"You'll never have Sunningrocks!" Foxkit yowled, pouncing on Hailkit and rolling his brother over. Hailkit growled playfully, play-fighting with his brother.
"Stormkit!" Hailkit called, scrambling away from his brother. "Help me!" He hid behind the slightly bigger, dark gray kit, and Stormkit let out a surprised yelp as Foxkit's next attack landed on him.
Cindercloud purred, watching the kits play outside the nursery. Featherkit sat between her paws, watching the toms with wide blue eyes.
"They weren't any trouble, were they?" Silverstream mewed as she returned.
"No, not at all." Cindercloud purred. Stormkit pinned Foxkit, and Hailkit gave a cheer of triumph. "They've been playing the whole time, I think Featherkit is the only one that noticed you were gone."
Silverstream purred, moving to lie next to the dark gray queen. As she did so, Foxkit jumped up. "Come on, Featherkit!" He mewed. "I need a strong warrior to help me steal ThunderClan territory!"
"Are we ShadowClan or RiverClan?" The small tabby squeaked excitedly, seeming thrilled to be invited to join the toms' game.
"You choose." Stormkit mewed, sitting next to Hailkit.
"ShadowClan!" Featherkit cheered. "Can I be the leader?"
"Yes, great Featherstar!" Foxkit bowed his head dramatically, and Hailkit suddenly yowled, "ShadowClan intruders! Attack!" Longtail, sitting at the fresh-kill pile, sat bolt up-right, before spotting the kits and rolling his eyes.
"Play more quietly, kits." Silverstream mewed gently. "If you want to play outside, you can't annoy the warriors."
"Sorry, Silverstream." Hailkit murmured, ducking his head.
"It's alright." She purred. "Just keep that in mind."
Cindercloud purred as well, and spotting Fireheart moving towards her, stood. "Hey, Fireheart." She touched noses with the warrior.
"Fireheart!" Foxkit abandoned his game to rush over to his father, Hailkit on his heels. "Were you out hunting? Or were you on a patrol? Are you about to leave again? Can I go with you?"
Fireheart purred in amusement at the ginger kit's rush of questions. "Sorry, Foxkit, not today. When you're an apprentice, maybe."
"Maybe?" The smaller ginger tom's eyes widened in despair. "Aren't you going to be my mentor?"
"Now, Foxkit," Cindercloud scolded gently. "You've got quite a few moons to wait before you can be an apprentice."
"Let's go see Yellowfang." Hailkit suddenly mewed, hurrying off without waiting to see if the other kits followed. Featherkit was right on his heels, and Stormkit—ever his sister's shadow—followed close behind.
"But Yellowfang's den is boring." Foxkit wailed. When his brother didn't even look back, he followed them with a huff.
"Don't get in her way!" Silverstream called after them.
"Don't worry." Cindercloud purred, exchanging an amused glance with Fireheart. "When she's had enough of them, she'll let them know."
Fireheart was opening his mouth to agree when a terrible yowling split the air, and Fernpaw burst through the gorse tunnel. "The rogues!" She gasped desperately. "Th-They-"
The gorse quivered as she paused to catch her breath, and Tigerclaw burst through, whirling around as he reached the center of the camp—a stream of rank, scrawny rogues flowing in behind him. With a mighty bellow, Tigerclaw knocked the first rogue away, yowling loudly, "To me, ThunderClan!"
"No!" Sandstorm screeched, tearing through the fern tunnel, followed by Dustpelt and Ashpaw.
"He's leading them!" Dustpelt spat, his amber eyes burning with hatred and betrayal.
Tigerclaw let out a vicious growl. "You'll all die anyways," he sneered, and then to the rogues. "Kill them all! This territory is ours now!"
"Never!" Fireheart yowled, launching into the battle. Within moments, the clearing was full with writhing, screeching cats.
"The kits!" Silverstream gasped, and with a flash, Cindercloud remembered them scampering off towards the medicine den.
"No…" She murmured, before leaping to her paws and bounding towards the fern tunnel. Oh, StarClan, let them be safe! Silverstream at her side, she pushed through the throngs of fighting cats.
"Where do you think you're going?" Claws met Cindercloud's leg, and with a hiss, she turned to face her attacker, stunned to see Darkstripe sneering at her. "You could have been a good warrior—but you just had to mate with that kittypet crowfood!"
"Traitor!" She spat, raking her claws over the older warrior's face. The dark tabby lunged at her, and Cindercloud dodged to the side—too late, she realized, as Darkstripe's claws scraped down her side. There was blur of silver, and Silverstream was beside her, claws unsheathed.
"Who are you calling crowfood?" The silver queen hissed, lashing out at the dark tabby. Side by side, the two queens drove him back, until with a ferocious snarl, Swiftstep leapt between them.
Thanking him silently, Cindercloud spun and hurtled towards the medicine den again. Silverstream's hiss pulled her back, whirling to claw the ears of the rogue attacking her friend—a big brown tabby brute with scars lacing his shoulders.
"Get out of our camp!" Cindercloud hissed, lunging forward and biting the tom's foreleg as Silverstream reared on her hind legs and clawed at his shoulders. Before Cindercloud could give him a scar to remember her by, a jet black she-cat hurtled into her, snarling and swiping with outstretched claws.
