God I'm so sorry you guys. We keep moving so things have just been sitting around for the most part (I still don't have all my stuff with me) I also didn't have my books so I started to lose the characters. I've gone back and re-read everything to make sure the story flows. Oh the horrible writing.

This chapter is unedited because i wanted to get it out as soon as possible.

I don't really remember where I was going with this anymore, I had some pretty wicked plot twists planned but they're just dust in the wind now. I'll be re-brainstorming this. I'm also tweaking things a little – not so much that it'll be Hey, what's this about? What the hell do you think you're doing? I'm confused! Its just small things that pretty much tie in with how things were already going. I'm fleshing out the characters a little and giving them more personality.

I'm gonna try and update once a month from here on. I promise I'll finish this story. I feel terrible for leaving you all hanging this long.

Oh, I also changed Ember's name to Jet. It's less ridiculous, in my opinion anyways.

"Well? Are you going to eat it, or not?" Jet muttered, nudging the mouse closer to the fiery tom.

Fireheart blinked in surprise at his dark furred companion. "I can hunt for myself." He meowed, steadily pushing himself to his paws. Jet huffed and blocked the barn door.

"You're a guest. You can just relax for a change."


"The others went out already, I'm sure they'll bring back more than enough fresh kill."

Realization struck. Jet wanted to speak to him alone. Nodding stiffly Fireheart settled himself down and tore into the mouse keeping his eyes on the other cat.

He ate in silence, waiting for Jet to speak. After what felt like moons the tom blurted, "How do you and Poppy know each other?"

Fireheart paused, chewing slowly to stall his reply. Swallowing he replied "I was hunting. The two of us were after the same mice." He looked uncertainly at the tom. "What-"

"Stay away from her."

"What?" He gaped, his green eyes wide in disbelief.

Jet hesitated. "She's bad news Fireheart. Stay away from her. Get away before it's too late."

What in StarClan's name was he talking about? Poppy was great - annoying, yes, but over the last few days she'd proven to be a good friend. He ran over every confrontation with her in his head, trying to see what Jet could possibly be talking about but coming up completely blank.

"What are you-?"

"Hey Fireheart, we're back!"

The two toms jumped at the sudden yowl. Fireheart turned to see the tabby she-cat bouncing towards him. "What are you two furballs up to?" She trilled. He almost missed the dark look she shot at Jet.

The coal coloured tom flicked his ears uncomfortably. "I was asking Fireheart what Clan life is like. It sounds harsh."

Poppy blinked. "Oh. Well, it certainly not easy. Patrols, hunting parties, training… That's not for the weak."

"No, it isn't." He agreed. "It's not something I could see myself doing, that's for sure." He gave Fireheart an appraising look. "Pretty admirable for a would-be kittypet." The said tom bristled at Jet's stab at his roots.

"Not all kittypets are cowardly weaklings, obviously." She sniffed. "Some of them are truly formidable, eh Fireheart?"

Fireheart grunted in reply.

Poppy sighed. "Well, I should probably help the others haul everything back." She tipped her head. "But you've already eaten." Jet twitched.

An awkward and tense silence stretched out between the trio. Fireheart shifted uncomfortably while jet buried his nose into his chest fur.

"Well, that's that I suppose. Do you two want to come with me to help Ravenpaw and Barley?"

With a hesitant look the two toms got to their feet and followed the tabby she-cat into the open.

At Bluestars summons cats began to flood out of the dens their expressions ranging from surprised to angry to confusion. Sandstorm sighed and limped to the clearing and sat beside Graystripe, trying her best to look indifferent.

"What in StarClan's name is going on?" a few fox lengths away Mousefur, a dusky brown she-cat groused.

Brindleface glanced at her and shrugged, quickly looking away but not before Sandstorm saw the proud sorrow in her eyes. She had been a great mother to Cloudpaw, despite how testy the little furball could be.

Most of the cats were in the clearing by now. She assumed most knew of Cloudpaws warrior ceremony, the young tom had no problem bragging to the other warriors. Cinderpelt padded out of her den and took her place near the base of the rock, while Goldenflower brought her two kits to sit at the front of the gathering crowd. Willowpelt's litter hung in the back with their mother near the nursery.

At last the other apprentices joined the circle. She noticed Brightpaw was nudging Swiftpaw out of the den, the other apprentices nudging him alongside her. Even when they had crossed the clearing the group stayed on the outskirts of the circle, Brightpaw and Thornpaw looked downcast while Swiftpaw glared at the forest ground.

Sandstorm felt her breath catch in her throat. It wasn't Cloudpaws fault Bluestar had not chosen any of the others. She shook her head. It would be hard for him not to have his friends' good wishes when he became a warrior. But Cloudpaw didn't seem bothered. He strolled out of the elders den to sit by Sandstorm with his tail held high.

Sandstorm leaned over and whispered in his ear, "Your mother would be proud of you Cloudpaw," and so would Fireheart.

Before he could reply Bluestar spoke. "Cloudpaw, you fought well against RiverClan this morning, and I have decided that it is time for you to take your place as a warrior in ThunderClan."

The white tom turned to face his leader as she began the ritual words. "I, Bluestar, leader of ThunderClan call upon my warrior ancestors to look down on this apprentice. He has trained hard to understand the ways of your noble code and I commend him to you as a warrior in his turn." Sandstorm started and her harsh tone. It was obvious she was she was only going through a ceremony that ceased to have meaning to her.

Would StarClan be willing to watch over Cloudpaw when neither he nor his leader held and respect for them or the warrior code.

"Cloudpaw," She continued. "do you promise to uphold the warrior code and to protect and defend this Clan, even at the cost of your life?'

"I do," he meowed feverently.

Sandstorm hesitated. She wasn't sure he knew just what this promise meant. She had no doubts he would do his best to protect the Clan, because these cats were his friends, but she knew deep down that he wouldn't be prompted to act by any sense of loyalty to the warrior code.

"Then by the powers of StarClan, I give you your warrior name. Cloudpaw, from this moment on you will be known as Cloudtail. StarClan honours your courage and your independence. We welcome you as a full warrior of ThunderClan."

Leaping down from the Highrock she padded over to the new warrior and rested her muzzle on his head. Cloudtail gave her shoulder a respectful lick before moving back to stand by Sandstorm.

The clearing was silent.

This was supposed to be the moment the Clan greeted the new warrior by chanting his name, but no one moved to speak. Even the apprentices were unmoved, each looking at their paws while Swiftpaw had turned his back on his former den mate. Slowly cats began to murmur to themselves, as if the others, too, had picked up on Bluestar's lack of conviction as she cited the ritual.

Cloudtail was beginning to look crestfall when Brindleface padded up and pressed her tabby muzzle against his. "Well done, Cloudtail!" she purred. "I'm so proud of you!"

As if her words were a signal Cinderpelt and Graystripe came up a well and, at last, the other cats began to crowd around him. The awkward moment was over. The apprentices came last. Swiftpaw was not among them. Finally Sandstorm moved to give her congratulations.

"You have to keep vigil tonight," she reminded him. "Remember you have to keep silent until dawn." Cloudtail nodded and padded to the center of the clearing.

"I never thought that pest of a kit would grow up into such a fine warrior."

Sandstorm nodded. "Fireheart taught him well." He should have been here to see this. But, would she have wanted him to? She knew the ceremony had been overshadowed by the jealousy of the other apprentices and Bluestar's transparent loss in faith.

She wondered, not for the first time, how much longer the Clan could survive like this.

Posted: February 27, 2011