All characters that belong to me belong to me (if Erin hunter made them up, they aren't mine) are mine.
Oakstar— sturdy brown tom with amber eyes
Beetail— dark brown tabby tom
Frecklewish— mottled golden she-cat, blinded in an adder attack
Deerdapple— silver and black tabby she-cat
Seedpelt— light brown and white tom
Thrushtalon— brown tabby tom
Nettlefire— ginger tom
Patchflower— tortioseshell she-cat
Larchwing— brown tom, slightly clumsy
Petalcloud— white she-cat
Mallowpaw— tabby and white she-cat
Larkpaw— tortoiseshell she-cat
Weedpaw— white tom with ginger flecks
Sweetbriar— rose-cream she-cat, mother to Beetail's kits: Pinekit(reddish brown tom), and Birchkit (black she-kit)
Lilyshade— black she-cat, expecting Oakstar's kits
Bloomheart— gray tabby tom
Goldenclaw— golden brown tabby tom
Jaywing— black and white she-cat
Shadestar— very dark gray she-cat with with long, unkempt fur that sticks out in all directions
Lizardfang— brown tom
Hollowbelly— black tom
apprentice, Sagepaw(white she-cat )
Snowtuft—white tom with a long scar on his flank
Cedarsmoke— gray tom with a white belly
Littlebird— brown and white she-cat
apprentice, Stonepaw (long toothed tom with gray tabby fur)
Duskpelt— brown tom
apprentice, Crowpaw (black she-cat with a gray tabby underbelly)
Sunblaze— yellow she-cat, expecting Duskpelt's kits
Silverflame— ginger and gray she-cat, expecting kits
Flywing— black and white tom
Dovestar— white tom
Skypelt— pale gray tom
Thrushpelt— gray she-cat with brown flecks
Flamepelt— ginger tom
Sharpfang— long toothed tabby tom
apprentice, Hawkpaw (gray-brown tom)
Reedfeather— reddish tom
Heatherdusk— pinkish-gray she-cat
apprentice, Flailpaw (black tom with a twisted paw)
Frostblaze— white she-cat, mother of Whitekit and Dewkit
Spikestar— dark gray tom
Rainfall— skinny black tom
Milkfur— cream colored tom
Reedshine- dark ginger she-cat
apprentice, Tanglepaw (tabby tom with amber eyes)
Splashpelt- pale silver tom
apprentice, Birdpaw(tabby she-cat)
Perchclaw- gray tom
Applefrost— pale brown tom, green eyes
apprentice, Duskpaw (dusky brown she-cat)
Shyheart- light brown and white she-cat
Troutclaw— dark gray tabby tom
Blackdeer— silver and black she-cat, mother of Splashpelt's kits; Ripplekit, Timberkit, and Pikekit
Willownose— silver-white she-cat, expecting Perchclaw's kits
Streampelt— white she-cat
Eeltail— black she-cat
Splashfoot— pale gray tom
The ThunderClan camp echoed with the screams of a rose-cream colored queen. Despite the herbs that a blind, elderly golden she-cat was giving her, Sweetbriar's kitting wasn't going well.
Outside of the nursery, the ThunderClan camp was pacing, cats wincing every time Sweetbriar called out in pain. Except for Beetail, that was. The ThunderClan deputy, and father to Sweetbriar's unborn kits, was tearing up grass very time his mate yowled out in pain.
“Stop, Beetail, these kits are not going to come by themselves, if you can't stand listening to your own mate's kitting, then you must go out onto a hunting patrol. Make yourself useful,” the leader reprimanded.
“I expect you'll feel different when Lilyshade's kits come, Beetail fired back at his brother, “Try telling me that then.” The tabby tom's amber gaze fitted briefly to his own mate, whose soft black belly had just begun to swell with kits. She gave him a 'look' and the leader quickly apologized to his deputy.
Then, the loudest screech of all tore through the camp. The kits had been born.
“Beetail! Come here and greet your new kits,” Frecklewish said, her blind blue eyes at staring off into nowhere. Beetail felt a flash of anger. Many moons ago, an ex-ThunderClan she-cat named Mapleshade had lured Frecklewish to Snakerocks. Frecklewish had attacked Mapleshade, who uncovered a Snake hole. A deadly adder launched itself into her eyes. She never saw anything again.
Inside, the nursery was filled with the milky scent of newborn kits. Sweetbriar lay by the nursery wall, nursing a reddish brown tom, as well as a black she-kit.
Redkit and Birchkit, those are the perfect names for you, he thought
“What do you want to name them?” he whispered.
“Pinekit and Birchkit.”
