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Please take note:

This is my first fanfiction. I welcome feedback and questions/comments. Also: This takes place during times like Thunderstar's Echo, when cats don't have proper Clan names, but leaders have nine lives and the Clans are named. The territories are not completely accurate. Enjoy!

Storm's Journey

Chapter 1:

Storm rubbed her muzzle with her paw. The cuts on her cheek stung but were shallow. She glared at the fox, rage bubbling in her belly. That was my prey! The dog-like creature turned and bounded away, taking with it a large vole. Surviving as a rogue at all was hard, but it was nearly impossible during leaf-bare. Hunger had clawed at her stomach for days, and Storm couldn't remember the last time she'd had a full belly. 

She shook herself, shivering. No point in being angry about lost prey, she told herself. I'll just have to catch more. Glancing at her pelt, she suddenly realized how filthy she was. Her mottled brown tortoiseshell pelt was covered in dust. Once thick and glossy, it now seemed to be draped over her body. Might as well clean up, she thought to herself. But she knew she couldn't groom herself, or she'd get sick. She'd have to head down towards the stream. With a sigh, she padded away from the fox-scented trees towards the grassy plain.

She forced herself into the cold water, telling herself over and over again, This is how rogues stay clean. They didn't have the company of Clan cats. But Storm knew she didn't need a leader. She didn't need to be bossed around. At least, that's what her mother had told her. 

"Hey!" A yowl jerked her back to the present. Lifting her head, she saw three cats across from her, on the other side of the stream. "Our stream isn't for kittypets!" called the smallest, a ginger cat. An older cat cuffed her ears. "Come over here and say that!" Storm hissed, arching her back threateningly. The cat who seemed to be the leader stepped into the water. "We don't tolerate rogues or loners on our land," he growled. His black pelt rippled uneasily as Storm unsheathed her claws. Hungry as she was, she had never forgotten the fighting skills she'd been taught. "Why should I listen to you?" Storm snapped back. His green eyes flashed with anger, and he raised a paw. "It's not worth it, Night!" the other cat yowled. Night stepped back, before turning away and bounding back towards the other Clan cats. As Storm padded away, she could feel their gazes burning her pelt. Perhaps it would be nice to live with others. But Storm knew she'd given up her only chance. 

Chapter 2

Storm jumped to her paws. The grass was warm beneath her paws. Grass? It was the middle of leaf-bare! There was only snow! "Welcome," purred a soft voice. Storm pricked her ears and looked around. Gray fur flashed in the corner of her eye. She turned and was staring into the blue eyes of a gray tabby. He dipped his head in greeting. "My name is Goose Cry," he rumbled. "I was one of the first cats to find the lake, when we left our mountain home. That was countless seasons ago. The cats have changed, created Clans, and claimed territories" "Where are we?" Storm asked, tipping her head to one side. "You know what you have to do, don't you?" Goose Cry continued. "I don't have to do anything but survive," Storm growled, sliding out her claws, glinting silver in the moonlight. "That's not true," meowed another soft voice. Storm spun around. A tortoiseshell she-cat stared at her with huge green eyes that were filled with love. "Mother?" Storm whispered. "Is it really you?" "It is, my dear," the cat murmured. She reached forward and pressed her muzzle against Storm's cheek. Storm jerked her head back with a hiss. "You left me!" Her mother flinched. "I never left you, Storm," she meowed. "But I made a mistake when I provoked a fight with the Clan cats." "Was that your last mistake?" Storm whimpered. "It happened to be, yes." "Dappled Leaf," Goose Cry said. "It's time for us to go. It's nearly morning." "Don't go!" Storm cried. Dappled Leaf gazed at her, eyes rimmed with sadness. She brushed her pelt against Storm's before stepping away. "You know what you need to do." Grief tugged at Storm's heart. "You're leaving me again!" "I'll never truly leave you," Dappled Leaf promised as she began to fade. "Just do what you have to do."

Storm jerked her head up. Water seeped into her scruff. Mouse dung! I forgot to find shelter! Snow covered the ground all around her. Hunger clawed at her belly. Time to hunt. Scenting the air, she caught a whiff of shrew. Pricking her ears and glancing around, she saw a small brown creature amongst a pile of dead leaves. Sheathing her claws, she slid across the ground steadily. Now! She pounced, swiftly breaking the small animal's neck. She sank her teeth into it, eating until there was none left. It wouldn't be enough to fill her for long, but at least she had the strength to continue to hunt.

