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Essay
This page contains a fan fiction written by Eclipseoftheredmoon.
This page contains the opinions of the original author(s), and is not patrolled for factual accuracy.
Remember that this story is non-canon. It may contain false characters, plots, or locations.
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Allegiances

ThunderClan

Leader- Stormstar- dark grey she-cat with large black paws, black tail and muzzle with silver eyes.

Deputy- Blacktail- White cat with black tail and amber eyes.

Kits

Starlingkit- grey she-cat with white chest and black paws with green eyes.

Nightkit- black tom with silver eyes.

Rainkit- white she-cat with one black paw and a black spot around one of her eyes. Amber eyes.

Queen(s)

Ambereyes- White she cat with ginger spots and amber eyes. kit- Rainkit

Stormstar (only in the nursery after sundown taking care of her kits)- kits;- Starlingkit, Nightkit

Elders

Buttercup- pale cream she-cat with amber eyes.

Whitetooth- white tom with a greying muzzle and blue eyes.


Mythological Clans

LeopardClan

Leader- Onestar, mate- Sharpclaw

Warriors (incomplete)

Silentfoot- a male leopard.

Stonepelt- a male leopard as big as a warrior from LionClan and brother to Onestar.

Whitestone- a male leopard.

Runningwind- a leopardess.

Kits

Hailkit- a male leopard.

Ravenkit- a male leopard.

Appentices (all siblings)

Thymepaw- a male leopard.

Boulderpaw- a male leopard.

Burrowpaw- a male leopard.

Queens

Kestrelsong, kits- unnamed.

Sharpclaw, kits- Hailkit, Ravenkit.

LionClan

Leader- Shinningstar- a lioness

TigerClan

Leader- Thornstar- a male tiger.




The Blurb


A novella like story about a young kit born into the Mythological Clan of LeopardClan, he is born of a different colour to all those in the Clan. Is he an omen or nothing more than a mis-coloured kit. Some think that he is a curse to the Clan and should be exiled others believe that he is harmless. But will he stay in the Clan? What shall happen to this young kit wanting nothing more than to serve the clan that he loves.


Prologue

"Hey Stormstar, we want to go with the gathering, with you!" meowed a little black tom kit bouncing around his mothers large paws. Stormstar, a large grey she-cat with large black paws, a black tail and black muzzle, mrrowed a bit of laughter at her kit's eagerness to become a warrior in ThunderClan and join her at the gatherings were all cats of the Clans and leaders surrounding the lake gathered to share news about their Clans.

"No, Nightkit. You have to wait until your an apprentice before you may go to the gatherings," she mewed back to her kit.

"But it's so boring here without you!" cried Stormstar's other kit, Starlingkit grey like Stormstar but lighter and she had white on her chest and black paws like her mothers paws.

"What do you mean boring?" Stormstar inquired to her daughter.

"There is nothing much to do and we've already explored the entire camp!" Starlingkit mewed annoyed.

"But what about playing with Rainkit, training to be apprentices and play fighting with Nightkit as well?"

"We've done all that and Rainkit doesn't play fight!" moaned Nightkit, "She's too much of a scaredy-mouse!"

"Nightkit! That is not very nice of you!" scolded Stormstar.

"Can't you stay here and tell us another story from the ancient Clans?" asked Starlingkit her eyes growing round as she pleaded for her mother to stay.

Stormstar sighed, however much she wanted to be with here with her kits and wouldn't mind staying and telling her kits another story to keep them entertained. She was the leader of ThunderClan and she would have to go to the gathering with all the other leaders and the other warriors, it was a part of the warrior code and duty to her Clan. It only happened once every full-moon, why were her kits being such a nuisance on this night?

"I cannot stay and you both know that," chided Stormstar.

Nightkit and Starlingkit looked downcast at their paws and Stormstar felt sorry that she grumped at her kits, they were only bore, energetic and far too eager to become warriors. Still they would have to wait another 3 moons before they would become apprenticed and until then they would have to put up with being bored and being away from their mother. A thought then struck her. Buttercup the pale cream elder knew all kinds of stories told from the ancient Clans and she would know something that would put these kits to ease and hopefully to sleep before Stormstar came back from the gathering.

"Come my kits, let's go and see Buttercup. She'll look after you," Stormstar mewed.

Nightkit and Starlingkit looked at each other confused for a moment and followed their mother reluctantly. Stormstar first went to the nursery below a thick bramble bush and pocked her head inside, "Rainkit come with me, I am taking Starlingkit and Nightkit to go and see Buttercup and I'd like you to come along too," she mewed inside the den. A moment later a little white she-cat with one black paw and a black spot around her eye came tumbling out of the nursery with her mother, a white and ginger spotted she-cat, came following after.

The white and ginger she-cat, Ambereyes, shook her head to try and shake the sleep from her mind, "What is this all about, Stormstar?" the she-cat asked through a great big yawn.

"I thought I could take our kits to go and see Buttercup so she can tell them a story before they go to sleep," whispered Stormstar into Ambereye's ears. The she-cat nodded and happiness showed on her face, she seemed to like the idea that Stormstar had and followed her and the kits at the back of the group towards the elders den, which was found underneath a old rotting beech tree.

"Stormstar, are we going?" asked a large white tom with a black tail across from the middle of the clearing.

"One moment! I'm taking the kits to Buttercup!" Stormstar called back to the large tom, who tilted his head to one side in confusion and reply. Stormstar pushed through some of the branches that blocked the way to the elders den and broke some of them along the way, while her kits followed along quite happily, not encountering any troubles thanks to their small size. They eventually came to a small den with a couple of mossy nests inside and on top of them were two elders one white, with a greying muzzle and the pale cream she-cat that was Buttercup sitting behind the white tom.

The white tom lifted his head from sleep and blinked greetings to his clan leader, "Good day, my leader. How can we help you?" the tom said formerly.

"I have come to ask if Buttercup would share one of the tales she knows from the ancient Clans," replied Stormstar, nodding her greeting to the elders. The pale she-cat who was behind the white elder raised up and shook her pelt clean from the moss that clung to it and turned to her leader and blinked slowly, her amber eyes glowing with wisdom and happiness, to be telling another story to the leaders kits.

"I would be happy to tell the kits a tale of old," she mewed. Her voice was not crackling with age yet, but her body was shaky and slim and her pelt pale, depicting some age to her. "Come Whitetooth, give up some of your moss with mine for these kits to rest on," she mewed to the white tom and began to paw at her nest removing some of the moss. Whitetooth gladly obliged to Buttercups request and began to paw at his. Stormstar purred and left the elder to tell her tale with her kits in safe hands with the elders and Ambereyes to watch them, she could leave silently and head to the gathering, while her kits waited for Ambereyes to begin her tale.

Buttercup set down some of he moss in a pile and Whitetooth set down his creating a nest just big enough for all three kits to sit in. Starlingkit, Rainkit and Nightkit sat themselves down in the nests and happily turned their full attention to the pale she-cat who plopped herself down in Whitetooth's nest while he sat beside Ambereyes and began to share tongues with her.

"Right I know just the story for you three," Buttercup began. "It took place a long, long time ago many moons before the cats came home to the lake-"

"The cats didn't used to live by the lake!" cut in Nightkit surprised that the Clan cats didn't always live by the lake.

Ambereyes let out a little mrrow and continued, "Yes little one, but that is a story for another night. This story stretches far back to the ancestors of our ancestors, the giant cats that used to roam the forest of old. This a story from LeopardClan, a Clan faster than warriors from WindClan, stronger than ThunderClan. And the tale about the warrior born without spots..."




It was moon high at the time of the full moon and the time of the gathering in the old forest. In a camp beside the river that flowed down a gorge, a leopard queen was ready to welcome her kits into the world. Another leopard who was leader of the Clan and mate to the leopardess paced up and down outside a elder bush that separated him and his mate in the nursery, he was Onestar a fierce warrior leader. Faster than any hare or rabbit, any dog or Twoleg and as brave as a lion from LionClan. He huffed and puffed as he fretted over the arrival of his kits worried that something bad would happen to them, and his mates groans and moans just made him more on edge.

Another leopard came from afar from trees that lined the edge of the LeopardClan encampment. The leopard moved hurriedly over to Onestar and stopped him in his track, "Calm down, Onestar, you're kits will come in time," the leopard meowed.

"It is not that they will come in their own time, Silentfoot," snapped the Clan leader. "I am worried about them being okay."

Silentfoot rested his tale on the Clan leaders shoulder comforting him, trying to make him relax and looked at him through sympathetic green eyes, "I know that this can be a worrisome time, in a tom's life. But Sharpclaw is a healthy strong she-cat, she will be able to bring these kits into the world. And she has Runningwind with her, she will do fine,"

Just as Slientfoot said mentioned her name, Runningwind poked her head through a tunnel at the entrance of the elder-bush. She glanced at her leader with silver eyes, "Come, Onestar, you're kits are here at last!" she meowed through a sigh of relief. Onestar sprang past Runningwind as fast as he could and almost bowled her over, Silentfoot helped her steady herself and followed his leader through the tunnel. On the one side of the den, there was a large moss and feather nest in the middle of a small clearing, just enough for two or three cats to be sit in with the a queen. And to the other side was Onestar's mate with their newborn kits.

Sharpclaw was cleaning her kits when Onestar came through the reeds and she greeted him with a bush down his muzzle he did the same as well. Runningwind and Silentfoot sat before the tunnel that led into the nursery and watch on over the two leopards. "You have 2 gorgeous kits, my love," Sharpclaw panted and she nuzzled the two kits closer to her belly for them to feed. Her tale was wrapped tightly around them covering them from most of Onestar's view. The kits let out mews of indignation as their mother pressed them closer. Onestar then noticed one of the kits was not like the other one. The kits head was black it had no spots, nor yellow to its pelt. The kit was completely black, it was odd and strange and Onestar was unsure how to react.

"What is wrong with that kit?" he worriedly mew and pointed with his muzzle to the black kit squirming and mewling at its mother. Runningwind stepped forward to Onestar's side.

"I do not know. He arrived just like that, I cleaned him and so did Sharpclaw, but the kit remained that colour. Do you believe that it is an omen?" she asked.

"I don't know," meowed Onestar honestly.

"Quiet both of you!" snapped Sharpclaw, "How could you talk like that about you're own son?" she cried defensively. Onestar was unsure how to react to his mate and unsure what to do about the kit, was it really an omen or an age of a new kind of leopard. What was he to do?

"I know you want you kits to be the same, but Ravenkit might not be," commented Runningwind.

"Stop it! Stop it, now! You make speculations about him, before he has had a chance to live. How do you know that he will bring something bad! You might be wrong and I will not have you treating my kit like this!" she pressed her kits closer to her, the kits began to fall asleep and she wrapped herself around them shielding them from their eyes. "Leave now! And don't think about coming back. Not until you stop being so kit-like!"

Onestar did as his mate asked of him and left her alone with Runningwind, Silentfoot followed out after him and they headed towards the river. Silentfoot caught up to his leader and began discussion with him, "Do you really believe that he will be an omen to LeopardClan," asked Silentfoot.

"I do not know," replied Onestar worrying for his Clan. "It could be all this worry for nothing...it could be all...for nothing," he mewed deeply.




Chapter I

The morning sun shone brightly on the forest land below, illuminating the trees and the reeds in LeopardClan's territory, with its warming glow. Cats wandered around the grass land talking to one another, others went off in search for prey. A light breeze blew through the territory and the air the tree's rustled lightly under its touch and in the bushes below the trees something else was causing them to rustle harder. A small black leopard kit jumped out from the bushes and into the glowing rays of the sun and the cool soft grass of the territory. The kit puffed out his chest and sniffed the air letting the breeze fill his scent glands with all the different smells of the territory. He fluffed out his black pelt soaking in the warmth, he was only motionless for a few heartbeats and his pelt was already nice and warm.

More rustling came from the bushes behind the kit and an instant later in a flash of yellow and black, another kit came swiftly from behind and charged into the kit who was sitting in the opening. "Ha got you Ravenkit!" yowled the spotted leopard.

"Hey no fair!" exclaimed Ravenkit and pushed his brother off of him. "I wasn't paying attention to you!"

"That's why it was so easy to sneak up on you!" the leopard began to laugh. "Even with all that rustling, I still could!"

Ravenkit turned around in a huff and flicked his tail in anger at his brother, Hailkit had always been a nuisance even when they had their eyes closed, he often would bug Ravenkit. Pounding him with his soft paws or stealing his milk spot from his mother. Still he enjoyed playing with him and getting into mischief.

"Ah!" cried Ravenkit as he was bowled over by his brother again for a second time and began to wrestle with him trying to get him off.

"You're such a daydreamer, Ravenkit," meowed Hailkit through pumbles of his brother's paws.

"Am not!" protested Ravenkit.

"Are too!" the two kits bickered between each other until Ravenkit managed to push his brother away from him. Ravenkit leapt up and flicked his tail in annoyance as his brother stumbled up in laughter.

"Come on!" yowled Hailkit and he shot off heading towards a group of warriors who where sitting in a circle around each other talking in quite mews. Ravenkit bounded after him his paws hitting the ground in light thuds and the breeze swishing through his ears turning them cold along with his nose. His blood rushed to his ears and took his mind off of everthing around him. Ravenkit wasn't paying any attention to where he was going and went head strong into a warrior who was emerging from the trees not far from the nursery where Ravenkit and Hailkit slept.

