By: Lucy Zener
View all Lucy Zener's works
Chapter 1: Splashkit
“Appleheart, can I go now? Please? I’m groomed enough.” I pulled away from the paws of my mother, Appleheart, who was grooming me so hard, I thought my fur would all fall out.
“I want you to look perfect. It’s your big day, Splashkit!” Appleheart meowed lovingly between licks.
“Fine,” I grumbled, remembering when Sagepaw had this same discussion. Then my eyes widened.
“Let all cats old enough to swim gather to hear my words!” I heard the words of my leader, Pebblestar, through the brambles of the nursery. “Splashkit has reached her sixth moon. You can come on out now, Splashkit.”
“Splashkit. It’s time,” Appleheart said to me as she let me go to the nursery exit, though I was already halfway through. I ran through the crowd of cats surrounding the stump where the white, brown and gray body of Pebblestar stood in front of. I trotted to a stop as I reached the leader of RiverClan. I saw Appleheart sit down with my father, Whitecreek, in the first row. Pebblestar beckoned me closer. I came, almost bursting with joy.
“Splashkit, you have reached the age of six moons, and it is time for you to be apprenticed. From this day on, until you receive your warrior name, you will be known as Splashpaw. Your mentor will be Troutfin. I hope Troutfin will pass down all he knows onto you,” Pebblestar solemnly began. With her white-tipped tail, she beckoned Troutfin from where he sat beside his friend Stoneriver and his mate Lakeripple, who was heavy with unborn kits. Troutfin came, keeping calm, but I could see his tail quivering with excitement.
Pebblestar started again.
“Troutfin, you are ready to take on an apprentice. You have received excellent training from Cherrydive, and you have shown yourself to be loyal and strong. You will be the mentor of Splashpaw, and I expect you to pass on all you know to her.”
Pebblestar stepped back to allow me to touch noses with my new mentor.
Being small for my age, I had to stand up higher than normal while Troutfin bent his head slightly.
“Splashpaw! Splashpaw!” The clan cheered. I noticed Appleheart and Whitecreek calling the loudest.
“Come on, Splashpaw.” Troutfin led me to my new den and stopped. “Go and make a nest in there. We’ll start training when your done.”
“Why do you want me to make a nest?” I asked. “I can after training.”
“Yes, but when training is over and all your duties are fulfilled, you’ll be wanting to eat some prey and then curl up and sleep. Afterall, it is sunhigh. It’s something I learned from Cherrydive. She said she learned it the hard way,” Troutfin explained. “Sagepaw gathered some extra moss for you. It’s in there. I’ll be in the nursery when you’re done.”
“Oh. Okay. Tell Lakeripple I miss her already, but I’m lucky I have her mate as a mentor,” I meowed, stepping into the bramble thicket.
“Alright. See you later, Splashpaw.”
Troutfin bounded off to see his mate as I stepped fully into the den for cats in between kits and warriors. It was a den much like the nursery, with protective brambles on every side, though the mossy ground was replaced by grass and some stray pieces of fern placed haphazardly between the two nests. A small pile of moss and some bracken and twigs and ferns stood at the back of the den. I guess this is mine, I thought as I started smoothing the pile down. Plucking out twigs and bracken, I made a holder-like thing for my nest. I carried the moss and ferns to where the outline was by the other nests. I padded down the moss and ferns and curled up in the new nest. It fit me well, with some space for me to grow. It’s not the same as my cosy nest in the nursery with Appleheart, but it’ll do, I thought as I left the den and padded toward the den I had woken up in.
“Troutfin? I’m done.” I trotted into the nursery. A wave of nostalgia hit me as the den welcomed me with its tall, protective-yet-welcoming, bramble branches and mossy, cosy ground and large nests and a warm, milky secent.
“Splashpaw, this isn’t your den anymore.” Appleheart let of a mrow of amusement, her amber eyes shining.
“And you shouldn’t be here, either,” I replied.
“I’m staying here until Lakeripple has her kits. Although I’ll still go on patrols and gatherings.” Appleheart explained, sitting up and starting to wash.
“Splashpaw, you ready?” Troutfin asked.
“Yep!” I bounced.
“Goodbye, Splashpaw. Have fun.” Appleheart purred.
“Come on then.” Troutfin led me out of the nursery and straight into Stoneriver and Sagepaw.
“Hi, Troutfin! Sagepaw was asking if we could come with you,” Stoneriver asked.
“Sure! I’m teaching Splashpaw some hunting and battle moves. Sagepaw already knows it, but some practice won’t hurt,” Troutfin answered.
Oh! I know some battle moves! I thought, following the older cats toward the camp’s entrance. We ended at the stream.
“Go on, Sagepaw. Show Splashpaw how it’s done.” Stoneriver nosed his apprentice.
“Here I go.” Sagepaw slipped into the water and pulled herself out on the other bank. I leaped in to follow.
I blinked my eyes, but they stung, so I kept them closed. Remembering Appleheart’s words when I learned to swim, I kicked with all of my legs and let my head rest in the water. Finally I placed my front paws on the bank and pushed off with my back legs and landed, coughing, on the other side.
“Splashpaw!” Troutfin’s voice was disapproving. “I never gave you permission to do that!”
“I’m sorry, Troutfin. I won’t do that again.” I felt my fur burn as I looked at my black and white mottled paws.
“You better not,” Troutfin warned as he jumped into the water and pulled himself out. Stoneriver followed his friend until we were all at the other side, dripping.
“So, let’s go already!” I bounced, pouncing on Sagepaw. The golden-brown apprentice expertly rolled out of the way and swiped at my ears with sheathed claws. As I ducked, she jumped on top of me, pinning me with strong paws.
“Hey! Get off!” I kicked at her belly and pretended to run my claws down the soft flesh.
“Oww! That hurt so much!” Sagepaw meowed with fake pain. She jumped off of me and flattened herself. I happily kept in front of her, ready to strike a blow, but Sagepaw was too quick. She pounced on my back and rolled me over, then bared her teeth as she bit the air a tail-length away from my throat.
“Sagepaw! Splashpaw! Good fighting, but now is not the time. Sagepaw, good work, using that trick and the back-jump. And, Splashpaw, you need a lot of training. You have to learn not to be tricked. And those play-fight moves might fool a mouse, but not a ShadowClan warrior, although that belly rake was smart.” Stoneriver meowed, swiping his gray tail between his apprentice and me.
“Okay! Thanks, Stoneriver.” Sagepaw let me back onto my paws and bounded toward her mentor. I followed.
Wow, I thought. She’s so good! I wish I could be like that someday.
“Hey, Splashpaw, can you lead us toward the lake?” Troutfin asked. “It smells like—”
“Water?” Sagepaw broke in. “It’s windy, and it smells kind of strongly of fish. And other clans.”
“Sagepaw, show some respect for your elders!” Stoneriver exclaimed.
“Yeah, ’cause Troutfin’s totally an elder.” Sagepaw’s green eyes shone brightly.
“Sagepaw! If you disrespect a warrior one more time, you’re going back to camp and doing the elder’s ticks alone.” Stoneriver growled.
“Okay,” Sagepaw muttered, twitching her golden ears.
“Splashpaw, what do you smell?” Troutfin asked, brushing his black and brown spotted across the grass.
“Uhhhh…. Well, RiverClan, obviously. And, I think mouse? And shrew. And where the smell of RiverClan is strongest is over there, so that must be our camp.”
I waved my mottled tail in the direction we had came from. “The mouse is over there,” A bush hid the prey. “And so is the shrew. And the fish-smell is strongest from over there, so that’s where the lake is.”
“Good job!” Troutfin praised. My tail shot up.
“Why don’t you take us there?” Stoneriver suggested.
“Here I go!” I bounded off toward the lake. Then I heard something. A burning stench filled my nose. I tipped my head, sunk into a crouch and made my way to the sound.
“Splashpaw, no!” Stoneriver called, racing to me. Suddenly a huge, lumbering, black and white creature with sparkling, tiny black eyes set on its pointed head.
“What is that?” I yelled to no one in particular, though Sagepaw replied, sounding scared for the first time in my life, her ears flattened, her fur brisling, claws unsheathed and tail held low and twitching.
“That, Splashpaw, is a badger.”
Chapter 2: Caramel
I pushed myself through the grasses. The wind ruffled my fur where my bright green collar should be. Hearing a crash, I ran faster. Suddenly I was there. A space without tall grasses held a terrible battle. Four cats, two of them small were fighting a badger. One of the small cats, about the size of a small, six-moon old kit, a mottled black and white tabby she-cat, cowered in the shelter of a bush. The badger loomed in front of her. I sprang forward, ready to help in whatever way I could, but I was stopped. My body just hit a invisible wall. I tried running through it, but I couldn’t.
The badger was being stopped, although my heart still raced. A full-grown gray-furred tom and a same-sized black-and-brown tom were fighting together, matching each other blow for blow. A smaller golden-brown she-cat leaped onto the badger’s back and bit down. The badger reared up in pain and the gray-furred cat slid under to rake the belly.
“Splashpaw, run! Get back to camp!” the golden-brown cat called.
“Thank you, Sagepaw!” The tabby slithered past the fight, but the badger saw. Twisting Sagepaw off, it dashed for Splashpaw. In doing so, the gray-furred cat was almost smashed and rolled aside just in time.