"Hey you!" meowed a loud voice. Growling softly as she heard prey scramble away, she turned her head."Do you like mice?" a russet-furred tabby called, perched on a fence. "I don't eat kittypet mush, if that's what you're wondering," Storm snapped.The tabby scratched at his ear. "What's a kittypet?" "You're a kittypet," she replied. "Do you mean a house cat? Because if that's what you mean, then yes, I am a kittypet. And my food is good." Storm gazed at him. His pelt was thick and sleek, his coat glossy. He wasn't fat, like most kittypets, but was well fed and muscular. He looked like a one of the Clan cats who lived by the river. "Are you a Clan cat?" he asked.

"No."

"Good."

"Why is that good?"

"Clan cats think they're so much better than they actually are." "Yeah," Storm agreed. The tom sat down and studied her for a moment. "What's your name?" he asked. "Storm." "That's a cool name," he meowed. "My name's Rowan." "I have to look for more food," she said. As she padded away, she heard him call, "Come visit again, Storm!"

The snow was falling faster, and the ground became layered in thick white snow. Storm was practically galloping just to move around. The cold air bit at her skin and her fur became wet as the snow melted on her pelt. Spotting a small hole in a Twoleg den, Storm bounded forward, then hesitated. What if Twolegs found her and took her? But there was no nearer shelter within eyesight. I'll just have to be careful. She slipped through the hole and wrinkled her nose at the foul scent of the Twolegs. Curling up, she drifted into sleep.

Chapter 3

A paw jabbed Storm in her side. Storm jumped up, startled. A tortoiseshell she-cat was glaring at her, her green eyes narrowed to slits. By her side were two toms. One was black and white, the other a brown tabby. "This is our place," the tortoiseshell hissed. "Not a place for homeless rogues," the brown tom added. "I'm just passing through," Storm meowed. "Are you trying to talk back?" the tortoiseshell growled. "I believe she is, Mist," the black and white tom put in, sliding out his claws. Storm crouched, lashing her tail, her patience gone. "If you want a fight, you can have one, dungface!" Looking outraged, Mist flicked her tail. The tabby tom lunged at her, claws outstretched. Storm ducked, keeping her head low, and raked his belly. He let out a screech of pain and backed away. The black and white tom was next. He tried to knock her over, slamming his head into her shoulder, but she turned and slashed his cheek with such a strong blow that he fell to the ground. Storm whirled around and sprang at Mist. She landed on the tortoiseshell's back and raked her spine with churning paws. "Get off!" Mist shrieked. Storm jumped off of her, landing neatly on her paws, and showed her teeth. "Fight her!" Mist snarled. The black and white tom glared at her, rubbing his bloody muzzle. "You fight her," he spat. "Her claws are sharp!" "Why did you attack me?" Storm hissed. "I said I was just passing through." The black and white tom stepped forward. "I am Boulder," he meowed. "This is Mouse-" he flicked his tail at the tabby tom - "and that's Mist. My mate, Cherry, is nursing kits, and some Clan cats have tried to attack her." "What has she done that's so bad that they'll attack her while she's nursing?" Boulder and Mist exchanged a glance, then Boulder continued. "She's stolen prey, attacked their cats, and caused fights between them." "In good reason," Mouse growled. "They attacked Dappled Leaf." Storm's pelt rippled. "Dappled Leaf was my mother." Mouse's yellow eyes widened. "What did she look like?" Mist demanded. "Sleek tortoiseshell with white patches and green eyes." "She's telling the truth," Boulder murmured. "Did you know her?" Storm asked. "She used to roam by this place," Mouse meowed. "She's a real great cat. Where is she, anyways?" "She's dead." The words tumbled out of Storm's mouth before she could stop them. Mist padded forward, her yellow gaze clouded with grief. "The Clan cats killed her." "Those Clan cats are ruthless," Boulder added, his fur bristling. "I was just a kit then," Storm meowed. "You're no kit now," Mouse muttered. "Why did they kill her?" "She caused trouble, just like Cherry." "Who killed her?" Mist whispered. "I don't know," Storm meowed. "I have to go. I need to hunt." "Stay and eat with us," Boulder urged. "No thanks," Storm replied. "Storm?" a voice called. Storm turned to see Rowan watching her with concern in his leaf-green eyes. "Rowan? What are you doing here?" Before he could respond, Mist sprang at him, black claws outstretched. "Get out of here!" "No!" Storm snarled with such ferocity that Mist dropped to the ground on four paws. She shot to Rowan's side. "He's done nothing wrong. Perhaps you could ask him to leave before attacking him!" Turning to face Rowan, she asked, "Why are you here?" "I was worried, Storm. It's so cold. You must be freezing. Do you want to come to my den?" His eyes were round and his voice was sincere. More feeling than I figured a kittypet would have. "I've never stayed with a Twoleg before," she told him. "And you never will need to be," Boulder growled, circling Rowan."You should go," he told Rowan. "This isn't a place for kittypets." "It's not a place for me, either," Storm spat. "I'm going too." "But you're not a kittypet!" "It doesn't matter!" Storm hissed, anger surging through her paws. Turning her back on him, her tail slicing a whisker-length away from his muzzle, she bounded out of the small Twoleg-place.

