I'm so sorry for the long wait! I had planned to update this so much earlier... I'll try to get the next one up extra fast to make up for this one. :(
The stone pressed cold and hard against Rainpaw's jaw. She lifted her head drowsily. The moon was right above her, shining down into the pool, illuminating it. She gazed around her at the other cats, disappointed to see that they were all still sleeping. Rainpaw lifted her tail from the pool, shaking the water from it.
Had the dreams not worked for me? Rainpaw questioned. She felt utterly hopeless. What would she tell Lakestar?
"Rainpaw?" The apprentice whipped around to see a large brown tabby, almost twice her size with the smell of ShadowClan wafting off his fur. She trembled in fear. Rainpaw raised her muzzle, ready to yowl in alarm and wake up Lakestar and the others to warn them of this intruder.
"Hush, Rainpaw," the cat meowed, stepping closer. Rainpaw shrank back, her ears flat against her head.
"Who are you? Are you from ShadowClan? Get out of our territory!" She hissed at him, although the large cat just smiled warmly at her.
"Yes, Rainpaw, I was from ShadowClan. But I left to be with StarClan." Rainpaw cautiously stood up.
"Y-you're dead?" she asked, noticing for the first time that stars seemed to swirl in his pelt.
The cat shifted his feet uncomfortably. "Well, yes. My name is Toadleap." He waited, as if expecting Rainpaw to have some sort of reaction. The young apprentice searched her memory, trying to remember something about this cat.
Toadleap. Toadleap… Something about that name… That's right! He was killed in the tsunami! Rainpaw smiled. "I remember you!" Then her grin faded. "You stole Sandsplotch's kits." Toadleap looked at the dusty ground.
"And I shouldn't have. I disrupted the bond between a mother and her kits, and StarClan punished me by sending a tsunami. I begged their forgiveness and they accepted it. So instead of sending me to the Dark Forest, they brought me here."
Rainpaw sat down, flicking her tail. "I still don't forgive you."
"And you shouldn't." The two cats waited in silence for a while. Then finally, Toadleap spoke up again. "Rainpaw, something else happened in that tsunami…"
"That's enough," a loud, booming voice said. Toadleap looked to the floor submissively, while a misty gray cat stepped lightly from the fog that had surrounded the moonpool.
"Who are you?" Rainpaw asked.
"You don't need to know that," the cat murmured, then turned to Toadleap.
"She's is not ready yet. You have already messed with her future enough." The cat then turned back to Rainpaw. "It's time we send you back," she said, and with a flick of her tail, the fog flowed over Rainpaw, smothering her in the cold. She let out a surprised yelp and whipped around, searching frantically for one of the starry cats. Her head bashed against stone and suddenly the fog disappeared.
She stood up, her head throbbing. The two starry cats had disappeared and the sun had started its journey across the sky. She glanced around the pool, delighted to see that the other cats had started to wake up.
"How was it?" Lakestar asked from beside her. Rainpaw shook her head.
The SeaClan leader laughed. "You'll get used to it," she said. The medicine cats bid goodbye to each other, and then they all left to their respectable territories. Catfish, Lakestar, and Rainpaw set off back to SeaClan.
Rainpaw shouldered some bushes aside as she entered the camp. A few cats turned and meowed a greeting, and Rainpaw smiled back politely. She stopped by the fresh-kill pile and gently picked up a vole. She padded over to a ledge on the cliff face, near the high ledge and the leader's den. A few warriors and Tigerpaw, her brother, were already up there, sharing tongues and basking in the hot sunlight.
"Where were you?" Tigerpaw asked as Rainpaw settled down beside him.
"You'll get jealous if I say," Rainpaw said, beaming. Down below, she saw Lakestar and Catfish trot out of the bushes and into their dens.
Tigerpaw cracked open one of his eyes to see her. "Try me," he grumbled.
"I was sharing tongues with StarClan," Rainpaw said proudly.
Tigerpaw sat bolt upright. "Really?" Rainpaw nodded, tearing into her vole. "Did you go alone?" Tigerpaw asked, his voice quieter, as if they were sharing secrets.
"No," Rainpaw mewed. "Lakestar brought me."
"What did you see?!"
"I can't tell you," Rainpaw mewed.
"You are so lucky," Tigerpaw grumbled.
Rainpaw smiled to herself and then ate the rest of her vole. As she ate, Tigerpaw stood up and started grooming her fur affectionately. As his tongue ran down her leg, she started feeling a sore pain in her paw pad. She lifted it up delicately to see what was wrong.
"Great," she muttered. "I've got a thorn in my paw."
"Better get that pulled out, Tigerpaw mewed, getting out of her way.
"I can manage," Rainpaw meowed, wincing as she set down her paw.
"I don't think so," Tigerpaw muttered. Then he walked to the other side of Rainpaw and started pushing her gently down the path with his nose. "Come on, we're going to Catfish." Rainpaw sighed, and reluctantly got up and limped down the path that led back down to the camp.
It was a nice place, the SeaClan camp. On one side, there was the ocean with it's thundering waves and small sand dunes, and then the beach faded to grass. The main camp was a large patch of grass beside the beach, a little indent along the cliff face that extended along either side of the camp. Natural caves served as dens along the cliff, and down below, a large black circular twoleg-made object with grooves on all sides of it served as the medicine cat den. Water from rain or wet cats collected at the bottom of the den, and herbs were kept on both of the round sides of the den. Farther in, there were three tunnels. One led to a place where sick cats could stay, another was a room for herb storage, and the last one was where the medicine cat slept.
Rainpaw loved the den. She just didn't like the cat who lived there. He was always grumpy, complaining about how cats were always so careless, and how he had to fix their problems all the time.
"Catfish? Are you there?" Tigerpaw called out when the two apprentices reached the entrance to the den.
"What do you want?" Catfish grumbled, still out of sight. Tigerpaw and Rainpaw looked at each other and then entered the den.
"I got a thorn in my paw," Rainpaw meowed. She dipped her sore paw in the water at the bottom of the den, dulling the pain a bit.
"Well come over here! I don't have all day!" Rainpaw hobbled over to Catfish, and found him leaning over a pile of herbs, muttering to himself. When he saw Rainpaw and Tigerpaw, he walked over to them. "Let me see," he said. Rainpaw held out her paw. The older cat mumbled to himself and then, without warning, he leaned down and plucked the thorn out with his teeth.
"Ow!" Rainpaw yelped, pulling her paw back.
"Put these on it," Catfish continued, as if Rainpaw hadn't said anything. With her eyes narrowed, Rainpaw reached forward for the herbs that Catfish had pushed her way.
She gently applied them to her paw and then stood there, thinking.
Catfish didn't notice her until he had sorted most of the herbs in the pile. "What are you waiting for?" he asked, still sorting herbs onto different shelves.
Rainpaw shook her head. "Nothing, just…" She paused. "Have you ever thought of taking on an apprentice?"
Catfish stopped short. "Why?" he asked, hesitantly.
"No reason," Rainpaw said hastily. "Just wondering. You've been medicine cat for a long time, and there are no new kits or apprentices. And, well… you're awfully old…" Catfish's whiskers twitched.
"Well, Rainpaw, I know how to care for myself. I think I can manage to survive until a potential medicine cat apprentice comes my way." He started sorting his herbs again.
"Come on, Rainpaw, let's go," Tigerpaw said, heading outside. Rainpaw took a final look towards Catfish, and then turned to follow Tigerpaw.