"Oof!" Ravenkit slammed into the warriors front leg and fell onto his back. He scrambled up a moment later and shook his head clear from the dizziness that he sustained from the collision. He looked around and faced back to the leopard warrior who was staring down at him through narrowed eyes. Ravenkit drew back in fear, he had never seen a warrior quite as big as he was, he was even bigger than one star, Ravenkit and Hailkit's father. He was like a LionClan warrior but had the pelt and litheness of a LeopardClan warrior. It was Stonepelt, a proud and brave warrior and if he was angry with Ravenkit. Ravenkit knew that he wouldn't be liked by him after that.

"Watch were you're going, false-born," Stonepelt mewed icily at Ravenkit and Ravenkit flinched at his harshness. He didn't think that he did anything that bad, he was just a bit of a mouse-brain for not paying attention to where he was going. "You shouldn't be here, you're a false-born a curse to LeopardClan," Stonepelt hissed and marched off through the grass land and headed up LeopardClan's territory, stepping around Ravenkit as he went.

Hailkit bounded over from where he was standing near the group of warriors. The warriors had taken no notice in the incident that just happened between Ravenkit and Stonepelt and they didn't even seem to notice Hailkit. "What was that about?" asked Hailkit.

"Stonepelt, called me 'false-born,' what does that even mean?" he asked his brother and Hailkit just shrugged his answer. The two kits watched Stonepelt wander off into the territory of LeopardClan for a few heartbeats before Hailkit leapt up and pushed his brother.

"Come on, let's leave Stonepelt to his grumpiness and lets go and see if we can find anything fun to do!" he meowed and headed towards the bushes passed the near the group of warriors. Ravenkit followed him shortly after and began to wriggle himself into the bushes as he did he turned to see that a couple of the warriors from the group were watching him through suspicious eyes. Ravenkit hurried himself further into the bushes away from their staring eyes.

On the other side of the them, there was a small opening where talls trees stood shielding the sun from shinning directly onto the ground. The trees casted dozens of shadows around the clearing mostly of leaves that swayed in the breeze and other small things. There was nothing around in the small clearing but it was only just big enough to fit a fully sized LeopardClan warrior inside. There was only one scent and Ravenkit couldn't recognize it when he sniffed the ground, but it was old and stale. Who ever the cat was, he had long since disappeared. Hailkit was wandering around the edge of the small clearing sniffing different leafs that had fallen to the ground, different bushes and different tree trunks.

Ravenkit ceased the chance to pounce on his brother while he was distracted by what ever he was seeking out and landed on top of him, flattening him. Hailkit wriggled underneath him and turned onto his back and started to paw at Ravenkit's belly, "Get off me!" he exclaimed but Ravenkit wasn't going to he was going to get back at his brother for pouncing on him earlier. Hailkit pushed with his hind legs against Ravenkit's belly and managed to heave him off. Ravenkit stumbled onto the ground and regained his balance while Hailkit got up more slowly and let out a snort.

"I could smell Onestar and Runningwind," he mewed quietly, "Their not too far away but they passed through those bushes over there," he pointed to where he had been sniffing and Ravenkit checked the air and sure enough he could smell his father, faintly but it was drifting through the bushes nearby. Hailkit dropped into a hunters crouch and began to push through the bushes following the smell. Ravenkit followed his brother, who followed his fathers scent smell. Through ferns, brambles, blackberry bushes and other bits that grew in this part of the forest, and soon their fathers scent became stronger.

Hailkit halted and flicked his tail across Ravenkit's mouth and he spat it out with a "Pah!" and a look of disgust and started to lick away his brothers fur. "Sshhh, be quiet!" whispered Hailkit looking at his brother grumpily and signaled with his muzzle through the bushes ahead. "I can hear Onestar and Runningwind," he whispered quieter. Ravenkit moved closer to his brother and heard the muffled mews of their father and the leopardess who helped bring Ravenkit and Runningwind into the world. Ravenkit could distinguish her scent easily from her fathers, because she was the second one that he smelled after being born, her scent was sweet and had a warm feeling about it, like his mothers. But not long after his birth, a day or two maybe, she had stopped visiting them and gone back to her duties as a warrior and he rarely saw her. The only other time that he did, was when Sharpclaw, Ravenkit's mother, was complaining about a lump in her stomach and saying that it was giving her pains. After that, Sharpclaw had vanished for nights on end, and only visited on occasion. Hailkit and Ravenkit would often sleep alone in the nursery, though there was another leopardess in the nursery with them. She had her own kits to attend to.

Ravenkit strained his ears to hear what his father and Runningwind were discussing and why were they discussing it in secret?

"I tell you, Runningwind, it is because of that kit that Sharpclaw is ill!" he exclaimed but not loud enough for others to hear. Who are they talking about? Wondered Ravenkit.

"You're probably over worrying, Onestar. Yes it is in her stomach, but Ravenkit and Hailkit were inside her womb another part of her body," commented Runningwind.

"A different part of the body, maybe. But it is still near her stomach and that is why she has a lump inside it. It's that kit's fault, I knew he was false-born and now our Clan will pay," Ravenkit herd his father begin to pase back and forth, "What are we going to do for Sharpclaw, I don't want to loose her!" he cried.

"You will not loose her Onestar. Sharpclaw is strong, she will make it through," Runningwind tried to persuade her leader that everything would be alright. But Onestar did not believe in Runningwind's comment.

"The sickness is already making her weak, what ever it is and it wont be long before-" Onestar was cut off by the sound of rustling another scent drifted into Ravenkit's nose. It was Whitestone a leopard warrior, he seemed to be edgy about something.

"I've smelled TigerClan in our territory, my leader!" the leopard warrior puffed to Onestar.

"Where?" he asked quickly.

"Along the northern border, by the river!"

"Have they stollen our prey?"

"No!" Whitestone exclaimed, "But they were inside our territory, I don't know why, it doesn't make sense. It seem as though they have done anything but trespass,"

"I doubt that is all they have done, I will come and see for myself!" decided Onestar and he began to set off with Runningwind by his side, he wasn't far away when he heard another comment by his father, but it was too quiet for Ravenkit to tell exactly. But it sounded like, 'I hope for the sake of that kit, everything will be alright.' But Ravenkit doubted it that was what he said, why was he saying this about him? His father wouldn't treat him the same way as Stonepelt, would he? Ravenkit shook the thought from his head and peered out of the undergrowth with his brother at his side. "What was that all about?" wondered Hailkit, a more confused tone in his voice than before. It seemed as though he too was concerned about what their father was talking about. Did Hailkit have the same suspicions as the rest of them. No he can't do, we still play fight and practice our hunting moves. He wouldn't do that if he hated me.

"It sounded like they were talking about the lump in mother's belly, that she complained about when she was with us in the nursery," replied Ravenkit.

"Do you think it's going to kill her," Hailkit turned to his brother with rheumy eyes and a look of utter sorrow, Ravenkit didn't want to loose his mother either. She was the only one who was really nice to him and Hailkit, warm, soft, loving and kind. If she died what would happen to Ravenkit and Hailkit would they just be abandoned in their own Clan?

"I hope not," Ravenkit tried to sound as though he was brave for his mother, but failed not even in the deepest part of his heart at that time did he believe that what ever was inside his mothers stomach wasn't going to kill her and the way that his father and Runningwind had met like this, it seemed to cement in more in stone. Ravenkit and Hailkit turned back into the bushes from where they came and exited to forest back into the grasslands before the river, the day didn't seem so bright anymore...




Chapter II

Back out into the grasslands, Ravenkit and Hailkit didn't bother to play anymore games or bother practicing their hunting techniques. They were both worried about their mother, neither of them were wanting to do anything. And what their father said about their mother and the lump in Sharpclaw's belly could kill her. Made things worse for the two kits. But also it seemed as though Onestar was blaming Ravenkit for it. Was being a different colour to the other cats so much of a big deal? Perhaps it was and Ravenkit just didn't understand it. Ravenkit and Hailkit moped around the grassland with their heads down, along with their tails. They headed towards the reeds that sat before the river, the river that divided LionClan from LeopardClan and neither of them spoke a single word to each other as they went. They sat down before the long blades of grasslike stems that poked out from the muddy ground below, they stretched high into the sky for a kit Ravenkit's size and ended with a fluffy tuft like thing at the end almost like Hailkit's tail. It moved gently in the breeze and swayed back and forth like his tail when he ready to pounce on something.

A flash of grey caught Ravenkit's eye, as a mouse darted from the reeds and flew across the grassland heading upwards of the land, alongside the reeds. Ravenkit jumped up in a instant and bounded after it. His thudding his soft paws on the ground only a fox tail length away from its tail. Ravenkit began to crouch low to the ground and race after the mouse. Then he pounced. But he failed, as it darted sideways into the reeds once more. Ravenkit skidded to a halt and gave chase again, following it into the reeds.

Once inside the mingle of reeds, Ravenkit couldn't see the mouse anywhere. He parted his jaws in an attempt to scent it and could still smell it. He sniffed lower to the ground where the scent was most likely to be the strongest and followed it along until he met a small hole in the ground. The mouse scent was strongest there. The mouse had entered the hole and that is where it would have made its nest. Ravenkit let out a snort of disgust and plopped down onto his haunches staring into the small hole. Hailkit came bounding through the reeds a moment later and skilled to a halt next to his brother, flanks heaving he stared along with him into the small hole, "Is it down there?" he asked.

"Ya! I would have had it too if it didn't go down there," Ravenkit mewed crossly.

"Bah, yeah right!" a scornful voice came through the reeds behind Hailkit and Ravenkit. They both spun around to see a leopard kit coming through the reeds with two other kits behind him. The kits that had come through the reeds were actually no longer kits since the last moon, it was Thymepaw, Boulderpaw and Burrowpaw the new apprentices of LeopardClan being trained by other warriors in the Clan to join them in a few moons time. Ravenkit and Hailkit were almost old enough to become apprentices and soon would be. Thymepaw rubbed his paw over his ear; cleaning it quickly and then he gazed back with his silver, shimmering eyes on Ravenkit.

"You're pathetic, Ravenkit, you couldn't even catch a mouse that was only a few paw steps away from you!" he insulted Ravenkit.

"I would so have caught it, if it didn't go down that hole!" retorted Ravenkit, his hair along his back began to prickle with annoyance. Ever since he was a kit in the nursery with him, he had always bullied and made fun of Ravenkit, along with his friends; Boulderpaw and Burrowpaw. It was all the same excuse; 'because he was a different colour' to them. That's why they treated him badly.

"Ha yeah right, you're just a false-born, you can't do anything that a warrior could do!" snorted Thymekit.

"Shut-up Thymepaw you're just a big mouse-head!" snapped back, Ravenkit.

"Make-me!' taunted Thymepaw Ravenkit. Ravenkit took the challenge seriously and pounced on the older cat, wrestling him to the ground. They fought with each other for a few moments, claws unsheathed while Hailkit supported him with yowls of encouragement. But only a few moments had passed when he was pulled off Thymepaw by one of the other apprenticed leopards. Boulderpaw held him down, Ravenkit let out a yowl of protest and struggled against his larger paws. But he was too big for Ravenkit and could easily prevent him from escaping.

Hailkit let out an yowl of frustration as Burrowpaw pinned him beneath his paws, holding down like Boulderpelt. Thymepaw got back up and sheathed his claws and wandered over to Ravenkit and Boulderpaw. Boulderpelt leapt off of Ravenkit but before he had a chance to get up, Thyme kit struck a blow to Ravenkit's stomach and he continued to hit him with sheathed claws winding him. Thymepaw finally stopped and allowed Ravenkit to get to his paws. he struggled up on shaky legs heaving with effort as he was still unable to breathe properly. As he did, he was hit to the ground again by Thymepaw and slammed into the ground hard causing him to become dizzy and light headed. Ravenkit began to feel something sticky a damp drip down the side of his ear and onto his muzzle. Thymepaw had unsheathed his claws that time and knocked a large chunk off of his ear.

Burrowpaw jumped off of Hailkit and joined the other two apprentices who were standing next to Ravenkit. Hailkit sat back up and watched the apprentices from afar. "That'll teach you to be a false-born, you don't belong in LeopardClan. You don't belong in any clan," meowed Thymekit cruelly and signaled to his friends to follow him and leave. A heartbeat later, Ravenkit heard the reeds shiver as the 'paws pushed back through leaving Hailkit and Ravenkit alone amongst the reeds.

Ravenkit sat up shakily while his brother rushed to his side and began licking his ear frantically, attempting to clean up the blood that was oozing from his ear. "Those mouse-brains are gone now and won't bother us anymore," meowed Hailkit through licks. "They'll be in big trouble when Sharpclaw and Onestar hear about this!" Ravenkit didn't reply, he didn't know if Onestar would really care about it and would do anything. If they couldn't talk to Sharpclaw nothing would happen. Thymepaw, Boulderpaw and Burrowpaw would continue to taunt and hurt Ravenkit for many more moons, maybe even when they were warriors. Maybe even next time they will go for Ravenkit's other ear leaving him with only half of his ears.