Chapter 4

"I'm sorry," Rowan meowed, catching up as Storm broke into a jog. "I didn't mean to interrupt. But you look hungry, Storm. You worried me when you left. What if you get hurt? What if you starve? You're in danger all the time." "I'm a rogue," Storm snarled, not breaking stride. "Of course I'm in danger." "Are you coming to my den?" he asked. "I'm no kittypet!" Storm spat, beginning to run. Rowan began to pant as he tried to keep up, but moons of hard living and surviving had strengthened Storm's legs and she sprinted away from him. She heard him calling after her, but ignored it.

"It's you again!" Storm paused, halfway across the stream, at the angry yowl. There was Night, and a few other cats. The black tom lunged at her. Storm reared and slashed at his muzzle. He reared to meet her attack and she sank her claws into his shoulders, shoving him to the ground and raking his belly with her claws. His Clanmates rushed into the water and dragged her off of him. Claws ripped at her neck and dug into her flank. Teeth buried themselves in her neck. Agony seared throughout her body. She turned and sank her teeth into a paw with such fury that she felt the fur split and her teeth scraped bone. Yowling in pain, some cat kicked into her exposed belly and sent her flying. As she lay there, sprawled out on the snow, her wounds began to burn. "Leave her to die," snarled one of the cats. Paw steps became softer as the cats padded away. She turned to lap at her bloody neck wound. It was a painful wound, but at least it wasn't long. It wouldn't leave a scar. She glanced at her flank. There was a jagged tear, deep and long. That one would scar. "Storm?" The whisper made Storm raise her head slightly. She was gazing into the startled green eyes of Rowan. She let out a wordless moan of pain before her vision was blurred and dark.

A gentle tongue lapped at Storm's injuries. Storm blinked open her eyes to see the mottled tortoiseshell pelt of her mother. "Dappled Leaf?" she rasped. "Hush, precious," Dappled Leaf urged. Her thick tail swished rhythmically across Storm's battered fur. Storm's throat burned. "Drink," meowed another soft voice, and a dark ginger tortoiseshell kit pushed moss soaked with water to Storm's lips. Storm sipped the moss, which tasted better than anything she'd ever drunken before. "That's a lot of wounds." commented another kit, a white kit with black-and-pale-ginger patches. "Quiet, Rain," Dappled Leaf scolded. Storm felt tiny paws pressing on her shoulders and a tongue rasping over her neck wound. "Who are you?" Storm murmured. "I'm Cloud," the dark ginger tortoiseshell kit said. "This is my sister Rain. We're Dappled Leaf's kits." "They are your sisters," her mother added. Joy filled Storm's heart. I have littermates! "We died a moon after our birth," Cloud meowed. "How did I survive, then?" "I was with you until you were three moons old, Storm. Cloud and Rain died because of starvation. I couldn't catch enough prey to feed myself." Dappled Leaf's voice cracked. "I turned my attention to you, then. As my only surviving kit, you were my world. You needed to survive. I taught you to hunt as soon as you were strong enough to leave the den. When I died, Storm, you fended for yourself. It's been two years since then. I know you don't remember then, but I never abandoned you, Storm." Rain touched her small, brown-and-pink nose to Storm's bloodied flank. "It's good to meet you." "If you look, Storm, you will realize you have a brother, too." "Is he alive?" "Alive and well," Dappled Leaf confirmed. Storm's heart soared. "Can I meet him?" "He is a rogue, like you. He goes by the name of Lightning. He is a mottled brown tom." Lightning. Storm had to remember this name. "Wake, now, little one," her mother meowed. Storm closed her eyes and was swept into a world of peace.

