Come. Sit with me beneath the shade, young warrior. Why, you ask? Let me introduce myself. I am Birchleaf, an elder of ThunderClan. I know that my moons are wearing thin and I am getting ready to join StarClan. But before I do, I need to tell you something. Something that you are most likely not expecting. Some cats have been blaming Ashfur, my old mentor, for getting Firestar caught in the fox trap, that fateful day. Some cats say that Ashfur tricked Firestar and was on Hawkfrost's side all along. Well, I'm sick of it! Ashfur was a good cat! A good warrior! Before I pass to StarClan, I need you to tell your Clan something important. I have to make a confession.
My story begins shortly after Mudclaw's death, when Squirrelflight and Brambleclaw had still been fighting…
"Birchpaw! Are you ready for training?" Ashfur, my mentor, purred as he made his way across the ThunderClan camp to greet me.
I nodded, excitement tingling on every hair in my pelt, "Yes! Let's go hunting!" I replied, padding after him. Suddenly, a bright, cheery voice called Ashfur's name from across the clearing. It was Squirrelflight! My mentor bounded straight over to her and they touched noses gently. "I was just going to take Birchpaw out for some training, but I'll see you when I get back." he meowed, his voice soft and caring. Squirrelflight nodded, affection gleaming in her leaf-green eyes, "Of course! Then maybe we could go on patrol?" Ashfur nodded and I followed him out of the gorse tunnel. Just another day in ThunderClan camp.
I remember even further back when Brambleclaw and Squirrelflight's fight started. Squirrelflight's cold hiss still rings in my ears, "If you think that, you don't know me at all!" she had snarled, after Brambleclaw implied that she had a bias against any kin of Tigerstar's. Ashfur had been quite alarmed and had rushed to the furious she-cat's side.
"Squirrelflight! Squirrelflight, wait!" Ashfur called, panting and racing after her, but she clearly wanted to be alone. He fretted, but I said nothing, not really knowing what could be said. Later on, back at camp, I saw Squirrelflight sitting at the center of a small group of cats, describing the new territory with wide, bright eyes. I noticed Leafpool watching her sister's feigned joy and excitement, but I could see as well as her that Squirrelflight kept glancing around camp. She still wanted Brambleclaw. And neither I, nor Ashfur had a problem with that. But Brambleclaw and Squirrelflight didn't resolve their fight that night, nor the next morning. In fact, a full moon went by that the two cats clashed and snarled. It was then, that Ashfur became closer to Squirrelflight than he usually was. I remember one day, when the three of us were collecting moss…
Casting a mischievous glance at Ashfur, who was gathering moss from another nearby tree, Squirrelflight hooked up her ball with the claws of one paw and hurled it at him. It landed accurately in the middle of his back and disintegrated, covering his pelt with scraps of moss.
Ashfur spun around to face her. "Hey!" he exclaimed, dropping his moss. I laughed, but quickly picked up a large ball of moss to muffle it.
Ashfur's eyes gleaming with laughter, the gray warrior scooped up his own moss and flung it at Squirrelflight. She dodged behind the tree to avoid it, and crashed strait into Brambleclaw.
"What's going on?" the tabby tomcat demanded. "What are you doing?"
A short squabble between Brambleclaw and Squirrelflight followed, both blaming the other for the work not getting done. Finally, Brambleclaw turned and stalked off, not bothering to acknowledge my presence. "I can't believe him!" Squirrelflight growled angrily when the tom was out of sight, her emerald eyes narrowed and flashing.
"Take it easy," Ashfur meowed. "Brambleclaw's just trying to make sure everything gets done. We're all under pressure, with only one apprentice." She sighed, but the softness in her eyes told me that she appreciated his support.
It went on like this for awhile, Ashfur and Squirrelflight growing closer and spending more and more time together. And all the while, Brambleclaw was getting worse. He snapped at his Clanmates, growled at Squirrelflight, and all but attacked Ashfur. He glared when Squirrelflight ate with Ashfur and I. He pointed out our every flaw. And, despite my outward friendliness, he seemed bitter towards me that I was not his apprentice. Brightheart and Cloudtail noticed Brambleclaw's hostility as well. One day, it got to the point where Ferncloud warned me to be very careful around the dark tabby.
I knew to be wary not to cross his path, but surely Brambleclaw wasn't a bad cat? Surely he was merely angry at Squirrelflight after their fight? But, as time wore on, even Leafpool looked at Brambleclaw with worry and fear in her eyes.
"Please excuse me, I'm getting very old and I tire easily. Be patient, young warrior, my story is not yet finished. I must rest, rest for just a little while before I continue. Just have patience.