Jack slunk through the forest, slipping behind trees, making himself unseen, unheard. In one hand was an empty flask, the other, three dead, fresh mice.
He saw his destination. The place where everything happened.
Entering, he crouched by a large pile of prey.
He dropped the mice onto the pile of prey, and stood.
He could see so many creatures sleeping. So innocent.
That was all about to change for three of them.
Jack left. Smiling, wondering what was yet to come.
Rock awoke, and stretched. He saw his brothers, Falcon and Gorse, sleeping beside him.
Hearing his stomach growl, he padded out of the den and out into the morning sunlight. Blinking, he looked around for the prey pile.
Grabbing three pieces of prey off the top, he brought it back to his siblings. Entering the den, he saw them stretching after a long night of sleep.
"Come on, you two!" Rock whispered. "Let's go!"
Rock led his brothers out of the den and dropped the prey. "Go ahead," he mewed.
Falcon raced forward and grabbed a piece. He laid down and began to eat, ripping off meat as he chewed it.
Gorse came forward a little slower, but he ate with the same gusto as Falcon.
Rock picked up his piece. It was still warm. He ripped off the fur and tore at the meat.
And he looked up.
Falcon and Gorse were staring at him, and he stared at them.
"What?" Rock asked.
"The mouse tastes weird!" Gorse complained.
"It's not my fault!" Rock protested.
"But it's also really good," Falcon pointed out.
Rock nodded, agreeing. "It does."
"It tastes weird," Gorse insisted.
"Weirdly good," Falcon mewed.
"No, it tastes bad." Gorse stood up, backing away from his prey. "I don't want this anymore."
"Okay, fine," Rock mewed.
Gorse stared at him sadly. Then he walked away.
Falcon moved over and bit into Gorse's prey. "It tastes the same as mine," he mewed.
Rock stood up and took a bite, too. "And it tastes the same as mine!
The two kits stood up and backed away, both knowing that they shouldn't eat any more of the prey.
But something was going on with Falcon. Something was stretching out, off his back...
Rock stared at himself. The same thing was happening to him, too.
"Get Gorse," Falcon mewed urgently. He had seen.
But Gorse was already there. "I've seen," he mewed. "And I know what they are."
Falcon tilted his head.
Falcon flapped his wings. Taking off, he swooped through the trees, finding he had total control over his motions.
Swooping down to find his brothers, he yowled, "Come on! It's easy!"
Rock looked at him, and took off. Gorse stayed firmly on the ground.
Hovering in place, Falcon yowled again. "Come on! Don't be such a badger, Gorse!"
Falcon heard Gorse sigh, saw him flap his wings, smelled him getting closer...
And suddenly Gorse rushed by him, knocking Falcon down a couple badgers. Falcon could feel Gorse's happiness.
He could feel happiness?
Rock swooped by Falcon. "What are you doing?" he asked. "Flap!"
Falcon moved away, and began to zoom through the trees. "I feel like a bird!" he yowled.
"That's because you are one!" Gorse yowled back.
"Don't you think we should be going back?" Rock asked suddenly.
"Yeah," Gorse mewed. "Let's go, Falcon."
Falcon didn't recognize any of the ground below him. "Wait," he mewed. "Where are we?"
"I don't know," Gorse mewed.
Rock looked around. "Let's go that way."
The three cats headed in that direction.
A voice yowled behind them, "Intruders!"
The three cats spun around, growling.
Three cats stood in front of them.
Gorse backed away, and flew off.
The three cats stared, and raced after Gorse.
Suddenly Gorse yowled with pain. He fell down, out of the sky, landing with a thud on the ground.
The cats raced forward, both the strange ones and the littermates, and stared at the kit on the ground.
"Get Crowclaw," a cat mewed.
Gorse blinked his eyes open. He was in a strange place. Where was his mother? His father? Rock and Falcon?
He felt something strange on his back. Sitting up, he licked it. It tasted like feathers...