"You're awake." The mew was full of relief. Storm tipped her head up. Rowan was sitting in front of her. Twoleg stench filled the air. Loud noises rang in Storm's ears. "Where am I?" she asked. "You're in my Twoleg's nest," Rowan replied. "I had to carry you back here. You should eat more, Storm. You hardly weighed more than a feather. You've got food here." He nodded to a hard black leaf filled with fish-smelling mush. Storm sniffed it. Despite the fact that it had been made by Twolegs, its scent was delicious, and soon Storm found herself eating it. "Do you know any cats named Lightning?" she asked after she finished eating. "I know one cat." Rowan's reply was guarded. "What's wrong with him?" Storm demanded. "He's a mottled brown tom with yellow eyes. He's the coldest and most dangerous cat in all of the forest. Even the Clan cats don't try to take his land." My brother? Cold? No. "Where does he live?" "At the edge of the forest, south of the farm. I've hunted by his den many times." "Hunted?" "Just because I live with Twolegs doesn't mean I don't hunt," he teased. Storm struggled to her paws. Her wounds ached, but they no longer burned with such pain it made her feel sick. "I'll go see if he's there," Storm meowed. "I'll do it," Rowan offered.

"But I'm a better fighter."

"Let me do this for you, Storm. I know this place like the back of my paw."

"Ok." She'd find him later. Beside, she wanted to sleep. As the dark-furred tom slid out of the kittypet door, Storm curled and rested her head on her paws. She wondered if Rowan would be able to reason with her brother. He was friendly and funny, but also serious in times of need. He was caring, too. Storm could have died had he not brought her to his den and watched over her. A purr rumbled in her throat. He was honest, kind, humble, and funny. What better traits in a cat....or possibly a mate?

Her thoughts drifted to Lightning. Rowan had said he was cold. Perhaps the friendly tom was just hurt by Lightning's gruff manner. Once Storm introduced herself to him, surely he'd warm up. He was probably just lonely without any littermates or parents. Perhaps he knew who their father was. As Storm rolled over on her back, Cloud's frightened voice rang in her head. Rowan's in trouble!

Chapter 5

Storm jumped to her paws. She slipped through the kittypet door and broke into a sprint. Had he been attacked by Clan cats? Was Lightning okay? Had he gotten stuck?

She shook her head, trying to keep her mind clear. He might be injured and need her help. She had to be focused and prepared for a challenge.

"You fox-hearted kittypet! I've told you not to come over here countless times! And what do you do? You come back!" A rough snarl echoed from the edge of the forest. Storm skidded to a halt, heart racing. A mottled brown tom had a famailiar russet-colored tom pinned to the ground. Black claws sank into the fur around Rowan's throat as blood bubbled in puncture wounds. His ear tip was torn. She could see teeth marks along his spine, and claw marks lacerated his flanks. Rage flowed throughout her. With a roar, she sprang at the cat she thought was her brother. She slammed into his flank, knocking him on his side. She raked her claws down his side and sank her teeth into his shoulder until she tasted blood and her teeth scraped bone. He thrust his paws into her belly and shoved her off of him. He ripped his claws across her muzzle. Rowan and I are both injured, Storm thought as she reared, her leg muscles burning. Lightning reared as well, sinking his claws into her shoulders and swiping at her hind legs with his hind foot. As Storm tripped, he shoved her to the ground and raked churning paws along her spine. Storm scrabbled for a foothold as he pinned her to the ground. A loud hiss sounded, and there was a mad scrabbling at a nearby fence. The weight pressing Storm into the dirt was gone. Jumping to her paws with a flash of pain, Storm saw a silver tabby she-cat with black stripes raining a flurry of blows on the tom's head. Free from his claws, Storm sprang on the tom's shoulders, scrabbling at his spine and stripping the fur from his back. The tom slumped in defeat. "Causing trouble again, Lightning?" the she-cat hissed. Her ice-blue eyes were dark with anger. "Going so low as to attack kittypets?" "He came to me," Lightning said in defense. "So you attack him?" "What do you know, Ivy?" Lightning growled. "You're nothing but a homeless rogue." Spitting with fury, Ivy slashed his muzzle. "You're a rogue too," Storm pointed out with a growl. "But I'm not homeless, like you two are." The fence shook again. This time there was a black and white cat balanced carefully on the top. Her green eyes widened. "Are you forest cats?" she asked. Lightning rolled his eyes. "Kittypets," he muttered. Rowan bristled defensively, and Storm brushed her pelt against his. "You call this a home?" Ivy asked, her voice scathing. "It's a place that I come back to after I hunt, where I sleep, and where I store my food." He turned to Storm. "What's your name?" Storm sheathed her claws. "Storm." "What did you want?" "Our mother is Dappled Leaf. I came to see if what I thought was true was actually true." Hostility faded from Lightning's eyes, and was replaced with sorrow. "Dappled Leaf thought I was dead," he meowed. "I was taken by a fox when I was two moons old. But the fox got in a fight with a badger, and I got away." Storm noticed his tail. It was only a stub, and a scar showed on the end. "I never knew that I had a sister." He stepped closer to Storm. "But I'm so glad that I do."

