"Well, you can starve if you like," I said. "Because all the fresh-kill the hunting patrols brought back are fish."
"We already covered that. But I'll go," I muttered, pushing myself out of the old bager den that was the nursery.
My mentor and two apprentices were already padding out the gorse barrier. Pounding after them, I soon was at Rainpaw's side. Bloodstripe, my mentor, looked at me, startled. "You're here," she mewed dryly. Although surly, I loved my mentor deeply.
"Yup," I said sarcastically. "Why wouldn't I be?"
Patchpaw snorted and glanced at his brother, Rainpaw. They exchanged a look that make me want to box their ears. Annoyingly, Bloodstripe retorted, "Hush, Featherpaw. One more comment like that you can be helping finalstrike with his ticks."
I didn't say anything as we plodded into the Cave in silience. A plump bat was sleeping peacefully on the Cave's roof. With a quick paw I snatched it and bit down on its spine, killing it. Honestly, there is no sport in catching bats. They are too dumb to even fly away. Rainpaw and Patchpaw also got bats. Bloodstripe squeaked in delight and pounced on a vole. Soon a steady pile of fresh-kill was forming. Micah and my sister Snowpaw took our prey back to camp.
After they left I noticed a pair of gleaming amber eyes. "Fox!" I screamed. My companions whirled around, while bats scattered, screeching their heads off.
Bloodstripe threw herself at the fox, which was barely a cub. I joined her, followed by Patchpaw and Rainpaw. We knew what to do. A fox was a prize for the fresh-kill pile. We would fight and wound it until it was dead. Bloodstripe, with her long fangs that were excellent for killing, fastened her jaws around the fox's neck. I clawed at its belly, while Rainpaw and Patchpaw tore at the flanks.
After an hour it was dead. The elders came to help us drag the dead fox back to camp.
"This calls for a celebration!" the Clan leader, Featherstar, declared. I flicked my tail happily, Snowpaw and my best freind Blackpaw bouncing up and down. We were given a hindleg to eat, and a bat each for ourselves. Hazewhisker and Flamefire, my parents, smeared blood all over my face, as was custom. The cats of StormClan would feast and share stories tonight. Then we would scatter into our dens and sleep, belly weighed down with plenty of food.
"Can you keep a secret, Featherpaw?" Blackpaw whispered.
"'I don't talk to others to hear the pleasure of my voice,'" I growled. Clawing up another piece of moss, I asked, "So what's this secret of yours, Blackpaw?"
Blackpaw put a few strips of the sweet-smelling bedding into our moss pile. "I like Snowpaw. It's...Its just that she's so nice and pretty, and her eyes are so beautiful! Do you think she likes me too?" Anger pricked inside me. My best friend wouldn't be my bst friend anymore if my sister became his mate! Snowpaw would be his best friend and I would be alone with no one to do everthing with, confide in. But I said:
"I don't know. Maybe. My mother fell in love with Flamefire when he got her paw out of the mushy-stone (cement) stuff. Perhaps it takes an act of bravery."
"That must be it, because your parents are like, um, --what's the word?-- oh, yeah, besotted with each other!"he yowled with joy.
Mouse-brain, I thought affectioniately, butting my head to his flank. "C'mon, let's take this load back to camp, eat few mice, and then find our mentors for battle training with Snowpaw, Patchpaw, and Rainpaw."
"Sounds good," my friend grunted.
"Thrust your forepaws out, hindclaws in. Now, REAR!" Emberberry roared. I know I did the move perfectly, but Emberberry's apprentice, Rainpaw, fell over on his side. His over-enthisiastic mentor hauled him up by the scruff and gave his a ligth cuff over the ear. "Again, drowsypaws!" she commanded. She made the poor little guy do the move perfectly six more times.
"Enough, Emberberry!" Bloodstripe snapped. "You're not needed right now. Go tend to Mottledkit and Daisykit!"
"Fine." The gray tabby slunk into the forest. Rainpaw sighed in relief. I purred, flicking my tail over my denmate's ear.
"I want all of you to train together and create a battle scene. Decide what moves to do, and perform for all the mentors," the deputy, Topazleaf, mentor to Blackpaw, announced. "It'll be due by next full moon."
"And tonight's a full moon, so that give you one whole moon to prepare," Bloodstripe added.
I excitedly exchanged looks with he other apprentices. Design our own mock battle? That would be so fun! We could have Patchpaw and Snowpaw be rogues, and then Rainpaw, Blackpaw, and I could be StormClan warriors. We would have to have the 'rogues' invade the territory, trying to steal the kits...
"Awesome!" Snowpaw said.
"We need to work on it every day," Patchpaw decided.
"And scout out the best place for the battle to be," I added, secretly thinking that the border with the River would be good.