"Thymepaw and those other two are wrong about you. You are not false-born and you will make a warrior just a good as our father. Way better than those three would ever be," Hailkit tried to cheer up Ravenkit, but it was working. "You'll see, one day you'll be leader of LeopardClan and you'll be able to boss them around!" Ravenkit did like the idea of being the leader of LeopardClan, he'd change all of the Leopards ideas of him and prove that he won't be a failure or something bad, just because he was 'false-born.' What did false-born mean anyway? He hadn't heard the insult until today. Did they learn it from the older warriors of the Clan. Did they teach them that as soon as they became warriors. How cruel were they? "Come on, let's head back to the nursery. I'm tired and I bet you are too after what those three have done to you," mewed Hailkit and he began to lead the way out of the reeds and back into the grassland. The sun was beginning to climb towards the other side of the horizon in the sky, though the land still shone brightly with its aura and its warm glow. Ravenkit and Hailkit trudged on yawning. They were both still young and their bodies small and weaker than the rest of the big cats in LeopardClan. Being out out of the nursery for long periods of time, running around and encountering trouble made most kits tired and it made them tired as well.

By the time they reached the nursery Ravenkit's ear had stopped bleeding and began to crust up around where the wound had been created. Ravenkit could still feel it pulse from where Thympaw had cut off the bit of ear. He had cleaned the tip of his ear right off and now Ravenkit had one ear shorter than the other.

The nursery of LeopardClan was tucked in the middle of two large alders trees. It was surrounded by brambles and long grass and a small tunnel had been crafted in the middle of an elder bush by many queens looking for a sheltered place to bring their kits into the world and a place to keep them warm and dry, out of harms way. The elder was in full bloom and the scent was soft on Ravenkit's nose. A welcoming scent after a day of trouble and woe. Ravenkit leaped over the brambles that surrounded the bottom of the bush, it had been put there by queens to try and keep their kits inside the nest and out of trouble. but older kits and especially ones soon to be apprenticed could jump over them easily, and the queens could walk over them without needing to lift their paws very high.

Inside the entanglement of branches, some had been pushed back and tucked behind other branches that stretched higher up and tide together with reeds from the river bed. Others were broken to keep out of the queens way so they could make enough room for them to nest. Moss, feathers and other soft things, long grass and lambs-ears, that grew around the territory, were brought in by their mates and made into woven together to make nests for the large cats and their kits. One queen now remained in the nursery full time, Kestrelsong was her name.She was there full time, nursing her kits and when Ravenkit and Hailkit entered, she lifted her sleepyhead warily to them. She then rested her head back down onto her paws and shuffled about getting comfortable not greeting or really acknowledging the kits presence, Ravenkit felt annoyed. She could at least greet us. He thought indignantly.

Kestrelsong had always been a grumpy queen ever since her kits had arrived, it wasn't just Ravenkit and Hailkit she was cold to, at times she would snap at her mate, Silentfoot other times she was nice enough to get along with. At least it wasn't because Ravenkit was black, it was just the stress of motherhood and worry for her kits that made her agitated. = Another scent hit Ravenkits nose, a soft and warm scent, sweet but with a tang of dampness and reeds. Ravenkit spun around and another leopardess was sitting in the nest on the other side of the nursery. Ravenkit brightened instantly, it was Sharpclaw their mother she was back in the nursery with them. Her bright amber eyes shone in the dim light of the nursery as she stared straight at her kits. She wrapped her tail around her kits and brought them closer with a swoop, bundling the two kits forward. "Come you two, it has been a while since I have laid my eyes on you," her voice was sore, ragged and croaked a little. She was sick and as Ravenkit moved closer he could smell some strange other scent to her, tart, sour and slightly unwelcoming. Her eyes looked tired in the clearer light and she herself was looking thinner than normal, she looked exhausted. The illusion of first s seeing his mother again had worn off and now, how she really looked and how she really was came through.

Ravenkit was worried for his mother, but he just buried his head into her fur, rubbing against her chest, drinking in her scent. It was good to see her again and good to feel the love and warmth that she brought with her, unlike the other leopards in the Clan who seemed to all share the same icy heart as each other.

"What in StarClan happened to your ear little one?" exclaimed Sharpclaw after she greeted her kits with a lick. Ravenkit ducked away from his mother and padded at his ear gingerly.

"Thymepaw attacked him and clawed off a bit of his ear!" Hailkit answered for Ravenkit while he still refrained from talking. "He also called him a 'false-born'!" Ravenkit was embarrassed and worried what might happen if they told on Thymepaw and the other two.

"False-born, I have never heard such nonsense!" exclaimed Sharpclaw, "There is nothing wrong with Ravenkit, he was just born a different colour. Like; Lions and Tigers are different colours from each other and are different colours from Leopards."

"Then why are is Thymepaw picking on me and Boulderpelt? And why is every other LeopardClan warrior suspicious of me?" Ravenpaw whimpered to his mother his emotions almost came flooding out, he was sad and annoyed at his clan treating him like he was some sort of monster. Ravenkit hung his head low and Sharpclaw froze, silenced by her kit's words. She hadn't been around to see how the other warriors reacted around him. Though the Thymepaw and the others had being bullies to Ravenkit when they were in the nursery, that was just them, Sharpclaw wouldn't have thought it was to do with the whole idea of being false-born. Did the other warriors say nothing after they were born or was Sharpclaw denying it all?

Sharpclaw rose from the nest and crouched beneath the elder bush, pushing back Ravenkit and Hailkit. The both looked up in awe at their mother who shook as she stood high above them, she seemed too weak to stand on her own four paws, "That Boulderpelt, I'm going to-," she fell back down into the nest with a great thump! Ravenkit and Hailkit moved backwards avoiding her collapse. Her fall to the ground stirred Kestralsong's kits and they squealed in fear to their mother. Kestralsong nudged them gently back to her belly and calmed them with small whispers, wrapping her tail around them, comforting them. She looked up from her kits and her gaze burned onto Sharpclaw, who panting shakily in exhaustion.

"Sharpclaw," she growled, "You shouldn't even be out of resting place while you are still sick. And don't even think about taking on Boulderpelt, just for the sake of your kit. You are too weak!" she snapped.

"Don't tell me what I can and cannot do, Kestrelsong!" Sharpclaw growled so fiercely that Ravenkit was sure that she would start a fight with the queen. But she laid still in her nest and began to pant heavily again. What ever the sickness in her belly was, it was draining all of her energy making her weak and lifeless. Ravenkit and Hailkit rushed to their mothers side and began to brush their muzzles against hers and licking her, trying to help her back up. But she laid there still.

"That is what you get, a false-born should be killed at birth, now he is only a curse to this Clan, and to you," commented Kestrelsong before she went back to grooming her kits. They squeaked annoyed at their mother's disturbing licks but soon hushed again by the warm of her. Her kits were only not much than a quarter-moon old and their eyes were still welded shut, they were small too small to be left alone by any means and too small to understand what all the commotion was about between the two queens and their growls.

Sharpclaw growled at Kestrelsong's ill-mannered comment but made no effort to reply back, she knew that there was no point. She finally after a while, managed to bring herself up into a sitting position with her paws tucked underneath her and her tail wrapped around herself. She then proceeded to groom her kits once more, trying to distract herself from Kestrelsong and the remarks the other cats had made.

"Mother, you're not going to die are you?" asked Ravenkit worriedly, he had so much fear for his mothers life that he began to shake on his own paws and his eyes welled with tears. He didn't want to face the fact that he might lose her forever. Sharpclaw paused for a moment and then continued to groom Ravenkit's head, not replying to his comment. Hailkit pushed him away from their mothers tongue and sat next to him a couple of paws steps away.

"We heard Onestar and Runningwind talking and Onestar was worried that you were going to die," mewed Hailkit. Ravenkit and Hailkit looked up at their mother, her eyes shone golden but full of absolute sorrow. It was true then, she was going to die.

Sharpclaw sighed before she spoke, her voice shook a little, edging with grief, "There comes a time in every cat's life when they die. You both know this, and both old enough to understand but..." she paused for a moment, "I have something inside me, that might not allow me to live and soon I will join our ancestors in the night sky," every single word for her was a painful stab at her heart, a thorn prick at each syllable and the same was to Ravenkit's and Hailkit's hearts.

"But what are we going to do without you?" Hailkit's voice squeaked as he was about to cry into his mothers pelt.

"You have to be brave my sons, know that I will always love you. I will always be watching you," Sharpclaw mewed softly to her sons.

"Who's going to take care of us when we are gone, who will stop Thymepaw from being mean and Boulderpelt. What about Onestar?" Ravenkit asked.

"What about your father?" asked Sharpclaw worryingly.

"He said that I was a curse to LeopardClan and the reason why you are sick," replied Ravenkit.

Sharpclaw was horrified that her own mate would such a thing to their own kit. She stared down at Ravenkit and Hailkit not saying a thing staring straight into their eyes and straight into their hearts. Then she finally mewed.

"Your father is just worried about me. His mind is not at ease at this time, TigerClan are wandering around our borders, and I his mate and mother of his kits is ill, very ill," she tried to explain her mates mouse-brained comment. "He is under pressure as a leader and must not show any weakness. He may blindly accuse something that is just as silly as the kits of the nursery or Thymepaw. But he doesn't mean it," there was doubt in her own mew and Ravenkit could heard it, no matter how she could try, the Clan would never accept Ravenkit as their own.

Sharpclaw gestured her kits forward once more and they sat between her big soft paws staring up at her warm glowing eyes, "You both will have to take care of each other when I am gone," she began. "You two will have to be brave for me, brave for the both of you. Thymepaw may pick on you, but both of you must stand together and push him back. I know it may seem hard, but if you are together you both will be okay. I will not be able to take care of you, Onestar may train you but you two will stand together, stronger than the others. And I will watch over you and help guide you as much as I can,"

Sharpclaw's words brought so little comfort to Ravenkit, though he knew that she would love him forever long after she may pass. But to stand together with his brother against a Clan that hated him. Seemed like a task that was completely unachievable, but Ravenkit had to try if he were to live in the Clan that he wanted to be a part of. Ravenkit snuggled down between his mothers paws and moved close to her chest. Sharpclaw rested her head onto her kits and sheltered them with love.

Shortly they began to drift into sleep. "What are you going to do about Thymepaw, Boulderpaw and Burrowpaw who picked on Ravenkit?" piped up Hailkit, through muffled fur.

"I will speak to Onestar and ask him to talk to the young cats. I'll make sure that there is a punishment fit for them," she mewed through a yawn. "Oh," she remembered something up before Ravenkit and Hailkit drifted into sleep. "I did speak to Silentfoot briefly this morning, he says that there is going to be a surprise for you in the morning and he hopes you two will be up bright an early to see what it is," her voice began to fade away into silence as Ravenkit began to drift into the warm care of his mother. He wandered momentarily what the surprise was going to be and wondered if he should be suspicious before he drifted. But Silentfoot wasn't mean like the others, he was always kind. Soon all his troubles faded along with the ordeals of that day. Except one thing, Ravenkit didn't ask his mother. 'What was false-born, what did it mean and why was Ravenkit being accused of being it?




Chapter III

The morning light of a new day shone through the branches of the elder bush and into the small opening below, lightly illuminating the nests inside. Ravenkit shifted about in the mossy nest getting himself comfortable again so he could drift back into sleep. He had been waking up all morning and finding it hard to get back to sleep, all he wanted to do was sleep. The nest was too warm and cozy for him to leave, just yet. A pair of paws belted down upon Ravenkit's side jolting him wide awake at an instant he sat up and looked around the nursery. Hailkit was sitting next to him excitement glowing on his face.

"C'mon Ravenkit, get up! Stop being a door mouse!" Hailkit was the one who woke Ravenkit up by jumping on him with his front paws. Ravenkit stretched in his nest and still felt the throbbing in his side where Hailkit had landed. Hailkit scurried off towards the den entrance and waited for his brother to catch up.

Ravenkit looked around the clearing inside the bush and noticed that Sharpclaw had once again disappeared, Probably back in the medicine den getting better, he thought hopefully. Then he remembered about yesterday how Onestar, his father was worrying about her and how she did not deny that she was going to die. Sorrow weighed down Ravenkit's heart and he didn't want to face a new day, he'd rather just stay in the nursery and sleep.

"Hurry up Ravenkit!" Hailkit's mew was loud and annoyed, Ravenkit spun around expecting Kestrelsong to snap at them. But she was gone too. Her kits laid in a small pile of three and moved closer together, grunting indignantly at one another for getting in each others way. They were not disturbed and Ravenkit could get away and Hailkit wouldn't be scolded harshly.

"Come. On! Ravenkit!" Hailkit was getting impatient, "Sharpclaw said that Silentfoot had a surprise for us today!" Ravenkit remembered his mother saying that and moved to his brothers side.

"Okay let's go then," he mewed.

Hailkit turned and headed through the large tunnel that led to the grasslands of LeopardClan and Ravenkit followed behind. They leapt over the barrier of brambles and headed out into another bright sunny day in the forest. Hailkit paused before the nursery, causing Ravenkit to skid to a halt and began scanning the grassland.

"Where is Silentfoot?" wondered Hailkit, to no sign of the large leopard warrior. "I can see everyone else but not him,"

Ravenkit leaned forward and followed his brothers gaze. It was true, it seemed as though all the other warriors were here in the camp, but no Silentfoot. Even Thymepaw, Boulderpaw and Burrowpaw were there with their mentors discussing something. Ravenkit skinked back not wanting to encounter those three again.

"It's okay Ravenkit, Thymepaw and those other two mouse-brains are with their mentors they will not be bothering us today," Hailkit mewed noticing his brother edging in the other direction.

"How do you know?" Ravenkit mewed indignantly.

