I creep stealtily throught the woods. I can hear the river now, racing along at it's peak of new-leaf. He'll be waiting for me. I can smell his familiar scent on the wind.
I burst out of ThunderClan's woods. A thrill shoots through me as I spot a silvery-gray tom waiting by the riverbank, moonlight turning his fur to ice.
"Rockstream." I run down to the bank. We rub against each other's cheeks, purring so hard I can imagine the ground shaking beneath our paws.
"Mapleshade." He takes a step back and drinks in my scent with his mouth open. "You look lovely tonight."
I grin. I can't stop purring. I don't tell him how handsome he looks, his fur still wet from the swim across the river, and his muscles rippling under his coat. The other ThunderClan cats say RiverClan is fat and ugly from gorging themselves on fish. I used to think that too... until I met Rockstream. Now I've decided that RiverClan cats, at least Rockstream in particular, have gorgeous thick fur and are well-muscled, not fat. Not that I'd ever admit it to my Clanmates or even Rockstream himself.
"Why didn't you come yesterday?" I ask. I try not to let my hurt spill through, but it's so hard. I had waited for hours in the cold, hoping he was just late, and finally trudged back to the ThunderClan camp, exhausted.
"I'm so sorry," he says, meeting my eyes with his own dark blue ones. "It's just gotten so busy with patrols and warrior duties."
I nod and press myself against him. I am much smaller than him, but I don't care. This is our moment, and nothing can take it away.
When I head back into camp, I freeze. All the cats are gathered around outside. Brushstar walks toward me slowly. His eyes are angry, but he doesn't say anything. So big-mouthed Treeclaw does. "You've been meeting with a RiverClan cat."
My blood runs cold. The happy feeling I had from being around Rockstream dies. My Clanmates look angry, no, furious.
Brushstar finally speaks, and his voice is cold. "Mapleshade," he says. "You have broken the warrior code. ThunderClan has no place for traitors."
"Brushstar-" I begin.
"You are exiled from ThunderClan. We have no more to do with you."
I hear a cry and see my sister Appletail step forward. Her mate, Elmheart, gently stops her, resting his tail on her flank. She's so lucky to have him, in this Clan. But this Clan is no longer my home.
My heart hardens. "Okay. I'll leave. But you're making a mistake Brushstar."
As I slip out of the tunnel for the last time, I wonder what I and the tiny lives stirring inside of me will do.
"Tonight." I tell Rockstream. He nods.
I turn and head back to my den, near Twolegplace. I have to get the kits across the river to RiverClan by dawn. Rockstream will be waiting.
"Come on, Troutkit and Minnowkit," I call. I named them RiverClan names. They and I will have nothing to do with ThunderClan. Nothing.
The river is quite choppy tonight. Even in the silvery moonlight, the waves are the color and texture of jagged rocks.
"Are we crossing that?" Minnowkit sounds scared.
For a second, I am doubtful. How can I cross the river with both kits? Then I shake it off. I have to do this. For Rockstream's sake. For us.
"Stay here," I tell Troutkit. He nods. I pick Minnowkit up in my jaws. She kicks a little. Stifling a snarl, I slip into the water. It's so cold! It seeps into my fur, logging my coat and sucking at my legs, trying to drag me down.
Minnowkit lets out a whimper as her legs brush the water, and I try to hold my head higher. Then the bottom of the river vanishes completley. I'm on my own, my legs paddling frantically. A wave washes over my head.
"Momma!" I turn. Troutkit is in the water!
His small gray head bobs above the surface, and his paws are thrashing desperately. I'm about to scream his name when another wave crashes over my head. I go spinning, head over heels. Minnowkit is washed from my jaws.
I surface, gagging and sputtering. "Minnowkit!" I scream. There is no sigh of my darling silver kit. No! River, you can't have her!
I dive under the water again, but it's no use. She's gone. I turn towards ThunderClan's side of the river. "Troutkit? Troutkit!"
He's clinging to a rock. His pelt is soaked, and his eyes meet mine for a moment. He opens his mouth. "Mo-" A wave crashes over his head. When the churning waters clear, the rock is bare.
"No!" I swim faster. My muscles scream in protest, but the cold water has me numbed anyway. "Please, no." I'm sobbing by now. He can't be gone.
I scan the water. I dive under. I scramble onto the rock and scream myself hoarse till I fall off. Finally, exhausted, I wash up on the RiverClan bank. Tears blur my vision. I don't know how long I sleep, but when I raise my head, at first I think I'm hallucinating.
A large broad-shouldered tom is standing in front of me. His sapphire eyes are confused. "Mapleshade," he hisses. "Where are Minnowkit and Troutkit?"
I bury my face into his fur. He pulls away. "Where are they?" he growls.
"T-they're gone," I stammer.
"What do you mean, gone? You lost them! How could you? My kits! My kits are dead."
I stare at him hopelessly as he jumps into ther river screaming their names. He gives up soon. It's been too long. There's no hope.
"I'm so sorry Rockstream-" I begin, but he cuts me off.
"I trusted you. I turned down mates and proper life in my own clan for you. How could you be so careless?"
"I tried! You think that I-"
He ignores me. "Don't ever speak to me again, Mapleshade. You will definetly never be a RiverClan cat, or my mate."
He strides away, leaving tears streaming down my face. I don't believe it. Can't believe it. Won't believe it.
Have to believe it. He's gone. Minnowkit and Troutkit are gone. My place as a warrior of ThunderClan. My hope in RiverClan.
I turn and walk slowly away. Anger blooms in my heart, warming my stiff limbs.
You will pay.
I wake up feeling young again. Is this StarClan? No, not exactly.
I'm standing on a border. To one side is a sunny forest, looking like ThunderClan's woods in the height of green-leaf. To my other, a dark and shady woods. A rancid odor drifts out of it, tinged with despair.
I'm about to enter the beautiful woods, when something stops me. A voice.
"Come to the Dark Forest. Revenge will be yours. You can haunt Rockstream's generations forever. Avenge yourself. It wasn't your fault."
I freeze. I turn around. I kind of want to go to StarClan, but I have built my life around getting revenge. That doesn't change now I'm dead. I enter the Dark Forest.
I watch a brown kit being born in the midst of the storm. Something twists within my heart. He's so perfect, so destined for greatness.
A cruel smile plays across my face. I want to take everything from him. And I know just how.
The kit turns an innocent green gaze upwards. I peel my lips back in a half-smile, half-snarl. The same cockiness Rockstream had is etched all over his face. I will wait and watch him grow up, always in the shadows. Then, when the time is right I will strike.
Rockstream, you fool. I told you you would pay.