This is really one of my most favorites. Please read and review!
Prologue: The Fox
A dark colored creature trembled before her leader. His brown eyes flashed like chips of dark flint.
"You are forever banished from our territory! Leave now, and if we ever see you again, we will attack mercilessly," the red-furred beast snarled.
"No!" she wailed, then murmured in agony, "What about my kits?" Her unborn young stirred in her belly.
"That is something you have to deal with. Dane will escort you out to the edge of our hunting grounds," the leader growled. A gray and red warrior rose and approached the creature heavy with young. She sobbed piteously to him, her mate and love, to come with her. His eyes glistened in pain and did not meet her begging gaze. She howled her anguish to the cloudless night sky.
"I am sorry, Moon. I will take you to the forest into Scarborough Territory. Past there is the red two-leg barn. It's overflowing with mice and fresh bedding," Dane said into Moon's ear as he walked her out of the dark clearing.
When the pair vanished into the darkness, a rising-warrior called out, "Is Dane coming back?" His leader gave a snort of contempt.
"Who cares?" the leader growled as he stalked back to his den, his face contorted into one of pure hatred to his brother for stealing the creature he wanted by his side, his precious Moon.
Moon and Dane went onward steadily, the scent of Scarborough making their thick fur bristle.
"There!" Dane whispered excitedly. "There is the barn!" He twitched his tail at a lonely barn at the edge of a two-leg field. Moon scurried ahead, only glancing back once to receive an encouraging stare from her mate. Then she was off, like a silent shadow of the night. Her red fur gave away nothing of her position. Dane watched with his heart tearing in two. He whispered good-bye for the last time and felt a cool wind seemingly pick up his words and carry it into the oblivion of the night sky.
Moon arrived at the barn to see to two mice scuttle away as she crept from the doorway. She pounced forward and devoured one mouse after another. Before she knew it, Moon had slain and eaten four mice. Uncomfortably full, she circled in some soft hay and was soon asleep from the long journey and fresh meal.
Moon was surprised when Dane appeared three mornings later. She awoke to the sound of a joyful, repressed whimper. Moon blinked at Dane's face when the first thing she saw was his wide, brown eyes and wet, black nose. Moon had leapt straight into the air with a howl of surprise, almost certain she was still dreaming.
"Moon!" Dane called and gave her a calming lick an the muzzle, in the infectious, pup-ish happiness he always exuded. She gave a happy wiggle, oblivious of the loneliness she was enduring, her unborn kits, and the fact that Dane had to cross through Scarborough country.
"I couldn't resist visiting you," he murmured softly. Moon immediately told everything she had been doing, vividly retailing her tale of the past days alone.
A few dayslater, Moon gave birth as she was exploring the woods not far from her barn. The delivery went smoothly, just as Moon predicted. What Moon hadn't expected was the neighbor's guard dog getting off its chain, carrying a limp fox body as it followed her scent. Moon leapt to her feet despite the fact that she had no energy from the delivery. Her sight began to blur with tears as she recognized the dead creature hanging from the mastiff's slavering jaws. She flung herself at the dog in fury.
Chapter One: New Kit
Brackenfur didn't notice it at first. There was a small, mostly gray with red bundle of fur crouched in his path. The place reeked of dog and fox. He looked at the pathetic kit. Its eyes weren't open, and its ear tips folded over. Its ribs were showing and its bushy tail had collected mud and mess. Without thinking, Brackenfur tenderly lifted the kit by the scruff and hurried back to camp. At the gorse tunnel, he took a deep breath to take in all the scents on the kit. There was dog, fox, blood- but no cat or clan. That didn't matter now, however. The kit was ominously still.
The first cat that saw him was Whitepaw. She dropped the rabbit in her jaws and rushed up the Brackenfur, shooting off the questions he would soon resent.
