It was just the start of dawn. Pale golden light was pushing against the edge of the darkness, making a red path to escort the rising sun.
A flame-colored tomcat stood on top of High Rock, his green eyes flashing with pride and joy. He yowled out clearly, "Let all cats old enough to catch their own prey join here beneath the High Rock for a Clan meeting!" Cats came stumbling out of their dens, blinking groggily as the sun hit their eyes.
Several moons had passed since the death of Bluestar. Tigerstar's reign had spread over to RiverClan as he formed TigerClan. He had tried to wipe out all the halfClan warriors, but Mistyfoot, Firestar, Graystripe, and Ravenpaw had been able to sneak Stonefur, Featherpaw, and Stormpaw out of RiverClan territory before Tigerstar could kill them. They were spotted coming out, and Ravenpaw sacrificed himself as a diversion so his friends could escape. His death was still mourned by all of ThunderClan. The battle with BloodClan had ensued, and Mistyfoot slew Darkstripe when the traitor tried to kill Firestar. Firestar killed Scourge, and now the forest was at peace.
Streamkit padded out of the nursery, flanked by her siblings Rustykit and Spottedkit. Sorrelkit, Rainkit, and Sootkit were being led out by Willowpelt a few paces away. Rustykit was trying to act calm and collected, but he was clearly excited beyond words. Spottedkit's tail was fluffed up with excitement, and she looked like she was fighting the urge to bound up the High Rock.
Streamkit's own heart was pounding with both fear and excitement. She had been waiting for this day her whole life, but now that it was here, anxiety began to take over. What if I'm horrible at hunting and fighting? she fretted, What if my mentor gets fed up with training me? What if Firestar makes me a kit again? What if-
Her thoughts were interrupted by Mistyfoot. Her mother leaned down and licked her between the ears, a purr rumbling in her throat. "You'll do fine." She said soothingly, as though she knew what Streamkit was thinking.
Streamkit smiled weakly at her mother, slightly reassured by her words.
Firestar's voice came again. "Today, we are here for one of my favorite ceremonies. Step forward, Streamkit, Rustykit, Spottedkit, Sorrelkit, Sootkit, and Rainkit." Trembling, Streamkit stepped forward with her denmates. Firestar looked down at his kits with warmth and pride in his eyes. "Today, six of our kits will become apprentices."
He looked out into the crowd briefly, then returned his gaze to the kits. "From this moment on, until he has earned his warrior name, this cat shall be known as Sootpaw." He looked out into the crowd. "Ferncloud, you are a noble and loyal warrior. You will make a good mentor for Sootpaw."
Firestar gave Sorrelpaw to Cloudtail and Rainpaw to Longtail. He then turned his warm green gaze on his son. "From this moment on, until he earns his warrior name, this cat shall be known as Rustypaw." The new apprentice's eyes shone as his new name was spoken. Firestar smiled, then resumed, "Graystripe, you have fought through grief and distrust to prove your loyalty to ThunderClan. I trust that you will teach everything Lionheart taught you to Rustypaw."
Rustypaw turned to face the deputy, who had padded out of the crowd to meet him, with surprise. The two touched noses, then retreated into the crowd.
Firestar looked down on Spottedkit next. "From this moment on, until she has earned her warrior name, this cat shall be known as Spottedpaw." The tiny black-and-white she-cat lifted her head and puffed her chest out with pride. "Dustpelt, you have been a fine and loyal warrior for many moons. I trust you will pass on everything Redtail taught you to Spottedpaw."
The small black-and-white she-cat turned proudly to face her new mentor. The two headstrong cats paused for a moment, seeming to size each other up. Then they touched noses briefly, Spottedpaw purring loud enough for her sister to hear.
Firestar finally looked down on Streamkit. The she-kit held her breath, waiting anxiously to hear the verdict. Firestar announced strongly, "From this moment on, until she has earned her warrior name, this cat shall be known as Streampaw." He waied, then continued, "Swiftblaze, you have proven your loyalty to ThunderClan through some of its darkest times. You will make a fine mentor for Streampaw."
Streampaw turned to look at the black-and-white tom who had padded out of the crowd, his amber eyes flashing with pride. Feeling suddenly shy, Streampaw hesitated before reaching out to touch her nose to his. Swiftblaze gave her a quick smile. "Don't worry," he purred with amusement, "I won't bite."
Streampaw lowered her eyes, embarrassed by her fear. Swiftblaze let out a rusty purr. "Come on, the meeting's over. Let's get you a nest in the apprentices' den, then we begin your training. We'll go out in the forest later."
The blue-gray apprentice felt a rush of excitement. The forest!Every kit longed to see the forest, ever since they drew their first breath. Unlike most kits, Streampaw had been lucky enough to visit the forest once before her apprentice ceremony. When Streampaw was very young, a pack of savage dogs had followed a trail that led straight to ThunderClan's camp, a trail left by the traitor Tigerstar. In order to escape the dogs, the Clan took shelter at Sunningrocks.
