Author: Feathertail Millie
Series: Blazeheart's Secrets Series
Succeeding: None; relates to the story Broken Tides, though
|Blazeheart's life seems perfect- she's a warrior, her Clan is healthy and prey is running well. Her whole world is turned upside down when a mysterious cat claiming to be her brother tells her she's the daughter of a rogue; and that their now dead mother has left them a task to complete...|
My name's Blazeheart... and I've got a secret.
My mother is a rogue, not a proud warrior. Not Creekshine.
I don't know who my father is. Maybe he's dead.
I fear that some cats suspect I'm not a Clan cat. After all, I don't look like Creekshine. I'm not a stunning, sleek silver tabby with blue eyes. I'm flame-coloured, and my eyes are a deep, emerald green. Creekshine has a real daughter, Nightbreeze. She's supposed to be my sister...
But I know deep in my heart that she isn't.
In truth, I'm Clanless.
"Blazepaw! Wake up, you lazy old scrap of fur!"
Blazepaw's eyes fluttered open to see Nightpaw prodding her with one black paw. The she-cat's amber eyes were alight with excitement.
"It's our final assessment today! We will be warriors soon!"
Blazepaw shot out of her nest, scratching herself on a bramble thorn. She bit back a hiss of pain as she and her sister padded into the main clearing. The other apprentices were already up and were sharing tongues at the large stump in one corner of the camp. Lightpaw's tongue rasped over Frogpaw's head. Aspenpaw licked her chest thoroughly, spitting out clumps of dark grey fur.
"Yuck, I'm shedding!" she exclaimed.
Aspenpaw's brother, Bearpaw, let out a mrrow of laughter and licked his own chest. "I don't shed," he teased, showing her his tongue.
"Sure you don't! There are no other apprentices in all the Clans that have your shaggy, dark brown fur!"
Bearpaw rolled his eyes and turned his gaze to Nightpaw.
"Hi Nightpaw," he mewed. "We saved you some prey."
Nightpaw gave Blazepaw a look of apology. Blazepaw shook her head dismissively.
"Have something to eat," she told the black apprentice. "I broke the warrior code; I don't blame Bearpaw for not leaving me some."
Two sunrises ago, Blazepaw had travelled to the Moonpool with her mentor, Quickstar. Blazepaw had woken up early, but went to ForestClan's territory to catch prey. Quickstar had seen her eat the prey, so she had forbidden Blazepaw from eating again until three sunrises passed.
"Feel my wrath, ShadeClan crowfood-eater!"
Blazepaw turned her head to see two kits tumbling in the dust beside her. One was pretending to be a ShadeClan warrior, and the other was pretending to be fighting it. They crashed into Nightpaw, knocking the mouse she was eating out of her mouth. Bearpaw leapt onto the stump, hissing and spitting, just as the kits rolled past him. Nightpaw twitched her whiskers in amusement and went to break up the troublesome playfight. The kits were rolling towards a hole in the camp's rock hollow shelter where long grasses spread out into the shorter grass of the moor. It was just big enough for a large apprentice, and the perfect size for two kits. Nightpaw pulled the two kits apart.
"Unfair!" mewled the smallest kit, a tortoiseshell she-cat. "I was just about to chase him out of camp!"
"I would have won!" protested the larger kit, trying to puff out his white chest to make him look bigger.
The two kits padded back to the nursery, arguing.
"Those are Sweetwind's kits, aren't they?" remarked Aspenpaw. "Stillkit- that's the white one, I think- and Flowerkit."
"Yes, they're almost apprentices," replied Frogpaw casually.
"Ugh. The apprentice den is full enough without those two running around like foxes in a fit. Stillkit? Hardly." Lightpaw looked at the young kits disapprovingly.
Suddenly, Bearpaw yowled a warning to Nightpaw. He leapt a fox-length to shove Nightpaw away from the hole, crashing down on top of her just as a snake slid out of the long grass. It struck at the dark brown tabby but he scrambled out of the way. He drew himself up to his full height and hissed at it. It slunk away into the long grass resentfully.
"Thank you, Bearpaw! You saved my life!"
Nightpaw's eyes were aglow with admiration and had a moony look in them. Blazepaw knew her sister was in love with Bearpaw, but did she have to act like a trapped rabbit around him? The Nightpaw she knew was brave and kind.
He'd better not hurt her, otherwise I'll claw his fur off, she thought.
Blazepaw stalked the plump crow silently, pricking her ears so she could hear the sound of it crunching on a mouse. She waited until it was upwind of her, then scrunched her haunches, ready to pounce. Then she leapt onto the animal and killed it in one swift bite. Yes! This will make me a warrior for sure! She buried it were she killed it. The foul stench of the rotten prey it had eaten for moons would lead her back to it. After that, Blazepaw caught two mice and a fat hare.
As she gazed proudly at her catch, she picked up a strange scent. It was coming from some heather bushes to her right. She quitely padded up to them and pounced on whatever was in them, screeching violently.
She bowled a dark flame-coloured, almost red ginger tom out of the bushes. The tom rolled over and tried to rake her belly but she was too quick for him. He was still struggling to figure out what was happening when she brought her paw down hard on his stomach just under his ribs, winding him. He managed to struggle out of her grip but sauntered into a tree. She twitched her whiskers in amusement when he slid down to the ground, groaning. She expected him to turn tail and run. But instead, the loner turned to look at her, his eyes twinkling with amusement through the dull cloud of pain.
"You fight well, sister," he wheezed.
Sister? she thought, puzzled. He must be joking- or maybe that's what loners call each other.
"You must have me confused with someone else," she mewed.
"I don't, Blaze." The tom heaved himself to his paws.
"Blazepaw. Anyway, who are you? I bet you're a ForestClan apprentice. You smell like wild garlic- you probably rolled in it to hide your scent. They're always teasing us and coming into our territory. And that's how you know my name."
The tom let out a mrrow of laughter. "You are quite the confident one, dear sister. You are right; I did roll in wild garlic to hide my scent. But I'm not a ForestClan apprentice. I'm a BoneClan rouge."
"BoneClan? You mean the rouge Clan that rules outside our borders?"
"The very same, Blazepaw." The tom said the last bit of Blazepaw's name sarcastically, as if it wasn't her name.
"What's your name then, so-called seer-of-all?" Blazepaw teased.
"It's Blood. But I was born as Eagle- as you were born Blaze."
"I was born Blazekit."
"No, I remember mother saying you were Blaze, I was Eagle, and our sister was Sun." Blazepaw was getting tired of this tom's arrogant tone.
"My only sister is Nightpaw."
"I think you'll find you're the daughter of a rouge."
Blazepaw stepped back, shocked.
"How could you say that?!" she mewed, outraged.
"Come on," he replied calmly. "You really think you're Creekshine's daughter?"
"Yes," she mewed loyally.
Blazepaw did think again. She had asked Creekshine a moon ago how she had known to name her Blazekit, and Creekshine had just replied hurriedly that she had to go hunting. She looked nothing like Creekshine, their father Darktail or Nightpaw. Creekshine was a silver tabby with blue eyes. Darktail was a black tom with amber eyes like Nightpaw. But Blazepaw was flame-coloured with green eyes. She looked at Eagle and saw that his pelt was a darker, ginger shade of her own, and he had the same deep emerald eyes. Piece by piece, a horrifying truth formed in Blazepaw's head.
"Look, Blazepaw. I'll meet you here tomorrow, and we'll talk more. Continue with your hunting assessment. I want you to become a warrior. Make mother and father proud."
With that, Eagle turned and left.
Blazepaw continued with her assessment. When she got back to camp, the whole Clan was amazed by her efforts.
"Wow, a crow!" mewed Flowerkit.
"I can't wait to be an apprentice!" One of the other kits, Rustlekit, was bouncing up and down, her mottled light brown pelt fluffing up.
"You've got four moons to go," mewed Drippingfur, one of the senior warriors. He bent down and nuzzled his kit.
"All cats old enough to catch their own prey gather beneath the Tallrock for a Clan meeting!" Quickstar's dignified yowl echoed through the camp.
"Go join your mother in the nursery. Quailflight will have noticed you're missing. Don't get her upset. You know how fretful she gets." Drippingfur nosed Rustlekit towards the nursery.
"Congratulations on catching that crow, Blazepaw," he mewed.
Blazepaw dipped her head to her mentor shyly. He had been in a much better mood since his mate, Quailflight, had given birth to Rustlekit. Blazepaw turned her head back towards the Clan leader.
"Today the Clan welcomes two new apprentices. Stillkit and Flowerkit, please step forward."
The two kits did not step but leapt forward, their eyes shining. Sweetwind watched her kits proudly, purring encouragingly.
"Stillkit, from now on you will be known as Stillpaw. Wolftalon, you are ready for your second apprentice. I hope you will pass the skills Sprucefur taught you onto young Stillpaw." She turned her gaze towards a long-furred gray tom in the corner of the clearing, who padded up to touch noses with his new apprentice.
