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Maplestar's Destiny

By OwlLover, Oct 1, 2013 | Updated: Oct 13, 2013 | | |
  1. OwlLover
    Allegiances

    ShadowClan

    Leader-

    Duskstar- Large, broad-shouldered, well muscled black and white tom with sharp green eyes and a long tail.

    Deputy-

    Nightfur- Black, slender silky-furred tom with pale blue eyes.

    Medicine Cat-

    Snowwhisker- Pure white, soft furred she-cat with bright blue eyes.

    Warriors-

    Dawnpelt- Silky-furred, large silver tabby she-cat with blazing blue eyes.

    Hawkfeather- Semi-dark brown tabby she-cat with bold black stripes and bright blue eyes.

    Ashstorm- Sleek, muscular gray-furred tom with darker flecks, blue eyes, and a torn ear.

    Icewhisker- Pure white she-cat with blue eyes and a scar on her muzzle.

    Lionclaw- Golden tabby tom with sharp yellow eyes.

    Falconheart- Brown tabby tom with a white underside, a torn ear, and amber eyes.

    Hawkwing- Muscular dark gray tom with golden eyes and a torn ear.

    Nettletail- Slender, light brown tabby she-cat with green eyes.

    Snakestream- Brown tabby tom with a torn ear and green eyes.

    Apprentices-

    Mousepaw- Gray-furred tom with a kinked tail.

    Sandpaw- Bright ginger tabby she-cat with orange eyes.

    Shadepaw- Sleek tortoiseshell she-cat with green eyes.

    Ravenpaw- Black tom with a white patch of fur on his chest.

    Queens-

    Firestripe- Silky-furred, slender tortoiseshell tabby she-cat with blue eyes. Mother to Maplekit, Windkit, Sparrowkit, Stormkit, and Eaglekit.

    Stormflower- Sleek brown tabby she-cat with green eyes. Mother to Fennelkit and Flamekit.

    Elders-

    Cloudheart- Dark brown she-cat with flecks of red and blue eyes.

    Honeydrop- Tan tabby she-cat with amber eyes.

    Shrewfur- Broad-shouldered black tom with a white-tipped tail and amber eyes.

    Cedarheart- Red and brown tom with streaks of gray and golden eyes.

    ThunderClan

    Leader-

    Cloverstar- Ginger tabby she-cat with a white underside and blue eyes.

    Deputy-

    Foxpelt- Brown tabby she-cat with black streaks and dark brown eyes.

    Medicine Cat-

    Mosspelt- Silver mottled she-cat with green eyes.

    Warriors-

    Frogtail- A muscular, dark gray tom with a white tipped tail and brown eyes.

    Rainwhisker- A large gray tom with green eyes and a white muzzle, ear tips, and black paws.

    Foxshadow- Large, broad-shouldered dark ginger tom with green eyes.

    Goldenpelt- A slender golden tabby she-cat with blue eyes.

    Apprentices-

    Oakpaw- Slender light brown mottled tom with amber eyes.

    Rabbitpaw- Muscular brown and gray tom with blue eyes.

    Elders-

    Poppyheart- Long furred tortoiseshell she-cat with green eyes.

    RiverClan

    Leader-

    Icestar- Pure white she-cat with blazing blue eyes.

    Deputy-

    Sparrowtail- A lean, powerful, broad-shouldered brown tabby tom with golden and a scar running down his side.

    Medicine Cat-

    Mistpool- A gray and ginger tabby tom with a white underside and gray eyes.

    Warriors-

    Pikefur- A golden brown mottled tabby tom with amber eyes.

    Otterclaw- A muscular, slender black and white she-cat with blue eyes.

    Nightfern- A large, silky furred black she-cat with a patch of white on her chest and green eyes.

    Thistletail- A sleek, well-muscled silver tabby she-cat with blue eyes.

    Hailpelt- A large, broad-shouldered silver mottled tabby tom with golden eyes.

    Apprentices-

    Sunpaw- A sleek golden she-cat with darker tabby stripes on her tail, and amber eyes.

    Sedgepaw- A large silver tabby she-cat with pale blue eyes.

    Elders-

    Ripplefur- A large brown tabby tom, with the tips of his ears, tail, and paws silver with age, and brown eyes.

    Sorrelflower- A small, slender tortoiseshell she-cat with amber eyes.

    WindClan

    Leader-

    Stormstar- A lithe, slender gray and white tom with flecks of white along his sides, and blue eyes.

    Deputy-

    Cloudfur- A well-muscled, sleek white she-cat with very pale tabby stripes along her tail, a striking pink nose, and blue eyes.

    Medicine Cat-

    Leopardclaw- A slender golden tabby she-cat with green eyes.

    Warriors-

    Lightningfur- A silver mottled tabby tom with striking green eyes.

    Redfur- A small, well-muscled red tom with darker flecks, a long tail, and blue eyes.

    Hawksky- A large, slender brown tom with red spots and golden eyes.

    Wolftail- A well muscled, sleek gray and white tom with silver streaks, a long tail, and blue eyes.

    Fennelpelt- A swift, sleek silver tabby she-cat with blue eyes and a long tail.

    Apprentices-

    Cinderpaw- A lithe silver tabby she-cat with blue-green eyes, a long tail, and long legs.

    Elders-

    Whitefeather- A small, very pale gray she-cat with green eyes.

    Prologue

    In ShadowClan, yowls erupted from the nursery as a crowd began to form. "Move along! Nothing to see here!" Snowwhisker yowled, poking her head out of the entrance. Some went about their business, while others insisted on staying. After a couple moons of heavily expecting, a queen's kits were finally coming on this beautiful morning.

    "Is she alright?" a light brown tabby tom, Falconheart, asked anxiously as the medicine cat came back in, setting down a bundle of herbs. "She's been like this for hours now."

    "She's fine, Falconheart. This is perfectly normal, especially for a large litter. And I think we all know this litter's going to be huge..." Snowwhisker nudged a stick towards Firestripe. "Bite on this when the pain comes," she mewed kindly. "Here's some raspberry leaves, too." Firestripe nodded weakly, gingerly chewing the leaves and taking the stick in her jaws.

    The other queen's kits in the nursery watched with wide eyes. "What's happening, Stormflower?" Fennelkit inquired with eyes as big as full moons.

    "Hush, Fennelkit!" Stormflower ushered. "She's having her kits."

    "Did you go through that with us?" Flamekit asked, his eyes equally as wide as his sister's.

    "Yes. Now hush!" Stormflower shushed them, putting her tail over their mouths.

    Firestripe let out a loud yowl, biting down on the stick so hard her gums began to bleed. Snowwhisker gently prodded her belly to get the kits moving. Firestripe writhed. "Try to stay still, Firestripe," Snowwhisker said gently. "You're doing great."