“Stoneriver!” the other tom shrieked.
“I’m fine, Troutfin! Splashpaw isn’t!” Stoneriver called back, getting up and sprinting to the badger.
“Help!” Splashpaw froze. I could see every muscle in her body locking up.
“I’m coming!” Sagepaw stood up from where she had been thrust. From the side of the clearing, Sagepaw ran like it was her life that was endangered, not Splashpaw. Right before the badger could strike the killing blow, Sagepaw slid in front of Splashpaw, sending a cloud of dirt everywhere. When the cloud had cleared, I could see that Sagepaw had bitten the badger’s muzzle. Stoneriver joined, letting Sagepaw slip away and leap onto the badger’s head.
“Splashpaw!” Troutfin exclaimed. “Come here and I’ll take you back to camp!”
“I can’t!” Splashpaw’s voice came from the grasses.
“Yes, you can!” Sagepaw thrust the head of the badger to the side, giving Splashpaw a chance to slip through and race to Troutfin.
“Come on, Sagepaw! Kill the badger!” I cheered, but no one heard me. Oh, I hope she does!
“Caramel! Lunchtime!” A call woke me from my dream. My collar pinched my neck as I rose my head. I was on the soft, large bed-like sill of the window in the facing the yard. Strange. I had lay down on my green nest next to the large sofa on the other end of the room. I guess I sleepwalked, I thought. Although I don’t do that.
“Caramel!” The call from my owner and the rattle of the dry cat food in my bowl was too tempting to sit around and ponder the dream and how I had gotten to the window.
“Coming!” I called, although I knew they would only hear a meow. Jumping down from to the ground, the other cat who lived with me, Mittens, passed me.
“Caramel, you don’t usually sleep there!” She meowed, a tone of surprise in her voice.
“I didn’t—” I explained, but Mittens cut me off.
“Anyway,” she crouched like she was about to catch one of the toy mice that were spread around the house. “I’ll race you to the kitchen!”
“Sure!” I mirrored Mittens. “I bet I’ll beat you!”
“I wouldn’t be so sure about that!” Mittens laughed. “Go!” We sprinted to the door, but the glass door to the yard caught my eye. I slowed so I could look.
The outside world looked more tempting than normal. It hit me that the dream I had was not a dream, but real. I have to find out what happened!
“Caramel!” Mittens’ call made me shake my head to clear the thought. “Did you forget about the race?”
“Not at all!” I dashed into the kitchen, where Mittens was watching me, amusement and surprise in her blue gaze.
“Really?” Mittens flicked her tortoiseshell tail. Before I had a chance to respond, she continued. “Well, who cares about that? Food is all I care about right now!”
Nodding in agreement, I bent down to eat the dry pellets from the green bowl with my name on it.
After eating most of it, I walked to the living room again. I didn’t feel like sleeping.
“Mittens?” I called.
“Yes?” Mittens trotted out of the kitchen and jumped onto a cat tree. I crouched down as the scratching of claws agist rope filled my ears. Putting each paw forward, I sneakily made my way to my friend. Then I leaped.
“Hey!” Mittens protested as I pinned her to the platform.
“Gotcha!” I lifted my chin.
“Not for long!” Mittens kicked at me. With her back legs, I was pushed off of her and onto the floor. “Remember, the highest cat is the winning cat!” Mittens proudly repeated the old saying.
“That’s just an old grouch saying, Mittens! Do you really listen to old Oscar?” I teased, circling the tree.
“No, it’s not!” Mittens protested.
“You sure?” I asked, leaping onto the platform Mittens was on.
“Oh, I’m sure — hey!” I jumped onto the platform above my whining friend.
“What?” I pretended to wash myself as Mittens grew angrier.
“Caramel…” Mittens broke off as I leaped down at her.
“Good move. You win.” She admitted as I let her roam free.
“Goodnight, Mittens,” I yawned as we lay by the feet of the female kit of my owners on her blue-tan nest.
“Goodnight, Caramel,” Mittens replied, but I was already fast asleep.
“Good. You came,” a voice sounded. I blinked open my eyes. I was in a lush forest next to a steep drop overlooking a river. A starry she-cat with brown-black fur stood in front of me.
“Who are you?” I scrambled to my paws in surprise. Backing up, I unsheathed my claws and arched my back.
“Caramel!” The cat laughed. “There is no need for that!”
“How do you know my name? And you never answered my question!”
The cat looked at me with surprise in her green eyes. “Don’t you think I look like you? Vaguely, at least?”
Yes, you actually do, I thought. But I’m not letting you know.
“I am Reedtail, but you know me as Brownie. I am in StarClan,” she explained.
“Brownie! Wow! We’ve heard so much about you, that one day you ran off into the woods and never came back! What’s StarClan? Is it a group of wild cats? Mittens says that wild cats live in there. Do you want me to call you Brownie or Reedtail?”
“Oh, Caramel,” the starry cat laughed. “Please call me Reedtail. StarClan is… well, it is where cats go where they die.” Reedtail meowed flatly.
“You’re … dead?” I tilted my head in disbelief.
“Yes, I am. And I am here to tell you something very important,” Reedtail confirmed.
“Tell away, then.” I sat on the grassy floor, wrapping my tail neatly around my brown pws as I realized that my collar was gone. What could be so unbelievably important a dead cat comes to tell me?
Reedtail took a breath as she gathered herself to her full height and let out words that were strange coming from a cat who seemed carefree. They rose in loudness, so that by the end she was loudly commanding me. “Caramel, you must find the River. A Splash will not drop without the outsider. Nothing can be the way it is now. Sage cannot be the only influence!”
Her words made me flashback to the dream I had, with Splashpaw and Sagepaw. I shook my head to clear the memory. When I opened my eyes, I wasn’t in the forest anymore, with only Reedtail’s voice as a dying whisper in my ears.
“Find the River…”
Chapter 3: Splashpaw
“Sageclaw! Sageclaw!” the clan called. The golden-brown warrior’s fur glowed in the dying sun. Sageclaw’s green eyes glowed with pride. From the shelter of the thorn bush that was the medicine cat’s den, I noticed her father, Leafbite, sitting off to the side of the clearing, calling a bit softer than the rest of the clan, his eyes dull with grief.
A pang of sympathy hit my heart as I remembered the fate of Sageclasw’s family. Sageclaw’s mother and siblings were killed by greencough. The kits’ mother, Hollyheart, died shortly after giving birth, and with no mother to take care of them right after they were born, Greenkit, Amberkit and Shrewkit died a sunrise after their mother. Lucky, Sageclaw was the last kit to be born, didn’t catch the sickness, because she was removed immediately after being born, unlike her siblings. Leafbite had to give Sageclaw to another queen, Fernwhisker, who had one kit, Grasspaw. They were raised as siblings, and so Fernwhisker and Oakripple took on the role of parents to Sageclaw. Leafbite stepped out of the picture, being so sad he let his own kit not know he was her father until she was three moons old.
“Splashpaw, you’re left behind again!” Appleheart laughed as she passed by.
“I’ve only been an apprentice for a day!” I protested, batting at my mother.
“I know.” Appleheart ducked.
“Appleheart! Come on!” The deputy, Rainfur, called from where he stood at the head of the sunset patrol.
“Bye, Splashpaw.” Appleheart gave me a lick between the ears and darted off.
“Splashpaw! Splashpaw, wake up!”
I woke up to being shaken from my dream by Sageclaw.
“What is it, Sagepaw?” I mumbled sleepy from my nest in the apprentices’ den, where Tinymoon had given me strict orders to stay until sunrise, even if you wake up.
“Sageclaw,” RiverClan’s newest warrior corrected. “Come on, get up! I want to show you something!”
“What? Shouldn’t you be keeping watch?” I asked, rising to my paws with a yawn.
“Well,” Sageclaw hesitated. “Yes, but I still will be. The longer you wait, the more time I’m not doing it!”
“Okay then, what is it?”
“Follow me and be super quiet.” Sageclaw dropped to a crouch. I did the same. Sageclaw waved her tail for me to follow her, and I did. The golden-brown warrior let me out of the den, careful not to wake Grasspaw.
“Okay, now what?” I asked once we were in the deserted clearing.
“Shhh!” Sageclaw warned. “Come with me.” She crept off in the direction of the dirtplace.
I know where the dirtplace is, thank you very much! My tail-tip flicked in annoyance, but I still followed.
“You see that bramble?” Sageclaw hissing in my ear from where we stood in the dirtplace.
“Yes…” I nodded. A bramble thicket was where Sageclaw’s golden, brown tipped tail was pointing.
“Go look at it,” she commanded. “Hard.”
“Just look, Splashpaw!”
“Okay!” I flicked my tail and padded over. Looking at it, I found a small hole, just big enough for Sageclaw to slip through.
“You see?” Sageclaw prompted.
“Yes! Yes, I do!” I nodded, hoping that I could get back to my nest.
“Good. Meet me here at moonhigh tomorrow.” Sageclaw’s eyes glimmered.
“Tomorrow at moonhigh,” I confirmed.
“Now, let’s go back.”
“Splashpaw!” Troutfin circled me with a sigh.
“I’m sorry!” I meowed, staring at my paws.
“No need to be sorry, just pay attention.” Troutfin flicked his tail.
