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The following story is rated Moderate.

A short, sort-of Saint Patrick's Day special.

EDIT: Probably not going to finish this by the end of Saint Paddy's Day, but I shall continue!

Prologue

Cloverstar could barely remember a time before he lived in TreeClan. The very land that his Clan lived on was like an extension of his own being. In the massive forest in which the cats took shelter, there was a tree for every dark gray hair on the large tom's body. The river that cut through the middle of the woods flowed like the blood in his veins.

Ever since Cloverstar lived in these woods, there had been peace. There were few dangers from other animals, and when there were, the TreeClan leader made sure that they were completely disposed of. He did, after all, believe that war was necessary for peace, however little it made sense to some of the other cats in his Clan. He didn't go seeking for war; if he did, he would have stayed in his father's Clan, far away where there were few trees and many high cliffs. That was why Cloverstar's father had been given the name "Mountainkit" when he was born, many moons ago. When Cloverstar had left his own Clan as a newly-named warrior, his father had had the name Mountainstar for some time.

And that was why Cloverstar, then Cloverfoot, had left CliffClan in search of another one. Like his father, he longed to be a leader, and instinctively he wanted to fight to get that top position. Mountainstar knew this as well, and so he understood that his son would want to leave the Clan for the safetly of both of them. They were the only two that truly knew the importance of this farewell, that both father and son had to rule, each in a different Clan far away from each other. A great force was slowly traveling from the shoreline of the sundrown place to the peaks of CliffClan where Mountainstar ruled. And when that force got to its destination, Cloverstar would know.

Part One: Discussing Matters

"You and all this father and son jabber!" exclaimed Newtpaw. "I swear by StarClan, Clovy, if you keep going on and on, I'm gonna bite your tail off!"

Cloverstar sighed and shook his head at his young apprenice. He had been trying to tell her about CliffClan and Mountainstar and why he had to leave, but she just wouldn't listen.

"Newtpaw, as your mentor and leader, it is very rude to call me Clovy," he explained to her slowly. "As it is to bite my tail. If you must, though, go right ahead. You'll just have to face these." He unsheathed his claws and held them out for Newtpaw to see.

The cream-colored she-cat gulped. "Sorry, Cloverstar. My mistake. I shouldn't have gotten mad."

Cloverstar sheathed his claws again, hoping that he wouldn't have to use them much with his sassy apprentice. With a flick of his tail, he padded away from the small training hollow, Newtpaw following close behind. The middle-aged leader let the scents of his Clanmates wash over him as he entered the bustling camp. He had come to TreeClan as an outsider, a strange cat from the mountains far away, yet it could be seen by more than just his position that he was truly a part of this Clan now.

"Hey, there, Cloverstar!" growled a voice from the bushes. A sleek form burst out and leapt at the leader.

"Trying to get me again, are you?" meowed Cloverstar, almost playfully. Rather easily, he rolled onto the ground, crushing the creature on his back.

"Ow, ow, hey, you're very heavy, sir!"

The TreeClan deputy, Sharptail, sqeezed out from under the massive body of his leader. Newtpaw giggled when she saw how ruffled the black tom's fur looked, and he quickly licked it to try and look a bit dignified in front of the apprentice.

"Sharptail's a weird name," remarked Newtpaw. "Why do they call you that?"

Cloverstar got up, chuckling himself. "Because he can have a sharp temper, especially when you bite his tail." With that, he gave the deputy a small nip on his tail.

Sharptail hissed as Newtpaw burst out laughing. "Oh, what an excellent role model you make for the young cats, Cloverstar!"

"I'm just joking with you, my friend," mewed Cloverstar, batting the deputy with his paw. "Now, I would like to speak with you in my den."

"Can I come?" asked Newtpaw.

"I'm sorry, my apprentice, but no. Sharptail and I must discuss things first before I call a Clan meeting of great importance."

Leader and deputy squeezed into the small den under the large tree that stood in the center of camp.

"I suppose I should get right to the point," sighed Cloverstar as he settled himself on his nest of moss and feathers. "I've been having dreams, Sharptail. Strange dreams. Dreams that I can't explain."