The moment was very happy, until Beetail saw the tabby. The stillborn tabby.
“Pinekit, we're gonna be apprentices today!” Pinekit was, as usual, when you were a kit with an annoying littermate, woken up by Birchkit's voice. “I just heard Lilyshade telling Adderkit and Tawnykit!”
“Are you sure, or is this like the time you told us that Mallowpaw was expecting kits, but it turned out that it was actually Petalcloud who was?” That had actually happened, and Birchkit had gotten Thrushtalon to think the kits were his, which certainly caused a lot of confusion. In the end, It was found out that Petalcloud was the one expecting. That had been a half moon ago, and the tabby and white apprentice still got embarrassed whenever someone mentioned it. However, Mallowpaw always forgave everyone (which Pinekit found to be his least favorite thing about her) and, like all annoying she-cats are expected to do, forgave Birchkit the instant she said 'sorry'.
Then, he saw a rose-cream pelt sweep into the nursery. Sweetbriar had arrived, eyes sparkling with happiness for her kits' soon-to-be apprenticeship.
“Sweetbriar, will I get to go first, since I'm older?” Pinekit said, giving a sly glance to Birchkit, who took the bait, saying, “So? Just because you're older by a few heartbeats, you always say you go first.
Suddenly, Pinekit saw Sweetbriar's long pink tongue heading toward him, and he knew that he was I for a long bath.
The clearing was silent. No cat dared talk, as Oakstar stood on High-rock, his brown pelt ragged with old age.
“Pinekit and Birchkit, you have both been with us for six moons. You have eaten our fresh-kill, supported our battles and are now ready to become ThunderClan apprentices.”
“Birchkit, are you ready to become an apprentice?”
Pinekit saw his sister shiver slightly as she said “I am”.
“Then by the power of StarClan, from this day forward, until you receive your warrior name, you shall be known as Birchpaw. Thrushtalon, you are long overdue for an apprentice. I expect you to pass all you know to Birchpaw.
Suddenly, the ThunderClan leader turned to Pinekit. “Are you too ready, Pinekit?
“Yes, Oakstar, I am.”
“Then by the power of StarClan, I name you Pinepaw. I expect Nettlefire to pass on the wisdom he learned from Deerdapple to you.”
Pinekit— no, Pinepaw, he reminded himself, ran over to where Thrushtalon, Nettlefire, Beetail, and Sweetbriar stood.
“Oh kits, we’re so proud of you. If only—”
“If only what, Sweetbriar?” Birchpaw said, confused.
Sweetbriar exchanged a look with the three toms, causing Thrushtalon and Nettlefire to leave.
“You see,” she began, “When you were born, I almost died. You two originally had a sister. However, she died almost immediately after being born. Your father and I had just enough time to send her to StarClan with a name— Fawnkit.
“Mother,” Birchpaw began hesitantly,“What did she— Fawnkit, that is, look like?”
“Oh kits, of course you'd want to know— she was a light brown tabby, with pure white front paws. She was a newborn, so her eyes would be blue, not green like yours. Now, enough about Fawnkit— go explore the territory.
Bounding up to their mentors, Pinepaw and Birchpaw edged toward the gorse tunnel, trying to see if they could see outside of camp. Suddenly, they saw Larchwing, a brown tabby tom who was ambling into the camp with a thrush in his jaws, slump forward to the ground, his prey smashing against his face. Pinepaw and Birchpaw froze. Then, a horrible scent wreathed through the tunnel.
Frozen with terror, Pinepaw could only watch as dark-pelted ShadowClan cats poured over the limp form of Larchwing, scuffing up the tomcat’s bloody gray fur.
Then, Pinepaw saw a black ShadowClan she-cat pin down Mallowpaw, her shiny claws glinting at the tabby and white apprentice’s snowy belly fur.
“Crowpaw”, Mallowpaw hissed at her attacker,“How can ShadowClan attack ThunderClan like this, and when we were distracted, too.”
“Oh, Mallowpaw, you can’t be saying the truth. Though Lizardfang did have a good idea with attacking Larchwing.”
“Get off my daughter, you arrogant fox-heart. ShadowClan will never be dominant over ThunderClan!” Patchflower! The tortoiseshell she-cat had crept over to the two battling apprentices, clawing Crowpaw’s black tabby face. “If you ever try to harm my Mallowpaw again, I will rip you apart, you piece of rotting badger dung.”
Wow, Patchflower, you sure are going a bit overboard on the insults, Pinepaw thought as he hid under a bush at the edge of the fern tunnel. Even Crowpaw seemed surprised that the patchy-furred queen was attacking either such ferocity.
