The time had come, Bristlekit had watched Spottedkit and Greykit turn into Spottedpaw and Greypaw with a zealous heart, though jealousy was hanging there as they were appointed their mentors, Eagleheart and Raggedtail (who survived after the venom was extracted from him). He had seen Snowpaw become Snowstep, but now, now was his turn to become an apprentice, and one step closer to becoming leader one day.
Honeykit and Dovekit towered next to him, after the months he had stayed in the nursery he had grown at tops, half a mouse tail, and even Goosekit was taller than him. But what would that matter, he was becoming an apprentice despite his size.
The three were looking up to Swiftrain impatiently, their freshly cleaned pelts shinning in the warm Summer sun that had lowered the quarries water level and every stream in the area. Swiftrain straightened up and cleared his throat, "Cats of Barnclan, Bristlekit, Honeykit, and Dovekit have honored Ancientclan in everyday of their young lives and have passed five survival tests, making them qualified to become apprentices." He declared to the gathered crowd.
"Honeykit, are you ready to take up your responsibilities as an apprentice?" Swiftrain asked the light yellow she cat, who nodded with bright amber eyes. "Then in front of the whole clan I name you Honeypaw and from now on until you become a warrior you shall be addressed by it, and your mentor will be Frostfern, Frostfern you have yet to have an apprentice so I honor you will Honeypaw."
Swiftrain then stepped down and bit the very tip of her ear off before stepping back with a light bow of his head, "Now Bristlekit, are you ready to take up your responsibilities as an apprentice?" Swiftrain asked the small tom, Bristlekit nodded enthusiastically and looked up to him expectantly. "Then in front of Barnclan I name you Bristlepaw until your time of warrior ship. I myself will mentor you in the way of Ancientclan and Barnclan." Swiftrain yowled, biting a bit of his ear too.
"Then finally you Dovekit." Swiftrain meowed when he was done with Bristlepaw, "Brightcloud has requested you to be her apprentice as a medicine cat, and do you accept her inquiry?" Swiftrain asked the grey she cat who answered with a small yes. "Then Dovekit you shall be called Dovepaw until you become a full medicine cat, and today Brightcloud will take you to the Moon-tree so you may speak with Ancientclan." He told her, not snipping off her ear tip to show that she would not take part in battle.
The clan cheered their new names four times over, each time louder than the next. When the cheers and calls had died down Swiftrain continued with the next part of apprentice-ship, "As you three are now apprentices you may now have a messenger bird of your own," Swiftrain meowed to the fidgeting clan. "Honeypaw, for your thoughtful thinking you will have Ace." As if on cue a raven descended to land beside Honeypaw, its round black eye blinked at her and she smiled back to it.
"Dovepaw, you will have to wait until Brightcloud gives you your bird, but Bristlepaw you are training to be a warrior and ready to take on this care. Your partner will be Gypsy, take good care of him as you would care to a clan mate." Swiftrain said as a tiny hummingbird came to them.
Bristlepaw felt his pelt get hot as snickers came from the clan, he knew why he was given the hummingbird, it was a mockery to his size. But that feeling wore off as soon as Swiftrain took the two birds away to the Bird-loft and Barnclan gathered around to congratulate them.
"Does that mean you won`t be sleeping in the nursery?" Maplekit asked sadly.
Bristlepaw stifled a purr and looked at the lean ginger she cat, "Yes, I`m an apprentice now, but you`ll be an apprentice in a couple of moons too, then you can join me!" Bristlepaw smiled, Maplekit looked at him hopefully with glad green-gold eyes.
Just then Bristlepaw was knocked over by a sudden strong force, he turned over onto his back and looked up to the bright face of Fogkit. "I got you Bristlekit-paw! I got you didn`t I Goosekit?" She yelled to her white and brown brother, who nodded in agreement.
"We got you Bristlepaw, we got you!" He laughed, joined in by Fogkit.
Maplekit gave a mature sigh, although she was grinning, "Come on you guys…" She meowed, but Goosekit only jumped onto Bristlepaw too.
Bristlepaw began to wriggle around by the larger kits weight on his back combined with Fogkit`s weight. "Come on Maplekit, its` fun!"
"NO! don`t jump on Bristlepaw!" Bristlepaw gasped, seemingly invisible by the other two.
Bristlepaw didn`t know if she joined in, he was breaking his back under there, only Dewshadow saved him from being smashed under them. "You two get off of Bristlepaw now, it`s time for you all to be groomed." He heard her say, instantly the weight was lifted and he sat up painfully.
"Are you all right?" Dewshadow asked him, he nodded and Dewshadow herded her three kits up and went inside the barn.