    "No, I'm not!" Firestripe snapped. She let out a whimper, growing into a howling yowl as a massive shudder racked her body, and a tortoiseshell she-kit was born. Snowwhisker licked the kit firmly, breaking the membrane gently and stopped when it squealed. Firestripe grimaced in agony, letting out another throaty yowl as another kit was born. A tom.

    Snowwhisker looked back expectantly at Falconheart, who was just standing there with wide, worried eyes. "Well, don't just stand there! Lick it!" Snowwhisker snapped. Quickly, Falconheart rushed over, licking the tom frantically. It squealed, and Snowwhisker put her tail between them to tell him to stop. Firestripe let out a whimper as a third was born. A fourth and a fifth were born, before Firestripe's labor ended. Snowwhisker was right: it had been a huge litter.

    Firestripe's stomach felt like a bag of sand, but she forced herself to rasp her tongue across each of her kit's heads. "Welcome to ShadowClan," she murmured.

    Falconheart laid beside his mate, gazing down at his kits with wonder, pride, and love. "Meet your kits, Falconheart," Firestripe purred lovingly.

    Falconheart couldn't suppress a loud, rumbling purr. "Have any names for them yet?"

    "Only one, so far. I know what we'll call this one." Firestripe rasped her tongue across the first-born's head.

    "What?"

    "Maplekit."

    Chapter 1

    "Come on, Maplekit!"

    All the kits in the litter had opened their eyes, except Maplekit. "Firestripe won't let us play until you've opened your eyes too!" Sparrowkit whined.

    "I'm trying!" Maplekit retorted indignantly. She tried and tried to open her eyes, but they were stuck.

    "Let her sleep all day if she wants to," their other sister, Eaglekit, muttered.

    "But then we can't play!" Windkit, their brother, argued.

    "All I want to do is get more than two seconds of sleep," Eaglekit snapped.

    Maplekit staggered as her eyes snapped open. Her eyes were the prettiest sapphire blue. "Yay!" Sparrowkit shouted, tackling her sister. Maplekit flew back with a yelp.

    "Hey, now," Firestripe said sternly, pulling them apart, "go play outside, and don't be too rough on one another."

    "Yes, Firestripe," mumbled Sparrowkit as she trudged out of the den. "We know." Eaglekit watched her siblings leave, before letting out a snort and going back to suckling on Firestripe's belly.

    Maplekit blinked in astonishment as she went outside. A cool breeze ruffled her fur, and the sun shone in her eyes. Giving a yelp of glee, she slammed into Windkit, who gave a yelp of surprise. She wrestled with him playfully, letting out a yelp as Sparrowkit and their other brother, Stormkit, joined in. Firestripe got up and padded out of the den, watching her kits with a loving smile. Eaglekit sat by herself, scowling. Maplekit lifted her head, "why don't you come play with us, Eaglekit?"

    "I don't want to," Eaglekit mumbled. She padded off into the ShadowClan camp by herself, sulking. Maplekit cocked her head with confusion. She never understood why Eaglekit was always so grumpy and standoffish. Shrugging, she dove back into the wrestling match with her siblings, flinging mud all over the place.

    But Firestripe was much more concerned as she watched Eaglekit pad away. Eaglekit had always tried to be the dominant one from birth, and she gave off a strange vibe, almost as if there was evil, tucked beneath her fluffy kit pelt. It was strange and mysterious, and Firestripe didn't know how to explain it. She shook her head fiercely, as if trying to shake off a twig. Eaglekit was a kit; how could she be evil? She was probably just the outcast of the litter.

    Maplekit let out a squeal, hopping away from Stormkit and sending clumps of dirt into the air. Stormkit tackled her again, and they rolled in a flurry of fur and paws. Eaglekit came padding back, rolling her eyes at her brother and sister. Maplekit lifted her head, "come on, Eaglekit, it's fun!"

    Eaglekit let out a kit growl. Firestripe nudged her forwards, "go on, Eaglekit."

    "If I have to," Eaglekit rolled her eyes, padding towards her siblings. Maplekit tackled her, and they wrestled. Eaglekit was noticably fiercer, almost as if she was actually fighting. Firestripe's ears lifted as Maplekit let out a squeal; not a squeal of excitement, but pain.

    "Hey, you're hurting me!" Maplekit yelped as Eaglekit bit down on her paw. Maplekit tried to jerk back, letting out a cry of fear as a scarlet ribbon welled up around Eaglekit's teeth.

    "EAGLEKIT!" Firestripe roared, yanking her away by the scruff. "What did I tell you this morning about playing with your teeth?!"

    "Sorry, Firestripe," she mumbled.

    "You tell that to her!" Firestripe snapped. Eaglekit just rolled her eyes, and padded away. Firestripe blew out a sigh. "Are you alright, Maplekit?"

    "Fine," Maplekit muttered, trudging into the nursery after Sparrowkit. Firestripe shook her head, going inside after her kits.

    As Firestripe lay down, she called to her kits. "Come on, it's time to go to sleep!" The sky was darkening, and the moon rose, bathing the ground in moonlight. After a few minutes, Maplekit's eyes opened again. When Firestripe opened her eyes, she saw that Sparrowkit and Maplekit were quietly wrestling with one another. "Hey!" She growled quietly. Maplekit and Sparrowkit froze. "Go to sleep." They did as they were told, but after a few more seconds Maplekit opened her eyes and snapped playfully at Sparrowkit's ear. "Heyyy." Firestripe growled. Maplekit lowered her head, giving way to sleep for real.

    Chapter 2

    "Give me that!"

    All of the kits were out playing together this morning... and they had argued the whole time. Stormkit chased Maplekit as she stole the mossball from him for the umpteenth time. "Give it back!" he yowled angrily, "It's my turn to play with the moss!" He chased her past the nursery and the warrior's den, stumbling and yelping all the way. Maplekit snickered, tearing the moss in her jaws.

    "Gah!" she yelped, choking on the soft pieces. She spat them out and shook her head.

    Stormkit glared at her. "Look, It's ruined now. You tore it apart."

    Windkit, who had been watching them the whole time with a smile, rolled his eyes at his two siblings. "That was no fun anyway. Let's do something else."

    "Follow me!" Stormkit popped up immediately. "I'll play leader. We can be a Clan. My Clan!" Windkit fell behind him like a deputy, but Maplekit went off on her own. She was tired of Stormkit being the leader.

    She spotted Stormflower's two moon old kits over at the other side of the denning site. The first was a pretty brown tabby she-cat named Fennelkit. The other was Flamekit. Curious, Maplekit scampered behind a bush and watched what the older kits were doing.

