• A mouse sat at the base of a fallen trunk, chewing rapidly on some scattered nuts. He felt eyes on his back, a burning gaze that promised his death. But the mouse was far too hungry to care. He picked up another nut and was about to bite into it, when he suddenly felt vibrations through his dainty, petite paws.

    Rob rose from his position when the mouse dived into cover. He twitched his tail irritably, smelling the air. He opened his mouth farther to better identify the cat that had lost him his catch. 'Flamepaw.'He thought, tail twitching. It's been about a quarter moon since he and Krystal joined ThunderClan. Rob now knew every cat, save the other apprentices, by scent and heart. He couldn't say the same for Krystal, because Jayfeather had restricted her from leaving the nursery. But he has noticed her speaking to Squirrelflight more and more often.

    Flamepaw's face appeared through the foliage. Rob opened his mouth to tell the apprentice off for making him lose his mouse, but stopped at the wide, frantic look in his amber eyes. "ShadowClan are attacking!" He gasped, ear already torn and bleeding.

    Rob's mouse was quickly forgotten, shivering beneath the roots of his shelter. Thoughts raced through Rob's head as fast as his paws thrummed against the ground. What did ShadowClan want? What would this battle mean for his new Clan and, dare he think it, friends? And then the most important question asked itself. 'What if they hurt Krystal?' That thought alone made his legs pump harder and his muscles go tenser. He unleashed his claws, gripping the ground to make himself go quicker. 'I won't let them hurt her, hurt ANY of my Clanmates.'

    The screeching of fighting cats reached his ears before the thorn barrier came into view. Or rather, where it was supposed to be. More than half of the thorny wall was torn down, exposing the camp within to the elements. He could see half of the apprentices den and he had a clear view of the medicine den. A ShadowClan warrior was guarding it, keeping the two medicine cats inside from helping their Clanmates. One jay-blue eye and one amber eyes glowed brightly from the darkness of the cleft.

    Rob made a flying leap over the broken barrier, his eyes trained on the cat blocking the healers of his Clan. But instead of soft ground, his paws landed on the back of a dark ginger she-cat that was fighting Brackenfur. From the surprised mews of both cats, he guessed neither of them expected his to fall from above.

    The dark ginger she-cat rolled from under his paws, throwing off Rob's balance and making him topple to the ground. She rose onto her hind paws, front claws gleaming in the setting sun and aiming right for the soft flesh of his exposed underbelly. Rob was too disoriented to really do anything about it. Or at least he was, until he saw Flamepaw charging at the she-cat from behind.

    The she-cat flipped over at the sudden pressure on her hind-legs. She flopped onto her back as Flamepaw skidded next to Rob. His amber eyes were bright with excitement and adrenaline. "That's Russetstar." He muttered quickly to Rob. "She's leader of ShadowClan. I'm not about to let you two have all the fun!"

    Rob had forgotten Brackenfur was there until his pelt was brushed by the ThunderClan deputy's. "Thanks." He muttered quickly to the both of them, wincing a bit when he placed his paw down. Brackenfur turned his head to glare at Russetstar. "Russetstar!" He meowed gruffly. The ShadowClan leader glared right back, hesitating in a crouch. "Why have you attacked our camp?"

    Russetstar rolled her eyes and sighed, as if she were dealing with a difficult apprentice "First Graystripe, then Bramblestar, then Squirrelflight, now you." She shook her head. "I should think it was obvious."

    Flamepaw crouched at Rob's side, his ginger pelt bristling. "Well, it's not. Sorry to disappoint you." He retorted smartly. "Now explain yourself!"

    Russetstar growled softly before grinning slightly. The tips of her fangs showed a bit at the pulling back of her lips. "Simple. You," she waved her paw toward the three of them, "are ThunderClan. We," she drew back her paw to her chest, indicating herself, "are ShadowClan. It's our duty as the Clan that still strictly follows the warrior code to put you kittypet-and-rogue-loving mouse-brains in your place."

    Flamepaw stalked forward a few paces, a snarl twisting his face into something ugly. "Are you telling us that you're endangering the balance of the four Clans because you felt like it?"

