Yellowkit spun around, her hind claws gliding against the icy mud. When they woke up this morning, the three kits found a sheen coat of frost over the marshy ground and the leafy ferns. The camp was surprisingly beautiful with the snow, but most of the warriors were complaining of the stiff joints and food shortages to come. It was only a light dust of ice, but soon the entire forest would be a field of white.
And that's when Yellowkit would be exploring the ends of the marshlands and the pine trees. Her entire pelt trembled just thinking about it. Soon, I'll be an apprentice, She thought with enthusiasm running throughout her body. Only one more moon to go.
The nursery had grown quite crowded as the den swelled with kits. Startail's two were already growing strong. Eventually the young queen named the she-kit Moonkit for her smooth black pelt, but it was harder to find a name the little tom. At first, Startail wanted to name him either Littlekit or Smallkit, but eventually they settled on Mousekit for his tiny demeanor in a way that didn't seem so blatantly obvious.
Only, Mousekit didn't remain small for long. Within his first moon he nearly tripled in size, and soon, he became the biggest kit in the nursery. Even bigger than Yellowkit, but that didn't matter to her because she was older. She would still be apprenticed first because of this; Smallfeather told her so. She could also still beat him in a playfight most of the time, though he was still a large kit, and getting bigger. The dark tabby always carried himself as if all of ShadowClan were throwing themselves at his paws, and that couldn't be more irritating.
Poolcloud's litter joined their den as well. It wasn't her first litter, so she was much more experienced at the whole mother thing. Her three kits were still tiny with thick, kit-soft fur, and not yet weaned from Poolcloud's side. Though the three older kits loved having them join their games, mainly because they were so easy to boss around.
Mousekit's strong, curved hind legs sprung as he barreled into Moonkit's side. "WindClan foxhearts!" The kit squealed, batting at his sister with wide, soft paws. "I'll tear your whiskers out!"
Moonkit rolled out from beneath her brother, her sleek pelt glinting in the rising dawn light. "Yellowstar!" The black she-kit called out, her voice ending in a high squeak. "Help me defeat him!"
Mousekit suddenly fell limp, as if Moonkit's words had a physical effect on him. "That's not fair!" The tabby complained, his voice high and piercing. "I get to be leader this time."
Yellowkit reached forward and cuffed her denmate with a sheathed paw. "You always get to be leader. Let one of us have a turn for once!"
"As if Brindlestar would ever make you deputy." Mousekit sniffed. He walked delicately, placing his paws across the dying stalks of pale grass just barely growing out of the slick, damp earth. "My father was going to be deputy once Stonetooth retired, you know. That's what everybody says."
Yellowkit rolled her eyes. "Yeah, yeah. That's what everybody says. But you never even met your father!"
"I don't have to have met him to know that he was the bravest, fiercest warrior who ever lived in the forest." The dark brown tabby lifted his chin, as if he could already see himself on top of the boulder. "And I am going to follow in his pawsteps!"
Fat chance, the older kit thought privately. Behind them, Poolcloud's litter tottered over on unsteady paws. Foxkit and Wolfkit were the biggest of the three, though Yellowkit figured it might be due to their thick, long fur. Mudkit, the smallest kit who bore a soft, dappled brown pelt, followed his sister and brother closely.
"Are you playing Clan Leader again?" Foxkit chirped, adventure or something of that sort gleaming in her bright green eyes. "Can I play?"
"Me too!" Wolfkit insisted, his gray tabby pelt bristling. "Can I choose my own name this time?" Mudkit stayed close, his ears prickling, watching with round yellow eyes.
Mousekit lowered himself to the ground, leaving shallow pawprints in the soft mud. "ShadowClan, all ears to me!" The other kits gather closer, eyes gleaming. "We are the warriors of the night, the cats of destiny! And I, Mousestar, say you can all be warriors!"
The sopping ferns dripping with wet ice opened as the young warrior Brackenfoot emerged, a frog dangling from his jaws as cats returned from night hunting. He snickered through his mouthful of prey. "If only it were that easy." He purred.