"Don't let us delay you!" Topazleaf said, sliding into the undergrowth with the other mentors on his heels.
Three days after we were assigned the mock battle, I woke up at sunhigh. Yawning, I stretched, groomed myself throughly, and padded out the den, a spacious cave with an entrance reinforced with thistles. Twistedfoot and his mate Swanspirit shared tongues by the mouth of the elders den, which was a gulch where a boulder had fallen may seasons back.
Swanspirit flicked one of her snowy white wings at me in greeting. "Your mentor wants you and Rainpaw to fish on the River. Then you two are remarking the scent posts," she told me.
"And where is Rainpaw?" I sighed. Fishing and remarking the border, my least favorite tasks, with Rainpaw, the most annoyingest furball in the world! Bloodstripe wanted to annoy me, I knew it!
"Putting pine needles in the medicine den with Honeyberry," Twistedfoot said, gesturing with one of his odd forepaws to a tangles of brambles. That paw was wrenched to the side and two of the toes pointed at unnatural angles. The other had an extra bone sticking out, with the paw itself misshapen and the toes too far apart. i shuddered and bounded into the wide enntrance of the medicine den.
"Rainpaw, we're fishing and remarking the scent posts!" I announced.
The blue-gray tom's eyes lit up. "Awesome!" he meowed. "Honeyberry, can you finish up here? I'll do the warriors' den when we get back." A small golden leopard taby nodded, her jaws stuffed with pine needles.
We exited the camp and took a shortcut through the Forest. The River flowed lazily, a crane lying in wait for fish, like we were. I crouched at the bank, Rainpaw beside me. Careful not to let my shadow fall over the water, I scooped up a bass and whacked it with a sharp paw. Rainpaw hooked a sunfish. I easily drove six minnows into Rainpaw's waiting claws.
"That was a beautiful catch," Rainpaw said as I hauled up an oversized salmon.
I whirled around, the fish still in my jaws. "Are you being sarcastic?" I demanded, my spine tingling.
"But-but-but--" I stammered like a bee-brain. (in real life, the brain of the bee is the size of a pinhead) Rainpaw whisked his tail over my mouth.
"What? You say my catch was beautiful and you say relax?!" I screamed. "It's profane!"
Rainpaw sighed. "I can dream of loving you," he whispered. "But never tell Blackpaw."
"I would never say anything," I promised. But right my bones, I shivered.
I absently picked at a shrew. Hazewhisker, my mom, looked concernedly at me. Had she noticed that I wasn't myself anymore? That I was haunted by Rainpaw's comment on my catch? Was that my special power, like how Tyger glowed and Swanspirit flew? My mother's special power was the ability to make sense of a cat's emotions. Maybe my power was a strong sense to do what was right. I mean, tell me one time I ha broken the warrior code or eaten before the weaker cats had. That had been almost two days ago. We had performed the mock battle, passing it. I was completely exhausted, mentally and phsically.
"Are you sick?" Hazewhisker asked.
"I've been feeling lower than a worm's belly for days," I admitted.
"You're excused from training than," Featherstar said. "For two days. Go take a long nap."
I went to go make dirt first before taking my nap and finally fell asleep. Than I awoke a few hours later. Rainpaw was licking my face. I realized I wanted to lick him back. So thus, our relatioship began. I could tell Blackpaw was jealous. But I loved Rainpaw. He my my boyfriend, and maybe one day my mate.
My relationship bloomed like a rose. Me and Rainpaw always had so much fun. The clan whispered about us, but I didn't care. I loved my boyfriend. His beautiful blue-gray coat rminded me of late afternoon sky...his eyes were like the moon. I was besotted. Like my mom and dad, we were meant for each other.
But we would have to face challenges.
Berrynose gave me a blow that sent me sprawling. I hated training with the cream-colored warrior. He always inforced his scoldings with warning nips and cuffs. I rose to my paws and lashed out with my forepaws again, raking the bark neatly off the tree.
"Satisfied?" I snarled, hackles bristling. Bloodstripe watched nearby.
"You are a strong fighter, and that is a good thing. But you are too arrogant. I suppose you get it from your mentor," Berrynose retorted. I backed away with a stinging cheek.
"Strike her like that again, you wretch, and you answer to me!" My father, Flamefire, emerged from the Forest. The younger warrior cowered on the grassy floor.
"Sorry!" he squeaked, running away.
"Thanks, Dad," I mewed.
"No problem, dear," my dad said.
I rose to my paws and shook the dirt from my ginger coat. Quickly Rainpaw shot out from a clump of bracken and began grooming me. I gave him a quick lick before relaxing, watching my dad and mentor talk.
"We should report him. He's too violent to be a mentor, Bloodstripe. Beats the apprentices. I won't stand for it to have any kit of mine abused by that mouse-heart," Flamefire growled.
