Chapter Fourteen

Sorry for the delay guys! And for the cliffhanger... But anyway, here's the rest!

Rainpaw's legs felt as if they were on fire, and pain racked her cheat as she struggled to gulp in air while trying to stay at a full-out sprint. She had never ran this fast or this far, and after a day of walking, Rainpaw felt that under other circumstances, she might have collapsed by now.

However, these were not normal circumstances. Fear and adrenaline gave Rainpaw the strength she needed to continue the frantic dash with her mentor, Leafdrop back to camp.

As she careened through the forest, her mind whirled as her brain feverishly conjured up scenarios and ideas. Was the camp already under attack? Was the fight by the border fatal? Was Mudstripe alright? Would there even be a camp to return to?

Rainpaw doubted that with the condition her mind was in, she would have even found her way back to the camp by herself. She thanked StarClan she had Leafdrop with her. Her mentor didn't even seem tired, and her yellow eyes blazed with determination to return home.

After what seemed like nine lifetimes, Rainpaw and Leafdrop finally approached the ShadowClan camp. Rainpaw strained her hearing, but she couldn't detect any yowls or screeches of battling cats, nor could she taste any enemy scents on the wind. However, upon approaching the entrance, an icy trickle of fear slithered down Rainpaw's spine upon seeing the bloodstains as if some cat had to be dragged through the entrance.

Leafdrop shot through the entrance, followed closely by Rainpaw, calling out their arrival, only to stop short upon seeing the sight in front of them.

In the middle of the camp was this morning's dawn patrol. Sweetflower darted to and fro, dabbing at a wound here, patching a gash there. Rainpaw let out an exhale of relief upon seeing Mudstripe sitting, wincing as Lilypaw not so gently tried to help by prodding at his many scratches with a patch of dry moss, her gold eyes darkened with fury.

When her father saw her, Mudstripe called out.

"Hey! I'm glad you're alright. We were patrolling the ThunderClan border, and we found a patrol trying to set scent markers on our side of the grassy clearing. We tried to warn them off, but.." He ended with a rueful glare at a bleeding forepaw.

Rainpaw shot her father a sympathetic look, then turned her gaze to the rest of the patrol and sucked in a shocked breath.

Sweetflower was currently crouching beside Dawnblaze, treating an awful chest wound. Cherryblaze was by her side, licking her mother's cheek anxiously, her blue eyes flashing in worry. The older she-cat was struggling to sit up, protesting as Sweetflower put a paw on her flank to gently keep her held down.

"Will you kindly let me be?" Dawnblaze hissed in annoyance as Sweetflower applied poultice to her wound. "I'm perfectly fine, you need to go treat the other cats who were injured. I just need a little rest."

"Hush!" Cherryblaze snapped, although affection glimmered in her gaze. "Any cat with eyes could see that your wound won't just go away. It needs treatment, so I suggest you be quiet and let Sweetflower do her job."

Sweetflower dipped her head to the fiery cream-furred she-cat.

"Thank you Cherryblaze," she purred before turning to Dawnblaze. "There you go Dawnblaze. You'll need to rest for a couple of days, but after that you'll have no trouble keeping up with patrols."

Dawnblaze shook her head. "Oh no I'm not! I've had a feeling lately that my skills aren't what they used to be, and this skirmish proved it. I could have easily blocked the warrior who attacked me, but I was too slow. I'm no use to the clan anymore, just a waste of herbs meant for more deserving cats."

"No!" Cherryblaze protested, but Dawnblaze waved her tail derisively.

"Don't deny the truth, Cherryblaze. You and Moonshadow have been telling me I shoud retire for the past few moons. As soon as I'm healed, I plan to tell Stormstar that I'm moving to the elders' den."

"You have my respect, Dawnblaze. You have served this clan well for many moons; you deserve rest." Sweetflower mewed, touching her nose to the old warrior's ginger pelt.

Sweetflower isn't exactly young and spry herself. ShadowClan needs a medicine cat, shouldn't Sweetflower start thinking about training an apprentice? Rainpaw wondered to herself, noting the medicine cat's silver-dusted muzzle.

"Sweetflower?" Rainpaw piped up. "When you're done, do you think you could go check out Mudstripe? Before my sister kills him, please."

Rainpaw gestured with her tail over to where Mudstripe was trying to persuade his white-pelted daughter that although her 'help' was much appreciated, he was sure Sweetflower would be able to look after him just fine.

Sweetflower let out a low growl and sprinted over to the cause of her annoyance, yowling,

"Great StarClan, Lilypaw! You get away from that poor tom right now! I have way too much to do without having to worry about dealing with the results of whatever new havoc you've caused!"

Rainpaw saw Lilypaw's pelt puff up in indignation.

Uh oh.

"Well excuse me if you're upset that you need other cats to do your job for you!" Lilypaw spat. "I like my father better with the blood inside him, not running freely because you aren't paying attention!"

Sweetflower's eyes blazed pale green fire, and her tail bushed to twice its size.

"You insolent little wretch!" she snarled, now nose-to-nose with Rainpaw's littermate. "You have no idea-"

"Okay." Mudstripe quickly pushed his way between the two furious she-cats, his amber eyes flickering warily.

"Lilypaw, that is no way to speak to a medicine cat. You must treat her with respect. I want you to apologize right now, then go straight back to cleaning the elders' den like you were told."

Lilypaw glared at her paws. "Fine," she grumbled. "I'm sorry for being rude. Now if you excuse me, I have ticks to find."

She whirled around and flounced off to the elders' den, her plumy tail lashing. When Lilypaw was out of earshot, however, Mudstripe turned to Sweetflower with an accusatory look.

"You shouldn't have been so hard on her though. Lilypaw was simply trying to help, and you just came storming over here. You know she's sensitive!"

Sensitive? Ha! Rainpaw thought, but kept quiet and continued watching.

"I spoke the truth." Sweetflower's mew was quiet but firm. "Lilypaw is not a cat who thinks things through. That dirty old moss she was using could have easily started an infection, and we wouldn't want that."

"Is that really all this is about? An infection and a piece of moss?" Mudstripe's tone had a hint of warning in it, and when the two cats stared at each other, Rainpaw could almost reach out and touch the tension that was being emitted. What had happened between them?

Suddenly, Sweetflower's burning green gaze turned to catch Rainpaw in its fire.

"Rainpaw?" the medicine cat called. "Can you run to my den and fetch me some real moss? Wet moss please."

Rainpaw nodded and scurried away to the medicine den, her ears burning that Sweetflower had caught her eavesdropping.

However, after listening in on that conversation, an uneasy feeling was growing inside of Rainpaw. Her father was right. Sweetflower was sometimes a little cranky, but she had never had any tolerance for Lilypaw. Rainpaw had thought it was due to her littermate's recklessness that tended to get others hurt, but she sensed something greater than that now. Something had definitely happened between her father and the ShadowClan medicine cat, and Rainpaw's sister was at the center of it.

Sorry again for it being so long! I'll try to update more often than this, though I may not be able to. So, R&R, please constructive criticism. I still need OC's (use my rules!) BTW, I read Bramblestar's Storm! I'm so happy it's out! I loved it except for two things. SPOILERS!

Firstly, they killed DovexBumble! I loved that pairing! ;_; Secondly, there is a certain new character who is more of a mary-sue than Dovewing! I really hate Jessy, she drives me crazy!