Author: apolo.13 PM
Set six moons after The Sight without the events of later Power of Three books , Cloudtail and Brightheart's daughter learns she has a special gift and disaster to avert. Can an ordinary apprentice handle the pressure? *Rated T for some violence*Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Adventure - Chapters: 11 - Words: 18,227 - Reviews: 27 - Favs: 3 - Follows: 4 - Updated: 02-22-08 - Published: 01-01-08 - id: 3985494
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I couldn't imagine where this would have taken me…me, Cloudtail and Brightheart's youngest daughter, Lilypaw. I was just the epitome of the average ThunderClan apprentice—grey tabby fur, white paws, and Cloudtail's vivd blue eyes. I was Thornclaw's apprentice, and I was in training to be a warrior, just as much as the next cat.
But what happened was anything but average. It happened like this…
Sunlight dappled the snowy forest, and I squinched up my eyes to focus on the tiny brown vole nibbling on a seed. I could hardly smell my catch over the scent of the forest, and my paws were freezing from staying so still in the bitter cold. Still, the Clan needed prey.
I know it sounds selfish, but I was pretty much hunting for myself. I'm not planning on being the next Tigerstar or something—believe me, I've heard way too many elder's tales!—but tonight was the night of the gathering. I let my eyes wander involuntarily towards the semi-opaque full moon hiding behind the bare branches of the oak trees, and I felt a little shiver run down my spine. Thornclaw didn't take me to the last two Gatherings, so this was going to be my first, given that I was going to go.
I curled my tail, focusing on my prey. Sneaking up pawstep by pawstep, I lunged out to nip at the vole. The vole turned, dropped the seed, and fled into the long, overgrown grass. I bolted after it. Great, I thought. I sure hope Thornclaw isn't watching me right now. That was practically under my nose!
I gave up the chase after the vole bolted up a tiny tree, squeaking loudly. I sniffed at the air for more prey, but could only smell a surprisingly familiar ThunderClan scent…
"C'mon out, Lilypaw." The thick grass stems twitched, heralding Thornclaw's arrival. His amber eyes flickered with surprise. "The Clan needs food, and that vole was easy to catch."
Annoyance sparked in my belly. I'm not always that good at controlling my temper, an attribute of mine which everyone credits Cloudtail, my father. "It's not my fault that it's so cold, my paws practically froze over!" I snapped, staring challengingly into Thornclaw's amber eyes.
Thornclaw lashed his tail at me. "Honestly, Lilypaw. Go back to camp and see if you can make yourself useful." He sheathed his claws, already beginning to pad away into the forest.
I dipped my head, trying to look respectful. "Bossy furball," I muttered into the snow.
"I heard that," Thornclaw muttered darkly, looking pained. "You'd better hurry up if you want to get anything done before the Gathering."
My ears pricked. "Gathering? I'm going to the Gathering?" I asked him, suddenly feeling elated.
Thornclaw groaned. "I'll talk to Firestar about it. Now, hurry up and get back on to camp!"
I arrived back at camp just after sunhigh. I spotted my older sister, Whitewing, eating a mouse with Birchfall. She nodded at me, padding over. "Hey, Lilypaw. Back so soon?" Whitewing asked, her green eyes glittering cheerfully.
"Don't ask!" I hissed, fighting down the anger churning in my belly. "Thornclaw sent me back to be helpful around the camp before the Gathering. D'you know of anything that needs help?"
Whitewing looked thoughtfully at me for a moment. "Well, if you've got time," she said, "Jaypaw and Leafpool need help with their herbs. A lot of them were killed with the frosts and the cold air. Leafpool's out collecting herbs as we speak, so I'm sure Jaypaw could use your help."
Jaypaw! I almost hissed out loud. Jaypaw has got to be the most self-righteous jerk in the entire forest—except, maybe, for ShadowClan. "Fine," I grumbled.
My sister frowned at me. "You ought not to be so grumpy about it, Lilypaw," she advised. "Jaypaw's got real good hearing. I know that he can hear better than most cats, like across the cam"—
More about the all-mighty Jaypaw, I thought grumpily, heading towards the shallow cave in the cliffs where Leafpool keeps her den.
I blinked for a little while, adjusting to the bitter tang of herbs and the sudden plunge of darkness. Jaypaw was sifting through herbs, his grey pelt outlined faintly in watery golden sunlight. He turned to face me, his sky blue eyes slicing through the darkness. I shifted uneasily. Just because he's blind makes it more creepy that he can see directly into my eyes, I noted.
"What do you want now?" Jaypaw demanded, turning back to his herbs as soon as he realized that it was me.
"What'dya mean, now?" I snapped. "I only just came in here for the first time today, you stupid furball." Remembering what I was here for, I added, "Whitewing told me you need help in here sorting herbs?"
Jaypaw's hackles rose, and I assumed that he was totally taking this the wrong way. He always does. "I might be blind, but I'm not helpless!" he said sharply.
