A/N: Hi everyone! Welcome to the first fanfiction story I've ever written. It takes place two seasons after The Last Hope ended. Please read, review, and enjoy!
Disclaimer: I own nothing of Warriors, except the characters that I make up myself.
The night was cold and still. The snow that lay in heaps and piles across the pine forest floor muffled all sounds, so when Tawnypelt heard a bat flutter above her, she jumped up as if expecting an enemy to come leaping from the trees.
Relax, she told herself. It's fine, it's just a bat. Nothing's going to happen.
But something had happened, and that was the problem. After the horrible battle between the four living Clans, the Dark Forest, and StarClan, the earth was wet with blood, the sky raining with tears, and the grass mixed with flesh torn from pelts. Many, so many had died... the ghosts of the cats who couldn't find StarClan's hunting grounds now wandered the earth, waiting for someone to guide them to the Dark Forest or StarClan or the Land in Between. Tawnypelt felt as though there was an endless parade of the dead, calling out into the night...
Wait - there was someone calling in the night. The voice was faint at first, but it was steadily getting louder. Tawnypelt's first instinct was to shout out, "Who's there? Show yourselves!" But she knew that that would be playing right into the hands of a potential ambush. Instead, she pressed herself flatter against the snow and waited to see what would happen next.
At last, a think shadow stumbled into the pool of moonlight in front of the thorn barrier into camp. Tawnypelt couldn't suppress a gasp of horror. It was a she-cat; her muzzle was covered with thick scars, her ears clawed to shreds, one eye swollen, as if she'd been driven away with cats scratching at her face. Every single one of her ribs were visible, and her belly was bloated with - was it hunger? No, she was pregnant!
"Oh, you poor, poor thing..." Tawnypelt murmured, trotting over to the she-cat. She ignored the voice that was screaming "TRAP!" in her head, because what sort of horrible cats would use a half-dead queen as bait? Besides, she was half-ThunderClan, and ThunderClan cats helped strangers.
"My kits..." the queen murmured, sinking down onto her knees. Her eyes closed, and she drew a faint, rattling breath. "They're coming... please, help..."
"You've come to the wrong Clan... oh, why didn't you go to ThunderClan? They would've taken you in! But ShadowClan, I don't know... but I'll do what I can." Tawnypelt twisted her mouth as she hurried back through the tunnel, to the camp entrance. To her surprise, Kinkfur was sitting washing herself in front of the warriors' den.
"Kinkfur! I need your help!" Tawnypelt called, bounding over to the straggly-furred she-cat. "There's a sick queen outside of camp, she needs our help! She's going to have her kits very soon!"
"She couldn't have chosen a worse time to come," Kinkfur said grimly, hurrying over to the entrance. "Blackstar won't be happy at all with a new mouth to feed. Ah, well, there's nothing we can do. Let's get her to the nursery."
Tawnypelt followed her to the clearing. Kinkfur gave an audible gasp when she saw the sick queen. "This is horrible! Who could have treated her like this? She must have gotten caught in the battle." Tawnypelt blinked; she hadn't thought of that, but that would explain the fresh-looking claw marks. "Come on, dear, let's get you into the nursery, you'll be safe there, and Littlecloud will get you cleaned up."
"My kits..." The queen struggled to her feet again with Kinkfur's aid. "What will happen to my kits? Will you let them live with your... your cats? Your Clans?"
"We'll see." Tawnypelt felt cruel and cold-hearted, trying to reassure the she-cat of something that might not necessarily be true, but she said nothing else. They helped the sick cat through the thorn tunnel, trying to spare her from the worst of the thorns, even though Tawnypelt's fur kept getting snagged in the narrow tunnel. At last, they reached the camp clearing.
"I'll get Littlecloud," Kinkfur said, and she trotted off to the medicine cat's den. Tawnypelt was left to help the queen into the nursery.
"Who's there?" a voice asked. As Tawnypelt's eyes adjusted to the gloom, she saw Leopardstep looking at her with fear and revulsion. "Who's that? Is she a loner? Why are you even letting her in here? She's disgusting!"
