mother to Brightkit, white she-cat with bright blue eyes; Frecklekit, golden spotted she-cat; Doekit, brown she-cat with cream underside and tail tip; and Morningkit, cream, black spotted tom)
Dappleheart – dappled brown she-cat with flecks of white in silver eyes (mother to Rainkit, silver tabby tom with gray eyes)
Hopeshine – golden tabby with amber eyes
Sweetdapple – orange tabby she-cat with bright green eyes (mother to Ryestar's kits)
Elders: Hickoryleg – brown tom with stiff leg
Sneezenose – cream tabby she-cat; sneezes frequently
Softfur – white tom with soft fur
Misteyes – formerly Mistwish; dappled gray she-cat; blind misty eyes
Patchfur – patchy, ragged, brown furred she-cat; cranky and bad-tempered
Leader: Longstar – light gray she-cat, long whiskers
Deputy: Chestnutpelt – dark ginger tom with brown eyes
Medicine Cat: Wildsong – kinky furred she-cat with beautiful blue eyes and a soothing purr
Warriors: Dewwhisker - dappled tom with wet whiskers
Kestrelsong - brown she-cat with patches of black and white; dark brown eyes
Nettlefrost - brown tom with patches of white; icy blue eyes
Sedgeburr - brown and green tortoiseshell she-cat
Ashpelt - dark gray tom with darker gray eyes
Ebonyfall - dark ginger she-cat with amber eyes
Apprentices: Quailpaw - black tom with white on his toes, tail tip, face, and back
Sorrelpaw - brown-and-white she-cat
Queens: Nightfawn - brown-and-black she-cat
Birchwhisker – tortoiseshell-and-white with startling green eyes
Elders: Rockpelt - dark gray she-cat
Maplesun - dark ginger she-cat with yellow eyes
Yellowclaw - long-furred brown tom with dirty teeth and claws
Leader: Duskstar – Silvery black she-cat with a white marking on her forehead
Deputy: Stormfang – Silver-gray tom with long sharp fangs
Medicine Cat: Songwhisper – Sandy colored she-cat with soft voice
Warriors: Foxwish - dark brown she-cat with white tail tip
Owldapple - brown speckled tom
Blossompool - tortoiseshell-and-white she-cat
Badgerscar – Black tom with white stripe along his face and back; scars along his flank
Wishnight – Gray she-cat with black around her eyes and black ears
Apprentices: Thistlepaw - short-furred brown she-cat
Mallowpaw - gray tom
Queens: Cassidy - tortoiseshell she-cat with tabby markings
Runningbreeze - golden tabby queen
Elders: Willowwind - gray she-cat with black ears
Vixenleap - brown tom with white paws
Leader: Tumblestar - old gray-and-white tom
Deputy: Lilyspots - mottled she-cat
Medicine Cat: Tawnywhisker - tawny she-cat
Warriors: Harestep - creamy-white tom
Pouncebreeze - tortoiseshell she-cat
Stepwind - brown tom
Owlwing - white she-cat with a graying muzzle
Queens: Tangleleap - black she-cat with ragged, knotted fur
Whisperbreeze - tiny silver she-cat with a long tail
Elders: Olivepelt - brown tom with dull green eyes and rheum on his eyes
Elderleaf - black-and-ginger she-cat with a twisted paw
Hareflight - light brown tom
Leader: Timberstar - brown-and-white tom with scarred legs and graying muzzle
Cats Outside Clans
Rabbitpounce – former WindClan deputy, exiled for killing Gorsescar
Foxy – dark ginger tom, bushy tail with large white tip
Isabella – ferocious rogue, haunting blue eyes, raggedy brown fur
Rhea – silver tabby rogue, pricked ears
"go. and do not forget your oath."
Flightstar stepped forward. "A dark time is coming to ShadowClan." Next to her, a dark gray tom hissed. "A dark time is coming to all the Clans, not just ShadowClan." Flightstar sighed. "Okay. Whatever. But a dark time is coming, and the only one who can prevent it is this cat." She lightly touched the water's surface. A white she-kit appeared. The tom snorted. "That one? She's just a kit!" A cream she-cat glared at him. "Duststar, even you were once a kit! Or will you not admit it?"
Four shadowy figures appeared. One was a bright ginger tom with white paws. Another was a wiry brown she-cat with yellow eyes. The third was a silver furred tom, and the fourth was a thick-furred black she-cat with green eyes. "Hello. Sky will be coming late," meowed the brown she-cat. The cream she-cat dipped her head. "That is okay, Wind. We are also waiting for Larkstar. It takes a long time for her to get here, considering her leg aches have not gone away." Wind sighed. "Echostar, even the most powerful StarClan cats cannot heal all wounds and aches. Besides, isn't the current news more urgent?" Duststar sprang to his paws. "Yes! A dark time is coming to all the Clans, and the only one who can stop it is," he turned to Flightstar, "this little mewling she-kit who hasn't even opened her eyes yet!" The silver tom snarled. "Duststar! What pride do you have as to not admit that even you were once a kit?" Duststar dipped his head, but his eyes were still gleaming.
"Enough. We must get the current leaders. River, you get Duskstar. Thunder, you get Longstar. Wind, you get Tumblestar. I'll get Ryestar," directed the black she-cat. "But Shadow," complained the orange tom. "Longstar is often lost in dreams about her siblings Honeykit and Tansykit. How will I ever get to her?" Shadow lashed her tail. "Find a way! The leaders of each Clan must hear this important message." Thunder dipped his head and ran off. Flightstar waited patiently, but still spoke. "Shadow, only three representatives are here. Specklestar is nowhere to be seen. Surely he hasn't forgotten?" Shadow's gaze darkened. "Go get him. River must speak with him too." Flightstar dipped her head and headed off to find Specklestar, with Larkstar, a blue-gray she-cat, behind her, hobbling because of her leg aches.