"Even Thymepaw isn't that stupid. Or is he?" he joked. "C'mon, lets go and find Silentfoot," Hailkit took off down the grassland and Ravenkit followed. Silentfoot was a well praised warrior by all those in the clans and the kits were brought up on his stories of how he saved other warriors in battle, taking on a patrol of TigerClan and warriors from LionClan himself. And the story of how he saved Kestrelsong from falling into the river at the gorge, told jokingly of how they met and fell in love. He was a pride to have in LeopardClan and a pride to Onestar, he was Onestar's right paw leopard. He would never travel far without him at his side and would often take his advice. Sharpclaw always spoke fondly of him and was always kind to Ravenkit and Hailkit when he visited his kits in the nursery and Kestrelsong.

He was always so warm and kind but Kestrelsong had become sour and Ravenkit wondered how those two ever got along. Things must have been very different before the kits came. But Ravenkit thought it was an honor to be called for by Silentfoot, it could mean anything and Ravenkit became exited, hoping for a bit of good.

Ravenkit and Hailkit had passed all the warriors in the grassland and some of them had began to head off further into the forest that lingered behind the nursery. Others went up or down the grasslands territory in search for prey and the apprentices along with their mentors set off up the grasslands and headed for the training area that was not far from the warriors nest. But there was still no sign of Silentfoot, he wasn't around and Ravenkit wondered if it wasn't true perhaps Silentfoot wasn't going to surprise them.

They continued wandering through the grassland for a few more fox lengths and sat down. Hailkit sat with a thud and a pout annoyed at Silentfoot too that he hadn't shown up. Ravenkit sat down with more ease and looked back up the grassland to see if Silentfoot had shown up and followed them. There was nothing except the padded down grass done by the many generations of LeopardClan cats in the middle of the land, a forest to one side and the reeds before the river bed on the other.

"This is mouse-dung, I thought Silentfoot was going to surprise us! That's what Sharpclaw said," puffed Hailkit.

"Perhaps he has just been caught up with something, you know how Onestar is with him," Ravenkit tried to think of a logical explanation but even though it may have been something to do with Onestar, Ravenkit still thought of being a little cheated out of something. Thought it may not have been anything that great.

Hailkit grunted his reply, had he really been that looking forward to what ever Silentfoot was going to present to the kits. Rustling in the trees behind Hailkit and Ravenkit made them both freeze momentarily. A short lithe, leopardess came out from between the trees and undergrowth carrying moss in her jaws. She scanned around the grassland and noticed the two kits, she dropped the moss with open jaws and looked surprised to see them.

"Ravenkit, Hailkit, what are you two doing out here, so far down the territory?" exclaimed the leopardess, it was Runningwind the leopardess who helped deliver Ravenkit and Hailkit.

"We're looking for Silentfoot," replied Hailkit, "Have you seen him, he mewed hopefully,"

Runningwind flattened her ears, "No I haven't, sorry," she mewed something was bothering her and Ravenkit smelt a bit of her fear scent flowing off of her.

"Sharpclaw said that Silentfoot was suppose to be seeing us and giving us a surprise and we can't find him anywhere," complained Hailkit. "he wasn't going to do anything was he?" he muttered.

"No! No!" Runningwind protested, "Silentfoot was going to surprise you with something but he must be busy with something else. He'll have to tell you tomorrow," Runningwind looked around anxiously and picked up the moss that she had collected and moved on without waiting for a reply from either of the kits. Ravenkit watched on wondering what was going on with her. She was heading towards he reeds of the far side of the territory, her tail was low and stance was hunched over. She was worried about something.

"Come on let's keep looking for Silentfoot," meowed Hailkit and he turned into the bushes behind him and began to wander through the forest. Ravenkit followed a moment later after he saw Runningwind disappear behind the reeds and towards the river bed. Inside the forest birds were singing loudly, cicada's were happily humming away to each other and mice moved silently away from the young leopards. The forest seemed to be a completely different world to the nursery and grasslands. Like a new place had appeared as soon as they stepped through. But everything in there was so daunting, to Ravenkit he could hardly imagine how warriors reacted to the tall trees.

They passed through trees upon trees, brambles growing out of ferns that raked alongside Ravenkit's pelt tugging little clumps of fur from him. Bugs floated around Ravenkit's golden brown eyes and moved swiftly around his ears in a high pitch sound making him flick his ears back and forth. Flies landed on his noses every now and then, disgusting creatures Ravenkit thought before he swatted at them. The forest seemed so awe inspiring but since Ravenkit and Hailkit had wandered through it it had a bit of a nuisance with all the bugs and brambles, let alone the maze of trees.

Deeper they trekked into the never ending forest the more Ravenkit began to feel lost, on a couple of occasions since the sun had begun to trek higher into the sky. Hailkit had veered in another direction, Ravenkit had asked him what he was doing and where he thought he was going. But Hailkit just said that he had an idea of where to go next and Ravenkit wondered if he had any idea at all where to go next. Ravenkit started to let his mind wander staring at his brother's tail as it swished side to side.

"Aaah!" Hailkit's yowl split the air jolting awake Ravenkit. Hailkit fell backwards and was fighting something on his face. Ravenkit bounded over to his brothers side and peered down at the white strings that covered Hailkit's yellow and black spotted face. Hailkit writhed and tried to brush the cobweb from his face but his actions led to no avail. Ravenkit sighed, he thought Hailkit had encountered something problematic the way that he reacted. But it was only a cobweb.

"For StarClan sake Hailkit, it's just a cobweb," Ravenkit sighed.

"It's not that it's just a cobweb," he retorted, "it's because it came out of nowhere and started me, that's all."

"Yeah right, you were scared," Ravenkit replied jokingly with a bit of laughter and started to help his brother paw off the large web from his face. A few moments later Hailkit finally got up off the ground the cobweb had been successfully pawed off by the both of them. Hailkit shook his head trying to get the sensation of the web out of him.

"Scared that the web is going to come back and get you are ya?" teased Ravenkit.

"Shut-up!" exclaimed Hailkit trying to hide his embarrassment. Ravenkit let out a fake gasp, "Look out Hailkit, it's a giant cobweb and it's right behind you. Don't move or it'll get you!" Ravenkit began to laugh.

"Shut-up!" Hailkit repeated and tackled his brother, they rolled on the ground pawing at one another's head and stomachs. Ravenkit leapt up and ran away from his brother heading towards a brighter part of the forest where light was illuminating strongly from. Hailkit gave chase behind him and was hot on his hind paws. They both ran through the forest laughing and leaping from side to side as Hailkit tried to pounce on Ravenkit. They finally made it out of the forest into a cleared area of grass. Ravenkit and Hailkit stopped running and being foolish, and began staring around the clearing. In every direction, trees surrounded all around the clearing and it stretched for many paw steps even for fully grown warriors it was large. The grass here was soft and warm with large blades different from the grass that grew on the grassland. The sun hung lazily almost completely in the middle of the open space in the forest.

"Wow, where are we?" asked Hailkit moving away from Ravenkit's side.

"I don't know," replied Ravenkit in awe he followed his brother forward and gazed around the clearing. Gazing at the trees and the grass he noticed something that he and his brother didn't before. A leopard was fast asleep in the middle of the clearing and hadn't noticed the kits arrivals.

"Who's that?" asked Ravenkit.

Hailkit squinted his eyes and tried to get a good look at the leopard from a distance, "I think it's Silentfoot!" he perched up and began to race over to the sleeping warrior. Ravenkit followed a moment later and when they got to the warriors side a scent that had been on his father's pelt when he had visited them and Sharpclaw drifted towards Ravenkit. He could vaguely remember it, but also at the time the scent was weak on his fathers pelt. But Ravenkit hadn't seen him around the territory earlier when they were looking for Silentfoot through all the warriors, so it must be him.

"Silentfoot!" chirped Hailkit, the warrior lifted his dreary head and blinked away the sleep from his eyes. His large green eyes fixed on the two kits and sparkled like the stars in Silverpelt. He was darker than the other leopards and his face slightly more round. His pelt was almost a brown rather than a yellow and the white on his chest seemed as though it was fading but it was more of a grey white than a bright white. Silentfoot sat up straight and gazed down at the two kits.

"Ah, you made it at last," his voice was deep but not in a harsh tone, he was pleased that the kits had found him.

"We were searching all over for you, we couldn't find you anywhere!" meowed Hailkit.

"You searched everywhere for me did you?" asked Silentfoot.

"Yeah!" replied Hailkit.

"Did you think to use your noses and find my scent?" Hailkit ducked back, he hadn't thought of that nor did Ravenkit they were too busy using their eyes and not their noses to find his scent and follow it to him.

"Hmm, I went to your den this morning, I thought not long before you two woke up, and traveled straight here and I would have hoped you would have followed that scent trail," Silentfoot mewed grimly. Ravenkit and Hailkit both felt stupid, if they wanted to be warriors they would have needed to use their noses and other senses to find their prey and enemy.

"Hmm that didn't go to plan and well for the assessment," it was an assessment thought Ravenkit was that the surprise or was he telling them that they needed to follow their nose for it? What ever it was for Ravenkit felt worse.

"We're sorry we didn't pass your assessment, Silentfoot," Hailkit mewed sadly.

"Don't worry about it, it was more of to see what we need to work on with the both of you," replied Silentfoot. "Now," Silentfoot rose to his four paws and wandered around the two kits checking them over, for what? And it was an assessment for something and they had failed was that going to be a bad thing. Silentfoot hmm-ed and ha-ed before he sat down before them again.

"Yes I think you are ready," Silentfoot said in a happy tone.

"For what?" asked Ravenkit.

"To become apprentices," replied Silentfoot. Ravenkit and Hailkit brightened instantly, they were going to become apprentices, they are going to train to be warriors. But weren't they a little young for that?

Ravenkit asked the question allowed, "Aren't we a little young to become apprentices?" his brother shot him an agitated look after Ravenkit's question and Silentfoot nodded knowingly.

"You are right, you have one more moon. But I think you are ready now and it will be good to get you out of the nursery and out of trouble," meowed Silentfoot.

"Who's going to train us?" asked Hailkit excitingly.

"I will," replied Silentfoot.

"You will train both of us," Ravenkit was in awe that they would be taught by such a fine warrior and a warrior who would take on two apprentices, he thought that it would never happen.

"Yes," Silentfoot said proudly, "I have been at word with your mother and father and they both agree that it is your time to become apprentices and they both agreed that it would be a good thing for me to train you,"

Ravenkit doubted some of Silentfoots comment, Onestar thinks that he was ready for an apprenticeship last time he thought his father thought of him was when he was arguing with Runningwind in that area not far from here. Or was this the area.

"I will now give you your apprentice names," cut in Silentfoot, into Ravenkit's thoughts.

"I thought that was only for leaders of the Clans to do? Asked Hailkit. Silentfoot smiled,

"Yes that is true young one, but on occasions the leader may name someone to take his place and name other kits to become apprentices," he mewed.

Ravenkit's heart raced he was ready to become an apprentice and begin training to be a warrior and so was Hailkit, they watched the warrior leopard begin to speak.

"I Silentfoot, the chosen one of Onestar to give and train these kits, through their apprenticeship until they are made warriors. I give them their apprentice names," Silentfoot rested his large bushy tail onto Ravenkit's head, "This kit shall be known as Ravenpaw, until he receives his warrior name," he moved his tail off Ravenpaw's head and placed it onto Hailkit's, "This kit shall be known as Hailpaw until he receives his warrior name," Silentfoot removed his tail and bowed his head to the apprentices. Ravenpaw and Hailpaw bowed their heads down as well and lifted them straight back up brimming with excitement.

"Alright!" mewed Hailpaw, "What do we start with, fighting each other, fighting you, taking on a TigerClan apprentice or a LionClan or hunting down a wolf!" Hailpaw's excitement clearly went to his head and was already wanting to take on Clan cats and other animals three times his size.

"Uh no," Silentfoot mewed and dashed the young 'paws hopes. "First thing's are first, fighting practice will come in time. But first thing is hunting skills," Silentfoot raised himself back up on four paws and moved away from the apprentices and lowered himself to the ground in a hunters crouch. "I first want you to get your hunters crouch sorted before we start on stalking and being silent. Follow my positioning to the tip of my nose to the tip of my tail," instructed Silentfoot.

"Ha we already know that, don't we Ravenpaw," boasted Hailpaw and began to lower himself into a crouch.

Silentfoot raised himself back up into a seated position and watched the young apprentice crouch low to the ground and shook his head in displeasure. "No you don't know that," he commented and moved over to Hailpaw. He pushed his right paw forward a little more and his left paw back, he did the same with his back paws but in the opposite direction. He then gently pressed the kit lower to the ground and held down his tail, stopping it form swishing side to side.

"You're tail will give your prey a chance to hear you and escape before you attack. Remember that and remember that we hunt alone, so silence is a virtue," he told the kits. "Now your crouch is better," Ravenpaw examined his brother and lowered himself down along side Hailpaw trying to mimic the crouch. He felt Silentfoot's gaze over him scanning him and judging him, he moved Ravenpaw's head a little higher and moved one of his paws into a better position.

"That was a good crouch, Ravenpaw, you did well," Ravenpaw was warmed by the warriors praise but that set off Hailpaw.

"Oh sure, Ravenpaw could get it perfect on the first attempt, but I couldn't," muttered Hailpaw angrily.

"That is not true, Hailpaw. Ravenpaw's stance was good, however he held his head to low to peer over the long grass, his hind leg was out of place which would have caused him to buckle if he leapt off from his start," Silentfoot corrected the new apprentice, "And you are being to impatient, something that a warrior of LeopardClan needs. You are too excited, breathe, focus and you will do well in time. But this is your first lesson do not over work it and become to self-absorbed," meowed Silentfoot.