“Attack me,” Troutfin ordered. I surveyed the clearing, wagging my tail. My mentor’s posture was almost perfect, but his paws were a little bit closer together than how they should’ve been. I crouched down and aimed for Troutfin’s back.
Once I was in midair, Troutfin rolled to the side, landing on his paws with a small cloud of dust. I whipped my tail around, changing my direction so I would land on Troutfin again. Then I landed, paws in a perfect position to claw the face of my mentor. With the extra weight, Troutfin’s back sunk a bit, but not enough to stop him from shaking me off.
“Not so bad, Splashpaw.” Troutfin shook out his fur as I landed in the sandy grass.
“Thanks!” I scrambled to my paws, panting. “Can we do it again?”
“Sure, but you have to remember,” Troutfin’s words made my tail droop slightly. “You’re smaller than most opponents, but that disadvantage comes with being lighter and faster than them. Jump more, since you can evade attacks that way. Also, you can run up, attack, and then run back.”
“But, I’m not as big as them, so I’m not as strong as them, and that’s what matters, right?” I tilted my head in confusion, tail-tip twitching.
“No, silly!” Troutfin laughed. “If there was a big, strong cat and a smaller, lithe cat, who do you think would be fast enough to get more hits in?”
“Uhhh…” I bit my lower lip. “I guess the smaller cat.”
“See? You can use your smallness to outrun your enemies!” Troutfin flicked his tail.
I nodded. “I get it now. Let’s do it again!”
We got into the positions we had started with. I flicked my tail after deciding how to use the new knowledge.
With a wave of my tail, I shot out from where I stood like a bolt of lightning. Troutfin was too slow to catch me. He crouched down, amber eyes following my every move. I slowed, giving him a chance to pounce. But as soon as he pounced, I jumped back, so I was a tail-length too far away. Troutfin landed in the sandy grass, paws flying out from under him.
Good. I sprinted off in circles around the black and brown warrior, each one a bit faster than the previous. Troutfin crouched in the middle of the ring, tail sweeping the air right above the ground. When I felt he was frustrated enough, I burst into the air with a jump for the space right next to my mentor. Troutfin jumped back as I landed, paws positioned for the next part of my attack. As Troutfin jumped to me, I dropped to the ground and rolled towards him. I shot out my back legs, tripping Troutfin mid-jump, causing him to fall. Ducking out of the way, then jumping back to my paws and leaping on him, pinning him to the ground.
With a gentle kick, Troutfin pretended to rake his back claws down my belly. I rolled over with the blow, falling limp. Feeling Troutfin relax, I used a kick to push the larger cat off of me, then jumped to my paws. After I had regained my balance, I started swiping at Troutfin’s ears, then jumping back. Then, just after I had jumped back farther than usual, I lept to the back and gently bit and pulled Troutfin’s tail. Troutfin pulled his tail back and pushed it up to let himself free.
Great, I have a mouthful of fur, I thought, but still held on for a small amount of time before suddenly letting go. Troutfin skidded away from me. I lept for him and landed on his back.
“Okay, you win,” Troutfin panted, eyes gleaming with pride. “I would be crow-food by now, anyway.”
“Did I fight well?” I jumped off neatly, landing on all four paws, tail quivering.
“You fought great,” Troutfin assured. “Come on, I bet you’re tired. Let’s go back to camp.”
“Splashpaw! How was training?” Sageclaw trotted into camp, a few fish hanging from her jaws, a little while after I had arrived, coming to sit with me by the fresh-kill pile.
“Great! Troutfin taught me how I could use my size to my advantage, and then I beat him in a fight.” I beamed between bites of minnow. Then, as I finished, my tone fell. “But now I have to get the elder’s ticks.”
“It’s okay, Splashpaw.” Sageclaw chose a small trout from the pile and brought it back. “It’s not that bad, once you think about it. And you get used to it.”
“I’d better go,” I meowed with a sigh. “Bye, Sageclaw.”
“Bye!” Sageclaw waved her tail at me as I took off for the bramble thicket of the elder’s den.
“Finally! Troutfin said you would come by.” I skidded to a halt outside the thicket as I heard the voice of Quaileye, Whitecreek’s mother.
“Quaileye! Don’t tell me you were like that as an apprentice!” Came the scolding reply of Maplehaze.
“Splashpaw, come in!” Dawnfleck hushed the the two bickering elders with a wheezing call. I ducked into the den.
The ground was like the nursery in here, mossy and strewn with ferns. Four larger piles of moss were in the center, one of them empty. A blue-white tabby she-cat with yellow eyes and a gray muzzle sat, tail wrapped around white paws, by the edge of the bush.
“Hello, Splashpaw.” She nodded.
“Hello, Frostsky,” I replied, letting a small purr of joy creep in and pounce on my meow.
“Hello.” Dawnfleck added with a twitch of his gray and black-speckled tail. Maplehaze added his greeting.
“Where’s the mouse bile, silly apprentice?” Quaileye snapped.
“Quaileye!” Maplehaze flicked his tortiseshell tail over Quaileye’s mouth.
“I’ll get it.” I leaped out of the den and to the medicine cat’s den.
I returned with some moss, dripping with a greenish-yellow substance. Then I started placing it on each of the ticks on Dawnfleck, making them fall off.
“Would you like a story?” Frostsky asked.
“Okay.” Frostsky nodded, moving a bit closer. “You may recognize it. A bit more than six moons ago.”
My eyes widened as Frostsky started my favorite story.
“Your mother, Appleheart was due to kit any heartbeat. But you know how stubborn she is. The only cat who has any chance of changing her mind when she has decided on something is her mate, Whitecreek. And, when you’re old enough, Splashpaw, you. Anyway, Appleheart had made up her mind that she was going to go to the gathering, even though she was going to have her kits very soon. Whitecreek asked Tinymoon, the medicine cat,” Here, Quaileye interpreted Frostsky.
“Frostsky, she knows who Tinymoon and Whitecreek and Appleheart are!”
“We also all know this story.” Frostsky replied coolly. “Does that mean I shouldn’t tell it for what it is?”
Quaileye opened her mouth, then closed it with an angry shake of her head.
“May I continue?” Frostsky looked around her before starting again. “So Appleheart’s mate, Whitecreek found the medicine cat, Tinymoon. He asked her, “‘Technically, would it be safe for a queen, say, due to kit, to go the gathering?’ Tinymoon looked at him for a moment before replying, “‘Well, yes, it would be safe, but I would not recommend it and nor would any medicine cat, or cat in general, in their right mind. The queen might kit there, for StarClan’s sake! Whitecreek, are you suggesting that Appleheart wants to go to the gathering? Because—” But Tinymoon looked and Whitecreek was already hurtling off towards the nursery. With a sigh, Tinymoon raced to the leader’s den, to tell Pebblestar what happened. In the nursery, Whitecreek was told Appleheart that it was safe for her to go to the gathering, if she was okay with the risk she might kit there. Appleheart purred with laughter.
“‘Do you think I’d really miss a gathering, Whitecreek? I’d rather be on the dawn patrol for a moon than miss a gathering, risk or not.’ She declared. Whitecreek paused looking triumphant for a moment. With a tinge of worry on his mew, he said, “Pebblestar will let us, right?”
“Of course she will! She’s a good leader who respects the judgement of her clan.’ Appleheart told him. So Whitecreek went to Pebblestar, who had already heard about this from Tinymoon, who was leaving as Whitecreek entered.
“‘Whitecreek! How is Appleheart?’ Pebblestar hid what she knew well, only hinting at Appleheart’s wish.
“‘Good. About her—” Whitecreek broke off, not sure of what to say.
“No way, ever, nope,” Pebblestar declared. Whitecreek’s heart fell. What would he say to Applecreek. But then he remembered Appleheart’s words.
“‘Please, Pebblestar. Appleheart knows the risk and is willing to take it. Tinymoon said it’s safe. She’ll have me-and the clan-to protect her if something terrible happens. And, even if she does kit at the island, she’ll have at least five medicine cats to help her. Tinymoon can tell us what herbs to bring — and it’s not like we’re ThunderClan or SkyClan. We’re so close to the island. Please, Pebblestar. It would mean so much to her.’ Whitecreek begged, looking into Pebblestar’s eyes. Pebblestar hesitated, eyes deep in thought. Finally, she spoke, “‘I’ll think about it. Send Rainfur and Tinymoon here. I’ll get back to you at sunset.’ Whitecreek wanted to jump up and down and chase his tail at Pebblestar’s words.
“‘Thank you so much! I can’t wait to tell Appleheart!” In fact, Whitecreek was halfway out of the bramble thicket when he said that.
“‘You know it isn’t a yes, it’s a maybe,’
“‘I know! Thank you so much!’ Whitecreek repeated, then ran back to the nursery. Pebblestar sighed before walking out of her den to look for Rainfur, her deputy.”
“Frostsky, you’re such a good storyteller!” I meowed in delight from where I was almost finished with Quaileye’s ticks, letting her under-breath comments and curses help cover part of my least favorite part.
“Thank you!” Frostsky purred in her normal voice. “Back to the story. At sunset, Whitecreek and Appleheart sat together outside of the nursery, eagerly awaiting Pebblestar, Tinymoon or Rainfur. Finally, as the sun’s dying rays started to dim, a group of three cats, bunched together closely, exited the leader’s den. One of them, Tinymoon, hurried to the medicine cat’s den. The clan, witch had been waiting around by the stump near the leader, perked up, ears and tail-tips twitching, eager to go to the gathering. Rainfur hurried after Tinymoon as Pebblestar trotted to the nursery, where the two cats were standing.