“Ah ha!” suddenly, Pinepaw found himself being crushed to the forest floor and roughly dragged out into the clearing. His eyes straining, he could see a pure white ShadowClan tom standing above him, dead blue eyes staring at something in the center of the clearing. Pinepaw gave a strangled gasp. Several other cats had been pinned down. A dusky tom crouched by Lilyshade, ready to kill. A long-toothed apprentice had Adderkit and Tawnykit struggling beneath his front paws. Then, he heard a burst of insane laughter. A dark-colored she-cat stood with her claws to Oakstar’s throat, her long, unkempt black fur standing on end. Pinepaw tensed. He’d heard nursery tales about this cat. She was supposedly a murderer who caused the death of the ShadowClan leader two leaderships before her— Dawnstar the Noble. This cat was one of the most evil cats to ever walk the forest— Shadestar.
“Well? I think that it would be a wise decision on your part to sheathe your claws,” Shadestar said, voice filled with innocent cheek,“I mean, it would be rather… unfortunate if my claws were to slip.”
Slowly, the ThunderClan cats backed away.
“Oops, it's really not your lucky day, is it,” Shadestar said. Then, she forced her claws into the throat of the ThunderClan leader. “Guess what else? Thanks to my spy, I know that this is his last life! Tootles!” With that, Shadestar and the other ShadowClan cats seemed to disappear, even the one holding Pinepaw.
Oakstar was dying . Lilyshade and Frecklewish, who was Oakstar’s daughter, lay with their noses pressed into his fur. Petalcloud sadly led Tawnykit and Adderkit away from their father’s body.
“Oh father, what will I do without you?” Frecklewish murmured softly to herself, “I've already lost Leopardflight and Birchface, how can I go on?” the spotted medicine cat murmured into her father’s fur, sadness dripping from her voice.
“ThunderClan, gather!” Pinepaw saw Beetail leap onto Highrock, his tabby fur glowing in the sunshine. The cats perked up at once. Petalcloud anxiously peered out of the nursery. Thrushtalon, Nettlefire, and Deerdapple stopped murmuring from beside the warriors den, and Patchflower finally stopped fussing over Mallowpaw, Larkpaw, and Weedpaw — even gentle Larkpaw was giving her mother several killer glares.
“As you know, I am now the leader of ThunderClan. Since there is so much urgency, I shall name a deputy immediately. I say these words before the body of Oakstar, so that he may hear and approve of my choice— The new ThunderClan deputy will be Seedpelt”. Slowly, the light brown tom realized what Beetail had just said.
“Pinepaw,” Nettlefire said, “based on what just happened, I think you might need some battle training.
Starlight glimmered on different cats’ fur as RiverClan bounded down the hollow to join ThunderClan and ShadowClan at the Gathering— a rather uncomfortable mix, as two moons ago, the ShadowClan leader had killed the ThunderClan one. Pinepaw remembered how badly Adderpaw and Tawnypaw had wanted to come to their first gathering (so they could ‘rip Shadestar’s fur off), and was glad that the Clan’s newest warriors had.
Weedwhisker, Larksong, and Mallowfur had received their new names two days ago; at the same time that Adderpaw and Tawnypaw had. Pinepaw stifled a purr as he remembered how Petalcloud’s new litter, Stonekit, Stormkit, and Smallkit had begged to come, though their eyes had been open only since sunrise.
“Hello, are you the Pinepaw that Mallowfur was telling me about?” Pinepaw whirled around, then froze at what he saw the cat that was talking to him. Dusky brown fur, soft as thistle down, piercing blue eyes that riveted him. The she-cat’s plume like tail whipped over her paws, and her nose looked like a shiny pink berry.
“…Umm…can you hear alright? I asked if you were Pinepaw.” The she-cat said.
“Uh— yeah, I-I’m Pinepaw. Who are you?” He stammered.
“Oh, you do talk! I'm Duskpaw, from RiverClan. My mentor’s Applefrost, she’s that brown she-cat over there,” Duskpaw mewed.
“Huh? Oh. My m-mentor i-is N-Nettlefire,” Pinepaw replied, taken aback by the pretty RiverClan apprentice. How could one she-cat look like that? She was so pretty.
“WindClan are here!” came a yowl from the top of the Great Rock. Dovestar’s white fur joined the gray, black, and tabby fur of the other leaders, and the Gathering began.
“ShadowClan is happy to announce that Sunblaze has kitted; Brackenkit, Blizzardkit, and Mudkit will be happy in their new home. Also, we have a new warrior who has proved himself in battle— Stonetooth!” Pinepaw noticed the WindClan warrior Heatherdusk glaring at Shadestar when the ShadowClan leader talked about battle. Had WindClan and ShadowClan been fighting?
