Sunlight glittered through the entrance of the nursery down on Snowkit, who blinked her eyes open in surprise. As she stood up and stretched out her back, she saw her littermates, Hollykit and Firekit sleeping next to their mother, Cinderheart. Looking outside, she noticed Brambleclaw, Thunderclan's deputy, organizing the dawn patrol. Snowkit bounded across the clearing to him.
“Can I go too?” she asked excitedly.
Brambleclaw looked around, with a confused expression. Then with a glint of amusement in his eyes, he turned back to Snowkit. “Last time I checked, kits stay in the nursery.”
He must have seen her disappointment because he sat down next to her and told her how when Jayfeather, her father, and Hollyleaf were kits, they couldn't even come out into the clearing without someone knowing.
“You should consider yourself lucky you don't have to do that.” he finished.
“But I'm almost an apprentice!” Snowkit whined.
“You're not the first tiny kit to say that. If you want to get out, you'll have to think of another excuse.
Snowkit fluffed out her snowy pelt indignantly and stared up at him. “I am not a tiny kit!” she huffed.
“Oh, really? I thought you were only 1 moon old!” he mewed, and gave her a friendly flick on her ear with his tail.
“I'm not 1 moon old! I'm 4!”
“Okay, Brambleclaw, you can stop ruffling her fur now.” Snowkit turned around to see Lionblaze watching silently, looking slightly amused.
Brambleclaw spoke. “Alright Lionblaze, but I must tell you, your daughter is very clever. She knows how many moons she is!” He let out a mrrow of laughter and padded away.
Lionblaze turned toward Snowkit. “Why are you out here bothering warriors who have better things to do than take care of you?” Snowkit looked up into his burning eyes and flinched. Doesn't he even care about me. “Snowkit, I asked you something, are you going to answer?”
Snowkit just turned away, grumbling about how unfair he was being and padded back to the nursery.
She settled down next to Firekit and groomed herself. She didn't feel like sleeping, so she kept glancing at Firekit and Hollykit to see if they were awake yet.
Smokepaw poked his head into the nursery. Snowkit stared at him, wondering why he was here. “Hi, Snowkit. Want to come out and play? I don't have to go anywhere right now,” he hissed quietly, so he wouldn't wake any of the others up.
“Okay!” Snowkit meowed and jumped out of the nursery.
Out in the clearing, she couldn't see Smokepaw. She scanned the area for a moment, then spotted him racing toward Highledge. Snowkit raced after him. She caught up to him and asked, “Where are we going?”
"There's this place toward the side of Highledge, where no cat has gone. That could be our special meeting place. It will be secret, for no cat to know about."
"But everyone will get worried if they don't know where I am! Don't they get worried for you too?" Snowkit asked curiously.
"That will change once you become an apprentice. The more you go out of camp, the less they worry," he assured her.
"But I have 2 more moons to go!" Snowkit cried.
"Be quiet or everyone will see where we go," he hissed.
Snowkit and Smokepaw slowed to a stop and looked around. Snowkit saw the medicine den ahead and just after that was Highledge. Then, without warning, Smokepaw flashed away again. Snowkit could see him slow down, waiting for her to catch up, so Snowkit scrambled as fast as she could to get to him. Just as they were about to cross the medicine den, they almost bumped into Jayfeather, who was just going in carrying a bundle of herbs. "Sorry, Jayfeather!" Snowkit gasped.
Even though she knew he couldn't see them, Snowkit saw that his blue eyes were fixed in a glare. "Watch where you're going!" Jayfeather hissed. Then he muttered, "Kits! Don't have any any sense!" as he padded inside.
"Okay," Smokepaw mewed, "now I'm going to go wait by the side of Highledge, and you follow after a few moments. Lick yourself, or do something that looks natural."
Snowkit watched him walk away calmly, and scratched her ear, even though there wasn't an itch. Then after looking around to make sure no one was watching, she went to join him.
Walking alongside Highledge, she looked out for Smokepaw. When she couldn't see him, her curiosity turned to fear, and was just about to leave, when suddenly a heavy weight landed on her back. She let out a startled yelp and tried to flip over and run. But her attacker held her firmly to the ground. Then in her ear, she heard, "Got you!"
"Smokepaw! Let me go!" Snowkit wailed unhappily at being beaten by her former denmate. he had only just started his warrior training and he was already so much better than her?! I'll get you later, I promise, Smokepaw. Just wait till my apprentice ceremony.
Smokepaw was laughing behind her. As Snowkit got up and began to groom herself again, between licks, she shot glares at him.
"Come on, Snowkit. We can share tongues later. But right now let me show you the spot. Snowkit followed Smokepaw for a few more pawsteps and gaped at what Smokepaw was showing her.
It was another little tiny clearing perfect for a small clan. Snowkit wondered why no cat has found this place yet.
"Well, what do you think?" he paused, waiting for an answer. When he didn't hear one, he went on. "Don't you realize how much fun this could be? We could make our very own clan and I'd be your mentor and you could be my apprentice!"
"It would be fun..." Snowkit trailed off, thinking about how it wouldn't be right. if a cat discovered something like this, they should report it to their leader. "But we can't. I mean if any of the other warriors discovered something like this, they would report it to Firestar, right?"
Smokepaw stared at her with a disbelieving look on his face for a moment and then said, "Great Starclan! You are not going to tell Firestar, are you?"
"No, well not yet anyway..."
"Snowkit, please, just think about it!"
Snowkit realized how this would be. She would get to be an apprentice before she actually is. She would be a warrior before she actually is! "Snowkit, if you don't agree, I'll go and get Hollykit to join me. I'm sure she would!"
That made Snowkit shudder. She didn't know why, she just didn't like it when anyone else was with Smokepaw, especially not Hollykit. "No, I'll join you. But not now. I should be getting back to the nursery, everyone will have ticks in their fur if they don't know where I am."
"Okay. Let's go," he said happily.
As Snowkit padded out of the small clearing and out the side of Highledge, she saw Jayfeather walking out of his medicine den and heading toward the fresh-kill pile. "I should probably say sorry to him," she murmured.
"Why?" Snowkit jumped, startled, because she hadn't meant for Smokepaw to hear her. He went on. "He is a blind medicine cat. He can't blame us for his being blind."
"Well, even then, we could have been more careful anyway," Snowkit continued, a bit unsure. The last of Snowkit's confidence died when she saw that Smokepaw snorted.
"Come on, Snowkit. There's nothing to worry about. You're forgetting that he's also your kin. He doesn't hate you or blame you." Smokepaw gave Snowkit a quick lick on the ear. "Let's go get some fresh-kill."
"Sorry, Smokepaw, I should probably be getting back to the nursery right now. Maybe Hollykit and Firekit are awake now and I can play with them." Snowkit bounded over to the nursery and poked her head in. Firekit and Hollykit were just beginning to stir. She padded quietly over to Hollykit and prodded her on her side.
"Snowkit, what was that for?" she complained.
"Come out Hollykit, let's play!And I'm starving, so come quickly so we can go eat." Snowkit left Hollykit to lick herself and went to go wake Firekit up.
Firekit was up immediately, and running out of the nursery. Cinderheart woke up, startled, and then relaxed when she realized nothing happened. Snowkit shot an amused glance at Hollykit, then calmly padded out herself.
Her amusement faded away when she saw Jayfeather eating alone outside his den. He looked troubled, like he was remembering some bad memory. Except he was staring right at Brightheart.
Maybe I should go say sorry to him. As she approached him, she saw his ears flick up, and his gaze turn towards her.
"Snowkit?" When Jayfeather didn't look angry, Snowkit let the fur on her shoulders relax.
"I, er, came to say-" she began.
Jayfeather sighed. "It's fine, Snowkit. I was a kit once too, you know," he said. "Do you want to finish this vole? I'm not really that hungry right now."
Snowkit was about to say no thanks, but then she realized he was trying to make peace with her again. "Sure, thanks."
"Lionblaze must love you a lot, doesn't he?" Jayfeather asked. He sounded almost... sad. "Want to come in?" he offered when he stood up and turned toward the entrance.
"Okay," Snowkit replied and hurried in after him.
"Lionblaze must feel lucky to have an daughter like you." Snowkit wondered why he was going on about that.
"Well, I'm not sure..." Snowkit trailed off, thinking she shouldn't say bad about her father, especially not to his brother.
"Oh?" Jayfeather looked up from sorting herbs. Then he settled down and looked at her. "What do you mean?"
Well, there's no way out now. "Well... sometimes I feel like he doesn't even care about me. He's always too bothered about Hollykit. He never pays any attention to me except to scold me."
Jayfeather let out a long sigh. "You must have heard we once had a sister?" Snowkit nodded. "Well, her name was Hollyleaf, and she looked just like Hollykit does now. he just gets reminded of her when he sees Hollykit and so he wants to be with her most of the time?"
"Why don't you then?" Snowkit blurted out then instantly felt bad. She saw Jayfeather flick his ears up startled.
"Because she isn't my kit, she is Lionblaze's," he hissed. Then he looked down at his herbs again and flicked his tail as a sign to dismiss her.
Jayfeather waited until Snowkit was out of his den before he could relax again. He felt a little bad about being rude with her like that, but he had been caught off guard. How was he supposed to answer a question like that?
Even so, Jayfeather decided he would talk with her later. He liked the curious young she-cat, even daring to ask things she shouldn't be. It reminded him of what other cats say about him.
Jayfeather put the remaining catmint away, and realized that he would need much more. With leaf-bare on its way, he would need it so he could treat cats with greencough. He was about to set out to gather more when he saw Snowkit sitting near the entrance of the nursery, watching the camp quietly, as if soaking in everything that happens around camp.
"Hi, Snowkit," he said as he padded up beside her. She jumped and then scrambled to her paws.
"Oh, er, hi Jayfeather," she said awkwardly.
"Sorry about what happened. You just caught me off guard, that's all. The real reason I don't go near Hollykit is because I don't want to be reminded of Hollyleaf. All I can remember is how she died. And I can't see her," he added with a bit of bitterness in his tone. If only I could see her.
"Oh..." Snowkit said, looking at her paws.
"I wish you were an apprentice. I was going out to collect herbs, and I was hoping you could come with me. Oh well. I'll probably tag along with some patrol."
"Well... okay." Snowkit paused. "I wish I could. Well, I'll see you when you come back, I guess."
Jayfeather nodded. He scented Brambleclaw organizing patrols and padded over to him. "Hi, Brambleclaw. Are any patrols going near the abandoned Twoleg place?"
"You want to go with them?"
Jayfeather nodded. "I need to collect catmint."
"Go with Cloudtail's patrol over there." Jayfeather sensed Brambleclaw's tail pointed toward where Lionblaze, Brightheart, and Cloudtail were speaking.
Jayfeather hurried toward them. "I'm coming with you so I can collect herbs." He felt Lionblaze's gaze resting on him for a few moments before he nodded.
"Okay then, let's go." Cloudtail pulled himself up onto his feet and started off, running into depths of the forest. Jayfeather, Brightheart, and Lionblaze followed him.
While Brightheart pulled ahead to catch up to her mate, Lionblaze stayed back to make sure he doesn't fall.
"You don't have to watch over me like that, you know. This isn't my first time coming this way," Jayfeather hissed loudly.
Lionblaze spoke calmly. "You don't go on fast patrols very often though."
"For Starclan's sake, I've fought a battle with a Windclan warrior who wanted to kill me and I lived. I think I can run to where the catmint is."
"You almost died in that."
"But I didn't," Jayfeather insisted.
"Only because Starclan fought beside you that day."
Jayfeather snorted and wished his own brother wouldn't think of him as such a weakling. "You're acting like I never should have left the nursery!" Lionblaze didn't get any time to respond, because just then they reached the catmint.
"Jayfeather, you collect how much you need. Do you need help in carrying it?" Cloudtail asked.
"No, I don't need too much, thank Starclan."
Cloudtail nodded. "We'll just mark the borders and come back." Then the patrol left.
Jayfeather wove between the catmint plants and and sniffed each one to see if it was ready. Finally he found some and picked it up between his jaws.
Padding out back to where the patrol had left him, he scented the air. There was no sign of Cloudtail's patrol coming back yet, so he settled himself down and waited. He was tempted to just go back to camp himself, but he knew the patrol would start worrying for him and they'd all have bees in their brain because they wouldn't get that he just went back to camp.
Suddenly he got a sniff of a Twoleg watching him. Jayfeather could sense danger coming, and something in the Twoleg's hands. Jayfeather scrambled to his paws, and tried to run towards the rose bush he scented just in from of him. But just as he put his front paw forward, he felt a stabbing pain in his side. He let out a gasp of pain and fell to the ground, the world turning more black than it usually is.
Hollykit finished eating her mouse and looked for Snowkit. She spotted her talking with Jayfeather just outside the nursery. Then she watched Jayfeather leave towards Brambleclaw.
Pity washed through Hollykit as she noticed him not really fixing his eyes on anything. She's always felt bad for the blind cat. She felt even worse for her father, because he's had to live seeing his brother like that his whole life.
Hollykit turned her attention back to Snowkit. Snowkit seemed to be in deep thoughts, and she didn't want to disturb her so she looked around for Firekit. When she couldn't see him anywhere, she padded over to Snowkit instead.
"Hi, Snowkit!" Snowkit looked up at her call.
"Oh, hi Hollykit. Did you eat yet?" Hollykit watched her as she got to her paws and stretched out her back.
"Yes, I ate with Firekit. Do you know where he is, anyway?"
Hollykit waited as Snowkit thought. "I think I saw him leave to the dirtplace tunnel. You want to go check?" Snowkit asked, as she turned her ice-blue eyes toward Hollykit.
"Okay." Hollykit followed Snowkit and when they got there, Hollykit was shocked. Firekit was just about to leave and venture out into the forest. "Firekit! What are you doing?" she said.
"I heard some of the warriors talking about trouble with Windclan. I thought I'd go there and show those Windclan furballs what great warriors Thunderclan has," Firekit said. Then he added, "Wanna come?"
