|A New Fire
Author: Koraki PM
The darkness is rising once more, and one cat stands in the way of Skullstar's quest for total power. Who will rise and who will fall? Post-OotS, AU, some canon chars, T for violence and some language. Last update: Chapter 7Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Suspense - Lionblaze & Jayfeather - Chapters: 8 - Words: 58,943 - Reviews: 24 - Favs: 6 - Follows: 5 - Updated: 12-17-11 - Published: 05-06-11 - id: 6970226
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Previous Events in ShadowClan
Quailkit (about four moons old) wakes up to her friend Bramblepaw bringing her, her sister Asterkit, and her mother Splashfoot some prey. Quailkit, who's the only cat in the nursery awake, gets Bramblepaw to take her outside into the foggy early-morning clearing. Bramblepaw and Quailkit fool around a bit, have a little run-in with Snakestar, and Bramblepaw rants about racism to Quailkit, abruptly cutting off and apologizing for unloading her problems on a mere kit. Eagletalon (the deputy) and Squirreltail (Bramblepaw's mentor) arrive and report to Snakestar on Bramblepaw's warrior assessment, which took place very early that morning. Eagletalon continually puts down Bramblepaw's performance, while Squirreltail tries - albeit not too hard - to give a more accurate picture of events. Finally they make a fair report, and Snakestar and Eagletalon go away to talk, presumably because Eagletalon is getting quite upset over a house cat becoming a warrior. Later that morning, Bramblepaw receives her warrior name - Bramblethorn - and Rockkit, a tomkit two moons older than Quailkit and Asterkit, is apprenticed.
Other characters that were introduced - or at least briefly mentioned - are Ferretpaw (the son of Eagletalon and Sunflight; Asterkit has quite the crush on him, though as far as we know he's not aware of her feelings); Wetwhisker and Aspenfrost (Splashfoot's younger siblings; they're more friendly to Bramblethorn than many cats); and Beetlefoot (the easygoing medicine cat).
Chapter 7 :: Quailkit of ShadowClan
Quailkit woke slowly the next morning, her mind slowly whirring its way into full consciousness, her ears gradually focusing on the sound of soft voices murmuring somewhere over to her left. The kit recognized them immediately - she didn't think she'd gone a day of her life without hearing those cats somewhere in her vicinity. Her nose twitched as she slowly breathed in the three cats' scents. "Mama?" she mumbled drowsily, eyes still tightly closed. "Mom, what time is it?" Her jaws stretched in an enormous yawn as she spoke, muffling the words somewhat.
"It's quite late, Quailkit," her mother replied from somewhere above Quailkit's head. The little tabby she-kit's whiskers twitched slightly as she burrowed deeper into her soft bedding - Splashfoot's voice was uniquely soothing. Smooth and warm as a ray of golden sun, it carried a tang of depth in it as well; Quailkit had tasted honey several times in her life, and she was certain that if honey could speak, its voice would be like that of her mother. "You slept through the dawn patrol and the morning hunting patrol. Now it's almost sunhigh."
Lightning crackled through Quailkit's veins and her eyes shot open as she pounced to her feet in a panic, shaking moss bits and feathery down out of her fur. "You're kidding, right?" she yelped, fur standing on end. "It's not - that late - " Even before her mother could answer her, though, Quailkit's own senses had answered it for her; the rays of bright sun liberally dappling the nursery, the warmth in the air, the murmur of many voices outside the nursery, could only mean one thing.
"I'm sorry, Quailkit." Splashfoot blinked down at Quailkit, her golden-green eyes warm and concerned. "You and Asterkit took a while to get to sleep last night, though, so I thought I'd better let you sleep in."
"Asterkit?" Quailkit's gaze dashed around the nursery, skimming carelessly over the two cats who'd been speaking to her mother. "Where is she? Hi, Aspenfrost-and-Wetwhisker. Did she go out into the clearing?"
"Yes, I let her go out when the dawn patrol returned." The dappled brown queen gazed thoughtfully at Quailkit, then suddenly reached out a slender white forepaw and pulled the kit to her. Sinking into a relaxed crouch, Splashfoot began to groom Quailkit's ears slowly. "She wanted to have a chat with Bramblethorn," Quailkit's mother mewed between licks, "but I told her no. Don't you go chasing Bramblethorn around either, Quailkit - and the same goes for you two." Splashfoot paused her grooming and craned her head to shoot a playful warning glare at Aspenfrost and Wetwhisker.