"Shouldn't you be talking to Grousefeather about this?" asked Sharptail. "After all, she is the medicine cat."

"A new medicine cat, who barely earned her full name before her mentor died. Besides, with Bluepelt being not very supportive of me when I first joined the Clan, there's no telling what he taught his apprentice about me. No, I do not fully trust Grousefeather yet, but I trust you to the point where I would trust you with my life."

Sharptail blinked. "Why, thank you, sir. Now, what was happening in these dreams?"

"Not much, to be honest," meowed Cloverstar. "But it just feels important. Most of my dreams have been blurred and clouded like muddy water, but last night I clearly saw what was happening for the first time. I saw my father, lying on the rock he used to stand on to call Clan meetings. He was..." The leader drifted off.

"Was he...dead, Cloverstar?" inquired Sharptail hesitantly.

"He was weak. Horribly weak. I had never seen him like that before. He wasn't dead or dying, but he just seemed weaker than ever before. Mountainstar used to always be ready for battle, but now he looked like he didn't have the strength to walk. His fur was white with age, and there was a shadow behind him. It wasn't his, though. It was of another cat, of whom I don't know the name of. I couldn't see who it was."

"What was the other cat going to do?"

"Nothing, it seemed. He was just waiting for something. But I had the feeling there was something around him...something huge that he could control...and that thing was going to attack my father."

Sharptail pondered this for a moment. "Perhaps...perhaps your father is in danger."

"That's what I thought," growled Cloverstar. "I just don't know what he's in danger of. And that's why you, me, Newtpaw, and a few other trusted warriors should journey to CliffClan's territory and see what is wrong ourselves."

"Cloverstar, is that really the best decision?" mewed Sharptail. "We don't even know what this thing is, it could be too dangerous for any number of cats to fight."

"Then we shall find out what it is and see if we must fight it or help my father and his Clan escape from it."

"But what about TreeClan? If you're going and I'm going, who will lead the Clan while we're gone? With a journey like this, we may never come back."

"I have chosen Foxtooth to take my place. He is a strong warrior, and StarClan will make sure he knows when and if he must receive his nine lives."

"Cloverstar, I know you are fond of your son, but--"

"Silence!" snarled Cloverstar, unsheathing his claws. "He being my son has nothing to do with this! I trust him, and I thought you did, too!"

Part Two: A Risky Decision

"But I do trust him, sir!" pleaded Sharptail. "Now, if you would be kind enough to back away from me, I can explain this more in detail."

Still growling slightly, Cloverstar sheathed his claws once more. "Very well, then. Go ahead."

"I was going to say that it seemed like you just picked Foxtooth off the top of your head. Whether he's your son or not, you shouldn't do that for a deputy. If I recall, it was nearly moonhigh by the time you chose me."

"That's because I didn't want to make the mistake that Rowanstar had when he chose me as deputy," explained Cloverstar. "He picked me right away, if you recall."

"I was a mere apprentice then, sir," purred Sharptail. "In those days, I had a hard time remembering anything."

"That's true," mused Cloverstar. "So, as my forgetful deputy, I ask for your opinion of my choice for Foxtooth to take our place while we're gone."

"You have my blessing, sir, and with a warrior like that, you probably have StarClan's, too."

"Very well, then. Now, I believe it's time we chose some cats to journey with us."

The two cats squeezed out of the den, and Cloverstar leapt up on the High Tree, a tree with two trunks that formed together and which made a perfect meeting place.

"May all cats old enough to catch their prey join beneath the High Tree for a Clan meeting!"

The other Clan members gathered around. Newtpaw's cream coat stood out as she rushed forward to the front of the crowd, earning a few tail twitches and hisses from the older warriors and elders. But she bounded right up to Sharptail, who was standing at the base of the High Tree.

"Oh, dear StarClan," he mewed, rolling his eyes. "What is it now?"

"Nothing," Newtpaw squeaked excitedly, her balance changing from paw to paw. "I just can't wait for this meeting to start. After all, you and Cloverstar were talking before it, so it must be important."

Sharptail sighed. "You're only ten moons old, Newtpaw. You're not becoming a warrior yet."

"Well, there's no sin in hoping," she muttered, looking much less excited.

