This story takes place after the big battle in "The last Hope". As this is a fanwork, there are of course a few differences from the book.
Dif. 1: The Clans never had to leave the old forest. Humans tried to tear it down and build there, but a lot of protests stopped the plans.
Dif. 2: Different cats than in the canon-battle died.
Dif. 3: Should become obvious from number 2, but different mentor-/apprenticeships
I hope you like it.
Warriors doesn't belong to me.
Firestar-ginger tom with a flame-coloured pelt, Mentor of Amberpaw
Brambleclaw-dark brown tabby tom with amber eyes, Mentor of Dewpaw
Jayfeather-grey tabby tom with blind blue eyes
Greystripe-long-haired grey tom
Dustpelt-dark brown tabby tom
Brackenfur-golden brown tabby tom
Cloudtail-long-haired white tom with blue eyes, Mentor of Lilypaw
Brightheart-white she-cat with ginger patches
Millie-striped grey tabby she-cat with blue eyes
Thornclaw-golden brown tabby tom
Sorreltail-tortoiseshell-and-white she-cat with amber eyes
Spiderleg-long-limbed black tom with brown underbelly and amber eyes
Birchfall-light brown tabby tom
Whitewing-white she-cat with green eyes
Foxleap-reddish tabby tom
Icecloud-white she-cat, Mentor of Snowpaw
Rosepetal-dark cream she-cat
Briarlight-dark brown she-cat
Bumblestripe-very pale grey tom with black stripes
Ivypool-silver-and-white tabby she-cat with dark blue eyes, Mentor of Seedpaw
Hollyleaf-black she-cat with green eyes
Cherryclaw - small ginger she-cat with amber eyes
Molefoot - brown-and-cream tom
Lilypaw - dark tabby she-cat with white patches
Seedpaw - very golden she-cat
Amberpaw - pale ginger she-cat with amber eyes
Snowpaw – fluffy white tom with amber eyes
Dewpaw – grey and White tom with amber eyes
Ferncloud-pale grey (with darker flecks) she-cat with green eyes
Dovewing-pale grey she-cat with blue eyes (mother of Stonekit, pale grey tom with amber eyes, and Pinekit, dark brown tom with blue eyes, mate of Tigerheart)
Sandstorm-pale ginger she-cat with green eyes, oldest she-cat in the nursery (mother of Flarekit, ginger she-cat, Flamekit, ginger tom, and Spottedkit, ginger and pale-ginger spotted she-cat, mate of Firestar)
Squirrelflight-dark ginger she-cat with green eyes (mother of Eaglekit, dark-brown tabby tom, Blazekit, dark-ginger tabby she-cat, Leafkit, dark-brown tabby she-cat with a white forepaw, and Featherkit, white she-cat with amber eyes)
Mousefur-small dusky brown she-cat
Daisy-cream long-furred cat from the horse place
Princess - a light brown tabby she-cat with a distinctive white chest and paws (kitty-pet)
Cloudtail - white tom with thick, long fur and round, blue eyes (ThunderClan, Warrior)
Ember – a light ginger tabby she-cat with a distinctive white chest and paws (Loner)
Katy – a light ginger she-cat with white under body (kitty-pet)
Timothy/Tim – a light brown tabby tom (kitty-pet)
Rain – a white tom with amber eyes (Loner)
Whitewing – snowy white she-cat with green eyes and soft fur (ThunderClan, Warrior)
Amberpaw - pale ginger she-cat with amber eyes (ThunderClan, Apprentice)
Snowpaw – fluffy white tom with amber eyes (ThunderClan, Apprentice)
Dewpaw – grey and White tom with amber eyes (ThunderClan, Apprentice)
Sophie – white she-cat with light-ginger patches (kitty-pet)
Sophia – white she-cat with dark-ginger patches (kitty-pet)
Thunder – dark-grey, black tabby tom with yellow eyes (Loner)
Dusty – white tom with grey hairs (kitty-pet)
Princess blinked tiredly while she watched what was going on in her garden. It was a family reunion. All of her kits were there, and their kits as well. Well, all of her kits but one.
Cloudtail was, of course, not present and neither was his daughter Whitepaw.
The she-cat let out a sad sigh.
She hadn't see hair or tail of her son for many seasons now. Neither her brother. She was immensely worried about her wild family.
What could have happened?, she wondered. Why didn't they ever visit me again? The last time I saw them was when they warned me about entering the forest. Even more so than usual that is. I think…yes, they told me that Twolegs had started destroying ShadowClan's territory. And they were worried theirs would be next. I'm glad that whatever the Twolegs wanted to build here wasn't built after all but…I miss them and I worry. StarClan, I don't know if you really exist of if you will listen to a housecat like me, but please, let them be alright.
"Mother?" Princess snapped out of her musings and looked up.
Her own bright green eyes locked onto the warm, and now worried, amber that marked the eyes of Timothy, or Tim, like he preferred to be called, one of her sons. "Yes Tim?", the she-cat asked and sat up straighter. "What is it?"
The male tabby shifted nervously, before he asked: "Why are you so sad mother? The whole family is here. You should be enjoying this day with us."
