Leader: Silence of the Night (Silentnight)-black tom
Deputy: Risingmoon (Rising of the Moon)-pure gray she-cat
Healing Cat: Lightningclaw (Claws of Lightning)-yellow tabby with a scar that looks like lightning
Shinningnight (Shining Stars of the Night)-a white she-cat
Starynight (Stary Night)-a gray tom
Sunset (Setting of the Sun)-orange tabby tom
Sunrise (Rise of the Sun)-a yellow she-cat
Duskpelt (Dusk of the Night)-brown tom
Darkmoon (Darkest Shade of Moon)-black she-cat
Skypelt (Pelt of the Sky)-bluish-grayish she-cat
Halfmoon (Half the Moon)-whitish-grayish tom
Wintersky (Sky of Winter)-white-gray tom
Snowpetal (Petal of Snow)-whitish-reddish she-cat
Nightsky (Sky of the Night)-pure black she-cat
Cometblaze (Blazing Comet)-a golden tabby she-cat
Breezetail (Tail in the Breeze)-a black and grey tabby she-cat with white markings
Swiftfoot (Swift on her Feet)-blue and gray she-cat
Dawnflower (Flower at Dawn)-dawn colored she-cat
Cloudysun (Clouds of the Sun)-whitish-orangish she-cat
Moonpool (Moon in the Pool)-bluish tom
Leader: Fur in the Gorse (Gorsefur)-greenish-brownish tabby tom
Deputy: Heatherbracken (Heather in the Bracken)-a brown she-cat
Healing Cat: Blackleaf (Blackest Leaf)-black tabby
Tallbreeze (Tall Trees in the Breeze) gray tom
Windyhill (Wind on the Hill)-a tan colored she-cat
Summerair (Summer in the Air)-an orange-yellow-reddish she-cat
Rainstorm (Storm with Rain)-blue-gray tom
Stormcloud (Stormy Cloud)-blue-gray tabby tom
Lightningscar (Scar of Lightning)-an orange-yellow tabby with a scar running down his eye onto his neck
Mistycloud (Mist from a Cloud)-gray tortoise shell she-cat
Cloudyair (Clouds in the Air)-white tom
Windpool (Wind by the Pool)-bluish she-cat
Cracklefur (Crackle of Lightning)-brown tabby
Boomingthunder (Booming of Thunder)-grayish tabby tom
Floodwater (Flooding Water)-blue-gray she-cat
Fogwater (Foggy Water)-white she-cat
Leader: Fur of Crystals (Crystalfur)-pure white she-cat
Deputy: Winterair (Air of Winter)-white-blue she-cat
Mistypool (Misty Water Pool)-white-blue she-cat
Hawkfrost (Frost of Hawk)-brown-white tabby tom
Poppyfrost (Frost of Poppies) -red tortoise shell she-cat
Frostytrail (Trail of Frost)-a black tom with jet white paws
Icyclaws (Claws of Ice)-a pure white tom
Hailfoot (Sky of Hail)-white-gray tom
Snowstorm (Storm of Snow)-white she-cat
Coldfangs (Fangs of Cold)-pale white tabby
Icecloud (Cloud of Ice)-pure white tom
Clearsnow (Clear Snow)-pale gray tabby tom
Willowsleet (Willow in Sleet)-white tortoise shell she-cat (mother of Coldfangs’ kits (Snow, a bluish and whitish she-cat and Ice, a blue tortoiseshell tom)
Snowfern (Ferns in Snow)-tortoise shell she-cat
Dewspot (Spots of Dew)-a gray she-cat with one huge white spot on her back
Leader: Tail of Cinder (Cindertail)-brown she-cat
Deputy: Redlight (Light of Red)-red tabby
Healing Cat: Bigheart (Big Heart)-a brown tabby tom who is completely blind
Dustfur (Dusty Fur)-dusky pale brown tabby
Goldenheart (Heart of Gold)-yellow she-cat
Silverfoot (Foot of Silver)-silver tortoise shell she-cat
Smokynose (Smoky Nose)-a smoky black tabby tom
Ashtail (Ash Tail)-a white-brown tabby
Leaffur (Fur made of Leaves)-dark tabby tom
Ripplepelt (Ripple Water)-dark gray tom
Springshine (Sign of Spring)-white-brown she-cat
Morninglight (Morning Light)-a tortoise shell she-cat
Blackheart (Heart of Black)-pale black tom
Pinefur (Fur of Pines)-short haired tabby
Tawnyfur (Tawny Fur)-tortoise shell she-cat (mother of Ripplepelt’s kits, Water (a bluish white tom), and Forest (a grayish greenish tortoise shell she-cat)
Kinkpelt (Pelt of Kink)-gray-brown she-cat
Runningrainbow (Running Rainbow)-white tom
Leader: Pelt of Honey (Honeypelt)-orange-yellow she-cat
Deputy: Weaslefur (Weasle Fur)-brown furred tabby
Healing Cat: Brightlight (Brightest Light)-brown she-cat blind in one eye
Shrewfern (Shrew in the Fern)-gray tabby tom
Otterfur (Fur of the Otter)-pale brown tabby
Birchfall (Falling Birch)-light brown tom
Earthwing (Wings of Earth)-brown tortoise shell she-cat
Rabbitfoot (Rabbit’s Foot)-white she-cat with pale brown paws
Mousewhisker (Whiskers of a Mouse)-a brown tabby tom
Grizzlynose (Grizzly’s Nose)-a black tom with a huge nose
Beetleeyes (Eyes of a Beetle)-greenish-grayish she-cat
Birdtrail (Trail of a Bird)-red-brown she-cat
Bumblestripes (Stripes of a Bee)-an unusually black stripped tom
Toadpelt (Toad’s Pelt)-dark brown tabby tom
Fishtail (Tail of Fish)-a silver-white she-cat
Voleear (Vole’s Ear)-pure white she-cat with two brown ears
Harespring (Spring of Hare)-white-brown tabby
Bluebird (Blue Bird)-bluish she-cat (mother of Otterfur’s kits Squirrel (a ginger she-cat with a bushy tail), Bear (a black tabby), Starling (a reddish she-cat), and Wolf (a brownish gray tabby tom)
The pounding of multiple, heavy paw steps caught Nightsky’s attention as she made her way out of the apprentice den in a rush. Sunset led his patrol into camp as if they were being chased by attackers. “What’s going on?” demanded Silence of the Night getting up from Skypelt’s side on the far end of the clearing. “Silence of the Night-” started Sunset slowing down across from him, panting heavily. “We don’t mean to raise alarm but, multiple piles of rabbit remains have been found along Protecting Tree.” “What?” growled Skypelt struggling to get to her paws. “Did you identify the scent?” ordered Silence of the Night. “Swift Tribe.” answered Sunset. “How dare they!” snarled Skypelt her fur bristling in undisguised rage. “We should teach them a lesson!” cried Wintersky. “That’s enough Wintersky.” meowed Silence of the Night firmly. “No cat will attack unless I give the command. For now, I will get another border patrol going.” The black tom flicked his tail to Risingmoon. Wintersky looked like he was about to argue but his mentor, Shiningnight gave him a warning glare. “Nightsky, Darkmoon, Skypelt! Come with me.” Risingmoon ordered racing out of camp with the three she-cats close behind.
“Those fox-hearted cowards!” cursed Skypelt as they saw the rabbit piles that Sunset had been talking about. “Maybe it isn’t Swift Tribe at all.” exclaimed Risingmoon. “What how could you say that, Risingmoon?!” protested Darkmoon, Risingmoon’s sister growling in agitation. Nightsky looked at her curiously. “Well think about it. Maybe a loner or rogue could’ve rolled that rabbit carcass in the scent markings so nobody would know.” explained Risingmoon thoughtfully. Skypelt didn’t seem convinced. “Maybe they want you to think that.” muttered Skypelt. “Well, I don’t see anything else here so let’s head-” Risingmoon was interrupted by an angry warrior. “Are you mouse-brained?” spat Skypelt infuriated. “We can’t keep letting them do this! I say we spy on them from in our territory!” Risingmoon looked shocked at the experienced warrior’s suggestion but slowly nodded her head. “I say Darkmoon and I take first watch.” meowed Skypelt quickly. Risingmoon silently agreed, aware that there was no way she could change the stubborn she-cat’s mind. Nightsky flicked her tail in farewell to her mother and her mentor before trotting back to camp with Risingmoon. “Thank you for coming Nightsky. I can report back to Silence of the Night myself; you should get some rest for now; you’re going to train with Cometblaze soon, Starynight will be taking over for Darkmoon today.” Nightsky silently obeyed but before she could lie down in her nest, a thought hit her head. Maybe Breezetail could join them- “Breezetail isn’t here; neither is Swiftfoot.” mumbled Nightsky to herself sadly. She had forgotten they were on the journey. Emptiness filled her stomach but she shook the feeling away; her sisters would be fine and before she knew it, they would be back in Star Tribe.