"Flowerkit, from this day forward you will be known as Flowerpaw. Shiningfeather, you are ready for your first apprentice. You gained kindness and great skill from your training under Whiteshade."
A glossy white she-cat dipped her head to Quickstar before bounding forward to touch noses with Flowerpaw.
"Stillpaw! Flowerpaw!" The Clan caterwauled the new apprentices' names with joy.
"We also have two new warriors to make. Nightpaw and Blazepaw have impressed their mentors greatly, especially young Blazepaw with the fat crow she caught. Heronstep should be proud of her apprentice. I am certainly proud of mine." The lithe light brown she-cat looked down on Blazepaw with warmth in her eyes.
"Blazepaw and Nightpaw, please step forward."
Blazepaw stepped forward without thinking, but Nightpaw boldly leapt forward.
"Blazepaw, from this moment on you will be known as Blazeheart. StarClan honours your intelligence and bravery."
Blazeheart out her head on her mentor's shoulder, feeling the familiar warmth of Quickstar's fur.
"Nightpaw, from this moment on you will be known as Nightbreeze. StarClan honours your quick thinking and kindness."
Nightbreeze rested her head on Quickstar's shoulder eagerly.
"Blazeheart! Nightbreeze!" The Clan greeted their new warriors.
Blazeheart padded towards the center of the camp where she would sit vigil with her sister. Nightbreeze followed. The rest of the Clan was padding back to their dens as the sky was darkening. As she sat vigil, Blazeheart thought about Eagle's proposal.
Why am I sitting this vigil? she thought guiltily.
I'm not a true warrior.
"Nightbreeze! Wake up, you lazy old scrap of fur!"
Blazeheart rolled the sleeping black she-cat over onto her back and battered at her stomach with claws seathed.
"Ok...." mewed Nightbreeze groggily, struggling to her paws.
"The vigil's over! Not that you saw much of it, you fell asleep moments after the Clan did!"
Frogpaw and Lightpaw emerged from the apprentice den. They shot the two new warriors a jealous look, before joining their mentors Blackspots and Foxpelt on the dawn patrol.
"What was that all about?" asked Blazeheart.
"They have reason to be jealous of us, Blazeheart," mewed Nightbreeze, calm despite the menacing look the two apprentices had given them. "We were made warriors before them. Don't forget, they are a moon older than us."
"They'll be made warriors soon," mewed Blazeheart.
"Yes. Don't forget that Lightpaw's also annoyed that the apprentice den is still full, even after we've left."
"Good point. But our new den is way more crowded. Frostlight's legs are so long they'll shove me out of the den and into the moon!"
"Mrrow-ow-ow-ow!" Nightbreeze's laughter rang across the camp.
"Shut your muzzle! Wolftalon's coming!"
The Clan deputy was approaching at high speed. She heard Nightbreeze gulp and had to try and bite her whiskers to stop them from twitching in amusement.
"You two! You're on the sunhigh patrol. Stop mucking about and work!"
"Grumpy old dirt-pelt," muttered Nightbreeze darkly as the grey tom walked away.
The two cats were back later that day. Border patrol was as boring as ever; the Clans were at peace. Blazeheart was helping Creekshine fix a hole in the bramble bushes protecting the nursery. She was annoyed and scratched all over and was beginning to tire. She couldn't stop thinking about the meeting with Eagle.
"Blazeheart!" Creekshine's stern mew snapped her to attention. "Now's not the time to be dreaming of warm fur and milk!"
Blazeheart nodded vigorously and went back to work. They had been working for what seemed like moons when Blazeheart saw that it was dusk. She itched to get out of camp, and bounced up and down beside Creekshine eagerly.
"I have to go," she mewed. "Er... Nightbreeze and I are going hunting!"
"Ok. I'm almost finished here," the silver tabby replied. "You don't want to keep your sister waiting... you know how impatient she gets."
Blazeheart nodded and bounded out of the nursery. She raced across the camp, nearly knocking Stillpaw over as he took fresh moss to the elders.
She shot out the camp entrance and out onto the moor. She picked up the scent of Eagle, and followed it to the same heather bushes that she had met him at the day before.
"Greetings, Eagle," she mewed.
"And to you, dear sister," he replied.
"I want to ask you something," she mewed cautiously.
"What would that be?"
"Who is our mother?"
Eagle paused for a minute.
"Our mother was Burn, a BoneClan rouge. You were born in BoneClan, but you were the strongest of the litter so she smuggled you out. Sun and I had to stay behind, because BoneClan's leader thought he was our father."
Blazeheart felt dizzy and reeled, taking it all in.
"It is okay for you to be stunned, sister. I too was shocked when I found out who she was."
"But you were born in BoneClan... you knew who she was!"
The ginger tom shook his head.
"I didn't. As a tom, I was brought up to know only my father, as the custom is in BoneClan. Only Sun knew who mother was, and she was forbidden to tell anyone, especially her sibling."
Eagle shrugged as if it was normal.
"The other cats knew who our mother was but were also forbidden to tell me. It's just one of Bone's ways of keeping BoneClan a rouge Clan. It keeps the Clan divided- if we can't discuss dilemmas or spill any truths we can't trust each other."
Blazeheart was beginning to lust for the feel of her teeth sinking into the back of Bone's neck.
"Bone's been talking with the Clan leaders about sending his warriors to the Clans in exchange a share of our prey!"
"Filthy piece of fox-dung he is! And he calls himself my father... not that our real father was an honorable cat. He gave you to Creekshine, the first MoonClan queen he saw because he couldn't raise you himself! Tiger... he doesn't deserve that kind of proud name!"
Blazeheart felt like her heart was going to stop. Burn and Tiger were her real parents!
"Can I... meet them?"
"Our mother is dead. Only father is alive."
"But she left us a task, and it won't be easy. We must fufill her wishes."
"What is the task?"
Suddenly, paws thundered closer. Eagle scented the air.
"BoneClan," he hissed. "Hide!"
Blazeheart plunged into a bush just as a black head whipped around the side of a tree.
"Blood. Didn't think I'd see you here," snarled the cat. "Stay out of Bone's inner afairs! It's forbidden for you to do so until you come of age."
"Yes, Ember." Eagle bowed his head.
"What's that scent? It smells like MoonClan!"
"Oh, I was just hunting some of the mouse-brains' prey and passed a scent marker."
"You better have been. You know what your father will do if he knows you've been communicating with outsiders. Only the members of the inner guard and Bone can do that. Now, come with me. I'll escort you home."
Blazeheart watched as her brother followed Ember reluctantly. When the two cats were out of sight she scrambled out of the bush and bounded home, not bothering to hunt for prey. Nightbreeze was waiting for her at the camp entrance.
"Blazeheart, you mouse-brain! You lied to Creekshine! I had to cover for you. Where were you, anyway?"
Blazeheart looked down at her paws, ashamed.
"Look, I don't care if it's a tom or breaking the warrior code. Just please, don't get me in trouble. I'm trying to impress you-know-who!"
"Bearstep. You missed his warrior ceremony while you were gone! Not only his, but Frogfoot's, Lightwhisker's and Aspenfall's!"
Blazeheart followed her sister into camp guiltily. What if meeting with Eagle would destroy her sister's happiness?
Nightbreeze remembered the day she and Blazeheart had become apprentices. They had been so excited; two sisters about to train together. They had been so close then- anyone would think they were one cat rather than related cats. In the first few days of their apprenticeship they had asked Quickstar and Heronstep if they could train together. Their mentors had had no choice. It was like the two sisters were bound together- woven like the bramble dens in camp. But now...
Nightbreeze shook the thought out of her head. Blazeheart is my sister- surely we're just going through a rough patch in our relationship?
"Nightbreeze? Are you in here?"
She snapped back to reality. She was sitting in the medicine cat den. Dapplestream had wanted her to give some watermint to one of the elders, who had a bellyache. She still had the leaves in her mouth. Bearstep had stuck his head into the den and was looking at her, twitching his whiskers in amusement.
"Er- no-er- how did you know?" she gave up, defeated.
"Just had a hunch. Anyway, Volefur would like his watermint now."
She leapt to her paws, her fur tingling with embarassment.
"Nightbreeze- you've been acting weirdly around me lately. What's up? I thought we were friends..."
She summoned up her courage.
"That's just it."
"What? You don't want to be friends anymore?"
"No, not at all! I want to be, well... more than friends."
Bearstep didn't move a muscle, just shrugged casually.
"I thought as much."
"Is that a yes?"
"I've been trying to hint to you that I feel the same way for ages, Nightbreeze."
"Ok. Now that we've sorted that out, Volefur needs his watermint!" A purr rumbled in her throat.
Bearstep licked her ear as she left the den.