Then, Spikestar, the RiverClan leader, stood up. “RiverClan is proud of both Shellkit and Marshkit, Willownose’s new litter. Also we now can claim a new warrior— Tanglewhisker!” Pinepaw saw a tangly furred tabby stand up proudly.
“WindClan,” Dovestar began, his eyes flashing,“Has both new warriors, kits, and apprentices. Hawkheart and Flailfoot guard camp as we speak, Lilykit and Leafkit sleep safely in the nursery, and Whitepaw has been made an apprentice. Unfortunately, Whitepaw’s littermate, Dewkit, died.
“ThunderClan can report good news too. Smallkit, Stonekit, and Stormkit are our newest arrivals, Adderpaw and Tawnypaw are here tonight, and Larksong, Weedwhisker, and Mallowfur received their names two days ago. ThunderClan are strong!” At this announcement, Pinepaw’s father, Beestar, jumped down from the Great Rock, and began chatting with Skypelt, the WindClan deputy, and Silverflame, a ShadowClan queen.
“Pinepaw, come tell Whitepaw and Birdpaw about the battle with ShadowClan,” Duskpaw said,“Larksong told us at the last gathering that you almost died.”
“Okay, if you say so. It started when…”
“Pinepaw, you have to get up! Seedpelt sent you, Nettlefire, and Patchflower on the dawn patrol!” Pinepaw rolled over sleepily. How could Tawnypaw possibly be so bossy? He'd been an apprentice for only three moons, but the tuft eared tom acted like he owned the place. Pinepaw groaned, then swung over when Tawnypaw persisted, his reddish-brown fur bunching at his joints. Pinepaw could see Adderpaw curled up in his nest.
“Pinepaw, come on, Thrushtalon says that we’re having an assessment!” Birchpaw stood outside of the apprentice’s den, her black fur gleaming in the dawn light. “Maybe we’re becoming warriors!” Pinepaw, however, doubted it.
Well, I might as well go, Pinepaw thought. It would be good, training. And then I can brag to Duskwater when the next gathering comes.
“May all cats old enough to catch their own prey gather beneath the Highrock for a clan meeting,” Beestar said, his voice shaking with pride.
“Today, two ThunderClan apprentices passed there warrior assessment. We have new warriors among us— welcome, Birchwing and Pineclaw, to the ranks of warriors!” Pinepaw— no, Pineclaw, stared at his father in shock. Sweetbriar ran over to her children and began to cover their pelts, both black and red, with proud licks.
“Hello, if I might make an announcement,” Birchwing called out, “I will not be able to join the warriors immediately. I-I’m expecting kits.”
The announcement was met with general astonishment. Birchwing was barely eleven moons old and already expecting kits. It was unheard of. Many cats would still be apprentices at her age. And Birchwing was a queen.
Beestar looked shocked. “Who is the father, Birchwing?” the ThunderClan leader asked his daughter in surprise.
“Will you settle for anything but the truth, father?”
“Very well. The father is Whitepaw of WindClan. Don’t judge me, and I won't meet with him anymore. However, we did agree that he could have two kits, and one for me— there are three, I feel it.”
Every cat in ThunderClan was shocked again. Not only was Birchwing expecting an apprentice’s kits, they would be half-Clan kits. Cursed kits. And one would be a ThunderClan kit. Pineclaw suddenly felt a desire to protect Birchwing’s kits. They would be his kin. Just like Beestar, and Sweetbriar. Adderpaw and Tawnypaw. Lilyshade and Birchwing. Now these kits would be born, kits of Birchwing and Whitepaw. Pineclaw remembered him from the gatherings, always talking to Birchwing. Sort of like…. Pinepaw stopped, embarrassed. Sort of like me and Duskwater. The brown she-cat had been so proud of herself at the last gathering, when she earned her warrior name. He didn't want to admit it, but he had to.
Pineclaw was in love with Duskwater.
“Pineclaw, I need to talk to you,” a cat hissed from the bushes on the RiverClan border.
The reddish-brown warrior stiffened. Duskwater? He thought. Telling Deerdapple and Weedwhisker to go on, he thought he heard some prey, he realized he was correct. The brown she-cat’s blue eyes stared out at him from under a holly bush, looking slightly disheveled as sharp holly leaves dug into her fur.
“Pineclaw, there's something you need to know. You love me, right?” He nodded. “Well… I'm going to have your kits.”
Pineclaw gaped at Duskwater in astonishment. He was going to be a father? It had barely been two moons since he became a warrior. But a father? He and Duskwater had hardly seen each other outside of Gatherings. He knew that Larksong, who was expecting kits, would be willing to take in any ‘motherless’ kit, but could he really pass off a kit as his?