"What, us?" Aspenfrost's whiskers twitched. "Don't worry, Splashfoot. We remember our own vigil a bit too keenly to go bothering poor Brambley." The gray she-cat flicked Wetwhisker with her tail. "Right, Wetwhisker?"
"Hmm?" The faintly dappled gray tom's head jerked up in surprise.
Aspenfrost chuckled and poked her brother playfully with a paw. "Our revered older sister was saying that it wouldn't be nice to get Bramblethorn up too early after her vigil."
Wetwhisker nodded quickly in assent. "Yes. Probably not a good idea to wake her. Should leave well enough alone."
Quailkit blinked slowly and affectionately at her kin as Splashfoot's warm, rough tongue rasped rhythmically over her ears. She loved Splashfoot's younger brother and sister as much as Bramblethorn, although ShadowClan's newest warrior would always hold a special place in her heart. Wetwhisker was a drifter, his mind prone to running ahead of itself and falling right out of discussions and into wherever a mind went, but it was quite easy to refocus him. Quailkit's favorite aspect of the young tom was his manner of speech - clipped and to the point, no beating around the bush. As for Aspenfrost, she was a vivacious, almost wickedly clever she-cat - ShadowClan to the bone, Quailkit had heard someone murmur once when Aspenfrost swept by. Still, despite her pure blood and high manners, Aspenfrost wasn't afraid to splash in mud puddles with her sister's kits; moreover, of all cats, the dappled gray she-cat's dearest companion was Bramblethorn. Perhaps Aspenfrost was a typical ShadowClan she-cat on the surface, but deeper inside she seemed to be something else entirely.
Just then, a familiar squeal rang out from somewhere beyond the nursery exit. Quailkit's ears pricked up instantly and she struggled out of Splashfoot's firm but careful grasp. "Can I go now? Please? I promise I won't mess with Bramblethorn, and I - "
Splashfoot held up one white paw. "No need to make any deals with me, Quailkit. Go ahead and play with your sister."
"Thanks, Mom!" Quailkit spun around and raced out into the camp's main clearing.
In the light of almost-sunhigh, the bramble bushes and threatening thorns of the practically impenetrable barrier encircling the camp looked far less threatening than they did at night, with moonlight slanting eerily through them, reflecting off of every cruel barb as if they were shining claws or glistening bones. Now they were simply entangled plants, green with new growth. Quailkit could see a few tiny white flowers - woodstars, her mother had identified them, her voice low with warning as she told her kits never to touch them - dappled around the base of the barrier. There would be more to come later, in the more open areas of the forest, Splashfoot had said, carpeting the ground like flowery stars in a sky of dark green foliage. Quailkit couldn't wait.
Moving on from the woodstars, Quailkit's eyes probed the area for her sister. At first the dark ginger kit was nowhere to be seen, but a sudden shout of laughter led Quailkit around the edge of the huge bramble bush that formed the warriors' den and under a few straggling strands of fern to join her sister in a secluded hollow in the thick, thorny walls.
Quailkit had known that the place was there, though she hadn't expected Asterkit to be there without Quailkit herself or Bramblethorn. Bramblethorn had discovered and renovated the little hidey-hole in her early apprenticeship, and barely a moon ago she'd revealed it to Quailkit and Asterkit with a touch of pride. The little den in the bramble barrier was just large enough for the three of them to squeeze in together and peer out at what little they could see of the camp clearing past the warriors' den, which blocked most of their vision, but as the three young she-cats grew, it was getting harder and harder to fit comfortably. At least Bramblethorn wasn't with them today, so that problem was eliminated.
Asterkit didn't look up to greet her sister; the ginger kit was currently completely absorbed in the process of prodding at a large spider, carefully putting the weary arachnid through its paces as best she could. One glance reassured Quailkit that the large, furry brown spider was not one of the ones that their mother had strictly warned them not to touch, and so she sank into a relaxed crouch next to her littler sister. "What'cha doing?" mewed the tabby kit nonchalantly, although the answer was fairly obvious.
"Playing with this guy," Asterkit said absentmindedly. "I named him Fuzzpaw. He's already hunted - now he's having running training, 'cause I can't find another spidey for him to practice fighting with..." She trailed off and poked at Fuzzpaw the spider, who had stopped moving as she spoke.
"I guess he's WindClan, then, right?" prompted Quailkit. "They prob'ly have special running training anyways, don't you think?"