    Russetstar put on a thoughtful look, like she was actually processing the apprentice's words. Finally, she just shrugged casually, like a battle wasn't raging around her. "Yeah, pretty much." Her casual tone earned two VERY angry ThunderClan cats on her.

    But Rob decided against joining them. Something the ShadowClan leader said disturbed him. "First Graystripe, then Bramblestar, now you." Squirrelflight was fighting...Then who was protecting the nursery? Rob craned his neck over the crowd of screeching and yowling cats, trying to see the nursery. No one was shielding the cats inside.

    The gray tom zipped toward the bramble entrance, purposefully unbalancing enemies and helping friends, when he deemed necessary. He received a few shocked looks from both sides of the fight. ThunderClan cats wondered what his rush was while ShadowClan cats recognized his scent as one of the cats that trespassed last quarter moon.

    Almost as soon as he stuck his head in the nursery, tiny claws scraped across his nose. Squirrelflight's oldest kit, Peachkit, stood in front of her littermates and all of the other kits and queens, her pale ginger fur bristling and her teeth bared. Rob admitted to himself that the kit was brave. It was only a moon until she and her littermates became apprentices, and she was almost just as big as one. Peachkit's fur lay flat when she realized it was just him. "We're fine." She reported, looking at everyone huddled in the back. Peachkit's siblings, Applekit, Tallkit, and Duskkit, were all glaring at the entrance, silently daring anyone on the outside to try entering. Poppyfrost and Ferncloud's youngest litter, Littlekit and Mosskit, crouched in the middle of the den.

    Rob noticed that, aside from Daisy, the only grown cats there were the queens that hadn't had their kits yet. And he noticed Krystal in the back, being protected by Sorreltail and Hollyleaf. Hollyleaf nodded at him, her green eyes set in determination. "We'll keep her safe." She promised, turning her head to look at Krystal.

    Rob dipped his head gratefully to both she-cats. Krystal gave him a wide-eyes and terrified stare. "Be careful." She mewed, her voice a soft whisper. Rob nodded to her, time not allowing any more acknowledgment. He slid neatly from the bramble nursery, resolute in what he had to do.

    Almost immediately, he was met by a ShadowClan warrior, just about to enter the nursery. On instinct, Rob brought a sheathed paw down on her head, right between the ears. He recognized her as the cat that had previously been blocking Jayfeather and Leafpool. While the white she-cat was shaking off the disorientation, Rob craned his neck to see the medicine den. It was now being guarded by a tortoiseshell she-cat with green eyes.

    Rob jumped clear over two wrestling cats and landed next to the she-cat, just as she turned to speak to the jay-blue eyes of Jayfeather. She blinked at him as his paws shoved her a good two tail-lengths away from the bramble entrance. "Go!" He growled to the now untrapped medicine cats.

    Jayfeather and Leafpool both exploded from the den. Cobwebs were wrapped around each paw on them both, and a bundle of herbs were clamped in each mouth. "Sorry Tawnypelt!" Jayfeather called to the she-cat just now getting to her paws. "But, you know, the Clan comes first!" His tone sounded like he was mocking her.

    The she-cat looked after him, amusement battling with frustration in her eyes. "I'll never understand that one." She murmured, shaking her head. Apparently amusement had won.

    Rob took a menacing step forward, his tail bristling menacingly. "Good, you're not supposed to. Now get out of our camp!" He snarled.

    Tawnypelt didn't even flinch at the threatening way his lips pulled back. She shrugged, nonchalantly washing her paw. Are all ShadowClan cats this casual? He thought in irritation. "Can't. At least, not until my beloved leader sounds the retreat." She paused with her tongue just about to lick her paw again, looking up at Rob curiously. "You seem familiar. Or at least like I should know you. But I know I've never seen you before....You still have the scent of a rogue, so you must not have been in ThunderClan long..." Here her green eyes narrowed, and a fire began to grow in them. "As a matter of fact, your scent was lingering on my mate's pelt last quarter moon..." She sighed irritably. "I had hoped Bramblestar wouldn't follow in Firestar's paw-steps."

    Rob's only answer was to let out a fearsome screech and charge toward the she-cat. The she-cat met him, her own battle yowl ringing in his ears. He could hear nothing outside of the blood pulsing through his ears and veins. He knew nothing outside of the flurry of teeth and claws he and Tawnypelt had become. He just felt so...alive. Was it wrong to feel this much joy when fighting and drawing blood? He didn't know for sure. Rob only knew that he enjoyed feeling the flesh rip underneath his claws.