“But Duskwater, what if they all look like me, or like you?” Pineclaw asked.
“I've thought of that. Any kits that look like you will go with you. Any like me, with me.” The she-cat was obviously hoping that they could go with her. “I've told the clan that the father is Troutclaw, I hope that you don't mind. He loves me, so I’ll pretend that…. Anyway, meet me here in a moon, I’ll give them to you.
The walk back to ThunderClan camp was hard. Telling Deerdapple and Weedwhisker that he'd missed the mouse, they completed the patrol, finally ending back up at ThunderClan camp.
“Birchwing, can you keep a secret?” Pineclaw asked his sister as she sat by the nursery with Petalcloud and Larksong, watching as Stonekit, Stormkit, and Smallkit tackled Tawnypaw.
Glancing at the other queens, Birchwing stood up and walked over to where Pineclaw sat, her green eyes, identical to his, sparkling with interest.
“Listen… do you know Duskwater, from RiverClan? Well… she's expecting my kits. I know what you might be thinking, but remember; it happened to you to.”
“Oh Pineclaw, I'm not disappointed with you. I'm happy. This is amazing. I'm so happy for you! I don't care that they'll be half-clan, I'm just happy that you're happy. Ever since the ShadowClan attack the day we were apprenticed, you've seemed… sad. But now, you can be happy. I'm just glad that you'll have more kin.” Pineclaw’s sister’s voice was filled with pride.
“Oh thank you, Birchwing, thank you. I can't tell you how glad I am. I will always be in debt to you. You're the best sister ever!” Pineclaw said, a little too loudly. Lilyshade looked up from the thrush she was sharing with Goldenclaw, and Patchflower, who had been chatting with Bloomheart and Jaywing, gave them a look from narrowed eyes. The tortoiseshell and white she-cat had been acting rather snappish lately; Pineclaw remembered Larchwing telling him that Patchflower had wanted Larksong to wait to have kits, but Larksong had been “to much in love” with Seedpelt to wait. Now, the ThunderClan deputy hardly spoke to Patchflower, except to send her on patrol. Even though the nursery was crowded, as Deerdapple was moving in just a few days from then, somehow, the light brown tom seemed to be visiting Larksong every day. Pinestar wished that he could be like that, to be able to visit his mate. But Duskwater was stuck in RiverClan camp, with stupid Troutclaw fussing over her. If only she were a ThunderClan cat, he thought, if only she were.
Pineclaw knew what he had to do. It had been a moon and a half since Duskwater had told him, and last night Spikestar had announced the birth of the kits at a gathering, believing them to be Troutclaw’s. Treading lightly past the nursery, so that he wouldn't wake any of the clan’s many kits— Birchwing, Larksong, and Deerdapple had kitted, and the clan welcomed Windkit, Cloudkit, and Aspenkit (Birchwing’s) Goosekit,(Larksong’s) Sparrowkit, and Swiftkit(Deerdapple’s) Larksong had kitted a moon ago, shortly followed by Birchwing. Deerdapple’s kits had arrived only the day before. They were about to get a new friend. Pineclaw quickly slipped through the fern tunnel, neatly avoiding the guards, Adderfang and Tawnyspots, who had received their warrior names that day. He swiftly sped through the forest, at last reaching sunningrocks, where Duskwater stood, three kits beside her. Two looked like tiny versions of Duskwater, while one was red as fire. He knew immediately that this kit, a little she-kit, was the one he would be taking.
“Well? I saved naming them for you. I like Cedarkit for the tom, and Fallowkit for my she-kit, but what will our other daughter’s name be?” Duskwater said in a rush. Pineclaw somehow knew the answer, which slipped off his tongue easily.
“Poppykit, I want to name her Poppykit.”
“Is that a kit?” Patchflower’s scornful mew was the first thing to greet Pineclaw when he padded into camp, Poppykit dangling in his jaws that dawn. Ignoring the mews of surprise, Pineclaw padded straight into the nursery. He saw Birchwing raise her head, Windkit sleeping beside her. Pineclaw felt a pang of sadness. The gray tomkit would be too young to remember his brothers, who were living with Whiteberry in WindClan.
“Who is she?” Stormkit said sleepily, his eyes crossing as he tried to look at Poppykit in the gray dawn light. Larksong, Goosekit curled up in the curve of his mother’s body, watched Pineclaw reproachfully as he approached her.
“Larksong, I found this kit in the forest. Will you take care of her?” Pineclaw pleaded with the tortoiseshell and gray she-cat.