Cometblaze gulped down the last of her vole and stood up and stretched her stiff legs. The morning had gone by slowly with nothing to do and so far, she hoped she could be doing something before sun down. “Hey Cometblaze, you look like you could use something to do.” exclaimed Sunset. Cometblaze met her mentor’s gentle amber gaze as he stood before her. “Starynight arranged an afternoon of fighting lessons with Nightsky for us to join.” explained Sunset as Cometblaze sprang to her paws excitedly. The tabby she-cat flicked her ear in greeting as her sister’s excited gaze reflected off of her own. “Today will be the best training lesson every!” meowed Nightsky mysteriously. “This is our tenth training session; today we train against each other.” “You’re right about that Nightsky.” exclaimed Sunset. “So I’m hoping you remembered all the moves I taught you Cometblaze.” The orange and white tabby she-cat nodded her head curtly; she was ready. “Hey chatty cats, over here!” meowed Starynight impatiently as he stood inside the dirt-covered training grounds. “As Sunset has already informed you both, today you will be fighting each other; claws sheathed.” explained Starynight folding his tail neatly around his paws as he sat at the edge of the clearing. “Start!” Cometblaze hurtled herself at her vulnerable sister with full force. Nightsky let out a terrified shriek as the tabby she-cat bowled her over. Cometblaze looked at her mentor in triumph but she didn’t have long to celebrate before Nightsky quickly pinned her down with a heavy paw. “Good job Night.” exclaimed Starynight dipping his head in praise. “But do remember enemies will never wait for you to get back up; you should have pinned her down Cometblaze when you had the chance. Now, begin again.” Cometblaze shook scraps of dirt from her pelt as Nightsky got up and made her way to the opposite side of the clearing. This time, Nightsky thrust herself at Cometblaze but she was ready and easily dodged the oncoming attack. As the she-cat turned around to lunge onto her sister, she felt her sister land on her back as her breath shortened from the impact. Cometblaze struggled to get her sister off by kicking her legs but it was no use. Cometblaze desperately tried to think of a move she had seen Halfmoon and Wintersky practice on each other. “I have an idea.” she mumbled under her breath. Cometblaze stopped struggling and went limp underneath her sister who struggled to stay on with sheathed claws. The sudden change in gravity made Nightsky loose her balance immediately and Cometblaze didn’t hesitate to use it to her advantage as she pinned Nightsky to the ground before she could get up from her dazed state. But Nightsky easily wiggled free and gave her a soft blow to the shoulder before racing under Cometblaze’s belly and jumping up making the she-cat go airborne. Cometblaze regained consciousness but by then her legs had given up on her as she lay exhaustedly on her bruised side. “I win again.” meowed Nightsky teasingly. “Much better this time Cometblaze, may I ask where you learned that move?” “When we watched Halfmoon and Wintersky train.” replied Cometblaze shyly. “Good job both of you.” praised Starynight. “We’ll have one more round before we head back to camp.” Before her sister could object, Cometblaze took her by surprise and lunged as the impact made Nightsky tumble backwards. Cometblaze paws her belly, pretending to claw it while her sibling struggled helplessly under her weight. But when Nightsky went limp to unbalance Cometblaze, she was ready and jumped off of her as Nightsky struggled to her feet. When she was finally balanced, Cometblaze unbalanced her again and threw her backwards with a powerful slam to the side. Cometblaze’s heart lurched when Nightsky stayed unmoving as she tumbled and slammed into a tree. “Nightsky!” yowled Cometblaze in dread. Had she seriously injured her sister? Nightsky twitched and nodded her head slowly. “I’m fine.”
Breezetail ate her vole in quick, swift bites. Duskpelt, Breezetail, Swiftfoot, Heatherbracken Clearsnow, Hailfoot, Goldenheart, Rabbitfoot and Grizzlynose had spent the night in some undergrowth outside of the forest that they had passed through the previously. “Is everyone ready to keep going?” asked Heatherbracken. Every cat nodded their heads as they all stood up and ruffled their pelts. “Ok let’s get going. “Which way Swiftfoot?” asked Clearsnow. “Well, the sun came up this way…” Swiftfoot mumbled looking back from where they had come. “So that should mean we go the opposite way.” Breezetail’s stomach tightened as all nine cats faced the large, dark shadows of monstrous mountains a few hours away. Heatherbracken signaled for them to move out as she lead the way into further unknown territory. Even though they were out of the forest, prey scampered to and fro through the small bushes and grass. “Prey is definitely plentiful here.” Breezetail whispered to Duskpelt. She could see he had noticed too, his mouth had begun to water as he looked at a plump squirrel in a tree. In the distance, Breezetail confusedly stared at pointy caped shelters a distance away. “What are those?” asked Breezetail. Duskpelt looked in the same direction curiously. “Oh, those you twoleg nests; it’s their home.” Breezetail stopped in her tracks to see if she could spot a twoleg going inside its nest but to no avail as she bounded after Duskpelt and the rest of the group.
After a while, the woodlands turned into grasslands with odd, white fluffy creatures grazing from behind a fence. “What are those woolly creatures over there?” exclaimed Breezetail in alarm. “For Sky Tribe’s sake; so many questions!” hissed Rabbitfoot in annoyance. Breezetail shot an aggressive glare towards the warrior before turning her attention back to the white fluff balls. “We call them sheep.” replied Duskpelt ignoring Rabbitfoot.
Soon, the meadow turned back into woodland and rabbits bounced around freely in the distance. “Who wants to hunt for rabbit?” exclaimed Grizzlynose hungrily. “I guess we can stop to hunt.” mumbled Heatherbracken disapprovingly. Breezetail offered to stay with her sister but Duskpelt disagreed. “Swiftfoot can look after herself.” objected Duskpelt. Breezetail reluctantly followed the young warrior away from the rest of the group. “So much prey; don’t you think Breezetail?” exclaimed Duskpelt. Breezetail didn’t reply; she was too busy stalking a white rabbit that was nibbling on some grass nearby. Her prey had no idea it was being watched until the very last minute. She picked up its cold, limp body and returned back to the group with Duskpelt and his catch. Breezetail dipped her head in greeting to Swiftfoot and put her catch at her sibling’s paws. “Are you sure Breezetail?” asked Swiftfoot wide-eyed. Breezetail nodded her head and padded away. She had to admit, her belly was grumbling but she said nothing and sat next to her friend. “Do you want to share this rabbit with me?” asked Duskpelt shyly. “Thanks.” mumbled Breezetail solemnly as she gulped down a few bites before letting the tom finish it. “Well let’s get going.” meowed Heatherbracken as everyone got ready to leave. “Don’t push us around too much.” hissed Grizzlynose. “Well, if you’d be deputy you would understand.” replied Heatherbracken unsympathetically. Grizzlynose didn’t reply but swished his tail around aggressively
Silence filled the air as tension grew amongst the traveling cats after the argument between Heatherbracken and Grizzlynose. Swiftfoot sighed in sadness; I wonder what’s happening back at Star Tribe, she thought. “Are you ok?” asked Goldenheart as she slowed down so Swiftfoot could catch up to her. “I-It’s hard being away from home so long.” admitted Swiftfoot sadness filling her voice. “We all do Swiftfoot. But you have to remember, we’re doing this for our tribe mates and their lives.” reminded Goldenheart sympathetically. The she-cat was right; this was for their kin and tribe mates.
The woodland seemed to go by faster than usual and soon everyone came to a dead stop. Silence lasted for a few moments before some cats started to become curious at why the rest of the group had stopped dead in their tracks. “Oh for Sky Tribe’s sake what’s going on?” snapped Grizzlynose impatiently. “We’ve reached the mountains!”
Energy was bustling inside the camp as Nightsky came back from a long walk. The day had started to go by slowly with none of her siblings to talk to. “Nightsky it’s our turn to keep guard along the Swift Tribe border. Risingmoon’s orders.” explained Wintersky greeting the she-cat curtly. “We’re allowed to go without a warrior?” asked Nightsky in bewilderment. “I’m an experienced apprentice. I should technically be a warrior already.” boasted Wintersky proudly. The she-cat rolled her eyes and left camp with the tom leading the way.
Her mother’s scent was strong and led them straight to their hideout. Skypelt’s head popped out of a shrub as she heard their paw steps approaching. “What are you two doing out here without a warrior?” snapped Skypelt in outrage. Wintersky rolled his eyes. “I’m an experienced apprentice.” “What he means is,” added Nightsky quickly. “Risingmoon sent us to switch places with you.” “Well alright.” mumbled Darkmoon. “If the deputy requested it then it should be true.” Skypelt mumbled her approval disbelievingly before padding off back to camp. Wintersky and Nightsky quickly and quietly positioned themselves in the undergrowth to get a good view of Protecting Tree and Icy Groove.