“‘Fine.’ Pebblestar started. “You can come, but on three conditions.”
“‘What is it?’ Appleheart and Whitecreek asked.
“‘One, Appleheart must always be with Whitecreek and Tinymoon. Two, Appleheart, Whitecreek, Tinymoon, Mintpaw and Pikepaw must carry supplies. Three, Appleheart takes it easy. Especially on the tree-bridge.’
“‘Okay!’ Appleheart meowed, twitching her tail in excitement. Whitecreek let out a small cheer as Tinymoon and Rainfur barreled over, mouths full with bundles of herbs. They spat them out on the ground.
“‘Take as many as you can safely carry.’ Tinymoon commanded before running back with Rainfur. The two apprentices came with their mentors, and they joined the group of cats.
“It’s too long and boring describing how Pebblestar got the clan to accept Appleheart was coming, or how the cats got to the island. All you must know is that Appleheart was fine while crossing the tree-bridge, and that RiverClan was first to the island. Appleheart and Whitecreek followed Tinymoon to where the medicine cats sit.
“‘Mintpaw! Pikepaw!’ Pebblestar called. The apprentices hurried over.
“Yes?” Mintpaw asked.
“‘Find a area near Tinymoon to make a nest for Appleheart and big enough for kits.’ Pebblestar told them where some nest-making supplies were and sent them off as the next two clans, SkyClan and ShadowClan arrived together. The SkyClan medicine cat, Mossyspot, noticed Appleheart first. Now, Mossyspot was an experienced medicine cat, with an apprentice. She knew her stuff. All of the clans respected her, from the medicine cat apprentice in WindClan to the most battle-thirsty warrior to even the leaders. Her knowledge was valued. She asked Tinymoon in a sarcastic tone,
“So, you’re taking on an apprentice who’s a queen and her mate?” Tinymoon could tell these words were coming from a wondering friend, so Tinymoon told her quietly. Before long, the reasons had spread throughout the island. So when Pebblestar started the gathering, most of the cats knew what she would say. I’m not going to go into the details of the gathering, since there would be a lot of, ‘prey is running well,’”
“That’s what every leader shares, whether it is true or not!” Maplehaze pointed out.
“With the occasional blaming party,” Dawnfleck added.
“I’m in the middle of a story!” Frostsky’s thrashing tail-tip was the only part that showed her annyonce, other than the underlying growl in her voice.
“Sorry,” Maplehaze meowed.
“Anyways, in the middle of Acornstar, the SkyClan leader, talking about her idea for a messenger in each clan, Appleheart shared a glance with Whitecreek. But Mossyspot was already on it. She flicked Tinymoon with her tail. They shared a glance. Finally Tinymoon did something.
“‘Appleheart. Come with us.’ Tinymoon led Appleheart to where Mintpaw and Pikepaw had made the small den. Whitecreek, Mossyspot and the rest of the medicine cats followed, each carrying a bundle of herbs. Mossyspot’s apprentice, Vinetail, raced into the undergrowth. Pebblestar saw the commotion. With an apology to Acornstar, she jumped down to ask Tinymoon what was happening.” Frostsky sighed as a call from outside interrupted her.
“Can I come in?” Troutfin called.
“Come on in! Frostsky’s just finishing a story!” Dawnfleck responded. Troutfin popped his head inside.
“Splashpaw, hurry up. You need to get to your nest soon. The sun’s starting to sink,” Troutfin said.
“Can Frostsky finish her story?” I begged.
Troutfin let out a sigh. “Sure. Just be quick about it.”
“Thank you!” I purred.
“Okay. So Appleheart and the medicine cats disappeared into the den that the RiverClan apprentices had made. Whitecreek waited outside. The gathering resumed after Vinetail returned to the den, a few sticks in his mouth. But the leaders could tell the group’s attention was diverted. So the leader of WindClan, Swiftstar, did something.
“‘Cats of all clans!’ he called out. ‘I know you want to see what’s happening. That’s why I will quickly take my turn so you can all ask Pebblestar.’ With a nod from Pebblestar, he continued. ‘Prey is running well, and we thank StarClan for it. Acornstar, I think your idea is excellent. Next gathering we can talk about it more, and with any luck, get it started within six moons, allowing time for rain and cloudy skies. We can vote on it with our clans this moon, and take the majority of the clans next gathering. That is all.’ Swiftstar jumped from the branch and landed on the ground. I’m not going to go into details and such, but as the cats talked to other clans and cast the occasional glance to the den, the ThunderClan medicine cat, Owlpelt, raced across the clearing and whispered something to Pebblestar. The two cats hurried back to the den, bring Whitecreek with them. Soon enough, Pebblestar and Tinymoon burst out of the den. The rest of the cats whirled around.
“‘Appleheart is the mother to one healthy she-kit!’ Tinymoon yowled. Surprised and cheerful meows filled the clearing. Inside the den, the medicine cats were gathering up the herbs.
“I’m naming her after my father,” Appleheart proclaimed. ‘Splashkit.’
“‘Are you sure? Islandkit would honor her birthplace. Moonkit, too.’ The ShadowClan medicine cat, Shadecloud, pointed out.
“‘Splashkit is going to be her name.’ Appleheart insisted. ‘If you don’t like it, too bad. I’m her mother.’
“‘Shadecloud, you owe me that coltsfoot.’ The WindClan medicine cat, Heatherstep, twitched her whiskers. Whitecreek looked at her in confusion.
“We had a deal going. If Appleheart named at least one of her kits after the gathering or island, Heatherstep would have to give me a mouthful of goldenrod at the next half-moon. If Appleheart didn’t, I give her a mouthful of coltsfoot,” Shadecloud explained before grabbing his bundle and racing back.
I’m not going into any more details, but most of the cats crowded around the den as Whitecreek and Appleheart came out, Appleheart carrying a newborn kit. Exhausted though she was, Appleheart, mostly leaning on Whitecreek, carried Splashkit back. As they left the gathering, Pebblestar proclaimed, “Well, that was certainly a gathering to remember!’ And that’s the end of the story.” Frostsky finished.
“Yay!” I cheered from where I sat by Dawnfleck. I had finished a while ago, and the moss lay by the entrance. “I love that story!”
“Hey, before long you’ll get to go to your second gathering!” Dawnfleck said, green eyes flashing with amusement.
“Speaking of going,” Quaileye pointed to the exit with her tail.
“Yeah, I’d better go. Bye!”
I grabbed the moss and burst off to the medicine cat den.
Chapter 4: Caramel
The moon, coming down in splotches, made my fur glow and the breeze made it russell. My collar returned to it’s pinching spot on my neck. I wasn’t inside anymore. The leaves of the bush I was in rustled in the wind. I opened my mouth to sniff the air. Azalea! The bush I was in was an azalea bush. We had those in the yard. I stuck my head out of the bush. Just as I suspected. The yard. Gathering my wits about myself, I raced to the glass door of the house.
“Thorns and briars!” I exclaimed when I saw that the door wasn’t open. I’d have to go through the cat door. I let out a hiss as I started to push myself through the flap, but it wasn’t opening. Right, the new set up. Cat flap only in the daytime.
I checked the perimeter of the house for an open window, or someone looking out into the yard. But all the windows were closed, and the hosefolk asleep. Letting out a long, loud sigh, I decided to stay in the bush for the rest of the night. It might be scary, but I was a cat, after all. Come on, Caramel. You’re a cat, for goodness sake! Just sleep in the bush, I thought. I shook my head and sprinted back to the bush. Ducking back in, I curled up, my brown tail wrapped around to my nose. Then, I fell into a dreamless sleep.
I woke to sunlight streaming through the bush. Huh? Where am I — oh. Mittens will kill me with laughter. Speaking of witch — I jumped up and raced to the cat door. The flap pushed open easily. I was finally indoors.
“Caramel, where were you?” Mittens pounced on me from a perch on a cat tree.
“In the yard.” I struggled free.
“Oh. Why were you there?” Mittens asked. I opened my mouth, but she cut me off with a wave of her tail. “You don’t need to tell me now. I’m hungry! Let’s race. Ready, set, go!” Mittens took off to the kitchen. I burst off after her, letting my paws carry myself towards the bowls. Mittens will lose. I have to win. The thought popped into my mind like it was from a different cat. I tried slowing, to let my friend speed ahead of me. But my paws wouldn’t. They would only speed up. Suddenly, I skidded to a halt in front of the green and blue bowls.
“You win, Caramel.” Mittens panted and huffed, sliding in beside me. “You were soooo fast! I’ve never seen you like that before. Wow!”
“Thanks!” I wasn’t short of breath at all. Weird. “It was easy.” The words poured out of my mouth. I felt myself lose control of the muscles.
“Caramel!” Mittens exclaimed, bending her head to eat. I did the same. For some reason, the pellets of food felt dry and disgusting. This is so weird! I’ve never had a problem like this before! DId Reedtail somehow put this upon me? I forced a mouthful down, but that was all I could manage.
“Hey, Caramel!” Mittens nonchalantly padded up the final stairs leading up to the second floor.
“Yes?” I jumped off the dresser on the other side of the small room.