"Yeah." Her sister's pale whiskers twitched. "Probably." She extended a dark orange right forepaw and set it down gently in front of Fuzzpaw. "He's very tired; I think he deserves a warrior name. Come on, Fuzzpaw, get up..." Asterkit tapped the ground behind the little bug sharply with her other paw, and Fuzzpaw wearily clambered up onto the forepaw in front of him.
"Are you going to have a whole naming ceremony for him, then?" Quailkit inquired with interest.
"Uh-huh. What should his warrior name be, do you think?"
"Um..." Quailkit tilted her head back and let her eyes drift halfway shut as she thought. "Wow, I don't know. It's a pretty hard first name to come up with last names for. You should've named him something easy, like Brownpaw."
Asterkit blinked, looking chagrined. She smoothed down the jagged white patch of fur on her chest with her tongue as she mumbled, "Well, it's too late now, so help me with this."
"Whatever." The little tabby she-kit leaned forward, sniffing at Fuzzpaw with considerable interest as she pondered. "What about Fuzzheart?"
"Nah." Asterkit's tail twitched. "I think I've got a better idea now. Fuzzfrost," she pronounced joyfully, wriggling the toes of her raised forepaw. This action caused Fuzzpaw no little anguish, as was apparent from his frantic scurryings.
"I think that's a dumb name," snapped Quailkit, incensed at Asterkit's easy rejection of her own suggestion, which hadn't been too easy to come up with.
Her sister's ginger fur fluffed up dangerously. "Oh yeah?"
"Yeah!" Quailkit felt the fur on her own back prickling up as she sidled a step closer to Asterkit - and Fuzzpaw.
"Well, too bad, 'cause I'm his leader, Asterstar of SpiderClan - " Suddenly the kit's eyes gleamed, and she hurried into the warrior ceremony without preamble. "I-call-upon-my-spidery-ancestors-to-look-down-on-this-young-spiderprentice - "
"I, Quailstar of ShadowClan, say that he has trained dutifully in the spidery ways of your spidery code!" interjected Quailkit spitefully and loudly.
"Too bad!" Asterkit shot back. "Because I say that too! Also, I commend him to the spidery ancestors as a warrior in his turn! Fuzzpaw, do you promise to - "
"He says he does," Quailkit interrupted again, glaring. Fuzzheart wasn't a great name, but it was better than Fuzzfrost. "By the powers of the spidery ancestors, I give you your warrior name. Fuzzpaw - "
Asterkit slammed her upraised paw to the ground in frustration, and the thoroughly frightened Fuzzpaw took the advantage of this moment to scuttle back to his spider home in a web in between a few twigs of the barrier. Neither kit noticed as Asterkit raised her voice to its loudest capacity. "From this moment on you will be known as - "
Fuzzpaw was never named, for at that moment there was a most fearsomely loud rustle, and the two kits both jumped, their open jaws closing with vigorous snaps. Quailkit immediately extricated herself from the hidey-hole, and flattened her ears in alarm when she saw who was looming over her. The tabby kit darted a nervous glance at Asterkit, who was pulling herself backwards out of the branches, then chanced another look up and winced. Beetlefoot's steady amber gaze wasn't particularly hostile, but the medicine cat was still quite formidable, a solid mass of long, dark gray fur and serious eyes, though Quailkit had heard that he was quite nice to cats that he liked. She and Asterkit had never gone exploring in his den yet, though Asterkit had wanted to, so he might not get too angry at them. Quailkit desperately hoped that this was the case.
"Well, hello there, kits," said Beetlefoot genially, his voice slightly muffled by the bundle of herbs in his jaws. His breath wafted their varied scents towards the two kits, and Quailkit wrinkled her nose at their unpleasant odors. Asterkit was less subtle, choking and coughing the moment the smells hit her senses, and Quailkit stared up at Beetlefoot in fear - but his whiskers were twitching as he inquired, "And what are you up to at sunhigh on this fine day that's causing you to get so upset?"
"Quailkit doesn't know what a good warrior name is," Asterkit accused.
"Actually, Asterkit doesn't," Quailkit informed Beetlefoot in a conspiratorial whisper, not really caring that her sister heard and hissed.
Beetlefoot's nose wrinkled in confusion. "And why were you discussing warrior names? Does one of you not appreciate Bramblethorn's - "
"No, no, no," Asterkit mewed, shaking her head and waving a paw dismissively. "No, her name's awesome. I was just naming my spider apprentice."