Larksong looked as if she was about to ask a question, then stopped. “Of course, how could I say no.”
Outside, the camp was in turmoil.
“You may have noticed that I have brought a kit into camp,” Pineclaw began, “I will now tell you why. Early this morning, I went out hunting. Near Snakerocks, by the thunderpath, I heard the kit’s mews. Upon inspection, I found her next to a dead she-cat, along with two other dead kits. The kits must have been killed by snakes, and when the mother tried to carry the kit across the thunderpath…. On another note, I want to foster the kit, who I have named Poppykit. Larksong and Birchwing agree to help with her care. When she is older, I will tell her that her mother was a warrior named Waterdusk. Hopefully, she can have a good life in ThunderClan,” Pineclaw hoped that the clan would believe him. He knew that they did when Lilyshade and Sweetbriar asked to see Poppykit, Sweetbriar remarking that she was now a grandmother to Poppykit and Windkit.
“ThunderClan, I have an announcement to make,” this time, even Pineclaw was surprised. The cat calling the meeting was Deerdapple. The silver and black tabby she-cat was looking nervous. “I have served the clan for many seasons. I now wish to retire to the elders once Sparrowkit and Swiftkit have been apprenticed,” she mewed.
Beestar looked surprised. “I suppose… if that is your wish, then it shall be granted. You may be an elder. Also, one more thing. Stormkit, Stonekit, and Smallkit, it is time you are apprenticed. Stormkit, you are ready to be an apprentice. From this moment foreword, until you receive your warrior name, you shall be known as Stormpaw. Pineclaw, you are ready for your first apprentice. Pass on the skills you learned from Nettlefire to Stormpaw.” Pineclaw could hardly believe it. He had an apprentice! He touched Stormpaw’s nose to his, then sat back and watched as Smallpaw and Stonepaw were apprenticed to Weedwhisker and Seedpelt.
“What are we going to do first, Pineclaw?” Stormpaw asked eagerly.
“Umm… how about we go and see the territory. You should know what it looks like if you want to be a good ThunderClan warrior. I think we’ll start with sunningrocks….
“Stormtail, Smallear, Stonepelt! Stormtail, Smallear, Stonepelt!” ThunderClan cheered.
So much has changed since they became apprentices, Pineclaw thought. Windpaw, Poppypaw, Sparrowpaw, and Swiftpaw were training as warriors, and Goosepaw trained under Frecklewish to be the next medicine cat. As promised, Deerdapple had moved to the elder’s den. While the apprentice ceremony had been in greenleaf, the camp was now bathed in cool leaf-bare light.
“Congratulations, I'm so happy that you're finally warriors,” Petalcloud mewed happily, though she looked a bit sad that Thrushtalon had not been there. The gray tom had met his end while protecting the elder’s den after a fox broke into camp. They had lost Bloomheart that day, too.
Birchwing, a warrior at last, took Poppypaw, who was her apprentice per request by Pineclaw. Poppypaw believed the Waterdusk story completely, and Pineclaw couldn't be more proud of his daughter, or Cedarpaw and Fallowpaw, for that matter. His RiverClan kits, apprenticed to Tanglewhisker and Shyheart, were turning into excellent warriors.
Suddenly, Mallowfur, who had recently kitted Sunkit and Featherkit, let out a shriek.
“Help! Murder! Murder in ThunderClan!” Pineclaw dashed to his paws and gasped. In the bushes, beside the dirt place exit, was the crumpled body of Seedpelt. His eyes stared into nothing, claw marks slashed across his throat.
“Frecklewish, Goosepaw, help!” Pineclaw saw Goosepaw dash through the fern tunnel, then let out a yowl of horror. Pineclaw ran in and saw why. Frecklewish was dead, her neck twisted at an odd angle, snapped. Pineclaw felt a flash of anger. The blind medicine cat would never have seen an enemy sneaking up on her. Then he sniffed her pelt and stiffened.
“I know who did this.”
Suddenly, Pineclaw turned and attacked the murderer.
“How did you know?” the Murderer cried in alarm, its pelt spiking in fear. Pineclaw bit down hard on the Murderer’s neck, killing it.
Everyone was silent. They couldn't believe who the Murderer was. Who the dead cat was. Who the ShadowClan spy was.
No one could believe it. Patchflower was the spy. Patchflower killed Frecklewish and Seedpelt? How?
“Cats of ThunderClan, I understand that it will be difficult, but there is a duty that must be done. ThunderClan must have a new deputy. I say these words before the body of Seedpelt, so that his spirit may hear and approve of my choice— the new deputy of ThunderClan shall be Pineclaw.”