Fox-dung! Cindercloud struggled desperately against the rogue, but lost her balance as the other she-cat landed a dizzying blow on the side of Cindercloud's head. She stumbled for a moment, and the rogue took the opportunity to lunge forward and pin the dark gray queen to the ground.
"This is our territory now!" The rogue hissed, battering Cindercloud's underbelly with strong hind legs. "Even if we have to kill every one of you!"
"Keep dreaming!" Cindercloud spat, lashing out with her front claws and making contact with the rogue's jaw. The other she-cat yowled in pain, and suddenly, her over-bearing weight was lifted. She found herself face-to-face with Graystripe, who gave her a rough nudge. "Go," he growled. "Get to the kits." Cindercloud nodded, knowing that he also meant to keep close to Silverstream. "Thank-you," she murmured, before taking off again.
Still, the rogues had them outnumbered, and with a flash of horror she realized Thornclaw's golden tabby form, slumped unmoving on the ground. A desperate yowl tore Cindercloud's attention away from her fallen clan-mate, and sent her running towards the medicine den with a new urgency. The fern tunnel was in sight as Cindercloud caught up to Silverstream, who was in a losing battle against two large rogues. As she moved to leap to Silverstream's aid, the silver queen yowled desperately, "No, Cindercloud! The kits!" She jerked her head towards the fern tunnel, and panic lanced up Cindercloud's spine at the chilling wail that suddenly split the air.
"Starclan, no!" She gasped, her tail fluffed out in sudden fear as she bolted through the trailing ferns. In the small clearing, Yellowfang was grappling with Boulder, a rogue that had once been part of ShadowClan. Nearby, Blackfoot—the former ShadowClan deputy—stood over a bloody scrap of fur, his legs died red and one massive paw on the tiny form. Cindercloud didn't have time to think, fury like nothing she had ever felt burning through her veins and nearly blinding her.
"Get your filthy paws off of my kit!" With a ferocious screech, the dark gray queen lunged forward, her momentum alone enough to knock the huge deputy off balance. He whirled to face her, his lips curling into an ugly sneer.
"Come to save the kittypet scum?" Blackfoot spat, his amber eyes blazing.
"Don't talk about my kits that way, you piece of fox-dung!" Cindercloud hissed, slashing out at the larger warrior. The need to defend her kits burned in her stomach, granting her strength that she never knew she had as she leapt onto Blackfoot's broad shoulders, clinging with her claws and sinking her teeth in the former deputy's ear. With a furious howl, Blackfoot rolled over, and Cindercloud felt all of the air rush out of her lungs. She struggled vainly against the warrior's suffocating weight, clawing and biting, feeling grim satisfaction when she tasted blood. Finally, bunching her hind legs and thrusting them upwards, she kicked the deputy over her head. He landed with a grunt, and before he could recover, Cindercloud scrambled to her feet, launching herself at the huge warrior again. Blackfoot tried to regain his footing, only to stumble backwards into the small pool in the back corner of the clearing. Cindercloud didn't ease off of her attack, dragging her claws across Blackfoot's face—narrowly missing his eyes. Now, she had the warrior at a disadvantage, trying to maneuver in a space that was far too narrow for the former deputy's broad shoulders. He snarled his fury, lashing back with a wide forepaw that Cindercloud easily dodged. She countered with a strike of her own, catching the former deputy's shoulders once, then twice with her outstretched claws. He lashed out again, and ducking under his raised forepaw, Cindercloud lunged forward and sank her teeth into his muscular shoulder, clawing at his sides. With a screech, Blackfoot tore away, shouldering past the dark gray queen and fleeing into the clearing. Cindercloud didn't bother to give chase.
"Hailkit…!" Cindercloud rushed to the small scrap lying in the center of the clearing. Foxkit was already at his brother's side, Stormkit and Featherkit huddled close behind them. Cindercloud pushed her nose into the bloody heap of torn silver fur—though if she hadn't known, she never would have guessed his fur color beneath the thick layer of blood that covered the kit. "Hailkit, no… You have to be okay…" Cindercloud to slowly lick at her smallest son's torn pelt, fear racing through her veins. "You have to be okay…"
"Mother…" Foxkit whimpered, looking up at his mother with wide blue eyes. "Mother, he's not moving…" He stepped closer, crouching and drawing his tongue over his brother's skinny shoulder.
"Hush…!" Cindercloud gasped as Hailkit's chest heaved, his body convulsing in a bout of coughing that produced only more blood. "Y-Yellowfang, p-please, he's still breathing, he…"
Faintly, Cindercloud could hear yowling coming from the clearing, but as Yellowfang limped to crouch beside her, that was the last thing on her mind. "You can save him, can't you…?" She knew she needed to be strong, for Foxkit—and Stormkit and Featherkit, too. But crouching there, over Hailkit's broken, trembling form, Cindercloud felt as helpless as a kit herself.
Yellowfang nosed the small kit, before shaking her head. "I don't know, Cindercloud," she rasped. "I just don't know…"
Well, school started… Lol. What else can I say? I'm just glad I finally got to put this chapter up! Let me know what you guys think, 'kay? And how do you feel about Hailkit? Any thoughts or guesses about his fate? I'm already thinking about continuing this storyline through the kits' point of views… All four of them, that is^^ Any thoughts? For now though, this story is not over yet! :D So until the next chapter;)