The gray tom appeared to choke on something quite suddenly, his whiskers trembling furiously. Quailkit pounced to her feet in alarm. "Are you okay?" she exclaimed, wondering what you did when a cat was choking.
As quickly as Beetlefoot's frightening condition had begun, it ended. Beetlefoot stopped choking quite abruptly, although his whiskers still quivered. "Yes, thank you, Quailkit," he purred, adjusting his grip on the herbs as he spoke and blasting her with more of the scent. "I'd be quite interested in hearing about this...ahem...spider apprentice - " his whiskers quivered a little faster, and Quailkit wondered suspiciously if he was purring at them - "but I need to take these herbs to the elders. Sparrowclaw's eyes are irritated again, and Scarpelt's been having aches and pains, and to top it all off, Brightdawn's joints are stiff. Would either of you two care to accompany me?"
"Sure, I guess," Asterkit replied, ears flicking. Quailkit knew that Asterkit liked Sparrowclaw and Brightdawn very well, and all of the elders liked the little ginger kit, too. Quailkit didn't have a problem with the elders either, though she liked Scarpelt better than Sparrowclaw. The battered old tom didn't often speak, but when he did break his silence, he told the most fascinating stories of battles and schemes and brave warriors, some of whose names Quailkit recognized - not at all like Brightdawn's tales of LionClan and TigerClan, which suited Quailkit fine but had no connection to her life, or Sparrowclaw's ramblings about long-ago days when some cat called Firestar was the leader of one of the other Clans. Scarpelt was more fun.
Quailkit passed from her reverie just in time to see her sister's dark ginger tail disappear from view as she bounded into the clearing from behind the warriors' den, with the medicine cat following more sedately. "Oh - um - I'll come too!" the tabby she-cat yowled, hurrying forward to catch up to Beetlefoot.
A few cats lingered in the clearing, but not many - most were probably out on patrol, and a few night hunters were most likely sleeping in their dens. The elders' bramble thicket was at the moment enclosed by a golden ray of sunlight, and the faint sounds of what sounded like a spirited dialogue emitted from it; as the medicine cat and his two companions drew nearer, the voices grew gradually louder, until Asterkit and Quailkit were wincing at the volume of the conversation as they stood at the entrance of the den.
"See there, kits aren't the only ones who get into fights," chuckled the dark gray medicine cat. "I firmly avow that you're just practicing your skills for when you become elders." He ducked under a low-hanging branch as he spoke, entering the den without batting an eye. Quailkit glanced at Asterkit and huddled a bit closer to her, then stepped inside tentatively as Beetlefoot continued. "I dread the day when some of my Clanmates become elders, if they make it that far. Young Ferretpaw and Rockpaw are going to be pawfuls, I fear, and so is your mother's sister Aspenfrost. Oh," he purred, seeming to sense Quailkit's disbelief, "you may think she's going to be quite lovely and kind when she grows old, but I remember her as a kit. I wish I didn't."
"What about when Snakestar becomes an elder?" whispered Asterkit to Quailkit, and snickered. Quailkit's own whiskers twitched - thankfully neither she nor Asterkit had ever received an earful of Angry Snakestar, but Aspenfrost and Bramblethorn never tired of telling the sisters horror stories about their leader's scathing tongue and wrathful tendencies.
Beetlefoot seemed to have overheard them, though Quailkit was fairly certain that that hadn't been Asterkit's intention. "What, indeed?" he muttered in a teasing tone as he entered the elders' den and set down his herbs.
Quailkit hurried into the moss-covered little hollow behind the medicine cat, doing the best she could to block the sound of the bickering elders out. It seemed that Sparrowclaw and Scarpelt were having a go at each other, while Brightdawn lamented the idiocy of tomcats in general and these two tomcats in particular. If it hadn't been so loud, Quailkit thought she might have found it funny, but as it was she didn't overhear much of the fight as Beetlefoot calmed it down - from what she could gather, it seemed that Sparrowclaw had been making a bit of a fuss about his eyes, and Scarpelt had retorted that Sparrowclaw had nothing to fuss about compared to Scarpelt, at which Sparrowclaw had made some comment or other about how Scarpelt received his scars. Scarpelt hadn't taken this comment so well and had said something about the way Sparrowclaw was blinded. Quailkit didn't hear how he was blinded and was promptly intrigued, never having heard the story, but by that point Beetlefoot had somehow managed to resolve the conflict and was chewing some herbs into a paste for Sparrowclaw's irritated eyes.