Mousekit ignored the newly named cat; it was hard to deter Mousekit when he was determined about something, that was for sure. "Moonkit!" The tabby kit addressed his sister. "You will be my deputy, Moonclaw!"
Moonkit stood straighter and flexed her tiny, thorn-sharp claws. "Those other cats will watch out." She vowed.
"Ooh, ooh!" Foxkit couldn't sit still, despite trying to keep her composture around the so-called Clan Leader. "I want to be Foxclaw!"
"There can't be two 'claws!" Wolfkit squeaked, batting at his littermate.
Mudkit merely kneaded the soft earth with gentle paws. "I don't care what I'm called." The young kit mewed. "It's not like Brindlestar lets us choose, anyhow."
Mousekit turned and focused on Yellowkit, who was doing her very best to ignore him. "And your name will be..."
"Yellowstar." Yellowkit's whiskers twitched, knowing Mousekit would break out into a fit in three, two...
"No! But I'm Mousestar this time!" For "ShadowClan's best warrior", Mousekit sure knew how to whine to get his way. "There can't be two Clan Leaders!"
"Mousestar is a stupid name, anyway!" Yellowkit darted a paw and swiped it across his muzzle so only his whiskers rattled. But now he simply backed up, his yellow eyes gleaming with anger. With hunched shoulders he slunk away from her.
"Mousekit is a stupid name." The tabby kit agreed furiously. "So is Mousepaw. Or Mousestar. Or Mouseclaw, Mousefire, Mousewhatever!"
"Come on," Moonkit urged. "Mouse isn't a bad name."
"Yes it is!" Mousekit insisted. "What cat is going to go running when a mouse comes near? Why did my mother name me that? Did she really hate me that much?"
"She named you that because you were small!" Yellowkit protested. Now she couldn't help but feeling a tinge of guilt. Even if Mousekit was a pretentious bossypaws, it would be terrible to hate your own name. "Startail never thought you were weak. And besides, you grew up to be so big, so why are you complaining?"
"Maybe Smallfeather could be your mentor!" Moonkit suggested. "After all, he got past his name, and he's a really good warrior!"
"I don't want Smallfeather as my mentor!" Mousekit practically shouted. The three younger kits backed up, their round eyes growing wider and wider. "I just want to change my name! Do you think Brindlestar might call me something else while I'm an apprentice? If I act really good?"
"Like what? Bigpaw? Largepaw?" Yellowkit couldn't hold back a purr.
Mousekit casted a vicious glare at his denmate. "Big words for a little kit," He sneered. "I'm bigger than you, remember. If you were a ThunderClan cat, I'd tear you to shreds."
"I'll tear you to shreds now, Mouse." Yellowkit gathered her hunches and leaped upon Mousekit, doing her very best not to unsheathe her claws and rip her claws over his muzzle. They practically rolled on top of Mudkit, who barely managed to thump away with a squeak.
"Oh, that's enough, you two." Dovefur hurried over and separated the two kits with a single paw. Yellowkit obeyed her mother, though not so secretly she simply wanted to rip Mousekit's pelt right off his back. He's going to feel so stupid when he's still a kit and I'm hunting with my mentor. "You two are denmates, not enemies." Dovefur went on to say. "And it's not just for kithood, either. We're all ShadowClan cats, after all."
The two kits exchanged icy glares. Stupid foxface, Yellowkit muttered privately to herself. But her mother was right. She would have to put up with Mousekit's antics until they were both safe in StarClan. He'd probably find a way to annoy her there, too.
After Dovefur padded away to share a piece of fresh-kill with Amberleaf, Yellowkit caught a glimspe of Lizardpaw stalking out of her den, grumbling. "Move over, kits." The pale tabby apprentice hissed half-heartedly, swatting away a path through the kittens. Lizardpaw hated kits but she always seemed to be hanging around them since they were the only ones who seemed to listen all the time. "Cloudpaw won't stop snoring, and I need my rest tonight!"
"Why?" Moonkit tipped her head to one side. "The gathering was last night. What could be going on tonight?"
Lizardpaw's whiskers twitched, and there was a certain gleam in her bright yellow eyes. "I'm going on a secret mission tonight."
Wolfkit's eyes were wide, round moons. "A mission?"