Hollykit looked over at Snowkit to see what her reaction was. She looked appalled. "But Firekit,I don't think that's such a good idea," she said.
"Yes Firekit, isn't that against the warrior code?"
Firekit shrugged. "Even if it is, so what?" Now it was Hollykit's turn to be appalled. She looked at her brother up and down.
"Is something wrong with you?"
Firekit sighed. "Are you coming or not? I want to get out of camp whether you are or not."
Hollykit looked at Snowkit. Snowkit looked unsure for a moment, then murmured, "I suppose we should. To make sure Firekit stays safe."
"Are you sure, Snowkit?" Hollykit asked.
Snowkit nodded. "We have to go if our brother is going."
"Alright, Firekit. You win. We'll come," Hollykit sighed.
Hollykit shot a wary glance at Snowkit as Firekit raced away. Then she went after him.
A little farther up ahead, Hollykit saw Firekit stop suddenly and crouch behind a holly bush. As she got nearer to him, she heard voices and realized she had to hide too, so she went and crouched behind him. Hollykit prayed to Starclan that Snowkit would hide in time, too.
Luckily, she did. Hollykit thanked Starclan that they hadn't been caught yet as the voices faded away and the pawsteps got fainter.
The three of them started off again. But Firekit was slower this time. They walked around a bit, but then Hollykit scented the same holly bush that they had hidden behind when they heard the voices. "Uh, Firekit? Do you know where Windclan is?"
He snorted. "Of course not. I've only been out as much as you have!" Hollykit checked over her shoulder on Snowkit. Her sister looked frightened. Hollykit ran her tail down her flank to comfort her.
Snowkit and Hollykit followed Firekit a little more until they found a small tunnel. Instantly, Hollykit had a feeling that she'd seen this before, and had a thought of herself in one of those, and the tunnel collapsing, trapping her.
Hollykit blinked. Firekit was trying to go inside it. "Firekit! Don't go inside it!"
"Why not?" he asked.
"Just please don't," Hollykit begged.
"Oh, fine. I don't know why, but you obviously have something against this tunnel."
Hollykit suddenly picked up a strange scent. She wheeled around, and fear turned her blood to ice. A huge black and white animal was lumbering towards them. Beside her, Snowkit was trembling with fear, and on her other side, Firekit looked scared but excited that he would get a fight.
Snowkit darted into the nearby bushes. Hollykit was tempted to run, too, but she knew Firekit wouldn't. She had to stay to save her sister and her brother.
"Firekit! Please don't try to fight this creature!" Hollykit screeched.
Firekit let out a soft growl. "Why not?" was all he said before he threw himself at the creature.
It batted him away easily and Hollykit's heart pounded as Firekit fell to the ground. Her fear turned to horror as the creature turned to Firekit and lifted one of its massive paws. She screeched again, "Get out of the way!" But Firekit didn't move. His eyes were clouded with both horror and fear. As the creature was closer to killing him, he closed his eyes tightly.
But before the creature could swing its massive paw down on him, Hollykit saw Brackenfur leap onto its back and scratch its head. Then Dustpelt attacked it on its belly and veered the creature away from Firekit. She saw Smokepaw race towards him and nose him to his paws.
"Get them back to camp!" Brackenfur yelled to his apprentice. "Dustpelt and I will deal with the badger!"
Smokepaw nodded quickly and looked around. "Where's Snowkit?"
"I'm over here," Snowkit said with a trembling voice as she slid out of the bush.
"Good, you're all here. We must go back to camp quickly!" he added with more urgency in his voice.
Hollykit hurried over to Snowkit. "Come on." Snowkit only nodded quietly.
Both of them went to Smokepaw, who was standing next to Firekit. "Are you okay?" Firekit's fur was standing straight up, but Hollykit relaxed when she saw him nod. "Then let's go, now!" He ran alongside Firekit, and Hollykit and Snowkit followed behind. The screeches from the badger were getting softer as they raced back to camp.
When they were well away from the badger, they slowed down to a steady trot. Hollykit went up to Firekit and stayed beside him, pelts brushing. Smokepaw went beside Snowkit.
"What were you doing, leaving camp like that?" Hollykit heard him say.
"I-we-" Snowkit broke off as Smokepaw continued.
"Do you know how worried everyone was back at camp? They had more than ticks in their fur when they couldn't find you!"
Hollykit stole a glance at Snowkit, who was walking with her head bent down, as she endured Smokepaw's scolding silently.
Smokepaw spoke with her a little more, but Hollykit couldn't hear what he said. Instead, she turned her attention to Firekit, whose eyes were clouded. "Are you hurt?" she asked softly. He shook his head. "Say something, then!" Hollykit wanted nothing more than to hear her brother's voice so she could know he really was okay.
Firekit turned his green gaze to look at Hollykit. She was shocked at how miserable he sounded. "It was my fault. I'm the one who brought both of you out into the forest. It was my fault we almost died!" he wailed.
Hollykit didn't know how to respond to that. Luckily, she didn't have to, because they reached camp. Smokepaw padded ahead of them to the entrance. He glanced back. "I hope you three have a good excuse for this," he growled.
Snowkit padded up beside her. "Is he okay?" she asked.
"Yes, he's fine. But... are you? You looked scared out of your fur back there!"
"I know, I'm sorry for leaving you two out there alone. I-I should have stayed beside you if you were in danger." Snowkit looked so sorry, that Hollykit felt really bad for her. But she couldn't say anything, because just then, as they padded into the clearing, Firestar came up to them.
"Well?" he asked. His tone softened a bit when he saw Firekit's and Snowkit's state. "Firekit, go to the medicine den and wait for Jayfeather to come back. And Snowkit, go wait in the nursery."
Why am I the one who has to talk to Firestar? He's being unfair! "Well Hollykit? I'm sure you have a good reason for you three leaving camp." Before Hollykit could answer, Firekit turned around.
"It's my fault, Firestar. I was my idea and they came with me because they wanted to make sure I was safe," he spoke with his head bent down in respect. Then Hollykit watched him pad quietly to the medicine den.
"Well, Hollykit? Is that true?" Fiestar asked once he left.
"Yes," she mumbled.
Firestar sighed. "I suppose I'll have to stop pretending to be mad at you sometime." Hollykit looked up at him in surprise. "You're young kits. I can't blame you for wanting to get out of camp. Although I don't think Lionblaze and Cinderheart think the same as I do." Firestar paused. "Do you know if Firekit is really hurt?"
Hollykit shook her head."No, I'm pretty sure he's fine."
"Go get him from the medicine den and bring him to the nursery."
"Are you going to punish us?" Hollykit dared to ask. As much as she didn't want to be punished, it wasn't right if they got away from it.
"Yes. The three of you cannot leave the nursery at all. If you want to eat, then ask Daisy or Ferncloud to get you some fresh-kill."
"Yes, Firestar." Hollykit dipped her head and then ran off to the medicine den.
Firekit jumped as he heard Hollykit approach. "Hollykit?"
"Yes, Firestar said you could come to the nursery."
Firekit scrambled to his paws and walked slowly outside. As he passed Hollykit, he didn't even bother to look at her. He knew what she was probably thinking. Hollykit must hate me for what I've done. But she has a good reason to hate me, Firekit reflected.
"Firestar punished us."Hollykit said. Firekit just flicked his ears up to show Hollykit he was listening. She went on. "He said we're not allowed to be out of the nursery. Not even to go to the fresh-kill pile."
"Okay," Firekit mumbled.
"Firekit, won't you even talk to me? What have I done that you are so quiet?" Firekit could hear desperation growing in her voice. "Please, Firekit, don't act as if we don't even know each other."
Firekit looked up at her. "I thought you wouldn't want to even be near me. Not after what I've done," he spoke softly.
"Firekit, you're my brother. That will never happen. And please stop blaming yourself. It was all of our faults. It wasn't only yours."
Firekit blinked gratefully into her light green eyes. He was happy to know that he still had a sister who wanted to be with him. "Is Snowkit mad at me??"
"No, Firekit, you can stop worrying. Besides, does Snowkit seem like the type who would get upset at such a little thing?" Firekit could tell she was trying her best to comfort him. It wasn't working, though.
He just shook his head and waited until Hollykit vanished into the nursery before following. Inside, he saw Cinderheart licking Snowkit's fur fiercely. Snowkit looked up and saw him and bounded over to him. She sniffed him all over then said, "Thank Starclan! You're okay, right?"
"Yes, and I always have been. I already said that." Firekit pushed his nose into Snowkit's fur. She purred softly. "I'm sorry," he murmured.
Firekit woke with a start when he heard a loud wail. "What's going on?" he asked, as Hollykit and Snowkit peeked outside.
"Jayfeather's been very badly hurt," Hollykit said with wide eyes. Firekit glanced at Snowkit. She seemed frozen with shock and horror.
"Snowkit?" he called. "Are you okay?"
She shook herself. "Yes, I'm-I just wasn't expecting-we talked today, and-" Snowkit broke off when she didn't know what to say. Firekit got up and licked her head. She blinked at him, but then couldn't seem to help it anymore. She ran out of the nursery.
Firekit gazed at Hollykit for a moment. She seemed just as confused as he was. "Well, are you going to go get her?"
"Not you?" she asked, surprised.
"No, of the three of us, I should be the one who bears the most punishment." Firekit said sadly.
"I don't know when you'll stop thinking that. Come on." Hollykit nudged him out of the nursery.
Firekit was surprised when he noticed Cinderheart padding out after them. "I don't know when you kits will stop doing things to get in trouble," she said.
Firekit blinked at her in thanks when he realized she wasn't going to take them back in. Then he looked for Snowkit and went to her. Snowkit was staring down with horror in her eyes as she gazed down at Jayfeather's almost lifeless body.
"Is he okay?" he whispered. Snowkit didn't respond. She was looking at the faint rise and fall of Jayfeather's chest.
Firekit stepped back away from Jayfeather as Firestar and Lionblaze approached the medicine cat. When Firestar saw the three of them and twitched his whiskers. "How did this happen?" Firestar asked.
"Brightheart, Cloudtail, and I were going back to where we left Jayfeather for the patrol and saw him lying on his side with something sharp in his side," Lionblaze explained.
"Can you get it?" his leader asked. Lionblaze nodded to Firestar and took off. "Cloudtail," Firestar called, "what happened after that?"
Cloudtail pushed his way forward to stand beside his leader and kin. "Brightheart told us to lick him steadily, so he might start breathing again. When he did, she got the sharp Twoleg thing out and pressed cobwebs onto his wound. They were soaked in blood only a few moments later."
Just then, Jayfeather moaned and rolled over onto his back. "Jayfeather?" Firestar asked softly.
Jayfeather opened his eyes. "Wha...?" Then he sniffed the air. "Firestar? Don't worry. I'm fine." He tried to get to his paws but he fell and moaned again in pain.
"Where's Leafpool?" Firestar asked looking around. Firekit remembered that Leafpool was the former medicine cat and Jayfeather's mother.
"Leafpool isn't here." Firekit noticed that Brambleclaw had been sitting there just watching all this time. "She's out hunting."
"Firestar," Jayfeather gasped, "get Cinderheart. I trust her most."
"I'm here, Jayfeather. Don't worry." Cinderheart padded forward to him and touched his nose to his. Then she looked around. "Everyone leave. Only Firestar can stay and Leafpool, when she comes."
"What about me?" Firekit heard Lionblaze's muffled voice as he padded into camp. He dropped the sharp twoleg object on the ground in front of Firestar.
"Don't bother too much about me," Jayfeather said. “I've spoken to Starclan, they do not wish to take me yet.”
Firekit noticed that most of the cats relaxed when he said that. "How can Starclan be so sure, anyway?" he whispered to Hollykit.
"Because it's Starclan, mouse-brain!" Then Hollykit headed back to the nursery. Firekit nosed Snowkit gently and went after Hollykit.
"Snowkit, why are you so close to Jayfeather?" Firekit asked once she sat down beside him.
Snowkit looked startled that he had asked that. "Well... I talked to him a little, and he seems interesting, I guess."
"What? Jayfeather has the sharpest tongue in the clan, probably even more that the other clans! What could possibly be interesting about him?" Firekit was surprised that Jayfeather might actually be more than a blind cat that sorts herbs.
Snowkit thought for a moment. Then she said, "Jayfeather seems to have a lot of secrets and emotions that he seems to have buried inside him. He's struggling a lot not to let them show. That's why he gets irritated so often."
"Oh, um, okay." Firekit wasn't sure how to respond to that.
Snowkit began to groom herself, and Firekit was stuck once again by ow pretty she always looked. She looked almost... beautiful. And any cat could see Smokepaw why was padding after her. It wasn't much of a surprise. Snowkit's fur was always set properly, and the white color of it glowed all the time.
Smokepaw poked his head inside. "Snowkit, can I talk to you?"
She looked up. "Sure, but I can't leave the nursery. It's our punishment."
"I know, I heard." Smokepaw nodded. "We can go to the back of the nursery, though."
"Okay," Snowkit said as she got up, stretched herself, and padded away. Although he could see them, they were talking in too low voices for him to hear what they were saying.
Hollykit was asleep, so he had no one to talk to. Instead he padded to the entrance and sat so he could see what was going on outside. Cinderheart was crouched beside Jayfeather, who was unconscious again. Firestar was a little farther away; he seemed to be lost in thoughts, or as Firekit guessed, worries.
Firekit could slightly see Lionblaze pacing back and forth in the warrior's den. He was obviously worried about Jayfeather. Then he stopped and looked straight inside the den. Some other cat must be talking to him. Then Lionblaze spun around and started walking quickly straight at him.
Firekit gulped. He must have found out about them leaving camp. "Hi, er, Lionblaze," he said as his father glared at him.
"What do you think you were doing, leaving camp when you're still kits?" he spat. "Whose idea was this?"