Chapter 6

"Come on, Rowan!" Storm called. The dark tom had been leaving his Twoleg nest more and more often. In the six moons that had passed since Storm met Lightning, leaf-bare had ended and newleaf began, nearly at an end, and then greenleaf would begin. Prey returned, the snow melted, and a warm sun shone through the trees. Storm's pelt glowed again and her ribs no longer showed through her fur.

Storm glanced back at Rowan. He was a kittypet; yet he was muscular and strong. The way his dark red stripes slid over his russet pelt; the way his leaf-green eyes shone with anticipation of a challenge; the way the stream sparkled around him as he swam. Every minute she got with him was a minute she cherished.

"We should catch something big today," Storm told him. Rowan flicked his ears in response, a vole in his jaws. "Perhaps we-" Storm didn't finish her sentence. Familiar screeches sounded nearby. Rowan pricked his ears. "That's Mist, Boulder, and Mouse!" "Where's Lightning?" Storm demanded. "Hunting, I thought," Rowan muttered with a flick of his ears. "What is it?" Storm asked sharply. "He's not as trustworthy as you may think," Rowan warned. Ignoring him, Storm began to follow the sound.

Mist clung to Lightning's back. She bit into his spine again and again, but her jaws weren't strong enough to break the bone. With a flick of his paw, Lightning dragged the tortoiseshell from his back and slammed her on the ground, raking his claws down her side. Mouse darted forward and sank his teeth into Lightning's scruff while Boulder lashed out at his face. Lightning ripped free of Mouse, kicking him away, then spun around and rained blows on Boulder's head. The black-and-white tom blinked away blood from his eyes and sprang at Lightning, raking his throat. Lightning fell back with a grunt, and Mouse sank his teeth into Lightning's neck. "Stop!" Storm cried, sinking her claws into Mouse's shoulders and hauling him away from Lightning. "You'll kill him!" Mouse staggered from the force of her paws. Lightning hurled himself forward and drew his claws across Mouse's throat in a single powerful slash. Mouse dropped to the ground with blood pouring from his neck. Mist shot to his side with a wail. "Mouse!" Storm froze, shock rippling throughout her, as Mouse convulsed on the ground. He let out a choking sound which was cut short, and then slumped, lifeless. Lightning had killed another cat! The mottled tom licked his paw. Mist buried her nose in Mouse's pelt, while Boulder glared at Storm. "If you hadn't pulled him off of Lightning, he'd be alive." Storm felt anger begin to churn in her belly. "He would have killed Lightning!" "But who are you to decide which life is more precious?" Rowan murmured. Storm stared at him. He thought that she was wrong in saving her brother! "Kin is more important than anything! I had to save him first!" Boulder shook his head, and blinked at Storm sadly. "I thought I knew you well enough that you'd stick with what's right. But I guess I was wrong." With that, he grabbed Mouse and nudged Mist, and they walked away.

Storm turned to Rowan, but he backed away. "You too?" Storm could hardly believe that he would turn his back on her. "Kin is more important than anything?" he repeated. Storm fluffed out her tail in fury. "He's my brother! Of course I'd protect him first!" "Before me?" Rowan hissed. Storm opened her mouth to respond, but hesitated. Would she? Rowan was her close friend, who had been at her side all throughout leaf-bare and newleaf. Six moons she had known him. But Lightning was her only living kin. How could she let him die?

Rowan's sigh jerked her back to the present. "I knew it," he hissed. "You never loved me." "I can't leave Lightning! He's kin! My only living kin! I have to stay with him; it's my destiny. I don't have a choice!" "You always have a choice," Rowan growled, turning his back on her, his parting words breaking her heart. "And I thought you had chosen me."

