This will be the last chapter I write for Soaring Smoke for a while because school is coming up and I have not gotten any reviews on this story so far. So if you do read this story, please please PLEASE review it and I'll consider writing more. If you love it: tell me. If you hate it: tell me. If you've got suggestions: tell me. Comments? Questions? Advice? TELL MEE!!!
It's annoying to see that this story has gotten 87 hits but no reviews. Pul-lease review. Or else I shall sic Smokepaw on you. And that cat's got a lot of pent up rage.
Chapter 6: A Troublesome Rabbit
"Hey! Hey furball! Get up! Smokepaw, let's go!"
Smokepaw rolled over on to his stomach, groaning. He batted the paws that were prodding him away.
"Not now Thistle, I'm still sleeping," he murmured.
There was an awkward silence and then the voice continued. "I'm not Thistle. It's me, Webpaw."
Smokepaw's eyes snapped open. He was lying on the ground, his tail curled around his nose. He scrambled to his feet, noting the cold ache in his bones and joints. He realized he'd slept on the freezing floor of the den without a bed of leaves or moss to lie on. Smokepaw's back felt stiff and his eyes were still cloudy with sleep.
"Oh, hi, sorry Webpaw," Smokepaw said sheepishly, "I, um, forgot."
The gray tabby was poking his head in through the entrance of the den, his face masked with concern.
"Smokepaw, it's okay. I'm sorry about your sister. I know it's not easy for you," Webpaw said clumsily, "I don't know what I would do if Cherrypaw died."
"She's your sister?" asked Smokepaw, dying to change the subject. He wanted to keep Thistle out of his mind.
Webpaw nodded happily. He too, seemed happy with the subject change. "Well, she's my half-sister. My mother is Juniperpelt," Webpaw explained. Then he lowered his voice, "Cherrypaw's mother was a rogue. We don't talk about her."
Smokepaw followed Webpaw out of the den and let the cool morning sun hit his pelt and face with welcome. The WindClan camp was bustling with cats, all going about their business. Smokepaw had never seen such activity before. He spotted Breezepaw and Cottonsky trotting towards the bracken wall of the camp, both of them chatting animatedly. He spotted Bamboopaw and Cherrypaw standing next to a black and white tom and Puddledrop. Webpaw noticed Smokepaw's glance and said, "That's Brackenface and you know Puddledrop. They're Cherrypaw's and Bamboopaw's mentors."
"Who did you say your father was?" asked Smokepaw.
"I didn't," replied Webpaw, "It's Goldeye."
"Goldeye?" Smokepaw said, "But he's my-"
"Mentor, I know."
The two apprentices were now padding across the clearing towards a small pile of prey by a dead bush. Smokepaw didn't really know where he was going; he was just following Webpaw.
"Is he...nice?" inquired Smokepaw tentatively.
"Oh sure," Webpaw said indifferently, "he'll love you. He likes cats that are different. He thinks they're better than the rest. He's a good teacher, or so I'm told."
There was a strange twinge in Webpaw's voice. Smokepaw thought it was regret but there was a hint of bitterness in it too. He decided to drop the topic and directed his attention towards the pile of meat.
"So, what is this?" he said, sniffing around at the prey to see if it was freshly caught.
"This is the fresh-kill pile," Webpaw said, "when we go hunting, we bring back food for the Clan. This is where the prey goes."
Webpaw bent down and selected a plump sparrow from the pile.
"Take something," Webpaw invited, "you've got to eat before we go out training today. I forgot to tell you but Heathersong said that I could come training with you on your first day! Goldeye already agreed."
Smokepaw nodded happily and then picked out a large rabbit from the medley of prey. He caught Webpaw giving him a curious look. Smokepaw was about ask the gray apprentice what the matter was when a sharp voice cut through the sandy hollow.
"Look at this! The loner is in our Clan for a day and he's already acting like a greedy kittypet."
Smokepaw placed the rabbit down on the ground and whirled, his claws automatically sliding out. He suddenly realized that without Thistle to worry about, he was a lot more reckless and much more willing to fight. Smokepaw hurriedly retracted his claws before anyone saw them and got suspicious.