It felt like forever before they heard rustling of undergrowth beyond Swift Tribe territory. Nightsky nudged Wintersky as he started to drift off. She smelt the air cautiously; it was Otterfur, Earthwing, Beetleeyes, and Mousewhisker. That’s strange, she thought. Why would they need so many warriors just to mark Icy Groove? “They’re going to cross into our territory!” meowed Wintersky getting ready to leap out from behind the shrub. “Shh! Quiet mouse-brain!” hissed Nightsky. “Do you want them to hear us!?” Leaves brushed gently against her face as she peaked out to see where the patrol was heading. “Do you think this is enough for the first wave of attackers?” asked Mousewhisker uncertainly. “Those pathetic Star Tribe cats won’t see it coming.” snarled Beetleeyes confidently. “They’re too weak to even fend off four of Swift Tribe’s warriors. Nightsky’s fur started to bristle. “They’re underestimating us.” she growled quietly. Soon, all four warriors slowly crossed the cold river and passed Protecting Tree without any hesitation. “Go.” whispered Wintersky. “What?” meowed Nightsky in confusion. “Get back up! I’ll try to hold them off as best as I can! Go!” Nightsky snuck away undetected before running as fast as her legs could carry her all the way back to camp. “Where Wintersky?” asked Silence of the Night as she skidded to a stop in front of him. “Swift Tribe.” she managed to say before she gulped in another breath of air. “They’re attacking! Wintersky is trying to hold off four warriors on his own!” “Risingmoon, Starynight, Snowpetal, Sunset, and Halfmoon go with Nightsky! If you need back up, Risingmoon will give the signal.” “Let’s go!” yowled Risingmoon racing away with Nightsky in the lead.
She couldn’t hear much combat going on as they neared the border. Nightsky feared the worst for the outnumbered apprentice. Yowls of triumph sounded in the distance and soon Nightsky heard voices. “Should we kill him to send Star Tribe a message?” asked Otterfur creepily. “I think that’s going too far Otterfur.” objected Mousewhisker quickly. “We already beat him up pretty badly.” “He sure did put up a good fight though.” Beetleeyes admitted. “Star Tribe might be tougher than we thought.” “Now!” shrieked Risingmoon as her patrol leapt onto the trespassers. “How did they know we were attacking?!” cried Earthwing. “Wintersky was alone! There was no way he could’ve called for backup!” Blood splattered Nightsky’s claws as she dug them into the she-cat’s unprotected shoulder. Earthwing let out an annoyed screech and powerfully grabbed Nightsky with her jaws and threw her to the ground roughly. “So much power!” exclaimed Nightsky quietly as she struggled to her paws but she was too slow. Earthwing held the apprentice down menacingly and dug her strong claws into Nightsky’s shoulders. The black she-cat could feel her skin being torn and thought fast. Nightsky twisted her body quickly from side to side and kicked the warrior’s belly until she coughed up droplets of blood. Now that she had weakened her opponent, Nightsky quickly took advantage and dug her claws deep into the she-cat’s side with full force. The injury was too great for Earthwing as she fled into the trees beyond her territory. But just as Earthwing was out of sight, seven shapes burst out and raced over the river. Star Tribe was outnumbered badly! All of Swift Tribe was joining in on the battle. From the outside of the clearing, Risingmoon seemed oblivious to what was happening around her; Nightsky had to inform the she-cat they needed back up quickly or they would lose. A gray and white tabby she-cat blocked her path; it was Fishtail. “Sorry Nightsky but loyalty comes first.” hissed the apprentice quietly. Nightsky didn’t reply but knocked Fishtail to the ground roughly and clawed her flank as she tried to flee. Fishtail bared her teeth aggressively and slashed Nightsky’s cheek. The she-cat could feel her skin pounding as blood slowly dripped out. Nightsky looked at her fustratedly. Just let me get to Risingmoon, she yelled in her head. She clawed at her opponent wildly and hit her multiple times uncontrollably before Fishtail fled. “Risingmoon!” howled Nightsky racing towards the deputy.
The day seemed to stretch on forever as Cometblaze restlessly padded around camp awaiting Risingmoon’s signal impatiently. She could hear the battle raging on and the entire camp seemed to have gone dead silent with anticipation. “If we have to-” Silence of the Night was cut off by an abrupt yowl from his deputy. “Cometblaze, Skypelt, Darkmoon! We’re heading out now! Moonpool, Cloudysun, if anything happens I’m counting on you to put up a fight! Lightningclaw I hope you’re ready for your role!” “I always am and always will be!” Lightningclaw yowled after them as they left camp in a hurry. Before they could even enter the bloody clearing, Cometblaze could see the damage they had done to Wintersky when he had been defending Star Tribe’s territory on his own. Now battered and bruised, his sister Snowpetal had started dragging him to camp to make sure he hadn’t gotten any serious injuries.
Swift Tribe greatly outnumbered Star Tribe in the battle as the second wave of Star Tribe warriors finally made it to the clearing. A blood soaked black pelt caught her eye; Nightsky was outnumbered three to one. The tabby she-cat clawed her sibling’s attackers from behind and jumped powerfully onto Otterfur’s unprotected back. The tom struggled and eventually got free but ended stumbling backwards and stepping on Birchfall’s tail. “Watch it mouse-brain!” hissed Birchfall glaring angrily at his comrade. Nightsky nodded her head in thanks as both toms started to bicker between each other before being bowled over by attackers from Star Tribe. Before Cometblaze could reply, Nightsky had seemed to vanish before her eyes. Cometblaze looked around in confusion as she searched for sister’s pitch black pelt. A long, agonizing pain struck her side as she trailed off in thought. Cometblaze shrieked in pain but stood her ground firmly as she turned around to face her attacker. She skillfully slashed at Toadpelt’s soft underbelly and quickly ran her claws across his shoulder revealing a long, deep gash. It looked like the warrior had had enough as he made his way slowly over Icy Groove and back into his territory. But there wasn’t a breath to waste as a grayish-green pelt raced towards her with uncontrollable speed. The tabby she-cat swiftly dodged Beetleeye’s attack just in time and tried to kick her to the ground but her feeble attack was weak on the strong warrior. Beetleeyes took the advantage and pinned her rival down roughly as she raised one paw in the air to give a painful slash to her face. Cometblaze painfully twisted her head on an awkward angle letting her whiskers touch the ruffled dirt floor of the battle. She quickly struggled free with her body aching to catch up to the movement of her head and in a flash, the apprentice flung the warrior feebly into the air but enough for the landing to hurt. Cometblaze hurriedly clawed Beetleeye’s face and injured her eye. The warrior shrieked before stumbling to her paws. The apprentice fled away from the warrior as Beetleeyes warily made her way back into her own territory. Without looking where she was going, Cometblaze bumped into her father but he didn’t seem to notice as he faced Pelt of Honey menacingly. “Why are you attacking?” he hissed venomously. “We’re running out of room in our territory.” snarled Pelt of Honey getting ready to spring at Star Tribe’s leader. “Never!” yowled Silence of the Night flinging himself at his opponent. Cometblaze bunched her muscles together to get ready to join the fight but a tail on her shoulder stopped her head in her tracks. “This is their fight.” meowed Sunset calmly. Everyone had stopped fighting to watch the two leaders decide who would win. “Don’t just stand there! Fight you mouse-brains!” snapped Pelt of Honey blocking Silence of the Night’s skilled attack. Once more, the clearing was complete and utter chaos. Cometblaze ducked down as Toadpelt leaped over her. “He’s still here?” The she-cat charged after the apprentice as he leaped onto Nightsky. Cometblaze hit him so hard; she knocked the breath out of herself. “You saved me again.” she teased before vanishing into the chaotic battle once more. Cometblaze struggled to catch her breath as Toadpelt’s brother Bumblestripes came to avenge his defeat. But it seemed he had already been beaten several times; his hits her weaker than his bruised body. She easily struggled free from his weakening grip and clawed him across the flank. She could tell Bumblestripes was on the verge of collapsing from exhaustion but the apprentice continued to stand his ground as his breath grew louder and noisier. “Go back to your own territory you fox-hearted kit!” she snarled chasing the apprentice back into his own territory in a last attempt effort to get rid of the apprentice. But it seemed as though all of Swift Tribe was starting to retreat. Cometblaze stopped running and turned around to realize Pelt of Honey had called retreat. Her fellow comrades yowled in triumph as the last of Swift Tribe’s warriors disappeared. “Don’t mess with Star Tribe!” shrieked Halfmoon at the top of his lungs. Silence of the Night flicked his tail as everyone, limping, made their way back to camp. Cometblaze couldn’t help but look around at her tribe mate’s injuries. Snowpetal had a swollen eye and several scratches along her spine. Her sister had a tiny portion of her ear missing and, well, every cat was tired and awaiting their comfy nests.