Not the whole family though, Princess thought sadly. Should I have told them about their brother? About their Uncle? Maybe I should have. Shall I now? I don't know. Out loud Princess assured: "I'm just fine Tim, really, I'm just not the youngest anymore and like to get lost in my thoughts every now and then."
"Mother you're lying", Tim accused with a shake of his head. "You are troubled by something." The knowing look her son gave her prompted a small wince from the tabby she-cat. He looked so much like his uncle right now, despite barely having any resemblance to her brother.
She winced again when he twitched his tail, and the gesture looked so much like the one she knew Firestar used to summon his clan-mates, and Ember, Rain and Katy came towards them as well. "We can all see it mother", Ember explained while she stopped close to her. Her pale-ginger coat flared in the sunlight, drawing another wince from the eldest she-cat.
"I…I", Princess began slowly, then gulped and took a deep breath to calm herself down. "I haven't always been honest with you." She got confused looks for that one, not only from her kits but also her grandkits who had now joined their parents. "Your brother, he's not here. I never expected him to be, he's been away for so long already." A rush of melancholy hit the tabby.
"Brother?" Katy's voice caught Princess attention. She was moving about agitatedly, her pelt, so similar to Ember's, shimmering in the light. This time though, Princess managed to supress the wince.
"Mother I think your age is catching up to you, it's always been just the four of us", Rain agreed with his sister. The snow-white tom regarded her out of worried amber eyes.
He looks so much like him, thought the she-cat forlornly, before she admitted: "No, no you never were just four. You always were five. I gave birth to five kits. And yet…I gave my firstborn, your older brother, away. You wouldn't remember him. You were but a day or two old when it happened." Her gaze moved away from her family and to the looming trees of the nearby forest.
If she concentrated, she could, even at this distance, catch the warm, rich scent that marked the cats in her brother's clan. That was her main comfort, to know that the clan was still there and, judging by the border-marks, strong.
"But mother why would you-"
A sudden screech cut Katy off and everyone's heads snapped to the forest. Soon enough they heard panting and then the wind carried the sharp metallic scent of blood over. Katy and Rain lurched forward, ushering their own kits behind them, before the latter and Ember took defensive positions in front of their families. Being loners they knew how to fight, even if Princess knew it would never be on the level of a clan-cat.
The panting became louder, then the heard the unmistakeable sound of claws being drawn across a wooden surface. Then it happened.
From one second to the next a white shape lurched over the fence of Princess' garden and slumped to the ground there. The lump of torn, blood-stained white fur panted for air harshly, before it pushed itself up. Princess' heart leaped into her throat when a familiar scent reached her. The white cat looked up at them, familiar green eyes, the same as Princess' locked on the group.
"Wh-White-paw!", Princess chocked out, her eyes wide with fear and horror. The housecat leaped forward, deeply worried about her granddaughter and what her state could mean for her son and brother.
Whitepaw's eyes held a fond gleam when the tabby stopped in front of her, then they hardened and she croaked out: "C-Came to warn you…Ro-Rogues invaded. We managed to catch them a long ways before…they reached camp but-but the f-fight is moving here. F-Firestar asks…you stay in your nest. Too dangerous." And just like that she turned and sprinted back to the fence.
"Whitepaw wait!", Princess called out. She was sure her granddaughter had her warrior name by now, but as she didn't know it, her old name had to suffice. Whitepaw still did react to it after all. The white she-cat did stop and turn her head to look back at her. "Where are you going? You injuries-"
A weak laugh cut her off and Whitepaw explained: "I…have to warn the-the other kittypets…to stay in their nests. Our-our worlds should never entwine like this…never." She turned away again and leaped high.
She probably would've reached the top of the fence in this one leap, a feat in itself, if she hadn't suddenly got knocked way. A dark shadow barrelled into the she-cat and knocked her to the ground. With a sharp shriek and lightning-fast reflexes Whitepaw managed to leap away from her attacker and crouched low with a threatening growl. In front of her, in a similar position, crouched an injured dark-grey tom with scruffy fur.
"So", the tom spat. "You're the one that got away. Came to warn the kitty-pets huh? That I'm not laughing! What worth do they have?"
Princess, who had retreated back to her remaining family on the porch of her home by now, felt her kits' anger rise at those words. "Don't get involved", the oldest she-cat hissed. At the same time Whtiepaw hissed her answer back at her opponent.
"The kitty-pets have nothing to do with ThunderClan's battle with you. That is why Firestar sent me. This fight is ridiculous as it is, we don't need even more innocent deaths!"
Whitepaw lunged forward with an ear-grating snarl and managed to catch her opponent of guard with her rage-filled attack. Both of them rolled over the ground scratching, biting, hissing and spitting. Finally Whitepaw managed to land a hard hit on the tom's head, leaving him dazed and with blood seeping into his eyes. The white she-cat spun to her grandmother, who was still watching the battle with wide eyes.
The only ones inside right now, were the kits. Katy and Tim stayed very near the cat-door, but didn't dare go in while Ember, Rain and Princess were still out. "Princess please, you have to get inside." She ducked away from the tom's next try to attack her and continued: "Firestar and Cloudtail would never forgive themselves if something happened to you!"