    Stormflower padded over to her kits. Maplekit heard her say something to Fennelkit and Flamekit. Her words were lost as Maplekit rolled around to find a more comfortable spot. Flamekit and Fennelkit eagerly ran after their mother as she left. Maplekit's ears pricked as she heard Windkit and Stormkit running around closer to her. She turned around and watched them from her spot in the bush. Stormkit was chasing after a butterfly. Everytime he got within a few feet of it, it would fly away suddenly. Windkit bounded dutifully after him, much slower than his bolder brother.

    Suddenly, Maplekit was knocked off her feet by a heavy, furry shape. She let out a sharp cry as she tumbled to the ground. Fennelkit stood over her, laughing at her own cleverness. "I caught you! I caught you!" she exclaimed.

    Maplekit glared at her with eyes like fire. "That wasn't fair."

    Flamekit trotted over. "Fennelkit! Fennelkit! Oh...hi kit! Let's play mossball with the others!"

    Fennelkit jumped up and down. "But Maplekit is going to play with us, right?"

    "No!" Maplekit rolled herself onto her feet and stomped off. Her soft pelt bristled. It would be fun to play with them- as long as she wasn't the prey!

    "Maplekit, Sparrowkit, Windkit, Stormkit!" Her mother called from the nursery. "You're all FILTHY!"

    "Aww...here comes the licking," Sparrowkit complained. Maplekit pelted after her siblings towards the nursery.

    ***

    "I'm bored," Sparrowkit complained as she trotted into the nursery. Outside, Windkit and Stormkit played tug of war with a twig. The kits were now three moons old, while Fennelkit and Flamekit were four.

    "Not my problem," Eaglekit snapped, pointedly turning her back to Sparrowkit.

    "Come play with us, Eaglekit!" Maplekit begged.

    "You're boring," Eaglekit growled. "There's a million other things for you to do. Maybe do something useful, like hunt."

    "But Firestripe says we're too young to hunt!" Maplekit protested.

    "Who cares what she says?" Eaglekit rolled her eyes. "She's so overprotective, anyway."

    "No, she's not! She wants to keep us safe!" Maplekit retorted, remembering the earlier incident a couple moons ago when she had been playing with Eaglekit and her sister had drawn blood.

    Eaglekit snickered, "you just want her to hover over you and protect you like a baby kit, huh? You couldn't catch a mouse to save your life."

    "Wanna bet on that?" Maplekit shot back.

    "I already did."

    "Just watch, mousebrain!" Maplekit snapped over her shoulder as she padded out. "I'll catch more mice now than you will in a lifetime."

    "Oh really?"

    Maplekit rolled her eyes, racing into the forest. She pressed her nose to the ground. Mouse! Quietly, she followed the trail, crunching twigs and ferns. The scent grew stronger, and Maplekit's tail swished back and forth in anticipation. Her first kill! Firestripe and Falconheart will be so proud! And Eaglekit won't know what to say! Her heart quickened as she saw the mouse, stretched out comfortably in the velvety grass. Just a bit closer... She sprang. The rabbit was instantly alert, its ears shooting up in alarm. Maplekit landed beside it, snapping her jaws wildly. It bolted away, and Maplekit chased after it. "C'mere, you idiotic worthless furball!" It ran under a holly bush, and Maplekit tried to follow, but the branches were too thick. "Mouse dung!" she cursed. A bird who had been perching on the bush flew onto a nearby oak and let out an alarm call. "Foxheart!" She yelled at the bird.

    "Yelling at the bird's not going to do anything," Eaglekit's voice said from behind. Maplekit rolled her eyes. Can I do a single thing without her looking over my shoulder?

    "Shut up, would you?" snapped Maplekit. Eaglekit snickered.

    "No. Why should I?"

    "Because a bad string of luck made you my sister. You're the most obnoxious sister I could have ever had!"

    "I think you are the worst." Eaglekit shot back.

    "If you're so great, then why don't you go get that mouse and that bird?" Maplekit challenged.

    "Sounds like a plan," Eaglekit snickered. She slunk down and began trying to push her way through the holly bush. Through the branches, she could see the mouse crouching down, watching the two kits with bulging eyes. Maplekit looked up, and saw the bird perching on a high branch. It began singing a song. Maplekit stifled a growl, it's like it knows I can't climb that high!

    "I can't get it," Eaglekit spluttered as she backed away from the holly bush. "It's a nice fat one, too. Nice going, Maplekit!" Eaglekit's voice was dripping with sarcasm. Maplekit was about to shoot back a stinging retort, when she realized just how dark it had gotten. She hadn't even realized that they had been leaving when the sun was sinking below the trees. They were supposed to be in the nursery going to sleep now. Firestripe would be furious!

    The two of them froze when they heard the bracken rustle and a twig snap. "What was that?"

    ***

    "WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?!"

    Maplekit looked down at her paws shamefully, unable to meet her mother's furious gaze. A fox had attacked them, but luckily, Falconheart had been leading a patrol to look for them. When they were returned to camp, Firestripe had been waiting for them angrily.

    "We were out hunting," Eaglekit replied bravely, meeting her mother's eyes almost stoically.

    Firestripe looked back down at her daughter almost scrutinizingly. At first she thought Eaglekit was just the alpha of her litter, a kit-bully whose aggressive personality would gradually fade as she matured. But there was definitely something deeper going on; something almost... evil. "I told you that you all were too young to be hunting!" Every hair on her pelt bristled, and her eyes blazed. "You disobeyed the warrior code, and almost got eaten by a fox!"

    "It won't happen again," Eaglekit replied again in the same stone-cold voice.

    "Good. Get inside." Maplekit and Eaglekit hurried in, and Eaglekit leaned over to Maplekit.

    "Way to go," she hissed.

    "It was your idea in the first place!" Maplekit shot back. Eaglekit just rolled her eyes.

    As Maplekit and Eaglekit settled in the den, their siblings looked at them owl-eyed. "What are you looking at?" snapped Eaglekit. They immediately whirled around and went back to sleep. Maplekit realized just how tired she was, too, and crouched beside them, giving way to blissful slumber.

    ***

    "Flamepaw! Fennelpaw! Flamepaw! Fennelpaw!"

    The Clan yowled the two newest apprentices' names. Maplekit was one of the loudest, being Fennelpaw's best friend. She was so happy for her, but at the same time, felt a pang of sorrow. Fennelpaw would now spend most of her day working, and wouldn't get to talk or play nearly as often as they had before. But, on the bright side, Maplekit thought cheerfully, I'll be an apprentice next moon! But Maplekit's mood was soured as she thought of Eaglekit. Eaglekit's such a grump. She makes everything worse!

