"Are you sure we made the right decision?"
A dark brown she-cat stepped out from the shelter of a lone tree and turned around to look up at the branches, surrounded by mountains covered in a blanket of snow.
Another cat replied from his spot, above her, in the tree. "Of course, Robinpelt."
The tom yawned lazily, unconcerned.
"Really. What will I tell the Clan?" She piped up again.
Robinpelt moved toward the tree, her belly swaying with kits.
"Tell them whatever ya need to. Like, just tell them the father's that tom that's been trailin' after you since you were apprentices. What was his name, again? Wulfer, or somethin'?"
"Yeah, him. Just say he's their father. Nobody'll guess otherwise." Robinpelt let out a huff of frustration, "Do you really not care about our kits? They aren't just mine. They're yours, too, Flame. Whether you care to admit it or not."
Flame climbed down from the tree, stretching his long, thin legs, his dark ginger tabby fur pulled tight over his thin frame.
"Oh, I know. But they aren't really mine. You know that. They're your Clan's. This.... this IceClan of yours owns them, not me. Now, you get back to your camp. If we lose these kits, it'll hardly be a loss to me. But if I lose you in this never-ending snow storm, well," he snorted, shaking the white flakes off his pelt, "I doubt I'd be able to continue living. Here, I'll walk ya back to your territory, if you don't mind?"
The she-cat let out a reluctant sigh and padded forward, quickly followed by Flame. "Fine, fine. Just... I'll meet you here again tommorow."
And so it began....Edit
The kit curled into a tight ball, comforted in her quiet, warm surroundings. It was dark and safe, behind her closed eyes. She'd begun to fall asleep once more when she was yanked into the sky swiftly, pulled away from her warm sister and brother. The kit let out a mew of distress. Where were they taking her? Why couldn't they just leave her to her napping? The scent that wreathed around her was the first scent she'd ever known, so why were they betraying her now?
She was taken on a long journey. Or, at least, it felt long, to her. They must have been far from their warm home by now, she thought. But it seemed that their long journey had ended. The formerly trusted cat holding her had come to a halt. Another scent, familiar yet oddly unfamiliar as well, touched the air around her.
"I brought the kits, Flame. We must hurry, though. It's Leafbare, and the snow is falling fairly hard. This isn't a good time to just stand around, not with these three little ones." Said a soft voice, smooth and comforting to the kit's ears.
"You don't say. So, hurry with what? Are you telling me to say goodbye to them and you?" Replied a voice the kit hadn't heard before, sounding strong yet gentle at the same time. "Because I won't do it."
"No, that isn't what I brought them here for at all." Meowed the familiar voice again, "I just thought you'd like to contribute in naming them, is all."
"Huh. Well, go on, then. Tell me what you were thinking of for names."
"Well," The she-cat raised her voice so she could be heard over the growing winds, "I thought... I thought the little brown tabby cat could be Featherkit.... And I'd like to leave the other two up to you."
Flame sighed dramatically, "Fine, fine, if I have to, I will." He blinked, eyes gleaming in quiet amusement, "For the dark brown tom, the name can be.... Mudkit. He looks like he fell in a mud puddle. And the other she-kit, well..."
"She looks alot like your mother, don't you think? Perhaps we can name her after her."
"Sure, if you want. So, Owlkit, then." He said dismissively, flicking a careless ear.
"It's getting cold, Flame. Too cold for the kits. I need to leave now. See you another time. Bye."
Flame watched silently as the dark brown she-cat carried their kits away, growing less and less visable through the falling snow.
By the time they'd reached their warm home again, the little she-kit was desperate for comfort. She'd been lifted out of her warm place, taken to a place that just became colder and colder, and was brought back again, on another trip. So when she smelled the familiar scent of her home, and began to feel the warmth it brought, she was done. She was going to take another long, and hopefully uninterrupted, nap.
Before she could fall asleep this time, though, Robinpelt began to murmer to the three. "Now each of you has a name. Featherkit, Mudkit, and Owlki-" She was cut off abruptly as a cat shoved their way into the den. "I... I'm sorry... I wasn't here... when the kits... were born.. I had.... to go see... another clan.... and ask for an herb...for Skygaze..." The cat panted, his gaze moving over the three kits. "They're... they're beautiful...."
Robinpelt nodded, sorrow flashing in her eyes for a short moment. She tried to speak to this cat as any cat would their mate. "I'm sorry I didn't wait for you to name them, Wolffur. I just... I thought of some names, and I thought they were perfect."