Chapter 7

Storm stared after Rowan. The russet tabby bounded away. "Back to his Twolegs," Lightning sneered. Rage pierced Storm like a thorn. Spinning around, she lunged at her brother. Knocking him to the ground with a vicious blow, she hissed in his face. "You murdering snake-heart!" she spat. "Everything Rowan said about you was true!" Lightning batted at her belly with his hind claws, but Storm didn't flinch, sinking her teeth into his neck and thrusting her paws into his belly, shoving him. Lightning jumped to his paws and sprang at her, but rage made her fearless and ruthless, and she reared and caught his weight in her forepaws, flinging him to the ground and raking his spine with churning paws. Yowling in agony, Lightning wriggled away from her. Blood dripped from his neck. "That fox-hearted excuse for a cat asked to be killed," he hissed. With a snarl of pure fury, Storm flew at her brother again, ferociously slicing her claws downward and opening a gash in his shoulder. Lightning rolled onto his paws and aimed a blow at her muzzle. The sting of torn flesh only further infuriated Storm, and she ignored the blood splashing her muzzle. She snaked underneath his belly and heaved her shoulders, the heavy tom rolling down her back. As soon as he hit the ground, she sank her teeth into his neck and held him on the ground, planting her paws around him.

"Let me go, will you?" he growled, writhing in an attempt to free himself. "You killed Mouse. He was my friend!" "You think I haven't lost friends?" Lightning hissed. "At least I didn't kill them!" Storm spat back. Lightning didn't answer. Storm tugged at his neck and he screeched in agony. With a last cuff over his ear, Storm jumped off of him and fled.

Anger churned in her belly once more. Why had Lightning killed Mouse? Storm had separated the two tom-cats. And still, they wanted to fight. She couldn't believe both Boulder and Rowan, her closest friend, had blamed her. To think I trusted them both!

Worse, were they right? Should she have let Mouse kill Lightning? Hadn't Rowan warned her that Lightning was dangerous? Was she becoming just like her brother?

As she slowed to a halt, she realized she had no idea where she was. She was close to a Thunderpath, the stink of monsters faint in the air, but she was in a forest.

"What are you doing on ThunderClan territory?" hissed a smoky gray tabby with wide, dark stripes along his flanks. He was limping on one paw, but he still looked powerful. Muscles rippled as he flexed his claws, ready for a fight. "I want to join your Clan." The words tumbled out of Storm's mouth. Another cat, light brown with a white tail tip, blinked at her. Her gaze was calm. "Why?" "Living as a rogue is hard," Storm said. "So is living in a Clan," the tabby growled. Storm fixed him with a clear blue gaze. "Sure, you must protect your boundaries and feed your cats, even in leaf-bare, when I only need to feed myself. But you have shelter every night. You do not need to travel a day's length to find a nest. You don't have to worry about dying alone." The two cats stared at her. Finally, the dark tabby spoke. "Those are all good reasons," he growled. His hackles had lowered. "But we must take you to our leader."

Beckoning Storm with a flick of her tail, the she-cat led the way through a dense patch of brambles and thorn. Storm forced herself not to wince when thorns raked her flanks. "What are you called?" the tabby asked. "Storm," she meowed. "I am Hawk," he introduced himself. "And I am Beech," the she-cat added. "Our leader is Blizzard. She may seem stern, but she knows how to lead this Clan." Storm kept silent, nose flaring as she took in all the different scents. Pungent herbs clouded her nose. She heard kits mewling, and a mother speaking to them. The ground beneath her paws vibrated as muscle thudded against earth. As she crossed through an opening lined with stones, cat scent overwhelmed her.

A lean, muscular brown-and-white tom crossed her path. "Who is this, Beech?" he hissed. Beech opened her mouth to answer, but he fixed her with a furious amber glare. "Another outsider? We might as well recruit every stray in the forest, with all the cats you bring in." Indignation flushed in Storm's pelt, but she kept her muzzle shut. "What's your name, stray?" he asked mockingly. "Storm," she answered, struggling to keep her fur flat. "I think Blizzardstar can deal with this, don't you, Fennel Claw?" Hawk growled. Fennel Claw curled his lip. "Fine. But if she refuses to take this outsider in, don't ever bring her back." "I know." Fennel Claw slid his claws out. Silver and hooked, just like mine. And Lightning's. A pang of sadness tugged at her heart as she remembered her last encounter with her brother. But she pushed it away.