"Kits," he mewed between chomps, "if you feel like helping, you could chew up that pile of herbs there - " he flicked his dark, feathery tail towards a little heap of leafy plants " - for Scarpelt. You don't have to if you don't want to, of course," the medicine cat added, seeing the look of distaste Quailkit couldn't help but shoot at her sister.
"Ah, don't trouble yourselves on the old badgerheart's account," Brightdawn chuckled, swatting Scarpelt playfully with one ginger-dappled paw. "He can chew them up for himself, or I can chew 'em up for him, right, Scar?"
"Thank you very much for volunteering my poor, aching teeth for the job, Brightdawn," the gray-and-brown tom mewed drily as he reached out and tugged the herbs closer to himself, staring at them with a look of distaste in his dull blue eyes. "Do I just chew them up and spread them on, then, Beetlefoot?"
"Mmmhmm," Beetlefoot mumbled vaguely, now engrossed in the task of applying his herb paste to Sparrowclaw's eyes.
"Right, then," muttered Scarpelt as he began to chew away at the herbs with a determined look stamped upon his face.
As her fellow elder worked his jaws, Brightdawn purred and flicked her tail at the kits, a familiar signal that told them to settle down wherever they felt comfortable. Asterkit immediately scurried forward and planted herself up against Brightdawn's side, in between the tortoiseshell queen and Sparrowclaw. Following her sister more slowly, Quailkit sank into a comfortable crouch on Brightdawn's other side, next to Scarpelt. "Can you tell us a story?" she inquired, turning to Brightdawn and blinking charmingly up at the old cat.
"Of course, of course," chuckled the she-cat. "One moment - Beetlefoot, those herbs all by themself there, are those for my aching?"
Beetlefoot turned away from Sparrowclaw, seemingly finished with his work on the blind tabby tom, and pushed the leaves toward Brightdawn as he padded across the den to Scarpelt. "Yes," he mewed as he began to help Scarpelt work a now-thoroughly chewed herb compound into his pelt, "those are daisy leaves, useful for aching joints. I put crushed rosemary blooms, as well as celandine and chaparral, on Sparrowclaw's eyes to help with the irritation, and now I'm helping Sparrowclaw apply a paste of dock - " The big tom broke off and looked briefly, searchingly, at Asterkit, and then his gaze shifted to Quailkit. She shifted nervously under the scrutiny of his dark amber eyes, but his eyes soon traveled away from her. "Never mind. I was rather hoping that one of you would have developed an aptitude for this work by now, but it seems that I'll just have to wait a little longer for my apprentice."
"Snakestar was your apprentice, wasn't he?" chirped Asterkit.
Before Beetlefoot could answer, Brightdawn let out a raspy purr and reached out to tousle Asterkit's headfur with a friendly paw. "Exactly what I was going to say, little'un. He was indeed."
"Well do I remember the day that he became leader." Sparrowclaw's voice fell into a sing-song, reminiscing tone. "It was cloudy, quite stormy, though it never rained. We were all of us on edge, especially you, Scarpelt, weren't you? Of course," and his voice changed, dropping in volume, but not quite to a whisper, "Scarpelt was recovering from - well." With a twitch of his dark brown ears, Sparrowclaw indicated the claw marks that streaked across the other elder's back and sides, the ones that had given him his name.
"So I was," spat Scarpelt moodily, his fur rising along his spine as Beetlefoot stepped away and sat down, curling his thick gray tail around his paws, "no thanks to that worthless WindClan kittypet and his traitorous foxheart of a mate!"
Quailkit blinked in surprise; across Brightdawn's ginger-dappled back, she saw her sister's fur quiver. Asterkit seemed to have been more alarmed by Scarpelt's furious snarl than Quailkit had been. It wasn't as if Scarpelt was going to hurt them, though. "A WindClan cat hurt you?" the tabby kit probed, hoping to uncover a new battle story.
"He did, indeed. Eagletalon had led an attack on WindClan under cover of night, a strong patrol of myself, Finchcall, Yewleaf - "
"Isn't that sort of unfair?" Asterkit's tentative voice cut through Scarpelt's narrative, and Quailkit glared at her sister. Interrupting wasn't polite, and she'd been interested in hearing this story, which she didn't think she'd heard before.
Scarpelt blinked, swiveling his head so that his stormy blue eyes met Asterkit's golden ones. "Unfair? How so?" he inquired.