The gray tabby tom stood taller, finally beginning to catch his breath. "What names?" He stepped forward and faltered slightly, his long fur fluffing out in embarassment.
"Featherkit for the little brown tabby she-kit, Mudkit for the tom, and Owlkit for the last she-kit." Wolffur's head tilted slightly as he took in the sight of - what he thought were - his kits. None of them had an inch of gray to their pelt, and not one had fur nearly as long as his. He quickly dismissed the thought, not caring to delve deeper than needed into the subject. "Those names are beautiful, Robinfur. I'm sure our kits will grow up to be fine warriors."
The she-cat blinked absently, then nodded her agreement. "Yes... I'm sure they will."
Owlkit tottered around the camp aside her brother, still hardly used to walking. "Come on," Mudkit mewed confidently, taking as big strides as his small legs - smaller than Owlkit's - could handle. "I'll beat you across the camp!"
Though still clumsy, Owlkit began to take long strides, too. She wasn't particularly short, she always had been a rather thin and tall kit, built much like her mother, so she had the advantage of being able to take longer steps. She reached the other side of the camp before Mudkit did, as she'd expected she would. Mudkit reached her side a few moments later with a sigh. "You won again." Owlkit softened at this.
"It's probably just because you're tired or something. I'm sure when we wake up tomorrow, you'll be beating me!"
The little tom kit flicked an ear, hope lighting in his eyes. "I hope so! Now, let's explore!" He bounded away across the camp recklessly, his paws echoing just slightly. Owlkit was less entranced by the camp. It was a cave inside of a mountain, the entrance to it small and insignificant. The dens were little extra caves inside of it. She hadn't seen all of it yet, and the nursery was quite comfortable, but she was terribly bored and wanted to see more than cave and mountain for once. She didn't want to dampen her brother's spirits, though, and she followed him with as much enthusiasm as she could muster.
Mudkit poked his head into one of the den entrances that they hadn't seen before. "Owlkit, come here! Look! The den's so big!" Owlkit didn't expect much, but when she looked into the den after him, she realized it really was big. It had many nests, some close together, some by the edges of the stone walls, scraped into the earth and lined with feathers, wool, and bits of moss. They didn't look quite as comfortable as her nest in the nursery, with its' size and luxury, but she thought these looked okay. "Mudkit, do you think this is the warriors' den?" She asked quietly, "It's even bigger than I thought a den could be!"
A voice spoke up from behind her. A soft growl, quiet but close enough to the kits for them to hear. "Yes, that is the warriors' den. It's not a place for kits. Unless you wouldn't mind growing up without tails."
The two spun around to face their scarer, only to find Wolffur just barely containing himself. "Daddy!" Owlkit leaped forward, quickly mimicked by Mudkit, clinging on to the large warrior's fur. He shook himself, speaking gently, eyes gleaming with humor. "You two are growing strong. I'm very proud of you both." Mudkit jumped down and puffed out his chest in pride, and Owlkit shoved him playfully with a paw. "But really, you kits shouldn't be poking your noses where they don't belong. Don't need any cats to trip over your paws, do we?" He licked both of their foreheads. "I promise I'll show you some hunting techniques later." The tom turned away, padding off towards the nursery.
Mudkit and Owlkit exchanged a solemn look. They knew what Wolffur was doing. The two both bounced clumsily back to the nursery, stopping to look over Featherkit. "Is she going to be okay?" Mudkit asked in his high-pitched kit voice. Robinpelt was silent, but Wolffur quickly spoke up for her. "Yes, Featherkit will be just fine." Owlkit saw his eyes darken with doubt, but it disappeared so fast, she wasn't sure she'd really seen it. She tore her gaze from her father and stared down at Featherkit sadly. She'd never been a strong kit, and she'd always been frail, but she had never been as bad as this. The small kit's flank rose and fell in short, shallow breaths. The she-kit occasionally had small spasms, as well. It was a gruesome sight, especially for Mudkit and Owlkit. Mudkit touched Featherkit's shoulder lightly with his paw. "Featherkit. Owlkit and I are here. We can show you how to play moss-ball. I promise we'll teach you everything we've learned from Robinpelt and Wolffur. I promise!" The pretty little she-kit lifted her head just slightly, opening her eyes. "Okay... how... how do you.... play moss-ball?..."
Wolffur lifted his gaze sorrowfully away from the small, suffering kit. "Owlkit, Mudkit, teach Featherkit how to play moss-ball later. She needs rest now. When she's feeling better, you can all play together."