And then he remembered. The crash, the strange cats, the wings...
It was all crazy. It must of been a dream.
Gorse blinked and looked at his surroundings. He was in a small cave, with lots of leaves lining the edges. All of the same kinds were in the same pile- it was neat.
Gorse stood up, his legs yowling in pain, and walked over to the leaves. He knew they had some sort of importance to them, and he wanted to know what it was.
He sniffed each pile. One smelled revolting, others smelled sweet. There were seeds and berries. One pile looked good and juicy, so he bent down to-
"Don't eat those."
Gorse turned around. A large gray cat was standing in the entrance to the cave, looking calm.
"I'm glad to see you're awake. After we healed that wound you got after your fall, all we could do was wait. You were asleep for a moon, almost." The cat looked mildly interested.
"Who are you?" Gorse asked.
Gorse stared. He didn't blink. He didn't move.
He decided this cat was strange. What cat had two names? You were only supposed to have one.
Crowclaw nodded. "Your brothers told me that."
"They're here?" Gorse asked.
Crowclaw nodded. "But don't get too excited. They're training now. Falconpaw is doing very well in combat. Rockpaw is an amazing hunter."
"I think you mean Falcon and Rock." Why was Crowclaw calling his brothers by two names? What were they training for?
"No. I don't. They're apprentices. You can be one, too. But, I don't think you would do well as a warrior."
"I can't be with my brothers?" Gorse asked. He could feel the anger growing inside him. "I want to see them. Now."
A familiar voice came from outside. "Is he awake yet?" The voice sounded hopeless, as if the cat it was asking about wasn't ever going to wake up.
"Actually, you're in luck, Falconpaw. Gorse is awake, and eager to see you."
A sleek black cat bounded into the cave. "Gorse!" Falcon yowled.
"Falcon!" Gorse scampered forward, only to collapse.
"Gorse! Are you okay?" Falcon asked.
"It's Falconpaw now." The cat paced around him. He seemed bigger, somehow. More confidence in his step. Less fear about what was in front of him.
"Where's Rock?" Gorse asked anxiously.
"Rockpaw is out training with Tigerfoot. He's doing very well."
Gorse sighed. "Why would a cat have two names? It doesn't make any sense to me."
Crowclaw and Falconpaw looked surprised. "It's, obviously, how cats identify themselves," Falconpaw mewed.
"Oh." Gorse was less confused now.
"You should join ShadowClan, with us."
"ShadowClan?" Gorse asked. "That sounds-"
"Don't make any judgements about it yet, Gorse. You can be protected by other cats. You can hunt, be healed. Or you can heal. Much honor comes from being in a Clan." Falconpaw sounded confident. "I think you should join."
Gorse shook his head. "I can't, Falconpaw! I just- just-"
"Just scared about the outcome?" Falconpaw interrupted. "Are you scared that you're going to die?"
"No," Gorse mewed. "I want to live life with just you. You and Rock."
"Rockpaw, you mean. And you can't. We're already here, and we've chosen to stay. We've found cats that accept us, and that's no easy challenge for cats with wings."
Gorse sighed. "I'll stay here, but I want a better impression on these cats before I get two names."
"One name. But, whatever you say, Gorse." Falconpaw seemed happier now. "I'm so glad you're alive."
Rockpaw stood, staring at his mentor. Tigerfoot was standing, ready to pounce. His claws were sheathed.
And Rockpaw was standing there. Undefended.
Tigerfoot pounced. Rockpaw dodged, ducked, and ran his paw under Tigerfoot's stomach. If his claws were out, that could of seriously injured him.
He faintly wondered how Gorse was doing. Was he awake yet? Would he ever be?
Rockpaw didn't think so.
Tigerfoot stood up from when he had landed in a cloud of dust. "Good job, Rockpaw."
"Thank you, Tigerfoot." Rockpaw dipped his head.
Tigerfoot resumed his original place. "Try rolling, and knocking my paws out from underneath me now."