Jagged rocks and sheer cliffs and drop-offs were all Swiftfoot could see ahead. “Man, I wonder how far we’ve already walked since we first entered the mountains.” complained Clearsnow. “I’m tired and hungry.” “We have to find shelter first before we rest.” Heatherbracken meowed sternly. “She’s right.” admitted Grizzlynose. “Should we split up into groups?” The traveling cats stopped in their tracks and faced Grizzlynose. “What are you proposing we do Grizzlynose?” asked Goldenheart curiously. “One group could go hunting and the other goes looking for shelter.” explained the warrior confidently. “Not a bad idea.” exclaimed Duskpelt. “Though we should do it more like this; best hunters go hunting and most experienced warriors go scouting.” “And apprentices can go looking for herbs and feathers and leaves for nests.” added Swiftfoot quickly. “I agree with that.” meowed Heatherbracken. “But apprentices can’t go scouting alone in unknown territory.” protested Hailfoot. “I can go with them.” volunteered Goldenheart without hesitation. “Very well, Goldenheart will go with Swiftfoot, Clearsnow, and Breezetail.” meowed Heatherbracken. “I think I should go with the shelter squad.” objected Breezetail. “I’m not trying to brag or anything but I’m a pretty good tracker in Star Tribe.” The deputy nodded her head in satisfaction. “Very well, Breezetail will join Rabbitfoot and I in shelter squad. Any objections?” Rabbitfoot shook her head. “Does that mean Grizzlynose, Duskfur and I will be the hunting patrol?” asked Hailfoot. Heatherbracken nodded her head. “We’ll meet back here when the sun goes down.” The traveling cats split up and made their way into unknown territory. “I hope the shelter patrol is lucky; we need shelter more than anything right now.” muttered Goldenheart. “I think this might help raise your spirits.” meowed Clearsnow in excitement. “There’s a huge cave up ahead that you guys have to see!” “Well so much for the shelter patrol.” exclaimed Swiftfoot. “Do you think we should go search for them?” “Absolutely not.” meowed Goldenheart sternly. “There is no way we are splitting up. Plus, we are the scavenging patrol; we can set up the cave faster than the shelter patrol can so we’re in luck.” Swiftfoot nodded her head and peaked inside the cave; it was a great fit for all nine cats. “This is great!” exclaimed Clearsnow. “This is definitely big enough for everyone! Let’s build a shelter in here!” “I did see some moss not far from here.” admitted Swiftfoot. “It’s a little ways downward.” “We’ll take care of it Swiftfoot; you can search for herbs nearby.” The healing cat apprentice nodded her head in determination and sniffed the air for ragwort as Goldenheart and Clearsnow made their way downhill. A tangy yet satisfying smells hit her nose and she twitched her ear in excitement. She spotted the long, sagging green leaf of ragwort and gently pulled them out. “These will come in very handy! If I could just find some juniper berries and chamomile I could make a poultice for strength.” Swiftfoot mumbled to herself before racing off to try and find the most important herbs they could use on this journey.
“Hey Swiftfoot!” greeted Goldenheart as the warrior slowed down to report her findings. “Clearsnow and I found a small pond close to the cave and we’re using some left over moss to soak up the water for the cave. What have you found so far?” “I’m collecting ragwort and chamomile to create a poultice to help us continue to travel in the morning.” reported Swiftfoot. “If you could look out for small, blue berries on a tree that would be a big help.” Goldenheart nodded her head. “It is almost time to head back and meet up with everyone else. The sun is starting to set. Oh and I almost forgot to mention, we finished making nests for everyone from moss and feathers. Meet us back at the cave in a few minutes before we have to head down.” “Actually, I’ll head to the cave now; I don’t think this is the right environment for juniper berries to be growing in, it’s far too cold up here. I’m even surprised chamomile is still sprouting.” All of a sudden Clearsnow raced past the she-cats with wades of moss dripping from his mouth. “Let’s go.” meowed Goldenheart following the apprentice more slowly.
The den was fairly warm when they actually managed to get back. The beds were all neatly lined up against the walls of the cave leaving a fairly big opening in the middle of the den. “We have a bit of time before we leave actually.” exclaimed Goldenheart in embarrassment. “Should we go out looking for more herbs?” Swiftfoot thought for a moment. “Why not?” she simply replied. “Who knows what could happen tonight.”
Fear was hanging high in the air as the shelter patrol endlessly made its way around the mountain looking for a place to call home for the night. “This is mouse dung!” spat Rabbitfoot impatiently. “We need to find shelter before sun down and it’s almost time to head back and report!” “Fox.” hissed Heatherbracken, fur bristling. “It’s stale though, hasn’t been her for a season or so.” “I can’t scent anything that isn’t stale either.” growled Rabbitfoot relaxing on the cave subject as her attention changed. “This place is like an abandoned twoleg nest.” “Fresh fox.” murmured Breezetail in alarm. “What?” hissed Rabbitfoot. “I can’t hear you, speak up!” “I said fresh fox;” snapped Breezetail in annoyance. “Only a moon old.” Both warriors sniffed the air in rising alarm. “How did I miss this strong scent?” exclaimed Heatherbracken. “It’s everywhere!” “Well it looks like we have to head back now.” growled Rabbitfoot in a bitter tone. “So much for shelter tonight.” Breezetail followed the two she-cats and pushed the fox scents to the back of her mind.
The shelter patrol was the last one to appear and every cat seemed tired but looked restless as they finally settled down. “The mountains are full with dim-witted prey.” exclaimed Grizzlynose smirking. “They were totally unaware of us.” The patrol had caught a huge number of prey; four rabbits, six mice, two voles, and three shrews making it fifteen totaled catches from only three hunters. Breezetail looked at them with an impressed expression; she would’ve never been able to catch even half as much as that. “We were unable to find any shelter whatsoever but while searching we detected some stale and fresh fox scents close to this area.” reported Heatherbracken. “Lucky for us. We get to share the ultimate news!” exclaimed Clearsnow out loud. “We found a great cave for sheltering us tonight and we’ve already made nests for everyone using moss, feathers, and leaves!” Breezetail felt embarrassed at their great accomplishment; they had found much more than any of the other patrols had in such little time. “Did you guys manage to find some herbs as well?” asked Breezetail trying not to show the challenge in her voice. “In fact,” started Swiftfoot. “We managed to find ragwort and chamomile which was just enough to make a poultice of strength for everyone for tomorrow’s journey.” Breezetail shook off her jealousy and remained quiet. “Let’s go check out the shelter.” ordered Heatherbracken. “Everyone can help carry a piece of prey before heading off to follow Goldenheart, Swiftfoot, and Clearsnow.
Breezetail dropped the plump mouse she was carrying as they entered the cave. It was bigger than she had thought it would be and seemed plentiful with space. “Let’s put our prey in the middle of the cave.” meowed Grizzlynose. “Good job.” praised Breezetail padding up to her sister who looked at her in confidence. “First let’s see how much food we have left over.” teased Rabbitfoot interrupting Swiftfoot and Breezetail’s conversation. As everyone settled down to eat, Duskpelt greeted Breezetail and pushed a rabbit towards her. “Would you like to share?” he asked. “Why not?” she replied looking at the rabbit hungrily.
The overpowering odor of infection caught Cometblaze’s nose in disgust. The tabby opened her tired crisp green eyes and scanned the apprentice den for the smell. She could feel her shoulder throbbing as she moved around. The scratch she had gotten from Toadpelt earlier that day seemed to gotten infected as she was sleeping. She stumbled to her paws as her shoulder continued to swell immensely. I should go see Lightningclaw immediately, she thought. “Lightningclaw!” she hissed prodding the ivy tendrils away from the den entrance. “What do you want?” grumbled Lightningclaw twitching his ear. “My shoulder is swelling up.” she replied. “So that’s why I smelt infection!” he exclaimed racing out of his nest in a flash. He gently touched it with his nose since he couldn’t see her wound because it was still dark outside. “Thankfully it has only begun to get infected so it should be easy to stop it from spreading now.” exclaimed Lightningclaw in relief. “Hold still while I apply coltsfoot.” The healing cat grabbed some dried up flowers from a pile farther back inside the den. He quickly chewed up the stem and flower into a pulp before spreading it onto Cometblaze’s infected shoulder. The she-cat flinched as it soaked into her skin. “Now I’ll just leave some cobweb over the wound to make sure it heals properly this time.” he explained gently placing the spider webs onto her healing wound. “You know this means you cannot battle train tomorrow with Nightsky?” Cometblaze looked at him in shock. “How did you know?” Lightningclaw looked at her in amusement. “A healing cat knows all, Cometblaze.” “But-” objected Cometblaze. “No buts’ Cometblaze; you need to rest up so you can regain more energy.” interrupted Lightningclaw sternly. “That’s an order Cometblaze. I’ll tell your mentor not to disturb you so you can be able to train again in no time but for now you must stay in your nest and sleep.”
