Warriors doesn't belong to me (sadly).
Firepaw gave himself a strong shake, trying to rid his fur of dust.
Nightstar had just thrown him against a boulder, again. The leader had taken Firepaw out for some training. Not that the ginger apprentice wasn't thrilled about it, but despite the fact that four moons of apprenticeship had passed already, he still had to regulate the skill he used. It was annoying and ended with him getting thrown down or against him far more often than he would prefer.
"Not bad, but you're still a little slow on your paws", commented the black tom.
Firepaw gave a huff and crouched down once more. Nightstar tilted his head for a second, before he nodded and crouched down as well. At least the black tom allowed Firepaw to decide when to stop. And, despite the fact that Firepaw needed to be careful with what he showed, he was too fed up with pretending he was worse than he was to care right now that another apprentice his age would be drop-dead-tired right about now. He shot forward headfirst.
Nightstar crouched a little lower, ready to act in the last second. Firepaw jerked one paw to the right, then took a turn and headed left. The ploy worked. Nightstar misunderstood his first movement and leaped directly into his son's attack. Ginger and black fur flashed in the sunlight that filtered through the trees when Firepaw clashed against Nightstar's flank. He immediately pulled his hind legs up and dug his claws into his father's flank. Not enough to injure him, but enough to keep his hold. Lunging forward, he pulled himself onto the leader's back and bit into his scruff.
Nightstar gave a startled yowl, before he started to shake himself. Firepaw got flung off with a cry, but rolled over the ground and was back up again just in time to dodge an incoming attack. He dived into the nearest bush, narrowly escaping being pinned by Nightstar. The ginger tom was about to leap out of the bush, when something caught his tail and pulled him back. He gave another cry when he lost footing and looked around wildly, to growl frustrated.
Nightstar had his tail in his fangs, his green eyes sparkling with amusement and what Firepaw assumed was pride.
"What with StarClan?!"
Both toms looked up, to find a WindClan patrol staring at them. Firepaw frowned and tilted his head. They had started training on a clearing near the border, but had they really moved so much? The next second Nightstar released his hold on Firepaw's tail and the tom landed on the ground roughly.
"What may I do for you Brackenheart?", asked the black tom.
WindClan's deputy smirked and answered: "Actually we were only patrolling the border when we heard a young tom", he flashed an amused look at Firepaw, who huffed in annoyance, "cry out. We worried he might be attacked by a fox. Not by his own leader."
Nightstar gave a snarl. It wasn't threatening, but it wasn't amused either. "I was simply assessing my son's abilities by myself."
Brackenheart nodded and twitched his tail. His patrol disappeared and he nodded his head. "I will see you again tonight I suppose." And he was gone.
Firepaw almost groaned at the reminder. Green Leaf was slowly coming to an end and not too long ago Nettlepaw and his siblings had been appointed as warriors. This would be their first gathering in their new positions. His 'rival' had been teasing Firepaw with it for many days now. An amused purr directed his attention back to his father and Firepaw smiled.
Ever since they'd given Palekit back to WindClan the relationship between the two clans had strengthened significantly. Not that Firepaw minded it. It was a dangerous game to play. One small mishap on either side and they could be at each other's throats, but whatever Tigerstar was planning, they needed as many allies as possible.
"Let's return to camp Firepaw", called Nightstar. "Then you can rest before we leave for the gathering."
Firepaw meowed in agreement and started following his father. The last gatherings had been fairly silent. But Firepaw had also been unable to talk to Scourge. Suddenly a few bushes rustled. Firepaw froze and opened his jaws, inhaling the air. His eyes widened when he realised what he smelled. It was a rabbit. Of course they were close to WindClan border, but finding a rabbit was still rare. Immediately he fell into a crouch and from the corner of his sight, he found Nightstar freezing, watching him with confusion and interest.
The ginger apprentice took a deep breath, then silently moved forward, careful to stay downwind and make as little noise as possible. He rounded a bush and saw it. The light brown creature crouched in front of another bush. One with fresh green leaves. It nibbled on one, being completely focused on its meal. Firepaw inched closer and closer. His muscles tensed and he jumped. The rabbit gave a start when his shadow fell over it, but it was a tad to slow. Firepaw lunged forward and managed to sink his claws into its hind leg. Pulling forward, he immediately pinned it down and went for its throat. The rabbit gave a short squeak, then became still.
Pride rushed through the ginger tom and he smiled. Even as leader he'd lost more rabbits than he'd caught when they had shown up. Catching one was something quite special. He bent down and picked the animal up before he made his way back to Nightstar. The moment he got in sight of the leader, the black tom's eyes widened, before he purred loudly.
