Chapter 1- "First Sight"
"I'm having kits." Darkflower, a Shadowclan she-cat announced one evening after hunting patrol.
"You must move out of the warrior den immediately." Cinderfur meowed excitedly, plucking a vole off the fresh kill pile.
Darkflower let out a delighted purr and picked out a decent sized lizard for herself. They walked over towards a patch of sun to lounge in. It was set in the middle of the Shadowclan, camp clearing and they let themselves relax from a long day out.
"Oh they will be so beautiful, Darkflower, strong and healthy…" Cinderfur went on and on about her old friend's new kits. Being so young, it would be Darkflower's first litter. She was pretty feline, she had a solid dark fur, with a small speck of white marring her chest. Her eyes were a bright contrasting blue.
With her beauty, came the vanity and her overbearing pride. "Of course, they will. They have me as a mother with a strong and great father." Darkflower replied stoutly.
Cinderfur, used to her friends bristling ways, just purred in response; downing her vole quickly. Not expressing anything or pressing the she-cat for any details.
In the next eight-nine weeks Darkflower's kits were born.
The clan leader, Brokenstar, was quite pleased for the new additions. He needed more warriors and apprentices. So being the cold hearted and vicious tom he is, he forced the four young kits she had into training weeks before appropriate.
Though elders and a fellow medicine cat, Yellowfang, disagreed with his methods Darkflower wanted her kits to exceed, and she devoted herself fully to this leader. She let his smooth words convince her that her kits were strong enough to endure, that he could already see them becoming great warriors.
The night of their ceremony they were three months old. The sky overhead was clear, it was night and the moon let silver light sprawl across the camp clearing. Throngs of burning stars shown above and the clan cats cast their eyes up towards them. Starclan felt present, within their very reach this night and their clan leader stood a top a tall boulder, his form silhouetting against the sky.
The first kit was a small male, with dark fur like his mother, yet he had white streaking down his torso. He was named, Featherpaw, and as he stood in the center of attention those mellow blue eyes of his shown timid, and quite unlike his mother's vain and shimmering ones.
The next kit was a spunky girl, she was just as pretty as her mother; in all their dark beauty. Her name was Cloverpaw and her eyes were a popping blue, over-enthused and jittery with excitement.
Flatpaw, was the third kit to be named. He was a long-haired dark brown tabby with a broad flat face along with amber eyes.
Darkflower's last kit was an odd one. Not because it was abnormally small or big, but because she is white with only light brown patches, randomly splotching her torso and every one of her paws. Her chest didn't have any brown, it was a clear white – so unlike her mother – and even more so, her eyes were a flashing emerald green. She was named Maplepaw.
Featherpaw and Cloverpaw were assigned different mentors, while both Maplepaw and Flatpaw were assigned to Brokenstar himself.
A great honor, if not an unexpected one. Darkflower loving licked the pair and the other pair was set aside. For right now the arrogant mother only had eyes for the more praised of her four kits. At the end of the event they all spent their first night in the apprentice den.
It only included three other current apprentices; Brownpaw a dark brown tom, Ferretpaw a cream and gray colored tom, lastly there was Pinepaw a tiny black she-cat.
The four kits weren't used to being without their mother. Darkflower didn't seem to linger on them, but soaked in attention and praise the other clan members gave her for her healthy kin. Uncertainly the four of them slunk into the den.
"You're so lucky to be Brokenstar's apprentices!" Cloverpaw purred excitedly her eyes growing round as fell into step beside her kin.
"I know! We will learn how to fight from the best." Boasted Flatpaw.
"I don't know, remember when Pinepaw came back from her first training session? She was pretty hurt." Featherpaw put in nervously, looking concerned and timid as ever.
"We'll be fine he obviously thought we could handle it if he chose us." Maplepaw reassured him pawing a pile of moss before lying down and yawning. The others joined her and curled up tightly together just like they had done in the queen's den. Soon, they fell fast asleep.
The next morning they awoke to a cloudy and extra windy day. The sun hung low with a damp feeling in the air that clung to any cats fur. Brokenstar came for his apprentices much before others were awake.
"Up!" He commanded, sitting outside the den. His voice boomed loud enough to jolt them awake. "Flatpaw and Maplepaw, now!"
They scuttled out of the den half-asleep stumbling and incoherent. They bowed down to their large dark leader as soon as their wits caught up to them.
"Today we'll start by reviewing Shadowclan territories-" Brokenstar began.
"We start training now?" Flatpaw cut him off, and the huge dark tabby growled.