"See you around, my sweet."
Nightbreeze padded away, her paws feeling lighter than feathers. She was just about to slip into the elders den at the other end of camp when she saw Blazeheart sneaking out the stump entrance and out onto the moor.
"Whatever you're doing, sister, I hope it's worth the lies."
With that, Nightbreeze disappeared into the elders den.
"Blazeheart, there's a Gathering tonight. You and your sister may go- it's no use taking only one of you," mewed Quickstar.
Blazeheart nodded and went to tell Nightbreeze. She found her sister sharing tongues with Bearstep in a patch of sun. Ever since her sister had become Bearstep's mate three moons ago, she had been spending all her spare time with him. It was getting a little frustrating- Blazeheart couldn't share anything with the cat she was closest to.
"There's a Gathering tonight. Quickstar's chosen both of us to go."
Nightbreeze nodded approvingly.
"It's about time. I haven't been to one in four moons!" The black she-cat rolled her eyes.
"Yes, it's been ages," Blazeheart replied, twitching her whiskers in amusement. This was the old Nightbreeze- proud and smart.
"I'm leading a hunting patrol today- we need one more cat and Wolftalon said I could pick someone." Nightbreeze puffed out her chest proudly. "Do you want to come?"
"Sure," Blazeheart purred. Finally, a chance to spend some time with her!
The black warrior leapt to her paws, accidentally showering Bearstep with dust. Blazeheart let out a mrrow of laughter as the dark brown tabby tom sneezed and stood up to shake it off.
"Sorry!" Nightbreeze's eyes were wide with shock, but her whiskers twitched in amusement.
"It's fine- I'm crossing a stream today anyway, and you know how good I am at swimming." Bearstep shook the last of the dust from his pelt.
"Whatever for?" Nightbreeze asked.
"Shiningfeather said I could help out with Flowerpaw's training. It will be really exciting; I'll get to feel what it's like to be a mentor!"
Nightbreeze purred and nuzzled her mate. "Have fun."
"Bearstep, it's time to go!" Shiningfeather's yowl echoed across the camp.
"I'll see you later." The brown tom bounded over to Shiningfeather and Flowerpaw. The three cats padded out the camp entrance.
"It's almost sunhigh. We'd best be going too." Nightbreeze called Wolftalon, Stillpaw and Lightwhisker for the patrol.
Blazeheart nodded and followed the patrol. As they padded through the moor side by side, she knew there was no place she'd rather be.The moor was alive with the scents and sounds of early greenleaf. The patrol soon split up. Wolftalon padded behind some rocks. Stillpaw disappeared over a rise. Lightwhisker dove into some heather bushes in pursuit of a hare. Nightbreeze went off in the opposite direction, following a mouse. Blazeheart managed to track down a large rabbit. She followed its scent trail until she could see the rabbit ahead, crouched next to its hole at the base of a rock. She waited until it strayed further from its hole, then sprang into action. She felt her muscles ripple with every bound as she chased the rabbit down the moor. The rabbit was tiring. Eventually, it tripped over a stone. She summoned up all her energy and leapt onto it, killing it with a swift bite to the back of its neck. Nightbreeze was further up the moor. Two fat mice were dangling from the black she-cat's jaws. Blazeheart padded up the slope to join her, panting.
"That's hardly a catch," the black warrior mewed teasingly to her, staring at the large but scrawny rabbit clamped between her jaws.
"You just wait- I'll get an eagle!"
"Sure you will."
The two she-cats could see the bird circling above, its mighty wings stretched out to ride the winds that blew over the moor.
Blazeheart hurled her rabbit a few fox-lengths.
"What are you doing?!"
"You said it wasn't a good catch."
"An eagle isn't going to eat something that's already dead. They like the thrill of the hunt too."
"I know this one. It's a really bad hunter; just a young orphan, I think. Its mother was the one that got struck by lightning when we were young apprentices, remember?"
She waited until the eagle had swooped down to get the rabbit, then leapt onto its back and sank her teeth into its neck feathers.
"That's cruel. It had had a hard life!" Nightbreeze shook her head disapprovingly.
"I was putting it out of its misery. Besides, StarClan let it be so. If StarClan isn't happy with it, I'll choke when I get my share of it tonight."
The sun was casting its last rays onto the moor when the patrol returned to camp.
"What a catch!" mewed Quickstar, bounding down from the Tallrock to inspect the eagle. "The Clan will feast before the Gathering tonight. Well done, young warrior."
Blazeheart dipped her head shyly to her former mentor as the light brown she-cat turned and padded away.
Suddenly there was a flash of black as Nightbreeze pulled her into a corner behind the heather bushes next to the hollow in the camp rock where Dapplestream made her den.
"I have some news..." the black she-cat looked haunted.
"What is it? Are you ok?" Blazeheart felt worried for the black warrior.
"I'm fine! It's just that I'm..."
"Spit it out, it's not fresh-kill!"
"I'm expecting Bearstep's kits," Nightbreeze hissed.
"But that's wonderful!"
"I know," the black queen murmured shyly. "But how do I tell him?"
She looked down at Nightbreeze's belly. It looked far bigger than usual, and her adopted sister had a milky scent. She had never thought of it before...
"I think he already would have guessed," she mewed.
"Guessed what?" Bearstep's head popped into their hide out.
"Nothing!" Nightbreeze's mouth snapped shut.
"Tell him!" she nudged the black queen forward.
"I'm expecting kits, Bearstep."
"That's great!" The brown tom licked her head affectionately. "Wow, kits!"
They were interrupted by Quickstar's yowl. "All cats old enough to catch their own prey, gather beneath the Tallrock for a Clan meeting!"
The three cats scrambled out of their hiding place to see the brown leader on the Tallrock. They padded over to sit next to Frogfoot, Lightwhisker, Aspenfall and Drippingfur.
"By naming apprentices, we keep our Clan's numbers healthy and strong. Rustlekit, it is time for you to become an apprentice."
The mottled brown kit's eyes shone in delight as all heads turned to look at her. Quailflight groomed her daughter one last time before the young kit leapt out of her hold and bounded towards the Tallrock.
"Rustlekit, from this moment on you will be known as Rustlepaw. Bearstep, Shiningfeather has told me that although you are one of the younger warriors, you have been a great influence on Flowerpaw and you should be awarded for your efforts with your own apprentice."
Bearstep's eyes widened in amazement as he padded forward to touch noses with his new apprentice. Blazeheart glanced beside her to see Nightbreeze's eyes shining with pride.
"He will be a great father to your kits," she mewed to the black queen.
"You're expecting kits?!" Darktail had been listening in on their conversation.
"Yes, father. I don't have to tell you who the father is because I know you can guess."
"The very same."
After the meeting, the elders, apprentices, young warriors and queens shared the eagle. Most of the senior warriors had eaten already. She didn't end up choking on her portion. When they had eaten their fill, the moon was high in the sky. Quickstar gathered her warriors and the Clan went to the Gathering. Blazeheart bounded after her Clan as they raced down the moor and past the horseplace, heading for the island. She leapt onto the bridge and hurried across it. The rest of the Clans were already there- MoonClan was notorious for being late. She saw her friend Littlepaw, the medicine cat apprentice from LakeClan.
"Hi Littlepaw," she mewed, settling down beside her friend.
"It's Littlemoon now. I got my full medicine cat name!" The small white she-cat's eyes were alight with excitement.
Suddenly she spotted someone she knew at the base of the Great Rock- someone she knew very well. The cat spotted her and apology dulled his already dark green eyes.
Eagle! What's he doing here?
She didn't get time to talk to her brother. The Gathering had begun, and a new leader was speaking.
"Isn't that Mountain That Looms Over Lake? You know, that Tribe of Rushing Water cat who joined ForestClan?" Littlemoon sounded puzzled.
"Yeah, I think so."
"You may all be surprised to see me on this rock," the light grey tabby tom mewed. "But I am the new leader of ForestClan. I became a warrior again, as I was born at birth. I became Mountainfrost again. ForestClan has recovered from the cruel leadership of Coldstar, who is now at large in territories far beyond the lake. I advise you all to watch out for him, just in case he comes back, as well as anyone who smells strange but faintly of ForestClan. Some of our warriors still follow him." He surveyed the Clans. "The Clan have outlawed Coldstar and selected me to be their leader. I have received my nine lives and my leader name. But I couldn't have rebuilt the Clan without the help of my friend and new ally, Bonestar." He gestured for a massive cream-coloured tom to come out of the shadows.
"Since when was he Bonestar?! He's the leader of a rogue Clan!" A black and white she-cat with one eye spoke up.
"Calm yourselves," boomed Bonestar. "BoneClan is following the warrior code now. I have seen the wrong of my ways." There was something in the back of his eyes that told Blazeheart he was lying.