"Specklestar, where are you?" She bumped into a pure white she-cat. "Half Moon?" she asked. The she-cat dipped her head. "It is I. I was the first Teller of the Pointed Stones, and many more came after me." Flightstar nodded. "Do you know where Specklestar is?" Half Moon shook her head. "No. Ask Lion's Roar. He might know." But Lion's Roar didn't. And neither did Moon Shadow, or Bright Stream. At last Flightstar came upon the speckled tortoiseshell tom. "Specklestar! Where were you when needed? Come, you must speak with River and Duskstar." Specklestar scrambled to his paws and ran after Flightstar. "Where are we going?" he asked. "To speak with leaders from other Clans," she said. "Now hurry up!"
At last they reached the meeting spot. Everyone else was already there, even Longstar. "Why have you brought us here?" asked Ryestar, and Timberstar, leader of SkyClan, agreed. Thunder stood. "We must go now. Leaders, share with your Clanmates what you have heard." Then he walked away, followed by Wind, then Shadow, then River, and finally Sky." Flightstar turned toward the former leaders. "Shall we tell them?" Echostar nodded. "A dark time is coming to all the Clans. And your fate hangs in the balance of one she-cat. Listen carefully: Bright skies will turn into sounding thunder, and the only one who shall save from the silver menace is the bright-eyed." Tumblestar nodded. "We shall pass this on to our medicine cats." Echostar shook her head. "That isn't enough. All of you must protect the cat from the prophecy. You will swear by StarClan and by your nine lives that you will protect this cat." Duskstar began to protest, but then held her tongue. "I swear by StarClan and by my nine lives that I will protect this sacred cat," swore Ryestar. Then he looked expectantly at the others. "I swear by StarClan and by my nine lives that I will protect this sacred cat," said Longstar. The others followed, and soon Flightstar nodded. "We will help you watch over her. But listen: if you fail to protect her, you will be stripped of your lives immediately. And you will cease to rule over your Clan. You will join the elders, and there is no going back." Duskstar looked horrified; she must've been shocked by the conditions. Flightstar looked at all of them. "Go. And do not forget your oath."
"your pride could be your downfall"
Brightkit toddled out of the nursery. Her mother, Mintwhisker watched her. “Don’t go too far,” she meowed as Brightkit, her sisters Frecklekit and Doekit, and her brother Morningkit tumbled in a bundle of fur and feet in the camp. Their father, Mistlebush padded up to them.
“Having fun?” he purred as he brought Mintwhisker a mouse. “Those kits of yours sure are feisty.” Ryestar and Sweetdapple were watching them from afar.
“Sweetdapple, don’t you think they’re cute?” asked Ryestar. Sweetdapple seemed to grow fatter everyday because of her kits, yet she wouldn’t go to the nursery.
“Of course I think they’re cute,” Sweetdapple purred. She rubbed her head affectionately against Ryestar’s flank. She padded up to Brightkit. “And what’s your name, little one?”
Brightkit puffed out her chest and said proudly, “I’m Brightkit!” Mintwhisker watched with pride as Brightkit started prancing around exclaiming that she was a warrior. “She’ll be a fine warrior,” she meowed to Mistlebush.
A sunrise later, Frecklekit was prodding Brightkit. “Come on, wake up!” she squealed. “I want to go play with Rainkit!”
“But he’s so snobby. He thinks he’s so great cause he’s older.” Rainkit was born five moons earlier, which made him all the more snobby and pompous.
“Hey kits,” someone meowed. It was Sweetdapple, finally convinced to move to the nursery. “Hopefully it won’t be long now—did you see Hopeshine? Her belly is really big now, can’t be long until she starts kitting!” Brightkit looked at Frecklekit, who looked at Doekit. They jumped on their brother, yelling “Wake up!” He leapt in the air, his fur bristling, until he saw his sisters glancing at him. “What was that for? I was having a good dream about chasing a mouse!” Doekit pretended to look innocent. “Sorry,” she meowed. “We were just playing.”
“Play somewhere else; I’m sleeping,” he growled, then laid his head down to sleep.
“Let all cats old enough to hunt their own prey gather to hear my words!” Ryestar’s voice boomed throughout the camp. “Today we are gathered here to welcome a new apprentice! Rainkit!” Rainkit startled, and cautiously padded up the Highrock. Ryestar wrapped his tail around the wary cat briefly, then continued, “This kit has reached his sixth moon. From this day on, you shall be known as Rainpaw. Your mentor will be Splashfang. Splashfang, you are a brave and noble warrior. I expect you to pass all your courage, wisdom, and bravery onto this young apprentice.” Rainpaw leapt down from the Clanrock, and Splashfang met him. They touched noses, and Rainpaw looked at Brightkit with a smug look in her eyes. Brightkit arched her back and hissed at him. Only five more moons and she’d be an apprentice too!
“You’ll be Longstar, and I’ll be Ryestar,” declared Doekit.
“I don’t want to be Longstar!” wailed Morningkit. “I was Longstar yesterday! You can be Longstar!”
“I’ll be Sweetdapple!” announced Brightkit. “And you can be Chestnutpelt!”
Frecklekit arched her back and hissed. “Get off our land, you mange-pelts!”
“Never!” Claws sheathed, Brightkit leapt out at Frecklekit. They battered each other with tiny paws, while Doekit and Morningkit play fought. Tumbling around, they swiped and swiped until a wail rose from Morningkit.
“Ow!” Morningkit raced over to Mintwhisker. “Doekit hit me! Doekit hit me!” Immediately Mintwhisker ran over, and Brightkit stopped fighting. She padded over to see Morningkit. A tiny claw mark ran along his flank, where Doekit had hit him with claws unsheathed. He was wailing at the top of his lungs, and already other cats were racing over to help.
“What’s wrong?” Rainpaw padded over and glanced at Morningkit. “Why does he have a scratch on his flank?” Doekit looked at him with a guilty look, and Rainpaw rolled his eyes. “I should’ve known!” he grumbled. “Kits play fighting!” Swanthorn walked up to Morningkit. “Where is the scratch?” she asked. Brightkit toddled up to her brother. Pointing to his flank, she looked at Swanthorn.