    "Maplekit!" Fennelpaw purred, rushing over to brush her muzzle against her friend's cheek.

    "I'm really happy for you, Fennelpaw," Maplekit purred. This wasn't a time to be disappointed about two less playmates in the nursery, or sulk about Eaglekit.

    "I'm so excited! I'm going to finally see the territory, hunt, fight, go to Gatherings..." Fennelpaw was ecstatic. "This will be you next moon!" Maplekit was about to reply; however, their conversation was cut short as Hawkwing, Fennelpaw's mentor, padded over.

    "Fennelpaw! Come on; we're going to check out the territory with Flamepaw and Icewhisker," he called.

    "Gotta go! I'll see you later, Maplekit!" Fennelpaw turned and pelted after her mentor, leaving Maplekit behind. Maplekit sighed, then opened her eyes determinedly.

    "A moon isn't terribly long. I'll be an apprentice soon enough."

    Chapter 3

    "Let all cats old enough to catch their own prey gather beneath the Highrock!"

    Maplekit pelted over there as fast as she could, kicking up dust as she did so. She could barely contain her excitement. I'm becoming an apprentice today! "Maplekit! Sparrowkit! You're filthy!" Firestripe fretted, grooming her kits frantically. Duskstar purred as he saw them below, and called up Maplekit first. Excitement surging through her, Maplekit pelted to the Highrock. She was so excited, she tripped. Her pelt burned with embarrassment, but stopped when she saw Eaglekit. She couldn't tell if Eaglekit was giving her a resentful look that said without words, I should be becoming an apprentice before you, or if she was just wearing her usual scowl.

    "Maplekit, you have reached the age of six moons, and it is time for you to be apprenticed. From this day on, until you receive your warrior name, you will be known as Maplepaw." Duskstar raised his head. "Dawnpelt, you will mentor Maplepaw."

    The large silver tabby she-cat rose to her paws, padding up to the front and gently touching noses with Maplepaw. Maplepaw's mind was a blur as she was led back into the crowd. Her siblings were named and given their mentors; Windpaw was given Hawkfeather, Stormpaw was given Ashstorm, and Sparrowpaw was given Nightfur. Finally, it came time for Eaglekit to be apprenticed.

    "Eaglekit, from this moment on, until you receive your warrior name, you will be known as Eaglepaw. Nettletail will be your mentor."

    Maplepaw wasn't sure if she saw anger or pride in Eaglepaw's eyes as she and Nettletail touched noses. The ceremony ended, and the Clan separated. "We'll go learn the territory," Dawnpelt mewed.

    "We'll come with you," Nettletail offered.

    Maplepaw fought to not show her dismay. Great, Eaglepaw's coming! As they padded out, she looked over at Eaglepaw. "Now what are you so grumpy about?"

    "I should be trained by the deputy, not Sparrowpaw," Eaglepaw growled scornfully, glowering at Nettletail.

    Maplepaw rolled her eyes, moving away from Eaglepaw. I can't stand you, she thought with a growl.

    "This is the Thunderpath," Dawnpelt explained. Maplepaw sniffed its acrid scent. She flinched, staggering back as a huge... thing wooshed by and flung tiny rocks in her face.

    "What was that?" she gasped.

    "That was a monster. They're very active in the mornings," she explained. "They have huge black paws and they'll crush you if you get under them." Maplepaw shuddered. "But," Dawnpelt added, "they never leave the Thunderpath. You don't have to worry, unless you're crossing." Maplepaw breathed a sigh of relief. "Over on the other side is ThunderClan." Maplepaw breathed in the scent; it was foresty, and very different from the strong, but comforting pine scent that she was used to.

    They left and explored a bit. Suddenly, a nauseating stench hit Maplepaw and she had to suppress a gag. "What is that smell?"

    "Other than you, I'm not sure." Eaglepaw flicked her tail.

    Maplepaw had had enough. She was about to lunge at Eaglepaw, when Nettletail snapped, "Eaglepaw! You be polite, or we're going back right now and cleaning out the elder's den."

    Eaglepaw growled. "Fine."

    "Anyways..." Dawnpelt went on, glaring at Eaglepaw, "this is the Carrionplace. This is where twolegs take their garbage."

    "Kind of thing you'd expect twolegs to create," Nettletail muttered as they headed back into the woods.

    "Hey Snowwhisker!" Maplepaw greeted the medicine cat cheerfully. Snowwhisker was gathering herbs.

    "Hey, Maplepaw," Snowwhisker mewed a greeting. Beside the piney woods, there were a patch of trees not unlike ThunderClan's where Snowwhisker was gathering herbs. "You guys enjoying the territory?"

    "Yep!" Maplepaw grinned.

    "Not with this mousebrain around," Eaglepaw muttered. Nettletail slapped her head with her tail and gave her a "knock it off" look.

    Snowwhisker continued sniffing. There was a large maple tree, and Snowwhisker sniffed it closely. Suddenly, she froze. "What is it, Snowwhisker?" Dawnpelt padded over. Maplepaw came over to see what it was, too: Carved onto the tree were three deep claw marks. Snowwhisker's nose was touching one of the trenches.

    "It's a sign from StarClan!" she yowled.

    Chapter 4

    Dawnpelt, Nettletail, and Maplepaw instantly pelted over. Maplepaw's reason, however, was more out of excitement, instead of Dawnpelt and Nettletail's seriousness. Eaglepaw rolled her eyes, staying where she was. "What does it say?" Dawnpelt, Nettletail, and Maplepaw all demanded instantly.

    Snowwhisker exhaled with a whoosh. "Be patient, will you? I was just about to tell you that." Sighing, she closed her eyes, touching the claw marks with her nose again. "The maple sapling starts small. But, it will grow tall and strong, and save ShadowClan. However, it must be fast, or it will be left in the shade and succumb to darkness."

    "Wow..." Maplepaw breathed in awe. StarClan had spoken those same words to Snowwhisker! "What's it mean?"

    "I'm not sure," Snowwhisker replied honestly, puzzled. "StarClan is often vague about things."

    "You should talk to Duskstar," Dawnpelt suggested.

    "You don't say..." Eaglepaw spat under her breath.

    "Agreed. I need to get these herbs back to Snakestream, though. His cough is concerning me. I've never seen a cat come down with greencough in newleaf, but you never know." She picked up her bundle of herbs and headed back to camp, leaving an awestruck Maplepaw, a curious and wary Nettletail and Dawnpelt, and exasperated Eaglepaw.

    ***

    "I hate the Thunderpath."

    This was Maplepaw's third day as an apprentice, and the first day out on patrol (or second, if you count exploring the territory). Hawkwing, Nightfur, Fennelpaw, and of course Dawnpelt were on the patrol as well. Much to Maplepaw's delight, Eaglepaw was left cleaning out the elder's den.