Pineclaw stood in shock as he heard the announcement. He'd thought, along with many others, that Larchwing, or maybe Nettlefire, would be deputy, but not Pineclaw.
“I see that you're surprised, my son,” Beestar said kindly, “but how could I not make you deputy? You participated in a battle the day you were apprenticed, saved Poppypaw from certain death, and solved the murder of Seedpelt and Frecklewish in a sniff.
Oh, no, Pineclaw thought,he just gave away the Poppypaw ordeal. But when he turned, he saw his daughter running toward him, winding herself along his pelt happily. Sweetbriar, Birchwing, and Beestar were soon behind him. And in that moment, Pineclaw was truly happy.
“RiverClan, attack!” Pineclaw jumped in alarm. He'd been patrolling sunningrocks with Sweetbriar, Swiftpaw, Birchwing, and Poppypaw, when the newly named Rainstar came lunging out of the water, an army of RiverClan warriors at his heels. Hailstorm, Shellheart, Timberfur, Tanglewhisker, Rainpaw, Echopaw, Birdsong, and Troutclaw. Too many to count, all plunging out of the river.
Sparrowpaw, reinforcements, now!” Pineclaw yowled as the dark tabby tom raced off into the forest, “the rest of you— attack!”
Pineclaw threw himself into battle, clawing Troutclaw’s ear, ripping it in a “V”. He raked Hailstorm’s flank, getting his tail bitten by Echopaw. He saw Applefrost and Shyheart gon Sweetbriar, who tripped Applefrost, then got her belly scratched by Perchclaw.
“ThunderClan, to me!” the ThunderClan deputy looked up in relief as he saw Beestar, Larchwing, Nettlefire, Lilyshade, Tawnyspots, Adderfang, Smallear, Windpaw, Weedwhisker, and Larksong charging over the ridge to sunningrocks. Lilyshade saved Sweetbriar, who ran over to help Nettlefire and Beestar fight Hailstorm and Echopaw. Meanwhile, Shellheart, Troutclaw, and Rainpaw cornered Birchwing, but Windpaw started to fight Rainpaw, Pineclaw cutting Troutclaw and Shellheart off from the silver apprentice.
Suddenly, Pineclaw caught sight of Beestar. The ThunderClan leader fought Rainstar on top of the rocks; both toms were covered in claw marks and battered. Sometimes, Beestar looked to have the upper hand; others, it was Rainstar who was winning the fierce battle of leaders. That was when Pineclaw realized something— they were getting too close to the edge of sunningrocks, and Beestar was on his last life!
“Look out, the edge!” Pineclaw yowled out too his father. But it was too late. Rainstar’s claws swooped out, and Beestar lunged backwards to avoid them. The leap carried the surprised tom out over the battlefield, landing hard on a sharp stone. Rainstar screeched in horror at what had just happened, calling to retreat. The startled RiverClan cats leaped into the water. But retreat can't undo death. And there was no mistaking it.
Beestar of ThunderClan was dead.
“Quick, Pinestar, we must get to the moonstone before moonhigh,” Goosefeather called. Beestar had died yesterday, and Pineclaw was with Goosefeather, deep in mother mouth.
Finally, Pineclaw touched his nose to the fabled stone.
StarClan was beautiful. Then he saw the cats. So many faces of the past. Oakstar, Thrushtalon, Bloomheart, Goldenclaw. All faces of dead cats.
Then, Oakstar stepped forward, his sturdy frame filling Pineclaw’s view. “I give you a life for wisdom.”
The next cat was Seedpelt. “Oh Pineclaw, thank you. I give you a life of truth and justice.
The third cat to pad forward was a tiny tabby kit, barely a day old. In a flash, Pineclaw realized that it was Fawnkit, his other sister. “I give you a life for the love of kin.”
Soon after, Thrushtalon came. “I give you a life for protection. Use it to protect your clan mates”
Pineclaw’s fifth life was from Frecklewish. The ThunderClan medicine cat’s eyes, blind in life, sparkled with sight. “I give you a life for forethought.”
A sixth cat padded forward. Bloomheart! The elder gave a kind look at Pineclaw. “I give you a life for humor.”
“Jaywing, Goldenclaw, and Deerdapple miss you,” Pineclaw said, but the tom had already disappeared.
“Hello, young cat, I am Redstar. I led ThunderClan long ago. I give you a life for fairness. Know that everyone deserves justice, not just your clan.
“Pineclaw, can you hear me?” The new cat was almost completely faded away, “I am Thunder, the first leader of ThunderClan. I give you a life for self-esteem. You can always do it.
“Son,” a cat said, “are you ready for your ninth life? I give you a life for courage. Now, welcome Pinestar!”