Hailpaw shrank back a little and out of the hunters crouch and groomed his pelt in embarrassment, "Sorry," he mewed after, "I guess I got a little carried away,"

Silentfoot rested his tail on the apprentices shoulder, "Don't worry," he mewed with sympathy, "you are only a beginner, you will not be perfect. Now!" he mewed suddenly and loudly.

"Watch me leap," Silentfoot crouched into the hunters crouch and after a few heartbeats of sitting almost completely still he ran forward and leapt high into the hair and landed several fox length's away. "Now you two have a go, I will watch your crouch and jump from here and correct you after." Ravenpaw was the first to set off, he crouched down low and leapt high into the air, by his standards, and landed a few fox length's from Silentfoot and then ran to his side. Hailpaw leapt after him and landed in almost the same spot as Ravenkit, then ran to Silentfoot and Ravenkit.

"You both did good," he mewed pleased, "But I will both give you some tips," he told them how to better their leaps and how to take off correctly from the hunters crouch and watched them do it a couple of times more before he set off on another checking of the crouch. After Silentfoot was pleased with how the two new apprentices were going with the crouch and leap, Silentfoot decided to do one more thing. "Alright you two we are going to a quick lesson in stalking,"

"Oh do we have to?" complained Hailpaw, "I'm getting tired," Hailpaw was right to complain all that leaping about and crouching again and again and again, was taking its tole on the two apprentices.

"Okay, alright, just a quick lesson in this and then we can rest for a while and carry on with the rest of the lesson tomorrow," conceded Silentfoot. Silentfoot crouched down into the hunters-crouch once more, "Remember the keys to stalking is silence, speed and alertness," he listed, "the prey must not be able to hear you, smell you, see you or even feel your presence. Hunting in the forest is not really our game, we hunt in the grasslands beyond the forest. Here in the opening will do fine for a first lesson," he mewed.

"To get good silence you mustn't allow your pelt to brush any of the long grass too much, you must keep your paws steady and watch were your paws..." Hailpaw let out a large yawn that distracted Silentfoot and Ravenpaw, he was obviously bord and had enough of the lessons that day.

"Am I boring you, Hailpaw?" asked Silentfoot slightly annoyed.

"No!" Hailpaw straighted up in an instant and tried to blink the tiredness of his eyes away.

Silentfoot let out a little laugh, "Alright, too much to take in on the first day," he wasn't offended at Hailpaw's yawn he was quite happy and sympathetic to the young apprentices. He had obviously had had the same experience when he was an apprentice and he was able to concede to Hailpaw's suttle expression of tiredness and boredom. Silent foot looked into the sky, the sun had moved off from the clearing and was heading towards the horizon behind the trees.

"Hmm, let's take a rest for a little bit and then, I want to show you guys somethings around our territory. You won't be to bored with that, will you?" asked Silentfoot humorously.

"Cool checking out the territory, I always wanted to see the gorge!" exclaimed Hailpaw.

"Okay the gorge it is then. Is that okay with you, Ravenpaw?" Silentfoot asked him and Ravenpaw nodded his head, he wouldn't mind seeing the gorge himself. The three cats chose spots around the clearing to have a sunbathe and a quick nap before they headed out into the territory. Ravenpaw started to drift into sleep and began to dream. He found himself standing on a large high rock looking out across the land to unrecognizable lands afar. He gazed downward to see blurred faces of leopards, tigers and lions below, he recognized almost no one but then he saw Hailpaw sitting amongst the crowds of cats looking particularly joyous with what he could see in front of him. Ravenpaw continued to scan the crowd and saw Sharpclaw as proud as ever and Runningwind next to her. His gaze then fell on Silentfoot who gazed at him in pride and nodded his head to him.

Ravenpaw turned around to see a large lioness and tiger behind him, they greeted him with nods of their heads. And the crowd of cats began to chant his name, but something was different about it. It wasn't Ravenpaw or Ravenkit but Ravenstar, he was the new leader of LeopardClan, the successor to Onestar. His apprentice training had paid off and he became a great and noble warrior and the next in line to be leader. The Clans accepted him for who he was and loved him because of how he became a great warrior. His heart began to race and the dream began to slow down. The cats in the clearing began to growl and hiss, their hairs along their backs began to stand up straight and some lashed out claws. Their faces were blank but Ravenpaw could tell their were angry with him.

He turned back to the lioness and tiger who looked down on him from among high, looking with fear. Ravenpaw began to fall down from the bolder and fall further down onto the ground, but the ground opened up and consumed him whole.

Ravenpaw started awake and looked around the clearing Silentfoot was waking Hailpaw up with a paw prod and he groaned awake. Ravenpaw stumbled up from the ground heart still racing and mind whirling with what he could remember. But the dream began to break up, all he could remember was the name the cats chanted, the lioness and the tiger and falling, the never ending, falling. He wandered over to Silentfoot who was waiting for Hailpaw to get up.

"Hey I thought you were wanting to go and explore the territory," he mewed to the sleepy apprentice.

"Yeah, yeah," complained Hailpaw, "give me a second to wake up, I'm not used to having short naps like this."

"Well get used to it, it s a good thing for a warrior to be doing when he is hunting for long periods of time. He needs a quick rest to regain his energy," Hailpaw eventually woke up enough for them to start heading off into the forest and back out into the grasslands. Ravenpaw and Hailpaw let Silentfoot guide them through the forest so that they wouldn't get lost again. Ravenpaw took careful notice of his surroundings, to ensure that he remembered where they were going, next time they came out for training.

This time the treck in the forest was faster than the one that they had taken that morning in search for Silentfoot. They arrived in what it seemed was meer moments, a few tail flicks, compared to the time earlier. The reached the spot not far from where they went in and not far from where they saw Runningwind with the bundle of moss and her strange reaction to the kits, well paws now.

Silentfoot took them up the grasslands and past the nursery and continued to head towards the river and the gorge that laid at the end of the territory. Silently they trudged on Silentfoot pointed out the warriors den and said that it was hidden below ferns and brambles and wasn't the nest that they used in leaf-bare, that it was there new-leaf and green-leaf nest so they wouldn't get to hot in the hotter season. He also mentioned that the apprentices den was somewhere behind it but didn't sway where they slept. Along the way Ravenpaw tossed the remnants of the dream around in his head wondering what on earth it ment. Could it be a sign for his future or could it be just a nonsense dream. What ever it was, the dream still made him shiver at the thought of falling into darkness.

They approached the end of the territory after a long walk their. Ravenpaw was hot and tired beginning to pant in the suns heat. His pelt was absorbing the suns rays and keeping the heat stored making him progressively hotter. He hadn't known to get so warm before and now he realized that it was a bit of a nuisance to have a black pelt, especially at the end of green-leaf. They arrived at the edge of the gorge and Ravenpaw looked down to the rushing water below, it swirled between jutting rocks and two towering parts of the gorge, the water was a fair way down and was running fast and loudly through the gorge. A kit or paw could easily drown if they fell in. Ravenkit felt a little unease looking down at the water and backed away in a hurry.

"Easy, Ravenpaw, we don't want you falling in," meowed Silentfoot resting his tail on Ravenpaw's back trying to steady him. I know it isn't a pleasant sight with all that fast running water through large protruding rocks."

"Wow, this is amazing!" meowed Hailpaw in awe and over the sound of loud rushing water, "man I could go for a swim," he thought temptingly.

"You will do no such thing, Hailpaw, the river is too dangerous. Snow is still falling on the mountains and melting away in the heat of the day. The water comes from there and travels quickly through out the lands," his tail flicked behind Ravenpaw and he turned to see where he was pointing. Past the forest's tall trees and far, far away in the distance. He could see tall his with tips of white standing in rows, clouds covered their tops, dark and unwelcoming. Ravenpaw had never seen mountains before, for the forest had blocked them from view, now that he was further out on the edge of LeopardClan territory he could see them.

Ravenpaw stared at them in awe, he had never seen anything like them before and wondered if he would ever get to go there and see them. Not many leopards, lions and tigers ever left the forest, only exiles did. But it had been moons upon moons since the last exile and he had been from TigerClan, a violent warrior. So the tales in the nursery said.

"Is this the end of our territory?" asked Hailpaw, staring out into the land on the other side of the gorge. "What territory is over there?"

"No, our territory expands out to that rock in the far distance. That rock separates our territory and TigerClan's territory and their forest," mewed Silentfoot. Ravenpaw stared out across where Silentfoot was looking and followed his gaze to a large rock protruding out of the ground, a marker between the two Clans. Ravenpaw squinted his eyes, the rock didn't look very big, in fact it looked rather small. It must be far away then, but the forest on TigerClan's territory was so large. Ravenpaw continued to stare at the rock, something about it was familiar to him, but he couldn't quite put his paw on it.

"That is also where the Clan gathers, at full moon. To talk to one another about successes in our Clans," continued Silentfoot. That was it, Ravenpaw exclaimed inwardly. The rock that he stood upon at the gathering of cats, where he was called Ravenstar. He had never seen it in his entire life, but somehow he knew that it was there. What did it mean? Was it a vision of the future? "Over there," Silentfoot moved his tail in gesture up the land across the other side of the gorge behind the large rock. "Is the moorlands and where we mainly hunt," Ravenpaw took his eyes off the rock and his gaze moved upland to see long grass and hills, there were no trees in the land. But tall tawny coloured animals with long black ears came out of the top of their ears. Some had bigger, others had smaller and some didn't seem to have any at all. They stood fairly tall by the seems of it and stood on all fours like the cats. But they were odd looking, not like the mice, birds or bugs that Ravenpaw had seen in the territory.

"What are those?" asked Ravenpaw, pointing his muzzle to the strange animals.

"Those are deer, we hunt and eat them. That is what your mother has brought you to eat at mealtimes," Silentfoot replied licking his lips, he was thinking of eating some now. Ravenpaw remembered the meat that their mother had brought in for them at night and what they ate from the prey pile in the nursery when Silentfoot or Sharpclaw brought it in for them. So that's what they look like.

"Is that what we are training to hunt," Hailpaw mewed excitedly.

"Yes, but it will be many moons yet before you two will be able to hunt them on your own," Silentfoot meowed, "But in the meantime you two can hunt mice and continue to train your stalking and pouncing," Ravenpaw agreed that it would be many moons before they were able to hunt the deer. They looked so much bigger than him even from a distance.

"What are those ears," asked Hailpaw.

Silentfoot let out a small mrrow of laughter at Hailpaw's question and he ducked away wondering if he asked something stupid, "Those are not ears," Silentfoot explained, 'Those are antler, they are dangerous even for leopards, we generally only go for the young and the female deer. They do not have as large or any antlers to hurt us with. They are sharp, sharper than our claws and can kill a leopard with one strike. That is how my father died," Silentfoot mewed solemnly. Ravenpaw was glad that they didn't have to hunt them yet, he didn't want to encounter something that was stronger and more dangerous than a leopard and could kill him in one strike.

Silentfoot turned away from the moorlands and started to head away from the gorge and back towards the LeopardClan forest. "Come," he mewed loud enough for the two 'paws to hear over the sound of rushing water. "Let us get back to camp and you two can have some deer and then some good rest. You will need it for your further training tomorrow." Ravenpaw and Hailpaw followed along behind Silentfoot silently, Hailpaw was still wanting to explore, but the sun had begun to dip below the TigerClan forest and soon it would grow dark. Ravenpaw couldn't help but let his mind drift a little and he remembered something from the previous day that he wanted to ask someone and Silentfoot would be the cat who would answer his question.

He rushed up to Silentfoot's side leaving Hailpaw to catch up and he turned to Silentfoot, "What does false-born mean, Silentfoot?" Ravenpaw was keen to find out why he was being called that by Thymepaw and the Boulderpelt. Silentfoot froze in his tracks and looked down at the young black pelted apprentice his eyes wide in shock.

"Who told you that word?" asked Silentfoot pressingly.

"Thymepaw called me that yesterday as an insult and Boulderpelt too," Ravenpaw replied, "What does it mean?" Silentfoot huffed out air through his nose, "Thymepaw! Boulderpelt! I knew Onestar shouldn't have pared those two together, they are as much trouble as each other. What mouse-brained idiot would purposely tell his apprentice about a word like that!" Silentfoot growled angrily.

"What does it mean?" pressed Ravenpaw, Silentfoot just stared down at him not budging and giving him an explanation.

"What does it mean!" yowled Hailpaw from behind Silentfoot. Silentfoot sighed and gave in to the kits.

"It means one who was born wrongly, due to forbidden love, love that meant nothing, a mistake, a regret. Generally someone who was born..." Silentfoot trailed off.

"Was I born a mistake?" asked Ravenpaw. How can that be true, why isn't Hailpaw being called false-born if he and I were born due to forbidden love or love that meant nothing.

"No you were not a mistake and nor was Hailpaw," Silentfoot protested, "You mother and father loved each other so much and were blessed with you two. Their love was not wrong, not forbidden, nor was it a regret."

"Then why did Thymepaw call me that then? How come all the other Clan cats treat me like I am nothing, how come they do no respect me?" Ravenpaw cried to Silentfoot.

Silentfoot took a deep breath and let out a long sigh, "You are born the wrong colour. Born of a different shade, black. Many of the cats in the clan believe that you are going to be a curse, believe that you are an omen. They believe that you are going to bring something bad into the Clan. And they want to keep as far away from you as possible," he mewed finally.