“How did he--” Swanthorn was abruptly cut off by Doekit, who was crying. “It’s all my fault! We were playing, and I accidently unsheathed my claws! I’m so sorry! Do I have to search the elders for ticks?” Ryestar looked at her with confusion, and then started laughing. “No, Doekit. Searching for ticks is the apprentices’ job. In fact . . .” He turned to Rainpaw. “Rainpaw, would you go and get some mouse bile from Swanthorn’s supply? You are now an apprentice, therefore, you now take on apprentice duties.” Rainpaw arched his back and hissed, but thought better of leaping at his leader. He stalked off towards the medicine den, muttering under his breath along the way. Brightkit stared at the den in wonder. Could there be something in there that she could play with maybe?
Her mother stared down at her in shock. "Honestly! You'd think this would happen less!"
"Sorry," she murmured. Brightkit had accidently eaten a poppy seed and was starting to feel sleepy. "Swanthorn, where were you?"
The she-cat hissed at her. "I was collecting some more coltsfoot and catmint, Mintwhisker! I didn't think a kit would get into my supplies."
Mintwhisker stared at her daughter sternly. "No more games for you, Brightkit. Back to the nursery." The snowy-white she-cat glared at her mother but did as she was told, and fell asleep almost instantly.
Rainpaw shook her awake. "Come on!" he said. "I heard something about Fawnheart telling us a story!" Brightkit yawned. "Couldn't you wait?"
"Nope! Let's go!" was his only reply.
Fawnheart didn't look that excited to be shaken awake either. "What do you want?" she grumbled. Looking at the tiny she-kit, she sighed. "Of course. The story. As you all know, I was born outside of the Clans. Then when a dog thought it could mess up our Twoleg's yard, we tried to defend it. The yard, not the dog. It all went wrong and I ended up being treated by Icestorm, a kind tom. And as always, we ended up staying." She sighed. "You kits don't realize how short life is, do you?"
Rainpaw shook his head. "But I can run so much faster than Brightkit!" Brightkit rolled his eyes. Rainpaw always thinks so highly of himself just because he's older. But I don't like it! How can he think that? Her thoughts were interrupted by the tsking of the warrior.
"She's younger than you, of course she's bound to run slower. Kits can't get around easily on short stubby legs."
The tom bared his teeth at her and snarled. "Whatever you say. I still think I can run faster than her."
Fawnheart sighed. "Remember this, Rainpaw. Your pride could be your downfall."
"just you wait. just you wait."
"Almost there, Hopeshine! You're doing great!" Brightkit peeked out from where she was hiding, along with Morningkit and Frecklekit. Mintwhisker had told them to stay away so Hopeshine wouldn't be pestered by them, but to their mother's dismay they stayed behind. Relenting, she told them that they had to be hiding so nobody would see them.
Hopeshine groaned. Finally, a shudder ran through her, and Swanthorn reached down. "Great job! I think only one more . . ." Brightkit stretched forward, trying to see what the kit looked like, only for Frecklekit to pull her back. "Get down!" she hissed.
Eventually, the second kit did come out. "Well done!" cried Swanthorn. "A tom and a she-kit!" Immediately cats began rushing in.
"Hopeshine! Is she okay?"
Swanthorn flicked her tail at an older golden she-cat that looked the same as Hopeshine. "Goldenhawk, your daughter is fine. Maybe you should call Twistedfoot over here. He will want to see his kits."
A ginger tom limped in. "I'm here! What's going on?" He stumbled over his words as he spotted his kits. "My, my goodness! They're beautiful! And--great StarClan they're all ours! Great StarClan!"
Sweetdapple, who was forced into the nursery by the medicine cat, awoke, annoyed. "What's going on? Oh," she said, spotting the two kits, "congrats, Hopeshine. But if you excuse me, I need rest."
Brightkit raced out from her hiding place and looked at the two kits, now nursing at their mother's belly. "Did you name them?" she asked. She received a cuffing from Morningkit, and hissed in reply.
Twistedfoot and Hopeshine shook their heads. "But they're perfect," purred Hopeshine.
Mintwhisker pulled her kits back and gave them a good licking. "All right, give Hopeshine some space. Why don't you go and listen to the elders?"
Morningkit squirmed, and moaned, "But they never have anything good! All they ever talk about is how we would be better off if Sun Shadow had been named leader!"
Ryestar sighed, which made everyone jump. "What? I'm checking on my mate. But he's not wrong. All I've ever heard Patchfur and Hickoryleg and Misteyes say is 'ShadowClan would be better if Sun Shadow, the greatest cat who ever lived, became leader.' It gets really tiring."
Brightkit and Morningkit decided that they would play with the apprentices, who happened to be Shortpaw, Vinepaw, and Emberpaw. Frecklekit didn't want to, saying, "Vinepaw coughs too much. Shortpaw's legs are way too short, and Emberpaw's a total bragger."
"Suit yourself," Morningkit scowled. Brightkit didn't mind her sister's decline, but it hurt all the same. They ran over to the cats, who were whispering in urgent voices. They nudged the apprentices' legs, and looked expectantly at them. They shared secrets all the time, whispering and giggling and gossiping about their Clanmates and other Clans.
"I might not be made a warrior," whimpered Vinepaw, who was chewing his lip. "Blackfur says I'm the sickest the Clan has ever seen besides that other dude who died. His name was . . . Dark Night?"
Emberpaw sighed. "Time and time again has Blackfur criticized these two for their lack of talent in hunting and fighting. It's always, 'Vinepaw, you're sneezing too much to see one mouselength in front of you,' or 'Shortpaw, you aren't leaping that far because of your stubby legs.' He's too strict!"
