Chapter One

The wind blew against the branches of the tree. Tiny drops of white fell from the sky, covering the ground in a thin layer of snow and the edges of the stone hollow were covered in ice. Ashenpaw crept along the side, her paws stinging with cold from the ice. The wind blew through her ears and she pressed them flat against her head. Then she heard a loud yowl, Thornclaw calling her name. As she turned, her paws slipped from underneath her and she felt herself falling down the big drop into the stone hollow. She tried calling out but it was useless. She had fallen from the edge of the stone hollow. Then she remembered Icepool staring at her with wide and frightened eyes and Bramblestar carrying her into the medicine cat den. Then Ashenpaw felt a stab of pain in her leg and everything went black…

Ashenpaw breathed a sigh of relief as she opened her eyes and saw everything was back to normal. She was safe in the medicine cat den with the same smell of herbs wafting through her nose. Jayfeather was still sorting out the different herbs and Smudge and Hollyleaf sat beside her.

“How are you?” Smudge asked anxiously. Hollyleaf licked Ashenpaw’s soft grey fur.

“I’ve been so worried!” she purred, brushing her cheek against her daughters. “You mustn’t ever scare us like that!” Ashenpaw smiled and got to her paws.

“At least all I got was a fright,” she mewed. “Can I go hunting with Thornclaw?” Jayfeather nodded, his tail flicking from side to side. “Yes,” he mewed. “But not with Thornclaw. He’s got greencough. Bumblebee could maybe take you, or Blossomcloud.” Hollyleaf licked Ashenpaw fiercely and Smudge let a purr rise from his throat.

“Go on then,” Smudge mewed.

Ashenpaw bounded out of the medicine cat den. She bent over to lick the fur on her side flat. As she did so she saw tasted blood and realised that one of her sides were covered in scratches She ignored them and raced out of the camp entrance. She didn’t feel like being around other cats right now. Especially Bumblebee.

Ashenpaw raced through the forest, feeling the wind on her fur for the first time in ages. She had been stuck in the medicine cat den all the time it had been snowing. She stopped at the tree that had fallen in the storm the night before she had fallen off of the edge of the stone hollow.

Ashenpaw leaped on top of it and stretched out to sharpen her claws. Then she bounced off of it and leaped up on to the Sky Oak that was standing next to it. She loved climbing trees; it made her feel free, like she could fly like a bird. She climbed the tree, climbing from branch to branch until she reached as far as she could climb. She smiled as she looked down over the forest. She felt like she owned everything, every single tree in the whole forest was hers. But she knew they weren’t, they belonged to ThunderClan. She closed her eyes and sat there for a moment longer and then started to climb down the Sky Oak.

Whoosh! Ashenpaw raced out of the way just in time to stop Thistlepaw from crashing into her side. Ashenpaw turned around and slashed Thistlepaw’s side with sheathed paws. Thistlepaw swiped her back and leaped onto Ashenpaw. Ashenpaw rolled over on top of her and pinned her to the forest floor.

“Great!” Ashenpaw turned to see Bramblestar. He said he would be taking over her mentoring until Thornclaw got better.

Ashenpaw padded over to him and then sat down and flattened the fluffed up hair on her back. Then there was a streak of tabby fur and Bramblestar was on top of her. Ashenpaw’s nearly choked under his weight and struggled free. She lay on the ground panting for a few moments until she got her breath back.

“Not fair!” she gasped. “You’re too heavy!”

“Well you can hardly expect a ShadowClan warrior to wait for you to groom your fur in the middle of a battle!” Bramblestar replied. Ashenpaw got to her paws and sat down to watch her sister, Cloverpaw learn a battle move with her mentor, Cinderheart. Cloverpaw was learning the twisting battle move, the one that she had already learnt with Thornclaw. Ashenpaw watched Cloverpaw twist in the air, just missing Cinderheart’s back.

“I hate this one!” Cloverpaw groaned. “Can’t we try something else.” Cinderheart sighed.

“I had trouble with this one too,” she mewed. “But Cloudtail was great. He taught me – well actually Jayfeather taught me never to give up.” Ashenpaw narrowed her eyes. Why did Jayfeather teach her? Jayfeather was a medicine cat. Cloverpaw was clearly thinking the same thing.

“Jayfeather?” she asked.

“When I sprained my leg,” Cinderheart explained. “I totally gave up and decided that I would never be a warrior. But then Jayfeather took me swimming and my leg got stronger and stronger. Then finally I got to be a warrior.” By now all of the apprentices had gathered around the grey she-cat.

“I thought you only had to wait a moon,” mewed Snowpaw. “Didn’t you get your warriors name at the same time as Hollyleaf and Lionblaze?” Cinderheart looked confused and she tilted her head slightly to the side.