"But...I'm not am I? I haven't yet," Ravenpaw was confused how could his own Clan think that he will be a curse, an omen to them. It wasn't right, it wasn't just what they were doing to him. "Do you believe that I am a curse?" asked Ravenpaw and he felt his brothers presence next to him and his tail on his shoulder. He turned to see his brothers silver eyes shining into his golden, with solemn hope and worry for him.

"NO!" Silentfoot yowled, "I never believed those superstitions. They are all made up by fox-hearted, deer-brained fools. And any of them who believe it should be exiled from this clan!" he yowled furiously.

"Even Onestar?" asked Hailpaw. Silentfoot didn't reply, he gritted his teeth and his eyes blazed. He said nothing and began to wander on back to camp. Ravenpaw and Hailpaw followed silently behind him. As they walked Silentfoot would occasionally looked behind him to make sure they were still there. His eyes now sorry and rheumy, he had never snapped like that before. He obviously hated the term and hated that his own leader had called his own son, false-born.

They eventually arrived back in camp, warriors were returning bringing bits of deer with them and other smaller animals that they decided to kill on the way to the moorlands. Ravenpaw and Hailpaw headed back for the nursery but Silentfoot blocked them with his tail.

"You two do not sleep in there anymore, you both now sleep in the apprentices den behind the warriors green-leaf and new-leaf den," he commented without looking at them. He began to escort them towards the bushes beside the nursery and the trees that surrounded them, when Runningwind ran towards them.

"Silentfoot, I need a word with you and Onestar. But I cannot find him!" she panted to Silentfoot in a hurry.

"Why? What's wrong?" Silentfoot sounded on edge.

"No time to explain," she glanced at Ravenpaw and Hailpaw momentarily and then back to Silentfoot, "I need to find Onestar now!" she exclaimed. Silentfoot turned back to the two apprentices.

"You two will be able to find the den without me won't you?" he asked in a flat tone, hiding something. Ravenpaw and Hailpaw nodded their reply, "It's below and old fallen oak tree, the nest is inside it's rotting inside. It's not too deep into the territory, you should be able to scent it and see it clearly in this light. But don't leave it too long, you will not find it in darkness," he mewed quickly and then set off into the grassland looking for Onestar.

Ravenpaw turned to Hailpaw. Hailpaw's own confusion reflected his own, "Come on," Ravenpaw mewed and they both headed into the forest. Ravenpaw was almost regretting becoming an apprentice, if it ment sharing a den with Thymepaw, Boulderpaw and Burrowpaw. Ravenpaw didn't want anything to do with any of them. But he would have to put up with them for now. The wandered not far into the territory where they found the large fallen oak. It's middle hollowed out and the top covered in cobwebs. Inside there were mossy nests, some were flat and the others were freshly put together. Ravenpaw chose one of the freshly put down nests and padded it down and nested down in it. Hailpaw moved another nest closer to Ravenpaw's side and snuggled down next to him.




Chapter IV

Rustling disturbed Ravenpaw's sleep, he lifted his head and glanced out of the rotting tree, into the forest. Ferns and other things in the undergrowth began to move about coming closer to the den. Ravenpaw looked about an noticed that the three older apprentices were fast asleep in nests on the other side of the den. Their flanks heaving slowly and their noses letting out small puffs of air as they snored. Hailkit who was asleep beside him laid comfortably on his back, legs stuck up into the air and front paws folded down. His whiskers twitched as he dreamt.

The rusting became louder and moved closer to the den. Ravenpaw could make out a silhouette in the dimmed moon light that tried to shine through the forest of trees. Ravenpaw nudged his mother awake and he started up with a snort of air, looking around clumsily for what awoke him.

"Hailpaw, someones coming!" Ravenpaw hissed to his brother and Hailpaw righted himself, blinking continuously the sleep still staining his eyes.

"Huh?" before Hailpaw had a proper chance to think the figure burst through the undergrowth and stood before Ravenpaw, Hailpaw and the apprentices den. It was Runningwind, her eyes were wide and panic, her flanks heaved with tiredness as she panted out her stale deer ladened breath.

"Come..." she panted, "Sharpclaw...Onestar...Sharpclaw," she swallowed her breath and tried again. "Sharpclaw isn't going to make it through the night!" she finally managed to get out in one breath.

"What!" cried Ravenpaw. Hailpaw froze next to him and the three other apprentices stirred in their nests, awaking groggily.

"Hurry, we must go!" she turned and ran back under the trees through the undergrowth. Ravenpaw and Hailpaw gave chase and tried to keep up with the fully grown leopardess, but trailed behind her miserably.

Dark clouds hung over head, blocking out the sight of the moon. They were large and daunting almost foreshadowing the darkness which laid ahead. Droplets began to fall and land lightly on Ravenpaw's nose, and a gust of wind blew other drops into his eyes. He squinted each time a drop hit him and his eyes began to blur making his vision blurry at times he could only see Runningwind as a blur as they headed down the territory and most of the other time she was a dark shadow swaying backwards and forth.

They headed near where they encountered Runningwind earlier that day, where they got lost in the forest and not far from the Grass-Clearing. Runningwind dived back into the trees, Ravenpaw followed, Hailpaw to his site their pelts brushing each other. Ravenpaw could hardly see inside the forest, bushes, roots, trees, brambles all popped up in his face from one moment to the next as he tried to follow Runningwinds scent. Rain began to barrel down to the ground, soaking Ravenpaw in moments and the trees began to drip watter from their leaves. Runningwinds scent was faint but still there, he hadn't long to catch up with her and to keep her scent around before the rain would wash it away. Hailpaw stumbled as much as Ravenpaw but managed to keep up with him.

The trees seemed to move back a little and open up into another area, but it was only a small area where trees and undergrowth did not grow. A small hill was in front of them, trees sat still behind it but Ravenpaw couldn't make out anything, he couldn't see Runningwind and could only just make out her scent. He couldn't understand where she had gone.

"Down here," her voice echoed up at the kits in a hiss. Ravenpaw noticed a large opening before him that he couldn't make out before. It was dark and damp, smelling of mud, no thanks to the rain. Ravenpaw seemed frightened to go inside it, but his mother was waiting for him and so was Runningwind. Hailpaw peered forward into the dark cavern before them, he wasn't eager either, there was something odd about it. Ravenpaw looked up as a flash of lightning shine brightly through the air, illuminating the forest around them. For a few heartbeats, Ravenpaw could see that there were other leopards around the hill, their eyes glazed with grief their gazes turned away from the hill staring at the ground. The light faded and a drum of thunder rumbled above the apprentices, the air and forest seemed to shake around them and Ravenpaw's fur stood on end.

"Come on!" Runningwinds voice was loud and tart. Ravenpaw and Hailpaw wandered into the hill. As they went in, Ravenpaw noticed that the leopards sill sat unmoving, though their pelts were drenched and were only getting wetter. They refused to budge. Inside the damp air soon gave way to dry smelling dirt. The hole seemed to grow wider and deeper as they went inside. Ravenpaw could hear a wheezing breath and warmth flooding towards him. He couldn't see a thing, but recognised Runningpaw's scent and someone elses. Onestar? Of course his father would be there to say farewell to Sharpclaw, but he hadn't seen his father in moons. He was alway busy and hadn't visited Ravenpaw and Hailpaw when Sharpclaw left the nursery. Ravenpaw was also suspicious of him, what he said the other day still rang in Ravenpaw's mind almost as clearly as it saw it.

Runningwind wrapped her tail around Ravenpaw and pushed him towards a wheezing lump of fur. "Sharp...claw?" Ravenpaw croaked out, he felt like a kit, so small and insignificant. He felt a lump rise in his throat and he wanted to cry and cry into his mothers pelt. He buried his muzzle into her shoulder, Hailpaw did the same but into her chest. Sharpclaw's only reply was a gurgle of sound, nothing more came out. Ravenpaw looked up and his eyes had adjusted in the light, he could barely see her thought. But what he saw, was fearful eyes, dreadful eyes. She was scared of dying...who wouldn't be though. But StarClan would be waiting for her and she could have peace from the sickness at last and watch over her kits for ever.

"Mother...I don't want you to go!" squeaked Ravenpaw, his voice broken by the sadness inside.

"We want you here with us!" Hailpaw put in.

Sharpclaw opened her mouth but only a slight gurgling sound came out and she began to wheeze and cough. She laid her head back down and struggled to breath. Ravenpaw watched on in horror.

"The sickness has taken hold of her...she cannot speak or breath properly. I have tried to giver her herbs. But nothing will help her," Runningwind spoke softly and paused, "She will join StarClan and soon she will watch over you, until your time to go," Runningwind mewed. Ravenpaw didn't want to face the fact that his mother was dying she seemed fine just the other day. Ravenpaw buried his nose into Sharpclaw's fur again. That was a lie, she looked weak and exhausted, but not long before she was healthy, loving, warm, kind. Now she was dying, stone-cold, but still loving, her kindness had ebbed away into nothing. Her voice nothing, her presence nothing, she was practically gone all that remained was an empty mindless shell holding her from joining StarClan.

Was it his fault though, was his birth a curse to her. They said that she was healthy fine before he came a long and not long after she got this lump in her belly and it drained her life slowly, dreadfully. It was his fault. It was all my fault. "Sharpclaw, my love," Onestar's deep mew sounded suddenly from behind the two apprentices. Sharpclaw didn't make any movement, but her rising of her flank slowly, told Ravenpaw she was still there...just.

"I want you to know that I love you, I will always love you even when you are gone. I will never find a mate like you, we have brought two kits into this world and to this Clan they will make great warriors and will honor your name," Onestar mewed, "Go in peace, my love. Never forget us, I will wait for you until the end of my time. When I no longer have to wait, when I can finally join you in StarClan and we can be together, forever."

Ravenpaw heard his father state that he would make a great warrior and honor their mothers name, it seemed as though he loved him. Perhaps Runningwind was right, perhaps he said things that he shouldn't in a time of confusion and panic. He felt slightly at ease now, his parents loved him and he could love them both again without suspicion of the other. Ravenpaw pushed against his mothers side and her flank raised one more time, before it stopped and went still. She let out a sigh before she went silent. Her soul was leaving her body and she was going to join their ancestors in the night sky. She could be with the rest of her kin, and watch over the others from afar. Hailpaw began to wail in his mothers pelt and Ravenpaw found it hard not too as well though he did not wail, he just murmured his mothers name repeatedly.

Onestar turned and wandered out of the cavern. Runningwind closed their mothers eyes and rested her tail upon Ravenpaw and her paw on Hailpaw. She began to speak, "Oh StarClan, take this soul into your arms of love and peace. Guide her to your home and give her sanctuary, know that she leaves two kits behind and a love. Know that she was a warrior, through and through, a warrior who LeopardClan were proud to call kin," she turned and left the two kits to their billowing over their passed mother.

Cries of grief wailed through the tunnel from the LeopardClan warriors outside. They were mourning her like kin a loved one lost and that she was a loved one lost. Soon after silence almost fell upon the land, the rain still fell from dark clouds but the thunder and lightning had moved away from the forest territories far off into the distance. But the sky seemed to be sharing the clans pain and grief. StarClan was weeping. Ravenpaw and Hailpaw had fallen asleep in their mothers fur, only just comforted by her presence. But she wasn't really there now, her body was an empty shell.




Morning rose and sunshine tried to pierce through the grey clouds, only illuminating them and the land below. It shone no warm it gave the land no blessing with its brightness. The clouds hung still hung over the land ensuring the mood of the previous night was still about. Ravenpaw jostled and turned, arose and blinked sore tired eyes and stretched his tired bones from sleeping on the hard ground. The light from the sun only just touched the edges of Sharpclaw and her sons no light rested upon her body. Ravenpaw turned to his mothers motionless body and saw how small and frail it looked now with the sickness draining her away and taking the last bit of her away. Her ribs showed and her belly was thin, her bones just began to show through her pelt, looking frail. Ravenpaw looked over his mother from head to tail over and over, he couldn't get through his mind that she was gone and gone forever.

He noticed that he belly had a small lump in it showing through her thinness it was solid looking and circular. That must have been the thing that killed her...the thing I brought her. Ravenpaw heard scuffling behind him and Hailpaw turned up from his mothers chest and looked behind Ravenpaw. Ravenpaw turned to see his father, Silentfoot and Runningwind.

"We have come to take your mother to be sent on her way, my sons," mewed Onestar grimly.

"Come with me, kits, I will take care of you," Runningwind's voice was sweet but gently, she was just as sad as they were. She lost a friend and kin as well. Ravenpaw and Hailpaw trailed out behind her tails down. Once outside Dustwhisker a LeopardClan warrior entered the cave to help Onsestar and Silentfoot carry Sharpclaw out into the land. All the Clan was outside the cavern before the hill, though Kestrelsong did not leave her den with her kits still too small to leave the nursery. Elders, Senior Warriors, Warriors, Apprentices all waited for Sharpclaw's body to be brought out. Even Thymepaw, Boulderpaw and Burrowpaw seemed somber. Ravenpaw sat next to Runningwind away from the other apprentices, Hailpaw sat on her other side. She wrapped her tail around Hailpaw and pressed close into Ravenpaw trying to comfort them but it would not work. Ravenpaw was too upset.

