chapter 1

What do you know me by? A murderer? A thief? A traitor? No.

You know me by the fact that I left Daisy, left her kits, to her own devices. To their own devices. I didn't give a mouse dung about them. That's what you heard. You heard that I was abusive in my special way. I didn't care for them, didn't love them, didn't give them the time they needed. I didn't give them a father.

But that's not all.

I wish to show you why I left her. Never loved. Never took a mate. You say I'm in love with Ambermoon? No. I'm not. Never was, never will be.


"Wake up, Spiderkit, wake up!" I opened my eyes, to the dim light of the nursery, pressed up against Ferncloud. My mother. Someone was shaking me, which caused me to shrug them off.

"Wake up!" The voice shook me even more forcefully. "Firestar's going to make us apprentices!" At once my drowsiness fell away. I leaped up and ran around the nursery in excitement. Shrewkit, my brother, was all over the place. We were laughing and whooping until a soft ginger tail stopped us. "Hush, you two. You'll wake Whitekit." We stopped and tumbled outside the nursery, where Brackenfur, Cloudtail, and Mousefur were yawning and getting ready for dawn patrol.

Graystripe, snoring, stumbled outside the den. He tripped over Shrewkit's tail and nearly squashed me. Pausing to blink sleep out of his eyes, he mumbled a sorry, and smiled. "Apprentices, huh? No wonder you're up early."

By the time the sun was up, we were standing in front of the Highrock, eagerly awaiting the arrival of our apprenticeship. Who will be my mentor? I wondered. I didn't like bossy mentors, but I wanted to be the best I could be. I don't like Cloudtail, or Mousefur. I want Brackenfur as my mentor-he's so cool! But maybe Thornclaw? Or Graystripe! Yeah, I want Graystripe!

"Let all cats old enough to catch their own prey gather beneath the Highrock for a Clan meeting!" announced Firestar. He looked down at us and flicked his tail. We scampered up Highrock and tried to look solemn and dignified. Later Whitekit told us we looked like we had fleas. [We did not, Whitewing! Shut up!] "These kits have reached six moons, and are ready to be apprenticed.

"Spiderkit, from this day on, you will be known as Spiderpaw. I entrust your mentorship to Mousefur. She will guide your paws in everything from hunting to battling to loyalty." No! I didn't want her!

She padded up to me. "I know you didn't want me," she murmured. How did she know? "But you'll learn to like me in time." Are you sure?

Firestar continued on with the ceremony. "Shrewkit, from this day on, you will be known as Shrewpaw. I entrust your mentorship to Thornclaw." Lucky! "Thornclaw, you were the lucky apprentice of Mousefur. You will be an excellent mentor to Shrewpaw." Hah! Thornclaw, lucky?! Firestar must have bees in his brains!


"Are they here?"

"Let me see!"

"Move over, Squirrelpaw!"

"Come on, let your mother have space."

Ferncloud lay on the ground, panting and sweating heavily. Her body convulsed, yet no kits were arriving. Cinderpelt and Leafpaw were sitting near her, with the gray she-cat murmuring about the kits being stubborn. "They won't arrive. They're stubborn."

"Like Dustpelt," joked Squirrelpaw.

"Shut up!" I growled. Just because you're snarky doesn't mean you can insult our father!

"Touchy, touchy."

"Enough," sighed Firestar. He was anxiously waiting for the kits so he could announce it to the Clan, and at later's Gathering.

Dustpelt paced the room, sighing and moaning. I was nervous too. If this went wrong, we could lose our siblings, our mother . . . and our father's sanity. And our mother was everything to us. She defended us, she loved us, she even played badger rides with us. Also, if Dustpelt lost his sanity, the whole world would come crashing down and the sun would set the forest on fire and everything would break. The end.

Haha, no I'm joking. Except for the Dustpelt-losing-his-sanity-part-if-our-mother-died part. That isn't a joke. It could happen.

"They're coming!" screeched Leafpaw. She was jumping all over the place, causing Cinderpelt to drag her back to where Ferncloud was. "Focus," the dark gray cat hissed.

Sure enough, a tiny figure slowly but surely, made its way out of Ferncloud, and onto the nursery floor. "Nip the sac," instructed Cinderpelt, her paw on Ferncloud. "I think two more now? And lick her warm," she told our father.

Two more figures appeared afterwards, and Ferncloud, exhausted and sweating, flopped back onto her nest and started snoring. "Great StarClan," your mother can snore!" exclaimed Leafpaw.

"Out," Cinderpelt snapped. "All of you. Ferncloud needs her rest. I'll bring her some borage when she wakes up, but now she needs rest."


Ferncloud was sighing. "Names. I can't think of names. I'll need much more names if I want more kits." She glared up at us. "Name them. Quickly."

I glanced at Shrewpaw and Dustpelt. They were just as surprised as I was. We all racked our brains for names. Suddenly I remembered my favorite tree, one I used to want to climb. The larch tree. It was unusual, sure, but I knew for a fact that Spider was also unusual. And I happened to like unusual things . . . "Larchkit." I glanced at one of the tabby she-kits. "That one's Larchkit."