"Oh...well..." The ginger kit buried her paws under the moss, kneading nervously at the floor. "Well, we can see and fight better in the dark than they can, and we were attacking too, and they were defending - "
"Well, you see, Asterkit, we had been fighting for a while before that, so it wasn't as if they weren't expecting an attack," the elder explained patiently. "And it isn't unfair to use our strengths, it's simply tactical - that means smart," he added, in response to Quailkit's questioning look. "WindClan are very fast, and they weren't going to slow down for us, so we weren't going to attack them in the day, now were we?"
"No, I guess not," Asterkit mewed, though she still looked confused. "Can you keep going?"
This time Beetlefoot intervened before Scarpelt could continue. "Actually, I think we'd better not, if you can forgive me, Asterkit," he purred. "Perhaps the story of how Streakstar of TigerClan defeated the mighty Blazestar of LionClan, who accused her of treachery, would be more appropriate."
"We've already heard that," Quailkit answered, noticing with trepidation that Asterkit seemed to be about to agree with the medicine cat. Quailkit didn't want to hear the same old TigerClan, LionClan, and LeopardClan stories again - at least, not while there were more interesting stories to be told, about cats she knew well.
Scarpelt's tail twitched. "Yes, Beetlefoot, what would it hurt to tell them true stories about cats they know for once?" he asked, nearly echoing Quailkit's own thoughts.
"It wouldn't hurt," Beetlefoot replied indignantly. "I just think that they might not be ready to hear about conflicts like this."
Quailkit bristled. She heard Asterkit mew loudly, "I'm ready!" and couldn't agree more.
"Why don't we compromise, then?" Brightdawn suggested, stretching and adjusting into a relaxed crouch. "We tell 'em a story about some cats that they know, but without battles and such."
"Okay!" Asterkit agreed instantly. "How about Snakestar becoming leader when he used to be a medicine cat?"
"Yeah, let's hear that one!" Quailkit meowed. She was quite interested to learn this, actually - their leader was apparently very young, younger than Splashfoot and not that much older than Aspenfrost or Wetwhisker. He was really very handsome too, with his dark blue eyes and his long, soft, black fur - at least, Quailkit assumed it was soft. She'd never had occasion to touch it, though she'd rather wanted to once or twice. And he had used to be a medicine cat, according to everyone. Why had he become leader? He was a good leader, but Quailkit was certain that he'd have been a great medicine cat too, if - and she wrinkled her nose at the thought - a little on the mean side...
"No," Beetlefoot mewed firmly, crushing Quailkit's hopes. "That involves several battles that I'm certain their mother wouldn't want them to be hearing about just yet."
Now, this was a new sentiment. Quailkit wondered what he meant - and then Asterkit asked the medicine cat right out, and Quailkit silently thanked her sister and focused on Beetlefoot's answer, which turned out to be just as vague as the statement Asterkit had questioned him about. Quailkit was becoming very disappointed in the ShadowClan medicine cat.
"Well," Beetlefoot mewed in answer to Asterkit, "well, it's complicated. You'll understand when you hear the story someday..."
"I don't see what the problem is," said Scarpelt obstinately, blue eyes glinting in challenge.
"Why don't we tell them how Bramblethorn joined the Clan?" suggested Sparrowclaw suddenly, tail twitching. There was something in his voice, seemingly directed at Scarpelt, that Quailkit couldn't quite detect - almost a teasing tone, but why should such a question be expected to get under the brown-and-gray elder's fur? "She's a good friend of theirs - isn't that right, kits?"
"Yep," Quailkit mewed, and Asterkit echoed her assent.
"That's a nice idea, Sparrowclaw," Brightdawn purred, nestling down a little deeper into the moss. "What do you think, kittens? How 'bout you, Beetlefoot? Scarry, you feeling up to it?"
"I want to hear it!" Asterkit exclaimed, bouncing up and down in anticipation.
"Me too," agreed Quailkit. It might not be too exciting, but she'd never heard this story before from Bramblethorn. She had asked her friend once or twice about it, only to be rebuffed or distracted somehow. There were apparently no battles involved, which was depressing, but it was good enough for Bramblethorn to not want to tell her, and that was pretty good.
Beetlefoot's tailtip twitched. "It's fine with me," he mewed. "I think they'll like it."
Scarpelt sighed. "You two can tell it," he muttered. "I'm not interested." With that he got slowly to his feet, turned around in his nest, and flopped down again, facing the den wall.