Rockpaw nodded. "Okay."
Tigerfoot leaped again.
But everything was in slow motion. But Rockpaw could move normally. He ducked downward and rolled into a powerful kick.
And everything sped up again. Tigerfoot was thrown across the clearing.
"Mouse dung, Rockpaw! You were fast!"
Rockpaw stared. He was fast compared to Tigerfoot, too. Tigerfoot had seen, but he didn't know what was happening.
"Let's go back to camp." Tigerfoot led the way through the woods, weaving through trees. When they reached the camp, Rockpaw instantly knew something was different.
"Rockpaw!" Falconpaw yowled. "Come look at this!"
Rockpaw looked at Tigerfoot for permission. When he was given it, Rockpaw scrambled across the clearing.
The medicine den was a smell den, and to any cat that wasn't used to Clan ways, it would be a cave.
"Hi, Rockpaw." A tired voice came from inside the den. "How are you?"
Rockpaw blinked. That was Gorse's voice.
Gorse was awake.
Rockpaw bounded forward. "Gorse!"
"Hi, Rockpaw." Gorse pulled himself into a sitting position. He had a mouse in front of him. "This mouse tastes better than the one that gave me these." Gorse fluttered his wings.
Rockpaw twitched his whiskers with amusement. Falconpaw must of told him everything.
And then Gorse mewed, "It's giving off a weird glow."
"What?" Rockpaw asked. "What do you mean?"
Falconpaw sensed fear radiating from Rockpaw. He wanted to comfort him, but he knew he couldn't.
"Can't you see it? It's kind of green..." Gorse trailed off. "Can you see it?"
Falconpaw shook his head. The confusion and excitement coming from Gorse was overwhelming.
"I don't see it," Rockpaw mewed. "I don't know what you're talking about, Gorse."
"It's glowing!" Gorse sounded angry. "How come I'm the only one that can see it?"
"Gorse..." Falconpaw began. "You must be seeing things. You just woke up. It'll probably go away soon, once you've been outside and awake for a little longer."
"The mice we ate... back home... were glowing, too. But the glow was different. Scary-looking. This mouse- it looks nice."
Falconpaw looked at Rockpaw in astonishment.
"Gorse, what does this look like?" Crowclaw asked. Falconpaw had forgotten he was here. He held out a paw of berries.
"They look... evil." Gorse sounded confused. "How come I didn't see then before I tried to eat them?"
"Don't ask me." Crowclaw set down the berries. "I don't know anything about treating wings or cats like you."
Falconpaw sighed. "Why can he do this, then?"
"I told you, I don't know. You could ask StarClan, though." Crowclaw sat, his tail flicking as it wrapped around his paws. "They know everything."
"But-" Rockpaw stammered. "But, StarClan don't know who we are. We-"
"Have had a ceremony," Crowclaw mewed. "And StarClan knows every cat."
"But I don't know who they are!" Gorse burst out. "I've been awake for what seems like no time at all, and weird things are happening to me! I don't like it here!"
That quieted all three cats. Falconpaw knew he was right.
"What would I do here, anyway?" Gorse continued. "Crowclaw says I wouldn't make a good warrior."
Falconpaw stared at Crowclaw. "What was that for?"
"I need an apprentice," Crowclaw mewed.
"And you think I could be it?" Gorse sounded surprised and proud. He was, Falconpaw noticed.
"I do," Crowclaw mewed. "I really do."
Gorse gave a yowl, and mewed, "I'll do it."
Gorsepaw took to the air, wings flapping. He flew through the ShadowClan forest, and crossed a small Twoleg path.
He was flying again.
At the edge of the lake, a cat waited, one he didn't recognize. He landed, skidding to a stop in front of the strange cat.
"How are you doing that?" the cat asked.
"Wings," Gorsepaw replied.
"Gorsepaw!" Falconpaw called from the air. "Come on!"
Gorsepaw took off, leaving the confused cat behind.