Silence seemed to fall on the land, no bird made a sound, no buzzing of insects and even the dripping of water seemed to be silenced at this time. No cat made a sound, they all sat waiting for Sharpclaw's arrival. Onestar's head came out of the carven first, followed by Silentfoot's, Dustwhisker a moment later ensuring that she did not fall off the warriors backs. They walked through the crowd of cats and they murmured their grievances as she paced. Ravenpaw couldn't bare to look and hid his face inside Runningwind's pelt, she made no comment, probably watching her go by. When she was through to the undergrowth between the trees, Runningwind nudged him and Hailpaw and they were the first to follow her through. The Clan followed them afterwards in a singular line.

Out into the grassland, the grass itself seemed spiked and full of hatred and grief, pricking at Ravenpaw's soft pads. He moved his paws up in frustration as he walked with each prick annoying him. No one made a single comment. They headed for the reeds on the other side of the territory. There they would have their final grievances, well wishing, blessings and send off to StarClan in tradition. They would place her body in the river and let it take her away, far, far away.

The pushed through the reeds and separated them away with their size. The riverbed appeared a short moment latter where Onestar, Silentfoot, Dustwhisker, laid her body down on the sodden ground gently. Dustwhisker went and stood in the river, flinching at its iciness from last nights rain. He would make sure her body would not be dragged of the edge of the riverbed and down the river before it was time. Onestar turned to his Clanmates who filed through the reeds and sat in and before them. Ravenpaw, Hailpaw and Runningwind were at the front of the group, closet to Onestar and Sharpclaw.

"We come here on this day," Onestar's voice cracked, "To-" he stopped not wanting to say the words of farewell to his own mate, so soon. "To...farewell Sharpclaw, a brave strong warrior. A warrior who would help others in need, a warrior who could take on deer with antlers and come out the victor without anyone's help. A warrior for time...and the only mate that I will ever have and the only one that I ever want. We had two wonderful kits together and time together. If any wish to speak, now is the time before we send her body down the river and complete her way into StarClan," Onestar bowed his head and turned to his love.

Silentfoot raised himself up and gestured with his tale that he wished to speak, "I have known Sharpclaw all my life, from when we were in the nursery together with our mothers. When we became apprentices, training under the same sun and moon. She was alway a formidable warrior and always shall be. She would have been my mate, if Onestar hadn't stollen her away from me, before my idiotic mind realized," he joked to the leader, Onestar nodded in remembrance. "But to me she grew into more of a sister than a mate that I could have, and when he kits came into this world. I found that I had more of a duty to help and protect those kits, and watch over them like I have always watched Onestar and Sharpclaw," Silentfoot lowered himself. It all went silent no other cat seemed as though they wished to speak.

The reeds rustled and Kestrelsong appeared our from them and sat up from the farewell to Sharpclaw along the riverbed, watching from a distance. What is she doing here? Thought Ravenpaw indignantly. Onestar looked up at her through narrow eyes.

"What are you doing here Kestrelsong, don't you have kits to look after?" he asked.

"Ivytail has offered to look after them for a little bit while I come and pay my respects to Sharpclaw," she mewed in a low tone.

"Do you wish to speak?"

"No," Kestrelsong replied curtly, then paused, "...She knows how I feel, she knows that I am sorry for what happened to her and that I wish her journey to StarClan is safe. That I hope she rests in peace."

Onestar nodded and turned back his gaze to Sharpclaw. The incident when Kestrelsong had snapped at Sharpclaw was forgotten. Ravenpaw guessed that she was just stopping a sick mind getting herself killed quicker, that she was just worried for her. Kestrelsong looked generally sorry and Onestar had forgotten what he said the other day and now seems to love Ravenpaw once more. Runningwind stepped forward to her sister and rested her head gently on her pelt before turning to the crowd of cats.

"My sister was the best friend I could ever have. We'd play and fight together, get ourselves into trouble. When we were made warriors, that was the happiest day of both our lives and we made a vow to let nothing happen to one another," Runningwind said grimly, "But I have....I have let you die...and I'm so sorry," Runningwind took stems of reeds in her jaw and broke them one by one with her jaw. She laid them on top of Sharpclaw's body, then with Dustwhisker, Onestar and Silentfoot they lifted her body gently and placed her into the water.

Ravenpaw felt the lump in his throat rise again and he stared out across the other side of the river. A LionClan patrol was heading towards the river they had noticed the gathering of LeopardClan cats before the river bed. Ravenpaw started he was going to yowl at them to go away. But they were headed by their Clan leader a lioness, Shinningstar. She signaled to the patrol to spread out along the river side and they stood and watched the farewell ceremony. The LeopardClan warriors didn't seem to notice them, to busy watching Sharpclaw be placed into the river.

The group who held onto Sharpclaw had taken her into the middle of the river and now placed her on top of the water. Onestar stepped aside as well as Dustwhisker and her body was gently carried away down stream. Despite the rain of the night before, the river was calm and slow flowing and gently carried Sharpclaw's body away. A roar split through the air as the LionClan warrior bid their farewell to the LeopardClan warrior, startling the group of LeopardClan warriors in the river. Roars sounded off after Onestar led his clan, filling the air, reverberating it around the land. The air fuzzed with the roars and shook Ravenpaw to his heart. His body numbed as he watched his mother disappear down river, she was gone forever and now it seemed as though he was alone.

The clan began to split up and leave in silence, Shinningstar and her patrol bowed their heads low in a gesture of great sorrow. To lose a cat in any clan was a loss to all the clans in the forests. The patrol moved on, quickly to let LeopardClan morn and vanished back into their territory. Ravenpaw, Hailpaw and Onestar stayed by the river staring downstream. Runningwind brushed her muzzle against both the apprentices and disappeared. Silentfoot rested his head on each of theirs in their turn and vanished with Runningwind amongst the reeds. Now it was just Ravenpaw, Hailpaw and Onestar alone to grieve.

Onestar turned to his sons, his emotion hard to read. He just sat there and stared at his two sons not uttering a word to them. "It is all your fault," he finally mewed, Ravenpaw started up, not understanding his father.

"What do you mean, 'all your fault'?" asked Ravenpaw.

"It is all your fault!" he growled at Ravenpaw, "You did this to her, you did this to me!"

"What?" Ravenpaw couldn't understand what his father was saying, he thought he had stopped with the superstitions. "But you said-" Ravenpaw was cut off by his father.

"I know what I said!" he hissed, "I said that to make sure Sharpclaws soul rest in peace. I should have listened to the elders when you were born and had away with you. Then you wouldn't have killed my mate!"

"What? Ravenpaw didn't kill Sharpclaw, the lump and sickness in her belly did!" protested Hailpaw standing up for his brother.

"Fool!" Onestar spat out, "he was in her womb. He cursed her body, gave her the sickness and now we have him in our clan. He will bring sickness and disaster to us all!" each time Onestar spat out the word 'he', he ensured that Ravenpaw meant nothing to him a burden and nothing more.

"If you really hate me, then why don't you exile me!" Ravepaw cried.

Onestar bent down to his sons level, face to face with him, muzzle to muzzle. His burning brown eyes scotched into Ravenpaw's mind and heart, fury swelled off of the clan lead and the one that he called 'father.' But he was father no more, he was a monster. "I will..." he growled, turning to leave Ravenpaw yowled at him, nothing but just a roar. The best he could do, he couldn't express his anger much more than that. But deep down...he really began to think it was his fault, hearing his father say it though, burned through his heart. Not only had he lost a mother, he had lost a father and maybe his entire Clan as well.




Chapter V

A quarter moon had passed since the death of Sharpclaw and the blaming which Onestar said to Ravenpaw. Silentfoot still took his apprentices out into the grass-clearing and trained them in hunting skills. Though each day that Ravenpaw went there it was with a heavy heart and wasn't eager to train. He no longer felt love, and anger. His mother gone and his father turned against him, he only had Hailpaw left and he wouldn't fully understand Ravenpaw's misery. Though he felt a little too, betrayed by his father, Onestar treated Hailpaw almost the same as Ravenpaw because he was close to him. Of course he was close to him they were brothers, kin of the same litter. Been by each other's side for all of their lives and he would gladly fight for him, even if it was his own father.

Now Silentfoot led Ravenpaw and Hailpaw towards the forest near the gorge. They were going to do a hunting assessment since they had been trained for just over a quarter moon in the techniques, it was time to put them to a test. Ravenpaw and Hailpaw would find what ever they could in the forest and bring it back for Silentfoot, to judge. Not only that, he would be watching them from afar and assessing their hunting skills. Ravenpaw couldn't really be bothered doing the assessment, it was pointless anyway. Onestar made the comment that he would exile Ravenpaw, so why should he bother training to become a warrior. The skills that he has learnt wouldn't help him in the outer-world for very long. He would most likely starve to death and join his mother in StarClan. Anywhere than here was a better place to be thought Ravenpaw.

Silentfoot sat before the area of forest where he wanted his two apprentices to hunt and turned to them. Ravenpaw and Hailpaw looked up at him to listen, neither very eager. "Okay you two. You will both hunt in this part of the forest, find what ever you can and do not take on anything that you might think is too difficult for you," he meowed. "Now, there are a few rules," Ravenpaw inwardly sighed he just wanted to go back to the apprentices den and stay there for a while, nothing else mattered anyhow. His brother Hailpaw almost felt the same way, but he still had a bit of a spark of interest, given away by his slightly turned head and ears pricked to Silentfoot.

"Firstly; You must use all the skill that I have currently taught you, second; you two must work alone. That is how LeopardClan warriors done it for moons and that is how it is going to be done now! Third; if either of you encounter a bear, boar, adder, deer, anything out of the ordinary forest dwelling creatures then flea or try and call for help. I will not be far away. Fourth and this includes the third; If you so encounter these creatures, do not take them on yourselves, you will more than likely die!" he exclaimed that last part, "Fifth; I will be watching you as much as I can to assess you both. So no dirty swaps, giving each other extra prey or any other nonsense and sixth," Ravenpaw was happy that this was the last one. "Do the best you can. Don't try to catch more than you can. You are both very young and got a lot to learn before you are able to take down larger prey and do more of your physical best. So good luck,"

Silentfoot waved his tale in signal for both of the apprentices to start. Hailpaw moved slowly but swiftly forward, but Ravenpaw stayed where he was. Silentfoot looked at the young Leopard apprentice and his eyes grew round with concern and understanding. "Ravenpaw, I know you are still upset about Sharpclaw's passing. But you still have your warrior training to complete, and become a great member of this clan and show your duty and passion towards this Clan and the others will see that passion and begin to respect you, though you may not have any spots." Silentfoot moved over towards Ravenpaw and sat before him.

"You still have Hailpaw, Onestar, Runningwind and I to look after you," he commented. "Ha, what do you know! Onestar hates me - no loathes me!" Ravenpaw growled out. "He thinks I am the cause of all of this."

"That's not true!" replied Silentfoot.

"What do you know, you weren't there when he told me!" Ravenpaw almost wanted to yowl at Silentfoot, he knew nothing. But instead he stormed off into the forest and began his assessment. Silentfoot watched on from the grass-land and sighed as Ravenpaw drifted underneath the undergrowth.

Inside the forest Ravenpaw wandered around trees, boulders, long grass, brambles and other places where he thought prey would hide. He could scent mouse but he wasn't sure where. Keeping low, keeping his tale still, his pelt off the surrounding shrubbery, ears pricked, jaw open. He kept searching for his prey. But he kept loosing place of it. His mind was not in the right place for this and probably wouldn't ever return back to normal. He doubted himself, he hated his father and this Clan and his mind would never be at ease again.

Scratches caught the edge of his hearing and he scanned the perimeter, checking for the scent of his prey. The mouse was looking for something, perhaps a stash of nuts that a squirrel had long forgotten from leaf-fall or some that had fallen. What ever it was looking for it didn't notice Ravenpaw's presence. He crept around the tall tree lying before him in his pathway. He kept his tale still and his pelt off the undergrowth that surrounded him. He kept an eye on the mouse which had turned away from him. He stepped over fallen branches that would crack under his paw. He slowly stretched forth and pounced.

But he hadn't managed to take the mouse by surprise, the reason why it was facing the other way because it had smelled him and was double checking where he scent was coming from. The wind blew his smell of cat and leopard at that straight into the mouses nose. He jumped a moment too late and it scurried out of his paws. It wasn't over yet. Ravenpaw gave chase, as far as he knew there was no other place for it to go. They ran through the forest and undergrowth for a number of fox length before a large bramble bush appeared in Ravenpaw's line of sight. He pushed himself lower to the ground and gave a giant leap towards the fleeing mouse.

Got'cha!

Ravenpaw had successfully landed his claws into the mouses back just before it managed to take cover in the brambles and cause Ravenpaw to go flying into them. Ravenpaw gave a quick sigh of relief and broke the mouses neck to kill it and stop it from escaping Ravenpaw's claws. He picked it up and held it in his mouth. Uncertain in what to do with it, he placed it by an old tree between the roots so no other prey could get at it and hurried further into the forest. Finally Ravenpaw felt a little at ease, his mind was clear of what his father said to him, how he felt that Sharpclaw's death might of actually been because of him and the rest of the clans superstitions. He was focused on hunting.

A shriek split the air, Ravenpaw spun around and searched frantically for what it was and what had caused it. Though it didn't sound quite like a leopard in pain or anything of the sort. It sounded rather odd. Then something caught Ravenpaw's eye not too far off, it was his brother and he was proudly wandering back with a large bird in his mouth. Ravenpaw gave a sigh of relief for a moment he thought something had been attacked by a bear or a boar, perhaps a deer with its antlers that are said to be so sharp they can kill a fully grown warrior of LeopardClan.