"Okay." The kits both mewed in reply, trying to sound more certain than they were that Featherkit would get better. Mudkit padded out of the den, but Owlkit lingered until her brother called out to her. She muttered a good-bye to her sister, and reluctantly padded out of the den, casting a last glance over shoulder.
As she followed her brother, she noticed some cats were coming back from a hunting patrol. Each one of them boasted a piece of prey, which wasn't a common sight in these mountains, especially in Leafbare. There were three cats on the patrol. Two apprentices and a warrior. These apprentices, Owlkit could tell, were Whitepaw and Ashpaw, brothers, though they were hardly alike. Ashpaw strutted over to the fresh-kill pile proudlly, chest puffed out and tail held high, while his brother, Whitepaw, padded more humbly to the dwindling pile of prey, adding his contribution without a sign of self-admiration.
Though Owlkit watched quietly, her brother couldn't contain himself. He dashed forward clumsily. "Ashpaw! Whitepaw! I want to know how to catch so much prey! Please?"
Ashpaw took in a breath, beginning to speak, only to be cut off by the tail of Whitepaw. Whitepaw turned to the warrior that had gone with them. "Sparrowfern, are we finished with today's training?"
The she-cat nodded. "Yes, you are, Whitepaw. You did well. Ashpaw, you did, too. I'll tell Oakblaze."
Whitepaw pulled his tail off of Ashpaw's mouth with a grin. Ashpaw let out a dramatic sneeze. "You really need to clean out your fur, you know. It's disgusting."
Owlkit blinked, her gaze flickering between the two. One a gray tabby, green eyes gleaming, the other a frosty white, amber eyes standing out like two red-orange suns. Their general build was similar, but otherwise, they were almost entirely different.
"We can teach you a few things," Whitepaw spoke up gently, "but we don't want to push you too hard. If you start hurting, you can stop."
"Speak for yourself," Ashpaw butted in, "The pain just means you're not good enough yet. If you feel pain, you're doing it wrong. Correct yourself and do it right."
Owlkit knew who she'd prefer practicing with, but she kept her thoughts to herself. "Can I try, too?" She asked in a high-pitched voice, her ginger and white fur fluffing out. "I'll listen to everything you say!"
"Of course." Whitepaw purred. "All kits can join us." Ashpaw looked less certain, but didn't say anything. He just shook himself and crouched low to the ground, tail sticking out straight behind him.
"See, this is a hunting crouch. We really don't use it that often," Ashpaw meowed with a roll of the eyes, "but if we ever expand our territory into the forest like I think we should, you'll want to know it." He stood back up. "Normally, we catch large birds and fish."
Whitepaw nodded. "If you talk to the elders, some will tell you stories of the animals that live out of the mountains, like squirrels and small birds. I don't really know what they say is true and what isn't, but I'd ask them at some point or another if I were either of you."
Ashpaw snorted. "I wouldn't listen to those old fleabags. They can hardly tell the difference between eagles and cats. If you ask me, you should talk to one of the more experienced warriors."
"Anyway," Whitepaw began with less patience than he'd had before, "we're here to show you both some moves, not to share personal opinions. Watch us." The brothers shared a nod, and both stood completely still for a moment. Then, like a strike of lightning, Whitepaw lashed out a paw, catching his brother on the muzzle. Though his claws were sheathed, Owlkit guessed, the blow had probably hurt more than it was meant to. Ashpaw's eyes lit up in fury, and like a crazed animal, was on Whitepaw in a flash, pinning him down hard onto the smooth ground.
Both kits stood still, traumatized. Ashpaw's claws were unsheathed now, and he leaned forward to give Whitepaw a sharp nip on the scruff. But before he could completely lean forward, a wail rose from the nursery. He froze, and his eyes cleared. He slowly stepped off his brother, eyes a mixture of horror, shock, and irritation. Whitepaw leaped to his paws, turning on his brother. He hissed quietly, just loudly enough for the kits to hear. "You see, kits, that's what you do in a real battle, but never in training. Now go, I think that was your mother we heard."
With frightened nods, both kits scrambled back to the nursery, only to find Robinpelt, Wolffur, and the medicine cat apprentice, Creekpaw, gathered in a small circle.
"I..I'm really sorry," Creekpaw was stuttering, "Skygaze was out collecting herbs, so... so I had to take her place... I couldn't do anything for Featherkit... I'm really, really sorry..."