Firekit looked down at his paws, not wanting to reply. "It was all of our idea." Firekit was surprised when Snowkit padded up behind him. "Don't yell at him."
"I'm not yelling at him, I'm yelling at all of you!"
Firekit heard Hollykit approach them. "Hello, Lionblaze," she said calmly.
Lionblaze broke. "What would have happened if you kits had died?" He looked at all of them. Firekit was surprised when he noticed Snowkit staring angrily at Lionblaze. Then he turned his attention back to Lionblaze. He was pressing is muzzle to Hollykit's head. Then he did Snowkit's and last of all, Firekit. Then he wheeled around and went to see how Jayfeather was.
Hollykit trotted farther in so she could sleep, but Snowkit stayed where she was, staring at the ground. Firekit wondered why. "Snowkit, are you mad at Lionblaze?"
"Aren't you?" Snowkit asked, looking confused.
"Why would I be?" Firekit was really confused.
"Didn't you see how Lionblaze only cared about Hollykit?" Now that Firekit thought about it, he realized that Lionblaze has always been like that.
"Do you know why?" he asked.
"Jayfeather says he's like that because Hollykit reminds him of his sister."
"But he shouldn't even care about his sister," Firekit said, remembering what he had overheard about her.
"Didn't you ear? Hollyleaf murdered a Thunderclan cat when she was alive. Then she tried to run away, but she was lost in underground tunnels."
Snowkit gasped."So our father's sister was a traitor?"
"I suppose so," Firekit said, then padded inside the nursery and asked Ferncloud to get him some fresh-kill.
Jayfeather heard all the cats leave from where they were watching him. His senses were spinning, but he tried hard to focus them and every now and then he could figure out what was going on.
"How are you, Jayfeather?" He could barely make out what Cinderheart was saying.
"How do you think I'm doing?" he miserably hissed.
"You know what I'm asking you Jayfeather,"she sighed. "You can choose to cooperate or not."
"Fine. I-I can't really tell where it hurts right now, I can't really focus on anything," he replied. It was true, the pain was so overwhelming it felt like his whole body was on fire.
"Yes, I know how that feels."Jayfeather never forgot how she had injured her hind leg very badly many moons ago. Then she spoke again, but not to him. "Firestar, can you get chervil and poppy seeds from my den? I mean Jayfeather's den." Cinderheart sounded confused when she realized she had called it her own den.
"Does it make any difference?" he muttered but did so anyway.
Jayfeather heard slightly, Firestar coming and dropping the herbs in front of Cinderheart. Then he had padded slightly away, and gazed at Jayfeather.
"This will sting you more than it hurts right now, Jayfeather. Are you ready for me to put it on?" Jayfeather nodded, even though he didn't want to feel more pain than he already did. He would probably go unconscious again, anyway.
Jayfeather squeezed his eyes tightly, waiting for unbearable pain.
Jayfeather gasped as he felt Cinderheart spit the chervil onto his wound. It felt worse than he had expected. His whole body seemed to be burning.
Then the pain in his side started to go down, and Jayfeather relaxed. "Better?" he made out of Cinderheart's voice.
"Yes," he sighed. The pain was much less than it was before.
"Now you should have some poppy seeds." Cinderheart darted away, probably to get a leaf. Then when she came back, she pushed the poppy seeds onto the leaf and slid it towards Jayfeather. "Here," she said.
Jayfeather tried to lean over to lick them up but he felt a shooting pain in his side and moaned again. He fell back on his other side grunted unhappily.
He could feel waves of guilt coming from Cinderheart as she watched him. "Oh, Jayfeather. I can't help you eat poppy seeds, you'll have to do that yourself."
"I know," Jayfeather whispered. He knew there wasn't anything she could do to help, but he couldn't help feeling annoyed at her.
He tried reaching over again, and when the pain came, he tried not to fall back down. But eventually he gave up and slumped back down. He sighed.
"That was a good try," Cinderheart tried to encourage.
"That was my best try," Jayfeather said in defeat. He never thought he would be defeated by a bunch of poppy seeds just out of reach.
"Jayfeather..." she began, unsure.
"I...I know you and Leafpool are hiding something from me." Jayfeather stiffened. He didn't know how to get out of this now if she knew. Worse, Jayfeather heard Firestar straighten up when he heard her say that.
"Jayfeather?" Cinderheart asked.
"Oh, er..." Jayfeather didn't know what to say. "Um, if you really think so, then wait for Leafpool to come."
"Leafpool's here!" Firestar announced. Jayfeather could tell Firestar wanted to know what was going on.
Jayfeather heard Leafpool pad up next to him. "What happened?" she asked, alarmed.
"Twolegs," he said blankly.
"Leafpool," Cinderheart began, "I want to know what you and Jayfeather are hiding from me." Jayfeather felt Leafpool grow more alarmed, and sensed her glance at him for a moment.
"I'm not leaving until I find out what it is."
Leafpool obviously was not going to help, so he began. "You know about the medicine cat before Leafpool, named Cinderpelt?"
Cinderheart nodded. "I heard she died saving my mother and my littermates."
"Well... you're her." Jayfeather couldn't think of any better way to tell her.
There was a moment of complete silence except for the rustling of the trees before Cinderheart "I know it's hard to believe, but Starclan showed me myself. I could hardly believe it when I first found out," Leafpool took over.
Firestar padded over and looked at Cinderheart. Jayfeather could sense him looking at her with new respect in his eyes. "Is this true?" he asked, looking back at Leafpool, who nodded. "Do you remember anything about her?"
"I keep having visions of being hit on a Thunderpath by a Twoleg monster, and oh! You were my mentor, right?"
"You were?" Jayfeather asked Firestar, surprised. He had thought Yellowfang had been Cinderpelt's mentor.
Firestar nodded. "I was a new warrior then, not even deputy yet." Jayfeather heard him turn towards himself. "Cinderpelt became a medicine cat only because she was injured and could not be a warrior after that. I was her mentor until then."
"Oh," Jayfeather sighed, then laid his head down again, exhausted.
"How are you feeling?" Cinderheart asked.
"Better, I guess. It would have been better if nothing happened at all, but-" Jayfeather was cut off by Leafpool.
"Don't think about that, Jayfeather. Just think about what's going to happen next."
"I think that you'll leave me in peace next, Leafpool," he hissed. Along with Lionblaze, he had never really forgiven her.
Leafpool seemed taken aback, and Jayfeather felt a little guilty. Se had been his mentor after all, and he sometimes wished she still was when he was a little nervous about what to do. "O-okay," she said and walked away. Jayfeather heard her walk to the warriors den and sensed her speak to Lionblaze. Lionblaze had also glared at her, then come to see Jayfeather.
"I don't know why everyone's making such a fuss about me. Honestly, I'm fine." Jayfeather tried to explain again.
"You were dead until Brightheart saved you! You're lucky our patrol came back before it was too late!" Jayfeather flinched at Lionblaze's harsh and angry words.
"Cinderheart, Firestar, I would like to speak to Lionblaze alone." Jayfeather tried his best to make his voice calm, but made sure there was coldness in it as well. Lionblaze should know that he was not going to just fall below him.
"Okay, call me if you need anything," Cinderheart said while Firestar nodded, and the two of the walked off together.
"Don't try to talk me into believing anything!" His brother's voice sounded like a blazing fire. "You keep trying to act like you can do everything!" He quieted a little, but not much. "Forget acting. Give it up. Because it's not true. You're blind." Lionblaze leaned in to stay that last part.
Jayfeather pulled himself onto his paws, aware of the throbbing pain. He wanted to sound angry, but he was shocked. His voice was shaky. "Lionblaze," he began, "I-I thought you were my brother. I thought you saw beyond my being blind. And even if it wasn't like that in the beginning, I thought it had changed once I told you both about the prophecy." Jayfeather drew in another shaky breath. "From this moment on and for all time to come, I say with Starclan as witness, that I do not consider you my brother anymore. Do not try to come in my life at all. Forget about the prophecy we once shared because we no longer need it."
He knew his slower, steadier words had had much more effect than Lionblaze's angry ones. They were true, though. Jayfeather felt betrayed by the way he appeared to his ex-brother. Jayfeather hoped he wouldn't regret today's conversation.
Jayfeather heard Lionblaze take a few steps back. Then he snarled, "Fine, if this is what you want, then this is what it will be."
Jayfeather didn't reply. He didn't need to. Both of them agreed to stay away from each other. Then why did he feel disappointed? Had he really expected such an ambitious cat to beg for forgiveness? Well, if Lionblaze was waiting for him to, then he would have to wait a long time.
Snowkit picked up a mouse and started sneaking over to the mini clearing where Smokepaw and she meet. The morning's light started to have less effect in keeping them warm. Leaf-bare was on its way. It's been two moons since Jayfeather was hurt, and one moon since they were allowed to go out of the nursery again. Jayfeather seemed to be much better, but Snowkit noticed how he stopped often to rest and would grunt every time he got up.
The biggest thing that had happened since that day was the end of Jayfeather and her father talking. She didn't know what happened, she planned on asking Jayfeather sometime. He had told her himself that he was not on speaking terms, so he must be okay with talking about it.
"I guess we're a team now," he had said.
"What do you mean?"
"Lionblaze and I..." He had trailed off, not knowing what to say. But the way the two ever looked at each other, from Lionblaze's part of course, it was made pretty clear that they wanted nothing to do with each other.
Snowkit hurried on, reminding herself to go to Jayfeather later. When she got to the mini clearing, she sat down at the other end and began eating. A few minutes later, Smokepaw appeared, holding his own small shrew. He bounded over to her and sat down to eat.
They ate in silence, and Snowkit was thankful for that. She wanted some time to think, and even though she was a kit and had nothing to do, she never got the time to just think. Snowkit thought about what might be going on between Lionblaze and Jayfeather, but when she couldn't, her attention turned to Firekit. He had not left the nursery once these past two moons. Of course, one moon none of them left, but when Firestar sad they were free, he just stayed. She and Hollykit had both tried to get him out, but he kept saying that it was his fault so he should not be allowed out of the nursery. Hopefully they could get him out 2 moons later. Still, she doubted it.
Smokepaw grunted while he licked his mouth after he finished his shrew and what was remaining of Snowkit's mouse while she was distracted. She flicked his ear with her tail playfully.
"Snowkit," he started, "how old are you now?"
"Six moons, why?"
"How old is a kit when they get their apprentice name?"
"Six mo-" Suddenly Snowkit realized that she's going to be apprenticed today. "Yay!" I have to go tell Hollykit and Firekit!" Snowkit got on her paws immediately.
"Firekit?" Smokepaw asked unsurely.
"Why not? Can't I?"
Snowkit waited for Smokepaw's hesitant response impatiently. "Well, he won't be too happy about it, will he? Please tell me he'll actually come out of the nursery. Or is he going to refuse his apprentice ceremony?"
Snowkit froze as she soaked in Smokepaw's words. What he was saying sounded excatly like what Firekit would do. Firekit was a carefree cat, one that would try to do everything, but if he ever realized he's done something wrong, he goes into a state where no cat can help him, no matter how hard they try.
"Come with me," she begged Smokepaw. "Maybe you, me, and Hollykit can get him to come."
"Of course," Smokepaw mewed gently, pushing his nose into her thick, soft fur. "I'll help your brother, don't worry." Snowkit couldn't tell whether he meant he was helping her or Firekit. Though his words were for Firekit, his tone seemed to be for Snowkit.
"Thank you," she squeaked anyway, and the two crept out.
Back in the normal clearing, Snowkit looked for Hollykit. When she couldn't find her, she went to the nursery. Hollykit was there, curled up beside Firekit, but not sleeping. "Snowkit?" she asked as her sister entered.
"Yes," she said, nervously.
"And me," grunted Smokepaw as the young strong apprentice pushed his way beside her.
"Oh, okay. Why are you here?"
"Can't a cat go somewhere in the camp every now and then?" Smokepaw retorted. Snowkit silenced him with her tail.
"Oh, I didn't mean that," she spoke, startled.
"Hollykit, we're six moons old. We're going to be apprentices!" Snowkit said excitedly.
Hollykit jumped to her paws, her green eyes gleaming happily. "I know," she breathed. "Finally." Then she looked at the small orange lump next to her. "But..."
"I know. What are we going to do?"
"I don't know," she said, looking crestfallen.
"Kits!" Smokepaw exclaimed. Snowkit looked at him and he explained. "I mean being so worried for no reason. You can't expect Firekit to refuse being and apprentice." Snowkit shot him a look that told him to be quiet. She was hurt at the fact that Smokepaw always acted different when he wasn't alone with her.
Snowkit turned back to Hollykit. "Let's wake him up. Maybe we can convince him before the ceremony."
"The ceremony's not till evening," Smokepaw snorted.
Snowkit turned her ice blue eyes back at Smokepaw. "Leave," she said sternly, "or keep quiet." Snowkit thought of another idea. "If you don't I'll stuff your mouth with mouse bile. I'm not joking." Smokepaw looked startled, probably by the intensity of her eyes. Snowkit had been told that her eyes carried sweetness but change dramatically when something happens.
"Firekit," Hollykit said while prodding Firekit's stomach.
He woke with a start. "Wha?" Firekit looked around at the cats in the nursery. Then he closed his eyes. "I'm not leaving here, you know," he mumbled.
"Firekit, our apprentice ceremony is today." Snowkit saw light beginning to shine in his eyes, but then they died as he put his head down.
Snowkit looked at Hollykit in dismay. Then they both looked down at his weak body. It had been weak ever since he stopped coming out for fresh kill. The cats had kept bringing him food but he had barely eaten it.
"Firekit, please? Stop doing this. I've never seen you like this, and it does everyone harm when they look at you. No one blames you for anything. We all made the mistake." Snowkit hoped her pleading words would help her brother.