"I heard you," growled the black tom. "And no, I'm not being too strict. If they can't properly hunt or fight, then they are useless to the Clan."
Brightkit whimpered and pulled Morningkit away. "What do we do?" she sighed. "It's not like Blackfur's going to change his mind." She knew Blackfur was just trying to provide the best for his Clan, but the thought of this made her pelt hot with anger.
"What can we do?" asked Morningkit. "We're just kits. Great StarClan, even Rainpaw could do something. But we can't."
Sweetdapple walked over. "Blackfur being tough on his apprentices again?" she meowed casually. The two kits nodded and stared pleadingly up at her.
"Oh, they'll be warriors, all right," purred Ryestar, who settled down next to his mate and leaned against her. "Blackfur can't stop me. They are excellent at hunting and fighting and have used other means of doing so."
"Whatcha doing?" mewed Specklekit. He was staring at Brightkit play fighting with Morningkit, which made the white she-kit a bit self-conscious. Am I doing it wrong? she wondered. Then she shrugged. It doesn't matter. No kit can fight correct anyways.
Rainpaw snorted with laughter when he walked past them. "Ha! I've seen badgers that can fight better than you do!"
Sleekkit, who had her tail wrapped around her neatly, laughed. "Wow. You two are such bad fighters!" She did a mocking imitation (though a somewhat accurate) of them fighting. "See? See?" She doubled over laughing.
Her mother swept her tail around her and gave her a sharp cuff on the ear. "Sleekkit!" she scolded the gray she-kit. "You don't insult your Clanmates like that, especially not your littermates."
Brightkit didn't feel grateful to the tabby she-cat. She didn't have to stand up for them, when they could do it themselves! Besides, they were four moons old already. Sleekkit and her brother were barely a quarter moon old! Sleekkit was so convinced that she was so much better just because she got more attention. Just you wait, thought Brightkit. I'll beat you yet.
Later, several cats came back from a patrol, their faces grim. "We spotted some fox scent on the border of our territory and WindClan's," reported Fawnheart. "And smelled WindClan scent over the border, with a few half-eaten prey."
"So they have been stealing prey," snarled Ryestar. "Well, we'll have to take matters into our own paws, and see what we can do. Now, we must have the cats go to the Gathering. First, we'll take Splashfang as our temporary deputy, with Primrosefall, Blackfur, Vinepaw, Rainpaw, Timberclaw, Mintwhisker, and Patchfur."
Rainpaw stuck his tongue out at Brightkit, Morningkit, Doekit, and Frecklekit, the latter of which stuck out her tongue back.
"Oh, just you wait!" she growled. "Someday we'll be announced as warriors in front of the four other Clans!"
"Wait eight more moons," he replied, smirking. His silver tabby pelt turned especially bright under the rising moon. "Then we'll see."
Just you wait, Brightkit thought. Just you wait.
"you don't know my father like I do"
Rainpaw bounded over to his friends from RiverClan as soon as he touched the ground where the truce was held. "Hey, Thistlepaw, Mallowpaw," he meowed in greeting.
Mallowpaw snorted. "Oh, we don't know those cats, thank you very much. It's Thistlepelt and Mallowbriar now." Seeing his friend's face made his face light up. "Cheer up, Rainpaw. I was just joking. Besides, I'm pretty sure Foxwish is so glad to be rid of me now." He paced the clearing, his gray pelt turning silver in the moon. "Ah, I can't wait to be introduced as warriors. Remember when you were first introduced to us at a Gathering?"
Rainpaw remembered. It was so scary, seeing more cats than he'd ever saw, cats who weren't familiar to him. "It was . . . overwhelming."
Thistlepelt sighed. "Oh, all those memories. You were with some other friends of yours, Emberpaw and Vinepaw, right?"
Vinepaw, who was listening quietly, nodded. "Yep. Actually, you guys tackled us. And then introduced yourselves. And then Rainpaw was introduced as an apprentice of ShadowClan."
The tom purred. He was taken back three moons ago, to when he became Rainpaw. Ryestar had introduced him as Rainpaw of ThunderClan, being trained by Splashfang. He had felt so proud. One thing he wished was that Ryestar hadn't chosen his own father for the job of mentoring him. Splashfang was always so strict, and so harsh, which was why the young tom was criss-crossed with scars all over. His father had been punishing him for disrupting the elders, or peeking into the warriors' den, or accidentally . . . never mind. He was getting off track.
"Let the Gathering begin!" yowled Timberstar of SkyClan. Rainpaw sniffed. He never liked SkyClan much, particularly because of Treepaw and Fallowpaw. They were always teasing him about his "skinny legs" and "blind blue eyes." Rainpaw took the last insult very deeply. He wasn't blind! He just had that milky look in his eyes, but he could see as well as the next cat.
"SkyClan welcomes four new apprentices: Beepaw, Cloudpaw, Spikepaw, and Whiskerpaw. Finchwing has also stepped down from his position as deputy to retire, and Doveshine is now deputy."
Both Longstar and Duskstar snapped to attention when Timberstar flicked his tail at them, but Ryestar took the opportunity to step up. "Two kits, Sleekkit and Specklekit, have been born to Hopeshine and Twistedfoot. Also—" He was interrupted by a panting she-cat, who ran into the clearing.
"Ryestar! Ryestar!" she gasped. "Your—your kits are coming! Hurry!" Then she collapsed in a heap.
Tumblestar, Ryestar, Longstar, Duskstar, and Timberstar yowled in alarm, and Ryestar lept down from his position and ran at top speed into the woods. Rainpaw started to run after him, but Splashfang kept him back. "Hold still," he snarled. "This isn't your business!"
"Yes it is!" He spun around to face his father. "Splashfang, this concerns all of ShadowClan! What if Sweetdapple dies giving birth to them?"
Rainpaw shrugged. "Well, I do care! And I'm going whether I want to or not." He ran off towards camp.
Mallowbriar's ears perked up. "Wait for me!" he yelled and sped off after the apprentice, with Thistlepelt hot on his heels.