"Oh, shut up and make some room!" Tawnypelt snapped back as the queen collapsed into the nearest pile of moss. "Can't you see she needs help? She's really close to kitting, and she might die!"
"Find someone who cares," Leopardstep hissed back. "I have my own kits to care for." She turned away and curled up into a ball again, shielding her newborn kits from the noise.
"Tawnypelt? Are you in here?" It was Littlecloud; he was trying to squeeze his way into the nursery. "Can you give me a little room, please?"
"Sure," she replied immediately, shifting aside. "I'll leave now."
"All right," Littlecloud murmured distractedly, already zooming in on his new patient. "Ah, what have we here?... Oh, no! What happened to her?"
Exactly, Tawnypelt thought as she shuffled out of the nursery. I only hope she'll be all right. There's nothing else I can do for that queen.
She padded over to Blackstar's den and called respectfully, "Blackstar? Are you awake?" An affirmative growl sounded from within. She went in hesitantly and settled in a crouch, waiting for Blackstar to speak. He was sitting upright, his ears pricked.
"And to what do I owe this very late visit, Tawnypelt?" he asked.
Tawnypelt shuffled her paws. "I apologize for waking you, Blackstar, but a very sick, pregnant queen has arrived at camp, and I just brought her into the nursery. Kinkfur told Littlecloud, and he's tending to the queen now."
"A what?" Blackstar rumbled, his tail twitching. "A sick queen? Tawnypelt, do you have any idea what you've done? We cannot afford any extra mouths to feed, let alone sick patients who require herbs! There are too many injured cats, including you, who still need treatment, even a half moon after the battle."
"I know," Tawnypelt mumbled. "But I think she's dying anyway. Besides, her kits may yet turn out to be healthy. After the battle, don't we need all the warriors we can get?"
Blackstar growled. "Not loners, or worse, kittypets! We have no idea where that cat came from!"
"Remember how Firestar took in the cats from the horseplace. ThunderClan got three extra warriors. And look at how they outnumber us today!" a new voice sounded. Tawnypelt whirled around and saw Rowanclaw walk into the den. His yellow eyes gleamed. "I think we should let the kits stay, at least. The queen is as good as dead."
Narrowing his eyes, Blackstar asked, "Even if it means tainting Clan blood?"
"You know that we need more warriors. You may be grateful for your decision in the future." Rowanclaw dipped his head to show that he did not mean the statement as if he was telling Blackstar what to do. Tawnypelt gazed at him with adoration. He would make a great leader.
"Very well," Blackstar growled. "You may assist the queen, and her kits, in whatever way you can, Tawnypelt, since you were the one to find them."
"Yes, Blackstar." Tawnypelt dipped her head. Inside, she was almost skipping with joy. It was the very heart of leaf-bare, and yet new life was joining the Clan! She couldn't wait to see how the queen was doing. Her kits were the most important thing right now, even if she looked like she was close to death.
"Blackstar." An anxious murmur disturbed the silence. "It's the queen. She's kitting, and I'm afraid she won't make it. She said she wants to speak with the leader of this Clan." Littlecloud did not go in, but he waited at the entrance, gazing imploringly at his leader.
With an impatient hiss, Blackstar got to his feet and flicked his tail to make sure Rowanclaw and Tawnypelt followed. "Let us go see her."
Tawnypelt shivered as she fell into step beside Rowanclaw. "Who do you think will look after the kits when the queen dies?"
"She may yet live," Rowanclaw replied, not looking at her. "There's always a chance."
"Yes, but Littlecloud said he thought she wouldn't make it," Tawnypelt persisted. "So what do you think we'll do? Leopardstep didn't sound very friendly when I was in the nursery. She told the queen to get out."
"Then she'll just have to deal with it," Rowanclaw growled. "I'm not having an irritated queen condemn future warriors to death before they're even born."
They had reached the nursery. Blackstar ducked in with Littlecloud, leaving Tawnypelt to wait outside with Rowanclaw; the nursery was too small for all of them to fit in together.
"It sounds as though you don't even care what happens to the kits - I mean, you're talking as if they're just extra-juicy pieces of fresh-kill!" Tawnypelt was shocked; she'd never seen Rowanclaw act this coldly before.
