This is the first story in the series called Strength. Four cats meet at a Gathering. They become friends, only to discover that all of them have no idea who they really are. The search for their identity begins.
A bird crowed, disturbing Ivypaw from her hunting. She stood up and stepped forward and felt a stick crunch between her claws.
The mouse she had her eye on dove for cover.
Sighing, she looked back at Whiskerfur. He was burying a shrew, his tail flicking contentedly. She wondered what he was thinking.
I'll never become a warrior if I can't catch one mouse! she wailed in her head.
She didn't notice Whiskerfur approach her. When he spoke, he scared Ivypaw enough to jump backwards.
"Any luck?" he asked again, purring.
Ivypaw got over herself and flattened her fur. "No," she grumbled.
Whiskerfur sighed. "Really, Ivypaw, you've got to focus more."
Ivypaw glanced away, and she felt herself get hot with embarrassment.
"There's distractions out here," Whiskerfur continued. "You can't let them get to you."
"I'm almost a warrior," Ivypaw spat.
"I can stop that from happening," Whiskerfur retorted.
Ivypaw sat heavily on the forest floor, listening to the leaves rustle in the wind and her tail flicking across the dusty ground.
"Let's go," Whiskerfur demanded. "We've scared away all the prey. We can come again tomorrow."
The Bigforest was the only good place to hunt on ForestClan's territory. The Smallforest was where they made their camp.
The trees were thin and close together here, and for a moment Ivypaw lost herself in just weaving through the trees. She didn't care about anything, or anyone, else.
"Ivypaw!" Whiskerfur spat. "Hurry up, Volestar is retiring Smallstep to the elder's den."
Ivypaw sighed and sped up reluctantly, going as slow as she dared.
As they approached the entrance, Whiskerfur stepped back. "You first," he mewed.
This required careful timing. Ivypaw saw the right moment, and, with no hesitation, raced through the small tunnel and leaped over the river, landing on a log that went by. She leaped again, landing on the stepping stones.
Whiskerfur was right behind her. There were many logs, and he chose a smaller one to get across with.
They climbed across the stepping stones together, finally reaching the ForestClan camp.
Volestar looked them over as they entered the camp. "What kept you waiting?" he growled.
"It takes a long time to get here, Volestar," Whiskerfur informed him.
Volestar turned away from us and looked at the oldest warrior, Smallstep. The light brown cat's pelt blended perfectly into the bracken that surrounded the camp.
I sat next to the other ForestClan apprentice, Whitepaw. He was small and lean, and he would be a warrior to look out for, if he made it past being an apprentice.
All of that left my mind as Volestar said the ceremony, using the ancient words StarClan had chosen.
ForestClan welcomed Smallstep to the rank of an elder by chanting his name, as if he had just become the newest warrior.
Ivypaw couldn't wait to hear her name chanted.
Sandpaw scuffed his paws in the dust, burying the small field mouse he had just caught.
"Now for a fish," he muttered.
He saw the log that he liked most was being used, so he went to the other one. He climbed out on it. It was about five foxlengths long, and one tail-length wide.
Sandpaw crouched, waiting for a fish to come by. The water glittered on the horizon, distracting him.
"Sandpaw!" a voice called. "I'm waiting!"
"Go away, Redpaw!" Sandpaw yowled back.
"Why should I?" Redpaw asked loudly.
Sandpaw ignored him, seeing a fish swim close to the log.
The fish came close enough to catch. Sandpaw swiped his paw at it as Redpaw yowled, "Hurry up!"
Hissing, Sandpaw splashed into the water, scaring the fish away.
Drenched, he came to the sand, spitting out the salty water in his mouth and shaking off his drenched coat.
Redpaw was purring. I spat in his face, and walked away.
Tallfur, my mentor, bounded up to me. "What happened?" he asked.
"I fell into the water," Sandpaw growled. "Redpaw distracted me."
Tallfur growled. "Ignore him. He's trouble."
"I just discovered PondClan scent on our territory," Tallfur growled. "It's fresh."
Sandpaw unsheathed his claws. "Have they left our territory?"
"I don't think so."
"Then let's go hunt them down," Sandpaw hissed.
"There's only two of us," Tallfur pointed out.
"I saw a cat using the other log," Sandpaw mewed. "I'll go get them."
"And I'll get Redpaw," Tallfur mewed reluctantly.
"Okay," Sandpaw mewed.
"Meet me back here," Tallfur mewed. "Go as fast as you can."
Sandpaw nodded and raced past his mentor to the other log. He hoped that the other cat was still there.
And, sure enough, they were.
"Gorseheart!" Sandpaw yowled.
The cat turned. "What?"
"Tallfur discovered fresh PondClan scent on our territory!" Sandpaw called. "We need to fight them off but we need your help!"
Gorseheart raced off the log in an instant. "Where?" he asked.
"We're meeting them first, I wasn't there when he found it," Sandpaw called over his shoulder as he led the way back.
Gorseheart followed with no protest.
As he was running, Sandpaw saw unfamiliar figures on the horizon. "There!" he yowled.
Gorseheart turned, losing his balance for a heartbeat.
As Sandpaw got closer, he saw that they were far outnumbered.
Fishpaw wondered how the hunt was going.
Several of his Clanmates were on DustClan territory, stealing prey to warn them - of the coming fight.
PondClan was far more powerful than DustClan.
He turned back to his conversation with Stonestar, his mentor.
"Are you okay, Fishpaw?" Stonestar asked.
Fishpaw nodded. He needed to get away from this...
"I'm just tired," he lied.
"Why don't you go get some fresh-kill?" Stonestar asked.
Fishpaw nodded, and walked away.
Stonestar hadn't been the Clan leader the entire time that Fishpaw was an apprentice. He had just been a normal warrior when Fishpaw was apprenticed. The deputy, Quailtail, was killed, and Stonepelt was made deputy. The old leader, Whitestar, was killed the next day.