“Wanna fight?” she asked, examining her white paw.
“You’re going down!” I leaped onto her back.
“No, you are!” Mittens’s blue eyes flashed as she jumped and dashed for the other side of the room.
“You are going nowhere, Mittens!” I scrambled to my paws and jumped back.
“Hey!” Mittens rolled with the impact. I whisked her around and leaped onto my friend, pinning her.
“I said, I’ll win!” The words poured out of my mouth, but I did not say them.
“No, you won’t!” Mittens battered my underbelly, then kicked me with her back legs.
I jumped back with the impact. Mittens took the opportunity to leap at me. I rolled, and Mittens pinned me.
I will win! The thought floated from another cat. I pushed back with powerful hind legs. Mittens jumped into the air. I rolled to the side and jumped on Mittens as she fell.
“Ow!” she squealed. I flipped my friend over and gently bit her throat, with almost no force.
“I win!” I declared.
“Fine. Just let me go!” Mittens struggled to get up until I let her go. Her fur was brisling, shock and fury in her eyes. “Good fighting.”
“Thanks. It was easy. The power just came to me.” I had no control over the words coming from my mouth. I felt my body fill with strength and power. This is unnatural!
“Caramel! How dare you?” Mittens stepped back, fur brisling and tail straight out. She hissed at me before running into the guest room.
“Wait, Mittens, I…” I outstretched a paw as I realized my friend was no longer listening. Letting out a sigh, I racing down the stairs.
“Hey, Caramel!” Mittens called. It was a day after she had ran into the guest room.
“Yes?” I stretched, getting up from where I lay on the windowsill.
“We’re going to the lake!” Mittens pawed at the rug.
“Alright, I’m coming.” I leaped down and followed Mittens into the front room. My owners were standing there, bags and floaties in their hands.
“Let’s go!” I meowed.
The full-grown female owner opened the red carrier’s silvery door. Me and Mittens leaped in. She closed the door and we were trapped inside.
“We’re here!” Mittens purred.
“Great.” I punched my muscles, ready to leap out of the carrier.
Click. The door opened. We were still in the moving-rumbling room my owners used to travel. I leaped out, Mittens hard on my trail. The owner’s female kit caught me and picked up four light green, roundish, almost-transparent things with holes in the center. She slipped them onto each of my legs.
Mittens, who had them on already, purred. “You look so funny!”
“Mittens…” I growled.
“Sorry.” Mittens flicked her tail. The female kit clipped leads to our collars. She said something, handed Mittens’s blue lead to the male kit, and followed the other owners to the lake.
Mittens and I leaned over the side of the boat, watching as we drew further and farther away from the shore. I placed my paw into the water. It dragged along. I let out a purr. The thing that kept possessing me popped a thought into my head. I imagined sitting among reeds by a stream, with a cat that strongly reminded me of Splashpaw, staring at the water and every so often swiftly pulling a silvery fish out of the water with my paw. I killed it with a bite. The blood made my mouth water as I added the catch to a small pile. The black and white cat suddenly bounced into the water, spraying me with droplets. A light wind ruffled my fur slightly, making the fur around my neck russell freely.
“Come in!” The other cat sank into the water, then burst out, pushing water at me. I purred.
“You’ve never liked water this much before.” Mittens brought me back to reality. The image of the warm, reed-filled stream bank still hung in my mind, the taste of blood to fresh.
“I bet I could swim faster than you,” I suddenly said, half from me and half from the voice.
I gave a purr as I flicked my ears and tail. Do you really want to do this, Caramel? The thought popped into my mind, but a thought that was not mine pushed it out. Go. Don’t be a coward like Mittens. Just jump! It’s not too hard.
I felt my muscles bunch and my body take off into the air, then falling into the lake.
This isn’t me! The water sucked me up. I felt myself sinking. I’m going to die, I thought miserably as the light gradually grew dimmer.
Paddle! Let the paws do the work! Or just let your floaties drown you by slowly going up! The thought rammed into my head. My paws started to kick, my head raised to the nearing light. Finally, my head broke the surface. I gasped and fought for breath.
“Caramel!” Mittens called. She was reaching out the side of the boat, blue eyes desperate. My owners had turned around, one raising the large wooden stick towards me.
I don’t need their help! The thought didn’t come from me. I paddled towards it. But my mouth let out a call.
“Mittens!” The voice made me purr. “Come on in!”
“You sure?” Mittens’s voice quivered.
“More sure than I’m sure the floaties will float!”
Mittens purred with laughter and lept in.
“Careful!” I warned, paddling over to grab my friend’s scruff.
“Thanks!” Mittens spat out some water at me.
“Hey!” I ducked under the surface. Then, coming up, I felt the thing talk. “Do you dare me to break these?”
“What?” Mittens cried, aghast. “No, of course not!”
“Really?” I felt my claws burst the surface of each floatie. I paddled desperately, feeling my support vanish.
“Caramel!” Mittens gasped.
“I’m fine! Here, let’s swim to that island there.” I felt myself swim to a small island, Mittens following me. Soon, we scrambled up onto the pebbly, sandy shore.
“Hey!” Mittens shook her fur out. I ducked from the flying droplets.
“Let’s explore!” I ran along the shore. I suddenly didn’t feel the uncomfterble pebbles under my pads.
“Ouch! Caramel, please slow down! Oh, Caramel!” Mittens called.
Slow down slow down slow down! But my paws sped up. No no no no no!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
“Caramel!” Mittens screeched. I willed my paws to slow with all of my heart, and they did. A voice whispered in my ear, a faint sound that, if I hadn’t known better, I might have thought to be a trick of the wind.
Be careful, Caramel, it said. This is the last time I’ll do this for you.
I wanted to growl, but I held it back.
“I’m coming, Mittens.” Flicking my tail, I went back and matched my pace with my friend.
“Thanks, Caramel.” Mittens let out a purr, stepping around a scraggly thorn bush, then flicked her tail towards the middle of the island, where thick bushes and some trees lay. The top of a large tree sprang out from the otherwise empty middle. “Wanna head over there?”
I stepped back to let Mittens take the lead. As I stepped back behind her, I heard a faint rustling sound in the bushes. I stopped, ears pricked.
“Caramel?” Mittens’ voice distracted me. “You coming?”
“Wha … oh, yeah. Coming.” I gave my head a good shake, but hesitated a moment before I followed my friend. There was no rusling or footsteps, only the splashing in the lake and birdsong. Just the wind, I assured myself, but, as I followed Mittens, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that something — or someone — was watching us. I padded quicker after Mittens.
We pushed ourselves through the dense undergrowth. I emerged into a large circle of grass, Mittens on my tail. A large oak stood in the center of a large, open patch of grass.
“Whoa,” I whispered to myself. Mittens just stood there looking stunned.
Swish. I flung my head around at the sound, unsheathing my claws, as a fishy — but definitely cat — scent entered my nose. I barely had time to think before a cat slammed into me, knocking me to the ground.
“Get off me!” I squirmed around to see a familiar black and white face. Her green and amber eyes sparkled with annoyance, black tail-tip twitching. Splashpaw?
Splashpaw’s face was locked in a snarl, but, as her different colored eyes saw my collar, she relaxed and let out a mrow of amusement.
“Troutfin! They’re just kittypets! They can’t be a threat. Let’s just make them go back to their Twolegs.” Splashpaw’s mew was laced with relief and confusion.
I’ll show you a threat. I pushed up at Splashpaw with my back legs. Relaxed, Splashpaw didn’t see the blow coming and was thrust backwards. We both jumped up. Splashpaw’s eyes glittered with anger. Can I really do this?
Chapter 5: Splashpaw
The kittypet snarled at me. Silly kittypet. I’m a RiverClan cat. I’m going to win. I leaped at the tan-brown she-cat.
A cat cried out from the bushes. “Caramel! Be careful!”
Good. My target had a name. Caramel. She rolled out of the way as my paws hit the grass. Caramel. Caramel. Caramel. I repeated the strange name over and over in my head as I lashed out at Caramel, claws extended. She leaped out of the way at the last minute. Wow! This kittypet can fight. Or at least defend herself. Caramel’s green eyes flashed. She leaped towards me and swiped out a paw. Claws hit my muzzle. The wound only made me more mad. A new kind of strength sept into my bones. I bared my teeth and jumped.
Chapter 6: Caramel
Splashpaw’s eyes glittered with anger. Hissing, she lept to me. I rolled out of the way, letting the black and white cat land, skidding, on the grass. Her new wound dripped a few drops of pure red blood onto the ground. She whirled around. What did I get myself into?
Thud. Thud. Thud. Splashpaw slowly made her way towards me, sleek fur bushed out and teeth bared. Fear creeped over me. I dropped into a submissive crouch and slowly retracted backwards. But I ran into something. Risking a glance, I saw the trunk of a tree. Oh, no, I thought as I shrank back into the bark. Splashpaw still advanced. A black and brown shape crossed the corner of my vision. A cat who I recognized as Troutfin flew in between us.
“Splashpaw!” He commanded, pushing the smaller cat back. “What were you doing?”
Splashpaw looked down. “I’m sorry, Troutfin. I really am. It’s just that sh—” Her voice, heavy with regret and shame, was cut off by a growl.
“Splashpaw, a warrior shows mercy. You had her — what’s your name, kittypet?” Troutfin looked at me.