Firekit shook his head sadly. "It is my fault. So I should be punished. I'm the one who came up with the idea!" He started to get mad at himself and rose to his paws shakily. "I almost got us killed! If Dustpelt and Brackenfur hadn't been there, we would've been crowfood! Think of the state the camp back here would've been in!It was me, you can stop trying to get me to forget that! I did it. I did it. I did it." His voice died down a bit every time he said the last phrase. He stood there whimpering, then collapsed to the ground, losing his strength, and crouched there, trembling.
Snowkit didn't know how to react. She had imagined herself helping Firekit, but now she just stood there, watching him. After what seemed like 9 lives, Hollykit crouched down next to Firekit and began murmuring something in his ear. She was too quiet for Snowkit to hear what she said.
When she finished speaking, Firekit looked up, with cold fear shining through his eyes. "Firekit?" Snowkit asked unsurely.
"You wouldn't," he whispered, then waited for Hollykit's reply.
"If you don't listen to us," she nodded.
Firekit didn't think even for a moment. "Then of course I'll be an apprentice," he whispered, horror still showing from every part of his body.
"Er, Firekit?" Snowkit asked uncertainly. "What did Hollykit say?" Snowkit watched as Firekit just shook his head and went back to sleep. Then she nudged Hollykit out of the nursery. Smokepaw followed.
"I told him we would go badger-hunting ourselves," Hollykit explained once they were out into the bright clearing.
"We wouldn't really do that, would we?" Snowkit asked doubtfully.
"I don't think so, but we got him to listen, right?"
"I guess," Snowkit replied, but still didn't like the idea of scaring her brother into listening. Hollykit went back into the nursery to sleep.
"I guess we made him listen," Smokepaw said.
Snowkit turned to him angrily, her fur bristling, but before she could say anything, Brackenfur called. "Smokepaw! Let's work on advanced battle training today!"
"Okay!" Smokepaw hurriedly said bye to her and then bounded after his mentor.
For a few moments, Snowkit didn't know what to do. She scanned the clearing outside, and wen her eyes rested upon Jayfeather eating fresh kill alone, she knew what it was time for her to do. Taking a deep breath, she slowly padded over to her father's brother.
He turned is feather blue eyes on her. "Snowkit?" he asked after he sniffed the air.
"Yeah, can we talk in your den for a moment?" Jayfeather nodded, but Snowkit could see his fur beginning to bristle as if he knew what they were going to talk about.
After settling down near the back, Jayfeather asked, "So what did you want to talk about?" Snowkit looked down at her paws, not knowing how to say it. "Lionblaze? Me"? Lionblaze and me? Do you want to know?" Snowkit looked up at him in amazement. How did he know? Jayfeather apparently knew what she was thinking because he shrugged his shoulders and said, "I'm blind. I can sense more than other cats."
"So... can I know? Is it okay with you to talk about it?" Snowkit dared to ask.
Jayfeather let out a long sigh. "I suppose I should tell you." Snowkit waited. "Lionblaze was really angry at me. I didn't know why. All I knew was that he said that I try to act greater than I really am. That I'm only a weak blind medicine cat."
Snowkit shook her head. "That's not true!" she cried.
"But it is. All my life I've tried to prove I don't need any cat's help. That I can get along just fine without them." Jayfeather drew in a breath. "Lionblaze has always known I did that. But I had thought that when something happened, he started seeing beyond my being blind. But I was wrong." Jayfeather closed his eyes.
Snowkit rested her tail on his pelt. "Then?" she asked quietly.
"I was shocked by his words. I said something I hadn't meant to say. I was shocked and in pain. I wasn't thinking clearly." He turned his head down to face the ground. "I told him that in witness of Starclan, I don't consider him my brother anymore. I told him to stay away from me and my life. He left."
Snowkit widened her eyes. She knew something was going on, but she hadn't expected it to be that bad.
"I didn't mean it. I miss having him to talk to. But I'm not going to go look weak and start begging for his forgiveness."
Snowkit thought for a moment. "Well that might be the best way. Don't beg, but tell him whatever you told me just now."
"Maybe... sometime." He got up and stretched. Then he looked at Snowkit and a forced mew came out of his mouth. "Have fun being an apprentice!"
Hollykit couldn't sleep. She was too excited. The time she had been waiting for since she had been kitted was just about to happen. She was going to become an apprentice!
She wondered who her mentor might be. She wished Brackenfur wasn't Smokepaw's mentor. Something about him seemed... familiar. Something that made her wish he was her mentor. Hollykit thought about who else could mentor her. There were many younger warriors than Brackenfur, like Berrynose or Birchfall. Hollykit wouldn't want to have Berrynose as her mentor. If she could choose between the two she would choose Birchfall. Though she'd rather not have him either.
Maybe Sorreltail or Poppyfrost would would be good mentors. Hollykit thought a little longer before Cinderheart appeared in the entrance. She was talking with Firestar about something. Then she came in. "Hi, Hollykit. Are you excited?" Hollykit nodded her head energetically and her mother laughed. "How about Snowkit?"
"She's excited too, she came in here just to tell me."
"Have you spoken to Firekit?" Cinderheart asked hopefully.
"We managed to convince him," Hollykit reassured her. Ten she crawled next to where her mother curled up and slept peacefully.
Hollykit woke up when she felt a paw in her side. Her mother's eyes gleamed proudly above her. "It's almost time, Hollykit. Let me make you look nice."
Hollykit stood up and let Cinderheart lick her fur. Snowkit and Firekit were sitting next to each other looking at her. She didn't know why they didn't look so happy. When Cinderheart finished, she turned to Snowkit, who stood up. Hollykit peeked outside and saw the clan was beginning to gather, waiting. "Come on!" she whispered happily.
Firekit quickly got cleaned right before Lionblaze came in. "Come on, Firestar called us. It's time to go." Hollykit noticed that Snowkit and Firekit lined up behind her. Then the five cats padded out of the nursery.
"The time has come for one of our favorite and most useful ceremonies. Snowkit, Hollykit, and Firekit have reached their sixth moon. They are welcome into our world of warriors and apprentices."
Hollykit saw Jayfeather farther off. I guess he doesn't need to be close. He can't see us and he has stronger hearing than us.
"Just like their father and his litter, these three kits have had an adventurous kithood." Hollykit noticed Lionblaze stiffen beside her and glance at Jayfeather for a second. Firekit looked down. "Snowkit!"
Hollykit could tell she was trying her hardest to keep calm and she padded forward.
"From this day until you receive your warrior name, you will be Snowpaw."
"Snowpaw!" the clan yelled her name.
"Poppyfrost," Firestar called calmly. Poppyfrost stood up, her eyes full of pride. "Your mentor Thornclaw trained you well and you are a credit to Thunderclan. Now the Clan asks you to prove yourself a good mentor with your first apprentice."
Poppyfrost dipped her head while Firestar continued. "I trust you to pass on all you have learned to Snowpaw and help her become a warrior the Clan can be proud of."
"I won't let you or the Clan down," Poppyfrost said and bent down to touch noses with Snowpaw."
"Hollykit," Firestar called.
Forgetting that she was nervous, she bounded forward, waiting eagerly for her apprentice name. "From this day until you receive your warrior name, you will be Hollypaw."
"Hollypaw! Hollypaw!" She could see her sister leading the chant. She felt guilty when she realized she hadn't done the same for Snowpaw.
"Spiderleg!" Firestar waited for him to step forward. "You mentored Mousewhisker, and he turned out to be a great warrior. Now we expect you to pass on all you know to Hollypaw and help her become a warrior that every clan will fear."
Hollypaw looked up at her mentor. His eyes were kind, but she was kind of scared of him. She had heard stories about him before. "I will teach her all I have learned." Then Hollypaw reached up and touched her nose to his.
"Firekit!" her leader called. Hollypaw watched her brother step forward slowly, uncertainty showing in his eyes. "Every cat has noticed that you don't come out of the nursery. Today every cat congratulates you for making it this far," Firestar said, amused. He waited until the mews of approval died down. "From this day until you receive your warrior name, you will be Firepaw."
"Firepaw!" Hollypaw cried and listened as the other cats joined in.
"Dustpelt," Firestar said. "You have mentored many cats since the time you became a warrior. Both of your mentors trained you well. I trust you, with your experience, to pass on all your knowledge, without leaving any behind, to Firepaw."
"Of course, Firestar, I will share all I have learned." Hollypaw could sense the friendship between her leader and Dustpelt, and she remembered that they were both apprentices together.
Firestar looked at the sky. "I ask StarClan to watch over all three young apprentices and guide them until they find in their paws the strength and courage of a warrior."
Hollypaw noticed the cats leaving the clearing to go do their duties. She turned to Spiderleg, wondering what to do next.
"Do you want to clean the elder's bedding and check for ticks or explore the territory?"
"Can we explore the territory first?" Hollypaw asked.
"Sure," he said, then bounded away without warning. Hollypaw quickly followed.
The two cats ran soundlessly. Hollypaw was getting tired, but she didn't want to show that she was weak. Spiderleg slowed down. "What can you smell?" he asked.
"Er, leaves?" Hollypaw asked.
Hollypaw received a friendly flick on her ear. "Of course you smell leaves. You'll always smell leaves no matter where you go," her mentor responded.
"Even Windclan?" she dared to ask.
Spiderleg flicked his tail impatiently. "Do we have to go discussing where leaves are? Just tell me what else you smell here."
Hollypaw tasted the air and realized there was something unusual. It tasted bad. "I don't know what it is," she told her mentor sadly.
"Don't feel bad. You wouldn't know what it is. That is the Shadowclan border. What you are smelling is Shadowclan."
"Oh," she said. Would there be any around there now?
Spiderleg must have seen her worried expression because he said, "You want to wait here for a patrol so you can tell them that you're an apprentice now?" he asked with an amused glint in his voice.
Hollypaw followed her mentor as he padded along the border to the lake. While she was walking, she noticed Shadowclan scent beginning to mix with water. Eventually, she came to a place where there was a wide area of water. "Wow," she breathed.
Hollypaw's thoughts were interrupted bu a loud yowl. She and Spiderleg raced towards the sound. Behind a bush, they saw Dustpelt and Thornclaw battling five cats that smelled different.
"Get more warriors!" Spiderleg hissed to her.
Hollypaw ran as fast as she could in the direction where she thought the camp was. She was thankful as she began to hear the sounds that go on in the camp. Hollypaw burst through the entrance. "Dustpelt and Thornclaw are being attacked by the lake!" she yowled.
Sorreltail, Brackenfur, and Squirrelflight rushed to her. "Take us there!" Squirrelflight demanded. Hollypaw nodded and hoped she would find her scent trail so she could follow it back. She opened her mouth and started following the trail.
When they got to the place, Hollypaw could still hear yowls of fury. She watched as Sorreltail, Brackenfur, and Squirrelflight darted past her to help. She went after them, but not daring to join the fight because she knew she hadn't been taught any battle training.
Suddenly Hollypaw heard a noise behind her. She wheeled around and her mouth gaped open when she saw Jayfeather standing behind her with some sort of stick in his mouth. "Jayfeather?"
He dropped the stick. His ears were pricked toward the fight and he sighed. "I'd go help them out, but it would do no good except get the Thunderclan medicine cat killed." Hollypaw watched while Jayfeather sat down and licked his fur.
Suddenly Hollypaw realized how much importance medicine cats get. Hollypaw had always wanted importance, but she never really got it. "Jayfeather, I was, uh, wondering..."
"Yeah?" he asked not paying much attention.
"Can I become a medicine cat apprentice?"
Jayfeather looked more shocked than he ever had before for a moment, but he got back to his normal calm as quickly. "W-why do you want to be a medicine cat?"
"Well, I want to be able to serve my clan the best that I can. As a warrior I would be limited to fighting with tooth and claw, but as a medicine cat, I could do so much more."
Hollypaw's words seemed to shock the medicine cat much more. He hadn't manage to regain his composure by the time Squirrelflight, Sorreltail, Thornclaw, Spiderleg, and Brackenfur came up dragging Dustpelt's body behind. "Are you okay?" she gasped.
Brackenfur let the body down. "Dustpelt isn't doing okay. And Thornclaw doesn't look that great." Hollypaw looked over at Thornclaw. He was panting and barely managing to sit up.
"Why were you fighting? Who were they?"
"That was Riverclan. They wanted to claim the lake as their own and they were trying to mark their territory onto Thunderclan land." Hollpaw looked at her mentor as he spoke. He looked almost as bad as Thornclaw.
"Why were they doing that?" Hollypaw asked, bewildered.
"Riverclan is just weird. They've always wanted the lake." Jayfeather decided to speak then. "Even before I was born. I don't get why we shouldn't just give it to them. We don't fish!"
"Jayfeather, you know why we don't give it to them I'd expect you to not twist an apprentices mind like that!" Squirrelflight sounded like a mother scolding her kit. Hollypaw wondered why she was like that.
Jayfeather just snarled and stalked away with his stick.
Poppyfrost and Snowpaw appeared behind the group of cats. Snowpaw looked shocked and scared. Poppyfrost asked, "What happened here?" Sorreltail told them what happened and Snowpaw looked frightened out of her fur. "Spiderleg, you better go back to and rest instead of keeping Hollypaw. The rest of you should go rest, too."
"But it's Hollypaw's first day out. I'm sure she won't want to go back already," Spiderleg insisted. "Really, I can take her."
"Look at yourself, Spiderleg. You can hardly catch your breath. I can take Hollypaw for the day."
Spiderleg knew there was no arguing with Poppyfrost. "Fine, you take her." Then he got up and stretched and took Dustpelt's scruff in his mouth and began dragging him back to camp. The other cats followed him.
Soon Hollypaw was alone with her sister and her mentor. "So what were you doing?"
"I was showing Snowpaw the territory but we were going the other way. Snowpaw, we could show you the rest of the territory tomorrow, right? Today we'll show Hollypaw the rest."
Snowpaw didn't seem to mind, she still looked as scared. She just nodded.