A brown tabby tom was briskly walking towards the two apprentices, his paws splashed with white and his amber eyes narrowed in dislike. Smokepaw sighed. Why were all these cats challenging him when he clearly expressed his goodwill yesterday?
"That's Whitefoot, nasty temper, don't provoke him," Webpaw whispered swiftly under his breath.
Whitefoot stomped up to Smokepaw, barely glancing at Webpaw. He glared at the black tom and hissed when he saw the size of the rabbit at Smokepaw's feet.
"Tell me, Smokepaw, did you catch that rabbit?" Whitefoot spat.
Smokepaw looked confused. "No, I didn't. Webpaw said I should take something from the pile and I did."
"Well did it ever occur to you that maybe some other, more deserving cat should get to have the biggest prey in the pile?" Whitefoot snarled.
The tom's loud voice was carrying over the clearing and cats were stepping out of their dens to see what the commotion was. Smokepaw spotted Oatfield and Ravenwing rushing over, their faces alight with malice and mistrust.
"No it didn't," Smokepaw replied, turning his attention back to Whitefoot.
"Listen you piece of mouse dung," Whitefoot hissed, "I don't care if you're new. It's common sense. The biggest piece of prey does NOT go to an apprentice. Especially not one that's a filthy little loner!"
"Whitefoot! Please!" cried Webpaw, his fur puffed up in defiance and fright, "He didn't know. I'm trying to teach him!"
"That's his mentor's job, fool," Whitefoot said, brushing off Webpaw.
"I told you he was bad news!" shouted Oatfield.
Smokepaw felt a growl rising in his throat. "You can have the stupid rabbit," Smokepaw said loudly, throwing the prey at Whitefoot, "I'm not so pathetic that I have to whine about fresh-kill."
Besides him, Webpaw gave a little moan of fear. Whitefoot drew himself up to his full height, clearly offended.
"Oh you asked for this beating, kitty," he said as he stepped forward, his claws outstretched.
Smokepaw calmly slid his own claws out and crouched low to the ground, ready to defend himself.
Without warning, a blur of tabby gray fur inserted itself between Whitefoot and Smokepaw. At first Smokepaw thought it was Webpaw but he soon realized it was his mentor, Goldeye. The warrior glared at Whitefoot.
"You are NOT allowed to rip apart my apprentice," Goldeye said firmly, "leave him alone."
Whitefoot looked torn. He obviously had no intention of fighting Goldeye, who was much bigger than the brown tabby.
"Just tell that little furball to stay out of my way," Whitefoot huffed, stalking off.
Goldeye turned his piercing glare upon the cats loitering around the hollow, watching the scene unfold. At Goldeye's glance, they scattered, going back to their business.
"Thank you," Smokepaw said quietly when everyone had left.
Goldeye looked him over carefully. "Why'd you pick that piece of fresh-kill?" he asked.
Smokepaw was surprised. "I-I don't know. I guess because I'm used to living in the wild where food is scare. I would never pass by a large piece of prey," he answered.
"I see," Goldeye nodded, "well you're not in the wild anymore. You're in a Clan. You belong to a structured, organized group of cats. The first rule to fitting in here is to be selfless."
Smokepaw quickly nodded his understanding. "I see now that I shouldn't have taken that rabbit."
"You also shouldn't have thrown it," Goldeye reprimanded, "you must show respect for prey. They were once living creatures like us."
Smokepaw bowed his head shamefully and murmured an apology. He looked to his side; Webpaw was silently slinking off towards where Heathersong was sitting, watching him.
"I understand this is hard for you," Goldeye said, his voice getting a little softer, "but you must try to not offend anyone. It's very important that your Clan members trust you."
"Good. Now why don't you go take that rabbit to Juniperpelt?" Goldeye suggested.
Smokepaw looked surprised but knelt down and picked up the rabbit with his teeth gently.
"Part of an apprentice's duty is to take care of the elders," explained Goldeye, noting his apprentice's confusion. "The elder's den is by that bush. When you've finished with that, meet me at the entrance. I'll be waiting with Heathersong and Webpaw. Then we will train."
Smokepaw smiled, abashed, through the mouthful of rabbit fur and then padded over to where the elder's den was, a cloud of humiliation hanging over his head.