She leaped at her opponent again and ran her claws over his forehead, deepening the injuries there and forcing more blood into his eyes. The tom gave a last howl of pain, but realised he was beaten and fled. Unfortunately the screeching and hissing didn't stop.
"Oh StarClan be with us", Whitepaw whispered, her eyes wide in horror. "The battle reached the border."
"What?", hissed Princess in shock. The next seconds multiple cats poured into the garden.
The first few Princess didn't recognize at all. That it were indeed rogues was proven when a tom she recognized as Firestar's friend Greystripe leaped at one of them.
A wild fight broke out and Princess leaped back with a screech when one of the rogues tried to leap at her. Rain jumped in and became the new target. The white tom fought valiantly, but he was outmatched. Soon enough her son was pinned underneath the dark brown spotted attacker, whose blood-stained fangs were bared dangerously.
"No!", shrieked Katy.
The tom's head went down, but before he could deal the killing bite, he was knocked away. Princess eyes widened when she saw the white tom that was now battling the brown one. And this one was definitely a better fighter than rain. The brown tom fled soon enough and the ThudnerClan cat turned around.
Princess let out a delighted gasp and leaped forward. Rain tried to block her by knocking the warrior away, but the other easily dodged around the lunge and allowed Princess to lick his blood-covered white fur lovingly. "Cloudtail", purred the tabby, her voice choked with emotion.
"As glad as I am to see you again as well mother", the warrior began, coldly ignoring the shocked gasps from his siblings, "You need to get inside. It's not safe here." Princess pulled back at that, ready to do as her firstborn had asked, but froze when she finally took in his appearance. Cloudtail looked even worse off than Whitepaw.
A deep gash in his side was still bleeding terribly. His shoudlers were heaving with each breath he took and his blue eyes held a strange gleam. "Princess!" The shout snapped the she-cat out of her horror, just as Cloudtail started to push her towards the cat-door. "Please mother", his voice now softer than before, "Go inside."
Princess nodded numbly and allowed her son to lead her inside her home. In there her grandkits reared back at the foreign, tall, blood-covered white cat with her. Once inside he nuzzled her neck, then moved from her side. Princess turned around, to see him wait for his siblings to come in as well. Once they were in, his blue eyes locked with his mother's green ones and he ordered: "Stay here, you'll be safe. I promise." And he leaped back outside.
The tabby she-cat was still rather numb with horror at how bad of her first-born was and while she settled down on the floor her mind flew to the other ThudnerClan cats she knew. She didn't dare imagine how bad off Firestar and Sandstorm had to be, but it had to be bad considering how injured her son and granddaughter were. Not to mention Lostface! Oh the poor dear!
Suddenly the cat door started to move.
Rain and Ember leaped from their positions and into ready stances, but reared back at the cat that came through. It was a beautiful, if bloodied, white she-cat with ginger patches but only one blue eye, a practically missing face-half and shredded ears came through. She was nudging along another young she-cat with pale ginger fur and amber eyes. Princess guessed she was about the right age to be an apprentice, not all that much older than her grandkits.
"Lostface", the housecat gasped out and leaped forward.
Cloudtail's mate gave her a tired smile and whispered: "I-It's Brightheart now. Please…Princess, can you take care of A-Amberpaw?" She pushed the apprentice forward a little. Amberpaw stumbled forward almost blindly and Princess stepped towards her, catching her against her side when she almost fell.
"Of course", the housecat answered then.
Brightheart let a relieved smile flitter over her expression, leaned forward to lick over the young she-cat's head, and turned around. In one clean leap he was back outside to join the fight once more. "M-M", Amberpaw whimpered. "Mother…wait!"
Through the revelation that Amberpaw was another grandkit of hers, Princess leaned down and whispered: "Shush little one." She licked the apprentice's forehead. "It's okay, your mother will come back."
Amberpaw looked up at her out of wide amber eyes and asked: "Who-who are you?"
"My name is Princess", the tabby answered warmly. "I'm Cloudtail's mother."
"F-Father's mother?", Amberpaw asked, then she blinked. "Oh! Yes, the el-elders said that he was born a kittypet, just like Firestar." Princess nodded and licked over the young she-cat's head once more, when a sudden shout rang out.
"What is going on here?!" Amberpaw let out a panicked shriek and buried deeper into Princess' flank. Said housecat shot Sophie, one of Katy's two kits, a warning glance.
"Sophie", the tabby scolded. This granddaughter of hers looked panicked beyond belief too, but right now Princess knew Amberpaw needed her more. That aside, Sophie's mother was right there, though seemingly still rather stunned at all that was happening.
Nonetheless, Katy was a mother and instinct made her act now. Princess' daughter stepped forward and curled tightly around her own kits.
Curling herself around Amberpaw, Princess nuzzled her gently and whispered: "It will be alright Amberpaw."
"I-I'm scared", admitted the small she-cat shakily. "I-I'm scared that mother or father or my mentor or my brothers or my sister will go to StarClan soon."