Brokenstar moved too fast for any of the kits to blink let alone let move and he struck Flatpaw with his ranking claws, right across his left ear. It made a small slash and blood driped down into his eyes, which he blinked away. Flatpaw was too stunned to do anything, except sink to the ground, trying not to snarl in pain.
Maplepaw eyes grew larger and she slunk down closer to the dirt as well, but she looked to her brother in concern.
"Do not interrupt your mentor." Brokenstar hissed, teaching his first lesson. His amber eyes were glowing with menace. Flatpaw nodded and was copying Maplepaw's surrendering pose.
"Now... I'll take you both to the border where our territory lines the thunderpath across to Highstones. From there I'll expect you to have caught on to the scent of our borders and I'll send you in the opposite directions, alone. I will observe you from there without your knowledge.. so don't mess up and stay in our turf."
Maplepaw and Flatpaw meowed in agreement and the trio headed off.
As they got outside of camp the pair of apprentices absorbed everything. This was their first time out. Not only did they not know the exact dangers, such as enemy patrols, the shiny monsters on the thunderpath, or fox's, badgers, and poisonous prey; they also didn't know the area.
Brokenstar went much faster than the kits and kept having to return and shove them from behind. When they finally made it to a small brush on the outer edge of the thunderpath he had had threatened to further force at least dozen times.
The underbrush they crouched under was just a fox tail away from a flat, sickly smelling road. It seemed to go on forever in two directions, the kits eyed it, but couldn't make sense of it.
"This is the thunderpath." Brokenstar nodded.
The kits exchanged a look of wonder and fear. Maplepaw looked at it curiously and before she could stop herself she was stalking towards it.
She left the safety of the underbrush and was on the edge of the path. Flatpaw meowed something to her, but she wasn't listening.
She took a slow, but sure step on to it. It was warm and sticky against her pads. She had been about to take another step when suddenly she was swept away by teeth clamped in her scruff. A fast, giant, and horrid smelling thing passed just inches to where she had been standing and she stared after it in shock.
Brokenstar dropped her down next to her brother and gave her a calculating look. "That was a thunderpath monster."
The two nodded, assenting the new danger and looking after the thing. After the shock faded Flatpaw pressed up against his sister's flank in relief. "That was so close." He meowed quietly.
"Who made those? Surely it's not of the forest." Maplepaw asked, looking to her mentor and away from the path.
"You're right. It is neither of the forest nor even Starclan, they are from twolegs." He said wisely. "Now.. you have seen the dangers I expect you to watch your distance, especially on enemy borders. Which is what you'll have to do next. Flatpaw, you, will go northern along the border up towards carrionplace. Maplepaw, you, will go down along Thunderclan's borders."
They nodded to him, as obedient as a loyal pup and exchanged glances before turning to go. Flatpaw was composed of pride, something he had gotten from his mother and Maplepaw was constructed mostly of pure curiosity. They walked out of sight with Brokenstar watching them like a hawk, but began running as soon as he was out of range.
Maplepaw backed away a few rows of trees from the road, but still kept it in sight.
She liked the dense trees around her. She felt better hidden, rather then the dangers of plain sight could bring. The road was definitely not one of her favorite places; she loved the woods. She loved the smells that filled her nose. There was the sweet pine, the honeysuckle flowers washed out by the morning dew, and the heavy scent of her clan. It was reassuring and refreshing, it blocked out the terrible acidic smell of the monster and its path.
She watched her steps as best she could, but kept tripping up on roots and fallen trees. Those of which she would have to scramble over, since she was still not big enough to leap. She slowed considerably in pace the further along she got and started to stick closer to the thunderpath; trying to get a scent of the enemy clan.
She had heard much about Thunderclan. She was told that they were proud cats, that think they are so generous and believed Starclan favored them above all others. Maplepaw never met any, but she wish she could. Not because they sounded appealing, but her very kit-like curiosity overrides fear or shyness that one would usually feel.
After what seemed to Maplepaw, and her aching pads, forever she finally met an unfamiliar scent.
At first it was just lingering in the background, it was hard to grasp and taste on her tongue. It grew stronger though, it reached over the sharp smell of the thunderpath and it was much stronger than a border would be.
She stopped almost immediately. Voices made her ears prickle, her muscles tensed and she didn't know what to do for a fraction of a second. At first, she thought to flee and run home, but a second thought told her that Brokenstar would be watching and she had to be brave.