Owlkit heard Wolffur sigh. "It wasn't your fault, Creekpaw. I'm sure Skygaze wouldn't have done anything different. You can go now, thank you." He flicked his tail at the brown tabby apprentice, gesturing for him to leave the den. Creekpaw dipped his head obediently then left. Wolffur noticed Mudkit and Owlkit for the first time since they'd entered the den. "Come here, you two. Say your last goodbyes to your sister." With a shocked intake of air, Mudkit bounded forward, squeezed between Robinpelt and Wolffur, and nosed Featherkit sorrowfully. Owlkit quickly followed behind, closing her eyes and breathing in the still milky scent of her sister, trying to ignore the taint of death and the cold feel beneath her soft fur. I'll be good, StarClan, she pleaded silently, Just please, don't take any more of my family away from me!
And life goes on....Edit
Owlkit sat beside her brother with pride, staring up at her leader on the TallStone. Spottedstar stood with an air of authority, her dappled brown-gold pelt and amber eyes gleaming in the dim light of the cave. "Let all cats old enough to climb our mountains gather under the TallStone for a Clan meeting!" Her yowl rang throughout the camp, and all the cats who hadn't already grouped under the ledge above Spottedstar's den did so.
"By naming apprentices, we show that IceClan will survive and remain strong." The leader began after all the cats had sat, gaze locked on her. She beckoned Mudkit and Owlkit forward with her tail. Both stood, taking a step closer to the stone. Both kits' furs were carefully groomed, smooth and clean. Spottedstar's eyes moved to Owlkit, and the eyes of the rest of the Clan shifted, as well. Owlkit tried to stay still under the burning eyes of them all, but she felt her tail begin to twitch all the same. "From this moment on, until she has earned her warrior name, this apprentice will be known as Owlpaw." She nodded her head to a tall, long legged, black tom with green eyes, built much like Owlpaw was appearing to become. "Shadowfur, you are now ready to take on an apprentice. You will be mentor to Owlpaw. Shadowfur, you have shown yourself to be a warrior of stealth and wisdom. I am sure you will pass on all you know to this apprentice."
She turned anxiously and padded over to the intimidating tom who towered over her with his height. Much to her relief, though, all she found in his gaze was warmth and amusement. Owlpaw leaned forward, touched noses with her mentor, and quickly sat by his side. Before her brother's ceremony began, Shadowfur leaned over and whispered into her ear, "I promise to make you the best warrior you could possibly be, first apprentice of mine." Spottedstar repeated the ceremony for Mudkit - now Mudpaw -, giving him a sturdy gray tabby tom named Stormtail as a mentor.
Then the ceremonies were over, and as the Clan scattered back to their duties, Owlpaw turned to her mentor. "What are we going to do first?" She itched to jump up and down in excitement, but she kept herself down with as much self control as she could possibly keep together. Her mentor shifted uncomfortably. Shadowfur cast a swift glance around the camp. "I'd like to jump into your training. Yes, showing you the territory or teaching you how to claw up moss will be mandatory, but first I think I should test your skills." Owlpaw's eyes shone in the dim cave.
"First," Her mentor meowed quietly, his ears flicking to Whitepaw and Ashpaw as they walked out of the Apprentice den, argument supposedly forgotten, "I want you to creep up behind those two. Follow them as far as you can until you're caught, within reason, and then come report to me. If they go farther than six fox-lengths into the mountains outside of the camp, reveal yourself to them and come back. Okay?"
"Yes, Shadowfur!" Owlpaw nodded quickly, padding towards the edges of the cave. Her tail tip twitched uncomfortably as she was painfully aware of her orange-and-white pelt's obvious appearance against the dull cave walls. Thank StarClan, she thought to herself, that there isn't enough light in here to completely reveal me. She strained her ears to pick up on the toms' conversation as she grew closer to the two, careful to increase her shetler.
"I'm sure Spottedstar will make us warriors soon," Ashpaw was meowing, "I mean, why wouldn't she? We may have just started our training three moons ago, but I think we're better hunters and fighters than our current warriors will ever be."
"I wouldn't say that, Ashpaw," Whitepaw responded carefully, "I think the warriors deserve our respect. They've probably earned it, after all."
Ashpaw laughed scornfully, "Pretty soon, they will be the ones giving us respect. We've earned it plenty of times. You just wait, I'll lead this Clan someday, and it will be better than it ever was. Our cats will be stronger, and only the cats that listen with unfaltering loyalty will be allowed to stay!" At this, Whitepaw sighed slightly under his breath.
"Whatever you say, Ashpaw. But Spottedstar isn't dead yet, and she already has a deputy. Harefoot, remember?"