"We wish to become a legitimate Clan," he mewed. "But for that,we need territory. We wish to claim the horseplace and expand from there. But we will need part of LakeClan and MoonClan's territory- A good quarter of both at least."
Caterwauls of disbelief and defiance sounded from the two Clans.
"You only wanted prey before," a brown tabby tom yowled.
"That's ridiculous!" Blazeheart spoke up. "You really expect us to believe that you are going to follow the warrior code? I know you're a horrible rogue Clan!"
"And how do you know that?" Bonestar's proud gaze dared her to speak.
"Because- because-" she couldn't reveal her secret or Eagle's.
"You see? I have been misunderstood. All I wanted was for my kits to eat and my Clan to live peacefully... I would even send warriors to help the other Clans hunt and fight in return for my Clan's territory to become permanent. We would come to Gatherings, have our own medicine cat and share dreams with StarClan."
Salmonstar, the leader of LakeClan and a rather big, dark cream tom, stepped forward. "I have already agreed to give Bonestar a portion of LakeClan's territories."
Littlemoon yowled her defiance. "You did not consult your deputy or medicine cats before giving away such a part of your Clans' lives!"
"Some things are beyond StarClan, Littlemoon." Salmonstar gave the white she-cat a stern look.
"I'm sorry, Bonestar, but MoonClan will follow the warrior code even if it is the end of us. It has always been so, even in the time of our ancient ancestors, WindClan. I have seen what you did to loners, and even if you have changed your ways neither I nor StarClan will forget your sins." Quickstar dismissed Bonestar's proposal calmly, and Blazeheart admired her leader's courage.
"I would have done the same." For once she agreed with the ShadeClan leader, Toadstar.
"Are you sure you don't want more warriors?" Bonestar enticed Quickstar with the offer.
"No thanks. Today, a certain warrior has proved she has the worth of three." Quickstar's eyes flicked to Blazeheart, as did the eyes of every single cat at the Gathering.
"Ah, that one who dared oppose me. MoonClan will face the consequences. Now, on with the gathering! Toadstar, it is your turn to speak." The BoneClan leader hastily changed the subject.
"Prey has been running well in ShadeClan and we are recovering from the battle with MoonClan. We apologize to Quickstar and her warriors for offence and damage we have caused. We also have two new warriors- Oakshadow and Lionclaw, as well as a new apprentice, Mallowpaw."
Congratulations came in turn to a brown tabby tom, a long-furred light golden tabby tom and a cream-coloured she-cat. Toadstar took his place with the other leaders. Quickstar leapt forward, spraying dust in Bonestar's face. She apologized gruffly to the leader as the Clans laughed, but Blazeheart had a feeling that it hadn't been an accident. Bonestar stifled a snarl but managed to stay calm. MoonClan's leader took her place at the front of the Great Rock.
"Prey in MoonClan has been running extremely well. One of our younger warriors caught an eagle today. We are pleased to know that Toadstar has apologised for the battle, but we would have enough warriors to challenge any Clan with a number of new additions to our ranks. StarClan welcomes Blazeheart, Nightbreeze, Frogfoot, Lightwhisker, Bearstep and Aspenfall as full warriors of MoonClan. We also have three new apprentices: Flowerpaw, Stillpaw and Rustlepaw. We are fortunate to have so many new cats who are able to fight and hunt for our Clan."
Blazeheart felt a surge of pride as the Clans shouted her name to the warriors of Silverpelt above.
"I won't be enjoying this for much longer."
Nightbreeze had sat down next to her and Littlemoon.
"You're expecting kits?"
Littlemoon looked down at Nightbreeze's belly.
"Can you tell how many?" The black she-cat's voice was squeaky with impatience.
The white she-cat felt the black queen's belly.
"It's normally hard to tell at this stage, but I think there's about three in there."
"Three kits!" Nightbreeze was jumping up and down in joy. "I wish I could tell Bearstep."
The brown warrior had stayed in camp.
"We have had an happy, bountiful moon in LakeClan," mewed Salmonstar, beginning his Clan's news. "We have two new warriors, Siltfoot and Rattlewind. We also have three new apprentices- Pouncepaw, Branchpaw and Knottedpaw."
He flicked his tail towards a dusty brown tom, a ginger she-cat, a muscly, dark grey tom, a brown tabby tom and a long-furred dark brown she-cat in turn.
"Our medicine cat, Redleaf, has sadly died of old age. His apprentice, Littlemoon, having received her full medicine cat name just after the last Gathering, will take over."
Littlemoon bowed her head for a moment in sorrow, before standing up to receive the Clans' praise.
The Clans were leaving the Gathering when Blazeheart saw Bonestar slink up to Quickstar, who was in front of her. She quickly hid behind a rock.
"I will have my revenge. You and your scrawny Clan had better watch your backs, because I'm going to kill you all." Bonesar's voice was thick with malice.
Blazeheart had a feeling this moon was going to be long and hard.
The first attack came two moons later. BoneClan did a night raid, killing Blackspots. Frogfoot had wailed at the loss of his mentor, a sorrowful caterwaul that had echoed across the camp. Nightbreeze had fought bitterly in the nursery, protecting her unborn kits. She failed to save poor Dawnshadow's weakest kit, Shagkit. Bonestar himself had broken in from the side and stole the kit to be brought up in BoneClan.
"You shall be called Smoke," the wicked tom had said, before leaping out of the nursery and rejoining the battle alongside his comrades.
Quickstar had lost a life fighting the BoneClan leader and Emberclaw (or Ember, as his real name was), the hastily appointed deputy.
The next attack had come the two moons after that, before MoonClan had fully recovered from the first. Drippingfur had lost half his tail. He had refused to change his name.
In the moon after the second attack, Nightbreeze was constantly on the watch for BoneClan warriors. She was losing sleep over it, but to her, protecting her kits was her first priority. She kept watch for the rest of the queens, especially Dawnshadow, who was previously refusing to eat. The two queens had become close in the last few moons. Dawnshadow had only been born two moons before Nightbreeze and Blazeheart and had been the only apprentice at one stage.
It was early leaf-fall now, and Dawnshadow had offered to take first watch. When Nightbreeze woke at dawn, she woke to a battlefield. BoneClan warriors were breaking in through the bramble barrier of the camp, and streaming through the back entrance. Nightbreeze yowled a warning to her Clan. Cats were popping out of dens everywhere, lifting sleepy heads. They snapped awake as BoneClan warriors began to fight them. Then she felt something she didn't want to feel. A sharp pain rippled through her stomach, then another, and another.
"Dawnshadow! Kits- ar-are c-c-oming," she yowled to her friend, who was wide awake now.
"Sweetwind, please look after Currentkit," Dawnshadow instructed the cream-coloured queen. I'll get Dapplestream." With that, the light ginger she-cat turned tail and shot out of the nursery.
Sweetwind looked to where Currentkit was cowering in a corner of the nursery. She padded over to the young kit and began to groom him. The little scrap was only two moons old, and was shivering in fear. She let the kit suckle at her belly.
"I want my mother," he squeaked. "Where is she? Is she finding where Shagkit's hiding?"
Currentkit still didn't know that Shagkit had been stolen. Dawnshadow had said it would be in the kit's best interests, but Nightbreeze still felt sorry for the poor little bundle of fur. Another spasm quickly interrupted her thoughts. Suddenly, a brown tabby head slipped into the nursery. She hissed and spat at it, and felt the fur at the back of her neck rise.
"Hush, my sweet. It's just me." She quickly realised that the cat was Bearstep as he hurried to her side.
"The kits are-"
"I know. Dawnshadow told me. Just focus on breathing," he mewed reassuringly.
Another spasm shook her, one far more painful than the rest. But she kept her muzzle shut. If the BoneClan warriors knew about her kits they would break into the nursery yet again. Bearstep fought off a warrior who tried to break into the nursery before the gray she-cat could see what was going on inside. Moments later, Dawnshadow returned, sporting a slice on her paw, with Dapplestream close behind. Dapplestream gave her some borage leaves to eat.
"They help you produce milk," the medicine cat explained. "Now, I'm going to need you to push the kits out in a moment. Ready? One, two, three, push!"
Nightbreeze pushed with all her might. Soon there was a small brown and white bundle of fur nestled next to her belly. Dapplestream nipped open its air sac and it took a gasping first breath. A dark grey she-cat and a silver she-cat followed.
"They're beautiful," she mewed proudly to Dapplestream and Dawnshadow.
A moment later, Blazeheart surged into the nursery. She had a long scratch across her shoulder and was limping slightly.
"Blazeheart! Are you ok?" Nightbreeze was horrified to see her sister in such a state.
"I'm fine. I'm more worried about you," the flame-coloured warrior replied.
"She has three healthy kits. Two she-cats and a tom," Dapplestream put in.
A high pitched wail sounded from outside, sending a cold shiver down Nightbreeze's spine.
Frostlight padded heavily into the nursery.