I rolled my eyes, glad that Jaypaw couldn't see me. "I didn't mean you, personally," I retorted. "Just that Thornclaw sent me back to camp to make myself useful before the Gathering."
Jaypaw relaxed a little. "Well, there's some mallow that needs sorting," he suggested, flicking his tail at an aromatic pile next to the heap of juniper berries he was sorting. "The stuff that's black and brittle is the stuff that needs to go out. Try not to throw out too much, because mallow's very scarce at this time of year."
"Sure," I mewed, picking through the herbs. I could tell that Jaypaw was trying to be friendly, so I added, "You going to the Gathering tonight?"
Jaypaw glanced at me and rolled his eyes. "I doubt it," he grumbled. "After all, some cat has to be here along with the helpless kits and useless elders." His tail lashed so fiercely I could feel it ruffling my pelt. He spat out a mouthful of berries. "I assume you're going?"
I shrugged, enjoying the taste of the sweet mallow in my jaws. "I dunno," I admitted excitedly. "Thornclaw said he'd talk to Firestar about it though. You've been to a Gathering before, haven't you?"
Jaypaw twitched his ears. "Yeah," he said. "Lots of grumpy cats. Good chance to meet the Clans, though. Plenty of weird apprentices to keep you amused, at the very least." He sniffed at the mallow I'd been sorting. "That seems pretty good," he added grudgingly. I could practically feel the resentment rolling from his pelt in waves.
"Thanks!" I purred, surprised to be complimented by Leafpool's bitter apprentice. "Anything else we should do?"
Jaypaw sniffed the air. "Nah," he mewed. "I think we're done. Want to grab a bite of fresh-kill before the Gathering starts?"
I felt a little surge of shock pulse through me at Jaypaw's sudden change of moods. "If you want to," I suggested, curling my tail up. I realized how hungry I was. Because of the shortage of prey in the woods during leaf-bare, I hadn't eaten before going out with Thornclaw this morning.
Jaypaw nestled in beside me, a thrush and a rabbit held in his jaws. He shoved the thrush towards me, tearing into his own meal hungrily. The setting sun cast his fur into stone-colored flames. "So," he mewed. A brief silence ensued, and I felt myself growing warm with the awkward tension that held between us.
"I can't wait for the Gathering," I admitted testily. "Are they fun?"
Around a mouthful of rabbit, Jaypaw replied: "Sort of. It's nice to see what the other Clan cats are like. Most of them sort of avoided me, though." He looked down resentfully. "It must be because I'm blind."
I opened my mouth to reply, before I heard the crunch of pawsteps in the snow. Thornclaw was standing over me. "Cats assembling for the gathering are meeting by the camp entrance," he reported. "You're coming, Lilypaw."
Excitement churned in my belly. "I am?" I asked, springing to my paws and landing clumsily, spraying snow into Thornclaw's eyes and muzzle. "You mean, like now?"
Thornclaw purred, and his amber eyes looked warmly into mine for the first time in what felt like ages. "Yes, right now," he replied. "Come on, now. The Clan's waiting for us."
I hurried across the clearing, towards where the other apprentices—Honeypaw, Icepaw, and Cinderpaw—were gathered, near the front of the group. As we began to make the journey to the island, Honeypaw flicked her ears in greeting at me, glancing up at the cloudless, starry sky. "Good weather tonight," she commented sedately.
Cinderpaw's blue eyes sparkled, and her coat fluffed out from the cold. "This your first Gathering, Lilypaw?" she asked. "It's mine, too. I can't wait to see the other Clans!" Her eyes glowed with enthusiasm.
Poppypaw turned to us, her tortoiseshell fur gleaming in the moonlight. I could tell she groomed herself extra well for the occasion. "Speaking of, wonder what's going on with the other Clans?" she pondered thoughtfully, dodging around a snow-covered log. "Leopardstar seemed kind of quiet last time…"
Honeypaw bounded over the log in one leap, splashing us with snow. "Dunno," she frowned. "Wonder what Heatherpaw's been up to? She's really friendly, Lilypaw." She turned, her green eyes glittering into my blue ones. "She's from WindClan. Come on, it's time to cross to the island!" She leaped onto a moonlit log that bridged our forest to the island where the Clans met for the Gatherings.
Cinderpaw pressed her tail against my flank. "Scared, Lilypaw?" she teased as I put my paws carefully in front of the other.
Scared? More like excited! I thought, though I was too nervous to reply. The black water of the lake rippled ominously beneath us. Meanwhile, Honeypaw had crossed to the other side of the log, waiting for us with an impatiently twitching tail. "I haven't got all night!" she called, looking up at the fat full moon skimming the treetops.
I bounded onto the other side, letting out a sigh of relief. Thank goodness that's over. Poppypaw and Cinderpaw joined us on the island bank, and we followed our Clan into the Gathering.