At last they arrived, panting, with cats crowding the entrance. He shoved his way through, and Swanthorn's face was scrunched up in concentration and frustration. "They're not coming out! Hang on, Sweetdapple."
Sweetdapple groaned. "What do you think I'm doing?" she growled. Then she yowled out in pain. "It hurts!" she meowed.
Rainpaw crouched by the entrance, feeling terribly worried, worried that their deputy might die. And it'll be all over for me.
Mallowbriar and Thistlepelt snuggled up to him. "It'll be all right," the former murmured. "You'll see."
"No it won't!" screamed Rainpaw. All around, cats turned to look at him. Embarrassed, he lowered his voice so that only his RiverClan friends could hear. "You don't know my father like I do. Splashfang is a fearless warrior, but unfortunately . . ." He bowed his head and sighed. "He doesn't know how to treat his kits. I was the only surviving kit out of my litter. Foxkit and Mudkit . . . they didn't make it. He's ruthless. Look at all these scars! They are of his making."
Thistlepelt's lip curled up. "That's . . . not fair." She began to snarl. "How could one cat be so mean?"
Rainpaw whimpered, like a kit. He could very clearly hear his father's voice when he failed to grab anything on a hunting patrol. You're a failure, his father had said. I can't believe you let us down with your inability to hunt. Dappleheart was unable to do anything but scream, He did nothing wrong! Why are you so mean to him? That was all she was able to do. She couldn't hurt him—he would hurt her first. She couldn't tell on him, because nobody would believe her. Splashfang was the ultimate warrior—and the ultimate deputy if Sweetdapple died. No wonder Splashfang was so indifferent. "I . . . I don't like him. He was so mean to my mother . . . and threatened her with death if she walked away from their relationship. I don't get anything about him."
Mallowbriar and Thistlepelt pressed against his flank, and soon they fell asleep.
"Ahhhh!" Rainpaw jerked awake, awoken by the screaming of Sweetdapple. Her moans echoed across the nursery, with Brightkit mewling in protest and Mintwhisker grumbling. Thistlepelt and Mallowbriar woke up as well, only for Thistlepelt to back away when she saw blood and for Mallowbriar to slump over. "Oh, fox dung," muttered the silver tom.
Sweetdapple's body rippled as her kits struggled to get out. Swanthorn was pacing the medicine den, her long claws digging into the dirt with every step. Ryestar was panicking, and all other leaders were crowded around the nursery. Never before has this happened before, thought Rainpaw, so all leaders are concerned.
"First one!" announced a tired Swanthorn. A large tortoiseshell tom popped out of Sweetdapple, who was exhausted and had her fur matted with blood. "Oh," she whispered. The tom's ears were lopsided, one big, one small.
Sweetdapple didn't hear and continued moaning. Eventually, two more kits popped out, a black she-kit and a brown tabby tom with a long tail. "Congratulations!" purred Swanthorn. "Two toms and a she-kit!"
Rainpaw didn't fee so good. He had just witnessed the horror of kitting. Ewwwwwww, he thought. Gross! As if reading his thoughts, Mallowbriar nodded. "Yeah. It's really gross. I saw it once, and couldn't get it out of my head for a moon."
Sweetdapple was now busy nursing her three kits. She pulled them close and flopped down, panting with exhaustion. "I feel like I could sleep for a moon!" she wheezed. Ryestar ran inside, panting as well. "Did I miss anything? I was sleeping . . . I didn't come. Oh, fox dung . . ."
"Chill, Ryestar," snorted Rainpaw. He didn't understand why toms were so worried about their mates giving birth. "She's fine. I don't get why you're so nervous anyways."
Ryestar gave a quick glare before walking over to his mate's side. "Oh . . ." he whispered. "They're beautiful. What shall we name them?"
Brightkit and Specklekit peered over the edge of their mothers' sleeping forms, along with Morningkit, Doekit, Frecklekit, and Sleekkit. "We wanna see!" mewled Doekit. Rainpaw didn't really like the younger kits but still held a curiosity left from his kithood. "Yeah!" he agreed. "Let them see!"
The dark ginger leader sighed. "I guess. But Sweetdapple needs rest. Meanwhile, Splashfang, can we continue with the Gathering?"
Splashfang shifted uneasily. "I, uh, of course, Ryestar!" he meowed. Ryestar narrowed his eyes but said nothing. Rainpaw walked the path he already had two times to the Gathering before sitting down with Thistlepelt and Mallowbriar.
"R-right . . ." stammered Ryestar. "Now, three unnamed kits have been born to Sweetdapple and I. That should be it." Before Tumblestar could say anything, Splashfang leaped onto the Great Rock.
"Great StarClan!" yowled Duskstar in surprise. "You're not leader, much less deputy!" Rainpaw winced; it would be hard enough for his father to even be scolded lightly, but this could possibly make him lose his temper. Luckily, Splashfang managed to control it, but all of his anger apparently became directed at the whole of WindClan. "WindClan has been stealing prey!" he growled.
Tumblestar's eyes widened. "Impossible," he meowed. "My warriors have never crossed your borders!"
"Then who has been leaving half-eaten prey and WindClan scent over the border?"
Before Splashfang could throw himself at the WindClan leader, Ryestar blocked him. "Splashfang, if you are to be deputy, you must control yourself," he hissed.
"Yes, Ryestar," huffed Splashfang.
Ryestar rolled his eyes and turned his attention back to Tumblestar. "Now, what is the meaning of this?"
Tumblestar growled, "I swear, we have not been hunting over the border! You must be imagining the WindClan scent."
Duskstar stepped in between them. "You two, relax," she growled. "Do you wish to be the reason why StarClan ends this Gathering early?" Both toms stepped away, shaking their heads nervously. The big stocky body of Duskstar was already enough to intimidate any cat. But her tone when she was angry . . . now that was a whole 'nother story.