    Her teeth snapped on the space his ear was just in. Her shoulder was in the perfect position for Rob to wrap his own glistening teeth around it. So he went with the impulse and bit down hard on her shoulder. His massive size easily knocked her down. Her paws batted at his stomach, trying desperately to shove him off. But her struggles just made him bite down harder in warning.

    He only released her when he heard Bramblestar's voice from behind him. "Let her go, Rob." The leader ordered. "Russetstar ordered the retreat."

    Rob immediately let Tawnypelt go, stepping away from the ShadowClan warrior until he stood behind the large tabby leader. His eyes didn't leave the bleeding she-cat's struggling form, hostility not yet spent. He was slightly surprised by the glare Bramblestar was directing at him, until Tawnypelt touched her tail to his shoulder. "I'm fine, Bramblestar. He was just trying to free Jayfeather and Leafpool."

    Jayfeather trotted by to slide back into the medicine den. "And he did a fine job of it!" The blind tom stated without stopping.

    Bramblestar watched the gray-black pelt disappear into the brambles. Tawnypelt gave an amused purr. "It's really no wonder why him and Tigerfire are the of best friends." She remarked, shaking her head in amusement. The leader finally smiled and nodded. " Smokefoot told me to guard the den. He didn't think any ThunderClan cat would risk your anger by hurting your sister."

    Rob's tail went straight into the air in surprise. "Sister?" He squeaked uncharacteristically.

    Bramblestar swung his massive head to face Rob. He winced at the unreadable look in his leader's eye. He'd been here long enough to know it's a bad thing when you can't read his expression. "Yes, sister." Bramblestar growled. "Now make yourself useful and go help Leafpool check on the wounded."

    Rob dipped his head obediently and went to find the medicine cat. He found her cleaning a wound on Cinderheart's shoulder. "Bramblestar told me to help you with the injured." He reported dully, tail flicking in annoyance. He wanted to check on the nursery. But as he glanced at it, he could just see the end of Dustpelt's tail disappear as he went to check on his kits.

    Leafpool replied without looking up. "Take an inventory on wounds. Separate the scratches from the slices. If someone looks like they're going to bleed to death in the next few heart-beats, yowl for either me or Jayfeather."

    Rob nodded and padded calmly through the crowd looking for any splotches of red that wasn't natural fur color. He ended up next to Birchfall, who was licking a wound on Whitewing's back. The queen had decided to fight after all. "How are you two?" He asked them, eying a worrying scratch on Birchfall's side.

    The tabby looked up, concern and panic making his eyes wide. "Whitewing is hurt badly!" He meowed, voice shaking in fear.

    Worry gnawed at Rob's belly when he saw just how bad her wounds were. The bite mark Birchfall had been licking was dangerously close to her neck. It seemed whoever inflicted it had been going for a killing bite, but they had missed. Rob threw his head back and yowled for Jayfeather, who was checking on his brother.

    Jayfeather raised his head and smelled the air. 'Probably checking the amount of blood.' Rob guessed. He was proven right when Jayfeather let out a startled mew and streaked toward them, calling to Leafpool for cobwebs. His mentor looked up from applying horsetail to Brightheart's flank, annoyance sparkling in her amber eyes. But that changed to alarm when she spotted just how bad Whitewing was.

    "OUT OF THE WAY!" She yowled, barreling right into Rob and knocking him aside. The two medicine cats worked on Whitewing tirelessly, only taking breaks when they ran out of herbs they needed. Rob continued to check on his Clanmates until he was satisfied none of them needed immediate attention.

    He turned from observing Whitewing's treatment when Bramblestar leapt up onto the Highledge. There was no need to use the call Rob had only heard once. Bramblestar raked his gaze across his Clan, letting his eyes come to a stop on Rob. Rob met his eyes for a few heart-beats before ducking his head.