Cometblaze’s nest was empty as Nightsky came back after eating a skinny yet juicy vole. “Mouse dung! She couldn’t have already left with someone else to battle train could she?” Nightsky thought aloud. “I’m right here.” meowed an exhausted voice from behind her. “What happened to your shoulder?” exclaimed Nightsky greeting her sister with a curt nod. “I thought we could battle train together!” “I guess you’ll have to find someone else.” she meowed bitterly. “Toadpelt really did a number on me; my scratch is infected and Lightningclaw says I’m not allowed out of my nest until it’s healed.” Cometblaze limped past her sister and back into the apprentice den. Poor Cometblaze, she thought glumly. Who am I going to train with today? Snowpetal and Wintersky were just heading out on a patrol with their mentors; then a thought struck her. She spotted Halfmoon a distance away by himself as he came back from the dirt place. “Halfmoon!” she greeted him bounding over. “You’re not training with anybody are you?” “Beats me, why?” he asked flicking his ear in greeting. “Would you like to battle train with me?” she asked shyly. Halfmoon looked at her excitedly. “Why not? I’ll go get my mentor to see if it’s ok with her.” The tom trotted away with his tail held high. “So have you chosen someone to come with us?” asked Darkmoon padding up from behind Nightsky unexpectedly. “Y-yes.” stammered Nightsky jumping up in surprise. “Halfmoon is checking with Risingmoon.” “Let’s go.” meowed Halfmoon as he appeared with his mentor.
The training grounds were silent as they entered and the trees towering above them swayed gently in the breeze giving off tiny groans. “Now since Nightsky is less experienced, I would like Halfmoon to go a bit easy on my apprentice.” Nightsky glowed with rage and embarrassment. I’ll show them all I’m just as good as Halfmoon, she thought to herself challengingly. “Fight!” The word rung in Nightsky’s ears as she barely gave Halfmoon a chance to turn around as she sprang at him with such force; he tumbled a few fox lengths before coming to a stop. Halfmoon quickly recovered and jumped on top of the skilled apprentice sending her toppling to the ground. Fortunately, Nightsky wasn’t about to lose just yet; she pretended to claw his belly while she swiftly grabbed his tail between her jaws and gave it a fairly hard tug. Halfmoon let out a strange alarmed sound and jumped in the air uncontrollably. This gave Nightsky a chance to quickly run and leap up into the air to hurl herself at Halfmoon with little effort resulting in him toppling over again. She quickly took the advantage and pinned him down successfully. “Impressive job Nightsky.” praised Darkmoon. “I really like the tail-between-the-jaws trick.” Nightsky swelled up in pride and held her head high in the air. “Keep that up and you’ll be the best fighter in our tribe!” purred Halfmoon in amusement as he sprang to his paws. “Now that you finally have proven to me you could take on an experienced apprentice, it’s time you and I battle train together.” explained Darkmoon. “Let’s do this.” murmured Nightsky playfully before turning serious. Darkmoon aimed herself at Nightsky and charged powerfully towards her in a matter of seconds. The apprentice quickly thought of a clever idea and climbed a tree nearby. Darkmoon stopped before she smashed into the tree and looked up at her apprentice. Nightsky quickly landed a back flip on Darkmoon’s bare back but her mentor knew better and quickly moved forward sending her crashing into the tree. “Good job!” exclaimed Risingmoon in surprise. Darkmoon crashed out of the undergrowth and onto her apprentice like a rocket. “I win.” meowed Darkmoon panting heavily. “You put up a good fight though.” “I don’t think so!” growled Nightsky powerfully wiggling free from Darkmoon’s weak grasp. Unfortunately, Darkmoon knew what was coming and pinned her down once again. “That was amazing Nightsky!” meowed Darkmoon letting her up. “I loved the tree climbing trick you used like I taught you! I didn’t even see that one coming at first!” “I think you two are done battle training for the day.” exclaimed Risingmoon proudly. “You two deserve to hunt for yourselves. Halfmoon and I shall train by ourselves for the rest of the afternoon.”
“You have amazing skill Nightsky.” Darkmoon admitted as they headed down to the lake. “I almost thought for a second you would beat me!” Nightsky’s warm, blue eyes gleamed in the sun with gratitude. “I’ll hunt closer towards the lake so you don’t have to hear my nagging about how awesome you were today anymore ok?” Nightsky nodded her head and headed for Protecting Tree. She knew it was a risky move, especially after having won their territory back against Swift Tribe but she wanted to make sure everything was still in order after yesterday. The clearing had seemed to clean up itself; only a few bloodstains remained and only a couple tufts of fur were to be seen. Nightsky scented a mouse in the ivy tendrils and leaped without hesitation, landing square on its tiny back. She picked up her catch warily as she looked beyond Icy Groove and into Swift Tribe’s territory to make out any spies. “You won’t find any Swift Tribe scent over there.” snarled an icy voice. Nightsky whipped around to see Beetleeyes and Bumblestripes emerge from the undergrowth. “We respect our borders unlike you fox-hearted beasts.” growled Beetleeyes. Nightsky stayed extremely calm but could feel herself bubbling with rage at their false accusations. “You can tell Silence of the Night about us all you want, we all know this used to be Swift Tribe’s territory until you,” she spat the last word bitterly. “Claimed it for yourself.” “Say what you want Swift Tribe.” replied Nightsky coolly. “We’ll never be like you.”
A tangy yet unpleasant and unforgettable smell filled Swiftfoot’s nostrils. “Fox!” she shrieked jumping out of her nest. “Great Sky Tribe!” yowled Breezetail as she heard Swiftfoot’s scream. “What is it?” Every cat sprang to their paws with bristling fur and unsheathed claws. “What’s wrong?” asked Goldenheart in alarm. “A-a fox was in our den!” stammered Swiftfoot looking around wildly for evidence. Breezetail smelt the air in alarm. “She’s right. I smell a strong scent of fox that wasn’t here before.” “Could this have been a fox’s den before?” asked Hailfoot warily. “The scent is very strong over here.” exclaimed Breezetail as she prodded two plump juicy rabbits inside their cave. “These rabbits are completely covered with the stench of fox.” Swiftfoot examined the kill. “It was definitely killed by a fox as well.” she muttered as she ran her paw over two large tooth marks. “But why would a fox leave his kill here?” exclaimed Clearsnow. “It makes no sense.” “Let’s just get out of here and continue on our way as fast as we can.” meowed Heatherbracken calmly. “But we don’t have any kill left.” objected Rabbitfoot. “We ate it all yesterday and besides, I don’t feel like hunting in fox territory.” “We can share between those two rabbits instead.” suggested Heatherbracken. “Are you mouse-brained?!” hissed Grizzlynose in bewilderment. “That’s a fox’s meal!” “Well think about it this way,” interrupted Swiftfoot. “The fox brought it here a while ago, shouldn’t it have been back a while ago to get its meal?” “She’s got a point there.” muttered Duskpelt. “Let’s just ear quickly and get going again. Who’s with me?” Swiftfoot heard a few grunts of disagreement but everyone finally ate their share in quick, swift bites. “Is everybody finished?” asked Swiftfoot. “Yeah but I’m still hungry.” complained Clearsnow glumly. “About that, last night, I managed to make a strengthening poultice for everyone so you can walk longer than you normally do.” Swiftfoot handed everyone a bundle of herbs mashed into a pulp. “Thank you Swiftfoot.” meowed Heatherbracken in respect as she lapped up the poultice.
“Wow Swiftfoot this poultice really does work!” exclaimed Goldenheart as they continued to trek up the side of the mountain. “I feel great even after walking up the steepest part of this mountain so far!” Swiftfoot accepted her word of praise with a curt nod. “Watch out!” cried Heatherbracken in alarm as she came to a sudden stop. Swiftfoot looked ahead of Heatherbracken to find their pack had been broken. “What now?” murmured Duskpelt. “It’s not too wide, we can jump across one by one.” ordered Heatherbracken bunching her muscles together and jumping flawlessly to the other side. Goldenheart blinked in surprise before following her lead without hesitation. “I’ll see you on the other side.” Breezetail whispered to Duskpelt affectionately. Duskpelt’s eyes glowed admirably. Swiftfoot flicked her ear in surprise. She had never known Breezetail could be the one to talk that soft before. Swiftfoot trailed off in thought unnoticeably. “Hey! Mouse-brain! You coming!?” hissed Grizzlynose impatiently. Swiftfoot took a deep breath before landing squarely on the other side of the ledge.
