AN: This chapter took forever to write, but I managed to get it up. Sorry for the long delay, here's chapter four, and here's to hoping everyone enjoys it :)
"Icepaw?" Icepaw groaned in annoyance when she heard Bramblepaw's voice.
The dark ginger apprentice was sitting by himself near the fresh-kill pile. Icepaw noticed for the first time how alone he really was. Stormpaw was padding after Brightpaw, and the other apprentices usually ignored him.
"Why don't you actually make some real friends?" she muttered under her breath. She was in no hurry to make up with him. Even if Fallenstar had said that they should get along, she wasn't going to follow his orders. Not any time soon anyways.
Bramblepaw was about to answer when Yellowtail came bursting through the camp's entrance. Icepaw's eyes widened in alarm when she saw how badly injured he was. Deep gashes along his flank were easily visible, and part of his left ear was torn off.
"Yellowtail, what in StarClan's name happened?" Flarepelt demanded when she approached him.
"We found a group of rogues at the edge of the territory," Yellowtail explained in short gasps. "Our patrol is outnumbered, Ashcloud sent me to get help."
Greenclaw wasted no time in approaching the older warrior. He gave Yellowtail's wounds a sniff before herding the pale gray tom back to his den.
"I want Appleheart, Foxwhisker, Seawhisker and any able apprentices to come with me!" Flarepelt yowled. "Yellowtail, which part of the territory were they at?" She glanced back at Yellowtail, whose eyes clouded over.
"Near the bog," he replied.
Flarepelt's eyes widened in disbelief. Icepaw had heard about the bog, and felt a shiver run down her spine. Cats often went down there to get a drink, and sometimes they would never return. But it wasn't the stories that frightened her, it was the water itself.
She still had nightmares of drowning on the raft that had taken her and her denmates to LeafClan. Often times she would wake up gasping for breath, or screaming at the top of her lungs that she wasn't ready to die. The other apprentices had grown used to it, but she could never forget the horror she felt.
"Let's go," Flarepelt meowed.
Without another word she led the patrol, consisting of Appleheart, Foxwhisker, herself, Icepaw, Seawhisker, Bramblepaw, and Reedshine. It was a large patrol, and Icepaw wondered if Flarepelt was hoping to intimidate the rogues with numbers.
The forest seemed alive with life until they reached the bog. In the distance Icepaw could hear the yowls of her Clanmates. She recognized Ashcloud's screech, and Tanglefur's snarl. The cries of her Clanmates gave Icepaw enough energy to surge forward, ignoring Flarepelt's warning yowl.
Within heartbeats she had reached the bog, and Icepaw spotted Lightpaw being cornered by two large toms. Her lips drew back in a snarl when she saw how terrified Lightpaw looked.
"Look at the little mouse, cowering before us," one of the toms laughed. "I say we take her with us, would make nice kits don't ya think?" He glanced at his companion, who nodded in agreement.
Icepaw's eyes narrowed in disgust before she leaped onto the back of one of the toms. He let out a screech of surprise when her claws dug into his skin. Icepaw hung on until he tried to roll. She jumped off just in time to avoid getting crushed. Lightpaw managed to avoid the other tom as he got distracted by Icepaw's sudden appearance.
A yowl of alarm sounded from one of the rogues, and the two toms had stopped fighting. Icepaw let out a sigh of relief when she stood beside a ragged looking Lightpaw. Flarepelt had joined in the battle, and the rogues were badly outnumbered this time.
"Leave this territory now, before more unnecessary bloodshed is made!" Flarepelt spat when she stood up to a large silver and gray tom.
The silver tom's blue eyes flashed with malice before he made a quick decision.
"Fine, but this isn't the last time you will see us!" he snarled. "Retreat!"
Once the alarm was made, the two toms Icepaw and Lightpaw had been fighting fled. Icepaw's shoulders sagged when she realized that the rogues were leaving. The warriors that had fought in the battle looked wear and alarmed.
"Appleheart, Seawhisker, make sure they have left the territory," Flarepelt ordered once they were gone.
Both she-cats nodded and bounded away, leaving the large group behind. Icepaw's eyes searched for Tanglefur, and to her horror, she saw that he was lying lifelessly on a pile of rotting leaves. His eyes stared at nothing, and Icepaw noticed the wound on his neck for the first time.
He was murdered by those rogues! she thought angrily.
"Tanglefur, my own mentor..." Brightpaw's whisper made Icepaw wish there was a way to bring him back. She didn't know Tanglefur very well, but she did know that he had been close to retirement. And according to Brightpaw he was one of the grumpiest cats she had ever met. But seeing Brightpaw now, burying her muzzle into his fur, Icepaw could hardly believe it.
"It's okay Brightpaw," Stormpaw murmured. "He's with StarClan now." He pressed against her comfortingly, and by now most of the warriors and apprentices were gathered around them.
"You would have made a great deputy, old friend," Flarepelt sighed as she looked down at his body. "We must return to camp and tell Fallenstar what has happened."