"Ooh, favorite trees, right?" chirped Shrewpaw. "That other she-kit can be Hollykit."

"Birchkit for that one," meowed Dustpelt. Birchkit was the only tom, and seemed the strongest, yet he was unable to find his way to Ferncloud for milk. "Mew!" he cried. "Mew!"

Leafpaw poked her head in. "Aw, that's too cute. Whaddya name them?"

"Larchkit, Hollykit, and Birchkit. Tell Firestar."


"No! No! No!" wailed our mother. I ran over to her. "What? Don't say—"

"Shrewpaw is dead! Dead! StarClan, why?" Her sobbing faded to the background as I sank to the ground.

All around, the world slowed to a halt. It wasn't true, it was never true, my brother wasn't dead, our mother wasn't grieving even more, and this was all a dream. Nothing made sense. Nothing was true. How could everything go wrong? It was all planned out perfectly, and that perfect plan had shattered, leaving nothing but destruction, broken hearts, and waste where it broke.

How could StarClan allow this to happen? Self-doubt, hate, murder, lying . . . it would never go away. Never stay away. It would always pierce our hearts, meddle with our relationships, and knock the hell out of us. I can't escape this.

My life, my world, my purpose was collapsing into a singularity, and nothing could stop it. A black hole, unleashed from the depths of despair, left nothing but grief in its wake. Where did it go? Where did my happiness go?

Guess what?






She pulls me in. Like no other.

What can I say? She is no like no other she-cat, like no other cat even.

Soft fur. Blue eyes. The way she licks her paws, the way her eyes catch the light of the sun. How can I even describe her? Her purr, her step, her swish of her tail. What is wrong with me?

"Spiderleg?" Her voice stops me. "Is there anything wrong?"

"Huh?" I snap out of my daydream. Daisy stares at me. I shake my head, and she nudges me.

"You mouse-brain. I was asking you if you wanted to go on patrol with me, but if you don't want to . . ."

I shake my head as fast as I can, and then ask, "Where?"

Daisy waves her tail vaguely. "Haven't asked Brambleclaw," she sighs. We walk over to where the brown tabby is, and he meows a cheerful greeting. Around him frisk Jaykit, Hollykit, and Lionkit. "Kits a handful?" I tease.

He shrugs. "Nah. Actually yes, they're all troublesome." He waves them off. "Go see Mommy." Turning his attention back to us, he paces around us. "Patrol . . . hmm, ShadowClan are getting a bit antsy again. So are WindClan. Your choice."

We decide on WindClan and call Honeypaw over. She bounds over excitedly, and when she hears that she's coming with us, her eyes turn skeptical. "Daisy's coming with us?" I sigh and nod. After being scolded about ten times, she finally accepts it and we head off towards the WindClan border.

"Where's your mentor?" I ask. Sandstorm is nowhere to be seen and Honeypaw is supposed to be with her. She shrugs.

I tell Daisy and the light brown she-cat to stay where they are and I run off, back to camp. Panting, I spot the light ginger she-cat. "Sandstorm! Come with us! We, uh . . ." I pause at her stern face. "We kind of stole your apprentice. WindClan border patrol. Me, you, Daisy, and Honeypaw. Please hurry."

She rolls her eyes. "WindClan can wait. Call them back. Berrykit, Mousekit, and Hazelkit are going to become apprentices!"

"Wait what?"

"You heard correctly . . . at least, I hope you did. Call them back. Berrykit, Mousekit, and Hazelkit are going to become apprentices!" I don't hear the last part; I'm already sprinting up the hill to tell my patrol the good news. "Daisy! Honeypaw! Come back! Three kits are going to become apprentices!"

Daisy peers out. "My kits?" Beside her Honeypaw snorted. "Yes, your kits. If Jaykit, Hollykit, and Lionkit become apprentices we're doomed."

We all slide down the hollow, tripping over each other and nearly rolling down the ravine. "Oof!" "Ow!" "Oh!" "Ouch!"

Finally all four of us arrive, with sand in our pelts and knotted fur. The she-cats are busy grooming themselves so they don't look as horrendous; me, I don't care as much about my looks. Nobody really bothers to pay attention to me anyways. However, Brambleclaw has other thoughts. He's glaring at me, and mouthing: "Clean up!", and I realize I'm in for a treat. Scrabbling to my feet, I manage to scrape off most of the sand, and the knots in my fur are partially undone.

"You stupid," Daisy sighs, and begins grooming for me. I purr a sincere "thanks" and wait as she goes over my rusty grooming. "There, you furball. Take care of it."

"Let all cats old enough to catch their own prey gather beneath the Highledge to hear my words!" Firestar yowls. "Three kits are now ready to begin their apprentice—"

Jaykit, Hollykit, and Lionkit scramble up the Highledge, their tiny little legs struggling to land on the rock. "Is it us? Is it us?" they chirp.

Squirrelflight titters and scoops up her daughter, then nods for her mother and father to carry the other two down. "No, my loves," sighs Brambleclaw.


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