A bit crestfallen at that new development - Scarpelt was a great storyteller - Quailkit turned expectantly to Brightdawn. "So..." the tabby kit mewed, "so Bramblethorn joined the Clan how?"
"It was a dark and stormy night," Brightdawn began.
"Just like the old legends!" whispered Asterkit excitedly.
"Yes, Asterkit, just like that. No interruptions, please, thank you," the elder mewed, her amber eyes brightening as she set off into her tale. "It was a full-blown leafbare storm, sleet comin' down sharp as claws, hard as ice, freezin' on the ground. I could hear little branches cracking off of pines - snap, snap, snap, just like that, in the old angry wind. I had a bit of a cough and was achy as the Da - 'scuse me, as achy as anything. Anyways, little Ferretkit was missing - that's Ferretpaw, of course, you two know him?"
"Yes," Asterkit said, sounding absolutely besotted. Quailkit rolled her eyes and nodded briefly.
"Right. He was missin', and poor Sunflight was frantic, and so was Eagletalon, and Snakestar must've been at his wit's end, and I was snapping at Beetlefoot to get me somethin' for my poor aching bones," the tortoiseshell she-cat purred nostalgically. "Sorry about that, Beetleface." Her whiskers twitched affectionately as she continued on, leaving Quailkit and Asterkit trying to hold in their gleeful squeals at the look on the taken-aback Beetlefoot's face. His beetleface. Quailkit choked on a purr. "In any case, we couldn't find him and couldn't find him, the little fox, but you know what we found out had happened later? He'd gone down to the stream in the dark - in the storm - because he'd heard the patrols reporting that it was frozen. Well, it was when the poor kit got there, but he apparently walked right out on the ice, little reckless mousebrain, and though he was just barely two moons old - StarClan knows how he got out there, even - it cracked under him and swept him out to the lake."
Asterkit squeaked in dismay, having gotten over "Beetleface". Quailkit was still dwelling on it, however, and managed to suppress the wild twitching of her tiny white whiskers as Asterkit glared furiously at her. It was Ferretpaw they were talking about, and Asterkit got quite serious about cats purring at her darling Ferretpaw.
"Yes, indeed," Brightdawn agreed, inclining her head towards Asterkit. "O' course, we didn't know that then, we just knew he was missing - and then someone, I forget who, discovered his scent trail leading out of camp and we were all quite disturbed in our minds - but anyways, meanwhile, Ferretkit'd been swept down to the lake, and I'm sure I don't know how the little fellow didn't drown, but he was swept quite close to shore by the current, thankfully. Now I'm sure you can guess where this is going - " Quailkit had a few guesses already, indeed " - but Bramblethorn, who was at that time a house cat named - I forget what. Beetlefoot, d'you remember?"
The dark gray tom inclined his head. "I believe her name was Bren-na, or something of the like. You'd have to ask her, though. House cats' names are beyond me, most likely because they're given by those insane Twolegs."
"True that," Brightdawn agreed darkly. "Anyways, she'd had a fight with the older cat she lived with, an' she'd run outside, not even seeing the approaching storm, being a house cat and all, had found her way onto ShadowClan territory, and was stranded under a tree. Saw Ferretpaw being swept along the lake shore, and, like the right courageous idiot young Bramblethorn is, went in after him."
Quailkit gasped, not able to help herself. She'd thought that that might happen, but still - what a stupid, if brave, thing to do! Bramblethorn could have been killed saving some random kit. Well, of course, it was Ferretkit, but Bramblethorn hadn't known that then, and what if she'd died and Quailkit and Asterkit had never known her...
"Anyways," the elder was continuing, "she got him out, dried him off as best she could, an' went looking for his parents. By sheer luck she stumbled upon the patrol that had just left camp to look for Ferretkit. They half wanted to kill her dead right there, but she managed to talk them out of attackin' her, and instead they brought her to camp. Snakestar invited her to join us - "
"Who knows what possessed him to do that," Scarpelt growled flatly - the first words he'd said since Brightdawn had started her story.