"Come on, Storm," Beech meowed. "Blizzard?" Hawk called into a dark, large hollowed den. "Can we speak to you?" "Of course," rumbled a voice from inside. Pawsteps sounded as the leader padded into the light. At once, Storm was struck by her beauty.

She was white with thick black stripes that rippled across her lean form, her pelt groomed to shining sleekness. Her blue eyes were clear as she met Hawk's green gaze. "Who is this?" she asked Beech. "This is Storm. She would like to join ThunderClan." "She was a rogue before she wanted to join us," added Hawk. Storm stood still as Blizzard circled her, her gaze flitting over Storm's pelt. The leader took in her scent.

At last, Blizzard halted in front of Storm. "I trust you know what it means to live in a Clan. We are still growing, so I will accept you. But if you betray us, Storm, you will regret it." Relief flooded Storm's pelt. "Thank you, Blizzard," she said, dipping her head. "You can take a nest in the warriors den. We have plenty of extra dens. But you can do that later. For now, you can join one of our hunting patrols." She raised her voice. "Owl! Otter! Pike!" Three cats sauntered over to her. "Take this cat, Storm, hunting." Otter, a broad-shouldered light gray tom with blue eyes, turned to look at Storm. "Welcome to ThunderClan!" he purred. "My name is Otter. This is my sister, Pike-" he nodded to a dark gray she-cat "- and her mate, Owl." The massive brown tom waved his tail in greeting. "I'm Hawk's littermate. I presume you've met him." Worn over by the tom's friendly greeting, Storm let out a purr. "Yes, I've met him and Beech." "I suppose we should take you on a tour of the territory." Pike spoke up. The quiet she-cat tipped her head. "But we should probably hunt first." "I hope you can hunt, stray," Fennel Claw sneered. "I'm expecting three pieces of prey from you. Any cat in this Clan could catch that much. Can you?" Storm held back a snarl, containing it in a single lash of her tail. "She'll catch as much prey as she can," Otter retorted. "Right," Owl meowed. "We don't need you staring over our shoulders." Fennel Claw flattened his ears. "Come along, Storm," Pike called, and Storm and the two toms joined her.

"Go ahead and hunt, Storm. I'll watch your form and show you how ThunderClan cats hunt." Pricking her ears, Storm listened for the faintest sound. Nothing. She opened her mouth to taste the air. Pigeon?

Twisting her head, careful not to make any noise, she scanned the trees. The gray-and-white bird was perched on a branch, its back facing the hunting cats. Storm slid her pads carefully over the grass, putting her weight evenly on her four paws. Now! She leapt at it, claws outstetched. The bird flew off with a startled caw. I won't let you go that easily! Storm launched herself at the bird, excitement giving her strength. She caught it between her paws. When she landed, she heard a snap! and she knew it had broken its neck.

Triumph spread throughout her pelt. Padding back to her Clanmates, she dropped the prey at Owl's paws. "Was that alright?" "Alright?" asked Otter. "That was great! You were silent as the wind, and your hind legs are so strong!" "Magnificence," Pike added. "You'll be a true ThunderClan member in no time." Owl nodded in agreement. Storm purred. "Thank you. But I must find more prey."

By the time she had finished hunting, Storm had caught a mouse and two voles. "Great StarClan, Storm! You must have fed yourself well throughout leaf-bare!" Pike exclaimed. Pride surged through Storm's pelt. "You showed me new techniques as well," she pointed out. "I never thought about working in a team to catch prey." As well as Storm's catches, the group had caught two squirrels and a fat rabbit.

"Wow! You caught a lot of prey!" exclaimed Beech. She was at the camp entrance. Her loud voice brought other cats clustering around the returning hunters. Two cats, who looked to be around nine moons old, stared up at them with amazement in their eyes. "You're a truly good addition to ThunderClan," murmured Hawk, who had joined Beech. He lifted his large head and flicked a feathered ear as his green gaze met Storm's, full of warmth. Embarrassment flooded through Storm at his praise, but a tiny flicker of warmth flashed through her. It felt good to be away from the Twolegplace cats' criticism. As more purrs rose around her, she joined in. Only Fennel Claw stood apart, his ears flattened.