"Shhh", Princess purred comfortingly, not letting it show that similar fears plagued her. "They're strong. They can fight, remember?" Amberpaw gave a shaky nod, then her ears suddenly perked slightly. Princess tilted her head, but realised that the fighting-sounds outside her home had given way to an eerie silence.
Everyone tensed when the cat-door waved again, and Rain and Ember took positions once more, only to back off even further than they had with Brightheart. Not that Princess blamed them. Because pushing himself through the cat-door was a majestic, lean, battle-scarred ginger tom with bright green eyes and a torn ear. He was limping a little, but the aura of power and confidence he had about him made up for that easily.
He scanned the room and his eyes lit up at spotting the apprentice that was curled up against Princess' side. "Amberpaw", he purred.
The small she-cat's head shot up and he eyes widened excitedly. "Firestar!", Amberpaw exclaimed and raced up to her leader immediately, pressing against one of his legs.
The ginger tom licked her head a few times, then looked up at Princess and said: "Thank you Princess, for taking care of my apprentice."
"It was my pleasure", Princess answered, then stepped closer and pressed her nose gently against his. "I missed you dear brother."
Firestar's only answer was a choked up purr, prompting Princess to rear back. The green eyes they both shared gleamed with sadness and he whispered: "If I was you…I wouldn't come out just yet. The ground is soaked with blood and…" He trailed of, his tail curling in a show of agony.
"Firestar?", Princess asked worriedly.
He gave her a broken look and whispered: "I'm sorry, I am so sorry Princess", before he turned around and slunk back outside.
Amberpaw followed him and, no sooner than she was through, they heard her let out an agonized cry. She jumped after her granddaughter immediately, only to almost collide with her brother, who hadn't moved far from the door. Moving to his side, she found Firestar's gaze locke don the overcast sky.
"Why him StarClan", heard the she-cat him breathe. "Why him? Why couldn't I decode your prophecy soon enough…and why here?"
"Firestar", Princess asked, her worry intensifying. He turned his head to her, his green eyes flickering to the rest of her family that was gathering nearby, before they locked on hers. The normally bright green was dull now, sadness, regret and anger warring within.
"I'm so sorry Princess", the tom repeated. "I tried but…I couldn't safe him." He turned his head back forward to look at his clan.
Safe him, Princess wondered and followed his line of sight. Her heart skipped a beat.
No, that couldn't be.
Grief almost overwhelmed the she-cat and she leaned against her brother for support.
There, in the middle of her garden no less, surrounded by Brightheart, Whitepaw, Amberpaw and two other apprentices, lay the unmoving body of a white-furred tom. She saw that nearby another body lay, but couldn't care less about that. The agonizing feeling of loss built up more and more, until it finally burst out.
She lurched forward, rushing through the garden and past the many ThunderClan members still here. Some growls sounded out behind her, but she couldn't care less. She staggered to a halt next to Brightheart, who raised her head a little to look at her. Her one eyes was filled with so much loss that, for a moment, Princess thought she wouldn't be able to breathe.
No, thought the she-cat while she all but collapsed next to her firstborn. No, not Cloudtail, NO! She leaned forward, gently touching his shoulder with her nose, and winced. His body was still just cooling down, his, now empty, blue eyes still open and fangs bared at whoever it was that took his life.
"I killed him for it." Princess tore her eyes away from her son and looked at Whitepaw. Her green eyes were dull and cold. She didn't even look at Princess, but continued: "ThunderClan cats usually try to settle fights without having to kill for it but…this monster…after father fell I took his life for father's."
The housecat knew she should feel unsettled at the savage gleam in the white she-cat's eyes, but in all honesty, she couldn't help the rush of triumph at the fact that her son's killer hadn't gotten away. She returned her attention to her son and winced.
The empty blue eyes that stared up into the sky, made this so much harder. So, making a decision, Princess pushed herself up and leaned forward. Bending her head, she licked over his eyelids to close them. A few cats behind her hissed in outrage, but Firestar's growl rang out as well, silencing them quickly enough. After she was done with his eyes, she reached forward with her paw and gently closed her son's mouth.
Now it almost looked like he was sleeping.
The thought sent another agonized spasm through her heart. Her breath was caught in her throat when her brother's scent suddenly surrounded her. Firestar's pelt brushed up against hers and he whispered: "I'm sorry Princess. I should've done something." That was all she could take.
She let out an agonized wail and buried her head in her brother's neck. She wasn't stopped. Firestar's tail moved around her and he pulled her closer.
"I think I speak for most of us when I ask, why is the kittypet grieving", sounded a male voice out.
Princess winced, but calmed a little when Firestar nuzzled her ears, before he replied: "Because Berrynose, my sister has every right to grieve for her lost son."
Gasps rang through the silent air. Princess knew most of them had at least heard from her, but only very few had ever met her. The burning gazes she'd felt on her back ever since she'd approached her son's body had disappeared now, everyone understanding why she was in the middle of their group and using their leader as a pillar of strength.
It took quite a while, but finally Princess managed to pull herself away from her brother. She was surprised to note that the sun had started to set by now. She took a step away from Firestar and immediately the leader was on his legs. His back was straight, tail raised and head held high.
