Warriors

Into the Wild

Prologue

ThunderClan

"Spottedpaw, keep still!" her sister, Wildpaw, hissed at her through narrowed orange eyes.

"Sorry, Wildpaw," she whispered, creeping noiselessly through the thick undergrowth towards the ancient stones of Sunningrocks. Glancing sideways nervously, she saw the flash of white tail-tip that indicated her other littermate, Rainpaw. Next to her Runningwind's green eyes were fixed ahead on the shadows flickering over the rocks. The light of the half turned the land to silver. Wary eyes flashed as claws glowed with eerie promise.

"Ready yourself Spottedpaw," Runningwind instructed his apprentice as he soundlessly slid out his own claws.

Spottedpaw's fur prickled in anticipation as she obeyed her mentor, exposing long curved claws as her paws kneaded the ground beneath her.

The next moment the cats on either side of her leaped and she followed, flinging herself into the open writhing mass of enemies. Her narrowed amber eyes locked with those of another apprentice. Orange eyes challenged her back as the young tabby rushed to meet her attack.

As they collided she brought her font claws down hard on his head, intending to catch him by surprise. In a split second the tabby's greater weight had overpowered her and he had her pinned. Craning her neck she felt her teeth close on the fur surrounding his throat. RiverClan scent mixed with blood and blasted her scent glands as she struggled to maintain her grip. The RiverClan tom yowled, springing away in shock as he wrenched himself free from her punishing grip. Spottedpaw scrambled to her paws, turning, ready to face another opponent, when a searing pain ripped through her flank. She was too late to react as punishing blows raked down her spine from shoulder to flank as the tom clawed his way over her, pinning her shoulders with thorn-sharp claws and landing blow after blow on her already battered pelt. The hot reek of blood was all around her as screeches of battling cats flooded her senses and mingled with her own cries of pain.

'We're losing,' she realized, 'ThunderClan is losing Sunningrocks!'

Exhaustion seemed to overcome her and she fell limp in defeat. From the corner of her eye she glimpsed Runningwind grappling bravely with a huge black tom, his own tabby fur nearly indistinguishable under the thick coating of mud and blood. She screeched again as teeth met her scruff and hauled her to her paws only to throw her to the ground a few mouse-lengths away. Regaining her footing she spun around with outstretched claws to slash at her opponent's face. Blood welled over the tom's eyes in a sticky red tide, partially blinding him. Leaping swiftly she pinned him and began returning her punishment with all the strength she possessed. Suddenly, pain like fire lanced through her ears before a following blow caught the side of her head, abruptly throwing her off balance and onto the ground hard. Shaking her head she saw a large gray tom hissing crossly at the tabby.

"Go, Mudpaw! I'll handle this."

"But, Stonefur—"

"Go!" he spat roughly, throwing the apprentice away before turning on Spottedpaw. Blue eyes narrowed at her as the warrior leaped. The small apprentice blinked, bracing herself for the larger cat's impact. Suddenly, a large-shouldered golden blur barreled into Stonefur, pinning him to the ground and delivering a vicious bite to his shoulder.

"Never touch my daughter again," he snarled, tail lashing as he released the gray tom to charge blindly back into the battle.

"Lionheart!" she yowled in disbelief, shaking her head to clear it of the encroaching haze of red at the edge of her sight.

"Spottedpaw, help Rainpaw and get out of here. Redtail is going to call the order to retreat."

"But this is ThunderClan—"

"You must learn that not all battles can be won. Runningwind has already fled with Mousefur and Wildpaw! Hurry!" he growled, shoving her shoulder with his broad head.

"Rainpaw," she yowled pelting over to her wounded sister, facing off against a blue-gray apprentice.

Gathering her strength she launched herself on the she-cat, clinging to her hard. Spottedpaw barely had time to spring away as the RiverClan cat rolled, attempting to crush her. Deftly leaping, she landed on her opponent's exposed belly and slashed at it with her hind paws. Finally she released the young cat to retreat into the river.

"Rainpaw," she gasped limping over to her sister, "Lionheart told me to get you and leave. Redtail is going to call the order to retreat."

"No!" Rainpaw spat, "I can still fight for my Clan."

The headstrong she-cat moved, attempting to shoulder past her sister only to collapse on her side from a deep gash running down to her right flank.

"You're a mess. You wouldn't last a second," she scoffed, rolling her eyes at her sister's arrogance, "this is for your own good," she mewed before grasping her sister's scruff and dragging off the spitting apprentice. As she moved further from the battle she distantly heard Redtail's yowl. A moment later ThunderClan warriors streaked by her, some covered in blood or being supported by their stronger Clanmates.

'Redtail, Lionheart, Tigerclaw, Darkstripe, Willowpelt, Dustpaw…'

Had so little of the beginning force remained to fight?

"Well done, Spottedpaw," Lionheart's deep mew sounded, "you kept your sister safe."

"I don't know why," Rainpaw snarled, "I could still fight! We shouldn't have retreated!"

"Well this," Lionheart nudged her wound, earning a hiss in reply, "disagrees and many other wounds like it. We may have won, but it would have been at a terrible cost."

Rainpaw opened her mouth to argue but clearly saw the warning in her father's steady amver gaze. Instead she sunk gracelessly to the ground and began licking at her matted fur.

"We must get back to camp so you may both be treated. Spottedpaw, go ahead and tell Dawnwind we are alright."

"Yes, Lionheart," she dipped her head, pressing her muzzle into her father's golden fur for a moment before racing through the trees.

'Oh, StarClan, what is happening to ThunderClan? Everyday somebody seems to join you and Greenleaf is later than anyone can remember…'

She gazed up at the sky only for her eyes to widen in amazement as she stopped at the top of the ravine. A single star blazed across the sky a fiery tail streaming behind it before disappearing. Was StarClan promising something? 'Shortpaw, what are you trying to tell me?' she wanted to yowl her questions as she picked her way down the rocky slope.

As Spottedpaw entered the gorse tunnel she glanced around the clearing. Wounded cats lay in the hollow, licking their wounds or comforting their Clanmates. Their eyes looked hollow in defeat as they glanced at her momentarily. Shaking her pelt she padded past her broken Clanmates, searching for her mother's familiar tortoiseshell pelt.

"Dawnwind!" she called to the cat laying beneath the shadow of Highrock.

Dawnwind didn't move.

"Dawnwind?" she called again the cheer diminishing from her voice.

Still her mother made no move to acknowledge her.

"Dawnwind? It's me, Spottedpaw," her voice was small as she nosed the queen's fur.

Spottedpaw snapped her head back in horror. Dawnwind was cold and her flank was still with no sign of the familiar rise and fall of breath.

She was dead.

Spottedpaw flattened her ears in grief backing away from the lifeless body of her mother.

"No," she whispered as she came into contact with someone.

She turned her head away from the body, burying her face in their fur. She didn't care who it was just so long as they were there.

"She was very brave in life. She will have a place of honor in StarClan," she recognized Redtail's voice as he rasped his tongue over her head comfortingly.

"But I don't want her there, I want her here!" Spottedpaw's voice rose to a wail, "I want my mother!"

"She is here, she's always here," he soothed her.

"Then why can't I scent her or feel her?" she sniffled pitifully.

Redtail didn't answer just rested his muzzle on her head, "she was my sister. I will miss her too," he spoke gently, licking her cheek. Spottedpaw didn't say anything as she rested her muzzle in his fur. Was this the price to be paid for ThunderClan's salvation?

Disclaimer time! I do not own Warriors or any of the characters from the original series, they belong to Erin Hunter.