"I care about them." Rowanclaw wouldn't look at her. He licked his paw a few times, then stared at the camp entrance.
"I'm having kits." Tawnypelt blurted out. "Only I didn't realize you'd act so cold-hearted to future life." She turned on her tail, savoring Rowanclaw's shocked expression, and was prepared to stalk off until Blackstar re-emerged from the nursery. At the same time, a blood-curdling yowl sounded from inside the nursery.
"She's kitting," Blackstar said gruffly. His eyes sparked with sadness. "It seems that the queen is on her last breaths. Tawnypelt, are you going somewhere?"
"No, Blackstar." Tawnypelt sat down again, not looking at her mate. "Did the queen say anything about where she came from?"
"Yes." Blackstar lowered his mew to a whisper. "She said that she came from the Tribe. She didn't say its exact name, but I'm pretty sure she meant the Tribe of Rushing Water."
"That far?" Tawnypelt was startled. "It's a wonder she even made it! Do you know who she is?"
"If I did, I'd tell you, wouldn't I?" Blackstar's lip curled. "She also said that her kits were to be named Blackkit, Bronzekit, and Snowkit." A faint tinge of pride colored his voice. "That was after I told her my name."
"It seems like she knows a lot about Clan life," Rowanclaw growled. "Maybe she was a spy."
"It doesn't matter anymore." Littlecloud emerged, looking stricken. "She's dead. The kits are healthy, though, which is a wonder in itself. I named the black one Blackkit, the dark brown and ginger one Bronzekit, and the white one Snowkit. They'll make fine warriors, I'm sure. Leopardstep's going to suckle them, for now."
"Good," Blackstar said with satisfaction. "The Clan needs new warriors."
Tawnypelt gulped. She didn't want to tell the Clan leader that she was kitting, not just yet. She wanted it to be a secret.
"Tawnypelt -" Rowanclaw started to say, but he was interrupted by the screech of a dark shadow right above them. It landed in the middle of the snow-covered clearing and turned to face the three cats, who were frozen in shock. It was a raven.
"Shreee!" the raven shrieked. "Caw!"
Tawnypelt's blood ran cold as she realized that she knew what the raven was saying. "The ice fields are not barren any longer!" it said. "As Dawn rises once more after the terrible darkness, more blood will be spilled as the Clans rediscover the power of knowledge!"
"What are you saying?" Tawnypelt whispered. "There will be more fighting? Haven't we had enough?"
"Rrrawk!" The raven fixed its beady stare on her. "Beware; the shadows are safe no longer." With that, it flew off into the night, leaving three cats' gazes clouded with horror.
A/N: Updates may take up to two weeks or something, but I'll try to minimize the wait. And here are the allegiances for chapter 1 onwards:
Leader: Blackstar - white tom with a black paw
Deputy: Rowanclaw - ginger tom
Medicine Cat: Littlecloud - very small tabby tom
Oakfur - small brown tom (apprentice - Lynxpaw)
Smokefoot - black tom
Toadfoot - dark brown tom
Tawnypelt - tortoiseshell she-cat with green eyes
Applefur - mottled brown she-cat
Crowfrost - black-and-white tom
Snowbird - pure white she-cat (apprentice - Ravenpaw)
Olivenose - tortoiseshell she-cat (apprentice - Snarlpaw)
Owlclaw - light brown tabby tom
Shrewfoot - gray she-cat with black feet
Scorchfur - dark gray tom
Tigerheart - dark brown tabby tom
Dawnpelt - cream-furred she-cat
Ferretclaw - cream-and-gray tom
Starlingwing - ginger tom
Kinkfur - tabby she-cat, with long fur that sticks out at all angles
Snarlpaw - a black tom with white flecks on his back
Ravenpaw - a silver and black tom
Lynxpaw - a mottled dark brown and grey she-cat with fierce orange eyes