“Pinestar, help! There’s a badger in the territory. It attacked our patrol!” Tawnyspots cried out as he burst into camp, Sunpaw and Lilyshade at his paws, while Petalcloud limped along more slowly.
Jumping to his paws, Pinestar flicked his tail, prompting his deputy, Birchwing, to leap onto Highrock with him. “What happened, Tawnyspots?” Pinestar asked.
“We were walking back from the thunderpath, and when we reached the Great Sycamore, a massive badger barreled out of the undergrowth. It nearly killed Petalcloud,” the warrior explained.
“Take a patrol to attack it. Let’s see— Tawnyspots, Windflight, Poppydawn, Mallowfur, and Sweetbriar,” Pinestar hoped that Mallowfur would be okay. Ever since Nettlefire had died on the thunderpath, the tabby and white she-cat had been rather mopey.
“Pinestar, can you come over here, I think that Fuzzykit and Blackkit want to meet you,” Lilyshade called. Pinestar was glad that the she-cat had finally moved on from Oakstar, and had recently given birth to Larchwing’s kits. A leader for almost eight moons, Pinestar had lost a life from greencough, though he was a strong cat, and he had made it through.
There were even new cats in the nursery; Lilyshade with Fuzzykit and Blackkit, and now, Swiftbreeze was mother to Robinkit and Specklekit, who had barely opened their eyes. It seemed as if many cats were looking at Larksong and Tawnyspots, who were so close those days that many cats expected Goosefeather to have some new littermates. However, there were some problems. Goldenclaw had died, leaving Jaywing and Deerdapple alone in the elder’s den, until the decision was made that Weedwhisker, who had been injured badly in a fox attack, would join them. Pinestar thought that the ginger-flecked tom looked rather sad, and realized that he would be too, if he had retired early.
“They're back!” Birchwing called anxiously from the camp entrance. But Pinestar knew something was wrong. It was too quiet. There were no cries of victory. Just silence.
As the cats padded into camp, Sunpaw and Featherpaw let out a cry of dismay. Then Pinestar and Birchwing did. Strung across the backs of Tawnyspots, Windflight, and Poppydawn were the limp bodies of Sweetbriar and Mallowfur.
The ThunderClan camp was silent. Not a single soul moved as the clan sat vigil for Sweetbriar and Mallowfur. Sunpaw and Featherpaw looked so alone, sitting there. Pinestar and Birchwing pressed into each other’s fur. It broke Pinestar’s heart to see the bodies of Mallowfur and Sweetbriar just laying there, alone. Even stoic Weedwhisker looked devastated at his sister’s death. Soon dawn was upon them, and Pinestar and Birchwing watched as Weedwhisker, Deerdapple, and Jaywing carried away the bodies of their mother and their sort-of-annoying-but-still-nice friend.
“Come on Robinpaw, you can do it!” Pinestar heard Featherpaw exclaim from the nursery. The silver tom had decided after his mother’s death to become a medicine cat. Meanwhile, Sunfall, a warrior of one moon, seemed not to envy his brother’s herbish talents, though he wasn't unkind about it. Robinpaw was kitting, and the small she-cat wasn't doing well. Larksong’s kit, Moonkit, was being rather nosy, and getting under everyone’s paws. That’s when the cry came out; two she-kits and a tom, named Dapplekit, Whitekit, and Thrushkit. Pinestar was proud of his clan.
Rusty the kittypet was dying, his kits crowded around him. He saw all three of his kittypet children. Mowgli, dark pelt drooping, Nutmeg, eyes full of sadness, and Sol, tortoiseshell face completely expressionless. He remembered a time, long ago, when he'd been leader of ThunderClan. So much had happened.
Lilyshade, Birchwing, Blackpaw, Deerdapple, and Jaywing had all died at a time when greencough ravaged the clan. Sunfall was the new deputy. Pinestar had found a new mate in Leopardfoot, daughter of Adderfang and Swiftbreeze, and had several new kits; Tigerkit, Mistkit, and Nightkit. He wondered how they were doing now. Larchwing had changed his name to Mumblefoot, and moved into the elder’s den along with Larksong. Poppydawn and Stonepelt had retired too. Moonflower had kitted Snowfur and Bluefur, and Poppydawn had also had a litter; Thistlepaw, Rosepaw, and Sweetpaw. Lionpaw, the son of Speckletail, had given Rusty the courage to leave ThunderClan. That was when he realized that his spirit had slipped from his body, and a she-cat was coming toward him, her fur as lovely as it was the day he met her.
“Welcome to StarClan, Pinestar,” Duskwater said.