“Oh yeh,” she meowed. Ashenpaw stared at Cinderheart for a moment. There was something strange with the fluffy grey warrior. Sorreltail always said she looked exactly the same as Cinderpelt, the medicine cat before Leafpool. She was pretty sure it had something to do with that. Maybe Cinderheart could share Cinderpelt’s memories, like she did with Cloverpaw and Leafpaw. She knew that Cinderpelt had to wait a very long time in the medicine cat den because of her crippled leg, maybe Cinderheart got confused about Cinderpelt’s memories and her own memories. Yes, Ashenpaw thought to herself. That must be it.

“Right,” Birchfall was meowing. “Me and Sorreltail will demonstrate a battle move. You can each try it after.” Ashenpaw realised that all the apprentices had gone back to battle training. She watched Birchfall crouch down to the ground while Sorreltail was turned the other way. He pounced onto her shoulder and brought her down to the ground.

“Why don’t Ashenpaw and Larchpaw try it this time,” meowed Bramblestar. Ashenpaw felt a tingle of excitement in her belly. Larchpaw was one of the older apprentices and he was great. She couldn’t believe Bramblestar thought she was good enough to go against him. “And Ashenpaw,” he added. “Let’s not just try the move. You find out a way to stop it.” Ashenpaw almost gasped. Wow! Bramblestar must think she’s good! She padded out into the middle of the circle of apprentices and mentors to be were Larchpaw was sitting. His dark tabby fur was bristly, as if it was a real battle. Ashenpaw pictured him in the middle of a battle, his claws glinting in the moonlight and his lips curled into a menacing snarl. “Go!” Ashenpaw turned around.

Larchpaw launched himself through the air and landed perfectly on Ashenpaw’s shoulders. But Ashenpaw didn’t give way. She swiped him with sheathed claws then reared up onto her hind legs, making him tumble down to the ground. Ashenpaw leaped around. Larchpaw was already back on his paws. He was flattened down to the ground and he pounced. Ashenpaw pounced as well. Larchpaw was coming at her fast but she didn’t give up. She knocked him to the ground and pinned him there. The cats around them gasped.

“Wow!” Cherrypaw broke the silence. “How did you do that?” Ashenpaw let Larchpaw go and stared at the confused faces of the cats watching her. What had she done? She had won. What was so amazing about that? Bramblestar was shifting his paws uncomfortabley by now. Ashenpaw turned to look at him, wondering what the matter was. Then suddenly she was being pinned to the ground ny Larchpaw.

“Let me up, Larchpaw!” she cried, sliding away from his paws. Larchpaw snorted.

“You’re no fun,” he meowed glumly and padded back over to Birchfall. Ashenpaw bounded back over to Bramblestar, her jaws stretched in a huge yawn.

The rest of the training session past in a blur. She could hardly put one paw in front of the other by the end of it. Bramblestar let her go straight back home instead of going hunting with the others.

“You’ll scare all the prey away,” he meowed. “Come on.” Ashenpaw followed him into the forest. After about to heartbeats she tripped over a tree root. Ashenpaw let out a yowl of surprise as she tumbled into the stream on the ShadowClan border. Her paws pawed desperatley, trying to get to the side and not be washed away into RiverClan territory.

“I’m stuck!” Ashenpaw yowled but Bramblestar was nowhere to be seen. “Help!” Her paws scrabbled helplessly at the rocks and she realised sahe had been washed down the stream to the really steep drop with the loose stones. Then she was lifted out of the stream and she felt the ground beneath her paws again. Tawnypelt sat on one of the rocks in ThunderClan territory.

“There’s no cat here, who are calling to?” she meowed in her rough gravelly voice. Ashenpaw looked around. She couldn’t see even a flash of tabby fur.

“Where’s he gone,” Ashenpaw meowed in confusion. “Oh well, I was probably way behind anyway.” Tawnypelt narrowed her eyes and then let out a mrrrow of laughter.

“You’re the one who fell into the stone hollow,” she purred. “Well you better get back to camp before you’re mentor gets worried.”

“Thanks,” Ashenpaw meowed. She took off towrads the camp. “Bramblestar!” He must already be in the stone hollow. Ashenpaw bounded through the fern tunnel and into camp.

“There you are,” a deep voice meowed behind her. Ashenpaw jumped, spraying water drops of water everywhere. “I leave you five moments and you fall into the stream!” Ashenpaw licked her dark grey fur, her eyes as wide as they had been in the stream.

“I couldn’t get out,” she whispered, shaking slightly.

“Well how did you get out?” Bramblestar asked, his amber eyes narrowed in confusion.

“Tawnypelt helped me,” Ashenpaw replied. Bramblestar stiffened.

“She didn’t say anything did she?” he demanded, his claws sheathing and unsheathing.

“She told me to get back to camp,” Ashenpaw meowed. Bramblestar nodded and then pushed her forwards with a paw.

“You should get some sleep,” he mewed, his tone much softer now. Ashenpaw nodded and padded lightly over to the apprentice’s den. Brushing past the hazel thicket, she curled up in her nest and soon found herself drifting into a deep sleep.

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