"Now, if you please, RiverClan will go next," Duskstar announced. "Two new kits have been born to Runningbreeze, Waterkit, and Icekit. Two elders have also died, and we send them luck on their journey to StarClan. We also welcome two new warriors: Thistlepelt, and Mallowbriar." Rainpaw chanted their names as loud as he could, because he was so proud of them.
Tumblestar was the next to go. "We have had seven kits born to Tangleleap: Brindlekit, Moorkit, Wingkit, Swoopkit, Emberkit, and Oatkit. Also, we advise you to stay on the lookout for one of our outcasts. His name is Rabbitpounce, and he killed our deputy. He is dangerous, to all Clans."
Longstar sighed. "Thank you, Tumblestar. Birchwhisker welcomes three new kits, Sorrelkit, Aspenkit, and Sycamorekit into the world, who have just been born yesterday."
"Gathering dismissed," rasped the old WindClan leader. "And may StarClan light your paths."
"i don't know how you could ever be scared"
Rainpaw stared at the entrance of the medicine cat den. It always felt so . . . right to be here. "Excuse me?" he asked. "Swanthorn, do you have any mouse bile?"
Swanthorn was staring at the ground, her face anxious. "What am I going to do?" she murmured. "No apprentice, possible battle . . . Oh, StarClan help me!" She paced the floor. "I can't do this! Why will no cat volunteer to be my apprentice. It's not that bad, but no, they all want to be warriors!" Finally she whipped around to face Rainpaw. "Oh, Rainpaw, please, will you be my apprentice?"
Rainpaw edged away. "Um, what? I just came here to get mouse bile."
Swanthorn waved her tail distractedly at her stores. "Oh, you should know, spending so much time in here. Now, please answer my request: will you be my apprentice?"
Rainpaw gulped. Swanthorn sounded like she was truly desperate, and her despair was rational; she was getting old, and needed someone to become her successor. "I . . . I'll think about it." Swanthorn sighed in relief, then sank to the ground and began to snore.
The silver tabby tom raced out. "Oh StarClan help me . . ." he whispered. "What do I do?"
He raced out and collided with Vinepaw, who was sprawled on the floor being attacked by kits—and having a terrible coughing fit. "Hey!" he yelled. "Let him up!" Frecklekit and Doekit were the first to roll off, followed by Morningkit and Specklekit. Rainpaw could see that Brightkit was trying to scamper off, but Sleekkit was holding her back by the tail.
"Let me go!" growled the white she-kit. But the silver she-kit wouldn't budge her teeth. "Nuh-uh!" she mumbled through a mouthful of fur. "Wha' wuv I?"
Rainpaw stepped in. "Hey, hey, hey. Sleekkit—" He grabbed the she-kit by the scruff. "Le' Bri'kit go. Now."
Sleekkit tried to protest but eventually gave up. Letting go of Brightkit's tail, she spat, "Fine," and leaped off Vinepaw. The sprawled tom was still coughing, and not stopping. Rainpaw's mind raced. What if something was stuck in Vinepaw's throat? What if he was suffocating? He moved closer to the dark gray tabby, and pushed the tom over. Nothing was stuck in the throat. Good.
He was just coughing. What could help with coughs? Rainpaw was no medicine cat—he shouldn't know these things. Yet his mind told him catmint, tansy, coltsfoot, and honey. He ran into Swanthorn's den. "Do you have catmint, tansy, or coltsfoot?" he panted.
Swanthorn whipped around. "What for?"
"Vinepaw. He's coughing and won't stop."
"We have a store of coltsfoot, but no tansy," she informed him. "Here, take some." Rainpaw rushed out with the coltsfoot, and sat down next to Vinepaw.
"Here," he ordered, shoving the leaves in front of the older tom. "Eat. Now." Vinepaw did as he was told, while making a face, but eventually his coughs became less frequent and his breathing eased up a tiny bit. Rainpaw sighed. Maybe being a medicine cat is what I was meant for all along. But I don't know anymore.
Rainpaw pawed at the ground in anger. "It's not fair," he growled to himself. "It's not fair that I have to search the elders for ticks just because I helped Vinepaw with his coughs!" When Splashfang had found out, he sliced at Rainpaw's ear, giving him a fresh new nick, with blood pouring from it.
I trained you to be a fierce warrior, he had yelled, and this is how you repay me? Rainpaw's eyes welled up with tears; his father was so mean. Nobody could help, not Swanthorn, not Vinepaw, not even Ryestar himself. Splashfang could kill them all if he wanted to. I have to face him . . . on my own, he realized.
He had curled up into a ball as his father yelled the most horrible things about medicine cats, saying they were useless, weak, and way too concerned about the wellbeing of others. "I hate you, Splashfang," the silver tabby tom whimpered. "I hate you so much."
He dragged himself into the elders' den, and sank down, all life taken out of him. Patchfur, who was usually very irritable, noticed him and asked, "What's wrong?"
"It's . . . it's Splashfang. He's punishing me just for helping Vinepaw out with his coughs."
"Ouch," muttered Patchfur. "Splashfang always was somewhat of an aggressive cat. I was his mother, you know. He refused to play nicely with the other kits: Dapplekit and Olivekit. And Primrosekit and Timberkit and Mistlekit. It was a different world back then. But I knew the best way to deal with him, threat of not loving him. He always came back to me, his mother, and when I turned him away, it would always make him sad."
Hickoryleg sighed. "Maybe Splashfang inherited your bad temper and your impulses."
"If you hadn't decided to abandon me for Fawnheart, maybe other kits wouldn't have been so terrorized by Splashfang!"
"Oh, so now you're blaming me?"
Softfur hissed at both of them. "Will you two take this outside? We're trying to sleep." Elders all around murmured in agreement.
"Shut up," said Hickoryleg and Patchfur in unison.