Jayfeather grunted in slight pain as he pulled himself up. He had just finished eating and now he had to sort herbs. Padding silently to the entrance to his den, he tried to find out where Lionblaze was. They still weren't on speaking terms, but as much as Jayfeather hated to admit it, he missed having his brother. Now the only cat he had was Snowpaw. I never should have told him that. But it wasn't my fault! He led me into it! I was in pain and shocked and confused! But no matter how hard he tried to convince himself, he knew it wasn't true. It was his fault.
His head down and his tail drooping, he took out the herbs. His heart lurched when he realized he was running out. The clan had been forbidding him to leave the camp since the twoleg incident. He could hardly blame them, even he, two moons later, was finding it hard to live with the pain in his side. It would go away eventually, but...
Jayfeather tried to focus on the new problem. The herbs. Maybe he could ask a warrior to get the herbs for him when on patrol, but no. They wouldn't be able to tell if it was the right herb or not. He sunk down on the floor, his head spinning. He didn't know what to do. And Starclan wasn't speaking to him anymore. Not since... he didn't want to think about it.
Jayfeather was about to give up when an idea popped into his head. Cinderheart! She was back on warrior duties now that her kits were apprentices, and she was Cinderpelt. He was about to run out to find her but the pain started throbbing and he couldn't manage to pick himself up again.
He suddenly heard loud and hurried pawsteps outside. He heaved himself to his paws, aware that he was only hurting himself more by ignoring his wound. But especially after two moons of healing, he wasn't going to show that he was still weak.
"Jayfeather!" he heard Mousewhisker gasp. "Lionblaze, he's badly hurt!"
Jayfeather could hardly keep himself from falling over. How could Lionblaze be hurt? "Tell me what happened," he said in a forced calm voice.
Suddenly Mousewhisker seemed to remember Jayfeather's injury, because he said, "The same thing that happened to you. We were on a hunting patrol and suddenly Lionblaze slumped to the ground with one of those arrow-things stuck in his side."
Jayfeather held his breath to hold in the wail that rose inside of him. How would he save his brother from that? And on top of that, Lionblaze still hated him and Jayfeather had to pretend the same. "Okay, take me to him," he mewed quietly, hoping Mousewhisker wouldn't hear the defeat in his voice.
He raced after Mousewhisker, and hardly paying any attention when he could tell Mousewhisker thought he couldn't keep up. His mind was focused only on one thing: Lionblaze. He couldn't figure out how his brother got hurt. Then he realized. Lionblaze was protected in battle, not just accidents and twolegs. Jayfeather followed Mousewhisker silently, but when his sharp nose found Lionblaze's scent, he pushed ahead and rushed to him as fast as he could.
I wish I could see! Jayfeather thought as he tried to assess the situation quickly. He quickly ran his paw over Lionblaze's sigh. The arrow was not in the same place Jayfeather had been shot, it was a little down the body. That was good, because the farther away from the neck and head, the less hurt a cat will be.
Jayfeather let the fur on his shoulders relax once he felt Lionblaze's faint, almost unnoticeable breaths. He licked his brother's chest to help make his breathing steadier. Then when he thought it was time, he pulled the arrow out. Lionblaze gasped and Jayfeather couldn't hear his breathing anymore. He licked some more until he could.
"When can we take him to camp?" Jayfeather jumped as he remembered there were other cats around. When he didn't reply, Squirrelflight continued. "Come on, Jayfeather. The patrol got you back to camp. Is it safe to take him?"
Suddenly Jayfeather remembered his anger for Squirrelflight, because of how she pretended to be their mother. "I know what I'm doing!" he spat. Then he turned and slowly walked back to camp saying over his shoulder, "Well, don't leave him there. Bring him!"
Not bothering to make sure they were bringing him, he ran back to camp. As he veered around a tree, he suddenly noticed the pain. He hadn't been thinking about it while taking care of Lionblaze. Had he panicked that much?
As he padded through the entrance, he was close to collapsing in exhaustion and pain. But he forced himself to go slowly to his den before giving in to his aching body. Just as he allowed himself to drop down on the floor, there was a loud rustling just outside his den. Great Starclan! Please let me have a nap!
"Jayfeather?" he heard a soft and calm voice say. He forced himself up to his paws as Snowpaw quietly entered. The last thing he needed was a new apprentice worrying about him.
"Um, I wanted to talk to you, but I thought I'd better tell you that the warriors who fought earlier with Riverclan are back. They, er, need a few herbs," she said uncertainly. Meanwhile Jayfeather was about to fall off his paws.
"How many more cats are you going to hurt today, Starclan?" Jayfeather muttered grumpily.
"Who else is hurt?" Snowpaw gasped. Jayfeather suddenly wished he hadn't said that. He didn't want to be the one to tell her about her father's condition? "Jayfeather, who is hurt?" When he didn't say anything, he heard more softness in her voice. "Jayfeather, you look tired. Are you feeling okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine, it's just the..."
"Just the area where the arrow hit you?" Snowpaw guessed.
"How did you know?" he asked surprised.
Snowpaw snorted. "I'd be surprised if any cat in Thunderclan didn't know. Really, you should go a little easier on yourself. Now can you please tell me who is hurt?" she added impatiently.
"Lionblaze," Jayfeather murmured, hoping she wouldn't hear him. The waves of shock coming from her were almost enough to knock him off his paws. She heard him race out of the den. After a minute, he decided he better get outside and get to work.
First he tried to find Snowpaw. He scented her near the Highledge. He called to her, and he heard her wheel around quickly. "J-Jayfeather!" she stammered. He wondered what she was hiding.
"Come here," he called softly. He could feel her unease as she started slowly to him.
"Lionblaze was just hurt. I only just came back from the forest where the patrol was. And you said you wanted to talk, right? Wait in my den for me, when I come we can settle down and talk. I'll get both of us some fresh kill!" He flicked his tail and padded towards Dustpelt.
The other cats were around Dustpelt, exhausted. "Well?" Jayfeather prompted as the cats moved aside to let him to Dustpelt. He sniffed the body from head to toe, then lifted his head. "You don't have to worry, he's fine. I can't give him any herbs because he isn't that badly hurt. He's only unconscious because of his lack of sleep."
Jayfeather waited for any reply from the surrounding cats, and he went on as they remained silent. "Has he been doing too much? Tell him when he wakes up that I have told him to stay in his den for the next day. He was just tired, and then he went into battle and he was outnumbered in the beginning." He scented Ferncloud and he rushed away before he would have to hear Dustpelt's mate's anxious mews. The other cats seemed fine too, they just all needed rest.
After picking up a thrush for himself and a mouse for Snowpaw, he trudged slowly to his den. Scenting the air, he realized that Snowpaw had only just gotten there. Where had she been until then?
He made his way to the back where Snowpaw and he always talked. He let himself drop to the ground. He didn't pick up any alarm from Snowpaw, she must have known how tired he was.
Closing his eyes for a moment, he murmured, "I pray to Starclan I can just sleep for two moons." Then opened them, so he could keep himself awake. "How are you, Snowpaw? Did you enjoy your first day out as an apprentice?"
"It was fine," she replied absent-mindedly.
Jayfeather let impatience take over him. He was too tired to control it. "Well, are you going to say anything? I want to sleep and I can't with you just sitting there and not saying anything!"
"Sorry, Jayfeather. I was looking at Lionblaze earlier today, and I realized that he wasn't that mad at you."
"Of course he wasn't, I'm pretty sure he'd like to kill me right now." Jayfeather realized he had hurt Snowpaw's feeling so he just muttered, "Sorry. Continue?"
Snowpaw nodded. "I think he felt sad. He was looking across the clearing at you, and I could definitely make out sorrow in his eyes."
"What?!" he asked, surprised. He was the one whose powers let him enter the minds of other cats, how come he didn't know if Lionblaze felt sad? Because I've been trying to get him out of my head, he thought answering his own question.
"He did!" Snowpaw persisted. "I thought I should let you know because it might make you feel a little less bad. Lionblaze does still care for you. A lot." Jayfeather waited as Snowpaw paused. "Jayfeather, I think I should leave now. You look as if you're about to fall asleep on your paws."
Jayfeather nodded, and finished his thrush quickly as he heard her quietly leaving. Resting his head on his paws and putting the tip of his tail over his nose, he let sleep overcome him.
Dreams led him to one of the underground tunnels. He looked around wildly as it began to rain. Water slowly rose up to his chin, his mouth. He took up a deep breath as his nose vanished under the surface. Panicking, he kicked around, trying to push his head above the water. His lungs bursting, Jayfeather felt himself drift slowly to the bottom, and then saw everything go black.
He suddenly appeared in a forest. Recognizing it as Starclan's territory, his heart began to race with excitement at the thought of them forgiving him for what he had done. He bounded up the path that led to a rock, where Spottedleaf and Yellowfang would always wait for him. But as he caught a glance at the rock, he realized sadly that there was no one there.
As he turned around slowly with his head and tail drooping, he realized that he could scent both the medicine cats tingling in the air. He turned in circles, desperate to see them. Then he heard the whisper.
"Jayfeather," Spottedleaf's soft tone rang.
"Spottedleaf! Are you there? Please talk to me! I'm sorry! Please forgive me, I hadn't realized what I was doing!" Desperation rose in his voice as none of the she-cats showed themselves to him.
"Lies! You knew exactly what you were doing!" Jayfeather swallowed as he heard Yellowfang's unforgiving voice. Both cats had always been nice and supporting to him unless he was doing something wrong. And even though Yellowfang was always short-tempered, she would still do what she thought best for him. And Spottedleaf... this was completely against her personality.
"Please don't do this to me!" Jayfeather wailed in despair. "Please, I need you." He sunk down to the ground, dizzy and sorry for what he had done.
Spottedleaf's voice turned harsh. "Why should we listen to you? Tell me you didn't kill warriors when they came to you for help! Tell me you didn't attack Starclan! Tell me you didn't want Tigerstar to help you kill even more cats!"
Jayfeather trembled as Spottedleaf listed what he had done just after the great battle between Starclan and the Dark Forest. "Y-you know I can't say that," he blurted out shakily. He knew the two were barely controlling themselves from lunging at him.
"Of course you can't! So how can you even begin to think that we would forgive you? All of Starclan is against you!" Yellowfang spat.
Jayfeather's heart lurched as he realized what else that meant. If all of Starclan hated him, he would not go to Starclan when he died. He would go somewhere much, much worse. "I'm sorry," was all he was able to say. He felt a sharp nip on his tail and shoulder and bit back a cry of pain.
He woke with a start back in his den. He forced his eyes open on darkness and stretched himself out. Wincing as he got up, he gave his aching shoulder and tail a quick lick. The wounds he gets in his dreams somehow shows up when he wakes up.
Jayfeather tried to push his dream away. He couldn't. He had done something very wrong, but was it really so bad that Spottedleaf and Yellowfang would never speak to him again? Was is so much, that when he died, he wouldn't go to Starclan?
"Oh, you're finally awake?" Snowpaw said as Jayfeather heard her running in excitedly.
Jayfeather grunted, shaking away his thoughts so he could be at least pleasant with the young apprentice.
"I brought you some fresh kill!" she said, and tossed a vole at him.
He caught it, and remembered when he was a kit, he, Hollyleaf, and Lionblaze would all play by tossing fresh kill around. Hollyleaf, where are you? Remembering that he didn't know whether Hollyleaf was in Starclan or not made him remember the dream.
"Uh, Jayfeather? You there?" Snowpaw's voice jolted him back to the present.
"Uh, yeah. Thanks." Jayfeather tucked in to the vole heartily, suddenly realizing how hungry he was.
He heard Snowpaw settle down beside him. "You don't look alright, are you okay?"
Jayfeather just snorted. "I wouldn't know. I can't look at myself," he said grumpily then felt guilty once he heard the harshness of his own words. "Sorry," he mumbled. "I just had a bad dream, that's all."
Snowpaw seemed satisfied with his response. "Okay, I didn't have anything to talk about really, I just thought I'd come."
"Oh, I'm still a bit tired, but I don't want to sleep. Don't you have to go out with Poppyfrost?" Jayfeather didn't want to get rid of Snowpaw's company, but he thought that if she was supposed to be out, then it wouldn't be right for her to be here.
"No, Poppyfrost said that we'd go on patrol today, so I have some free time before," Snowpaw said. Jayfeather just nodded. He didn't know how to keep an apprentice excited. "Have you ever thought of taking on an apprentice?" Snowpaw asked suddenly.
"No, not really." Jayfeather thought for a moment. "Why? Do you know any cat who would like to be a medicine cat? I suppose it is about time to start searching." Jayfeather didn't really want an apprentice, he didn't think he'd have the patience to deal with one.
"I don't know of anyone..." Snowpaw trailed off, and with dismay, Jayfeather realized he was losing his powers to enter cats' minds. It must be a punishment from Starclan, he thought miserably.
"Have you checked on Lionblaze?"
Snowpaw nodded. "He's awake now, and he's moving around too. You can hardly tell he was hurt in the first place."
"Well, that's better than me," Jayfeather muttered, remembering how Snowpaw said how obvious it was that he still hadn't recovered.
Snowpaw gave Jayfeather a quick lick on his shoulder. "Well, I'm sure he was just lucky. Was he as badly hurt as you?"
"Well, no. Mine pushed deeper in and it was higher up my body," Jayfeather said. It felt awkward to be explaining all about a wound he had gotten a while ago.
"Okay, then You shouldn't feel bad." Snowpaw looked around. "I should get going now."
Suddenly Jayfeather realized that he wanted to confide in the young apprentice. He trusted her in a way he had trusted Lionblaze once. "Okay, Snowpaw. Just when you come back, wait for me in my den if I'm not already there. There's something I want to talk about."
Snowpaw shrugged. "Okay," she said cheerfully and then padded away. Jayfeather sighed and was just about to go back to sleep when he thought he should get up. He stretched himself out and walked out of the den. Unease flooded through him as he scented Lionblaze a little away. As a medicine cat he would have to check on him and he could just imagine how Lionblaze would react.