    "As does all of ShadowClan. But it keeps ThunderClan on the other side." Dawnpelt flicked her tail dismissively.

    "Maybe not always..." Hawkwing growled, sniffing the air.

    "What do you-" Maplepaw was cut off as she tasted the air. "ThunderClan's been over here!" she exclaimed. Indeed; the foresty scent mingled with the bitter stench of the Thunderpath and the piney scent of ShadowClan.

    "It's awfully fresh, too..." Dawnpelt growled. "VERY fresh. They were just by here." Hawkwing suddenly froze. "What is it?"

    "There's no breeze... they're still he-"

    Hawkwing was cut short as the nearby grass exploded with yowls. Maplepaw nearly jumped out of her fur as a large, broad-shouldered ginger tom lunged for her. She'd barely learned any battle moves, so she couldn't fight back. She was thrown roughly to the side. "What's this? ShadowClan's so weak they're bringing kits on patrol?"

    "I'm an apprentice!" Maplepaw protested. Her eyes grew to the size of full moons as a golden she-cat came barreling towards her, sending her back with a yelp. Pain seared through her shoulder as claws raked across it. The ginger tom and the golden she-cat cornered her against a tree. Then, a silver streak slammed into the golden she-cat. As the she-cat fell, the ginger tom was toppled over like a domino.

    "Is ThunderClan so weak that they can only take on and corner an apprentice?" Dawnpelt spat, "Pick on someone your own size, fleabags!"

    "Foxheart," the ginger tom spat back.

    "You attacked us on our territory, and we're the foxhearts?" Maplepaw yowled.

    "Maplepaw, hush!" Dawnpelt snapped, then turned back to the ThunderClan warriors. "Why are you over here?"

    "You know why," Foxshadow spat. "Your warriors were over on ThunderClan territory just a few days ago!"

    Dawnpelt leaned over and murmured into Maplepaw's ear, "watch closely. You can learn from this." Then, with a yowl, she flew at Foxshadow. Foxshadow yowled in surprise, flying back and skidding on the dirt. Goldenpelt snarled, clawing at Dawnpelt's face and tearing a scratch down her side. Dawnpelt hissed, biting down on Goldenpelt's paw right before she withdrew it. Goldenpelt yowled, struggling to get it free.

    "Let go!" she cried.

    "Get lost," Dawnpelt snarled, then let go. Goldenpelt hastily made a run for it back to ThunderClan territory, favoring the paw that Dawnpelt had bitten into. Maplepaw watched with awe. Foxshadow turned around, flying at Dawnpelt. Dawnpelt let out a yowl of surprise, but rolled nimbly and quickly recovered. She and Foxshadow lunged for each other at the same time, clipping each other's pelts with their claws. After driving off Rainwhisker, Hawkwing came over to help Dawnpelt. Foxshadow yowled, and fled back over the Thunderpath.

    "Looks like they're all gone," Nightfur gasped for air, his sides heaving.

    "Are you okay?" Dawnpelt asked Maplepaw, looking her over. "Your wounds aren't too bad. We'll just have Snowwhisker look at that scratch to make sure it doesn't become infected, then we'll learn hunting techniques as planned."

    "Okay," Maplepaw nodded, still a bit stunned by the sudden attack as the adrenaline wore off.

    ***

    "Show me what you know, right now."

    A few days had passed since the battle with ThunderClan, and Maplepaw's scratches had already healed up, as had Dawnpelt's. "I'll be your opponent. I'm not going to fight fair though," Dawnpelt went on, "so be warned. This is just something to start from."

    Maplepaw nodded as she got into position. She hung back, waiting for her to make the first move. If I attack first, she'll be able to predict my moves. I should to wait for her to attack me, and then I'll have the advantage. She's not much bigger than me, so it shouldn't be too easy for her to bowl me over. But she'll be a lot faster, and probably she'll have much better balance. As she was trying to judge whether she could knock Dawnpelt down, she charged. Her shoulder struck Maplepaw's with the force of a monster on the Thunderpath, and Maplepaw hardly had time to register it before she was knocked onto her back and had to scrabble gracelessly to regain her paws. Once she was on her feet again, she felt the cuff of swift paws as Dawnpelt boxed her ears.

    Spitting in shock, she leaped away and out of her reach. Dawnpelt stood for just an instant before lunging right. Seeing her shift her weight but recalling her words about fighting unfairly, Maplepaw prepared for her to feint left – only for her mentor to slam into her right shoulder and overturn her once more. Dawnpelt placed a strong paw over her shoulder blades, pinning her down on her back once again. "Do you surrender?" she mewed.

    Refusing to be defeated, Maplepaw squirmed ungracefully under Dawnpelt's paws. Remembering a move that her mentor had used in the battle with ThunderClan, she bit down and jerked on Dawnpelt's paw. Dawnpelt noticably flinched, but didn't otherwise moved. Finally, Maplepaw gave in, knowing that it was pointless to keep on. "I surrender," she mewed quietly.

    Dawnpelt lifted her paw, stepping back as Maplepaw rose to her paws and shook out her pelt. "A few things, Maplepaw," Dawnpelt mewed, choosing her words carefully to make sure she got her point across, yet didn't drive the young apprentice's spirit into the ground. "In a real battle, you would have been seriously injured, if not killed. Your ears would be shredded, and your belly was exposed when I knocked you over." Maplepaw studied her paws. "But," Dawnpelt went on, "That's what battle training is for. You're still a new apprentice; you aren't expected to be able to defeat a senior warrior." Dawnpelt gave Maplepaw a kind smile. "You're a very strong cat, Maplepaw, and have a great spirit.That strength will lead you to great things. However, you must not put all of your faith into it. That will be important for as long as you live. You mustn't put all your trust into anything."

    Maplepaw looked back up at Dawnpelt, her spirit renewed. "Alright. Can we do that again?" she asked eagerly. "I want to try that fake feint you used!"

    "Of course. Go to the other side of the clearing and get ready… I'm going to change up what I do again."

    Maplepaw nodded and crossed the clearing, watching her much more closely this time. Dawnpelt sprang, and she leaped to meet her.

    Chapter 5

    "The cats who will be going to the Gathering are Hawkfeather, Hawkwing, Falconheart, Snakestream, Shadepelt, Dawnpelt, Nettletail, Fennelpaw, Eaglepaw, and Maplepaw."

    Duskstar's yowl echoed across the clearing. After two new warriors had been named, Snakestream and Shadepelt, he'd announced the cats who would be going to the Gathering. Maplepaw felt a quiver of excitement as she heard her name called. I finally get to go to the Gathering! Too bad Eaglepaw's coming... but whatever! I won't let her ruin it for me. She turned as she heard Sparrowpaw bounding towards her.