"Cats of TreeClan," began Cloverstar. "I have received dreams from StarClan telling me to travel to CliffClan. My father Mountainstar and his Clan are in danger."

"How can you be sure?" The medicine cat Grousefeather stepped forward. It looked like it took all her effort to keep her dull brown pelt from bristling. "Pardon me for saying so, Cloverstar, but StarClan didn't choose you to be their interpreter. That's my job. Your dreams could have no meaning at all. Besides, why would you want to help another Clan far away, even if it is your father's?" Her yellow eyes flashed. "I thought all your loyalty resided in this Clan."

"Whether it is led by my father or not," Cloverstar growled in a deadly whisper that traveled through the camp, "I will not let a Clan in need die off because of selfish reasons. They are in trouble, and I'm not going to just sit here and let their life bleed out of their bodies."

Grousefeather was silent for a moment, narrowing her eyes. "Very well, then. What do you propose we do about this danger in CliffClan?"

"I will travel there," meowed Cloverstar, "along with Sharptail and several other warriors."

"But who will lead the Clan while you are away?" called a cat from the back of the crowd.

"That has already been sorted out," mewed Cloverstar. "Foxtooth shall lead TreeClan while we are away, and if neither I nor Sharptail return, he will receive his nine lives from StarClan and choose a deputy."

There were murmurs and mutters among the TreeClan cats. Foxtooth himself stared up at his father, his amber eyes wide and his black-and-white fur standing on end. But eventually, the cats let out yowls of approval. A few of them, though, including Grousefeather, looked displeased.

"Well, that went as well as could be expected," muttered Sharptail.

"What, does everyone hate Foxtooth because he brought in that rotting badger carcass to camp last moon?" asked Newtpaw.

"Naive" was all Sharptail hissed.

"Sharptail and I are not the only ones who will be traveling on this journey," Cloverstar continued. "Goldheart, Smallecho, step forward."

The two warriors, a golden tabby tom and a silver tabby she-cat, padded to the base of the High Tree and sat beside Sharptail and Newtpaw.

"You are two of my most trusted warriors, and you will accompany me, Sharptail, and my apprentice Newtpaw to the land of CliffClan."

"YES!" yowled Newtpaw, leaping into the air.

"And I thought we were already being risky," meowed Sharptail dryly.

Part Three: Ambush

"I can feel them approaching," wheezed Mountainstar from the Highrock, a large rock face that jutted out on the flat moutaintop that his Clan called home.

"How can you tell they are there, Mountainstar?" his deputy, Beartooth, asked. He was standing behind the other tom.

"I have grown with the rocks which CliffClan stands on," the old leader rumbled, kneeding the ground under him with his large paws. "I can speak with them, and they can tell me things, through their vibrations."

"What do you say we do, Mountainstar?" asked the medicine cat, Longear, who was standing beside Beartooth.

"Longear, you and the warriors will stay here and guard this place from the newcomers. We will need you for healing purposes. Beartooth, you will lead the queens, kits, elders, and apprentices down the mountains to find allies and, if needed, a new home for CliffClan. You will have a third of the Clan with you, and it may be possible that you will be the only ones left."

"What about Lilypaw?" asked the medicine cat.

The leader sighed, ruffling his long, dark gray fur that was so much like his son's, except dotted with white hairs of age. "Your apprentice will have to go with Beartooth's group. If they are to be the last surviving members of CliffClan, they will need a medicine cat."

The dark brown tabby twitched his one large ear, the other having been small and useless since his birth. "May she follow StarClan and my teachings."

"Mountainstar," meowed Beartooth, his white pelt contrasting the dark surroundings as he padded right up to his leader. "What if my group finds help? Cats that will be willing to defend CliffClan? Should I bring them back here and fight?"

"No, my deputy," growled Mountainstar sternly. "You are to stay away from here at all costs. You must protect the remaining members of my Clan. Your Clan. Our Clan."

"Yes, sir," muttered Beartooth. He would die for his leader, but ever since Mountainstar started complaining to Longear of aches and pains in his joints, and then started complaining about many more things that normally wouldn't have troubled him, the deputy had begun to find his leader rather annoying.