Owlpaw continued to listen, though slightly wishing she could turn back. The toms were making their way out of the camp. Calm down, she told herself, soon you'll be far enough from camp to turn back. She quickly flinched against the cold wall of the cave as Ashpaw turned abruptly, his gaze raking over the camp. Satisfied, he turned back to his brother, his voice low. "No cat lives forever." They continued out of the camp at a faster pace.
Suddenly wishing she hadn't been there at that exact moment, Owlpaw pulled away from the wall again. She knew that she wouldn't be able to erase what she had heard from her memory. Quickly she realized they had gone farther than six fox-lengths from the camp exit, and, with a sigh of relief, she stopped. Remembering that Shadowfur had told her to make herself known, she raised her voice as casually as she possibly could. "Ashpaw! Whitepaw! T-There you both are! Uh- Shadowfur was wondering if you both could come with us training. To... show me a few things, you know? He had to go do something, so he was wondering if you could ask your mentors."
Ashpaw looked over the new apprentice warily. "Did he really?" Exchanging a glance with his brother, he took a dramatic step towards Owlpaw. "Sure, I'm coming. I'll ask right away. Anything for you, 'new apprentice."
With a quizzical glance at his brother, Whitepaw began to walk back to Owlpaw, as well. "Of course I'll come, too." He offered lightly.
"Great," Owlpaw turned around without another word, not trusting herself to speak again, and led the brothers back into the camp. "Shadowfur! I brought Ashpaw and Whitepaw so they could ask their mentors if they could join our training session, just like you asked." She forced her voice to stay cheerful, but as she locked eyes with her mentor, she felt her gaze betray her desperation. One wrong line from Shadowfur would mean admitting to the apprentices that she had heard their conversation.
Shadowfur, as young as he was - thirteen moons, to be precise - was not stupid. He nodded. "Very good. I think, since I'm able to at this moment, I'll go ask your mentors myself. We'll be working on fighting today, I suppose." He turned around and headed to the Warriors' den.
Whitepaw flashed a grin at Owlpaw. "Your first day training, and you're already learning to fight? Your mentor's ambitious."
"That's right! And I'll show him that that ambition isn't wasted on me!" She stood as tall as she could, her tail erect, forcing her voice to stay strong as she looked up at the tom.
Ashpaw grinned as well, though his face was more menacing than his brother's. "I would hope so. But no matter how 'strong' you think you are, I still don't want my energy to be wasted on a weak little she-kit, do I?" Whitepaw's grin fell quickly and he shot a glare at his brother. "Hey, Ashpaw, I think Oakblaze wants to ask you something." Ashpaw turned, agitated at being torn from his teasing. Grumbling under his breath, he stormed over to the side of the camp, where his mentor stood impatiently. Whitepaw turned back to Owlpaw, who was looking awfully offended and struggling to keep a determined mask over her emotions.
"I'm really sorry about him. He gets... carried away. I didn't mean anything by saying your mentor was ambitious, by the way. I... I wouldn't expect anything less from you." He finished awkwardly.
"That's okay," Owlpaw responded, her sour emotion suddenly forgotten, "It wasn't your fault. You've always been really nic- uh... You've always been really polite to my brother and I. But thank you for your apology, anyway."
Whitepaw and Owlpaw exchanged a quick, awkward grin before looking away, just as Shadowfur padded to them, followed closely by Ashpaw. Shadowfur looked over Owlpaw for a moment. He knew now that she was a quick thinker, and he trusted that he could push her limits more than most apprentices. "We're ready to go. First stop, the training peak." Owlpaw, Whitepaw, and Ashpaw followed the tall tom's quick pace as he led them out of the camp again. Owlpaw cast one glance over her shoulder, then immediately wished she hadn't. She saw her littermate, Mudpaw, watching her sadly as she left the camp, stuck to his duties of first learning how to correctly clean out the elders' nests.
As they followed Shadowfur across the rough, chilled mountains, Whitepaw, Ashpaw, and Owlpaw recieved a chance to talk. Ashpaw sighed, giving a side-glance to the thin apprentice next to him. "Shadowfur must really see something in you. I hope he's right, and you do well." The tom fell silent, staring straight ahead once more. Whitepaw eyed him curiously, then looked to Owlpaw.
"That's no surprise, of course. You do seem extremely capable, Owlpaw. Are you excited to begin battle training so quickly?"
Owlpaw grinned. "Of course. It means I'll be able to defend my Clan at a younger age. What's not exciting about it?
Whitepaw didn't respond, a light smile spreading accross his muzzle. Owlpaw continued to follow her mentor obliviously.