"Are her catches good enough for you, Fennel Claw?" Owl asked innocently. Fennel Claw bared his teeth and slid out his claws, but didn't comment. Triumph flared in Storm's pelt for a moment, but then she caught the pain in his eyes. This tom was clearly struggling with something that she knew she'd never understand. As long as it didn’t involve her, she was fine.

"I don't think you've met Dew yet," Beech meowed, guiding Storm to a thick-furred silver she-cat. Her belly was round with kits. "Congratulations," Storm told her. "Welcome to ThunderClan," Dew responded. She flicked Storm's ear kindly. "I hear you're a good hunter," she purred. "Maybe you'll be able to teach one of my kits to hunt." "I'll look forward to it," Storm meowed, meaning it.

"And here's one of our Clan elders. Her name is Misty Feather." An old she-cat glanced up. Her pelt was lacerated with nasty scars, and a part of her lip was torn from her face, from which a snaggletooth stuck out. She blinked at Storm without saying anything. "She doesn't say much," Beech murmured into Storm's ear.

"And her ears ain't too sharp," rasped another cat, a ragged she-cat with a mottled gray tabby pelt. "Are you Hawk's mother?" Storm asked. "We look quite alike, don't we?" The old she-cat trembled with laughter. "Naw, I'm 'his mother's sister." "Her name is Thorn." "I can introduce myself, thanks," she snapped. "Just as prickly," Beech added. "I heard you can hunt. You sure got Hawk in a trance. He's finally after a fine-lookin' she-cat like yourself." Storm's pelt crawled with embarrassment, and she was glad when Beech led her out of the elders' den.

"You haven't met our medicine cat. Her name is Primrose." Storm blinked as a stunning, golden-furred she-cat entered her vision. Her pelt was long, her tail feathery. Her eyes were a piercing leaf-green, and they met Storm's own blue eyes before she dipped her head. Storm noticed she had two identical white streaks beneath her eyes and white ear tips, which tapered gently to her narrow muzzle. "Hello," she purred. "I am Primrose. If you don't know already, I am the Clan's medicine cat. Come to me if you are injured or sick. I will do my best to heal you." She narrowed her beautiful green eyes. "You seem to have a scratch on your muzzle. Come in." Storm glanced back at Beech. "What am I supposed to do?" she hissed. "Just follow her and listen. She's very kind."

"To treat your wound, I will be using cobweb and dried oak leaf. Dried oak leaf will prevent any infection, while cobweb stops bleeding." As she pressed the cobweb to Storm's muzzle, a warm feeling spread over her. It felt good to be cared for. "How did you learn this?" Storm asked as she began to chew the leaves. "I was taught by a cat named Hazel." She picked up the poultice and smeared it deep into Storm's wound. Pain seared through Storm's face and she let out a yip of pain. "I apologize," Primrose murmured. "I did not warn you of the pain." She lapped at Storm's muzzle. "You can go, but I advise you to rest. Keep that cobweb on until you go to sleep!"

"Hi Storm," Hawk meowed. "I've been looking for you. I made you a nest." He beckoned her with his tail, leading her into the warriors' den.

He had created a well-sized nest embedded with feathers and warm moss. There wasn't a thorn or twig in sight. As Storm crawled into it, she realized it was padded with thicker moss than the outsides, and it had been sun-dried so it was still warm. She looked up at Hawk, a purr rumbling in her throat. "That was kind of you, Hawk." The dark gray tabby dipped his head and scuffed his paws on the ground, ears flattened in embarrassment. "Come and share prey," called an unfamiliar she-cat. Her fur was thick and black, her plumy tail tipped with white, and her orange eyes warm. "I think my kits want to meet you. The apprentices have given you a name, you know. 'Legendary Hunter'." Storm beamed with happiness. "Okay," she agreed. "I'll come." Hawk followed her out as she padded after the black she-cat.

"My name is Nettle Branch. Before I joined, I was a rogue, like you. Not as good of a hunter, though." Nettle Branch gave her chest a few embarrassed licks. "I'm glad I joined, though. I met Spiky Tail, and we had a litter." "Does ThunderClan take in a lot of rogues?" "The leader of ThunderClan before Blizzard traveled from far away, beside an ocean. She was a rogue herself, and her name was Lightning. Her closest friend was Thunderclap. Thunderclap saved Lightning and the other cats she traveled with from a pair of foxes, but she died. In honor of Thunderclap, when Lightning created the one of the four Clans, she named it ThunderClan."

"At this time of day, Storm, we usually eat and bask in the sun," Hawk explained.