    It was a short time before Bramblestar spoke. "During the battle," he began, "Brackenfur and Flamepaw discovered why ShadowClan attacked us." His eyes narrowed into glaring slits. "Apparently, Russetstar got bored and just went, 'Hey, I've got an idea! Let's go attack ThunderClan and endanger the balance of the four Clans!' " He began to pace, mumbling to himself. Rob wondered if he even remembered they were still there.

    That thought was proved wrong when Bramblestar whipped his head to glare at them. "Next time they attack," he bared his teeth in a silent snarl, "she's mine." A few cats nodded their head in agreement. They trusted their leader to show no mercy to the cat that would put their Clan in danger. Bramblestar went on. "But this battle has shown me something important." He stopped pacing in the center of the Highledge and raised his head in pride. "In this hollow, right now, are four cats ready to be made warriors!" Excited whispers broke out among the Clan. "Bumblepaw, Blossompaw, and Briarpaw. Come forward now!"

    Three cats, only a bit smaller than Toadfrost, ran to the bottom of the Highledge, tumbling over one another to get there first. The first one to sit in front of Bramblestar was a very pale gray tom with black stripes, quickly followed by the other two. Rob narrowed his eyes and counted. Yup, there were definitely only three cats. But Bramblestar paid no attention to that. Instead, he looked up to the darkening sky, where the first pin-pricks of light glimmered in the coming darkness.

    Rob followed his gaze, absent-mindedly listening to the ceremony take place. He still found it hard to believe the sparkling diamonds he'd looked to so many times for guidance were the ancestors of these cats. 'Makes sense.' He thought to himself, hearing Bumblepaw made Bumblestripe. 'If I can look to the stars, why can't these cats?' Now Bramblestar was talking to Blossompaw. 'Maybe there really is a StarClan. Maybe their ancestors are still watching over them.' Blossompaw was make Blossomwind.

    But then there was him and Krystal. They didn't have a drop of warrior blood. Would they join this StarClan when they died? Not that he wanted to find that out anytime soon. They didn't even have warrior names. And, as some cats made clear, they weren't welcome in the stone hollow. Why would the dead cats like them any better than their decedents? His ear twitched when Briarpaw was made Briarwhisker. 'Apprentice number three. Now who goes next?'

    From the corner of his eye, Rob saw Flamepaw and Morningpaw exchange nervous glances. Their anxiety was understandable. With Bumblestripe, Blossomwind, and Briarwhisker warriors, they were the oldest apprentices. Would one of them be next? Who would be left behind? He turned his head to look at the two, waiting for one of them to be called forth. But the cat Bramblestar named was a surprise to everyone. "Rob, come forward!"

    Rob snapped his head toward Bramblestar so fast, he felt his neck crack in response. "M-me?" He squeaked, stuttering incoherently. Bramblestar was looking down on him with the same pride he had held when he was naming the other new warriors. Everyone else turned to stare at him. "Me?" He repeated. Someone snickered at his shell-shocked look, but Rob ignored it.

    Someone from behind shoved him forward. He looked back to see identical smirks on Berrynose and Cloudtail, the two most sarcastic warriors in the Clan. Berrynose shoved him again, propelling him forward a bit. "Move it, Rob!" He mewed jokingly, the smirk growing.

    Cloudtail nodded his agreement, his own smirk mirroring Berrynose's. "Yeah, Rob! You're keeping our honorable leader waiting!" Rob hissed crossly and made to swipe at the white warrior's ears with a sheathed paw. They gave him one final shove before Rob's muzzle met painfully with the stone of the Highledge.

    Bramblestar gestured with his tail for Rob to join him on the ledge. Rob made it up the stony path in two bounds, sending down little pebbles to the base of the face. Bramblestar had to take two steps to the side to make room for Rob. He looked at Rob, his eyes narrowed in thoughtful scrutinization. It was a while before the leader finally spoke. "Rob, it has been a full quarter moon since you have joined our Clan. You have proved yourself to be a brave fighter and a capable hunter. I am proud to have you in the ranks of ThunderClan, and to give you your warrior name.

    "Rob, from this day forward, you shall be known as-"

    But a panicked yowl from the nursery interrupted the leader. Peachkit came running from the tangle of protection, her amber eyes wide in fright. "Krystal is kitting!" She yowled at the top of her lungs.