"What is it? Where did you find it? Is it from another clan?" Whitepaw demanded. "Come on Brackenfur! I want to know!" The golden brown tabby tom sighed in irritation and smoothly maneuvered around the apprentice. He headed straight to the nursery and put the kit in front of the entrance. He squeezed his head through and blinked in the dim light. Ferncloud was staring back, rounds eyes asking what on earth he was doing with a kit.
"Please, just make sure it doesn't die. I'll be right back with Cinderpelt and Firestar," he pleaded and, before she could say a thing, Brackenfur nudged the kit through the entrance and turned tail to the den beneath Highrock. He took a moment to think and remembered when Firestar had brought his nephew, Cloudtail, when it was just a kit. Surely he would understand?
Suddenly feeling apprehensive, he turned to the medicine cat's den. The kit needed medical attention first. Cinderpelt was checking her stock of healing herbs when Brackenfur stalked in.
"Brackenfur? What do you want?" Cinderpelt asked without turning to see him.
"I found a kit in the forest," he replied, quivering slightly. "There was something odd about. It didn't have any clan or even cat scent. Can you help it?" Cinderpelt turned her sharp eyes on him, then collected a batch of herbs and rushed out. Brackenfur nodded to the nursery, and they split up.
Firestar was in his den, speaking with Graystripe about the apprentices. They both stared at him with questioning eyes as he entered. "Yes, Brackenfur?"
"I found a-" his voice caught in his throat. Would he get in trouble? It's not like one finds a kit with no cat scent in the middle of the forest for no reason. Wouldn't that be suspicious? "I found a kit in the forest towards WindClan territory. I don't know how it got there but it was very strange. It had no clan or even cat scent."
"Well, Brackenfur, that certainly is odd. Where is it?"
"It's with Ferncloud and Cinderpelt in the nursery."
Firestar nodded at Graystripe and then took off with Brackenfur on his heels. He crossed the clearing in a few quick strides, some of the clan poking their heads from their dens in curiosity. The ginger tom ignored them and squeezed through the nursery entrance to see Ferncloud licking the new kit clean. Cinderpelt watched from afar, amusement sparkling dimly deep in her eyes.
"Hello, Firestar. Brackenfur told you of the new kit, I presume?" the medicine cat asked.
"Yes. Is it in good health?" the leader replied.
"Oh, it's just hungry, and Ferncloud offered to take care of her for now. But that is not the matter at hand. This kit is a cub."
"What do you mean?"
"Firestar, this is a baby fox."
All eyes turned onto Brackenfur, who suddenly wanted no more than to crawl into a hole a disappear for a few moons.
"Brackenfur, did you know that this cub was a fox?" Firestar asked diplomatically.
"What? No, of course not, Firestar!" Brackenfur spilled, realizing why he felt the baby creature was so odd. "What are you going to do with it?" He added.
"Well," Firestar said sadly. "Even if it is a baby, nobody will want a fox among us. Someone will have to get rid of it." That cut into Brackenfur's heart like thorn-sharp claws. It was just a baby.
"Firestar, you can't do that." Everybody looked at Brackenfur again. "I mean, it can't hurt anybody. It's just a baby."
"Brackenfur, you're a very kind tom, but what would happen when she grows up? How could she live among us like a cat? Who knows if foxes are even intelligent enough to live in a clan?" Firestar said with a sad sigh. He understood how Brackenfur felt. The brown tabby tom seemed very distressed about the whole thing.
"Why do you have to kill her? We could just take care of her until she old enough to take care of herself, and then I'll personally take her away to the mountains," Brackenfur meowed, it being the first idea that came to mind. Firestar looked amused.
"What will the clan do about this, Brackenfur? Do you think they're just going to let keep a creature that steals kits in the clan?"
"But she is just a kit!" he retaliated. "Besides, she wouldn't stay her whole life." Brackenfur felt he was all alone in this debate. Firestar was right, but Brackenfur could not let the innocent creature die.