As they reached a flat, snow-covered area spot atop a hill with a sheer drop on two of its sides, Shadowfur stopped. "We're here. Of course, Whitepaw and Ashpaw, you've both already been here enough to know the rules, but I need to go over them with Owlpaw." He looked Owlpaw in the eye. "Be extremely careful when you're anywhere near the side across from us. It drops off for a long way, and as does the side to its left. it is extremely dangerous, and if you happen to slip off by mistake, you could possibly die. I'm serious, just... be careful." Owlpaw nodded swiftly, eyes wide. "Keep your claws sheathed while you fight here," Shadowfur continued, "This is only practice. We don't want any real injuries to occur, if we can help it. And... Well, I suppose that's really it. Okay?" Owlpaw nodded again. "Good. First, then, Whitepaw will show you how to do a few of the simple moves. I need to speak with Ashpaw." He turned away without waiting for a response and padded over to Ashpaw, speaking quickly in a low voice.
Whitepaw blinked at the younger apprentice. "First off, when you can, tuck your tail in. It keeps your enemy from pulling it, clawing it, or otherwise. Er... When you've been pinned down onto the ground by an attacker and can't escape, go limp and act like you've either died or gone unconcious. If the enemy takes it, they'll most likely lift their weight a bit, since they won't expect you to be able to fight any further. As soon as they do this, rear back and hit them away. We don't really need to practice that one; I think you get the idea. Hmm.... Ah, yes. The Front Paw Blow. You do this by bringing one of your front paws down hard on your enemy's head, claws sheathed.. The Front Paw Slash is similar. You do the same thing at the head or body of your opponent, but with your claws unsheathed. Let me see.... Well, there's the Scruff Shake. You do this by gripping the scruff of your oppent then shaking it violently before letting go. Then there is the Back Ki-" He was cut off with a light cuff to the ear.
"Shadowfur is done talking to me, genius. You can stop explaining the meaning of life to Owlpaw, now, before she claws her own ears off." Ashpaw blinked in amusement at his brother, then looked at Owlpaw with an expression that confused her. What was that? She asked herself, Humor? Irritation? Great StarClan, I can't tell.
Shadowfur stepped forward. "Correct," He meowed, whiskers twitching. "We can start the actual training now. Before I actually teach you anything, though, Owlpaw, I want to see how you do on your own. Ashpaw, you can fight her. I'll watch and tell you if it gets out of hand."
With an excited tail-twitch, Owlpaw stepped near the centerof the trainin area, opposed by Ashpaw on the opposite side.
"Ready?" Ashpaw asked her gently, taking Owlpaw by surprise. She nodded. He smiled. "Good." Owlpaw, deciding to use the skill she thought would help her most, surprise, raced forward before he'd finished speaking. She dashed from side to side, trying her best to disorient Ashpaw. She succeeded for a moment, but as she got closer to him, he regained himself and leaped to his paws, jumping far over her. She stopped, confused for a moment, then whirled around, lashing her tail in concentration. Ashpaw's eyes flashed. He'd expected this new apprentice to be smart, but he had had no idea that she could have though as quickly as she did. With only one swift moment to think, he spun to face her as his paws skidded on the snow-dusted ground. He stood, dazed as the shape of Owlpaw grew closer and closer. He gasped in a breath and reared back, dodging a paw swipe. He lashed out a paw in the direction he'd just pulled away from, claws carefully sheathed. His hit landed-- straight on the side of Owlpaw's face. She flinched with a restrained hiss, and lifted a long leg as high as she could. In as quick a movement as she could manage, she brought her paw down hard on Ashpaw's head, recalling Whitepaw's teaching. Her eyes widened slightly as she saw the effect it had. Ashpaw's legs buckled under him and he collapsed on the ground, eyes fluttering then shutting. Owlpaw swiftly moved forward.
"Ashpaw?! Are you okay?" She lightly prodded him with a paw. "I'm sorry I hit you so hard!" She choked back a sob. "I-I didn't mean to, reall-" Ashpaw looked up at her, a grin lighting his face. With a groan, he stood up. "Yeah, that hit was strong, for a kit. But it wasn't that strong. Good StarClan, don't worry about it, I'm not actually hurt."
Owlpaw's eyes narrowed. She ignored the quiet laughter of her mentor. "Oh haha, so funny." She turned her back to him, tail whipping across his nose. "Can I fight someone else now?"
Shadowfur's laughter died away. "Well, I suppose I can actually teach you a few things later. I'll let you learn from experience for now, so, yes. Whitepaw," He gestured with his tail at the apprentice, "you'll be fighting her now."