Ivytail - black, white, and tortoiseshell she-cat (mother to Yewkit, Jadekit, Jewelkit, and Moonkit)
Leopardstep- a black and grey she-cat (adopted mother of Blackkit, Bronzekit, and Snowkit)
Tallpoppy - long-legged light brown tabby she-cat
Whitewater - white she-cat with long fur, blind in one eye
Snaketail - dark brown tom with a tabby tail and a torn ear
Leader: Bramblestar - dark brown tabby tom with amber eyes (apprentice - Dewpaw)
Deputy: Squirrelflight - dark ginger she-cat with green eyes (apprentice - Cherrypaw)
Medicine cat: Jayfeather - grey tabby tom with blind blue eyes
Sandstorm - pale ginger she-cat with green eyes
Brackenfur - golden brown tabby tom
Cloudtail - long-haired white tom with blue eyes
Brightheart - white she-cat with ginger patches
Millie - striped gray tabby she-cat with blue eyes
Leafpool - light brown tabby she-cat with amber eyes, former medicine cat
Sorreltail - tortoiseshell-and-white she-cat with amber eyes
Birchfall - light brown tabby tom (apprentice - Lilypaw)
Whitewing - white she-cat with green eyes (apprentice - Molepaw)
Berrynose - cream-colored tom (apprentice - Seedpaw)
Cinderheart - gray tabby she-cat
Lionblaze - golden tabby tom with amber eyes
Foxleap - reddish tabby tom (apprentice - Snowpaw)
Rosepetal - dark cream she-cat
Blossomfall - tortoiseshell and white she-cat
Bumblestripe - very pale gray tom with black stripes
Dovewing - pale gray she-cat with blue eyes
Ivypool - silver-and-white tabby she-cat with dark blue eyes
Cherrytail - a ginger she-cat
Molewhisker - a brown-and-cream tom
Lilypaw – a dark tabby she-cat with white patches
Seedpaw – a very pale ginger she-cat
Dewpaw - grey tom with amber eyes
Snowpaw - white tom with amber eyes
Daisy - cream long-furred cat from the horseplace
Poppyfrost - tortoiseshell she-cat
Graystripe - long-haired gray tom
Dustpelt - dark brown tabby tom
Leader: Mistystar - gray she-cat with blue eyes
Deputy: Reedwhisker - black tom
Medicine cat: Mothwing - dapple golden she-cat (apprentice - Willowshine)
Graymist - pale gray tabby she-cat
Mintfur - light gray tabby tom
Minnowtail - dark gray she-cat
Pebblefoot - mottled gray tom (apprentice - Irispaw)
Mallownose - light brown tabby tom (apprentice - Pinepaw)
Robinwing - tortoiseshell-and-white tom (apprentice - Halfpaw)
Petalfur - gray-and-white she-cat
Mosspelt - tortoiseshell she-cat with blue eyes
Grasspelt - light brown tom
Hollowflight - dark brown tabby tom
Troutstream - pale gray tabby she-cat
Rushtail - light brown tabby tom
Irispaw – a pale ginger she-cat with white paws
Pinepaw – a white tom
Halfpaw – a brown tabby tom
Duskfur - brown tabby she-cat (mother of Pearlkit and Slitherkit)
Dapplenose - mottled gray she-cat
Pouncetail - ginger-and-white tom
Leader: Onestar - brown tabby tom
Deputy: Ashfoot - grey she-cat
Medicine Cat: Kestrelflight - mottled grey tom
Crowfeather - dark gray tom
Owlwhisker - light brown tabby tom
Whiskertail - sandy brown tom
Whitetail - small white she-cat
Nightcloud - black she-cat
Gorsetail - very pale gray-and-white tom with blue eyes
Weaselfur - ginger tom with white paws (apprentice - Rabbitpaw)
Leaftail - dark tabby tom with amber eyes (apprentice - Robinpaw)
Emberfoot - gray tom with two dark paws
Heathertail - light brown tabby she-cat with blue eyes
Furzepelt - gray-and-white she-cat
Boulderstrike - large pale gray tom
Sedgewhisker - light brown tabby she-cat
Swallowtail - dark gray she-cat with large white mark on her forehead
Sunstrike - tortoiseshell she-cat (mother of Horsekit and Goldkit)
Robinpaw - a very dark brown she-cat with pale blue eyes
Rabbitpaw - a grey-and-white tom with a ginger tail-tip
Webfoot - dark grey tabby tom
Tornear - tabby tom