Ravenpaw continued his hunt, catching another mouse, a bird, and a polecat. He did his best to hide the prey in various locations, he also marked the areas with a scent mark to ensure that he remembered that it was there that he put his prey and continued on with his hunt. The sun had risen past sun high and would now begin its slow decent into the horizon on the far side of the land Ravenpaw wanted to continue his hunt, his mind was finally at ease and he was getting good at pouncing on different animals and killing them swiftly. Ravenpaw had now traveled deeper into the forest and soon he didn't exactly know where he was going. The trees had barely changed and still grew in large numbers. All around him the same birds sung their tunes and carried on with their day as well as other prey lurking beneath the undergrowth.

Ravenpaw didn't mind he wanted to continue onward and explore more, he would pick up a few extra prey just in case Silenfoot was still watching him and assessing him. Moving around a thick fern, Ravenpaw spotted another mouse. He was foolish to allow it to see him and it ran away. But that was Ravenpaw's plan, he wanted to chase the mouse to run after it, get the thrill of the chase once more and the wind on his black pelt. As he ran faster and faster and soon beside the mouse. It veered of in another direction. Ravenpaw went to give chase, but skidded and slammed into something hard and furry. Ravenpaw fell backwards and knocked his head. He raised himself up slowly trying to shake the dizziness from his vision.

A large dark creature stood before him, its warm breath flowed from its nose and hit Ravenpaw square in the face. Ravenpaw backed away and his vision became straight again. A long snouted, giant teethed, small beady black eyes, prickly haired creature stood in front of him. It was taller than him, had split paws with something dark and solid on top of them. It's two giant teeth came out from either side of it's mouth and it's ears flicked backwards and forth signaling frustration. Slowly Ravenpaw backed away from the creature, sniffing the air in an attempt to try and identify it. It's definitely not a cat, Ravenpaw was quite certain that he would recognize the scent and look of a different kind of a cat if it stood before him.

It's not a wolf, not fuzzy enough from what I've heard Silentfoot say. It's not a deer, too small and their antlers are on their heads not beside their mouth. Then it hit Ravenpaw, he had stumbled across the other large animal that Silentfoot had warned him and Hailpaw about, A boar! Ravenpaw slowly back away from the fuming boar. It huffed and puffed at Ravenpaw, staring wildly into his fearful eyes. Fear scent drained off of Ravenpaw and the boar knew it, it leat out a frightening squeal that made Ravenpaw quiver. He had no choice but to run, the boar was much bigger than he was and he wouldn't survive taking it on. Ravenpaw turned and fled.

The boar barreled after him, smashing through the ferns, brambles and other undergrowth plants that stood in its way. Ravenpaw leapt over a dead tree that had fallen down in the middle of his escape path and hoped that the boar would stop. But the tree was only small and the boar barreled through it's rotting bark and trunk still after Ravenpaw. Ravenpaw was panicking he didn't know what to do, Silentfoot didn't tell them what else they were suppose to do when they encountered one. He thought that they would leave him alone if it chased him far enough. But the pig didn't seem contempt to give up so easily.

A roar split through the air and Ravenpaw turned away from checking on the boar to see how close it was to him. To see Silentfoot leap over him and slam into the boar, causing it to shriek in painic.

Ravenpaw skidded to a halt and watched in horror as his mentor fought the beast. Silentfoot was indeed the larger predator but the boar would still be a match for Silentfoot. The boar charged at him and Silentfoot stepped aside raking a claw down it's belly. The pig squealed again in pain and turned towards Silentfoot going head strong for the fully trained Leopard warrior. Silentfoot leapt over the boar and kicked out with his hind legs pushing the boar forward and causing it to tumble over. It slammed head-first into the ground and let out a grunt. Silentfoot stood before Ravenpaw protecting him from the wild animal as it stagged back to its, strange paws.

Ravenpaw was shivering with fear, the beast seemed so wild so out of control and it seemed that no Leopard could stop its madness. Blood welled from the side that Silentfoot had hit the boar. It chuffed and huffed again, and it headed straight for Silentfoot and Ravenpaw. Silentfoot turned in a flash and picked up Ravenpaw by his scruff, completely stunning him. Silentfoot leapt up the trunk of the tree behind him and the boar slammed straight into it.

Crack!

It sounded as though the tree had taken a nasty hit by the boar. Then there was a small thud as the boar was knocked unconscious by the impact. Silentfoot heaved himself back down to the forest floor and dropped Ravenpaw a few fox tail lengths away from the motionless boar. "Great StarClan you are heavy!" puffed Silentfoot and he moved his jaw around trying to relieve stress from carrying the large kit.

"T-thanks," Ravenpaw stammered, he was still unsure how he managed to survive that ordeal.

Silentfoot turned back to the boar, that was still out cold. Ravenpaw stared around his protective body at the creature and noticed that one of its large teeth had been broken in half by the collision of the tree. "You must have strayed into it's territory," commented Silentfoot.

"How was I suppose to know that!" Ravenpaw meowed fearfully.

"It's always hard to tell, they do not leave scent markers as we do. They can come and go and make their territory bigger or smaller, just because they say so," Silentfoot turned back to Ravenpaw and his eyes glowed warm. "At least I was nearby and heard the squealing of that pig and got here just in time."

"Thanks again!" repeated Ravenpaw.

"No problem," Silentfoot rested his head on Ravenpaw's, "I couldn't imagine what it would be like losing you. And hey," Silentfoot lifted his head, "You will have a daring story to tell your brother and my kits. They would love to hear a story from you," he meowed happily and turned an wandered into the forest to lead the way back into the grass-land and back to camp. Ravenpaw paused for a moment before he carried on. What did Silentfoot mean by, 'I couldn't imagine losing me?' Ravenpaw followed after his mentor a paw step or two behind.

"What about my prey?" asked Ravenpaw.

"Do you really want to go back and try and find it all?"

Ravenpaw already knew the answer, 'No way!' "Besides I saw most of your catches and you did good."

Ravenpaw almost completely forgot that Silentfoot had been watching him through out his hunt. He had almost fully emerged himself into the hunt that he forgot about the assessment and also the ordeal that he had just been through, he would almost certainly want to forget it. But it would be a part of his training to become a warrior. They exited back out into the grasslands where Hailpaw was waiting out in the open before his catches from the hunt. His pelt glowing golden and dark around the edges where his spots laid. His eyes grew with curiosity when he saw his brother emerge from the forest carrying no prey and neither was Silentfoot. Then his eyes grew a little concerned, wondering if his brother had actually managed to catch anything at all, or that the things that had happened had troubled him too much.

Ravenpaw sat beside his brother and turned back to Silentfoot who sat before him. Before Silentfoot said anything, Hailpaw leaned over to his brother and hissed into his ear. "What happened in the forest? Didn't you catch anything?" he asked. Ravenpaw flicked his tail in reply not willing to talk about it and to silence his brother so Silentfoot would talk and no doubt that he would explain the situation, that Ravenpaw was a little worried to discuss.

"Now then, before I get into any details about your two's assessments. I will say what happened to Ravepaw," Hailpaw looked back at his brother confused with what Silentfoot was saying, Ravenpaw just sat there waiting feeling a little hot underneath his pelt. "Ravenpaw encountered a boar, by accident," Hailpaw sat up in alarm and looked around expecting to see the boar charge towards them at any given moment. But unknown to him it was still knocked out from the impact it made on the tree.

"Don't worry, it will not bother us," Silentfoot re-assured the scared apprentice, "We managed to lose it and well cause it a little distress by getting it to slam into a tree. The dumb animal. It should just return back to it's chosen territory in the forest, and I should warn the rest of the Clan of its presence later. I do not know why there is a boar this far into the Clan lands and in our forest where our scents should lie, why would it come here?" Silentfoot was generally baffled that a boar came into LeopardClan's forest. They generally lived far away from cats, but this one seemed to be brave, or stupid and has decided to try and stay. "No matter, LeopardClan might have a chance at a nice meal of pig one night. It has been a very long time since we have had boar," commented Silentfoot.

Hailpaw's mouth watered a little, "That sounds great!" he happily meowedd. Ravenpaw on the other hand would rather it disappear and not come to the Clan's camp, as a meal or as an unwanted visitor.

"Now the assessment summary," Silentfoot began and Hailpaw became quiet with anticipation. "You both did very well. However Hailpaw, your form could be a little better and Ravenpaw taking on a boar by yourself is a pretty stupid thing to do," Silentfoot joked. "Though I suspect you didn't do it on purpose. But you both did very well in your hunting, and yes Ravenpaw caught some prey. Though the boar chasing him made him lose it and so it wasn't his fault. You both did very well and I am proud of you," Silentfoot's praise turned Hailpaw into a shimmering star, bright, proud and glowing. He puffed out his chest in pride and happiness. However Ravenpaw couldn't take his praise, he felt too embarrassed by the boar chasing him and failing at his assessment.


"Come on you two lets head back to camp," Silentfoot flicked his tail and wandered off heading back to the LeopardClan camp. Hailpaw followed after but Ravenpaw lingered behind them both. Hailpaw who was proudly trotting alongside their mentor and noticed Ravenpaw wasn't beside him. He dropped back from their mentors side and fell back along with Ravenpaw's.

"Hey you're not upset about losing your prey are ya?" he asked around the bird and mouse that he carried.

"No, I'm not!" Ravenpaw growled back.

"Okay...okay," Hailpaw was almost taken aback by the comment Ravenpaw made. "So what was the boar like, was it big with white teeth like Silentfoot said and were they stinky and angry. Were you scared of it, when it chased you?" he seemed to be excited that Ravenpaw got to encounter a boar.

"I don't want to talk about it okay!" scowed at his brother.

Hailpaw didn't make another comment, instead they both carried on trekking through the grasslands and back to the camp in silence. Before reaching the edge of the camp, Hailpaw piped up once more. "Hey mother would have freaked out if she had known you were chased by a boar," he mewed wholeheartedly. Ravenpaw pricked his ear closer to his brother and was about to make a comment before Silentfoot turned back to them.

"Hailpaw, you go ahead and get select something to eat from the prey you caught. I want to speak to Ravenpaw in privet," he told the spotted apprentice. Hailpaw didn't argue and went forth to with some of his catch to eat away from Silentfoot and Hailpaw. Silentfoot coaxed Ravenpaw forward and placed down the other mouse and squirrel that Hailpaw had managed to catch his hunt. He turned to Ravenpaw with worry in his brown gazee, Ravenpaw stepped forward but ducked his head down expecting something to do with the boar incident.

"What has your father told you?" he asked.

Ravenpaw hesitated for a moment, "N-nothing," he didn't want to budge and get himself and even Silentfoot into trouble with Onestar.

"Ravenpaw, I know you are lying, I can see it in your eyes and the way you are acting now. Onestar has said something to hurt you. I don't know why, but I'll find out," Silentfoot seemed to know Ravenpaw well, better than his own father. It was because Silentfoot was more of a father to him than Onestar and if he knew that there was something wrong with Ravenpaw, other than the yowl that he did earlier with him. Then perhaps there was no use in hiding it.

"Onestar said that he thinks I am the one who caused the lump in Sharpclaw's stomach, that I am the one who killed her. I am a curse to the Clan and perhaps that he should have listened to the elders and dealt with me when I was younger."

"Oh that fool!" Silentfoot yowled, "I told him that the elders superstition is a load of nonsense, why should a cats colour make them a curse or something bad to the Clan. TigerClan and LionClan are not necessary bad, they are not a curse to us and nor to each other. Just elder supersticions when I see him..." Silentfoot broke off when he saw Onestar approaching from the other side of the grassland towards them.

Onestar lifted his head high and looked down upon his black pelted son with eyes of hatred. He turned to Silentfoot and blinked slowly at him, he must have heard the conversation and that is why he was here. Ravenpaw shuffled uneasily on his paws waiting for Onestar to punish him and Silentfoot for speaking out against him and speaking out against the elders and their word. "Silentfoot, you no longer need to train my two kits," he mewed finally.

"What, but Onestar. I have already done so much with them, surely now wouldn't be a wise idea," Silentfoot was shocked and wanted to try and persuade his leader.

"You have done good, Silentfoot. Though you have only been training with them for a quarter moon, I want you to go and find out more in why TigerClan has been in the ranges of our border and some over it," he meowed.

"But Onestar, who will take over their training, the other Leopards are busy with the other apprentices and some of the others will not go near Ravenpaw. I think it is a wrong decision."

"Don't ever question my decision, Silentfoot!" Onestar growled at his companion, but now it seems as that old companionship that they shared between each other had disappeared entirely. Ravenpaw knew that it was his fault, he started to wish that he had never been born and wanted to go away forever. "But if you must know, I will be spending some time training them, when I can." Silentfoot was shocked and so was Ravenpaw. After what Ravenpaw had told Silentfoot about what Onestar had said, it seemed odd that he would now be wanting to train him and Hailpaw.

"Very well," mewed Silentfoot and he argued no further. He wandered off to join Hailpaw on the other side of the grassland and no doubt talk about what Onestar had decided. Ravenpaw watched his former mentor wander away head down and tail scrapping the top of the grass. He then felt his fathers gaze burning into his pelt and he turned back to him, his head down but he tried not to let his fear show through. Onestar just glared at him for a few heartbeats and then wandered off as well. Ravenpaw stayed in the grassland watching after his father, not bothering to move, not even to get some food. He was too upset and worried to bother with hunger.


Chapter VI

Will be here sooner or later...

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