"Now go, you two," ordered Mountainstar. "Beartooth, round up the cats I have told you to bring with you away from this place. Longear, get the warriors and lead them to Houndfur's Base. I will be waiting for you there, and so will the enemy."

The deputy and medicine cat hurried to follow their leader's order. Mountainstar took one last look from the top of his perch, looking towards the sunset sky, where stars were beginning to appear.

StarClan, help us, he prayed silently. I know not what this danger is, and we need a miracle.

Then slowly, limping slightly due to his aching limbs, he began his trek to Houndfur's Base at the bottom of the mountain.

Part Four: Rogue

"I'm tired," complained Newtpaw.

Sharptail continued walking beside Cloverstar, trying to ignore the young cat.

"My paw hurts," the apprentice whimpered.

"Which paw?" asked Sharptail through his teeth.

Instead of answering, Newtpaw yowled, "My tail hurts, and I have to make dirt!"

"We told you to make dirt behind that bush when we stopped to drink from the stream." Cloverstar addressed his apprentice calmly, without looking back or slowing his pace.

"But I didn't have to go then!" whined Newtpaw.

"This is why I hate apprentices," growled Goldheart.

"Tell me about it," muttered Sharptail.

The five cats traveled onwards through the woods, sniffing for prey and enemies. Cloverstar's fur was bristled, as if he knew something was wrong.

"Hey, there, my fellow kitties!" snarled a voice from behind them.

The TreeClan cats whipped around to see a huge black-and-white tom. He smelled horribly, and his lip curled, showing his sharp, mangled teeth.

"The name's Duke," he growled. "Just Duke. And don't you dare say it's a dog's name, or I'll rip your hide clean off! I might as well do that now, seeing as you're on my territory."

"You and what army?" challenged Newtpaw. Her complaints were forgotten, and she seemed to be the only Clan cat who didn't think this rogue was a threat.

"This army!" Duke yowled, and from the trees, bushes, and rocks on all sides, there came his followers. Some were toms, others were she-cats, each had different fur and markings, but they all were one thing: rogues.

"Hah, that's nothing," mewed Newtpaw.

"Nothing?" repeated Smallecho in disbelief.

"With her, nothing means the wrath of StarClan," muttered Sharptail.

"Quiet," ordered Cloverstar, getting into a fighting stance. The other warriors followed suit.

"You think you can beat us?" challenged Duke.

"Bring it on!" cried Newtpaw.

Duke turned to his other cats and nodded. In a blink of an eye and a twitch of a whisker, Cloverstar, Sharptail, Goldheart, and Smallecho were all pinned down by rogues from Duke's gang. Only Newtpaw, who seemed oblivious to what was going on around her, was unharmed. The other rogues gathered in a circle around Duke and the apprentice, eagerly awaiting the fight.

With a yowl, Duke leapt towards Newtpaw, claws unsheathed.

Part 5: Houndfur's Base

Houndfur's Base was a grove of pine trees near the base of the mountain range that CliffClan ruled. Who Houndfur was and why the grove was named after him were facts that were lost in time, so much that only StarClan knew them. What was known, though, was that Houndfur's Base surrounded the easiest way to get up and down the western side of the mountain: a shallow scar in the rock that led from the top of the mountain to the bottom, the result of a long-gone stream that had cut through the boulders. Even a cat who was not used to the sheer cliffs could easily travel up this gorge, and it was wide enough for several cats to travel abreast through it at a time.

Mountainstar knew the territory well and the creatures that live there, and before he spoke with his deputy and medicine cat on that fateful day, he could tell from the various birds and rodents' behavior that a large number of stange creatures were approaching Houndfur's Base. Even with his knowledge of shortcuts and passages, it took him a while to travel down the dried creekbed to the grove of trees.

The cats that stood before him were not what he expected. He had thought he would be faced with a large number of rogues (similar to Duke's group, but he did not know of them), but instead the five intruders were obviously trained warriors. Four of them were followers, standing behind their leader, a bluish-gray she-cat.

Bluestar, thought Mountainstar, remembering the legendary leader of ThunderClan, one of the original Clans that had since passed with time. Could this really be a dream? Was he being visited by StarClan?

More Coming Soon

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