"ShadowClan was in need of cats, what with my having retired, the exile of quite a few cats, and Scarry's going and getting himself incapacitated," Brightdawn pressed on calmly. "So Snakestar had a talk with Bramblethorn - quite a few talks, actually, as she caught a cough from her exposure to the cold air an' had to stay in Beetlefoot's den. Of course, poor Ferretkit nearly died, and he was stuck in the den just as long as she was, having swallowed water and all that good stuff, right, Beetlefoot?" Not waiting for the medicine cat's nod, she pressed on, "His apprenticeship ceremony was almost delayed because of it, though you wouldn't have known it, as it was kept quiet. Nothin' I couldn't find out, though." The she-cat's eyes sparkled almost mischievously. "In any case, Bramblethorn made friends with Wetwhisker an' Aspenfrost during her stay here, and ended up decidin' to join us. She had to train so very hard, being older than apprenticing age and all, but you see, it paid off anyways. It helped that she already knew how to hunt. And really, that's the end of it. That's all that happened. She saves Ferretpaw, she stays in camp for a while, makes friends, talks with the leader, ends up joining, y'know?" Brightdawn stretched her jaws in an enormous yawn. "Indeed, indeed. That's how it went."
"So I guess Ferretpaw is really good friends with her too, huh?" Quailkit asked, shooting a devious glance at her sister. Bramblethorn had never seemed to spend much time with the cream-furred apprentice, but if they really did know each other, Quailkit could ask Bramblethorn to formally introduce Ferretpaw to Asterkit...ah, the fun she would have watching that interaction...
"Nah, not at all," Brightdawn mewed nonchalantly. "See, Bramblethorn's a house cat, as they like to call themselves nowadays - somethin' to do with Twoleg nests, don't ask me why, I don't know - and Sunflight and Eagletalon and young Ferretpaw, they don't much like house cats. I don't like 'em myself, much - no self-respecting ShadowClanner does. Ah, I'm not saying there's a problem with Bramblethorn. She's a brave and strong addition to the Clan, in my opinion - " and here she scowled almost pointedly at Scarpelt, and Quailkit wondered why " - and I do believe she must have Clan blood in her ancestry, of course, for her to be that way. It's not unheard of for Clans to interbreed with them, you know. But house cats that choose to live with Twolegs, can't prove themselves, can't even gather up the backbone to live like a real cat..." Brightdawn hissed softly.
"Yeah," Quailkit agreed, feeling a great surprise dawning in her heart - she'd been quite confused over a Clan cat's inherent and required scorn of house cats, and her own love for her friend. Brightdawn was probably right, though, and Quailkit wished she'd asked the elders about this before, because this was the perfect explanation. Bramblethorn had always seemed to be a very special cat, anyways, and she'd never seemed like less than a ShadowClan cat, her nervousness over being able to become a warrior aside. "Yeah. But," she added hurriedly, realizing a problem, "why don't Sunflight and Eagletalon and them know that?"
"Well, that's their opinion, Quailkit," Sparrowclaw meowed, joining the conversation suddenly. "Personally, I think Bramblethorn is quite nice, and I do agree with Brightdawn's idea that she most likely has Clan links not far back in her bloodline, but to be honest, I don't think a cat who's lived as a house cat as long as she did can ever be exactly the same. She's a nice cat, personally, and a great addition to the Clan, but she still isn't quite... I don't dislike her, it's just that she isn't a real Clan cat, if you understand what I'm saying. Of course, that's just my own opinion. Eagletalon and those who share his thoughts are just a bit more aggressive towards Twoleg pets and warriors who aren't Clanborn, that's all."
Quailkit blinked, feeling vaguely shocked at something Sparrowclaw had just said - but in his stream of quite suitable explanations, she'd forgotten what it was. "I guess I'm sort of - I guess I agree with Brightdawn on it," she said, trying to sound grown-up, though her head was spinning. Talking about house cats and Clan cats and real Clan cats was really confusing - weren't they all just plain old cats in the end, anyways? It was almost like thinking that, say, a white cat and a tabby cat were different because of their fur color. It didn't quite make sense to Quailkit, and yet Bramblethorn cared about it, and Brightdawn cared, and Sparrowclaw cared, and Eagletalon cared, and the rest of the Clan seemed to care, so it made sense that she should have an opinion too. "Still, I don't like that Eagletalon's all mean about it, 'cause she did save his kit, you know," added the tabby she-kit lamely.
"That is true," Brightdawn agreed. "Whatever that young fellow thinks about house cats, he could've put it aside, I think, just at least for a while to thank her, and he needn't have kept Ferretpaw from liking her either. Still, it is his choice. Eagletalon's perfectly entitled to feel whatever way he likes about house cats."
"Yeah. You're right, I guess," Quailkit agreed. It was confusing, but of course she meant what she said, because if Quailkit and Brightdawn could have their opinions, Eagletalon and Ferretpaw could have their own, and so on. It was just being fair.