By sun down, the strengthening poultice was losing its edge and everyone seemed to slow down there pace by fox lengths each minute. “We need to find shelter before the sun goes down.” meowed Heatherbracken sternly. “I don’t think we’ll be able to hunt tonight-” Groans interrupted Heatherbracken. “We’ve traveled all day!” complained Duskpelt. “We need to eat something; we didn’t exactly eat much this morning either except some leftover food from a fox’s meal!” “Silence.” hissed Heatherbracken in exhaustion. “Shelter comes first. We can hunt as much as we want tomorrow but for now, we sleep.” “Well then where are we supposed to find shelter up here?” challenged Hailfoot losing his patience. “How about in that fox’s den?” asked Goldenheart unexpectedly as she eyed a cave several fox lengths away. “Did you say it’s a fox’s den?” repeated Duskpelt disbelievingly. “How do you know?” “Can’t you smell it from here?” asked Breezetail. “It’s fairly strong.” “Hey!” exclaimed Grizzlynose. “That’s a great idea! Let’s sleep in a fox’s den and be awoken to each other being eaten alive in our sleep!” Goldenheart glared at him angrily. “The den is clean; not a fox in sight.” reported Clearsnow trotting back from the den. “Did you just go inspect that den alone?” growled Hailfoot aggressively. The apprentice didn’t notice his angry tone. “I was tired of you guys arguing so I just went to go check on it myself.” “Well since it’s clean.” interrupted Heatherbracken making her way over to the den. “Let’s stay here for the night.” Every cat followed her in complete silence and went to bed with growling, empty stomachs.
The wailing sound of tiny, innocent kits filled Cometblaze’s ears. “Am I having a dream?” she mumbled aloud forcing her eyes to open. “Cometblaze? Do you hear that too?” whispered Nightsky looking around in alarm. “It’s not a dream?” she complained grumpily. “It sounds like hungry kits!” exclaimed Nightsky quietly, ignoring her sister’s comment. “Could it be Dawnflower’s kits?” whispered Cometblaze curiously. “It can’t be, it sounds like the wailing is coming from outside camp.” replied Nightsky worriedly. Her sibling quietly and quickly got out of her nest. “Where are you going?” hissed Cometblaze standing up. “Where does it look like I’m going?” she whispered back. “I’m going to get Lightningclaw so he can help us locate the kits!” Cometblaze hesitantly followed her sister into the healing den. “What do you kits want?” growled Lightningclaw sleepily. “Honestly! Waking me up for the second night in a row!” “We have urgent news.” whispered Nightsky impatiently. Cometblaze and I suspect there are abandoned kits outside of camp!” Lightningclaw got to his paws in a flash, as if he had never been asleep. “Show me.” he meowed racing out of camp with immense speed. Cometblaze led the way, her ears taking control of her paw steps. “They’re in here!” she exclaimed. Nightsky gasped in horror. “Inside a fox den?! How are they even alive? The fox was just here! Its scent is super strong!” “There’s no time!” snapped Lightningclaw racing in without hesitation. “It’s gone for now so we have a chance to save them!” Cometblaze sighed and followed Lightningclaw worriedly. “Their cries are coming closer!” meowed Nightsky happily. “They’re at the very back!” yowled Lightningclaw. “Each of you take one and meet me beside the entrance to this den.” Cometblaze quickly picked up the closest she-cat and raced out; the stench of fox was too over powering for her nose to handle. Lightningclaw was already examining a golden tabby tom. “He’s completely healthy just a bit hungry that’s all. These three will need a foster mother if they want to survive.” explained Lightningclaw as he examined a fluffy gray he-cat. “Could Dawnflower care for them?” asked Nightsky hopefully. “Dawnflower can’t handle three kits when she’s going to bear her own soon.” “Then who could?” asked Cometblaze desperately. “Skypelt is the only other option I have in mind right now. I could give her some borage leaves right away to speed up her milk supply but your mother would have to agree.” “Would that mean we would be related?” asked Nightsky excitedly. “Yes and no but that isn’t important right now.” meowed Lightningclaw sternly. “I need one of you to go fetch your mother to see if she would be willing to take in these three kits.” “I’ll go.” she replied racing off.
She snuck into camp quietly and trotted over to the warriors den without making a single noise. “Skypelt!” hissed Cometblaze impatiently. “What is it?” Skypelt meowed leaping to her feet as she sensed the alarm in her daughter’s voice. “Lightningclaw needs your immediate attention. You need to follow me.” Skypelt followed Cometblaze without hesitation as she filled her mother in on all the details. Lightningclaw was pacing around impatiently while Nightsky continued to lick all three wailing kits on their tiny heads as they finally returned. “These are the three youngsters who were abandoned?” asked Skypelt. “They’re so adorable!” “Good you guys are back!” meowed Nightsky. “I’m just about to head off to tell Silence of the Night the news.” “Ah Skypelt good you made it.” meowed Lightningclaw rushing over as Nightsky left. “We would like you to raise these kits as your own. There life depends on a mother right now. They aren’t old enough to eat actual prey.” Skypelt nodded her head. “I’d be happy to take them in.” she replied. “I’ll name the fluffy gray one Cloudy Willow or Cloud for short. I’ll name the other she-cat Watcher of the Sky or Sky for short and I’ll name the tom Strike of the Sun or Sun for short.” “You can decide their names in the to-be-mothers den!” snapped Lightningclaw. “For now we have to get them to safety in case that fox comes back.”
Silence of the Night and Nightsky were already waiting inside the den with a newly made nest waiting for Skypelt’s arrival. Lightningclaw raced in panting with borage leaves for the warrior dangling from his mouth. “Eat these to help your milk come faster.” he ordered dropping them at her paws. “Have you named them already?” asked Silence of the Night purring affectionately as he rubbed his cheek against Skypelt’s. “Cloudy Willow, Watcher of the Sky, and Strike of the Sun.” she replied returning his affection. “Or Cloud, Sky, and Sun for short.” added Nightsky proudly. “Those are wonderful names.” replied Silence of the Night happily as he lay down beside his mate. “You two may go back to sleep; we will tell everyone at the break of dawn tomorrow.” Both siblings obeyed without saying a word. “Hey Nightsky, do you think our tribe mates won’t accept Cloud, Sun, and Sky into the tribe?” she asked nervously. “Don’t be silly Cometblaze,” replied Nightsky positively. “Our father would never let innocent kits be left to die; they aren’t a threat.” Cometblaze flicked her ear uncertainly; her sister was lying.
Heavy fog wandered inside their cave as dawn drew near. “Breezetail?” whispered Duskpelt warily. “Are you awake?” “I am now.” she grumbled sliding out of her nest. “What is it?” “Let’s see if we can escape this fog.” he meowed shyly. “Nobody else is awake.” Breezetail shook her head instantly. “No way Duskpelt.” “Oh come on Breezetail! We’ll be right back! I promise.” he pleaded. The tabby she-cat sighed. “I’m gonna regret this.” she mumbled to herself as they raced silently into the dense morning dew. The feeble grass growing underneath their paws was soaked and sprouted tiny air bubbles as pressure forced them to the ground. “It’s beautiful up here in the mountains; great hunting conditions too.” exclaimed Duskpelt leaping onto a fallen, rotting oak tree. “I guess it is.” she muttered staying seated on the ground below the gigantic tree. Duskpelt looked down at her amusingly with his gentle amber eyes. “You know, it could always be like this,” Breezetail looked up at him in wonder. “What do you mean by that?” “Just you and me, up here in these mountains.” he finished, a sparkle of adventure glowing in his eye. Breezetail froze. “You mean leave our tribe?” she spat disbelievingly. “What kind of a mouse-brained idea is that?” Duskpelt looked at her in dismay and jumped down from the tree landing ever so softly on the soaking grass. “Come on Breezetail, don’t you care about what you want? What I want?” The tabby she-cat looked at him in agitation. “No you got this all wrong Duskpelt; I do not want to leave my tribe to stay up here. You do.” The warrior looked at her in disappointment. “You don’t get what I’m trying to say, do you?” he whispered desperately, hanging his head. The apprentice cocked her head to one side. What is this all about, she thought in confusion. Duskpelt sighed and looked Breezetail straight in the eye. “I like you Breezetail.” The words hit Breezetail’s heart like a stone. “What?!” was all she was able to blurt out. “You’re so strong headed and bad tempered but kind on the inside.” he continued admirably. “You stick by your friend’s sides and tell cats exactly what you think.” Breezetail grew deadly silent and for a few moments, all she could do was stand and stare in shock. She had never realized how much she had meant to Duskpelt. Her stomach lurched uncomfortably by his praising words and she felt guilt and regret swallow her emotions. “So what do you say, Breezetail?” purred Duskpelt. “I-I can’t do this.” she replied feebly. “I-I’m not ready and I don’t think I’ll ever be. I-I’m sorry Duskpelt.” Breezetail slowly padded away without looking back; she knew she had hurt Duskpelt’s feelings but what she had said was true; she hadn’t been ready for that at all. It was even more awkward when she realized Duskpelt had to follow her back to the cave in case everyone was awake and awaiting their arrival.