Bristlepaw smiled and looked around, Honeypaw had gone out with Frostfern for their first lesson on how to hunt, and Dovepaw was traveling to the Moon-tree to become an actual medicine cat apprentice. Then his mentor was nowhere to be seen, probably with Icefrost if he didn`t know better and he did.
Spottedpaw had just returned from border patrol and was eating at a fish from the Food-pile, Snowstep and Minnowfall were sharing a piece of prey together talking lowly amongst themselves. Other cats were beginning to filter from their jobs to the eating grounds too. Greypaw and Tawnypaw was taking food to the only elder, Fishtail and the queens making Bristlepaw feel very alone.
Just then he felt a prod on his flank and he turned around to see his father and Barnclan deputy Redheart standing beside him, "Bristlepaw, Swiftrain asked me to tell you to remove the ticks from Fishtail." He explained.
Bristlepaw stared at him, why could Honeypaw go out and learn to hunt, and he had to take care of elders. "How can I do that if Brightcloud`s not here to give me the Turkey-ground?" He asked.
Redheart looked at him closely before answering, "I think every cat knows what Turkey-ground looks like, just ask anyone you meet." He replied before walking to the pile and selecting a plump sparrow from the pile.
Bristlepaw glowered under his breath and stalked into the refreshing shade of the barn. The air in the barn was musty after years of non-usage and cob webs grew in abundance in it, a never ending supply of natural bandages. Large metal poles stuck up from the hay covered ground from where the No-furs use to keep their cows penned up in. Dry-rotted wood made up the walls, with crumbling cement blocks that held up the wood, doors that had never been opened were on the walls, their handles rusted shut and cobwebs hung there in all the cracks between the doorways.
Many had tried to open those doors, or at least make a mark in the soft wood, but with no prevail. Some say that behind the doors an ancient cemetery lies, where the bones make up the floor. But for the other idea for all the doors there was no floor at all, just a bottomless black pit that leads to the Land-of-nothing itself, but nobody knew and nobody planned to know anytime soon.
Bristlepaw didn`t care about doors on walls, to him they were just there, made by No-furs, and he thought that if they were of such importance as a cemetery or ever going pit that they would not have left the barn for the use of a clan of cats. Though something of the peeling green paint did intrigue him, but it gave him more of an eerie feeling and he often rushed pass the doors in fear of that feeling.
But today, with the thought of having to put Turkey-ground on an elder the feeling was not there, instead of fear there was only spite and anger.
He passed the doors quickly and rushed to the second wing of barn, passing the steep slanted ladder that lead to the hay loft and nursery as he went. He passed the graying door that lead to a small, winding hallway, which eventually branched off into a larger ground-hay-loft where the apprentices slept and passed their spare time. Connecting to that larger room was a secret passage that only Bristlepaw knew of, he being the only one the right size to fit through it.
The secret way was hidden behind a banged up metal bucket with sharp edges, behind that was a dark black hole he found, he had about two mouse tails of room around the circle, and it lead to one of the tallest silo. From that silo he found another small pigeon hole that lead to one of the old unplowed cornfields.
The thought of the passage way brightened up Bristlepaw`s mood, he would explore more the first chance he got but as he reached the door way to the medicine den his anger came back stronger than before. A window covered with dusty glass let some light filter through into the den, illuminating the varies herbs and plants that Brightcloud, and soon Dovepaw, kept.
"Where is the Turkey-ground?" He muttered to himself, looking for the crimson red flower. He found the shriveled up herb in front of small tan seeds with small black centers, he remembered that they were called Black-center-death and were used when a cat was hurt behind all measure to ease their way to Starclan painlessly. His eyes lingered on the death seeds for a minute, he remembered something, someone, told him about… what was it?
With a shake of his head he picked up the Turkey-ground, which looked just like the gobbler of a wild turkey, which at times the hunting group brought back for special occasions. Picking up the rather sweet smelling plant and began to trot to the elders den where Fishtail was, just waiting with a pelt full of ticks.
'Why is Honeypaw able to go out and hunt and I have to be stuck here, helping elders…' He thought to himself, his eyes narrowing in hate. 'How come my mentor never teaches me anything and why has he hardly spoken a word to me when I became his apprentice?' Bristlepaw thought, once again feeling very alone in the empty barn.
But he wasn`t alone, someone was watching him with slit eyes, reading his thoughts and loving them. Swiftrain was stupid to take Bristlepaw on as an apprentice, he had no time for the tiny tom and couldn`t watch him carefully enough to protect him from the dangers of the Dark-forest. Only time could tell if Swiftrain had, indeed, made a fatal flaw, or a good choice.