“Uh … C…Caramel. My name is Caramel,” I stammed, gathering myself into a sitting posture. What’s a kittypet?
Troutfin nodded and turned back to Splashpaw. “You had Caramel trapped and scared. She’s only a kittypet, not a Clan warrior. A ShadowClan warrior might do that, but you wouldn’t. You are a true RiverClan warrior. This isn’t even our territory, anyway!” Troutfin exclaimed.
“Hey!” Mittens emerged from the bushes, deep blue eyes blazing fury. “You leave my friend alone!”
Chapter 7: Splashpaw
The tortoiseshell stood there, hackles raised, fur bushed up, claws extended and piercing blue eyes on fire. I stifled my laughter.
“Mittens!” Caramel jumped, green eyes flashing with surprise.
“You leave my friend alone!” Mittens snarled, advancing.
I swiped out a paw at her ears, claws sheathed and she jumped back with a squeak of surprise.
“Splashpaw,” Troutfin growled a warning.
“What?” I meowed innocently, scrabbling up to the lowest branch on the Great Oak.
“Splashpaw! Get down from there! You know only the leaders are supposed to be up there!” Troutfin exploded.
“You mean up here?” I asked, jumping to another higher branch.
“Where else?” Troutfin growled.
“Lemme climb to the top,” I explained, jumping to branch to branch. I might have jumped up there to be higher than Mittens and Caramel, but that was fun. Hey, I thought. I bet I can see the whole world from the top. Sageclaw would like that.
“Splashpaw, are you a SkyClan cat?”
“No. I’m RiverClan.”
“Then come down!”
I let out a growl. I could see the top from where I was. There was no stopping me. I ignored Troutfin as I scrambled up to one of the highest branches. It swayed under my weight. My stomach lurched. I reached out my claws to the sturdiest branch, putting my most weight on it. From there, I could see around the tree.
“Troutfin!” I called down.
“Yes?” Although my mentor’s voice was faint, I could still hear the sigh in it.
“I can see the whole world from here!” I purred.
I could see the lake, shining and glittering in the sunlight, Twolegs in boats swarming the water. I moved my gaze to the territories. Oaks and pines covered the territories of ShadowClan, SkyClan and ThunderClan. WindClan’s territory was as treeless as the lake. A shallow covered with heather and gorse hid the camp. A streak of color darted across the a hillside, then disappeared behind another hill. A white cat and a smaller gray cat appeared on the lakeshore by the oaks. Boxy Twolegplaces surrounded the territories.
“Splashpaw! We have to go!” Troutfin called.
“Coming!” I took one more look at the view, then hestainly clambored to a lower branch. I looked down, just to see what branch to go to next. Great StarClan, I’m high! Carefully climbing to the lower branches, I tried not to imagine what would happen if I fell.
Chapter 8: Caramel
I stared up at the huge tree, hoping that Splashpaw would come down soon. Even though she had attacked me, I saw her as a potential friend. My wound still stung.
“Caramel, we should get going.” Mittens flicked her tail nervously.
I let out a long sigh. “Okay. Not now, though.”
“That’s right, not now.” Troutfin looked at us, voice stren. “Me and Splashpaw will escort you off the territory.”
“Why, you wanted to say goodbye to Spashpaw?” Mittens hissed in my ear.
I quickly stammered a response, trying to make it seem like I wasn’t lying. “No. You saw Troutfin. We shouldn’t risk being attacked again.”
Plop. My head turned, not waiting for Mittens’s reply.
Splashpaw had landed by the tree, surprise flickering in her eyes.
“Splashpaw, I should punish you by not letting you go to the gathering,” Troutfin started. Mittens and I exchanged a glance. Gathering? What’s that?
“Awww.” Splashpaw’s tail drooped.
“But,” Troutfin countiunted. Splashpaw looked up hopefully. “I’ll let you go. I know how important it is to you, Splashpaw.”
“Thank you, Troutfin.” Splashpaw sighed.
“Ummm … should Mittens and I go?” I asked heastitaly.
“Yes, please do.” Troutfin blinked, seeming to remember we were there.
“Back to your Twolegs, shoo.” Splashpaw waved her tail at us.
“Let’s go.” Mittens pushed me forward with her nose back to the shore. I let her push me onto the thorny shore before stopping.
“Mittens, you go. I want to follow them,” I bravely meowed.
“What?” Mittens’s blue eyes sparked with surprise.
“Bye, Mittens!” I meowed, dropping into a crouch and making my way back to the clearing, leaving my friend on the shore, shocked and alone.
Chapter 9: Splashpaw
We turned to go as Iceflash ran over the tree-bridge.
“Troutfin,” she wheezed.
“Yes?” Troutfin’s tail-tip twitched.
“You have to get back to camp immediately.” The RiverClan warrior explained, still out of breath.
“Why?” I stepped forward.
Iceflash turned to Troutfin. “Lakeripple’s kitting!”
I skidded into camp after Troutfin. He ran so fast from the island, someone might of thought he was a WindClan warrior whose kits were captured in SkyClan.
Troutfin’s tail disappeared inside the nursery. I followed, not sure what else to do.
Although I had spent the last moon sleeping in the apprentice’s den, I still had missed the nursery. I pushed my way through the branches. Lakeripple was lying wearily on her side with four tiny kits. Troutfin was bent over her. Appleheart was sitting by the side. Tinymoon hovered over Lakeripple.
“Lakeripple, they’re adorable!” I meowed.
Lakeripple looked up. “Thank you, Splashpaw.” Lakeripple barely could talk over her purring. The tiny black and gray kit wiggled away from her mother. Lakeripple picked her up and placed her back at her side.
“He’s trouble already.” Appleheart commented. The kit with black ears and paws and a gray body yawned, showing a tiny pink mouth.
Lakeripple swong her head to Troutfin. “I was thinking of naming this one Ashkit.” Lakeripple geustrued to kit who had yawned. I moved next to Appleheart. “This one could be Mistkit.” The new mother touched a blue-gray she-kit with her nose.
“Sure.” Troutfin nodded.
“Would you like to name the others?” Lakeripple purred.
“Sure, my love.” Troutfin touched Lakeripple with her nose.
Troutfin studied the kits. “This one can be Hollowkit.” The she-kit who had moved was poked by Troutfin.
“And this little gray-white one?” Lakeripple stroked the tom whose white fur was covered in gray stripes, like ripples.
“Ripplekit!” Troutfin laughed.
“Sure. Hello, Ripplekit.” Lakeripple purred, looking at her new son.
“And for you.” Troutfin looked down at his mate, then at me. “Splashpaw, I’m going to stay at camp tonight.”
“I suppose I can’t go to gathering, can I?” I looked down.
“I’m sorry, Splashpaw.” Troutfin sighed.
“I’ll take you, Splashpaw.” A voice made me whip my head around. A gold-brown she-cat stood in the nursery entrance, green eyes blazing.
“Thank you, Sageclaw!” I jumped.
“Hang on, Splashpaw.” Troutfin broke apart from his mate and stepped forward. “We still need to ask Rainfur about this. Other then that, I’m fine with Sageclaw taking you, Splashpaw.”
“We’ll go ask Rainfur now. Come on, Splashpaw.” Sageclaw whisked out of the den. I bounded up behind her.
Rainfur was with Pebblestar by Pebblestar’s stump, talking to each other in low tones, looking around the camp.
Sageclaw strode up to them, undaunted. I hesitated, but when Sageclaw waited to interrupt them, I came to her side.
“…and Fernsky, too.” Rainfur was telling Pebblestar. He paused once he caught sight of Sageclaw. “Yes, Sageclaw? What is it?”
Sageclaw faced the two cats, bowing her head to Pebblestar. “Troutfin asked me to take Splashpaw to the gathering. He’s not going tonight.”
Rainfur glanced at Pebblestar, who spoke after returning his look. “We figured as much. You may take Splashpaw to the gathering, Sageclaw.”
“Thank you, Pebblestar.” I purred.
“Speaking of the gathering, Pebblestar.” Rainfur gently flicked his tail across Pebblestar’s side.
“Yes, I have to do that before sunset, don’t I?” Pebblestar leaped onto the stump. Rainfur stepped to his place below her.
“You do.” Rainfur purred. Sageclaw and I stepped back as Pebblestar opened her mouth.
“Let all cats old enough to swim gather to hear my words!” Cats poured out of the dens to sit. “The cats going to the gathering tonight are: Sageclaw, Splashpaw, Pikewood, Appleheart, Amberblaze, Mintfire, Grasspaw, Whitecreek, Sparrowpelt, Emberlake, Frostsky and, of course, Tinymoon and Rainfur.”
Rainfur whispered something into Pebblestar’s ear.
“Also, as a few of you know, Lakeripple had her kits.” Pebblestar flicked her tail at Tinymoon.
“Two she-kits and two toms.” The medicine cat beamed.
“Thank you, Tinymoon. We will be leaving shortly.”
“Tonight’s patrol will led by Iceflash. Acornfur, Redberry and Oakripple can go with you. The guard can be Fernwhisker, then Leafbite. Leafbite, you lead the dawn patrol. Choose who you want on it.” Rainfur nodded at Pebblestar. Pebblestar jumped down. Rainfur padded to her side.
“Let’s go, RiverClan!” Pebblestar surveyed the misshapen line of cats behind her before bounding out 0f camp.