Owlpaw bared her teeth half-heartedly. "Don't go easy on me. I'm not a kit any more."
Whitepaw smirked. He admired this new apprentice's bravery. "I won't." Owlpaw waited patiently for her new opponent to make the first move, analyzing his movements. Whitepaw slowly began to take a few steps towards her. Just as he prepared to make a leap, a loud screech sounded from above. A dark shadow passed over them, just skimming over the group.
"Eagle!" Shadowfur screeched, racing forward. He tried to herd the apprentices, but failed miserably as he tripped over a rock, falling face-first into the snow. Owlpaw glanced around wildly. She'd heard of eagles only in stories. She knew they were a common sight in the mountains, but she'd never seen them herself. As she scanned the sky, looking for the shape of the large bird, she felt sharp talons dig into her scruff. She let out a screech of terror as she felt her feet begin to lift off the ground. Ashpaw and Whitepaw instinctively looked up.
"Owlpaw!" They both yowled. Both, moving as one, raced forward, hissing madly. Soon followed by Shadowfur, they all leaped as high as their strong legs would allow, latching their claws onto the bird. The bird struggled, but the weight was too much for it. It crashed to the ground with all four cats still on it, but hit a part where snow only just covered the hard stone in a thin film. Having landed on top of the bird, Shadowfur delivered a killing bite to the back of the eagle's neck. As it went limp, Ashpaw and Whitepaw pulled Owlpaw from its weakened grip, trying to ignore her quiet squeal of pain as the talons scratched her skin.
"Are you okay?" Whitepaw leaned over her, amber eyes dark with worry.
Owlpaw was completely silent for a while. She was winded, and she certainly didn't feel fine. The snow had hardly cushioned her fall. She forced a slow, sore nod. She didn't feel severe pain anywhere, but she ached all over. Her face hurt from where she'd been hit, her side was bruised from the fall with the bird and the other cats, and she was still having a difficult time breathing. Her eyes slowly shut and her thoughts darkened into unconciousness. Unknown to her, Whitepaw and Ashpaw were arguing with severe tones over who's fault it was that they hadn't seen the bird earlier, while Shadowfur just lifted Owlpaw onto his back. Whitepaw and Ashpaw finally gave up on the fight and, reluctantly, trudged through the snow with Shadowfur back to the camp.
Owlpaw regained her conciousness deep into the night of the same day. Her eyes opened just slightly, and she realized she was in the Medicine Cat's den. She lifted her head with a quiet moan- it still hurt to move all that much. Her head felt fuzzy. She noticed the outline of a few figures sleeping on the cold floor of the cave. She didn't remember any cats falling ill or becoming injured. Then she remembered the eagle. Whitepaw, Shadowfur, and Ashpaw! Some of them must have gotten hurt, too! She jumped to her paws, then collapsed back into her nest after her head hit a low part of the den ceiling. The cats both lifted their heads, eyes wide, ears pointed at her. As her head cleared of its dizziness, she recognized each pair of eyes. One amber, one green.
"You're awake." The amber-eyed cat said.
"About time." The green-eyed cat mewed irritably.
Owlpaw sighed in relief. "Whitepaw, Ashpaw, you're both fine. Good StarClan, I thought you may have been hurt, being in here and all. What are you doing here? Shouldn't you both be in the apprentice den?" The toms exchanged a long glance, then both looked back at her.
"We were waiting for you to wake up, of course." The two replied.
Owlpaw blinked, her surprise appearance living up to her name. "Why?"
Ashpaw sighed and stood up, leaning over so as not to hit his head on the cave as well. "Stupid, stupid kit. Oh, and hey, I forgot this." He turned around and picked up something in his jaws. He padded over to Owlpaw, dropping a piece of the eagle they had taken down earlier, and left the den, tail brushing her fur lightly. Owlpaw's gaze fell to the bird, then lifted to Whitepaw. She stared at him in silence.
"Ah. Well, er.. Sorry I didn't bring anything for yo-" He was cut off quickly by Owlpaw.
"No, it's fine. I'm actually not that hungry. Do you want this?"
Whitepaw hesitated, beginning to get to his feet. "No, my brother gave that to you. And I couldn't.... I mean, it's yours, real-" He was cut off again.
"Really. I'm not hungry. Do you want it or don't you?"
Whitepaw gave in reluctantly. "Fine, fine. But I'm not taking more than half of it. You keep the rest." He awkwardly padded forward, ears brushing the top of the cave as he bent forward. He leaned toward the eagle and tore off a piece of it- less than half, but it pleased Owlpaw all the same. "There. I took a piece. Now you can eat the other parts of the bird." He turned away and began to leave the den. Owlpaw hesitated, glancing around.