"A wonderful catch it seems", purred he. Firepaw smiled up at his father through the rabbit's fur and Nightstar licked his forehead proudly, gaining a growl from him. At this the leader laughed, before he twitched his tail and continued leading him back to camp. They arrived soon and Firepaw followed his father inside. There Nightstar ordered: "Take the rabbit to the elders, then you can take something for yourself."
Firepaw nodded and started crossing the clearing. He ducked his head when he slid into the elders den, avoiding a collision with a low hanging branch. Four elders looked up when he came in and smiled.
"Thank you Firepaw", said Kestrelflight when she saw the prey.
Firepaw placed it down and answered: "You're welcome."
He smiled back, but his heart still gave a painful pang when he saw the two empty spots Stormwing and Whisperear had once occupied.
Whisperear, as weak as she'd been, had died a moon ago of her age. Stormwing on the other hand had died because he'd taken an adder-bite for Raincloud. Then his eyes wandered to the newest member of the den. It was Brighteye. The she-cat wasn't the youngest anymore and although she'd recovered from her injuries, she'd joined the elders only a few days after Whisperear had died. If Firepaw wasn't completely mistaken Bonetail and Boulderpelt, her sisters, would join in soon as well.
Firepaw dipped his head and slid out of the den quickly. He padded up to the fresh-kill pile and picked out a plump-looking Blackbird and made his way to the apprentice den. Hollypaw, Silverpaw and Whitepaw were lying there already, each of them eating their share of prey. Firepaw settled down next to his former deputy and the moment he'd dropped the blackbird, Hollypaw shot out: "And? How was it?!"
Firepaw shot her an annoyed look, but relented and started to tell the three listeners of his day with his father.
Once he was done Whitepaw nodded and answered:" Catching a rabbit was obviously quite the impressive end for Nightstar. Although you could've done better in keeping your cover."
"I know", sighed Firepaw and dug his fangs into his meal. He chewed and swallowed, before he continued: "But I was just getting increasingly frustrated. At least I managed to only show of stamina and not something else."
"Lucky call", chuckled Hollypaw.
Silverpaw snickered into her vole and Firepaw glowered at both of them, before he returned his attention to his blackbird. "So? You're going to the gathering too?", asked Firepaw. Whitepaw shook his head, but Silverpaw and Hollypaw both nodded. "As far as I know Greypaw, Spottedpaw and Dustpaw are supposed to come too", explained the silver she-cat.
"What about Bluepaw, Sandpaw and Ravenpaw?", asked Whitepaw.
Firepaw, Hollypaw and Silverpaw all shrugged. Suddenly a Squirrel dropped to the ground next to Firepaw, followed by a pale-ginger furred body. "Tough day?", asked Firepaw while he watched how Sandpaw lay on the ground, panting for air. "That…doesn't begin to...cover it", answered Sandpaw, before she pushed herself up and started devouring the squirrel. The moment she was done she licked Firepaw's shoulder, nodded to everyone else and disappeared in the apprentice den.
"Well…that answers that", stated Hollypaw. Firepaw nodded and swallowed the last of his blackbird before starting to clean his fur. A while later they all heard a yowl and looked up. Nightstar stood at the camp entrance and the cats that would join the gathering walked up to him already. "Well, that's our cue", said Silverpaw and got up. Hollypaw and Firepaw followed her and then Greypaw and Dustpaw appeared from the apprentice den. Firepaw nodded at them and the two nodded back before the five of them joined Spottedpaw.
She crouched next to Splashwhisker, who was in an eager conversation with Lionclaw.
Firepaw bit back a frown.
Not that he minded his mother being around him, but she was so overprotective. Sandstorm hadn't been that bad with their kits, StarClan Firepaw himself hadn't been too protective. He'd known someday his kits would grow up. Becoming apprentices was part of that. Farther, during the walk to the gathering, Lionclaw would most likely stay near Firepaw and Greypaw, who in turn would stay with the others, which meant all of them would have to continue acting out apprentices. The former leader hid a sigh.
Life just wasn't easy.
Suddenly Nightstar let out a yowl, then he dashed out of camp. Firepaw leaped forward immediately and fell into step behind Tearfur, a washy light-grey she-cat with dark-blue eyes. Greypaw was next to him and the others followed behind. While racing through the trees, Splashwhisker and Spottedpaw raced forward, catching up with Scarpath. The elder had had so much more energy ever since he and Nightstar got along again, it was almost funny. But Firepaw also understood that his age was the reason Splashwhisker stayed closer to the grey tom during any journey.