Chapter 10: Caramel
The line of cats streamed past me. I caught sight of Splashpaw’s white and black fur. My heart pounded. This was a terrible idea, Caramel. After what seemed like moons of waiting, the last cat, a calico she-cat, passed by. As her tail-tip disappeared, I slowly released my breath. I quietly slid out from by hiding place, behind a bush, then sniffed the air. The last cat had gone. I waited. Nothing happened. The scent of the cats got fainter. I looked back in the direction I had come. RiverClan’s home was out of sight. What was the point of this, anyway? I found out where Splashpaw lives, nothing else important. Sighing and shaking my head, I started my walk home.
Chapter 11: Splashpaw
“Careful on the Tree-Bridge.” Sageclaw warned.
“I know. I’ve been here before, remember?” I sighed.
“Twice, actually.” Sageclaw purred with laughter. “Okay, Splashpaw, I’ll go first.” She darted across the fallen tree and landed on the other side.
“Go, Splashpaw.” Sparrowpelt grumbled from behind me. I jumped onto the bridge, claws extended. Trying as hard I could to not think about the water below me, I ran after Sageclaw.
Sageclaw and I made our way through the thorns and got to the big, open clearing. Only RiverClan cats were there. Pebblestar had found a branch to sit on, Rainfur below her, by the roots of the tree. Sageclaw led me to a spot where Grasspaw was sitting.
“This is where the apprentices sit.” She flicked her tail.
“From all of the clans?” I asked.
“Yes, from all of the clans.” Sageclaw’s eyes sparkled.
“Some of them are nice.” Grasspaw offered.
Only some of them.
“Anyway, I better get over to the warriors. Don’t worry, Splashpaw, I’ll be close.” Sageclaw darted away.
Grasspaw’s brown ears pricked up. “WindClan and ShadowClan are here.”
He was right. A large group of cats entered the clearing. Some cats who looked like apprentices broke of and made their way towards us.
“Hi!” A musky-brown she-cat meowed as the group of apprentices approced. “I’m Mousepaw! This is my brother Stonepaw, and Heronpaw is over there, by Shadecloud.”
“I’m Branchpaw.” A small brown tom followed Mousepaw and Stonepaw. Following him was a light brown she-cat and a black tom. “The she-cat is my sister, Rabbitpaw.”
“And I’m Ravenpaw.” The tom sat next to Rabbitpaw. Next to me sat Mousepaw and Grasspaw.
“Who are you?” Mousepaw looked at me.
“I’m Splashpaw.” I meowed hestaitly.
“Here come Larkpaw and Ashpaw!” Mousepaw excliamed. Four apprentices bounded out of the group of cats arriving.
“I’m Splashpaw.” I told the cats at a nudge from Grasspaw.
“I’m Ashpaw, this is Larkpaw, this is Logpaw and Willowpaw.” The gray she-cat sat down.
“From SkyClan.” Larkpaw added, flicking her brown and tawny tail.
“We’re from ThunderClan.” Two apprentices sat beside us.
“I’m Streampaw.” The silver tom meowed.
“I’m Swiftpaw.” The gray-black she-cat blinked.
“I’m Splashp-” I started.
“Cats of all clans, welcome to the Gathering!” Pebblestar’s voice rang out across the clearing, interpreted me. “Who will speak first?”
A tan and white she-cat stepped forwards. “I will speak first.”
“Who’s that?” I whispered to Grasspaw.
“That’s Acornstar, leader of SkyClan.” He whispered back.
“And we have 2 new apprentices. Please welcome Logpaw and Willowpaw.”
“Logpaw! Willowpaw!” The cats cheered.
“Prey is running well. That’s all the news for SkyClan.”
Pebblestar stepped forward. “RiverClan is excellent. We have made a new warrior, Sageclaw.”
“Sageclaw! Sageclaw!” The cats cheered.
“We also have a new apprentice. Splashpaw is apprenticed to Troutfin.”
As the clans cheered, I felt my fur glow with happiness and pride.
“We also have a litter of new kits to Lakeripple. The prey is running well.”
An old white and black tom stepped forward.
“That’s Swiftstar of WindClan.” Grasspaw whispered.
“Prey is running well. Our deptupy, Ashwind is – well, busy, so until she’s back on her paws, our deputy is Owlchaser. Treestar, do you want to go next?”
“Sure. ThunderClan is good. We have two new apprentices, Swiftpaw and Streampaw.”
“We have one new warrior, Thornfur.”
“Prey is running well. Rockstar?”
A gray tom stepped forward. “Acornstar, we know you’re up to something.”
Acornstar narrowed her amber eyes. “What do you mean, Rockstar?”
“ShadowClan patrols smell the scents of prey running into your territory.” Rockstar growled.
“Rockstar, prey is bound to move around between territories.”
“Not just considine worth. SkyClan is taking seeds and putting it near the borders to lure prey!”
Acornstar put a paw forwards. So did Treestar.
“Rockstar, our prey is not going onto SkyClan’s territory! Maybe a few pieces here and there, but that’s all.”
“That makes it even worse!” Rockstar snarled. “Focusing the lureing on the ShadowClan border!”
“Rockstar, stop it! Of course prey would want to come to our territory! We hunt mainly in the sky.”
Treestar leaned in close to Acornstar and whispered something to her. Acornstar muttered something back.
“We can start hunting the prey so it stays in your territory. And we can inteoily scare prey back into your territory.” Acornstar meowed.
Rockstar sniffed. “And stop luring the prey?”
Acornstar sighed. “And stop luring the prey.”
Pebblestar stepped forward. “Are you done? We’re losing moonlight.”
“We’re done.” Acornstar leaped down from her branch. The other leaders followed.
“How did you get that scratch on your face?” I whirled around to see Mousepaw.
“Oh.” I didn’t want any cat to know I got into a fight with a kittypet! “Me and Troutfin were training and a pricker bush scratches me.”
“Have you told Tinymoon?” A slivery she-cat stepped forward.
“You should. It could get infected. I’m Willowpaw, by the way. My mentor is Mossyspot, if you were wondering.”
“Cool!” Grasspaw meowed.
“You’re RiverClan, right?” A gray-blue she-cat slid out from behind Stonepaw.
“Yeah. Who are you?” I asked.
“I’m Echopaw, from ShadowClan.” She explained.
“Echopaw, Splashpaw!” Mousepaw leaped in. “We’re having a stealth competition.”
“Okay, I’ll come.” I said, following Mousepaw to the outskirts of the clearing, where the other apprentices were waiting.
“Splashpaw! Let’s go meet some warriors. You can come too, Grasspaw.” Sageclaw followed me.
“Sorry.” I meowed to Mousepaw, half feeling it.
“It’s fine. Don’t forget to meet some ShadowClan cats!” Mousepaw purred.
I bounded after Sageclaw. She led me to where most of the cats were, sitting and talking.
“Hi, Splashpaw.” I whirled around to see a brown warrior I had never met before. “I’m Ivytail.”
“How do you know my name?” I asked, looking at her skepticly.
Ivytail’s green eyes sparkled with amusment. “Sageclaw’s been talking to me.”
“What clan are you?”
I stepped closer to Sageclaw.
“We’re going to go meet some other warriors, Ivytail.” Sageclaw stepped away from me.
“I’ll come with you. There’s my brother, Fernclaw.” Ivytail led us to a brown tabby tom, who was talking with other warriors.
“Oh, Ivytail, it’s you. What is it?” Fernclaw turned around.
“Nothing. Just helping Sageclaw indruce Splashpaw to warriors.” Ivytail flicked her tail.
“Okay, this is Pebblewing of SkyClan.” Fernclaw gestured to a gray tom. “This is Iceflower and this is Mudear of ShadowClan.” A white she-cat with green eyes and a gray tom with brown ears stepped forward.
“Oh, Splashpaw, I didn’t see you there!” Amberblaze whipped her head around from where she was talking to Pikewood, who stepped forward.
“I thought Badgerstrpie was strangly queit.” Pikewood meowed, amusment glittering in his green eyes.
“I don’t talk that much.” A white tom with black stripes running down his back said. He turned to me. “I’m from WindClan, by the way.”
I started to reply when I heard Pebblestar.
“RiverClan, let’s go!”
“Bye!” I took off after Sageclaw.
We met back up with the rest of the clan by the Tree-Bridge.
“Did you have fun, Splashpaw?” Sageclaw asked.
“Yeah! I met so many appretices.”
“Well, that’s good.” She purred. “We’re going.”
I ran across the Tree-Brigde after Mintfire, thoughts of sleep taking over my head.
Chapter 12: Caramel
I padded around the house to the front door.
“Let me in!” I called to my owners. “Please let me in!”
“Caramel! Where were you?” Mittens appered in the window next to the door.
“Mittens, I’ll tell you later. Can you get the owners to open the door?”
“Sure, wait a minute.” Mittens was gone.
Soon, the door was open and I was bening scooped into my owner’s arms. I was carried to my bed, where I fell asleep.
I woke up in the place where I last met Reedtail. I jumped to my paws at a sound from the undergrowth. Reedtail slid out, amusment glittering in her green eyes.
“I saw that little encounter, Caramel.”
“What little enconter?” I asked, flicking my tail.
“Between you and Splashpaw. You didn’t really get along well, did you?” Reedtail sat.
“No.” I sat down as well.