"ThunderClan!", the ginger tom called, his strong voice gaining him everyone's attention immediately. In one clean leap he was up on the fence and looked down at his cats. Princess couldn't deny the admiration she felt for her brother just now.
"We've been here long enough, wounds need to be treated, prey needs to be caught and part of our outer wall needs to be repaired. Yes, we are faced with a great loss with the deaths of Cloudtail and Birchfall, but we have lost before and we have continued on. But first…I'd rather not leave an apprentice alone in a time like this." His gaze wandered to a small dark-tabby she-cat with white patches in her fur and tearful blue eyes. "Lilypaw, come to me, please", despite the commanding tone, Firestar's voice was gentle.
The apprentice stood up shakily and, with lowered head and ears, made her way towards her leader. "Lilypaw, your apprenticeship is far from over and I know Cloudtail taught you well. We will all honour and never forget him and what he did for his clan. But this is also why I cannot leave you without a mentor. Thus I now appoint Whitewing as your new mentor." Princess gazed around and was surprised to find her oldest granddaughter walking up to Lilypaw. So that was her warrior name.
"Whitewing", Firestar continued, "you are a loyal cat, gifted hunter and skilled warrior. I trust you to continue Lilypaw's apprenticeship in your father's stead." Whitewing gave her leader a respectful nod, before she gently touched noses with Lilypaw. The apprentice pressed herself against Whitewing's side when the two of them returned to Brightheart's side, sad gazes following them.
"Now", Firestar continued, regaining attention, "Berrynose, Hollyleaf, Cinderheart and Lionblaze. I want the four of you to scout out the way back to camp. The rest of us will follow slower. Dustpelt and Greystripe, you carry Cloudtail and Thornclaw and Spiderleg, you two take Birchfall. Mentors, you stay with your apprentices…Brightheart, do you wish any help? Whitewing?"
"No", the scarred she-cat answered softly. "I can make my own way back." Whitewing shook her head as well.
Firestar nodded in acceptance and leaped from the fence.
The clan obviously took this as a sign to get started since a cream-coloured tom with only half his tail, a bright golden tom, a black she-cat and a grey she-cat leaped over the fence and disappeared quickly. Four othercats walked up to their two fallen comrades and gently picked them up while some single cats walked up to a few smaller ones. Those had to be the mentors.
"Oh and Brambleclaw?" A dark-tabby looked at Firestar at the call. Leader and warrior locked gazes and the ginger tom continued: "You take the lead please."
"Count on me", came the soft answer. Firestar gave a thankful nod, then approached Amberpaw. The small she-cat pressed herself against her leader and mentor and Firestar nuzzled her comfortingly. Then he looked up at Princess, who had unwillingly stepped back when a dark tabby and Greystripe had come to pick up Cloudtail's body.
"It's unusual but", the leader began, "Princess, would you like to join us to see Cloudtail off tonight?" Some small protests arose from some ThunderClan cats that hadn't left yet, but they quickly fell silent at the surprisingly many hisses directed at them. "Cloudtial is your son", Firestar explained. "You gave him into my care and trusted me to make sure he was raised correctly. For all this trust you put in me, I can think of no other way to repay you dear sister."
Princess simply looked at her brother for a while and in his eyes she saw another reason why he'd want her there. Cloudtail was his nephew, he felt responsible for his death. Having Princess next to him, would make his burden easier to bear. And hers to, the she-cat realised. Spending the night with her brother sounded like a wonderful idea right now, as the mere thought already slightly dimmed the burning ache in her heart.
"I-I…yes Firestar, I'd be honoured if I could join you. I wish to say goodbye to my son properly", Princess chocked out. She'd expected even more growls from the clan, but they were surprisingly silent. Looking around she found them looking at her with understanding, sympathy and pity. They all must have lost kits of their own before, or at least siblings, the housecat realised. They know how much I hurt right now.
"Hey, wait up!"
Everyone winced at the angry shout and Princess spun around. Ember stood in front of her siblings, gazing at the clan-cats distrustfully, her fangs slightly bared. "Mother are you insane?", the she-cat asked now. "You're not really going with them are you? That forest is dangerous. Cats die in there all the time."
"What would a loner like you know?!", came a hiss from the clan-cats and a silver-and-white tabby she-cat stepped forward, her dark blue eyes burning furiously. "You don't know anything about us and how we live. How precious life is to us!"
"Could've fooled me", snarled Ember back, her hackles rising.
Princess watched horrified how her daughter, backed by Rain, continued challenging one of her brother's warriors.
Was she insane?
They had seen how skilled the warriors of ThunderClan were.
"You are just a couple of savages! Don't think you have fooled me! You'd kill us all in a heartbeat with no remorse if it aided you-" With a cry the silver and white warrior leaped forward, fangs bared.
"Ivypool stand back!"
Firestar's shout rang out, easily drowning out both Ember's shouting and Ivypool's cry. The warrior staggered to a stop not two tail-lengths from Princess' daughter and looked back at her leader with pained eyes.
"But they-", the warrior tried.