Rainpaw shook his head and went to work picking the ticks out. Finally he saw Splashfang curling up his muzzle. "So. Will you admit your mistake of helping Vinepaw, a scrawny, useless scrap of nothing? Or will you side with that sorry excuse for a cat, and—"
"That's enough, Splashfang," growled Patchfur. "Do you really want me to—"
"No!" cried out the tom in exasperation. "Stop! Don't! Just don't!"
Rainpaw couldn't help smiling, which earned him a glare from his father.
"Let all cats old enough to hunt their own prey gather to hear my words!" Every cat poured out from their dens, surely this must be about Ryestar's kits? But no. Rainpaw knew what it was about. And he wasn't sure he'd like the results.
Be brave, Dappleheart had said.
You'll be fine, Emberpaw had said.
No one can hurt you, Swanthorn had said.
But everything could hurt him. He walked over, head drooping, to where Sweetdapple was. "What's the matter?" Sweetdapple was letting Morningkit and Frecklekit look at her kits. "Something wrong?"
"Everything. I don't know what Splashfang will think of me when we go through with this ceremony."
Sweetdapple curled her lip. Then she sighed. She swept her tail over Rainpaw's ears. "Rainpaw . . . I don't know how you could ever be scared. Splashfang isn't Clan leader."
"You don't understand. He'll make my life miserable. He'll try to kill Swanthorn. He'll—"
"Please be quiet. You're just being paranoid now."
"But it's true!"
Sweetdapple rolled her eyes. She swept her tail around Rainpaw and brought him closer. She nuzzled him and rasped her tongue over his ears. "Mouse-brain. Everything will be all right."
Brightkit padded over to him. Her snow white fur seemed . . . different. So bright. So pure. Where did she get that white from. Nobody in her family carried white. And her blue eyes . . . as blue as the river. Snap out of it! he scolded himself. She's still a kit. Apprentices don't play with kits. Still, he raised his tail above her, in the hopes that she would notice. She looked up. "Nah. I don't like that game. Why don't we chat?" Oh no. Rainpaw panicked. "I-I . . . well . . . um, yeah." Stupid brain!
"What's Ryestar doing this for?"
"Uh . . ." The silver tabby didn't know how to respond. "I . . . well . . ."
Brightkit looked up at him. "I know you're having a hard time saying it. But it'll be all right."
Something inside of Rainpaw snapped. "No!" He lunged towards the kit. "No, it's not all right! My father will kill me when he hears this! No one can help me—no one!" The tom was close to tears. I'm falling apart.
Brightkit was still staring up at him with her river-blue eyes. "You say that no one can help you. Well, I may be that special someone who defies the rules."
"Be right back." What is she doing?
Morningkit looked up, his cream pelt now flecked with dirt. "If Brightkit says she can help you, she probably can help you."
"How? She can't—" He was cut off by Frecklekit's glare. The apprentice sighed and waited for the white she-kit to return. Grass tickled his nose. The Clanrock seemed even taller. What was he getting himself into? Time seemed to pass slowly. He paced the clearing endlessly. Sniffed the dandelions. Looked at the wispy, almost transparent clouds in the bright blue skies.
"Rainpaw, step forward," meowed Ryestar. It's starting, thought the silver tabby in desperation. Oh, please don't let my father be here. "Rainpaw, is it your choice to walk the path of a medicine cat?"
"It is," croaked the apprentice, his throat dry. His heart was beating so loud he was sure everyone could hear it. Oh StarClan, if I have ever done anything to please you, please spare ShadowClan from the wrath of my father!
Ryestar nodded, his eyes full of concern. He tipped his head to the side. "Is there anything bothering you, Rainpaw?"
"I . . . no." He tried hard to keep a straight face. No one could know about this—they would all think he was mad. Unfortunately, a figure stumbled in, then tumbling down the ravine. It dizzily tried to get up, before collapsing again.
Rainpaw nosed the figure. "Hello?" Then he saw that the substance that covered the figure was red and sticky, and figured it must be blood. "Aah!" He jerked back, and saw a flash of white. No! "B-Brightkit?" he stammered.
Slowly more cats came out of their shock, and jerked back to attention. They came up to the unconscious kit and prodded her. Poked her. Sniffed her. Finally Swanthorn managed to push through. "Excuse me, but she needs to come to me. Rainpaw, will you help assist?" Rainpaw nodded and gently carried the large kit by her scruff and was sure not to trip over anything on his way to the medicine den. He laid Brightkit down on a bed of moss. The tabby was sure he heard Sleekkit mutter "Good riddance," but he couldn't be sure.
"Brightkit!" A frantic wail came from the crowd. "Brightkit!" The golden tabby ran into the medicine cat den. "Brightkit, are you all right? Speak!" She seemed close to shaking the snowy she-cat.
The only thing that stood in her way was Swanthorn. "Mintwhisker, please! We need to have this den empty of everyone except us and her, because otherwise we can't focus."
"I don't care! I need her!"
"And your kits need you," sighed Rainpaw. He glared at Mintwhisker. "Make yourself useful. See if Splashfang arrived. Find out who did this to an innocent kit. We'll save her, I promise."
Mintwhisker scowled at the both of them. She backed out of the den with her teeth bared. The tabby never seemed so ferocious before. "That's a promise you'll have to keep."
Swanthorn rolled her eyes. "Perfect way to start off your new apprenticeship. Well, for starters, we'll need to lie to your father. Yes, lie to your father. Otherwise . . ." She drew a paw across her neck.
Rainpaw nodded. Obviously this was very risky, but he didn't realize how risky it was. They would all face Splashfang's wrath if they failed, and who knows what his father would do. Anything could go wrong. Suddenly he heard footsteps. "He's coming!" Swanthorn shoved him outside. "Choose some cat as mentor, quickly!"
"Uh . . ." Rainpaw glanced at the cats sitting in the clearing, their eyes shining with fear. Someone stood out to him, a cat who knew everything about everything, even the forest, and the Twolegplace. Wise and stronghearted, he pointed at a white spotted she-cat. "Fawnheart. I choose Fawnheart."