"Aspenfall is dead," the she-cat mewed in grief.
Nightbreeze was shocked to hear that Bearstep's sister had joined the ranks of StarClan. She looked to the dark grey kit sitting next to her.
"I'm going to call her Aspenkit," she mewed. "And I don't care what Bearstep says."
She turned to her sister. "Blazeheart, I want you to name one."
She could see the flame-coloured warrior was shocked.
"Don't be shy."
"Okay. The silver she-kit is so beautiful! Her name should be Moonkit, because the she is the most beautiful, delicate little thing I've ever seen."
Nightbreeze felt happiness surge inside her.
"That's a perfect name."
Bearstep had stepped into the nursery.
"Can I name the tom?" he asked.
"Of course! You're the father." Nightbreeze licked his ear affectionately.
"Okay! I think his name should be Mudkit, because of his brown patches. And after-"
"After your father?"
Bearstep's father, Mudpelt, had died of greencough when he was barely a moon old.
"Wow, he looks almost exactly like him. Do you think he could be..."
She wondered if the kit was a reincarnation of Mudpelt. Had StarClan blessed her children?
"I suppose. But Mudpelt's patches were brown tabby patches, remember?"
"Oh, that's right."
Nightbreeze looked down at the dark grey kit. Her eyes were gray green, just like Aspenfall's had been.
"I hope she grows to be a strong warrior, just like Aspenfall."
Bearstep's eyes were clouded with sorrow, despite the fact that outside, the screeching of battling cats had died down.
"I must go share tongues with her for the last time."
With that, the brown tabby tom left the nursery.
"Sleep well, my kits," she crooned to the newborns, who were sleeping beside her.
She looked to where Aspenkit slept. Her sides rose and fall, almost drawing Nightbreeze into a trance.
"Sleep well, Aspenfall. Welcome to your new life."
"Eagle! Come out, you piece of fox dung!"
Blazeheart spat, hissed and yowled with all her might but she knew her brother wasn't going to show his face. After all, he hadn't talked to her since they had last met, and that was before BoneClan first attacked. She was standing at their usual meeting place: the heather bush where they had first met. He had told her to meet him in meet him in three moons. Obviously, he had known about the things Bone had been plotting. She was so furious she thought for a second that she could fill the sky with thunder. Just as she was turning to leave, she heard a voice.
She spun around as her brother spoke her true name. He crept out from behind a tree. She gasped as she saw his face. He was missing an eye.
"I've been driven out of BoneClan," he whimpered. "Ember did this. He framed me for killing Talon, his brother... but I saw Ember kill Talon himself."
"So that's why you didn't tell me BoneClan was attacking!"
"We must destroy them," he mewed coldly.
It was a murderous deed, but she knew it had to be done.
"There's someone else I'd like you to meet," he continued. "Blaze, meet Sun, your sister."
On cue, a beautiful golden she-cat stepped out from behind the heather bush. Her eyes were a brilliant amber. For a second, Blazeheart had a memory of amber eyes like that, shining down on her...
"It is nice to see you again, sister. Eagle, you were wrong when you said I was meeting her for the first time, and you know it. For we were all together at birth, were we not?" Her voice reminded Blazeheart of a stream, clear as it sung over the stones.
"It is also a pleasure for me to see you, Sun," she replied, trying to put on the same beautiful voice in jealousy.
"Flicker, you can come out now." Sun peeked behind the heather bush.
A small silver tabby she-kit crept out from beneath the heather's roots in a small rabbit hole.
"This is Flicker," Sun explained. "Or Slice, as she's known in BoneClan, as I am known as Scorch. But not anymore. I adopted Flicker when her mother died in battle. She was very young. My own kits died of greencough soon after they were born, and my mate, Howl, was murdered by Ember soon after. I was still producing milk, so I was able to raise Flicker."
The young kit nodded and shuffled closer to Sun. She was shivering in fear and her blue eyes were huge with terror.
"I'ts ok," soothed Sun. "These cats are my family. There is nothing to be afraid of."
"Back to plans," Eagle cut in.
"Yes," replied Sun. "I know many cats in BoneClan who have been held there against their will. There is a back entrance to Bone's den- It's heavily guarded, but if we can draw the guards' attentions away from the cave..."
"You mean like a decoy?" Blazeheart asked.
"Exactly," her sister replied.
"Sun, that's brilliant!" Eagle exclaimed. "You two were always smart," he continued, giving them both proud looks.
"But first, we must find someone to help us. I think I know just who," mewed Blazeheart. "Littermates, we must find our father."
In a beautiful grove in the hills far behind MoonClan sat a dark flame-coloured ginger tom. He stared up at the stars with a wistful look on his face.
"If only you were still alive, Day," he mewed. "You would have been proud of Blazekit. She's a grown cat now, most likely a... waryur?" A look of realisation came to his face. "No, a warrior. That's it," he corrected himself. "I've watched over her for many moons now, just like you asked. Lately she's been meeting with a dark flame-coloured ginger tom who looks like me, a golden she-cat and a silver tabby she-kit. I think they're Eagle and Sun. Maybe the kit is Sun's, I don't know. They're going to do your will, my sweet. May your spirit rest in peace among the ranks of StarClan."
A black and white she-cat awoke from her sleep under a tree a few fox-lengths away. Nestled next to her belly were three kits.
"Tiger? What's wrong?" she asked sleepily.
"Nothing, my sweet. I was just thinking," he lied. "You rest now. You must save your strength for looking after our beautiful kits."
"Tiger, I know when you're lying. And don't think I don't know about your little trips to the Clans," she mewed sternly.
"I knew you'd find out eventually, Dotty," he sighed.
"You miss them, don't you?" Dotty's tone was softer and more gentle, and her amber eyes were dull with sympathy.
"Yes, I do. They are my first litter of kits," he mewed. "But I've realised that while I miss the past, I must look to the future. Our future," he added. "I have Brook, Mouse and Meadow to protect and guide."
He looked where a dark grey she-kit, a light grey she-kit and a pale ginger she-kit were sleeping.
"You miss having a son, though."
"It's true. But Mouse seems to look up to me more than Meadow or Brook. She's tiny, but I love her."
"You two seem tied together," the black and white queen purred.
Tiger twitched his whiskers in amusement.
"There's only one way to stop grieving," she mewed.
"You must find your kits."
"I can do that. But I'll never stop grieving for Day."
"You have to forget the past, Tiger. She's gone."
Dotty curled back into a ball. Within moments she had fallen asleep.
Tiger sighed. "You're right, Dotty. It's time to forget the past."
With that, he turned away from the stars and curled up next to his new family.
Blazeheart was exhausted. All through the night and into the next day she and her siblings had searched for their father. At dusk that day, they came over the top of a rise. A scrawny, black, stunted tree bent over a small puddle in a small, rocky bowl.
"We'll rest here for the night," ordered Sun.
Eagle and Blazeheart nodded. Sun gathered Flicker to her. The two she-cats found a bare patch of dirt next t the stunted tree and curled up there together.
"Come on, Eagle. We should join them. The nights here in the hills are long and cold," explained Blazeheart.
Her brother nodded. They curled up beside Sun and Flicker. Soon her brother, sister and the young kit were fast asleep, but she just couldn't nod off. She looked up at Silverpelt and for a moment she longed for home.
Maybe I'll be able to see Silverpelt better on the next hill ahead of us, she thought.
The hill ahead was huge and quite grassy. It would be hard to sleep on, though; the slope was very steep. She carefully lifted herself out of the furry mass that was her companions and padded up the hill. The grass was cool and soft beneath her paws. She sat down on a rock that was not so pointy and watched the warriors of Silverpelt for what seemed like moons. Suddenly there was a flash of movement in the sky.
"One of the warriors of Silverpelt is falling!" she gasped.
Bright silver lights shone in front of her like dozens of tiny fireflies. More and more of them appeared until they formed into the shape of a cat. Slowly colour spread into the shape until standing in front of her was a flame-coloured she-cat with green eyes. Her starry fur shone in the moon's light. Blazeheart looked at her fur and saw that the she-cat's pelt was a mirror of her own. She realised that this cat was her mother, Day.
"Mother..." she mewed, lost for words.
"It is I, my kit. I do not have much time, for this can only be done once every hundred seasons." Day looked down upon her kit warmly. "And we are not alone. Look behind you."
Blazeheart did as she was told. A dark flame-coloured ginger tom who looked remarkably like Eagle was standing there, looking at the two of them in disbelief.
"Hello, Tiger," mewed Day. "It is so good to see you again."
Tiger rushed forward and buried his nose in her starry fur.
"Day! I-I can't believe it's really you!" the tom yowled.
He turned to Blazeheart.
"My sweet, sweet kit. Blazekit, how I've missed you..."
"Blazeheart," she mewed bitterly. "Not that you would care. You dumped me in MoonClan and fled. You're a cowardly piece of fox-dung!"