"Whitepaw, could you stay in here, please? I don't want to be in here by myself, but I don't want to leave without Skygaze's or Creekpaw's permission." Her tail-tip twitched in anxiety. She didn't mean to sound like such a kit, but she really didn't like the darkness of the den. She didn't understand how any cats could willingly stay in it. Whitepaw turned his head with a blink.
"I'm sorry, but I don't like this den any more than you do. I could go find Creekpaw and ask if you're well enough to leave, though, if you'd like?"
Owlpaw nodded. "Yes, please. I can't stand how dark this is... Thank you." She added swiftly as he left the den, his piece of the bird in his jaws. She watched him go in silence, her pale blue eyes going dark. She glanced down at her prey. Owlpaw knew she had to be grateful- a bird this large was rarely able to be caught in LeafBare. She began eating it with swift bites. She had to keep herself fit, or she wouldn't become the best warrior she could be. Just as she was beginning to finish a bit of the bird, three cats shoved their way into the den. Whitepaw was among them. Wolffur and Sparrowfern were the other two. Owlpaw began to grin. Whitepaw must have met up with Creekpaw and the two other warriors while they were helping Skygaze gather herbs.
"Your... your brother..." Whitepaw was panting heavily, "Mudpaw... he was taken by.. another Clan!"
Owlpaw's smile dropped. "What?!" She jumped to her paws, hit her head on the roof of the cave, then stood lower. "What happened?!"
"I'm still not... entirely sure... Spottedstar... is making the announcement..." He finished right as a yowl sounded from the center of the caves.
Owlpaw pushed past the three and shoved herself into the crowd gathering. Spottedstar stood on the TallStone, meowing calming words to the fussing cats below her. Owlpaw noticed her gray-flecked muzzle, her dull spotted pelt, as well as her paling amber eyes. Owlpaw knew her leader wouldn't be able to control her cats much longer- she was weakened mentally and physically with age. Spottedstar continued to speak. "Everyone, everyone, please, calm yourselves! We must think rationally if we are to save the cats that were stolen from us!" The panic began to subside in everyone as they began to understand what they had to do. "For those who have not heard, four young cats were taken from us by a group of rogues. These cats were Mudpaw, a new apprentice, and then Doeheart, Hawkfur, and Swiftfeather, the three littermates that were recently made warriors." Yowls of fury and dismay arose from the lost cats' friends and kin. "Quiet, everyone! Quiet down, please. We'll have your loved ones back soon," Spottedstar soothed, "All is not lost. We will take action immediately. I am going to send a patrol to track down the thieves." She looked over her crowd, allowing her words to take effect, then continued again, "This patrol will be lead by Shadowfur. Harefoot, as deputy, I would like you to help Shadowfur choose cats to go with you. Not too many, please." The brown tabby tom, thin and tall as most of IceClan cats were, dipped his head.
"Of course, Spottedstar." Harefoot's voice rang out clearly, echoing back against the stone walls.
"Good," Spottedstar looked at her listeners once more, "May StarClan light your paths- you leave tomorrow at dawn. And may the rest of you have no need to hold grief for long." She turned away, walked down the TallStone, and slipped into her den without another word. The cave erupted into hushed conversations. Shadowfur and Harefoot were quickly giving roles to cats as they were chosen to go on the tracking patrol. Owlpaw padded over.
"Shadowfur?" She looked up at her mentor, tail tip twitching.
"If you're going to be gone for a while, who will be here to train me?"
Shadowfur hesitated. Even Harefoot looked over. The toms both blinked. Spottedstar hadn't given Owlpaw a temporary mentor. Harefoot's eyes flashed with... was that pity? "Go ask... Ask Thorntooth. He doesn't have an apprentice, and he's not going to be on the patrol. Okay?"
Owlpaw's spirits dropped. She had met Thorntooth a couple times- he wasn't the person she wanted as a mentor, but she nodded anyway. She had to accept Harefoot's decision. After all, Owlpaw was sure he was in a tough position at the moment, and she didn't want to make anything harder for him. She turned to the Warriors' cave entrance and padded over, walking in. "Thorntooth?" She glanced over the dotted nests, looking for the telltale white long fur. Her eyes caught on Thorntooth as he rolled over, green eyes blazing.
"What do you want?"
"I... Er... Harefoot assigned you as my temporary mentor while Shadowfur's going on the tracking patrol..."
Thorntooth groaned, standing and stepping out of his nest.