Her dreading thoughts were true, everyone on the journey was wide awake and calling their names in panic. “There you two are!” exclaimed Goldenheart as they finally came in sight. The mist had started to clear up but was still lurking around in some spots. “Where were you two?” demanded Heatherbracken worriedly. “W-we were just out for a stroll.” explained Breezetail quickly. “I thought I lost you!” cried Swiftfoot hugging her sister. “There was a lot of fox scent here in the morning so we thought the fox took you away.” explained Goldenheart. “It left us some more food too.” Breezetail looked at them in confusion. “I don’t remember smelling fox when I woke up.” exclaimed the she-cat. “Me neither.” Duskpelt chimed in glancing awkwardly at Breezetail but she quickly looked away in guilt. Swiftfoot’s confused gaze darted between her sister and Duskpelt as she eyed Breezetail curiously
The traveling cats squished together as a steep ledge started to form in their path. After the short problem this morning, they had continued on in complete silence. Swiftfoot was starting to get very curious about Breezetail and Duskpelt. Usually they would walk together and chat like they hadn’t seen each other in days but after the incident this morning, both tribe mates had stayed as far as possible from each other. She really wanted to know what was bothering them so much so she hesitantly decided to go talk to her sister. “Hey, are you ok?” she asked coolly. “What do you mean?” replied Breezetail looking up from her paws. “Well, ever since this morning, you and Duskpelt haven’t talked or made any contact-” Swiftfoot was rudely interrupted by an annoyed hiss from her sibling. “Don’t mention that mouse-brain’s name to me!” “But you seem sad and-” Swiftfoot tried to say the words as fast as she could but it was obvious her sister was in no mood to talk about the subject. “How about you mind your own business for once?!” snapped Breezetail edging to the front of the group. Swiftfoot stopped in her tracks from shock. What was bothering her sister so much? “Hey mouse-brain you’re holding up the group!” hissed Grizzlynose giving the healing cat apprentice a shove from behind. Swiftfoot held back a sharp retort and continued to slowly trek up the mountainside. “We’re almost at the top of this mountain!” exclaimed Hailfoot exhaustedly. “I wonder what we’ll find up there.” meowed Swiftfoot aloud glancing up at sharp points ahead. “What do you mean?” asked Duskpelt in alarm. “You had a prophecy didn’t you? You should know what’s on top of this mountain. We came all this way to find the cat with scarlet red fur remember?” Swiftfoot looked up in embarrassment. “W-well Sky Tribe didn’t exactly tell me where the cat lived just the way we had to go to find her.” “Wait,” meowed Grizzlynose listening in on their conversation. “So you mean this entire time we’ve just been following a healing cat apprentice with no experience through unknown territory without even actually knowing where we’re going?!” A deafening rumble trembled the ground beneath their paws before anyone else could reply. “Oh no. This isn’t good.” whimpered Duskpelt flattening his ears onto his head. “Everyone stay calm!” shrieked Heatherbracken as they plunged into a darkening black hole.
Nightsky flicked her ear in alarm. She could’ve sworn she had just heard someone cry in the distance. “They look cute don’t they?” meowed Halfmoon sitting down beside her. The she-cat blinked and looked up at Sun, Cloud, and Sky in awe. “I guess they do.” she replied sighing in relief. This very morning, Silence of the Night had announced the three newborns for everyone to hear. Most cats became warily of the newcomers but her father had convinced them their birth place and parents were unknown so it do no harm to the tribe. “You two should give Skypelt some privacy.” meowed Dawnflower sternly from the other side of the to-be-mother’s den. Nightsky looked away in embarrassment and padded over to the kill pile in an attempt to make everyone think she was busy. “Well now what?” asked Halfmoon following the apprentice. “There’s not much else to do but hunt today.” “Well I guess we could hunt for Dawnflower and Skypelt; give them some fresh kill.” Halfmoon nodded his head. “Sounds like the best plan I’ve heard all day.” Thankfully, her mentor was also nearby and not attempting to join a border patrol. Darkmoon dipped her head in greeting as both apprentice neared. “Halfmoon and I are wondering if we would be able to go out and hunt for a while.” explained Nightsky eagerly as she returned her mentor’s gesture. Darkmoon's expression changed in an instant. Nightsky felt the strong detection of sadness reflecting off of the she-cat. Why was she so sad all of a sudden. “Nightsky,” meowed Darkmoon sighing heavily. “I won’t be able to come with you today so you may go on your own.” The she-cat cocked her head to one side in confusion. What was her mentor hiding? “Well, let’s get going Nightsky.” interrupted Halfmoon padding past her. “I suggest you two hunt as a pair,” exclaimed Darkmoon calling after them. “It’s good practice!”
The air was chillier than usual but the sun shone heavily on Nightsky’s pitch, black fur making it impossible for her to be cold. “Which border should we hunt at first?” asked Halfmoon slowing down to a trot. “I don’t think we should go hunt by Protecting Tree, they’ve been more aggressive than usual so; Roaring Water?”suggested Nightsky in plain thought. “Sounds good.” replied Halfmoon racing off. All of a sudden, she stopped dead in her tracks with a jolt. This could be a chance to see if Swiftfoot had been meeting Blackheart somewhere near the borders, she thought slyly. This is my only chance to go without looking suspicious! “Halfmoon!” cried Nightsky desperately trying to catch up with him. The gray tom looked behind him in a flash. “I think we should split up first to see what we can catch on our own.” explained the she-cat glancing down at her paws. “Glad finally one of us said it.” he teased wandering off down towards the lake leaving Nightsky alone just as she had planned. “She hasn’t been here for about a moon so her scent might be fainter than usual.” she reminded herself. The apprentice quickly picked up a faint scent of her sibling along with Wintersky’s and Shinningnight’s. Their paths soon parted into three close to Roaring Water. Nightsky’s pelt tingled with fear and curiosity as she realized her sister’s secret was about to be revealed. Nightsky stopped dead in a small clearing; pansy was all she could smell mixed in with Swiftfoot’s familiar odor. “Was all this worrying for nothing?” she growled to herself grumpily. On one hand she was happy to know she had been making this all up but another part of her she could tell it wasn’t over. Nightsky glumly retreated away from the border and tried to hunt something but she wasn’t in the mood anymore. “Hey Nightsky!” greeted Halfmoon trotting over proudly. “I caught a few mice and a squirrel! How about you?” “I-I didn’t manage to catch anything.” stammered Nightsky in embarrassment. “Let’s hunt as a team for now.” suggested Halfmoon. “Let’s head down closer to the lake; there’s quite a few squirrels down there.” Halfmoon was right, Nightsky could clearly hear the chatter of squirrels coming from all directions. That’s odd, she thought. There’s never been an abundance of squirrels to find so close to the lake. Halfmoon impatiently waved his tail in her face to signal her to get low to the ground. “Position yourself somewhere where the squirrel would mostly flee to.” ordered the apprentice quietly. The she-cat nodded her head and slunk through the undergrowth stealthily. All of a sudden a horrendously loud crack sounded from behind her. For a second, Nightsky thought Halfmoon had caught the squirrel without her help but was disappointed to find Halfmoon had stepped on a twig. The entire forest around them became silent for a second as Nightsky awaited for what would happen next. In an instant after the twig incident the clearing exploded into noisy, alarmed and enraged chatter. Nightsky thrust her ears to the sides of her head in order to block out the obnoxious chatter from above. The crunching of a spine made the squirrels go silent in fear. Nightsky looked behind her to see if Halfmoon had actually managed to re-catch one of the annoying rodents but the apprentice stared at her empty handed with an alarmed look on his face. An unusual nasty scent drifted over to Nightsky as the wind blew in her direction. Beady green eyes peaked out from behind undergrowth and that’s when Nightsky realized what she had just come across. “Fox!” shrieked Halfmoon shielding Nightsky in case the fox attacked. The apprentice moved her head to see the fox’s eyes; strangely, they weren’t filled with hatred and bloodlust but instead, calm and caring. “Halfmoon wait.” she whispered padding past him. She had to see if this fox was actually a threat before they attack. “Nightsky what are you doing?!” growled Halfmoon in bewilderment. “It’s a fox for crying out loud!” The fox stayed perfectly still as Nightsky neared and only flicked its ear ever so slightly as they came face to face. What was even more astounding was that the fox slowly opened its mouth and for a second, Nightsky thought she was getting ready to attack but instead of razor sharp teeth aiming for her throat, the squirrel the fox had caught dropped to the ground with a tiny thud. The she-cat could tell Halfmoon was impressed as she spotted him creeping up in fascination out of the corner of her eye. Unfortunately, the clumsy tom landed on a twig again and scared the fox off, making it leave behind its catch. “S-should we take it?” asked Halfmoon warily after a moment of silence. “We can’t just leave it here.” Nightsky pointed out. “That was incredible Nightsky!” added Halfmoon picking up his mice and squirrels. “For a second I thought you would be crow food.” Nightsky quickly picked up the fox’s catch and headed back to camp with the tom. “I honestly don’t even know how I did that.” she confessed. “We have to report this to Silence of the Night immediately though; any sign of any kind of fox whether it’s harmless or harmful is still an enemy.”