"I think Brackenfur could do it," said a voice. "If I take care of her." Ferncloud had the cub beside her own kits and was letting it suckle. Firestar blinked, then, after another heartbeat of indecision, shrugged.
"I guess it's not my decision if Ferncloud wants to take care of it-"
"Her," Brackenfur corrected.
Firestar shook his head. "I will announce this to the clan. I don't think they would enjoy it if I kept a fox in the nursery without them knowing." With that said, Firestar gave Ferncloud a twitch of the tail in acknowledgement then wriggled out of the warm den. Graystripe followed closely and glanced at Brackenfur, the look signaling for him to follow. Brackenfur looked at the baby fox, then gave Ferncloud a thankful nudge in the flank before leaving.
A well known yowl rang from Highrock, and the clan streamed from all corners of the camp. It was the moment of truth. It would be decided now whether the cub would stay or not. Familiar faces sat beneath the great rock, ominous whispers passing through the crowd. It was a wonder how fast news got through ThunderClan. Firestar looked down at them, making sure everyone was there then meowed the news loud enough for everyone to hear.
"Brackenfur found a kit in the forest, alone near the border of WindClan. It carried no scent of clan or cat. It is a fox cub." A murmur of shock passed through the listeners. "It will be taken care of until it can take care of itself. Then Brackenfur will take her near the mountains, far from here," Firestar said briefly then scanned the clowder of cats for a reaction. Outrage was high on the list. Some of them were spitting in fury.
"A fox! Those murderous dog-things!"
"It should be done away with!"
"Weren't we all told that foxes steal and eat kits? I bet it's in the nursery now, among our own kind like it deserves to be there!" That particular yowl came from Longtail, a tom that had gone to the elder's den early because of failing eyesight. He had never really been on Firestar's side ever since the two had gotten in to a fight when the leader had first arrived from the two-legs. Longtail had a nick in his ear to prove how vicious Firestar had been.
"Can you blame that kit for being born a fox?" A deadly calm voice rose above the crowd. Brackenfur's amber eyes blazed with fury. His pelt bristled in anger at his birth clan for being so savage. He had really thought they would understand. Longtail could see a fuzzy outline of the cat, but that was enough to make him back up in fear.
Firestar could see a fight waiting to happen, so he leapt into the group. They scattered just before his paws hit the ground gracefully. Cats were already opening their jaws to yowl demands but a glare silenced them all. The ginger tom placed himself in the no man's land between Longtail and Brackenfur and began to wash his face to show the unimportance of their quarrel.
"Did you two hear what I said? The vixen stays until it's old enough to take care of its self. It will have no effect on your daily life," Firestar meowed quietly, signaling the end of the meeting. The clan went back to their duties, slightly disturbed by the fact they harbored a well-known enemy of the cat. Nevertheless, Firestar walked Longtail back to the elders den, the pale tabby nodding as Firestar explained the ordeal in better words to him.
Brackenfur made his way back to the nursery to watch his newest burden. She looked so innocent, sleeping soundly next to Ferncloud's two kits. They even looked similar.
The sun had set into the horizon almost like an ominous flame, making the trees glow like embers and the water in the stream turn blood red. Brackenfur had become transfixed by the great star, until a voice behind him made him jump.
"You know, staring at the sun is fun until you go blind," it purred in amusement.
"Hmm, what?" Brackenfur replied blankly and swung his head towards the sound. Sorrelpaw had snuck up behind him and nudged his shoulder. Brackenfur felt his heart swell with happiness. The white and tortoiseshell she-cat always made his paws tingle and his heart skip a beat.
"You're so silly sometimes," she meowed and settled beside him, observing how the red light changed the landscape. "I saw that little fox-kit. I can't help but say it's cute, now that Ferncloud has cleaned all that muck off." Brackenfur felt as if he could soar. At least there was one other cat who supported his fox kit.
Whoopee! Chapter one is done! Please review!