She forced her legs to move, they were stiff and robotic, but she slunk along quietly. The closer the voices became she dropped into a crouch and went stalking towards the thunderpath. She found a small bush to obscure herself in, like the other one they had sheltered in before, and there was not a length of a mouse tail from the black path.
Peering through it, her breath stopped short in excitement and fear.
Three Thunderclan cats! Only one, the huge dark one, could be a warrior, she thought. While the other two were smaller and would be apprentices.
The huge dark one was speaking to them; lecturing. The bigger of apprentices, was a tom, and he had broader shoulders with long gray fur and darker gray stripes streaked down his pelt. From her distance she could make out yellow eyes, that seemed to hang on every word of the mentors.
The smaller one, a flame colored tom with green eyes... seemed distracted.
Maplepaw strained her ears to make out what the mentor was saying, but a sudden roaring noise made it difficult. She looked to her left and saw another monster, this time she could see the front of it. She experienced the shock of its approach, the speed, and having to see it lurch along. Yet they were all a safe distance, she still took a step back and raised her haunches in defense.
The other three cats all had their own reactions to this.
The mentor seemed at ease just observing his apprentice's reactions. The gray tom tensed and stepped back as well, but the flame pelted one watched with huge eyes and was frozen in place.
After it passed Maplepaw relaxed. Her fur lay flat and though she wasn't making any noise, when she looked back across the street she met a pair of eyes.
They were staring right at her and she tensed once more, but it was a new fear that overcame her. She kept her eyes glued directly to his, not wanting to seem frightened even though she very much was.
Maplepaw kept the fear out of her eyes, and replaced it with a fierce stare. She tried to make it work that way her elders did. She remembered being a kit and running a muck, her elders would get annoyed and there eyes would.. speak to her, they didn't even have to yell; their eyes did the talking.
Don't even think about challenging me. She wanted her eyes to say, but she didn't know if it would work.
The other two hadn't noticed the orange one's distraction, but they would soon.
Maplepaw felt unease at having to stare down the warrior. Her eyes couldn't out talk his. She overlooked the apprentice tom again, more sizing him up then anything and she knew she couldn't take him. There was not modesty or shame to the thought.. it was just that she was too young.
But she wouldn't have to face him. Neither had done wrong and the others wouldn't just stand by, as they fought; so she would be out numbered and at a disadvantage. Saying Maplepaw wasn't in her situation was an understatement, so she let out a warning hiss and slowly retreated.
As soon as she was deep into the underbrush, she sprinted away.
She ran along the border easily and thankfully with no more encounters. She returned to the underbrush by Highstones, just before sunset, her brother was already there and waiting with two rats in front of him. Maplepaw asked him about it, but he just tilted his head above hers; as if he had beaten her in this challenge.
Brokenstar somehow materialized from the same path Maplepaw arrived through a moment later and the two kits jumped slightly in their skin.
"You both have done well..." He began. "Flatpaw I am impressed by your hunting skills, even though they need work. You caught your clan two decent sized and non-diseased rats."
Flatpaw let out a purr and bowed, picking up his catch proudly. Maplepaw wanted to say something to him, to praise her brother, but she suddenly felt nervous about her own assessment. The Thunderclan cats were in the forefront of her thoughts, she felt slightly stunted by her weak attempted to let them know that she was there, protecting her borders.
She didn't know whether she should have or not approached the border or what she should have done when the one had sighted her, There were so many things she probably messed up...
"Maplepaw, you are lucky that you were downwind today." He said slowly, his eyes scaled her small form. "You encountered not a very… rule bidden warrior today."
She waited for him to continue, but he didn't so she put in. "The big dark one?"
"Yes, Tigerclaw." He nodded. "The other two, I don't believe I've seen them before but you handled it well. Warning the orange one of our territory was good, it didn't seem their mentor thought much of it."
His approval to both was short lived when he suddenly barked. "Now get back to camp, alone."
Brokenstar bent forward then, plucking up the two rats and slipping away, swerving into the underbrush and leaving the two kits reeling.
The pair stare after him in shock. There minds mewled in complaint to this. It was their first training, they were exhausted, they were spent. Slowly though they started on what they thought was the direction the camp was in.
It was a struggle but the two finally made it back home long past sunset, the day somehow having disappeared. The moon was high when they entered camp. They made it there by following familiar scents and half-tracking old ones. They were exhausted, starving, and cold. Before even eating the two wondered to the apprentice den in a haze, and they immediately went to sleep, ignoring the inquisitions their kin had about training.