“Mouse-dung.” Reedtail muttered to herself. “Anyways, don’t tell Mittens about seeing where Splashpaw lives. And, if you see Splashpaw, ignore her and avoid her.”
I bit back a sarcastic reply. “What should I tell Mittens?”
“That -” Reedtail paused, twiching her brown tail. “That you can deicde.”
“But, Reedtail-” I started.
“You know who your mother is, right?” Reedtail intruppted me.
“Yes, it’s Toffee.” I squinted quizzicly.
“Hang on.” I jolted awake at Reedtail’s words. The quiet of the room pressed upon me, only broken by Mittens’s soft snoring. I plunged back into sleep to awaken to the same place, but Reedtail sat on the windowsill.
I stood up. Reedtail looked behind her, then jumped down.
“Sorry about that, Caramel.” She meowed.
“Shhh.” I whispered, pointing to Mittens.
Reedtail laughed. “You’re dreaming. It won’t affect anything.”
“Follow me.” Reedtail burst into a run, went out of the cat door and into the yard. I followed.
Reedtail led me around to the front of the house, then ran down the road. I followed.
Houses streamed past. I guess this is some sort of power. Dead cats who apper in dreams and claim to know your name, where you live and what you did must be powerful.
“Reedtail?” I asked, not feeling out of breath as we rounded a corner.
“Yes?” She slowed.
“Where are we going?”
“You don’t know where Toffee lives, do you?”
“No, I don’t.”
Reedtail stopped in front of a large home, four windows tall and many windows wide. “Here it is.”
“Why are you telling me this?” I asked.
“Because you need to ask her about your family.”
“I don’t remeber how to get home.”
“Follow me. We’ll go slower.” Reedtail led me around a few turns and back to my home.
“If you need help getting there, don’t worry. I’ll be watching.”
I jumped awake. The empty house greeted me. I curled up, tring to get back to sleep. But I couldn’t.
Chapter 13: Splashpaw
I blearly opened my eyes. Light streamed in through the leaves of the den. Grasspaw’s nest was empty. I sniffed, arching my back as I stood up. It smelled like he left a while ago. I made my way out of the den, yawning. It was almost sun-high.
Why didn’t Troutfin get me up? Is he okay? I entered the empty warrior’s den. All the sents were stale. I made my way to Tinymoon’s den. No luck there, etheir. My belly growled. Should I do it? Another growl. Yes. I walked to the fresh-kill pile and grabbed a small fish. As soon as I was about to take the first bite, I heard a vocie.
“Splashpaw, what are you doing?”
I stood up and bowed my head. “Sorry, Pebblestar. Troutfin never got me up and I’m really hungry.”
Pebblestar glanced at the nursery. “Oh, I see. You may finish that fish and then you should go to the nursery.”
“Thank you, Pebblestar.”
“You’re welcome.” Pebblestar went back inside her den.
I scarfed down my fish and padded towrds the nursery.
“May I enter?”
“Yes.” Appleheart replied. I entered.
In the shodows of the nursery, two cats huddled over a tiny kit. Three other kits lay by Lakeripple. Tinymoon hovered over the cats. A white cat – Frostsky – stood with her. Appleheart came up to me.
“What happened?” I asked.
Appleheart whispered something to Troutfin and Lakripple. Lakeripple nodded. Appleheart came back.
“What is it?” I pressed.
Appleheart sat down. I joined her. “Hollowkit – she’s very sick.”
My eyes widened. “How sick? Can Tinymoon save her?”
Appleheart put her tail around my sholders. “Splashpaw, lisen to me. Tinymoon is trying as hard as she can. She even asked Frostsky to help. But they don’t think they can save her. Hollowkit was the smallest of the litter. She was born last. This can happen, Splashpaw.”
“But – Hollowkit was fine when I came in last night.”
Appleheart let out a long sigh. “It was sudden. Splashpaw, ask Rainfur who can mentor you while Troutfin is with Lakeripple.”
“Okay.” I said, then ran out of the nursery.
Fishtail was on watch.
“Fishtail – do you know where Rainfur is?”
“By the lake.”
“Thanks!” I meowed as I dashed out of camp, to the lake.
Chapter 14: Caramel
I padded around to the front of the house. Mittens followed.
“You’ll be okay, right?”
“Mittens, stop worrying. I know what to do.” I had waited until the owners had left and it was sun-high.
“Fine. But I won’t stop worrying until you come back.”
I jumped down from the fence. “Fine.”
“Good luck!” Mittens cryed as she ran back inside.
I remebered Reedtail’s first instruction. Walk downhill two blocks then turn left by the tiny home. I carried out the insturction, sticking to sidewalks. I saw the house. A car roared by. I waited for it to pass, then darted to the house. Walk one block then turn by the mailbox. I passed the mailbox and turned. Walk three blocks and stop by the huge house. I walked the three blocks. Once the home came into sight, I ran for it.
The front door was under a balcony. Wearily, I padded to it. Before I was under, tan-brown she-cat popped into sight on the balcony. Toffee?
“Hang on, let me get down.” She called, then dissipaered inside the house. Soon, she pushed her way out of a cat flap on the front door. As she exited the home, a red light on the flap turned green.
“Are you Toffee?” I asked. She nodded.
“And you’re Caramel. Come in, my kit.” Toffee gestured for me to go inside the home. I did, feeling Toffee’s breath on my tail. “Follow me.” Toffee led the way to a large upstairs room.
“What is this place?” I looked around. Cat trees and condos were scattered around. Toys were everywhere. Two sets of bowls lay in the corner. A warm box stood in aonther corner, two cat nests next to it.
“This is the cat room.”
“Toffee? Who is this?” An orange and red cat slipped out from behind a cat tree, green eyes staring at me.
“Alex, it’s Caramel. Don’t you see the resemblesnce?” Toffee purred.
“Caramel, why are you here?” Toffee asked, jumping onto a cat condo. Alex jumped onto a lower perch of the same condo.
“I need to ask you – Toffee, that is – about our family.”
“Sure.” Toffee sat up. “My father is named Bob, who isn’t alive anymore. I have a brother named Ben who lives on the other side of town. My mother is Brownie.”
Brownie. I’ve heard that name before – think, Caramel! – wait, it’s Reedtail! Before she became a warrior!
“She’s the cat who ran into the forest and never came back, right?” I asked.
Toffee purred. “Right. We hope she’s okay, though she would of come back if she was.”
Don’t you dare tell her I’m fine. Just nod your head and ask Alex about his family. Reedtail’s voice came into my head. I could imagne her twiching her tail, and I stiffled a purr.
“What about you, Alex?” I asked.
“My parents are named Minty, who’s alive, and Falcon, who isn’t.”
“Do I have any siblings?” I wondered.
Toffee nodded. “Sage, Strawberry and Max.”
“Anything else I should know?” I purred.
“Not really. Just be careful. I’ll take you outside.” Toffee stood up and jumped down, blue eyes sparkling.
“Bye, Alex!” I meowed as Toffee led me back downstairs. She pushed open the cat flap for me. “Thank you, Toffee.”
“You’re welcome. Stay safe.” She purred, licking my ears. I started to walk away.
“Bye!” I called.
“Goodbye, Caramel. Come again soon! We want to hear everything about you.” Toffee called. “Maybe next time you come, you can tell us where you live.”
“I will! Goodbye!” I called, racing away.
As I traveled back home, I relized something. Since Toffee was my mother, and Reedtail was Toffee’s mother, I was directly related to Reedtail!
Mittens greeted me at home. “Caramel! You’re okay!” She cried joylously.
“I told you I would be.” I purred. I’m more than okay.
“Come on, let’s go inside. I found a way to turn on the red dot.” Mittens led me inside. Picking the red-dot-giver up from the counter, she put it on the stairs.
“What do you do?” I asked.
“Stand back.” Mittens replyed, jumping onto the stair above the red-dot-giver. She put her paw on a black button. The red dot appered on the wall. I jumped for it, hitting it my my paw.
“I’m going to try moving it.” Mittens picked the red-dot-giver up in her mouth, making sure to give pressure to the button.
“It’s working! Try going up the stairs.” I batted at the dot. Carefully, Mittens climbed the stairs, mostly manging to keep the red dot on the wall where I could jump for it. Mittens climbed the last stair and hit the wall. She purred, dropping the red-dot-giver. A glitter of stars apperiered in the kichen window. I squinted at it. Reedtail sat, tail over paws, on the fence of the garden, green eyes intent on my every move.
“Mittens. Hang on, I have to do something. Please don’t look into the backyard.”
“Why?” Mittens asked.
“Please, just hang on. I’ll tell you later.” I begged.
“Okay.” She meowed, voice rising and falling in a quizzal pattern. I dashed out the cat flap on the back door.
“There you are.” Reedtail leaped of the fence, starry fur shining in the sun.
“I figured it out. You’re Toffee’s mother, and Toffee’s my mother!” I jumped.
Reedtail smiled. “You did figure it out. Good job.” A far-away look came into her eyes. Reedtail shook her head. “I have something to tell you. But not right now.”
“Reedtail – can I tell Mittens about you?”
Reedtail sighed. “I suppose she has to know at some point.” She muttered to herself, twiching her tail. She turned to me. “You can. But don’t tell her about Splashpaw. Not yet.”
“Thank you.” I dashed back into the house.