"Do not understand", cut Firestar in strongly. He threw Ember a revolted glare, and right now Princess was ashamed of the pale-ginger being her daughter as well, "They never will, but we never let that get to us before did we? You are hurt Ivypool, I understand that, you lost your father in Birchfall. But taking this out on them will only prove the ridiculous point this loner is trying to make. Do you want that? Do you want to shame the clan, the family, your father died to protect like this?"
Ivypool let out a whimper at those words and lowered her head. One of Firestar's warriors stepped forward and gently ushered the silver and white tabby back to where her apprentice was waiting for her, before all three of them left the garden.
By now only Firestar, Amberpaw and three of his warriors remained.
Firestar, who had watched Ivypool leave with sad eyes, now turned back to his sister's kits and Princess almost winced back from the anger that suddenly burned in them. "I have never before been so ashamed of my own blood", the ThunderClan leader spat out. "Not only did you manage to insult the entirety of the cats living in this forest in one sentence, but you kept slashing at the bleeding wound of one of my own." He took a threatening step forward, prompting Princess' kits to crouch.
The she-cat wondered if she should step in, but the memory of just how horrible Ember had acted just know and the knowledge that her brother would never dare harm them, no matter how upset he was, kept her where she was.
"You all will leave this place now and return to your homes. Come back here tomorrow if you must to make certain that your mother has been returned to her home without harm." He looked Princess in the eye. "That is, as long as you do still wish to come?"
Princess looked at her kits, then her brother and back and forth a while, before she nodded and answered: "Yes. I do still wish to join you Firestar. Despite my distance from him, Cloudtail was as precious to me as my other kits are. You understand I believe." Her brother let out a soft purr and nodded.
"But…mother", tried Katy worriedly.
Princess gave her other daughter a warm look and explained: "It will only be for tonight Katy. Cloudtail was my firstborn. While you may not know him, I do and his death tears at me. I cannot let him go just like that."
Rain stepped in front of his siblings now and Princess watched Firestar, Amberpaw and his three warriors wince back at the white tom's resemblance to their lost clan-mate. The white tom gazed at her calmly, but his amber eyes were full of questions.
"Why did you never tell us about him?"
"I wanted to", Princess answered, "I really did I just…I never knew how. How do I broach the subject that I gave away your brother but a day after you were born?"
"I guess so", Rain murmured, then he turned to look at his uncle. Firestar answered his gaze with but a hint of anger in his own eyes. Rain stepped forward a little, then dipped his head respectfully, drawing a gasps from Ember and the ginger tom's warriors. Raising his head again the white tom began: "It is obvious by now that there's more going on in the forest than we know."
"Oh you have no idea", chuckled one of the warriors darkly.
"Cherryclaw", Firestar warned. The small ginger she-cat fell silent and dipped her head apologetically. Rain gazed at her for a second, before he returned to his attention to Firestar.
"All I ask is…your word that no harm will come to our mother and that we will see her again tomorrow by sunrise?"
The ThunderClan leader's expression softened a little now and he answered: "You have my word as ThunderClan's leader and Princess' brother, she will be back here unharmed and well. Unfortunately sunrise is impossible. Sunhigh we can do."
"Sunhigh then", Rain consented and stepped back. Before he could return to his gaping siblings though Princess stepped up and pressed her nose against her son's shoulder.
"I'm proud of you", whispered the housecat to the loner, earning her a purr from the latter.
"Princess." Breaking apart the two saw Firestar sit on the fence, Amberpaw dangling from his fangs. The housecat nodded and sent a last glance at her kits and their kits before she climbed up the fence as well. The second she was beside him, Firestar leaped down to the ground and set off for the trees. Princess ran after him.
They travelled in silence for quite a while, Princess staying by his side. They walked deeper into the forest than the housecat had ever been before and the deeper they went the more amazed Princess became. The sun had long since set and the moonlight gave everything a silvery glow. It gave the shadows a whole new depth too though and Princess shuddered nervously.
"Don't worry", her brother murmured through Amberpaw's fur. "There is nothing that will harm you." Princess nodded but kept close to the ginger warrior, her fur brushing against his. Suddenly Firestar stopped.
Princess halted next to him. She blinked and looked around, wondering why they were stopping. There was nothing aside of a bramble-covered ravine to see. Firestar next to her let out an amused purr, prompting her to look at him. Two pairs of green eyes met and Princess let out a huff at the amusement she saw in her brother's gaze.
"Use your nose, not your eyes", murmured the leader.
Princess tilted her head, but looked forward again and concentrated on her nose. Immediately the scent of a great number of cats hit her, easy to ignore if not the main focus, but there and strong. "Wow", the housecat breathed, before she followed her brother, who was just now slipping into a gorse tunnel.
The two went downwards and Princess froze when they exited the gorse again. In front of her was a big clearing, the dirt trampled down from generations of cats walking over it. Most of the clan was gathered near the centre of the clearing, surrounding Cloudtail and Birchfall. Brightheart and her kits crouched right next to Cloudtail, only Whitewing was with Birchfall, who was also surrounded by Dustpelt, a grey she-cat, Ivypool and another grey she-cat.
It tore at Princess' heart to see this much pain, but she could also see something else. The strength the clan cats gave each other with merely their presence.