Her father seemed taken aback by her words.
"I don't care what filthy words spill from your fox-hearted mouth! I hate you! I hate you both," she yowled. "You were never there for me. You told Creekshine not to say anything to me about my birth!"
"Dear kit, be at peace," mewed Day softly. "I was murdered by Ember. I stayed in BoneClan to protect you. Bone would have killed me if he had known that you and your siblings were alive, let alone that you were actually Tiger's kits. Then he would have sought out you and killed you too. I would never want that to happen. Many an evening I would wish to have you beside me, to watch over you. But if I had left the camp too often Bone would have got suspicious."
"You have no idea about where I have been this whole time," added Tiger. "I've been watching over you, Blazeheart. I couldn't watch over Sun and Eagle, but I could watch you grow into a strong, fine cat. I couldn't be more proud of you."
She felt dizzy as she tried to take in all that her mother and father had just said to her.
"I must go. Blazeheart, you must the destroy BoneClan," her mother mewed softly. "It is your destiny to bring peace to the Clans. I will visit you in your dreams. StarClan accepted me into their ranks because I was a warrior once. I love you, Blazeheart. I will watch over you always..."
The flame-coloured she-cat was fading fast.
"No! Don't go!" yowled Tiger desperately. "I need you! I love you!"
"I will watch over you always..." the she-cat had almost faded.
"Destroy BoneClan! It is your destiny..."
Her voice was barely audible now.
"It is your destiny..."
With that, Day completely disappeared. Tiger tried to paw Silverpelt desperately.
"Don't leave me..." he moaned.
"She's gone, father. But I'm still here." She licked his ear, trying to comfort him.
"Where are Eagle and Sun? And Sun's kit..."
"Flicker. And she's not Sun's kit... Flicker's mother, Teeth, died, so Sun took care of her."
"Sun was always a kind cat. Can you take me to them?" he asked.
"Of course. They're just down the hill."
She and her father padded down the slope to where her siblings lay sleeping.
She prodded the two cats with a paw. They awoke with a start.
After some long explaining it was finally morning. Once Flicker woke up, they padded over the hill where Blazeheart had had been last night, to find the most beautiful place they had ever seen. I was a grove of huge, green oak trees. The grass was green, long and dotted with wildflowers. Blazeheart scented so much prey her senses spun. There was a stream winding its way through the grass. The water was crystal clear. Further downstream it tumbled down the hill and into the sunlight, bubbling playfully over rocks.
"Welcome to Lifestream," mewed Tiger.
In one corner of the grove lay a pretty black and white she-cat. Three kits slept beside her- a light grey she-kit, a light ginger she-kit and a dark grey she-kit.
"Dotty," Tiger called to the queen. "We have visitors."
Dotty leapt to her paws, nearly sending her kits flying in her astonishment. Obviously she hadn't seen cats from outside the grove for a long time.
"You know how you were saying I should find my kits? Well, I did," he murmured.
"They're fine, strong cats, just like you," she replied warmly. "And who's this?!"
She turned to Flicker.
"Great StarClan! You look hungry," she mewed to the silver tabby kit. "Why don't you come and share some of our prey? Brook, Mouse and Meadow are about the same age as you."
Dotty flicked her tail towards the three kits, who had lifted their heads sleepily.
"Dotty, meet Sun, Eagle and Blazeheart," mewed Tiger, flicking his tail towards each of them in turn.
"It is very nice to meet you all," the black and white she-cat mewed happily, her amber eyes shining.
Later that evening, the cats shared prey and talked. Blazeheart asked Tiger and Dotty about her mother over and over again. Tiger, of course, was happy to answer, but Dotty kept on changing the subject as if she was trying to keep him committed to his new family. She didn't blame the black and white queen; Blazeheart had stopped asking questions ages ago.
"You've got your mother's beautiful, shiny coat," remarked Tiger. "I remember when I first saw her it was like her fur had gone up in flames. And I couldn't even see the colour of her pelt yet."
"You've really done it this time," whispered Eagle.
"I know," she replied quietly.
They talked until the moon was high in the sky- or rather, Tiger talked. Dotty made three nests for them. The moss in them was so soft that Blazeheart quickly fell asleep.
When she awoke she smelt a terrible smell.
Panicking, she leapt to her paws. A plume of smoke had arisen over the top of a nearby hill, filling the glow of the dawn sun with grey, and the stench of Twolegs filled the air.
"Father? Eagle? Sun? Dotty?"
She desperately called for her friends and family but they were no where to be seen. She bounded to the top of the hill. She sighed in relief when she saw her companions sitting by a large fire.
"Hello, sleepy head. Thought we'd been captured, did you?" Eagle twitched his whiskers in amusement.
"Twolegs often light fires here with weird, red-tipped twigs," explained Dotty. "We've learnt that if you heat prey it can make it taste much better."
Dotty pushed a piece of prey towards her. She thought it might be a vole, but it had no fur on it and it was a little blackened. She cautiously took a bite.
"That's delicious," she purred.
The flavours danced around in her mouth. When she swallowed it filled her with warmth. It was a great start to a hopefully great day.
"Tiger, you have to help us! Please!"
Blazeheart, Eagle and Sun had been discussing their plans with the dark flame-coloured ginger tom at sunhigh that day when he had spontaneously interrupted them and refused. Blazeheart pleaded with him, but he just kept on shaking his head vigorously,
"I can't put you or myself in danger. I don't want to lose you, like I lost your mother..." he trailed off, and his eyes flicked to the horizon, sadness turning the amber to brown.
"It was she who left us this task!" Sun cried, desperation making her beautiful voice high pitched.
"And what if I were to die? Dotty would be all alone here, with the kits. She wouldn't be able to hunt for herself and the little ones. We're not the only ones who know of this beautiful grove, too. Foxes often roam these hills, and though we share our prey with them in peace, it is easy to offend them. Dotty may have a sunny personality, but she often doesn't think before words slip out of her mouth." Tiger gritted his teeth as he spoke.
"BoneClan wants to get a slice of our territories," Blazeheart mewed. "MoonClan refused. BoneClan has been attacking our camp, and killing the ones I love! Please, Tiger. The Clan cats aren't my real family, but they have been there for me longer than you or Day ever have. Please, please, don't make me suffer, like you have done for so long."
Tiger's gaze softened.
"Good. We leave tonight, so get your sleep today." Eagle turned around and headed back to his nest.
Sun turned tail and followed her brother. Blazeheart lingered for a moment.
"Thank you, father," she mewed.
The three cats were awoken late that night by Sun. Blazeheart leapt to her paws defensively as she saw they were surrounded by strange cats.
"Relax, Blazeheart. These are old friends of mine," mewed Sun. "They will help us."
It was like a whole Clan was standing on the hill. Cats of all ages from the age of an apprentice to a senior warrior had gathered to defeat BoneClan.
"An army," she whispered.
"An army that will fight for justice. These cats are all loners who have managed to leave the lake and escape BoneClan."
A smaller group of cats streaked with ochre clay stepped forward.
"We are the Tribe of Free Birds," one said. "Or what's left of it. We used to live in the hills behind MoorClan, at the River of Waterbirds. But BoneClan drove us out."
"So many were slaughtered that day..."
A beautiful, mottled silver she-cat had stepped out from behind her Tribe.
"I am Star That Shines in Cold Night," she mewed. "Or Starshine, as my Tribe call me, as my name is very long."
Blazeheart felt Eagle stiffen beside her.
"What is it?" she hissed.
"Nothing," he replied, but his neck fur did not lie flat.
"Hello, Eagle," Starshine mewed. "It is good to see you have finally found reason."
"Reason? What does she mean?"
Blazeheart knew her brother was hiding something.
"Do not worry, young cat. Honesty will open his jaws and set him free eventually." The silver mottled she-cat adressed Blazeheart with warmth in her eyes.
"I am Lion That Bounds Over Moorland," mewed a large golden tabby tom. "I am Starshine's father and the leader of this Tribe. Since she was born, Starshine has had a certain... sight that has helped us win battles. Unfortunately, she can sometimes only see a few days into the future. But I believe Starshine could help us win this battle."
Starshine ignored her father's words. Instead, she turned back to Blazeheart.
"I sense something special about you, young cat," she mewed. "You have a great destiny ahead of you. The fire in your pelt burns as brightly as your heart."
A great destiny... you can say that again, thought Blazeheart.
Tiger, Blazeheart and Sun discussed their plans with their army. Once everyone was absolutely sure of the role they were to play, Tiger padded over to Dotty and buried his nose in her fur. Blazeheart could just hear their words to each other.
"I love you, my sweet, sweet Dotty," the dark flame-coloured ginger tom mewed softly. "If anything should happen to me-"
"It won't. Those kits of yours have fire in their eyes and their pelts, just like you, and just like Day." She gave him a determined look. "I know for a fact that they won't let you down."