"Neither do I," Bloodstripe agreed somberly. "Featherpaw is like a daughter to me. Although Berryose is my brother, I won't stand for it either. Maybe you can take up the job of mentoring ."
Rainpaw tapped me with a paw. "Emberberry says there is a mouse nest down by the River. We can dispatch the mice and bring back a crane while we're at it, and whatever the crane has managed to catch," he meowed excitedly.
"Cool!" I purred, loping after my boyfriend. We reached the River and found the nest, killing almost twelve mice. Then a scrawny heron was fishing. Rainpaw fixed his jaws arounds its neck until it suffocated, much like how Bloodstripe took down the fox.
Lavenderkit squeaked with delight as she, Daisykit and Featherkit devoured a mouse. The whole Clan had eaten well, despite leafbare being on the way, plump and fat. I watched the little she-kits, remembering all the fun I had with Snowkit, Blackkit, Rainkit, and Patchkit. There had been no apprentices at the time, so we had no idea what being an apprentice was like. My parents named me after Featherstar, the Clan leader. Cinderflight and Berrynose had named their daughter after her, too. It wasn't an uncommon practice. The old leader, Ravenstar, had two toms named in his honor, Ravenwing and Ravenclaw. I wouldn't be surprised if another Featherkit came along soon one of these days.
I shared tongues with my denmates, splayed on the ground under the watchful gaze of StarClan. Blackpaw's pelt blended in with the night, while Snowpaw, who was now dating my best friend, looked the complete opposite of her boyfriend. It was almost eerie. I closed my eyes and listened to the faint humming of Dawnleg as she sang the kits to sleep, a song I had heard often.
Sleep, my dears,
do have nothing to fear.
You are safe.
You are loved
by your father and mother,
sisters and brothers,
Playfully I batted at Patchpaw. He purred and swatted back. We rolled and tusseled, writihing in the dirt. I laughed as Patchpaw pinned me down and tickled my ribs with his claws. Wildsky and Kinktail exchanged glances that made me want to hurl them into the River. Patchpaw wasn't my boyfriend, Rainpaw was! Did the Clan think I would so readily get rid of Rainpaw? I hissed and threw Patchpaw off, stalking into the apprentices' den. The black and white tom yowled in surprise, looking hurt. I ignored him and went to sleep.
I felt a hard jab in my side, i stiffened. "come on Featherpaw, wake up! For StarClan"s sake your the only apprentice i know that doesnt like their own warrior ceremony. I snarled at the sound of Snowpaw's voice. "GO away Snowpaw! Its bad enough that you took the cat i have loved since i was a kit away from me! Now you poking me with your sharp paws!" I hissed at my sister. Snowpaw jumped back. "You like Blackpaw?" Snowpaw meowed shocked. "of course i do, mouse-brain!" I snarled calming down a bit. Snowpaw blinked still shocked stiff. "Fox got your tounge?" I asked teasingly."I...I just can't beileive it!" She meowed."yeah and when Blackpaw acctualy likes you, hedge hogs will fly!" I retorterd at her. She slowly padded away over to Blackpaw and rested her head on his shoulder. I snarled in disguist. Did Blackpaw forget the frendship we had as kits and the first five moons of our apprentice-ship? i sighed because i knew he had forgot when we swore to StarClan that we would be by each others sides when we went to our warrior ceremony. I saw a blue gray pelt flash into the den. "hey Rainpaw." I murmured. "Whats wrong Featherpaw?" he asked me. I got up and stretched "Nothing..." I meowed padding over to the fresh-kill pile. I chose a plump shrew and sat down<gulped it up then burried the bones. "I wanna be called Featherdazzle." I meowed to Rainpaw. He smiled "Its perfect for you." "Realy!?" I asked. He nodded. A smile spread on my face and a curled up by his side. Maybe i didnt need Blackpaw after all. i noticed Featherstar climb up on the high rock. "Let all cats old enough to catch their own prey gather here beneath the high rock for a clan meeting!"She called out. I rushed up with my fellow apprentices. We all sat in a really crooked line. "Do you promise to uphold yourend of the bairgan with StarClan?" Featherstar asked. "I do!' We all shouted. "Then by the powers of StarClan i give you your warrior names. Featherpaw you shall be known as Featherwish. Snowpaw you shall be known as Snowsong. Blackpaw you shall be known as Blacknight. Patchpaw you shall be known as Patchclaw. Rainpaw you shall be known as Rainfall. StarClan honors everything about you!" Featherstar meowed. I was so excited as i bounced over to Rainfall. "congrats Featherwish!" he yowled as i ducked in a blush. " Congratulations Rainfall!'" I yowled to him. So far this was the best day of my life!