    "Maplepaw!"

    "Yeah?" Maplepaw's ears twitched in annoyance.

    "Sorry to slow you down. I just wanted to say, you have to watch everything that happens at the Gathering for me!" she exclaimed. "I've never been to one either, so I want you to tell me all about it when you get back!"

    "Yeah, sure," Maplepaw replied busily. She then saw that the patrol was leaving, and she hurried to catch up. "Bye, Sparrowpaw! I'll be sure to tell you everything when I get back!" she called.

    The group of ShadowClan cats raced through the forest. Their paws pounded on the ground in a thunderous, thrumming beat. We're going to scare all the mice away, Maplepaw thought with a twitch of her whiskers as she leaped over a log. When she looked up, Dawnpelt was at her side.

    "I know this is your first Gathering," her mentor said, "but I think you're old enough to handle it. I don't want you to sit by my side or by yourself all night; you need to talk to at least three other cats, preferably one from each Clan. I'll be asking about what you learned tomorrow when we go training, so pay attention to what you hear."

    A mission! Maplepaw nodded, and Dawnpelt flicked an ear to let her know she'd seen her agreement before springing ahead to run beside Hawkfeather. I'm going to do my best – I'll talk to all the cats at the Gathering!

    Suddenly, they came into a massive clearing. Four great oaks towered above them, and in the little bit of sky that could be seen between them, Silverpelt and the moon hung perfectly there. The moonlight was so bright, it was like day in the clearing. In the center of the clearing was a giant rock, with the moonlight shining down on it directly. The sight took Maplepaw's breath away.

    "Are we early?" she mewed quietly as she investigated the clearing.

    "No," Hawkfeather mewed, "we're just the first to arrive."

    Duskstar leaped onto the Great Rock, waiting for the other Clans expectantly.

    Suddenly, a heathery, earthy scent flooded into Maplepaw's nostrils. She wrinkled her nose. She'd smelled it on the borders before, and she recognized it was WindClan. Shortly after, a huge group of cats filed into the clearing, reeking of the earthy smell. Fennelpaw showed off a hook-and-dive to a few WindClan apprentices, who watched in awe. Much to Maplepaw's surprise, even Eaglepaw was socializing. Her eyes darkened, though, when she saw that Eaglepaw was looking over the apprentice; like a piece of prey, assessing it as to find out the best way to take it down if they met in battle. "Figures," Maplepaw muttered, going her way. She froze as she heard a voice behind her.

    "Hey, you!"

    Maplepaw whirled around. A brown tabby apprentice with white flecks on his flanks, who wasn't too much bigger than her, was standing there. "M-me?" she mewed.

    "Yeah, you!" The tom's whiskers twitched. "I've never soon you at a Gathering before. Who're you?"

    "I'm Maplepaw," she replied. "This is my first Gathering."

    "Well, I'm Falconpaw!" he flaunted proudly. "Stormstar's my dad." He looked her over, "You're awfully small. What are you? Six moons, maybe? Seven moons if you really want to stretch it?" He flicked his tail in an arrogant manner. "I bet you couldn't fight if you tried!"

    Maplepaw's fur bristled. "I can, too! And I'm seven moons!"

    "Well, I'm eight moons," Falconpaw snickered. "And prove it."

    "I'll show you!" Maplepaw yowled. "Watch this new battle move I learned!" Maplepaw then proceeded to show him the fake feint attack.

    "Not bad... for a first timer." Falconpaw's tail swished.

    "Let's see you do better!" Maplepaw shot back.

    Falconpaw then looked over his shoulder. "I'd love to," he mewed, "but ThunderClan's coming and I want to see some of their moves before the leaders start."

    Maplepaw hissed at his self-entitlement and arrogance.

    "Maybe at the next Gathering, Maplepaw. Hope to see you then." Falconpaw's eyes shone with playfulness. "You're fiery and energetic. You remind me of... me." He purred a bit. "I like you!" Then, he dashed off.

    "Certainly have a very strange way of showing it..." Maplepaw growled under her breath. After giving herself ample time to brood over Falconpaw's arrogance, she tasted the air. There was that same foresty, oak-y stench that the ThunderClan warriors had when they attacked. She'd grown to despise that scent. She growled, recognizing some of the cats. The ginger pelt of Foxshadow, and the timid black and white pelt of an apprentice, who had both been in the border battle. Swallowing her anger, she went over to a RiverClan apprentice. "Uh... hi."

    The apprentice looked over at her. "Hi! What's your name? I'm Finchpaw!" she greeted cheerfully. "I'm from RiverClan. You're from... ShadowClan? I don't recognize your scent. I've only ever smelled-"

    It was then that one of the leaders yowled, "Welcome to the Gathering, cats of all Clans. Now that we're all here, I think it's time we began."

    Thank StarClan! Maplepaw thought, taking the opportunity to quickly pad back over to Dawnpelt's side, she didn't know when to shut up! Letting out a sigh of relief, she looked up at Dawnpelt. "Who's that?" she whispered, looking at the leaders.

    "The one who's talking right now is Icestar," Dawnpelt murmured to her. "She's the leader of RiverClan. The gray and white tom is Stormstar- he's the leader of WindClan." Maplepaw noticed how much Stormstar looked like Falconpaw, to some degree- Falconpaw probably hadn't been lying. "And that russet she-cat is Cloverstar, the leader of ThunderClan."

    Maplepaw curled her lips a bit at Cloverstar. "Is Duskstar going to mention the attack?" she hissed.

    "Possibly. Now be quiet! They're doing their reports."

    "We have two new warriors in RiverClan," Icestar announced. "Sedgewhisker, and Sunfish."

    The Clans yowled, "Sedgewhisker! Sunfish! Sedgewhisker! Sunfish!"

    "The river is plentiful with fish," Icestar went on, before she finished her report.

    Duskstar was about to step forward, but Cloverstar boldly stepped in front before she could. Maplepaw growled, fluffing up. How arrogant can you get?!

    "ThunderClan is doing well," Cloverstar meowed. "We have one new apprentice, Oakfur. We have three new apprentices; Mudpaw, Birchpaw, and Mintpaw." The Clans yowled the new names, but Maplepaw stayed bitterly silent. She noticed, as well, that the few ShadowClan cats that did yowl the names, did it begrudgingly.

    Maplepaw growled as she saw Mintpaw. She was the apprentice on the patrol!

    "One of our queens has given us two new kits, Poppykit and Leafkit," Cloverstar went on. "The prey is excellent."