Blazeheart was moved by Dotty's words. She turned to her siblings beside her. They all seemed to know what they had to do. Together, they gave the call for the group of cats to move out. The army of loners bounded forward, pelts shining in the moonlight, ready for battle.
Nightbreeze woke up in the middle of the night with a fever. She had been sick with worry since Blazeheart had gone missing two sunrises ago, and soon it had developed into an actual disease.
"What is it, my sweet? Do you need water?"
Bearstep had been by her side in the medicine cat den since she had been put in there by Dapplestream yesterday. He nuzzled her gently.
"You have to fight this, Nightbreeze. You're strong, I know you are."
"H-h-ow ar-r-e the k-kits?" she asked shakily.
"They're fine. Dawnshadow has been doing a great job with them." He gazed at her with warm green eyes.
"Haveta-haveto- have to see them," she mewed, struggling to her paws.
She fell down almost instantly. Bearstep caught her by her scruff as she fell.
"You musn't move," he murmured. "You'll hurt yourself."
"B-b-ut the kits!"
"I'll bring them around to see you later. Dapplestream says this isn't contagious."
Nightbreeze sank back down into the soft moss beneath her. A ray of sunlight was spilling in from a hole in the medicine den roof. It lit up Bearstep's coat, making him look even more handsome.
"I love you, Bearstep," mewed Nightbreeze, before everything went black.
The next day she woke up at sunhigh. Sunlight was spilling directly through the hole in the cave. Her head felt strange, but her fever had broke. She could hear a Clan meeting going on outside. She hauled herself to her paws and pushed her way out through the fern entrance to the medicine den.
Bearstep obviously hadn't been able to stop himself from crying out in astonishment. His fur raised in embarrassment when every head in the Clan turned to look at him. He had interrupted Quickstar. Nightbreeze twitched her whiskers in amusement as her mate licked his fur self consciously.
"We have two new warriors to make today. Flowerpaw and Stillpaw, please step forward."
The two apprentices gave each other an excited glance, then stepped forward. Nightbreeze felt a surge of pride for her Clan.
"I, Quickstar, leader of MoonClan, call upon my warrior ancestors to look down on these apprentices. They have trained hard to understand the ways of your noble code, and I commend them to you as a warrior in their turn." The she-cat recited the words with her eyes closed, as if enjoying every word. She opened them when she was finished and turned to Flowerpaw.
"Stillpaw, do you promise to uphold the warrior code and to protect and defend your Clan, even at the cost of your life?"
"Then by the powers of StarClan, I give you your warrior name. Stillpaw, from this moment you will be known as Stillfire. StarClan honours your kindness and patience."
The leader turned to Flowerpaw after Stillfire had licked her shoulder.
"And do you, Flowerpaw-"
"I do! I do! I do!"
The apprentice was bouncing up and down in excitement. She shuffled her paws in embarrassment as the Clan erupted into mrrows of laughter. Even Quickstar twitched her whiskers in amusement.
"As I was saying," she mewed. "Flowerpaw, from this moment on you will be known as Flowerthorn. StarClan honours your enthusiasim and perseverance."
The tortoiseshell warrior licked her leader's shoulder. She turned to her brother and the two new warriors padded towards the back of the gathered cats as their Clanmates called out their warrior names to the sun.
The Clan started to spill out of the clearing. Darktail was leading a hunting patrol. He gathered Owlclaw, Foxpelt and Lightwhisker to him. The patrol slipped out the camp entrance.
"It will be my turn soon!" Nightbreeze heard Rustlepaw mew to Bearstep excitedly.
Moments later, the patrol leapt back in through the entrance, eyes wide with fear. Lightwhisker tripped over a root and fell face first into a patch of nettles, her body twisting as she fell. Rustlepaw looked like she was trying not to laugh, but the white and light brown warrior soon gave her a stern look, and the young apprentice stiffened beside her mentor.
"You should get Dapplestream to look at those stings," Darktail mewed to Lightwhisker quietly.
Lightwhisker hissed in annoyance and padded towards the medicine den, cuffing Rustlepaw over the ear as she went.
Quickstar bounded down from the Tallrock.
"Why have you not left on patrol?" she asked sternly.
"There's a ShadeClan patrol outside. They want to speak with you."
"Come with me," mewed Quickstar. "You too, Bearstep. I want to make sure this isn't a filthy ShadeClan trick."
The three cats padded out through the camp entrance. Nightbreeze could hear soft mewing outside, but she couldn't pick up what they were saying. A few moments later, the MoonClan leader returned, her two guards beside her, as well as Toadstar, Brackenberry, Shadownight, Bluecloud and Oakshadow of ShadeClan.
"ShadeClan's territory has been attacked and taken over by BoneClan," Quickstar explained angrily. "ShadeClan will be sharing our territory and prey for the next few moons."
Yowls of defiance sounded from MoonClan.
"They're filthy crowfood-eaters!" yowled Owlclaw.
"I don't want them sharing my prey," Frostlight remarked.
"What if this is part of some horrid ShadeClan plot, and they want to steal our kits?!" complained Heronstep.
"Enough!" yowled Quickstar. "BoneClan is the enemy here, not ShadeClan!"
"I agree," mewed Nightbreeze, stepping forward.
"Aren't you worried about your kits?" asked Dawnshadow, shock clear in her voice.
The ginger queen had come out of the nursery to see what all the fuss was about. Mudkit, Moonkit and Aspenkit's eyes lit up as they saw their mother was feeling better. They bounded over to her and nuzzled her legs. Bearstep also came to her side, his eyes determined.
"No. All I know is that my sister could have been taken by BoneClan, and I want her back. ShadeClan and MoonClan have always been enemies, but for this battle, we're allies." She spoke boldly, confident in what she was doing now that her family were beside her.
"Thank you, Nightbreeze. I couldn't have said it better myself." Quickstar dipped her head to Nightbreeze.
After that moment, ShadeClan and MoonClan became allies.
It was midnight. The moon rose above the hills, casting its silver rays across the long grasses of the moor. The night was hot and humid, like the heat before a storm. A cold wind started the blow, and the trees at the bottom of the slopes stretched their sore bones. The wind moaned as it too stretched across the moor, flattening the grasses. But in the grasses, feline eyes shone bright, lit up by the silver moon above. Blazeheart felt adrenaline surge up inside her when she thought of what she was about to do.
"It is time to move out," mewed Eagle to a golden brown tom.
"Yes. I'll send the message to the rear fighters," the tom replied.
Murmurs spread through the army of cats until the message was sent.
"Is everything ready?" she asked Eagle.
"Have you taken the necessary precautions?" Sun put in.
"And you're sure of where BoneClan are living?"
"Near the horseplace, in a hollow not far behind it. Bone wouldn't have changed camp because BoneClan are trying to look like an established Clan. We lived there, don't forget."
"Yes, but Bone- Bonestar has expanded his territory. Wouldn't he want to move closer to the Clans?"
"So you're addressing him properly now, are you?" Eagle sounded amused.
"It is every cat's right to be addressed properly, even Bone." Sun glared at the dark flame-coloured ginger tom as she spoke.
"Whatever you say." Eagle rolled his eyes.
The army was beginning to creep forward, claws unsheathed. Every eye was on the destination- a hollow past the horseplace. They turned in the opposite direction and then headed to the top of a hill that looked over the hollow. There were only two cats to be seen- entrance guards, as they had expected.
"Tiger, it's your time to shine," mewed Sun.
"I can't believe I'm doing this," he sighed, leaping forward.
"Hey, mouse-brains, over here! I'm a loner, I'm a loner," he mewed in a teasing, musical way to the guards.
"He's trying to make fun of us!" yowled one of the guards- a dark brown tabby tom- in annoyance.
"Let's get him," the black she-cat next to him growled menacingly.
With that, the two cats chased after Tiger, hissing and spitting.
"I can't believe they fell for that!" Blazeheart hissed to Eagle.
"BoneClan have brawn, but absolutely no brains," mewed Sun casually. "The only cats who are smart in that pack of mouse-brains are Bone, Ember, Cuts and maybe Chase."
"Maybe Chase?" Eagle teased. "The only reason you were okay with him was because you were in love with him!"
"I'm no- I wasn't!" she stammered. "BoneClan are murderous, evil pieces of fox-dung."
"It's okay, Sun," he assured her. "Chase was my friend. In fact, he's right over there!"
He pointed to the tom who had sent the message to the rear fighters. Sun stiffened.
"You can talk to him later, Sun," Blazeheart mewed. "We must move out."
Sun nodded. Eagle drew himself up to his full height.
"All of you," he called to the army. "Stick to the plan. Remember: elders, queens, their and our allies- who you all should be able to pick out- are not to be harmed."
Blazeheart nodded approvingly.
"For peace!" he yowled, and the army of cats surged forward.
