Chapter 1

Darkkit flinched from the cruel slap of Lizardfang's tail. The tabby queen hissed, guarding her two kits, Snakekit and Toadkit fiercely with her flank while baring her teeth at the scrawny tom at the same time. "Get away from my kits, you dirty mangepelt!" she growled threateningly. "Or I'll have you for my evening snack!"

Darkkit cowered backward toward the nursery entrance. If his nursing queen got into a fit again, he would have to suffer from a two-part tantrum-which would it be this time, flinging him toward the sharp, thorny nursery walls, or ripping his ear open? He did wonder.

Well, one thing was sure from Lizardfang's snarling, and he got the message: Get out. He obeyed flawlessly, fleeing to the corners of his favorite tree, a big, sturdy oak with a juniper bush nearby. He ate some of the berries to keep his strength up, then curled next to the snug roots and fell asleep.

Would he ever be safe from Lizardfang?

Chapter 2

Darkkit woke up to dappled sunlight warming his thoroughly sodden pelt. It had rained hard the night before. He decided to pay a little visit to his mother.

His real mother.

Waterstream was sitting, safe and sound in the warriors' den.

How Darkkit hated her.

Hated her for dumping him in the nursery with that excuse for a queen Lizardfang and her two naughty kits, who both teased him constantly. Last moon's name for him was "bee-brain". This moon's? "Mouse-hearted crowfood-eater". He did wonder what next moon's would be.

Hated her for leaving him all alone.

Hated her.

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