Streampaw could only remember bits and pieces of that fearful trip. She could remember being carried by a lean white warrior with warm yellow eyes, and being carried up into the branches of a tall tree. When she had asked her mother about these fragments, she said that the white warrior was Whitestorm, the ThunderClan deputy who had died in the battle with BloodClan.
Swiftblaze led the new apprentice to the nursery. "First, I want you to clear out the old bedding in here, then you can replace it with new moss. Put the old moss in the durtplace, and ask Cinderpelt for new moss, she usually has some extra lying around."
Streampaw dipped her head, although inwardly she groaned at the thought of cleaning out dens her first day as an apprentice. Swiftblaze must of sensed her dissapointment, for he softened his voice as he added, "After you're done, I'll show you around ThunderClan territory."
Streampaw brightened. "Thanks, Swiftblaze!" She trotted off to the medicine den, an amused Swiftblaze watching her leave. She padded into the den, her nose wrinkling as the scent of several different herbs greeted her. Cinderpelt was sorting through a pile of blue berries when Streampaw walked in. She lifted her head when she heard the apprentice approach. "Ah, so how is ThunderClan's newest apprentice?" She asked, an amused gleam in her eyes.
Streampaw lowered her head in embarrassement. "I need fresh moss for the nursery." She said, eager to get the subject off of her.
Cinderpelt rose to her paws. "Sure thing." She turned back to her stores and pawed out a pile of fresh moss. She passed it over to Streampaw. "Here you go. Come back if you need more."
The young blue-gray cat nodded. "I will." She scooped the moss up into a bundle and picked it up gentley in her jaws. She bid Cinderpelt farewell and backed out of the den, making her way towards the nursery.
Inside the nursery, Sandstorm was curled up watching her three kits, Harekit, Cottonkit, and Gingerkit, chase each other gleefully around the den. Brightgaze was lying asleep on her nest, but she lifted her head when Streampaw came in. "Hello Streampaw." She said sleepily. "What do you need?" The ginger-and-white she-cat's belly was beginning to swell with her and Swiftblaze's kits.
Streampaw dipped her head. "Swiftblaze wants me to replace the old bedding."
Brightgaze's eyes shone with sympathy. "Ah, den-cleaning duties. Don't worry, you'll get out into the forest soon." She gave her chest a couple thoughtful licks before adding, "Listen, I'll put the new moss in place while you clear out the old stuff."
"Really?" The apprentice asked in surprise. When the queen nodded afirmingly, Streampaw purred, "Thanks Brightgaze!"
She padded over to Sandstorm's nest and began to scrape the dirty moss into a bundle small enough to carry. Sandstorm watched the apprentice work with narrowed eyes. The pale ginger queen and her mate Dustpelt held a deep-seated grudge against Firestar and his kin. Dustpelt never seemed as hateful as his mate. He seemed to mostly accept that the past was the past and that it was best just to move on. Besides, he'd come out of the whole thing as the mate of the cat he loved.
Sandstorm was another story. Her green eyes were cold as ice whenever she looked on Firestar or his kin, hatred burning in their depths. She had never forgiven Firestar for leaving her for a RiverClan cat. She often said that she was happy with Dustpet, but Streampaw wasn't so sure. She seemed distant with him, as though she were unaware he was there, or trying to convince herself of that. It was as if she were dissapointed that he wasn't Firestar.
The pale ginger queen snapped irritably at Streampaw, "Hurry up! My kits need to rest, and they can't do that with you blundering around like a three-legged badger!" Judging by the way her kits were racing around in their game of tag, Streampaw suspected that Sandstorm's story of them having to rest was just and excuse to make her job harder. The apprentice gritted her teeth and continued on in silence.
After Streampaw cleared out the dirty moss, Brighthaze told her to go meet Swiftblaze. "I can finish up in here." She said with a smile. Judging by Sandstorm's irritated hiss, she wasn't pleased that Brightgaze was being so kind to Firestar's daughter. Streampaw dipped her head with a purr. "Thanks Brightgaze." She turned and padded out of the nursery.
She found Swiftgaze eating a mouse by the warrior's den. "I finished with the nursery." She announced shyly, still intimidated by the sharp-tongued warrior. "Brightgaze helped."
Swiftblaze's expression softened at the mention of his mate. "She's a good cat." He murmured. Then he looked down at his apprentice with a smile. "Are you ready to go out into the forest?"
Streampaw tried to keep from bouncing up and down from excitement. You're not a kit anymore,she reminded herself fiercely. Out loud, she meowed, "Yes!"
Swiftblaze gulped down the last of his mouse and rose to his paws. "Then let's go." His head held high, the young warrior led his new apprentice out into ThumderClan territory.
This is the sequel to my MistfootXFirestar story A Misty Flame.