Following Firestar's call, Princess stuck close to her brother while he navigated through his cats. The ginger tom set Amberpaw down next to Brightheart, who was meticulously cleaning Cloudtail's fur from blood. Sliding up next to her brother Princess asked: "What is she doing? What are they doing?" The same was happening to Birchfall curtesy of the grey she-cat and Whitewing.
"They sharing tongues with them one last time", Firestar whispered back. "This way we convey our wishes, prayers and hopes to them. This way we wish to let them see one more time just how important they are to us." He nudged her shoulder. "Go on, you have every right to be here, just let your heart speak." And he retreated.
Princess looked after her brother, to find him heading for a grey tabby tom. Feeling multiple gazes burning into her pelt though, she soon returned her attention to the still form of her son and stepped forward hesitantly. Reaching Brightheart, Princess started to understand what she was whispering to her mate while gently licking his face.
"…the one who gave me hope. Who never gave up on me, even when almost everyone else did. Thank you Cloudtail, for giving me reasons to live. I love you, I always will. Don't forget me, wait for me in StarClan." With that she fell silent and looked up to the stars.
Princess felt as if she had violated something sacred, hearing these things and was about to turn away and return to her home after all when a voice near her murmured: "It's okay." Turning her head, she was surprised to find Sandstorm looking back at her. What surprised her even more was her clean and uninjured appearance.
For as long as she'd known the pale-ginger she-cat, she never seemed like someone who would willingly stay out of a fight. That's when she saw it.
Firestar waited quite a few paces away, keeping three small kits from following her.
No wonder she hadn't been in the fight.
"Just let your heart speak Princess", the pale-ginger she-cat continued. "There is nothing to worry about here, don't be ashamed." She stepped forward and crouched down at Cloudtail's side, gently smoothing down the fur on his flank.
"Well you crazy furball", Sandstorm purred sadly. "You should stop being so much like your uncle, you know. Far too sacrificial for your own good and stubborn to boot. Also never listening to anyone and…oh Cloudtail, I'll miss you. I still remember all the trouble you caused Firestar, and in connection I, when you were an apprentice. But you shaped up nicely. You were a great warrior and an even better father. Please take good care of Brightheart and your kits from StarClan, they'll need you." She licked his fur a little longer, then pulled back and turned away.
Princess watched how she walked up to Firestar, the two touching noses gently, before Sandstorm turned her attention to her kits. The she-cat ushered the three small cats back into a den, glancing back at Princess only once and giving her a nod.
Finally gathering up her courage, Princess stepped forward and leaned down. The moment her tongue touched the fur on her son's neck, she didn't think anymore. Instinct took over and she started gently grooming her son in the way she never could before.
"Oh Cloudtail", Princess whispered between licks. "My wonderful son, what can I say? Why haven't you visited me for so long? I have worried so much for you and now I have so much to tell you, but one night will never be enough. I love you my dear son. I love you so much. Please, watch over everyone we both love in death as I am sure you have done in life." Falling silent she lay down and followed Brightheart's example who had pushed her nose into his fur.
After a while sleep claimed the housecat, but her dreams weren't pleasant. They were filled with blood and screams and wailing. Princess crouched down, her ears pressed flat against her head and her eyes clenched shut. "Make it stop!" And then everything was silent.
The scent of blood slowly dissipated and then a familiar scent reached her.
Princess' eyes snapped open and she gasped.
In front of her, a bright star in their dark surroundings, was her lost son. His white fur shone like freshly fallen snow and his blue eyes blazed with a familiar mischievous gleam. "Cloudtail", the she-cat breathed. Cloudtail smiled at her softly and leaned down to her level. Princess had to squint a little against the stars shining in his soft pelt. A rough tongue suddenly drew over her cheek a few times, then Cloudtail moved and pressed his side against hers.
"I promise", the white tom whispered.
"What?", his mother asked.
Cloudtail smile at her warmly and elaborated: "You asked me to look after my family. I will always keep watch over ThunderClan…and over you."
"Oh Cloudtail", chocked Princess out.
Her son rubbed his cheek against her and nuzzled her before he rose up again. "I have to leave now", the tom explained upon her questioning gaze.
"What? Why?" She didn't want him to leave just yet.
Cloudtail's eyes saddened a bit and he explained: "StarClan is waiting mother, as is ThunderClan. The morning has arrived, they will want to bury my body soon. Don't worry, you will see me again." At his last word Princess snapped awake, only now realising that there was a paw prodding her flank.
She blinked and opened her eyes. Her nose was still buried in Cloudtail's, now shockingly cold, fur. She looked up, to find a dark-ginger she-cat gazing down at her with green eyes that shone with understanding. The cat gave her a sad smile and whispered: "You have to get up Princess. The elders are waiting to bury them."
Princess gave a slow nod and got up, stepping away from her son. A small dusky brown she-cat and two warriors picked up Cloudtail while a long-furred cream cat and two more took Birchfall. They carried the two warriors out of the camp, only Brightheart and Whitewing following.
"Will you be alright?", asked the ginger she-cat now.
Princess gave a shaky nod in answer. "I will be." Then she looked at the other. "Do I know you? I feel like I do."