    Rob threw all manners in the dirt. He bunched up his muscles and jumped in the direction of the nursery, sailing over a few heads. He didn't stop at all once his paws hit the fllor. Once he felt the ground under his paws, he made a mad dash toward the nursery.

    Leafpool and Jayfeather got to the thorny entrance a heart-beat before Rob did. Jayfeather blocked his entrance while Leafpool slid through, herbs clamped tightly in her jaws. "Nu-uh." He meowed to the gray tom. "Medicine cats only until we give the all clear."

    Rob bristled in annoyance, but even he knew better than to argue with the blind tom. He took a few deep breaths, forcing the fur along his spine to stop bristling, and backed away a few paces. His nervousness shown as clear as the moon on a clear night. At first, he only twitched his tail a few times. Then he shuffled his paws in the ground, his gaze never leaving the place where his mate could be bleeding to death. Rob was no fool, he knew some she-cats died giving birth. Flamepaw and Morningpaw joined him, just as anxious for the she-cat's health as he was. Finally, he just resorted to pacing back and forth.

    It felt forever to Rob. He matched his breathing to him paw-steps in an effort to calm him down. In, out. In, out. Paw-step, paw-step, turn, paw-step, paw-step, turn. On occasion, Morningpaw or Flamepaw would join his pacing before rejoining the other. Eventually, Brackenfur and Berrynose came to get their apprentices. Each warrior gave a nod to Rob, expressing their 'good lucks' in that simple gesture.

    Rob returned the nods before resuming his pacing. He only lifted his gaze from the ground when Jayfeather came out. The gray tom's head was down, and he didn't look at Rob until he got right in front of him. Rob's heart-beat picked up until it thundered in his ears. What was wrong with Krystal? Did any of his kits not make it?

    Jayfeather's sudden purr caught Rob off-guard. "Four strong and healthy kits." The relieved puff of breath from Rob was so big it ruffled Jayfeather's ear tufts. "You can go see them, if you'd-" He stopped because Rob had left at the word 'see'. "Lucky furball." He murmured, heading toward his den.

    Inside the nursery, the newest additions to ThunderClan were suckling from their mother. "They're beautiful." He meowed softly, touching his nose to his mate's pelt. There was only one tom in the entire litter. He was a tiny thing, as Rob suspected he would be for a while, with a fluffy ginger pelt. His sister to the direct right of him had an identical pelt, spiky clumps of fur already sticking up into the air.

    The she-cat on the far right of the litter looked exactly like her mother. Silver fur that glittered like starlight wrapped around a slender figure. Even now, she was a beauty in the making. 'The toms will be all over her when she's older.' He thought, tail bristling at the mental image.

    The fourth and last kit made Rob's heart stutter for a bit. She looked exactly like his mother. Pure white fur dazzled his eyes. He had to blink a few times after looking directly into it. A dash of ginger on her petite chest was just hidden from view.

    Rob lay down behind Krystal and rested his head on her back, where he could look down on their kits comfortably. "What shall we call them, love?" He murmured softly to the silver she-cat.

    Krystal turned her head to look sleepily at him. "Squirrelflight says we should give them Clan names, so they will officially be accepted by the other Clans in the future." Rob nodded in agreement. Krystal licked the little copy of herself on the head. "I've been thinking of a name for this one. What do you think of calling her Mistkit?"

    Rob purred happily. "As beautiful as she is." He said approvingly. He looked down at the twin ginger kits. "Since these two are practically identical, their names should at least sound the same..." He mewed thoughtfully, eyes narrowed. Then an idea struck him like a paw to the head. He stretched his head forward to touch the ginger she-kit gently on the head. "She will be known as Thistlekit, for how spiky her fur already is." He moved his muzzle to the tom. "And, just because they sound alike."

    Krystal turned to give him a playful glare. "Thistlekit and Timberkit do not sound the least bit alike." She mewed teasingly.

    Rob chuckled, his whiskers twitching in amusement. "No, but they at least sound awesome." He pointed out. Krystal continued to glare at him before grinning and nodding in agreement. Rob looked down at the only unnamed kit. "And I know the perfect name for this little kit." He licked her once in affection. "Emberkit, for the dash of ginger on her chest."