Slowly, he made his way to where Lionblaze was talking to Cinderheart in quiet voices. "Hi, Cinderheart. Lionblaze," Jayfeather said, trying to sound normal.
He imagined Lionblaze narrowing his eyes and glaring at him as he heard the contempt in his voice. "Why are you here?" he asked.
"You should be thankful I saved your life, Lionblaze! Now let me check on your wound unless you'd rather it gets infected." Jayfeather broke off and then cursed at himself because he didn't want Lionblaze of all cats to hear anything but strength in his voice.
Lionblaze snorted and said, "Fine. Do what you want."
Jayfeather ran his paw over his brother's side, trying to ignore the sharp intake of breath he had felt when his paw touched the cut. "Just make sure you keep putting cobwebs on it and always make sure it's clean."
"I could have said that," Lionblaze spat. "Did I really need a medicine cat to tell me the obvious?"
Hurt by his brother's words, he backed away. He hadn't been sure how to respond to that. Then he remembered that he needed to restock herbs. "Cinderheart!" he called, forcing her to leave his brother's side. When he heard her next to him, he said in a low voice, "I'm running out of herbs, and you know why I can't go leave camp. Do you think you can restock for me?"
"But I don't know what-" Cinderheart broke off as she realized why Jayfeather was asking her of all cats to do this. She nodded. "Okay," she said uncertainly.
Jayfeather dipped his head in thanks. Then he walked up to Brambleclaw. "Can I please be allowed out of camp? I'm fine, now."
"I doubt you're fine," Brambleclaw said. "I think you're just saying that."
"Honestly, I don't remember the last time any cat didn't try to convince the others they were fine," Jayfeather remarked. "And you still let them out."
"Yes, but they're stronger than you. And they can protect themselves better than you, too." Jayfeather flinched as though he had been stung. He could immediately feel waves of regret coming from the clan deputy. "Sorry, Jayfeather. It's just that you have to be more careful. What would Thunderclan do without a medicine cat?"
"Of course, the only reason any cat wants me alive is so that they don't die!" Jayfeather spat and stalked off.
"You know that's not true," Brambleclaw called after him. He just flicked his tail in response.
Jayfeather hadn't meant to be so stingy, but he's been in a bad mood ever since he woke up. When he remembered that today was half-moon, and all the medicine cats would go to the Moonpool, he didn't feel the usual bursting of excitement. He hadn't felt that ever since Starclan had shown him enough signs that his presence wasn't wanted.
As he hurried over to his den, he unexpectedly noticed Leafpool sitting outside. Her front faced the inside. "Leafpool?" Jayfeather asked.
She jumped. "Jayfeather! I, er-" Leafpool broke off but Jayfeather knew what she wanted to say.
"Want to come in?" he sighed. His old mentor must miss being a medicine cat. She nodded, then followed him in.
Jayfeather padded inside to his nest and dropped to the ground. Though he had been ignoring the pain in his side, it didn't mean it wasn't there. He didn't care about showing off in front of Leafpool. She was his mother and mentor; she knew him well enough already.
Jayfeather heard Leafpool sigh as she looked around. "It feels right to be back in here. Are you okay, Jayfeather?"
He nodded, even though he knew it wouldn't have any effect. "I'm just tired, and my body aches."
"You're going to be traveling today, you should make sure you're fit enough to make it there and back. I'm sure Starclan will want to talk to you," she said. Jayfeather stiffened as Leafpool went on. "At least eat some poppy seeds."
Shaking his head, he said, "Poppy seeds will make me sleepy. And I shouldn't be eating because I have to go to the Moonpool."
"You're right," she sighed. "It's good I'm not a medicine cat anymore. I'm not good at it anymore." Jayfeather pitied her and had an urge to comfort her, but he had never forgotten his anger for Leafpool and her sister, Squirrelflight.
"You'd be a good medicine cat if you never stopped, but, well, you did." That was the best the young gray tom could say. When there was an awkward silence after, Jayfeather quickly got up. "I should get going," he mewed quietly. Leafpool scrambled to her paws after. "You can stay here if you want. This was your den once, too."
As Leafpool nodded her thanks, Jayfeather padded out. Scenting Brambleclaw in the clearing he walked over to him. "See if you can stop me from leaving now!" he gloated. "Today is half-moon and nothing will stop a medicine cat from going."
The warrior seemed startled but then he relaxed. "Of course, Jayfeather," he replied calmly, dipping his head respectfully, "Why would I stop a medicine cat from going to the Moonpool? Just find a two or three warriors to go with you."
Jayfeather froze. He couldn't even leave for one night? Then he too relaxed as he realized he would not take a warrior. "No, Brambleclaw. I will travel to the Moonpool myself. As Thunderclan's sole medicine cat, I forbid any normal warrior to make this journey today."
Jayfeather could feel anger burning through the deputy's pelt. He seemed like he was about to claw at his fur, but he just nodded and looked away.
With the argument won, he raced out of the entrance and towards the stream that led to the pool.
Scenting Shadowclan, Riverclan, and Windclan scent ahead, Jayfeather realized that the other cats must be waiting for him. Bursting out from behind a bush, he gasped, "Sorry, started out a little late."
Weirdly, it was Willowshine who spoke. "It's okay, Jayfeather. No cat always does everything right." Was that affection he heard in her voice? Jayfeather convinced himself that wasn't the case. Willowshine has always hated him.
"Are you okay?" Littlecloud asked unexpectedly.
"I'm fine," he insisted. He felt Littlecloud's stare burn into his pelt a little longer. Then the Shadowclan medicine cat turned away.
"Let's get going," he mewed, then started off.
Jayfeather started running, but pain and exhaustion slowed him down. Feeling a pelt brush against him, he realized that Littlecloud had slowed down to talk to him. "I don't think you're okay," he murmured.
Knowing there was no way out, Jayfeather gave in. "My side still hasn't healed. It still hurts greatly."
"I think I know something that could help. I'll talk with you later." Then Littlecloud sped off in front of the other cats.
After what seemed like a lifetime of racing along the stream, Jayfeather slowed to a stop with the other cats as they reached the Moonpool. He could feel the same cool energy surrounding it, and he heard the voices of the spirits calling them forward. The only difference was that they weren't calling him this time, they were calling the other cats.
Jayfeather grunted as he let himself drop on his side next to the Moonpool. He could tell the other cats were wondering why he was like that, but e was too tired to care. Dreading what lay ahead in his dreams, Jayfeather slowly put his nose to the cool water and fell asleep.
The tom was startled when he found he was back in the Starclan forest. He had thought they wanted nothing to do with him. He hurried up the path and was even more shocked to find Spottedleaf sitting there waiting for him.
"Hello, Jayfeather," she spoke in an unforgiving tone.
"Spottedleaf-" he started, then broke off as he looked down, unable to stand the fury in her eyes.
"I wish you weren't the medicine cat. I would have liked to tell this to another cat."
Jayfeather sighed inwardly. She didn't ave to keep reminding him. He was already haunted by the fact in the first place. He watched her shift her feet.
"The only reason I talk to you is if Starclan must say something for Thunderclan. And there is a new prophecy," she said loudly. Jayfeather's ears flicked up in sudden interest. "Don't look like that, it isn't about you. A new terror will strike, and light with dark will have to join together."
Jayfeather's mouth dropped open. He knew what this meant. "But-but..."
"Jayfeather," a new voice sounded. Jayfeather spun around to see Yellowfang. "Would you like to prove yourself in front of Starclan?"
He dipped his head. "Yes, I would."
"Very well. We will meet you in your dreams after many moons to come."
Before anything else happened, Jayfeather found himself awake at the edge of the Moonpool.
Firepaw trudged back into his den. I'm sure other apprentices don't have to work this hard, he thought miserably. Dustpelt had made him clean out the elders den, taken him out on patrol, and after he was done with that, Cinderheart had come and asked him to help with some herbs. He sighed, exhausted and looked around, wondering where to make his nest.
"Firepaw!" Snowpaw was running towards him. "How was your day?"
"Tiring, you?" Firepaw greeted her. He blinked at her happily, with sudden energy. He felt happy, and proud now that he had completed his first day as an apprentice. Surprisingly, he saw relief tingle in his sister's eyes.
"I love finally being an apprentice! The only part I didn't like was finding out about the Riverclan patrol." Firepaw could make out suppressed excitement in her voice and eyes and could barely keep himself from bursting into laughter. "You're okay, aren't you?" she suddenly asked with quiet seriousness.
He knew what she was asking about. He had refused to be let off his punishment after only one moon. "Of course," he murmured, pressing his face into Snowpaw's flank affectionately.
Snowpaw licked his head quickly, then said, "Want to find our nests and claim it before Hollypaw can?" she asked mischievously.
Firepaw purred and rushed to a corner behind her. He scented the air and it told him that no other cat was sleeping there. There was enough room for Hollypaw too. Turning around himself a few times and settling down, he closed his eyes and tried to sleep. Unfortunately, Snowpaw's paw throbbed him in the side. "Can't a cat get some sleep?" he asked playfully with one eye open and looking at her.
"Don't you want to play?" she asked with fake hurt sounding through her voice.
Firepaw was about to say no thanks, but he changed his mind and pushed himself up to his paws. "Fine," he grunted, not wanting to bore Snowpaw.
"Let's find Smokepaw!" she suggested.
"Sure," he said light-heartedly before following her out. In the dark, moonlit clearing, peace surrounded the clan. Other than Lionblaze and Jayfeather, but every cat had grown used to that. The two cats seemed to be having a hissing and glaring contest, though with Jayfeather's sightless blue eyes, his glare was a bit glazed over. He watched as Jayfeather angrily stalked away and snatched up and vole from the top of the fresh-kill pile.
"Wait here," Snowpaw said, "I'll be right back." By the look on her face, Firepaw could tell she had been disconcerted by Lionblaze and Jayfeather.
Firepaw thought for a moment. When will Jayfeather get an apprentice? He had often heard that getting an apprentice is one of the best parts of being a clan cat. And Thunderclan should have an apprentice to take over in case anything happens to Jayfeather. If Thunderclan needed a medicine cat apprentice, and there wasn't one, Firepaw would be more than willing to become it. He padded over to Jayfeather.
"Jayfeather?" he asked, "can I talk to you?"
The tom looked surprised that he had gone to talk to him, but didn't object. "Of course," he grunted, then headed over to his den. Firepaw followed. Once Jayfeather had made himself comfortable in his nest, he turned to Firepaw. "Now what did you want to talk about?"
"Well, I notice you don't have an apprentice and I've been wondering if you wanted one," Firepar said straight out.
Jayfeather looked shocked. "What is it with Lionblaze's kits wanting to be my apprentice?" he muttered under his breath.
Firepaw was astounded. "My sisters asked to be medicine cats too?"
"Just Hollyle- I mean Hollypaw," Jayfeather corrected himself, looking furious rather than embarrassed.
"Hollyleaf? Meaning your sister? The one who murdered a cat?" Firepaw dared to ask.
Jayfeather flinched at Firepaw's words. "She was a good cat," he said, stubbornly. Firepaw wondered why he would want to defend a cat who had murdered.
Firepaw decided to leave the subject. "So would you like an apprentice? Because I would rather be a warrior, but Thunderclan should have an apprentice you know, if something happens to you."
Jayfeather's eyes blazed for a moment, then cooled down. "Of course," he mewed thoughtfully. "Well I'll talk to Firestar about this. You should go. I'm sure Snowpaw will be waiting for you," he said absent-mindedly.
Snowpaw was just coming with Smokepaw next to her. Firepaw hurried out to greet them.
"Hey, Firepaw. "Enjoyed our first day as an apprentice?" Smokepaw asked.
He nodded his head vigorously. "It was tiring though," Firepaw pointed out.
Smokepaw purred. "Well, of course!" he said, flicking his tail at Firepaw's ear. Smokepaw had always been good friends with the three of them. The camp had suffered a breakout of blackcough, and Smokepaw was the only one of his littermates to survive. Thus all four denmates grew close to each other.
"Do you both want to play something?" Snowpaw asked. As Firepaw gazed at his sister, he was struck again by how beautiful she was. Her pelt was completely white, without a single flaw. She always groomed herself so well, it was a shock to see even the tiniest tuft of fur poking out. And her icy blue eyes were piercing, but sweet. Though he was sure she could make them look intimidating if she wanted. It was no wonder that Smokepaw was padding after her.
The gray tom looked around. "In this dark? The only thing I can think of doing is sneaking out of camp."
"Well, it isn't sneaking if we are allowed to, is it? Cats can leave camp anytime," Snowaw said.
Before Smokepaw could respond, Firepaw shook his head. "I won't leave camp unless I have to," he said, then looked down at his paws. After the last time he had ventured out of camp, he had vowed not to ever do it again.
He was aware of his sister pressing her flank against his pelt. "When will you let that go?" she murmured in his ear.
"Never," he whispered before whipping around and racing back into the apprentice den and sat in his nest. Why does everyone expect me to forget that? I almost got us killed, how can I forget such a thing? He closed his eyes as another cat came inside.
"Don't pretend you're asleep, because we both know you aren't," Hollypaw hissed. Firepaw lifted his head and blinked at her. "Don't look at me like that either. Why won't you let that go?"
Firepaw realized she must have been talking to Snowpaw and Smokepaw. "Why do you think? Would you forget it if you almost got us killed?" Firepaw countered.
Hollypaw blinked at him, shocked. "You didn't almost get us killed. We could easily have chosen to stay back at camp. And it was two moons ago! Will you ever become the fun loving cat we once knew?"
Firepaw didn't know how to respond. He looked down at the ground without anther word, and waited for Hollypaw to leave.
She whipped around, and darted out.That's when he heard a yowl and realized that RiverClan was attacking.
Jayfeather was on his way to Firestar's den when he heard a yowl from below. He pricked is ears. Riverclan was attacking!