A smile appeared on the ginger's features and she introduced: "My name is Squirrelflight."
"Squirrelflight?", Princess muttered. That name sounded familiar. "Wait! Are you…Firestar's daughter?"
"That's me", answered Squirrelflight with a chuckle. Then she sobered up and added: "I wish you could've met Leafpool. My sister looked so much like you."
"She's…dead?", Princess asked gently. Squirrelflight nodded in answer.
"Yes. She used to be our medicine cat, but had to step down. And yet…she died almost the same way her medicine-cat mentor died, Cinderpelt."
Now the name Cinderpelt Princess knew. But she didn't know that she was dead too. Oh Firestar I'm so sorry, Princess thought to her brother, then asked out loud: "How?"
"I-I was just kitting when a terrible fight began. Jayfeather was busy and since Leafpool knew how it worked she helped me. An enemy got into the nursery and Leafpool took him on, but was murdered right in front of me. If Firestar hadn't come bursting in just then…the same would've happened to me. He then helped me giving birth to the rest of my litter." The ginger she-cat lowered her head.
Princess gulped and leaned over, pressing her forehead against her niece's shoulder. "I'm sorry." Squirrelflight gave her a small smile, then both blinked when a dark-brown tabby she-kit with one white forepaw tumbled right into them.
"Leafkit? What are you doing here?", Squirrelflight asked. "I told you and your siblings to wait in the nursery."
"B-but we…we wanted to see…how they carry Cloudtail and Birchfall away too. He…he was your…your cousin mother and…well we…" Leafkit left the sentence hanging in the air and with a shake of her head Squirrelflight leaned down and gently licked her daughter between the ears.
"It's alright Leafkit", the ginger cat assured. "But now you all go back into the nursery, okay? I promise I'll be there soon." The small tabby nodded and turned around, scampering off to three other kits, the four of them soon disappearing in the den Princess had seen Sandstorm enter last night.
"I need to go", came the sudden statement.
Princess looked over at her niece and nodded. "I understand, take good care of your kits." With that both she-cats got up and went separate ways.
The housecat needed a while, but finally found Firestar, who sat at the base of a big rock and was discussing something with Brambleclaw. She didn't want to interrupt them but… "Firestar?" Both tom's looked up at her curiously. Princess shifted nervously, but said: "I-I should be heading back home now I think."
Firestar blinked, then looked to the sky. He checked the position of the sun and nodded. "Of course", her brother answered then. "Is it alright when Brambleclaw guides you back", he gestured to the tabby next to him with a wave of his tail, "I have unfinished business here."
Princess glanced at the tabby nervously. He didn't look all that eager to play her guide, but gave her an accepting nod. "I don't mind", Princess answered then and stepped forward. Firestar met her halfway and the two of then nuzzled each other lovingly. "I'll miss you brother", the she-cat admitted.
"I'll miss you too sister", Firestar answered.
Princess pulled back then and argued: "Then don't let me wait so long for my next visit from you."
Firestar let out a low laugh at those words and nodded. "I'll try to stop by." The two siblings bid their farewells once more and then Princess followed Brambleclaw out of the camp. The two cats travelled in actually rather comfortable silence for most of the way. Only when the trees started to give way to open space, indicating they had almost reached the border of the forest, did Brambleclaw speak up.
"Was it hard?" Princess gave the tabby tom a confused glance. He locked his amber eyes with hers and repeated: "Was it hard? To give your kit away like that. To know he could die every die just like that?"
The she-cat was silent for a while, contemplating her answer. "I…In the beginning yes, it was unbearably hard", she admitted. "But then, with every passing season, the fear got easier to manage. I always worried, he was my son after all. But…he grew into such a wonderful, strong and caring tom. I truly admired what he had managed to become. I was proud, proud of all that he had accomplished and that again helped me deal with my fear and worry."
Brambleclaw nodded slowly, then said: "He truly was something special. Other than Firestar only he understood what it meant to have to prove yourself to your clan all the time while growing up." Princess opened her mouth to request an explanation for that comment, but then saw the shadows that had taken over his bright eyes. This was probably a subject best left alone she decided.
They walked only a little longer before they reached the trees that bordered her garden. Turning to the tabby tom Princess said: "Farewell Brambleclaw, and thank you for guiding me here. Give Firestar and both your families my greetings, yes?"
"I will", Brambleclaw answered. "And you are welcome Princess." He leaned forward. "Between the two of us, should you ever need ThunderClan's help, or even just Firestar's, don't hesitate to stop a patrol when you spot them. Your coming with us into the forest to join our vigil was prove of great bravery and gained you a lot of respect in ThunderClan."
With that he turned and sprinted off, his brown form quickly disappearing between the trees.
Princess stared after the tabby for a while, then turned around and made her way towards the fence. She was just about to climb up when the wind shifted. A familiar scent wafted around her and Princess froze. Fur brushed past hers gently and a soft voice echoed in her ears.
I'll always watch over you.
Princess smiled. Despite all the pain she gained from it, giving Cloudtail to Firestar had been the right choice. He'd been able to do and offer so much, and he still would do so.