    Krystal nodded, her expression soft with love. "Mistkit, Thistlekit, Timberkit, and Emberkit." She nuzzled each kit and pulled back to rest her head against Rob's shoulder. "Welcome to ThunderClan, my precious little ones." Then they closed their eyes and passed into the dreaming world of sleep.


    The cats sat around a pool of water, staring down into it's watery depths. But the pool had no fish in it. Instead, it held a picture of two cats, six if one were to count the kits suckling from their mother. The picture was out-lined with starlight, glittering as they did in the sky. The image depicted a gray tom curled around a pretty silver she-cat who was curled around the previously mentioned kits.

    One of the cats, a tom with a flame-colored pelt, dipped his tail into the center of the pool, dismissing the picture. He turned to his companions, the both of them she-cats. "So?" He meowed to them solemnly, with a hint of curiosity. "What do you think of them?"

    The first one to answer him was a blue-gray she-cat with a silver-tinged muzzle. "The gray one is patient and intuitive while the silver one is fierce with much courage." She turned an amused gaze on the tom. "It baffles me how they hold so much love and affection for one another."

    The she-cat that had yet to speak poked her with a paw. "Like you can talk, Bluestar. You and Oakheart weren't exactly 'friends' when you first met."

    Bluestar's ear twitched irritably, and she swatted the intruding paw away with her tail. "This is an analytical discussion about the two loners that have joined ThunderClan, not my love-life. Please, Spottedleaf, could you at least try to concentrate, and tell us your opinions?"

    Spottedleaf sighed exasperatedly and rolled her eyes. "Fiiiiiiiiine." She drawled. Then her gin widened. "But I'm totally not going to drop it!" She laughed at Bluestar's groan and turned to the grinning tom. "However, on a much more serious note, Bluestar is right. Both will make fine warriors for ThunderClan." The ginger tom's tail twitched thoughtfully. The movement didn't escape the notice of Spottedleaf. "Hm? Firestar, does something trouble you?"

    Firestar glanced back into the pool. The water was beginning to circle strangely in the center, obscuring some kind of picture. "An old enemy will show his face once more." He muttered, his eyes dark. "And I've a feeling one of these two cats will be the only one able to stop it." He turned to the surrounding walls of stone and let out a commanding yowl. A gray she-cat with a flat face came into the follow, following a matted track of rocks and pebbles. Firestar only spoke when she was directly in front of him and the other cats. "Send a message to Jayfeather." He ordered.

    The she-cat nodded. "And what do you want me to say to the little pest?" She asked, eyes glittering in amusement.

    Firestar purred and blinked affectionately at the she-cat. "No need to be hostile to him, Yellowfang." He meowed in amusement. "It's a prophecy, of sorts."

    Yellowfang padded closer to the group. "Of sorts?" She mewed incredulously. "Firestar, it's either a prophecy, or it isn't. Spottedleaf." she looked over at the pretty tortoise-shell, "You've got more experience in prophecies than I do. Why don't you go?"

    Spottedleaf's grin faltered a bit. "You just don't want to see Jayfeather." She accused lightly.

    Yellowfang shrugged casually, not even trying to deny what the younger medicine cat said. "You know he doesn't respond to me as well as to you, Spottedleaf." She mewed reasonably. Then, in a sharper tone, she said, "And I don't see you jumping everywhere to go visit him!" Spottedleaf's only reply was to 'hmph' and turned away. Yellowfang smiled in victory before turning back to a laughing Firestar. "Fine, I'll go see him tomorrow night, during the Half-Moon trip to Moonpool. What's this 'sort of' prophecy of yours?"

    Firestar grew serious at the reminder of the meeting. He glared into her eyes, all laughter and mirth disappearing from his green orbs. His voice echoed powerfully around the dip in the ground, echoing back to them with all the power of StarClan. "Fur will fly and feathers will fall. Darkness shall rise and rule them all. Only the fire of the silver one can help us."

    Yellowfang smiled at Firestar, her blackened teeth showing. "That, Firestar, is indeed a prophecy." A wind blew by, and then all four cats were gone.

    So no one was around for when the waters of the Moonpool settled, letting the picture shine clear through. A pair of ice-blue eyes glared balefully from the water, daring anyone to rise against the power of their holder.

    End Chapter 2