Were Snowpaw and Hollypaw still out there? they hadn't any battle training yet, they couldn't be in this battle. He pinpointed them by their scent and shoved them inside the apprentice den. "You stay here," he hissed. "You have to keep yourself safe."
Jayfeather hurried to his own den. He knew he was safe because warriors couldn't attack medicine cats, but he had to be cautious. He sat near the entrance, listening carefully. If any Thunderclan warriors were badly injured, he would go out there and bring them in.
Lionblaze was fighting Petalfur. Jayfeather realized that this was one of the cats Lionblaze had journeyed with once, surly he wouldn't hurt her? A yelp from Petalfur told him he wouldn't. As Jayfeather listened closer, he realized with horror that Mistystar was there too. This isn't a battle, he thought miserably. This is a war.
Silence greeted the clearing at Firestar's yowl. Jayfeather cautiously padded out. "Mistystar, what is this?" Firestar's voice rang out.
"What do you think?" Mistystar challenged. "We are attacking you, that's what."
Firestar's annoyance prickled him like thorns. "Should I ask why you are attacking us?" Firestar asked, obviously barely keeping himself from lunging at her.
"Only if you want to know!" Mistystar taunted.
"I'd never have expected this from you, Mistystar," Firestar said before throwing himself at her.
Jayfeather gasped. This wasn't the leader he knew. Firestar was always patient and calm. He could feel the rest of the clan's bewilderment too.
Rather than starting the fight again, all the cats stared at the wrestling pair. Finally Jayfeather heard Firestar's voice. "I've got you pinned down, Mistystar. Will you continue to attack or do you want to talk first as the cat I once knew?"
Mistystar hissed in annoyance and pushed Firestar off. "Well? Where is your den? I'd like to talk to you privately, if you don't mind."
"Of course," Firestar said. "Jayfeather, I want you here!" he called.
He scrambled to his paws. "O-of course, Firestar." He ran after them. He passed by Lionblaze, who seemed to be angry that he got to listen. Well I'm the medicine cat. I hold more importance than you, Jayfeather thought.
The two cats didn't wait for him. As Jayfeather burst in, he noticed they were already talking. He settled down in one corner of the den.
"I still don't get why you were attacking. I thought Riverclan didn't have that relationship with us?" Firestar was asking.
"Neither did Windclan until Onestar became leader. And he used to be your friend when he was just a warrior," Mistystar snapped.
Firestar flinched. Jayfeather had always known that he missed his easy friendship with the Windclan leader.
"So?" he hissed angrily.
Jayfeather was surprised by what she said next. Mistystar sighed. "I was hoping you would understand out of all the cats in the forest." Firestar flicked his tail as Mistystar went on. "Riverclan doubts me. They have been wanting to attack for a long time and I kept stopping them. They think that I won't because of Bluestar and you."
"They really think that?" Firestar asked, not seeming surprised. Jayfeather wondered why.
"You think they are any better? After similar happened with you as well?" Jayfeather wondered what Mistystar was talking about.
He entered Firestar's memories. He seemed much smaller, Jayfeather realized that this must be Firestar when he joined as an apprentice. Firestar was standing on a large rock, along with Bluestar and Lionheart.
"He is a kittypet! Look at his collar!" a voice called. Jayfeather looked around, wondering who was speaking. With a jolt he realized that the cat daring to speak was Longtail, standing between Tigerstar and Darkstripe.
Looking back at Firestar, he saw Lionheart whispering something in his ear. Firestar moved a little, and scanned the cats. Then before Jayfeather could figure out what he was doing, Firestar launched himself at Longtail.
The two cats wrestled like equals, and Jayfeather suddenly noticed that Firestar couldn't breathe because Longtail was pulling his collar off. Then it snapped, and the two cats stared at it. Then Longtail washed his ear, which had been torn by Firestar.
Jayfeather couldn't help feeling satisfied. Even before Firestar had done any training, he had defeated Longtail. He would have liked to go and talk to Longtail about this, but sadly he was dead.
The memory vanished, and Jayfeather snapped back to the present.
"Firestar?" Mistystar was asking.
"I do understand, but does that mean you have to attack to prove yourself?" Firestar asked. There was no anger or challenge to his voice, but only concern. But you attacked Longtail! Jayfeather thought.
He could feel Firestar's stare burn into his pelt. He probably knew what he had just been doing.
"Yes," Mistystar replied, then padded out before he could say anything.
Firestar turned to Jayfeather. "Sometimes I wish you would stop that."
"Doesn't everyone?" Jayfeather muttered.
Firestar must have known that Jayfeather was confused by the memory, because he said, "I'll talk to you in my den after the battle, okay?"
Jayfeather nodded, then said, "Be safe, Firestar. I know you are on your last life." Jayfeather padded out after him, but stayed up on the Highledge. It seemed like the best place to stay for a while.
The battle seemed vicious. Jayfeather's heart lurched when he sensed Smokepaw drop to the ground. He rushed down carefully, then grabbed his scruff. Jayfeather dragged the apprentice into his den, trying to avoid the angry cats.
Jayfeather sniffed his body over, then stopped when he reached his neck. He felt his neck with his paw, and was alarmed when he found a tear in the cat's neck. Starclan, please don't let him die! Jayfeather fetched cobwebs and carefully wrapped them around Smokepaw's neck.
He rushed out back into the fighting cats.These cats must really want us dead, Jayfeather realized as he heard more hurt cats.
Jayeather was about to go and get Poppyfrost out of the fight when he felt pain shooting through his back. He wheeled around and breathed in her scent. "Petalfur!" he gasped.
"Oh, so you know my name, Jayfeather?" she hissed as swiping her claws across his nose.
"I'm a medicine cat, you can't attack me!" Jayfeather said, trying to ignore the pain and stand his ground.
"Watch me," she hissed again. "I mean hear me," she laughed, mocking him. Petalfur took another swipe at Jayfeather's face before jumping on him and pinning him down.
Jayfeather struggled to free himself, but the she-cat kept a firm hold. "Why?" he asked.
"What do you mean why?" she countered before lunging towards his neck with wide jaws. Suddenly Jayfeather felt the weight being knocked off him. Lionblaze!
"What do you think you're doing?" his brother hissed at Petalfur. "Jayfeather, can't you keep yourself safe?" Lionblaze turned back to the cat and sprang at her.
Jayfeather turned around and trudged back into his den, his face and back burning. His back was worse than his face. She had had the advantage of surprise to get in a nasty cut. Jayfeather let himself collapse once back into safety.
He was confused. Why had Petalfur tried to kill him? She had always seemed nice. And the hatred coming from Lionblaze had given him the clue that he would have liked to kill him, but Lionblaze just saved him. Why?
"Jayfeather?" a voice sounded. he realized that Smokepaw must be awake. Forcing himself to his paws, he rushed over to him.
"Yes Smokepaw?" he asked. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine, but-" There was a pause. "What happened to you?"
Jayfeather didn't know how to respond. "It isn't for all ears." Thankfully Smokepaw understood because he just nodded and closed his eyes. Or maybe he was just in pain.
"Jayfeather!" He heard a gasp just outside his den.
Jayfeather went out and helped Mousewhisker in. His shoulder smelled heavily of blood. "Wait here," he instructed, flicking his tail at a nest. He went and got some cobwebs, poppy seeds, and chervil. "Did you clean the wound?"
Mousewhisker shook his head and leaned over to lick his shoulder. After a few moments he looked up.
"This will sting," Jayfeather warned, then chewed up the chervil and spat it out on Mousewhisker's shoulder. The waves of pain coming from him were great. When Mousewhisker finally relaxed, Jayfeather pressed the cobwebs onto him. He got out a leaf and placed the poppy seeds on them. "Here, eat these." The warrior did as he was told and then closed his eyes and fell asleep.
Jayfeather wondered if he should go out there and look for any other injured cats. But what if Petalfur is stil there? I'm sure Lionblaze wouldn't have killed her. He decided to just sit down and wait. The yowls from outside were ringing loud in his head. He almost didn't hear Smokepaw.
"Jayfeather?" He snapped his attention to the injured apprentice. "I know you won't tell me why you are hurt. But I'm sure you can tell me why you aren't going to take care of yourself?"
Jayfeather sighed. He knew Smokepaw was right. But he would first care for the other warriors, only then would he heal his own wounds.
Ears pricked, Jayfeather tried to figure out what was going on out in the clearing. Suddenly he heard Mistystar's yowl. "Retreat!" There was a rush of pawsteps, and then all was silent. Jayfeather bounded out, sniffing the air. Everyone seemed to be fine. He sat down right outside his den, waiting to see if any cat would come to him.
"I'll talk to you later," he heard a murmur in his ear. "Where we always used to meet," Lionblaze continued. He must have noticed Jayfeather's confusion, because he said, "I haven't forgotten what you said," his voice cold.
Jayfeather was about to respond when with his powerful hearing, he heard a faint yowl. He nodded to Lionblaze and rushed off in the direction it came from. He found himself creeping along the side of the Highledge. Snowpaw! Snowpaw was here. He crept along further, and found himself in a bush. Behind the bush was a mini clearing... and Snowpaw and Petalfur.
Petalfur was attacking her, and since Snowpaw had no battle training, she was trying to avoid her blows. Jayfeather listened in horror as Petalfur injured Snowpaw. There was no time to go get a warrior to help, Jayfeather had to save her now. He positioned himself to spring.
He heard Snowpaw gasp in pain. Now! he thought, and jumped out. He lunged at Petalfur. "Get Lionblaze!" he hissed to Snowpaw.
"Of course," Petalfur taunted. "You need your brother's help to keep you alive. I hope no Riverclan cat is born blind." Her words angered Jayfeather and he swiped at her ears.
She ducked easily and sprung at him, knocking him down. Her paws battered into his belly hard, him wincing when she stepped back. He staggered to his paws. He tried to pinpoint her by her scent but through pain he couldn't.
"Think you're so great, do you?" he heard behind him before falling to the ground as a large weight hit him. He thought it was her, but then he realized there were large rocks around here too.
Jayfeather struggled to try to get to his paws. He gasped as she hit him, sending him tumbling straight into a thorn bush. He pulled himself out, with only a few thorns stuck in his side, thankfully none in his neck. Jayfeather staggered a couple of steps towards her. He was close to keeling over in exhaustion.
Petalfur pounced on him, pinning him down. His body convulsed greatly as he felt thorn sharp claws digging into his shoulders before he fell limp.
Snowpaw raced behind Lionblaze beside the Highledge, trying to get to Jayfeather as fast as they could. I hope he is okay, Snowpaw thought.
Lionblaze stopped suddenly behind a bush. She stopped right behind him. He was poised, ready to jump out. "When I attack her, you drag Jayfeather out to safety, okay?" Snowpaw nodded, but was shocked. Was he dead? She crept closer to the bush. Her heart stopped when she saw through the leaves, Petalfur standing over a limp Jayfeather.
Looking up at her father, she saw his eyes blazing and narrowed to slits in fury. Snowpaw turned back to the pair of cats. Jayfeather's breathing was fast and uneven. It was loud, as if he were struggling to take at least one more breath. Petalfur pulled one paw off his shoulder, with tufts of his fur showing in her claws, and hit him hard on the side of his chest with it. Jayfeather gasped, then was quiet. Petalfur looked satisfied as she dug her claws back into Jayfeather's shoulder. Then, without warning, she lunged at his neck.
At the same moment, Lionblaze jumped out and knocked Petalfur off the medicine cat. She hadn't managed to bite his neck-yet. Snowpaw dashed out as soon as the cat was distracted and rushed over to Jayfeather's body. She grabbed him by his scruff and began hauling him out. She dragged him behind a bush and set him down.
Snowpaw sniffed him over. He didn't seem to be breathing. She hoped he was okay. Snowpaw ran her paw over his chest, hoping to get some sign of movement. Her paw ran over the spot where Petalfur had hit him. Jayfeather jerked away and gasped in pain. Then he fell silent again. Snowpaw flinched, startled, but relieved. At least that showed that he was alive.
Lionblaze rushed over, panting. "I chased her away," he said, then looked down at Jayfeather. "How is he?"
Snowpaw shook her head. "You can't hear him breathing, but he is alive."
"How can you be sure?"
"Just watch," she said and ran her paw over the same spot. It happened again.
Snowpaw looked up at her father. There was sadness in his eyes as he gazed down at his brother. She just watched as he buried his nose in Jayfeather's fur. Starclan, please don't let him die!
Lionblaze looked up at her. "Should we take him back to camp or bring Leafpool here?" Snowpaw just shrugged. "Okay, then. Help me get him onto my back." He bent down and Snowpaw grabbed Jayfeather by the scruff and pulled him onto Lionblaze.
"Now just make sure he doesn't fall," Lionblaze said while beginning to walk back. Snowpaw padded alongside her father and watched over the limp cat.
As they entered the medicine den, Snowpaw noticed Smokepaw lying in one of the nests, his neck bound in cobwebs. She ran over to him. He was awake, at least. "Are you okay?" she whispered.
He nodded, but his eyes were dull.
"I'll tell you later. Right now you should go make sure Hollypaw and Firepaw are okay."
"They are both fine." Snowpaw spun around. Leafpool was there. "But you aren't, Snowpaw. What happened?"
"Well, Petalfur attacked me. Then Jayfeather-"
"Oh," she interrupted. Snowpaw realized that Lionblaze must have already talked to her. "Sit down in a nest and wait for me," Leafpool said before going back to Jayfeather.
Snowpaw settled down in the nearest nest and looked anxiously at Jayfeather. Horror pulsed through her as the former medicine cat bent down next to Jayfeather's chest and looked up at all of them, her eyes glistening with fear.
In a forced calm voice, Leafpool said, "His heartbeat is weak. The chances that he'll survive are smaller then a mouse's tail."
She heard Smokepaw gasp from behind her. Stiffening at Leafpool's words, she remembered how close Smokepaw and Jayfeather were, whether they showed it or not. And she felt bad for Leafpool because she was Jayfeather's mother. Snowpaw searched anxiously for a reaction on Lionblaze's face, but it remained hard as stone.