As if her words had called them, Appleheart and Seawhisker returned heartbeats later. Icepaw was thankful that her own mentor hadn't been injured in the battle. She knew that it would be hard for Brightpaw to get over this loss.
The journey back to camp seemed to take longer than Icepaw expected. Brightpaw stood beside Tanglefur's body as it was dragged by Flarepelt and Seawhisker. Ashcloud limped beside Lightpaw while Stormpaw remained glued to Brightpaw's side.
Fallenstar was waiting for them when they returned. Icepaw glanced at Flarepelt in surprise when she explained what had happened. Fallenstar's eyes widened in disbelief when she told him who was leading the band of rogues.
"I would like to speak with you tonight in my den, but for now we must sit vigil and get the injured healed," Fallenstar meowed.
Tanglefur's body was placed in the center of the clearing soon after Greenclaw checked everyone's wounds. Icepaw stayed near the back of the crowd while Brightpaw and those who were close to Tanglefur said their last goodbyes.
"Tanglefur was a loyal warrior to the end of his life," Fallenstar began. "He would have made a fine deputy, and leader. But he chose not to take the place of Squirrelstar, the previous leader. And it is with much regret that I must appoint a new mentor for Brightpaw."
Brightpaw simply stared down at the ground, unsure of how to answer.
"Flarepelt, I know that Appleheart has just become a warrior, but you are a strong and confident deputy. I trust that you will pass on what you have learned to Brightpaw." Flarepelt simply dipped her head and touched noses with Brightpaw, who seemed more surprised than anything else.
Icepaw wondered if her friend even knew that the deputy was her mentor now. Flarepelt didn't seem too keen on mentoring another apprentice so soon after Appleheart had become a warrior. She glanced at Fallenstar and noticed a knowing look in his eyes.
With a sigh she stood up and left the clearing, unsure of how to proceed. She wasn't close to Tanglefur, so why should she sit vigil? It wasn't like anyone would notice if she was gone. Brightpaw had Stormpaw to comfort her when she needed it, and Appleheart was now a warrior. For the first time since joining LeafClan, Icepaw felt more alone than ever.
. . .
Dusk settled over the forest as Rosefall followed Briarleaf. Briarleaf had entrusted her kits to Ivypelt, who had just moved to the nursery the day before. Ivypelt knew the risks of becoming pregnant around early newleaf. Her kits could become Chosen during the next season. But she didn't seem too concerned about it when Briarleaf had mentioned it.
"All right, I'm out of camp like you asked, now can you tell me what this is about?" Briarleaf demanded when they were far enough away from the camp.
"It's about StarClan's rule," Rosefall replied when she turned to face her friend. "Everything about it is wrong - why should we have to sacrifice innocent kits for something that never happens?"
Briarleaf looked down at her paws, and for a moment Rosefall wondered if she was actually considering her words.
"Rosefall, I understand that you're upset about Icekit," she began. Rosefall flinched at the mention of her daughter. Icekit wasn't the only reason she was bringing this up. "But you have to stop living in the past and move on. StarClan would want you to." Her voice was filled with anxiety, but Rosefall could pick up another emotion within it.
"You know it's wrong," she snapped. "You're just too stubborn to accept it!"
The gray and white she-cat flinched as though Rosefall had struck a nerve. And maybe she finally did. Hope flared within Rosefall's chest when Briarleaf looked away.
"Please, just forget about them," she whispered. "I want the old you, the one I grew up with."
"Don't you remember Seakit?" Rosefall felt a lump form in her throat at the mention of her sister. Briarleaf's eyes closed, and Rosefall was afraid she had gone too far.
"I... I do remember there was another kit," she admitted shakily. "Yes, Seakit... I remember Graystar telling us that she was Chosen."
"Seakit was Chosen, just like Icekit," Rosefall went on. "But it doesn't have to keep ending like this. We can stop StarClan's rule if we work together."
Rosefall felt as though her stomach was churning as she thought of both Seakit and Icekit. Her sister and daughter were gone because of StarClan's rule. While she could never forgive her ancestors for what they did, it was possible to change their rule.
"No!" Briarleaf suddenly wailed. "I won't let you ruin everything we've worked for!"
Without warning Briarleaf spun around and ran back towards the camp. Rosefall's ears flattened in defeat when she realized that there was no getting to her friend. Briarleaf had already made up her mind, and there was no turning back.
This wasn't ever going to be easy, she reminded herself. Rosefall remembered what Graystar had told her.
"You might lose everything you care about," he had said. "The Clan will turn their backs on you when you need them most."
Rosefall looked up at the starlit sky and glared. The stars seemed so cruel and distant as she stared at them. Her claws unsheathed as bitter anger and sorrow began to overwhelm her.
"I won't give up," she promised. "You are the reason why I don't have a sister or a daughter. And I will never forgive you!"
AN: So yeah... a battle might seem a bit too soon, but it is necessary for things to move on. And yes, Tanglefur did have to die ;) And poor Rosefall is losing her friends and what family she has left. Anyways, don't forget to leave a review and tell me what you think!