Tilting his ears back, he rolled his eyes and purred amused.
"What is it?", asked Greypaw.
Firepaw snickered, then answered: "Listen behind us. It seems Lionclaw took the rear."
Greypaw stared for a second, then snickered as well and answered: "One would think she'd understand that we're growing up."
"Is it just me or is your mother getting more protective the older you two and Ravenpaw get?", asked Silverpaw, now catching up to them. Right behind them ran Hollypaw and Dustpaw.
Firepaw shrugged and answered: "It seems that way, although it is stupid. For me it was hard to let my kits go as well, but I knew the older they got, the better they could protect themselves."
"Not just you", agreed Dustpaw and Greypaw in unison. Each of them had had kits and each of them had had to let them go. Wind rushed past Firepaw the moment they entered WindClan territory and once again Firepaw was reminded that Green Leaf was coming to an end. Soon it would be exactly four seasons since the ten of them returned to the clans. Luckily ever since the incident with Palekit, there had been no more attacks. A few border fights yes, but nothing this terrible.
That was what left Firepaw with a bitter sense of foreboding. Tigerpaw was obviously planning something. Firepaw, lost in his thoughts, gave a start when Greypaw nudged him.
Greypaw laughed and asked: "StarClan what were you thinking of?" His voice sounded far more playful than Firepaw had heard him use it in a long time, but soon he saw why. They'd reached the log and Lionclaw and a few ThunderClan warriors were still nearby. Firepaw shook his head and answered: "Nothing, don't worry about it."
And in a leap, Firepaw was on the log. He ran over it swiftly and leaped down on the other side, waiting for his friends. One by one they came and the apprentices ran on, to reach the clearing. ShadowClan wasn't there yet, but River and WindClan were. The ThunderClan cats spread on the clearing, but Firepaw clearly saw them mingling more with Wind than RiverClan. The ginger tom scanned the cats on the clearing, searching for a certain tom.
Twice he believed to have found him, only to find that it was Iceclaw, who moved around quite much.
"Let's go greet Lilypaw", offered Greypaw and pointed his tail to a small white WindClan apprentice. Over the last few gatherings the two toms had befriended her.
"Why not", answered Firepaw and followed Greypaw through the gathered cats.
"Hey there Lilypaw", greeted Greypaw.
Lilypaw, who'd been talking to a white and brown tabby she-cat with the same yellow eyes spun around, to smile. "Firepaw! Greypaw! Great to see you again!"
"So you are Nightstar's two sons?", asked the she-cat.
Firepaw nodded, then Lilypaw offered: "Why don't you come to Roundbelly? He wanted to tell me, Runningpaw and Mousepaw an old legend."
Firepaw exchanged a glance with Greypaw, then asked: "Are you sure your elder won't mind?"
"The legends of the clans are for every clan", explained the warrior.
"Well, alright then", answered Greypaw.
The she-cat smiled, then she and Lilypaw led them through the gathered cats to a bush near the edge of the clearing. An elder lay there. He, for a WindClan cat, had very long, glossy fur. Runningpaw and Mousepaw already crouched in front of him, when he saw them coming. "Thorncloud, who else are you bringing?", asked Roundbelly, his voice cracked with age, but had something flowing that told Firepaw he was a good story-teller.
Thorncloud answered: "Two of Nightstar's sons Roundbelly. Lilypaw invited them."
"Well, join in then you two. After all, the legends belong to all the clans." Firepaw and Greypaw settled down in front of the elder as well, and he began. "It was quite a long time ago. Many, many seasons before even my father was born. Back there lived still cats that remembered the old forest."
Firepaw's ears perked up at that and he glanced at Greypaw, who glanced back. Could it be?
Roundbelly turned to the two ThunderClan toms and explained: "I'm not sure if you two know, but we didn't always live around the lake. We lived in a wonderful forest, far away from here. WindClan bordered to Shadow and RiverClan there. ThunderClan, this border we only met at a certain spot. Fourtrees, were the gatherings used to take place."
Firepaw's heart started to pound harder. After all this time worrying that the clans had forgotten everything, they would've just had to listen to WindClan at the gatherings.
"Fact is, twolegs destroyed this place, so we travelled here. Here, we found a place to live, but not everything was always peaceful. Evil lurked in the shadows, gathered strength moon after moon, till finally, it was ready to reveal itself. This evil, the Place of no Stars, is where traitorous clan cats go. To fight the Place of no Stars, the four clans joined up as one, as they did already twice. Once for the journey to this place and once before. Names have been forgotten over the time, but as far as my knowledge goes while all fur leaders worked together, ThunderClan's leader had the most authority."