Lionblaze bent down. "Watch this," he murmured. He flashed out his paw and gently placed it on the side of Jayfeather's chest, where he had been hit. The limp cat's body convulsed the same way as it had done before. Leafpool's eyes widened more.
"I hope it isn't broken," she said. "I have no way to fix him then." Snowpaw gaped. Leafpool didn't even know how to help him? "Well, first I'll start by waking him up." She bent down and licked him a couple of times, once in a while murmuring in his ear.
Jayfeather stirred and blinked open his sightless blue eyes. His head still rested on the edge of his nest and he looked almost about to join the ranks of Starclan.
"Jayfeather! Are you feeling okay?" Leafpool asked urgently.
Snowpaw was shocked as he shook his head weakly and let out a soft sigh. The Jayfeather she knew would never have let any cat know how much pain he was in. His eyes looked dull and shattered and Lionblaze seemed horrified by his brother's condition. She could hardly believe that these were the same two cats who despised each other so much just earlier that day.
"I'm going to touch your chest, Jayfeather, and I want you to tell me how it feels." Leafpool ran her paw over the same area, and he convulsed.
Jayfeather moaned. "Why did you do that?" he asked weakly.
"How much did it hurt?" she asked again.
Jayfeather's eyes blazed. "How much do you think?" he hissed angrily, though Snowpaw could tell his anger wasn't directed at them. Leafpool just sighed impatiently at him and he gave in. "I'd rather be dead than have you do that again," he whispered.
Leafpool only remained her calm self as she spoke to Jayfeather. "I think it might be broken," she admitted. "And if it is, I won't be able to fix it. I'm sorry." Sadness clung to Leafpool's eyes as she gazed at her son.
"W-will I die?" Jayfeather asked reluctantly, though Snowpaw could tell he already knew the answer. But she didn't, and she looked back at Leafpool, waiting.
Leafpool didn't respond. She was gazing down at him, her eyes glazed with sorrow. "Let's just pray it isn't broken," she mumbled softly.
Snowpaw looked back in between Leafpool and Jayfeather. The gray tom looked shattered. He must never have thought in his wildest dreams that he would die like this. He was protected by the truce that all medicine cats share, after all.
Lionblaze looked the worst. His head was hanging so low it almost touched the ground. He's already lost Hollyleaf, she remembered with a jolt. If Jayfeather died, he would be the only one left of his litter. He would be alone. She watched him shake his head disbelievingly and slowly pad out of the den.
This is my fault. It was true, Jayfeather had saved her from Petalfur.
Leafpool hurried after Lionblaze. Smokepaw was resting his head and closing his eyes. His wound must have been bothering him. Only Jayfeather was aware of her. She got up an leaped out of her nest. Snowpaw walked to him slowly.
"Snowpaw?" he guessed.
"Yes," she said quietly before sitting in front of him. "How are you feeling?"
She saw a flicker of annoyance pass through Jayfeather's eyes. "I'm..." he trailed off, not finding the right words to say.
Guilt overcame her. "It's my fault," she sobbed.
He blinked, surprised. "Why do you say that?"
"You saved me from her."" Snowpaw couldn't see why Jayfeather didn't understand.
"I always had the choice of not saving you, you know. It was my decision," he said. "Besides, Petalfur was after me, not you."
Snowpaw tipped her head to the side. "Why?
Jayfather's eyes grew dark. "I don't know. But she had attacked me during the battle also," he admitted. Snowpaw stared at him with wide eyes.
Jayfeather just nodded darkly.
Jayfeather blinked his eyes open to darkness, his body aching too much to move. Having no idea what was around him, he sighed inwardly, in too much pain for even that. How had he managed to talk to Snowpaw earlier.
"Jayfeather!" Leafpool must have been there and notice him open his eyes, because her paws thundered on the ground toward him. "Are you okay? How do you feel?"
Though it sapped all the energy from him when he spoke, he summoned his strength. "Didn't I already tell you this?" he asked, wincing at the throbbing in his chest.
Through his pain, he could hear her sigh impatiently, "The more you're difficult, the longer you'll have to suffer." Jayfeather sighed, knowing she talked sense.
Faintly, he heard a voice fro outside. "Leafpool?" his brother's gentle voice sounded.
Leafpool ushered out of her den to talk to Lionblaze and, straining his ears, Jayfeather listened to what they were saying.
"How is he?"
"Irritable as always. He's awake right now, if you want to see him."
Pawsteps thudded on the ground and Jayfeather felt warm air brush against his cheek. "Jayfeather?" he heard a soft voice murmur. "Are you okay?"
His heart warmed as he realized just how much Lionblaze cared for him. "Bad," he admitted. Reluctantly, Jayfeather let himself wander into his brother's mind. Surprisingly, there was no hatred buried under that spontaneous affection, only fear. Where was Lionblaze's uncontrollable fury?
Lionblaze must have known that Jayfeather was reading his thoughts, because he could feel a darkness swooping between them. A slight frown bore into him from above.
"Even when you're hurt, you manage to irritate me," Lionblaze remarked. Sympathy took over the rest of his thoughts. "You will be fine, won't you?"
For a moment, Jayfeather wondered if he should just say that he would, but then realized he couldn't, not to him. "Only if nothing is broken," he reminded him calmly, hoping that Lionblaze wouldn't overreact.
A long sigh echoed above him, then a quick lick on top of his head, and pawsteps out the entrance. "Lionblaze!" Leafpool called him back sharply.
"Yes?" the muffled voice came in reply.
"I'll need your help with him."
What does she need Lionblaze's help in? Jayfeather pondered.
He stiffened as the two cats padded over to him. "I need you to hold him down as strongly as you can," Leafpool instructed. "I need to check on him, and it will hurt. I don't want to get clawed by him."
Before Jayfeather could protest, Lionblaze held him down and Leafpool flashed out her paw and rubbed hard on the side of his chest, back and forth. He was aware of consciousness slipping away from him as the excruciating pain took control of him and he writhed under Lionblaze's powerful forelegs.
By the time she stopped, relief flashed from Leafpool's pelt. "It's not broken," she breathed. He breathed out a sigh of slight relief but Lionblaze's relief was overwhelming.
Purring as Lionblaze nuzzled him happily, Jayfeather gave him a quick, strained lick on the top of his head. But Leafpool pushed Lionblaze out of the way and said, "We still need to fix him. It's almost as bad," she said grimly. "It's dislocated. And putting it back..." she trailed off, shuddering.
Jayfeather flicked his tail to dismiss Lionblaze. Once he was gone, he asked Leafpool, "How do you think you're going to do it?"
Her voice was shaky as she replied. "We'll have to smash a rock where the bone juts out to get it back since we can't yank it."
Realization poured onto Jayfeather as he realized that, although he had survived Petalfur's attack, it would be probably worse trying to recover. "When?" he asked feebly.
"You'll get better much faster the sooner we put it back in place."
He shook his head. "Not now," he begged. He could tell his mother was just as afraid and didn't want to. The normal anger towards her didn't seem to be coming. Most likely he just didn't have enough strength.
"The longer we wait, the worse it will get when we finally do it."
He sighed, resigned, and squeezed shut his eyes tightly. "Go ahead," he whimpered.
"Turn over onto your belly," she instructed, pity filling her voice. As he did as he was told, he heard Leafpool grasping a rock between both her paws and heaving it upward. "Ready?" she panted. He didn't have to respond, because suddenly a weight hit him on his chest, knocking the breath out of him. Agony surged through him as he struggled for air. Then all went quiet.
A ruffling on his fur woke Jayfeather up. "Snowpaw?" he croaked, unable to recognize the scent, but able to tell it was a she-cat but not Leafpool.
"It's Willowshine," he heard a strong voice respond. Why is Willowshine here? he wondered, confused. "I came for some herbs," she went on, as if she were answering him. "I figured I'd help you a little." Was that affection he heard in her voice? "How are you feeling?" she concluded, settling down next to him.
The pain was dull and his chest didn't hurt anymore. "Better." he spoke softly, and breathed in the warm scent of her fur.
She stood up. "Come with me," he heard a whisper.
Jayfeather struggled to get to his paws, and he felt a little shove from his side. He felt weak back standing, unable to hold himself up. How long have I been unconscious? he wondered.
Leaning heavily on Willowshine, he stumbled out the camp letting her lead him. His paws felt heavy under him, and he finally asked, "Where are you taking me?"
"Only somewhere where no one will see us. You'll be back before any cat notices," she assured him. A purr rising in his throat, he forced himself to hurry his pawsteps. "We'll go into that bush," she said, even though he couldn't see it.
Jayfeather crept in and fell asleep immediately, only aware of Willowshine breathing next to him for a moment.
"Jayfeather!" Willowshine hissed in the middle of the night.
Lifting his head, he asked sleepily, "What?"
"Shh! There's a cat outside!"
Before Jayfeather could respond, a rustling and a shocked voice startled him. "Jayfeather? Willowshine? What are you doing here?"
"Er...," was Jayfeather's only response.
The growing realization on Lionblaze's pelt led to anger. "Why?" he asked him furiously.
Willowshine spoke up quickly. "Lionblaze, I-"
He cut her off. "Go back to your clan. They must be worried," he said with a growl. "And Jayfeather, come back before any cat realizes you're gone!" He leaned over and helped Jayfeather up.
"But-" he started to protest but stopped when Lionblaze's tail covered his mouth.
Slowly waking up, Jayfeather realized his brother was right. He had to end this now before things got too hard. "Willowshine?" he called.
"Yes?" she asked sorrowfully. She was padding slowly back in the direction of the RiverClan camp.
He wobbled up to her and touched noses with her, aware of Lionblaze's gaze burning into his back. "I'm sorry," he sighed. "We can't do this."
"I know...," he heard. Then a rush of pawsteps told him that she had left.
Fur brushed against his. "Are you okay?" Lionblaze growled. Jayfeather just nodded and let his brother guide him back to camp.
Hollypaw stifled a yawn and padded out of her den, her muscles aching and her mind worried for her sister. While she and Firepaw had survived the battle unscathed. They had hidden with their sister in the apprentice's den. But after the battle Snowpaw had disappeared, and when she had come back, she bore deep scratches along her flank.
RiverClan must have been really mad.
Even Smokepaw was horribly injured. Some cat there had bitten deep into his throat, even now, Leafpool was struggling to stop the bleeding. Although she managed to press enough cobwebs to it, once he moved even a little in his sleep, the wound would open up.
Leafpool was the medicine cat now. Jayfeather...wasn't in that great of a state. He was covered in scratches, each becoming infected one by one, and he still couldn't breathe properly. Lionblaze and Leafpool were grim, and they wouldn't talk to anyone much except to each other and Jayfeather when he was awake. And when he was, no other cat was allowed to talk to him.
Hollypaw didn't have to be a medicine cat to know that gray tom was fighting for his life, and the odds weren't that good.
A pelt brushed hers from behind, and she turned around to find Spiderleg looking at her sympathetically. "I know things are tense in the clan right now," he began gently, "but that doesn't mean we have to stop doing our duties. We're going to do some battle training now." His tail rested on her back. "You are up for it, aren't you?"
Hollypaw nodded her head vigorously. She followed him out of camp. Her mind raced with the screeches of the battle, and finally she spoke up, saying, "It's unfair. How can cats stand to do that to one another?"
Her mentor skidded to a halt and turned around to face her. "It's just the way clan life works. That's why you must not have friends in other clans."
"But Jayfeather, Smokepaw, and Snowpaw? None of those were right. Jayfeather is a medicine cat; he should not have been attacked. And Snowpaw only just became an apprentice. Why did Petalfur have to go and attack her? And as for Smokepaw, isn't it dishonorable to bite in a fight?"
Spiderleg stared at her a moment longer before turning away. "It's wrong, I know. Our medicine cat is dying from an unfair battle. But you'd better get used to it," he growled, his voice shaking slightly.
Hollypaw blinked. "Oh, of course," she stammered.
A snap of a twig came from nearby. She whipped her head around, and saw a brown tabby tom with amber eyes trying to sneak through the forest. "Tigerheart!" Spiderleg said.
The brown tabby tom froze as he realized he was caught.
"What are you doing here?" Spiderleg snarled.
Tigerheart's defiant gaze faltered for a moment, but came back just as quickly. "I suppose you think I'm trying to invade?" he accused.
Hollypaw retorted, "We don't think. We know." She listened quietly as Spiderleg leaned over and whispered in her ear. She nodded.
"Leave now," Spiderleg hissed.
Hollypaw slipped into the undergrowth and found a tree while Spiderleg kept Tigerheart busy. "Why should I?" she heard Tigerheart's response. As stealthily as she could, she leaped from one branch to another, until she was directly above the ShadowClan warrior.
Spiderleg said something else, that she couldn't hear. Then, before Tigerheart could respond, she dropped down, and landed squarely on his shoulders, knocking him to the ground with a huff.
The tom quickly shook her off and heaved himself to his paws. He dodged to one side, before fleeing back to his clan, Hollypaw and Spiderleg hard on his heels. Hollypaw skidded to a halt at her side of the border. She glared at Tigerheart as he turned around and glanced back, panting. After a few moments, he spoke, and the words that escaped is mouth astounded Hollypaw.
"Please don't tell anyone about this? Not even my clanmates?"
Hollypaw glanced at Spiderleg, who narrowed his eyes. "Why? Were you betraying your own clan?" he snarled.
Tigerheart looked uncertain, almost as if he were begging now. "Please. I promise I'll clear it up soon. Just give me some time."
Although her instinct was to say no, she watched Spiderleg's face, waiting for his expression to betray what he was thinking. But his gaze remained cold. After a long moment, he finally said, "Fine. You need your excuse by the Gathering, or we will tell."
Hollypaw was still thinking about the confrontation with Tigerheart when they got back to camp. They ended up not having the training session, since the time went into driving the intruder away. What could he be up to? was the question that would not escape her mind.