Splashfang sprung on top of Rainpaw as soon as his sentence was finished. "You! You do not decide the mate you want! I decide for you, you insolent little—" He stopped as Ryestar glared down at him.
"One, do not treat your kit like that. Two, you do not decide the mate. Your kit does with consent from me and the other's parents. Three, this is not about mates, but rather about mentors."
"Excuse? I am Rainpaw's mentor."
Ryestar sighed. He fixed his deputy with a cold stare. Then he looked up to see Rainpaw staring at the two toms, cowering in fear. "Rainpaw, why don't you help the queens clear out their beddings? I'll talk with your father."
Rainpaw ran away, glad to be free of his father's control. He bumped into a very angry Mintwhisker though, and she pinned him down. "Why aren't you taking care of Brightkit, huh?"
He struggled under the stronger she-cat's grip, and twisted, writhed, and thrashed. "Let-me-go!" The tabby felt a burst of strength and latched onto the queen. "How would I, huh?"
Mintwhisker glared at him. "I'll reveal your secret. Why should I care? You were mean to my precious. I think I'll return the favor." No! He'll kill us all!
"No. You don't know what he's capable of."
"I do. That's why I'm doing this."
Rainpaw nipped at her throat. She screeched. With a quick swipe of his paw, a new nick at arrived at the silver she-cat's ear. "He'll kill us. He'll destroy us. He doesn't care, my father. I don't understand." He glared at the panting queen. "You will not speak of any of this, understand?" After Mintwhisker nodded, he released her. But not before she cried, "RAINPAW IS TRAINING UNDER SWANTHORN!"
All hell broke loose.
"let him sort herbs and just do your damn warrior duties!"
"Your mentor will be Timberclaw," purred Ryestar, touching his nose to the apprentice's fluffy pelt. Brightpaw stood up a little straighter, for her parents were watching her every step. She was now waiting for Frecklekit's and Morningkit's mentors.
Reaching down to Frecklekit's head, Ryestar announced, "From now on, you will be known as Frecklepaw. Your mentor will be Dappleheart." Turning to Morningkit, he said, "From now on, you will be known as Morningpaw. Your mentor will be—"
"Hmph!" All four siblings turned to glare at the direction of the voice. Brightpaw's luminous blue eyes searched the crowd until she saw a sleek gray pelt. "Excuse me?" growled Sweetdapple. Her kits were now bright-eyed and toddling around, but the older kit's face was envy and hate. Sleekkit puffed out her chest. "Why can't we be apprentices? We're way older than them," she added.
Doepaw got right in the two moon old's face. "Listen, kiddo. We're six freaking moons, and you're just a teeny wittle kit at two moons. So don't lie to the Clan's face and say you're older." Brightpaw felt like standing up and cheering on her sister. The brown she-cat was right: Sleekkit shouldn't be so impatient.
Splashfang wrapped his tail protectively around the young she-kit. "Lay off her," he snarled. "She's being perfectly acceptable. She is older than Sweetdapple's kits, after all." His claws were on Rainpaw, who looked more exhausted and battle-scarred than ever. All four apprentices hissed and swished their tails at him.
Rainpaw backed out from under his father's grip. "Um, she was referring to—"
"Silence!" A ripping sound rang in Brightpaw's ears, and when she looked up, the tabby tom was staggering, blood pouring over on his back. Anger ran through the she-cat. How could a tom do this to his son? How could he?
"Ahem!" Ryestar's voice rang out once more. "As I was saying, Morningpaw's mentor will be not you, Splashfang, as I promised, but Olivetooth. He has proved to be more level-headed than you are, and by the way? He'll be temporary deputy instead of you. My goodness, how dare you?"
"How dare I? How dare you!" growled the silver tabby. He stalked off, his tail held up high.
Oh StarClan. This is going to be a long six moons.
Training with Timberclaw alternated between hunting and fighting practice. The very first day he took Brightpaw to tour ShadowClan territory, and helped her remember the scents of other Clans. "This is ThunderClan scent," he said. "Remember it well, for we have many encounters with them." She sniffed it, and it smelled like tree sap and rotten squirrel. Yuck! He led her along to the border with another Clan. This time it smelled like dead fish and mud. "Is this RiverClan scent?" She remembered the tales her mother told her about the cats of the river who ate fish.
"It is. Very recognizable and—urf!" He doubled over. "Let's get out of here before I barf." Brightpaw let out a snort of amusement before she ran after her mentor. They stopped at a grassy hillside where a fresh breeze blew, and carried the scent of grass and rain. "WindClan!" she breathed. It wasn't as bad as the others, and actually smelled a bit nice.
"What's SkyClan's scent like?" She was eager to learn all the new scents. Before she only knew ShadowClan scent, and Timberclaw was staring into the distance. He jerked as Brightpaw asked him, and he nearly lost his footing. "Wha—Oh yeah, SkyClan. Their scent smells so good, you would not . . . I mean, come along, let's go . . . learn, um, something." He turned away hurriedly and broke into a full sprint.
Finally they arrived at the sweet cedar and pine scent of SkyClan. The white she-cat's mentor sniffed the air and he had a sappy look on his face, which Brightpaw thought disgusting. Ew . . . he's in love with this scent? "Blegh!" she burst out, then slapped her fluffy tail across her muzzle. "Oops, sorry."
"Is anything wrong?" asked a startled Timberclaw. Brightpaw backed away slowly. "No."
"Okay then," continued the slightly confused tom.
By the time they arrived back at camp, nothing had really changed. A white she-cat ran up to them. "You guys seen Ripplefang?" she asked. "He left when Rainpaw and Swanthorn did and hasn't come back." She screwed up her face as if in deep thought. Her face suddenly morphed into that of worry. "Come to think about it . . . so hasn't Swanthorn!" She started to look around in panic. "Or Rainpaw!" Screaming for the two cats, she sprinted into the distance.