    "If the prey is excellent," Duskstar hissed, "then why is your Clan full of thieves?"

    Maplepaw couldn't suppress a grin. Way to go, Duskstar!

    Right after Duskstar said that, gasps rippled through the Clans, followed by whispering. Cloverstar flattened her ears. "And what proof do you have?" she snapped back.

    "We have plenty of proof," Duskstar hissed. "We've caught the same patrol of cats coming over and stealing prey for the past moon. After they run across the Thunderpath, they roll in moss to hide the scent of ShadowClan."

    "And how do we know this isn't just a mousebrained excuse for you to attack our warriors?" Cloverstar spat.

    "That's not what happened!" Duskstar yowled. "Our patrol caught them still over there. When they discovered that they were trapped, they attacked." Duskstar looked into the clearing. "It's them- Foxshadow, Goldenpelt, Mintpaw, and Rainwhisker."

    Maplepaw smirked with cold satisfaction as she saw Cloverstar flinch herself into silence, and Mintpaw's eyes grow to the size of the full moon above them.

    "Your warriors don't deny it, Cloverstar," Duskstar growled. Cloverstar seemed to have aged many moons at once.

    Finally, she mewed, "I was not aware that they were doing this." She raised her head, "they will be severely reprimanded."

    "I should think so," Duskstar growled. Maplepaw looked up at the clouds; there was a foggy ring around the moon, warning the Clans to remain peaceful. Duskstar then resumed his report. "We have two new warriors, Snakestream and Shadepelt."

    "Snakestream! Shadepelt!" The Clans yowled; this time, Maplepaw joined in.

    "We also have five new apprentices," Duskstar announced. "Maplepaw, Stormpaw, Windpaw, Eaglepaw, and Sparrowpaw."

    Maplepaw smiled sheepishly as they called her name. Eaglepaw had a look of satisfaction on her face. Probably the first time I've ever seen her smile when she's not mocking someone, Maplepaw thought bitterly.

    Stormstar stepped forward. "WindClan does not have anything to report."

    Duskstar nodded. "By the will of StarClan, this Gathering is over. May StarClan light your paths." He picked his way down from the Great Rock.

    Mouse-dung! I only talked to three cats tonight! Maplepaw shook the dust out of her fur, padding alongside Dawnpelt back to ShadowClan.

    As soon as she arrived in camp, Sparrowpaw raced over to her. "What was the Gathering like?!" Her tail was fluffed up in excitement.

    "I'll tell you in the morning," Maplepaw yawned. "I'm exhausted."

    "But I want to know!"

    "The camp will be abuzz with it tomorrow morning." Maplepaw's ears flattened with irritation. She started to curl up in her nest, but felt a thorn. She nosed through the moss to pick it out.

    "But I want to know it now!"

    "Well, I want to sleep." Maplepaw snapped the thorn in half, feeling mild satisfaction. "OW!" The thorn poked her lip, and she spat out a bit of blood. Sighing, she curled up in her nest, drifting off into a peaceful, dreamless sleep.

    Chapter 6

    "Maplepaw! C'mon!"

    Maplepaw was awakened by Dawnpelt gently nudging her. Parting her jaws in a massive yawn, she stretched, before padding out. The fresh-kill pile was huge, and a fat, juicy mouse lay on top; Maplepaw's stomach growled at the sight, but with a disappointed sigh, she knew that the Clan had to be fed first. "What are we doing today?" she inquired, hoping that hunting was one of the first priorities.

    "Hunting," Dawnpelt mewed, "then after you've eaten we're cutting moss for the elders."

    Maplepaw suppressed a groan. She eyed Hawkwing, Nettletail, Fennelpaw, and Eaglepaw going out the entrance, with Eaglepaw giving her a triumphant look. UGH! Eaglepaw gets to do battle moves while I clean out the elder's den! Maplepaw's ear twitched angrily. Right after she did that, Dawnpelt lashed her tail and purposely tapped her ear. Ears hot with embarrassment, Maplepaw studied her paws shamefully. She saw that.

    Dawnpelt watched a vole scurry under a pile of pine needles and weeds. "Watch me," she mouthed to Maplepaw, who nodded. Dawnpelt sprang with lightning speed and swiftness; the vole barely had time to react, before it was pinned down under Dawnpelt's paw. It squeaked. She killed it quickly with a short, nearly painless bite to the neck. She scraped earth over it to collect it later. "Now you try."

    Maplepaw nodded, taking in the scents of the pine forest. Thrush, mouse, squirrel... Those were the closest scents. There was distant rabbit, too, but Maplepaw didn't feel like going that far. The thrush was closest, so she decided to go after that. Maplepaw spotted it pecking around on the ground, and stealthily, she slunk towards it. She sprang, and the thrush started to fly off in panic. But it was too late, and Maplepaw brought her paw down, pinning it to the ground. She nipped its neck and killed it quickly.

    "Well done," Dawnpelt purred as she padded up from behind. "You've improved."

    Maplepaw couldn't suppress a purr as she buried the thrush. The squirrel was still close by, and she wanted to catch it, if she could.

    ***

    If anything, the fresh-kill pile had grown during the time Maplepaw was gone. She added her thrush, and freshly caught squirrel, before taking the mouse from earlier. Much to her delight, it hadn't been taken when she got back. She ate ravenously; she was dimly aware of the fact that once she finished, she'd be cleaning out the elder's den. Last moon, she might have dragged her heels in the dirt, but she was maturing. Besides, she'd have to do it anyway. She went outside camp and buried the bones, before padding over to Dawnpelt.

    "Ready?" her mentor mewed.

    "Yep."

    Dawnpelt led Maplepaw into the forest, by a large patch of soft moss. Remembering the way that Dawnpelt had taught her to cut it, Maplepaw unsheathed her claws and began slicing off large chunks. "Excellent," Dawnpelt meowed. "This should be plenty." Maplepaw nodded, picking up a bundle in her jaws, and another under her chin. Her claws ached a bit, but not terribly since she was used to it by now. Following Dawnpelt back into camp and over to the elder's den, she put her bundles down and padded inside. One good thing about cleaning out the elder's den was that they told stories while their den was being cleaned.

    "Thank goodness," Cloudheart sighed with relief. "I can't stand sleeping on this old moss for another night."

    Shrewfur murmured his agreement. "Eaglepaw doesn't know what she's doing," he complained.

    "I picked three thorns out of my nest today!" Cedarheart growled.

    "I found a strand of bramble in mine yesterday, too," Honeydrop agreed. Maplepaw suppressed a sigh; she was hoping they'd get on with a story soon, instead of bickering.

    "Hey, Honeydrop," Shrewfur meowed, "remember that battle with WindClan? The one where Redpaw had crossed the border."