"Why that?!", cried Runningpaw in disdain.
Greypaw leaned over to Firepaw and mumbled into his ear: "What do you think he'd say if he knew that said leader is sitting next to him right now?" Firepaw fought his laughter down, while Roundbelly explained: "It's very simple Runningpaw. The leader of the Place of no Stars, the greatest Traitor the clans ever had, used to be a ThunderClan cat, followed by being ShadowClan leader and controlling RiverClan."
Firepaw was impressed by the details Roundbelly was able to give, no matter if no names were known anymore.
"WindClan brought itself in greatly too though. It was on our territory. On our territory the fight for the survival of the clans took place. On our territory StarClan came down from the skies and helped to fight those dark cats." Roundbelly fell silent, looking slightly exhausted already.
"How did the fight end?", asked Firepaw.
He didn't want to push the elder, but he'd wondered since long what WindClan's role in all of this was. ThunderClan had the ten of them, ShadowClan the Dark Forest cats, RiverClan Scourge. It appears WindClan carried the knowledge and memories.
"That's more of a legend than anything else I told you I'm afraid. Apparently more than one Prophecy got fulfilled in this battle. The clans lost many cats. No leaders, besides ThunderClan's. It's said he and…yes Lilypaw?"
"He?", asked Lilypaw.
Roundbelly laughed and answered: "Yes, he. That's one of the few things we can be certain of. That ThunderClan's leader was a tom. Anyhow, he and the leader of the Place of no Stars are said to have been the greatest enemies. He fell under the dark tom, only to be finished off by a group of ThunderClan cats." Roundbelly frowned and said: "It's said, he was meant to die in this battle."
Firepaw did his best not to wince when memories of losing his last life returned to him. He managed to snap out of it, when Roundbelly continued: "WindClan always kept those legends close, treasured them. They show us what mistakes we made in the past and can prepare us for what is about to come." Roundbelly fell silent now and looked at each of the five apprentices. Firepaw quickly tried to compose his features, hoping to display open awe. "Quite impressive, isn't it", chuckled the elder.
"Thank you for telling us this story Roundbelly", answered Greypaw respectfully.
He bowed his head shortly and Firepaw, while copying his brother, continued: "You managed to fill many questions and gaps our own elders left."
"Not surprising", rumbled another voice. Firepaw looked up, to find Beesting sitting nearby. She'd obviously listened as well. "WindClan is the only clan that kept those stories alive."
Firepaw was about to answer, when a yowl cut through the silent air. Looking up, he saw that moonhigh had arrived. All four leaders crouched atop the oak and Nightstar got up, ready for his announcement.
"Green Leaf is ending, but ThunderClan's prey is still running", began the black tom. "Unfortunately we, in addition to Whisperear, lost another of our elders. Stormwing died because he took an adder-bite for Raincloud. Yet we also have a new cat in our elders den. Brighteye was a strong and loyal warrior and is now taking her deserved rest." Nightstar paused, to let the information sink in. "And lastly. ThunderClan has gained three new warriors this moon. Nettlepaw, Frostpaw and Hailpaw finished their apprenticeship and are now Nettlebite, Frostfur and Hailshard."
"Nettlebite! Frostfur! Hailshard! Nettlebite! Frostfur! Hailshard!", cheered the clans.
Firepaw winced at the name Frostfur again and again, as did Greypaw and he saw the same happening to Spottedpaw, Hollypaw, Silverpaw and Dustpaw. They all remembered their Frostfur.
The brave white she-cat had stayed in the old territory when the clans had left, together with another ThunderClan elder, Speckletail, and two RiverClan elders, Loudbelly and Shadepelt. All four of them had stayed behing, not wishing to slow down their clans because of their age. It had been a hard decision for Firepaw, to accept them staying behind and leaving with ThunderClan. Also, the four of them had sat vigil for Mudfur, RiverClan's old medicine cat, when he'd died in the old territory.
When Firepaw now looked at this Frostfur, he saw their old clan-member.
"Do…do you think…Frostfur and her siblings are re-lated to our Frostfur?", chocked Greypaw out. He managed to keep his face blank, but Firepaw, who knew him better than anyone, safe for maybe Silverpaw, saw the pain that glazed his eyes.
"Maybe", whispered the ginger tom back. "They do look exactly the same."
Firepaw tried to return his attention to the other leaders, but his senses felt numb. His new realisation about WindClan's role in all of this, coupled with the sadness about their old clan-mate clouded his thoughts. It seemed like a wonder to Firepaw that he managed to keep himself composed enough to not attract attention.
One thing was for certain, from now on his life would not get easier.