“Do you think he’ll believe us?” meowed Halfmoon as they padded up the leaders rock. Both cats had hurried back to camp as fast as their legs could carry them. “Silence of the Night wishes to not be disturbed.” ordered Risingmoon sternly as the apprentices came to a stop in front of his deputy. “Risingmoon please.” begged Halfmoon looking at his mentor. “It’s urgent.” Nightsky guessed Risingmoon could detect her apprentice’s seriousness as he said the last two words. “Oh alright.” she grumbled letting them through. “But don’t be too long.” “What is it?” asked Silence of the Night as they rushed inside the den panting from their exhausting trek back to camp. “We came across a fox while hunting close to Roaring Water.” explained Nightsky slowly catching her breath. “What?!” snapped her father stressfully. “Did you chase it away?” “I-It didn’t put up a fight.” continued Halfmoon timidly. “I spooked it while stepping on a stick and it immediately bolted away.” “It’s a skittish one then?” mumbled Silence of the Night. “That’s a good sign. I’ll get a patrol to chase it out of our territory in case it’s still here.” “Would you like us to go with the patrol?” volunteered Nightsky. “The patrol can manage on their own.” he replied swishing his tail around the dust ridden floor. “You two can help out in camp instead and clean the elder’s den and feed Dawnflower and Skypelt too.”
As stressed as everybody already was, Silence of the Night had called a tribe meeting mere moments ago. “Thank you all for being so patient.” meowed Silence of the Night as the clearing calmed down. Cometblaze positioned herself just above her father so she could hear everything clearly. “I have called you all here today to discuss an important issue that Nightsky and Halfmoon had seen during hunting.” Mumbles of curiosity sprouted up from the apprentices and warriors. “A fox has been spotted in our territory. But, there is some good news; the fox itself is scared by the slightest thing and is so full of fear it leaves its kill in front of us before it flees.” “That sounds like a bunch of mouse dung!” exclaimed Starynight as wails of protest and disbelief echoed around the clearing. “There is no such thing as a fox who is afraid of cats!” “Say what you want but I saw the truth!” yowled Halfmoon from inside the crowd. “Silence!” yowled Silence of the Night. “I know this does sound mouse-brained-” “It is mouse-brained!” interrupted Cloudysun from inside the elders den. “But,” continued the black tom ignoring the she-cat. “We still have to make sure the fox is not to be found in our territory.” Mumbles of agreement slowly died down as Silence of the Night continued. “Risingmoon, Starynight, Snowpetal, Sunset, and Cometblaze shall patrol our territory for any more sightings. Star Tribe dismissed.”
“The good thing is that Nightsky and Halfmoon scared it away from our camp.” meowed Sunset as they left camp. “That’ll make it easier to chase out of our territory for good.” “True.” exclaimed Starynight thoughtfully. “We’ll need to scare it with an ambush.” “First we refresh the scent markers.” ordered Risingmoon. “We need to make it clear to this fox that this is our territory.” “We should split up.” suggested Snowpetal. “That way we can cover area faster and renew the scent markings quicker as well.” “Good thinking.” praised Snowpetal’s mentor. “Starynight can come with me to check Roaring Water while Sunset, Cometblaze and Snowpetal go check Protecting Tree.”
It wasn’t long after the patrol split up into two different patrols; Sunset’s patrol came across the familiar smell. “Can you smell that too?” asked Snowpetal as they finished marking Protecting Tree. “Yeah; we all smell the fox.” meowed Sunset with a puzzled look on his face. “What else do you smell?” “T-the fox’s scent is mingled in with the smell of herbs.” explained Snowpetal. “It’s a very strong smell.” “Now that you mention it, I recognize the unpleasant smell as well.” exclaimed Cometblaze in confusion. “Why would a fox use herbs?” “It probably just eats them.” snapped Sunset impatiently. “Keep your theories to yourselves for now; we need to finish scouting our territory.” All three cats became silent with fear as a rustling sounded from upwind. “Get down!” hissed Sunset as the fox appeared. Several mice and a couple squirrels dangled lifelessly from the fox’s blood soaked mouth. How did we not scent the fox? We were following the fox’s scent this entire time but it seems to be everywhere in our territory now, she thought to herself fustratedly. Surprisingly, the fox flicked its tail, letting the patrol know they’ve been seen. Can this fox speak cat? No way, she thought; that’s ridiculous. Sunset leaped out and closer to the fox; baring his teeth territorially. Snowpetal did the same and Cometblaze eventually followed. But to her astonishment, the fox did exactly what her father had described during the meeting. Their trespasser gently lay down its catch and made a run for it. “Coward!” Sunset shrieked after it triumphantly. “I guess they were telling the truth.” muttered Snowpetal in shock. “But why would a fox act so strange?” meowed Cometblaze aloud. Sunset could tell the question was bothering his apprentice and padded over. “It might’ve been physically weak Cometblaze. Just be glad it’s gone now.” The she-cat didn’t reply but only grunted in return. “Should we take its kill?” asked Snowpetal sniffing the mice curiously. “No question about it.” replied Sunset picking up the squirrels. “This is enough to feed half of the tribe.” Snowpetal and Cometblaze each picked up a couple mice before meeting up with the rest of the patrol as they appeared in the distance. Risingmoon looked at them in astonishment as everyone was finally in earshot. “No time to explain. We have to report this to Silence of the Night immediately.” mumbled Sunset through a mouthful of prey. “D-did you guys go after the fox to see if it had actually left our territory?” asked Starynight as they headed back to camp. “We’ll let Silence of the Night deal with that for now; we’ve got a bigger situation to worry about.” mumbled Sunset through a mouthful of kill. Star Tribe’s camp was silent as the patrol raced in. They immediately raced into his den unconfirmed. “What in the name of Sky Tribe is going on here?” snapped Silence of the Night in annoyance. “Ever since those fox sightings nobody seems to have any respect around here when it comes to entering my den!” Risingmoon apologized. “We are deeply sorry Silence of the Night but, it happened again.” Star Tribe’s leader flicked his ear in curiosity. “How many this time?” he asked. “About enough to feed half of the tribe.” explained Snowpetal. “Did you make sure it actually left our territory when it fled?” he asked moving on. Risingmoon shook her. “I’ll send another one to chase it out.”
Silence filled Swiftfoot’s bruised ears as she regained consciousness. The sound of grumbling and moaning cats stood her to her feet in alarm. W-where am I? Then it hit her. “Right…the ground under us collapsed and we all fell into the mountain…” The healing cat apprentice looked around in alarm but thankfully, everyone only had minor injuries or tiny bruises. “Is everyone alright?” she asked looking around calmly. “Swiftfoot!” shrieked Duskpelt in panic sending the she-cat jumping in the air. “W-what is it?” she asked in a startled voice. “I-It’s Breezetail!” cried the tom in a calmer tone as he stood before an unmoving body. Swiftfoot raced over in a flash and sighed in relief; she had only popped her shoulder out of place from the impact. “She doesn’t have any serious injuries but; why isn’t she waking up?” mumbled Swiftfoot aloud. “She’s still breathing.” exclaimed Goldenheart padding closer to the apprentice. “Maybe she took the fall harder.” “Wait look!” meowed Rabbitfoot. “She’s opening her eyes!” Sure enough, Breezetail’s eyes slowly started to open but, her eyes seemed to be filled with extravagating pain. “Breezetail!” exclaimed Duskpelt happily. “B-Breezetail?” “Duskpelt…” she meowed quietly. “GET OFF OF MY SHOULDER!” “Oh…” he mumbled in embarrassment as he quickly stepped off. “S-sorry Breezetail.” “We’ll need to pop her shoulder back into place now.” explained Swiftfoot grabbing her sister’s shoulder. “Are you ready for this Breezetail?” The she-cat just nodded her head and tensed nervously. “Goldenheart, Duskpelt could you hold her down for me?” And without warning, Swiftfoot gave way and thrust Breezetail’s shoulder back into place with little energy. The apprentice shrieked in pain as she heard the pop. Duskpelt lay down beside her in comfort. “Do you think she can stand up?” asked Grizzlynose impatiently. “Let her rest.” replied Swiftfoot quickly. “She’s not fit to travel unless she gets a bit of rest.” “Actually, where do you guys think we are anyway?” asked Clearsnow looking around in alarm. Musky tunnels and borrows were all she could see in the dim light. “I don’t know an animal who borrows tunnels this big…” admitted Hailfoot. “G-guys…?” meowed a weak voice from behind them. Swiftfoot looked at her sister. “What is it?” she asked. “O-over there.” Breezetail weakly pointed towards the widest tunnel. Two dark, cold eyes stared at them from the darkness. What danger will come their way next?
To Be Continued...
Enjoy the sounds of nature while you read Warrior Tribes.