    "Yes, indeed!" Honeydrop mewed. "Duskstar was still only a warrior then."

    "What was it like?" Maplepaw wondered, dragging out the old moss. She felt a prick on her lip, and spat out, grumbling. The elders were right. This moss DOES have lots of thorns! Could Eaglepaw be any more careless?

    "I remember fighting Mousepelt," Cedarheart began, with a hint of wistfulness in his voice. Maplepaw felt a bit of sympathy for him; he wanted to be a warrior still, but his age just prevented it. "He was coming at me, and we were right by the Thunderpath, So, if we weren't careful, either one of us could have gotten hit by a monster."

    Maplepaw listened to Cedarheart's story as she put in the fresh moss. "This feels much better," Cloudheart purred.

    "Indeed. Thank you, Maplepaw," Shrewfur meowed.

    Maplepaw nodded, and padded out. She began to look for Dawnpelt, but as soon as she did, a yowl shook the air.

    "Nightfur and Windpaw are dead!"

    Chapter 7

    Hawkfeather's sides heaved as she gasped for air, clearly having run very fast. Cloudheart, Firestripe, Icewhisker, Falconheart, Sparrowpaw, Stormpaw, and Maplepaw were the first to rush over to her. Nightfur was Cloudheart's only kit, and like every loving mother, her worst fear was that Nightfur would die. Icewhisker was Nightfur's mate, and their kits would be arriving soon.

    Soon, the whole Clan was gathered around Hawkfeather.

    "What happened?!" Icewhisker screeched.

    "Where are they?" Falconheart demanded.

    "It can't be!" Firestripe wailed.

    Panic and grief tugged at Maplepaw's pelt. Her mind whirled. No! The deputy isn't supposed to die! Windpaw can't be dead!

    "It happened by the Thunderpath," Hawkfeather gasped. "I was patrolling with them, and there was a trail of mouse blood. It led to the middle of the Thunderpath, and Windpaw followed it. A monster was coming, and Nightfur ran in and tried to save him, and he almost did. But there were some big rocks at the edge of the Thunderpath, and Nightfur couldn't get over them in time. Ashstorm was taking Fennelpaw and Flamepaw hunting, and they heard all the noise. Flamepaw and Fennelpaw ran out and tried to help Nightfur get over the rocks, but it was too late. I grabbed Flamepaw and Ashstorm got Fennelpaw. They nearly died themselves, but we got them out just in time."

    Eaglepaw sauntered up to Maplepaw's side, her eyes glinting. "What's all this racket?" she muttered to Maplepaw. Maplepaw curled her lip, and ignored Eaglepaw.

    "Where are Flamepaw and Fennelpaw now?!" Stormflower yowled. Maplepaw noticed that Duskstar narrowed his eyes at Hawkfeather's story.

    "They're bringing back Windpaw and Nightfur's bodies," Hawkfeather murmured.

    Just then, two separate shadows padded into camp, their faces grim. Ashstorm was carrying a limp, bloodied Nightfur, while both Flamepaw and Fennelpaw were carrying Windpaw. They nudged the lifeless forms of their Clanmates onto the ground.

    "My kit!" Firestripe wailed as she rushed over. Tears fell from her eyes in a steady stream as she groomed Windpaw's brown tabby pelt that was matted with drying blood. Cloudheart rushed over, burying her nose into Nightfur's pelt, as did Icewhisker.

    Duskstar's eyes did hold grief for his deceased deputy, but there was anger there, as well. "Nightfur was a great deputy. His loyalty could never be doubted. He would have made a fine leader for ShadowClan." He looked at Windpaw, "Windpaw was an intelligent, lively apprentice. He didn't deserve to die so young." Duskstar picked over to the Highrock and leaped to the top in a single strong leap. "Let all cats old enough to catch their own prey gather."

    Confusion rippled through the camp, but they did as Duskstar said. Maplepaw sat down, curling her tail around her paws.

    "The way Hawkfeather described Windpaw's death has me concerned." Duskstar's strong voice reverberated across camp. "This seems like a trap, set up by either ThunderClan or WindClan. But, I want to send a patrol, just to be sure." Mews of agreement rippled through the Clan. "The cats who will join me on the patrol will be Dawnpelt, Snakestream, Lionclaw, Nettletail, Maplepaw, and Eaglepaw." Maplepaw would have quivered with excitement, if she wasn't so down about her brother's death. "I would also like Snowwhisker to accompany us in case there are any injuries. Remember," Duskstar added sternly, "we are only investigating. If we see a ThunderClan or WindClan patrol, we will not speak to them. We will attack only when I am sure that they are responsible for the lure."

    As Duskstar hopped down, Maplepaw padded quickly over to Dawnpelt's side as the patrol left the camp. "What if ThunderClan or WindClan did set up a trap?" she mewed quietly. The whole thing had all happened so fast, and it was a bit overwhelming.

    "Then we will give them what for," Dawnpelt growled. The pungent stench of the Thunderpath hit Maplepaw's nose, right before they came upon it.

    Just as Hawkfeather had described, there was a trail of blood that smelled of mouse drawn across the Thunderpath. Maplepaw saw the rocks that Hawkfeather had described, as well; they smelled of moss, but the scent of ThunderClan was blatantly obvious. Maplepaw's fur began to prickle uneasily. "ThunderClan..." she murmured.

    Lionclaw, hearing her, padded over and sniffed the rocks as well. "Indeed..." he murmured to Maplepaw. "There's ThunderClan scent all over these rocks!"

    Duskstar came over to investigate. He checked the rocks out, before smelling the blood trail as well. "ThunderClan, too..." he growled. "ThunderClan is responsible for the death of Nightfur and Windpaw!" he yowled.

    Maplepaw, driven by curiousity, came over and sniffed the trail as well. She froze, however, as she tasted something other than ThunderClan... yes, ThunderClan was a large part of it, but there was something else.

    Was that Eaglepaw's scent she caught, buried and embedded into the ThunderClan stench?

    ***

    It was then that an eagle's cry filled the air. The ShadowClan cats were briefly left in the shadow of its wing. Maplepaw looked up at the winged bird, by happenstance the same time as Snowwhisker. From the perspective of the Clan cats, because of the lighting, it looked briefly like the eagle was pelted in blood. It then flew away, appearing as a mere speck on the horizon. "A sign from StarClan!" Snowwhisker yowled.

    "What is it?" Duskstar demanded.

    Snowwhisker closed her eyes as she interpreted the message. "If the eagle is allowed to soar to power, it will cast a shadow that will leave the Clans shrouded in darkness and blood for as long as it flies."

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  1. iluvorpingtons
    This is AWESOME!

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