They had indeed taken BoneClan by surprise. Small, sleepy-eyed cats were the first out of their dens. Blazeheart could hear no assuring purrs from queens from inside the den they came out of- these cats had to be BoneClan 'apprentices'. She soon realised that BoneClan had no knowledge of ancient ceremonies and procedures. The apprentices looked to be little more than three moons old. They were kits! The young cats' eyes were wide with fear as they crept forward. They squeaked in horror as the attacking cats towered over them.Chase flicked his tail towards the forest.
"Go," he yowled to the kits. "This is not your fight."
I can see why Sun is in love with him, Blazeheart thought. He is fair and noble.
The kits scrambled away and fled into the hills. Soon, warriors were surging out of a den in the far corner of the hollow. Blazeheart found herself locked in battle with a scarred light brown she-cat. But the she-cat did not unsheathe her claws.
"It's okay," the she-cat mewed. "My name is Cuts. I was your mother's best friend. Edge away from the battle with me. Eagle says you are the one he has chosen to kill Bone."
Blazeheart stiffened for a moment in shock.
"Chosen?" she snapped. "I wasn't aware that i was going to be chosen for anything. Especially killing Bone!"
Just then, she smelled a sweet scent, and could feel fur wrapping around her. The starry spirit of Day had come to guide her daughter.
"It is your destiny... Day breathed.
She turned to look at her mother; to confide in her, to breathe in her sweet scent, but the spirit of Day was gone.
"It must be done," she mewed quietly to Cuts.
Yowls of fury sounded from a large den directly facing the entrance.
"It's Bone's inner guard!" Cuts gasped.
She recognised two cats in the flurry of legs and pelts; Talon and Ember. The two cats pounced on a warrior nearby and swiftly killed him.
"Iron!" Eagle yowled. "No!"
But it was already done. The inner guard spread throughout the battling cats, giving new strength to BoneClan. There were only about half a dozen of them but they had already managed to drive away the front fighters.
"Ferret, Chamomile, Gray, get the wounded out of here!" Eagle ordered a dark grey tabby tom, a light brown she-cat with dark paws and a dark face and a golden brown she-cat.
"Jimmy, Indigo, Kip, attack Talon."
Eagle signaled a dark grey tom, a grey and light grey she-cat who looked like Ferret and a black tom with a white ear.
"Pastel, take Sammy, Blue and Gigi to attack two cats of your pick."
A pale cream she-cat dipped her head to Eagle.
"Lion, send your warr- cave-guards to attack one of Bone's inner guard. Your prey-hunters can get the queens, elders and newborn kits out of here because they are swift." This time it was Sun who spoke.
Lion obeyed, and ordered his Tribe split into many different directions. Soon all the queens, kits and elders had been taken safely out of the hollow. Blazeheart looked around. More warriors and the other half of Bone's guard had swarmed out into the battle, overwhelming them. She hadn't been expecting so many BoneClan cats to meet them in battle. Suddenly, a yowl split the air.
"MoonClan! ShadeClan! Attack!"
Warriors from the two Clans bounded into the clearing. They leapt on top of BoneClan warriors valiantly. Blazeheart caught a glimpse of Quickstar battling talon, her claws swiping back and forth so fast her brown tabby she-cat opponent fled for the camp entrance. Cuts tried to draw Blazeheart out of a battle but a dark grey tom leapt onto her viciously, winding her. She struggled, but the breath was fast rushing out of her lungs. She went limp. When the tom loosened his grip she sprange upward, battering at his belly with unsheathed claws. Her opponent yowled in fury and bounded away. She dashed over to Cuts.
"That's Bone's den up there," Cuts explained, drawing her attention to a cave cut into a rock face overlooking the hollow. "There's only a narrow path to get up there but we should be able to make it."
Blazeheart nodded. The two she-cats gradually tried to climb the sandy hollow walls but it was too hard.
"We'll have to pretend we're fleeing the battle," Blazeheart decided.
"But what about Eagle? He'll think we're cowards," mewed Cuts.
"He knows what we're doing. He's smart like that," Blazeheart replied.
Blazeheart and Cuts yowled dramatically.
"It's too much!" shrieked Cuts.
"The pain!" Blazeheart caterwauled.
She could have sworn she saw Eagle's whiskers twitch in amusement, even though he was fighting a pale ginger she-cat.
Blazeheart and Cuts turned tail and bounded out of the hollow. They ran until they reached the top of the hill overlooking the hollow. They stopped in front of the rock face under Bone's den. Blazeheart craned her neck to see Bone's den, but snapped it back down when she saw there were two guards at the cave's entrance. One was a silver she-cat and the other was a huge, broad-shouldered, muscular blue-grey tom.There were piles of fallen rocks to the right and in front of the den.
"We'll have to take the side rocks if we're to take them by surprise," she mewed.
"There's no need," Cuts mewed. "I know the cats. The she-cat's name was once Jingle. She was a kittypet. Bone likes to call her Thick, or Thickfur- but in the way that means not very smart. She's not the brightest star in Silverpelt, but she's one of the two best fighters in the Clan. Dark, or Darkice- the tom- is the other. He's loyal to Bone no matter what. Jingle will help us, but Dark is a problem."
"I'm assuming he's not that smart either?"
"You assumed correct."
"Okay then. Let's do this."
The two she-cats leapt up the fallen rocks in front of Bone's den. They were greeted by Jingle and a very angry Dark. When he wasn't looking, Jingle dipped her silver head to Cuts and Blazeheart.
"Greetings, Darkice and Ji-Thickfur," Cuts mewed, dipping her head to Jingle.
Dark looked pleased with himself. He obviously had thought Cuts had been bowing to him.
"What are you doing here, medicine cat?" the muscular tom boomed.
"This is Scorchface," the scarred light brown she-cat replied with a hint of malice in her voice. "We've come to see Bone for her... initiation."
"Scrawn- Smallstone usually deals with initiations," Dark growled suspiciously, flicking his tail towards a tiny, extremely thin tom who was fighting Darktail in the clearing.
"He's down there battling those vicious Clan cats. I'm hopeless at fighting- you know that's why I have these scars. So I thought I'd help him out."
Cuts gently ran her tail along her flank gently, as if to prove her point.
"Fine. Go in. But no more of these nice acts. Just stick to doing your job." Dark glared at Cuts and Blazeheart.
The two she-cats dipped their head to Jingle and Dark, then walked into the cave. Once inside, they both breathed a sigh of relief.
"We're in," mewed Cuts.
Nightbreeze tossed and turned in her sleep. All night she had been dreaming of the battle between the BoneClan rogues and the Clan cats. She could hear cats screeching and yowls of fury echoed through her mind. Many images flashed before her rapidly- bones lying on the ground, blood and clumps of fur everywhere, cats fleeing the hollow, her father battling many black cats. The images eventually rested on Bearstep. He was lying on the ground, unmoving, his neck twisted unnaturally and blood spilling out of a huge tear in his belly. Nightbreeze found herself in the image next to him. She ran forward and buried her nose in his fur.
"Bearstep! Please don't leave me!" she cried. "What will happen to our kits? Think of them! They won't have a father! Please, please, stay here with me!"
But Bearstep didn't move. She yowled her grief to the stars above. Moments later, she snapped awake. It was the middle of the night.
"Bearstep!" she yowled.
Dawnshadow awoke on the other side of the den.
"Calm down, Nightbreeze," she soothed. "It was only a nightmare. Bearstep came back earlier to guard the camp. He fought bravely."
"Good." She breathed a huge sigh of relief. "The battle's still going?"
"Yes," Dawnshadow replied. "It only started at nightfall."
Meanwhile, Cuts and Blazeheart were slinking through the cave. Moonlight filtered through holes in the roof. It was a narrow passageway, but the two she-cats managed to fit in it. There was a pool of water up ahead.
"I'm thirsty," Cuts whispered. "Let's stop here and drink."
Blazeheart nodded and they stopped to lap up the water. She instantly spat it out.
"That tastes foul!" she hissed.
"You don't think-"
"Someone else got here before us."
The two she-cats padded forward cautiously. Outside, they heard a caterwaul.
"MoonClan! ShadeClan! Retreat!"
"We've lost," gasped Blazeheart.
"There's no time to think about that. Keep on moving," Cuts urged.
They padded on until they reached a huge cave. In the centre was a large flat boulder. They gasped as they saw the limp body of Bone on the floor. A black cat was standing over him. Ember turned around.
"You're too late," he snarled menacingly. "I murdered him."
He started to advance on them. As they fled from his powerful muscles and sharp teeth, Blazeheart looked back in terror, hoping to find a way to escape him or outwit him. But all she saw was Ember.
Ember, the new leader of BoneClan.
But don't worry, there's more. Get ready for the next story in the series:
Thanks for reading!
Millie 06:14, August 18, 2011 (UTC)