Lizardpaw thought better of this and meowed, "Wait, bad idea. Wolfkit, Foxkit, Mudkit, go to the nursery. The big kits and I need to talk."
Wolfkit and Foxkit scurried off, lest they deal with Lizardpaw's scorn, but Mudkit remained for a heartbeat. "Can I please listen?" The kit begged. "I promise I won't tell."
Lizardpaw growled and darted forward, nipping at Mudkit's hind legs. Squealing, the young kit thumped after his littermates, the thorn entrance vibrating after he leaped into the nursery. "Careful with that," Yellowkit warned. "Poolcloud's very defensive over her kits."
"Whatever. Now come here. I need your help." Lizardpaw slunked away with the younger kits in tow. Yellowkit exchanged a curious look with Moonkit, but Mousekit was still ignoring her, his eyes set on Lizardpaw. The young cats hide in the concealed ferns behind the nursery, though the soaking earth left Yellowkit chilled and her fur sopping. Moonkit pressed into her side, trying to find warmth in Yellowkit's thick gray fur.
"What's going on tonight?" Yellowkit asked eagerly.
Lizardpaw leaned in to the kits' faces, her voice dropping to a whisper. Her whiskers tickled the tips of Yellowkit's ears. "I met a WindClan apprentice at the gathering last night," The apprentice scoffed quietly. "He was only six moons old. The kit-warrior was a total frog-brain. He said he always wanted to explore the entire forest, just to see how far it goes." The older apprentice leaned back, her eyes glinting with a strange kind of amusement. "So, I invited him to meet me tonight at the carrionplace at midnight."
"What?" Mousekit and Moonkit said at nearly the same exact heartbeat. "Why would you do that?"
"Frog-brains!" Lizardpaw practically hissed. "This is our chance! When I meet him there, I'll tear his fur off. That's what WindClan gets for trespassing. There hasn't been a battle in ages, and I'm so ready to stretch my claws."
"Isn't that kind of sneaky?" Moonkit says with slight hesitation. "I mean, he only wants to see the territory. He's not a threat."
"Anyone who trespasses is a threat! Come on, guys. If I drive out some WindClan kit, Brindlestar might make me a warrior!"
"You still have two more moons of training to go," Yellowkit reminded her.
"Well, this is my chance to prove myself! And you guys can help me out," Lizardpaw added. "Cloudpaw would report me to Stonetooth if he found out, and Hollyflower would blurt it out to some cat before dusk. So, that's why you guys can come with me."
"Come with you?" Mousekit said, his voice tremoring with excitement. "You mean, on a real warriors' mission?"
Lizardpaw rested the tip of her tail on Mousekit's wide shoulders. "Yes, a warrior. I bet Brindlestar will make all three of you apprentices by dawn tomorrow!"
Mousekit turned to Moonkit and Yellowkit, his tail practically vibrating. "Do you think Brindlestar will let me change my name if I go?"
"I don't think this is a good idea," Moonkit's amber eyes looked unnerved. "We haven't had any warrior training yet."
"It's the four of us against some WindClan rabbit. Just showing our claws will send him running to the hills." Lizardpaw insisted.
"We might as well go along," Yellowkit reasoned with Moonkit. "After all, it's important to show the other Clans that ShadowClan is keeping their claws sharp. If we went to an actual battle, who would protect Foxkit, Wolfkit, and Mudkit?" Deep down, Yellowkit should have known she was making a terrible decision. But the thought of seeing the territory and doing an actual warriors' mission...
"So, it's decided then." Lizardpaw sat back, wrapping her tail over her white paws. "Get ready to move your nests to the Apprentices' Den. Cloudpaw will get lonely without me. Oh, and obviously, keep your jaws shut about this! We have the element of surprise on our paws. And don't worry about that little WindClan apprentice. We won't hurt him." Her yellow eyes glinted as if she could feel her claws raking against flesh already. "Much."
(A/N: Thank you for the reviews; one of the internet's rules is "Don't read the comments. Never read the comments." Yet I can't help but get happy after I read them. All reviews are welcome, including downright flames. It puts the cyber bread on the table.)