All three apprentices stared wide-eyed as a black tom stepped out of the shadows. He had a white spot on his back and gleaming green eyes. Leopardpaw recognized the tom at once.
"It's you!" Leopardpaw yowled. "You were the one who attacked Quailpaw and me a moon ago!"
The black tom bent back his ears. "Yeah, I'm really sorry about that. I didn't mean to. I was ordered to attack any cats that I would meet."
Leopardpaw let out a low growl. "'Sorry' catches no prey!" she snapped and bunched up her muscles to attack the strange cat. But before she could, Pinepaw laid his striped tail on her shoulder.
"Wait, Leopardpaw!" Pinepaw meowed. "We need to know more about this cat before you could shred him."
His littermate let out a snort. "Fine," she growled and sat down.
Pinepaw twitched his ears. "Okay, first off, who are you?"
"My name is Full Moon," he meowed and flicked his tail to the white spot on his back. "Hence the name."
"Okay…" Pinepaw meowed. "I'm Pinepaw, and this is my sister, Leopardpaw." He pointed to his sister, who was still glaring at the strange tom. "And my brother, Ashpaw." He then pointed to his brother, who was staring at the rogue with curiosity in his eyes.
Full Moon dipped his head in response.
"So…you can help us find our father?" Ashpaw asked.
"Yes," Full Moon meowed. "My Clan, SavageClan, roams around the territories and sees and hears everything. There isn't a secret that we don't know of. I could ask some of my Clanmates if they've heard a cat named Honeywhisker with someone else."
"How did you know our mother was Honeywhisker?" Pinepaw asked.
"I heard you earlier," Full Moon meowed. "I was sent here by my leader, Smoke Claw, to spy on CreekClan."
"So…wait a second," Leopardpaw meowed. "If Smoke Claw sent you here to spy on us, why are you helping us?"
The black and white tom shifted his paws uneasily. "Well, the truth is…I don't like SavageClan. I want to join the Clans and not live by Smoke Claw's harsh rules."
"What kind of rules?" Ashpaw asked.
"He demands absolute loyalty and anyone who steals prey for themselves or tries to leave the Clan gets killed. He also made up a punishment called the 'Savage Bite'." Full Moon lifted up his hind leg and bite marks could be visibly seen on his black fur. "See those marks? That's from a Savage Bite I got from Blood Stain, our deputy. I'm one of the lucky ones, because most cats don't survive the Savage Bite."
"That's horrible!" Pinepaw declared. "No cat should be treated that way!"
"And you can't leave because Smoke Claw will kill you if you do," Ashpaw meowed and Full Moon nodded.
"I guess we can trust you," Pinepaw meowed. "Or he wouldn't be telling us this information."
Leopardpaw let out a snort of disbelief. "Well I don't trust him, and I never will! He tried to kill Quailpaw and me!"
Full Moon opened his mouth to object, but Leopardpaw had spun around and stalked back to camp. It was worse enough that Blackfrost wasn't her father, now her siblings wanted help from the cat who tried to take her life?
Cold surged through Leopardpaw's bones as she woke up the next morning. The leaf-bare breeze blew into the apprentices' den, making every cat shiver.
"Great StarClan, I hate leaf-bare!" Moonpaw growled and flexed his claws. He let out a huge yawn and sat up.
Blackfrost poked his head in the den as fresh cold air blew in. "Pinepaw, Leopardpaw and Ashpaw, time for training."
"But it's early!" Pinepaw moaned.
The deputy's ears drew back. "You're almost warriors, so start acting like ones! Besides, we're having your assessments today."
Pinepaw shot straight up. "Well, why did you say so? Come on, let's go!" He nudged his sister and brother up and literally dragged them outside. "Come on! The sooner we pass our assessments, the sooner we become warriors!"
Leopardpaw moaned and stumbled to her paws. She hated getting up so early, especially for patrols. Besides Leopardpaw, her brother, Ashpaw, let out a huge yawn and his amber eyes sagged.
"Alright," Blackfrost meowed. He had Stripedwhisker and Flyingcloud with him. "You three will be hunting alone in the territory. Your goal is to catch at least one fish, one squirrel and one lizard before sun-high."
"When do we start?" Pinepaw asked.
The Clan deputy flicked his tail. "Now."
A swift paw lashed out on the prattling creek. A fish leapt out from the creek and a swift paw quickly pawed and killed it.
One fish and one lizard down…only a squirrel to go!
As Leopardpaw placed her prey away for safe keeping, she thought about her brothers and how they were doing on their assessments.
I hope they haven't failed. It would be miserable if they weren't made warriors today. I wonder if they've finished yet. Ugh, I better hurry up and catch this squirrel!
She silently padded further into the forest, hoping to catch scent of a nearby squirrel, but instead caught a flash of dark fur.
Pinepaw? What's he doing here?
Leopardpaw slowly padded forward, but kept her ears pricked for danger.
"Pinepaw?" she slowly asked as she padded closer.
A sudden stench hit the back of her throat and her worst fear came to reality.
The fern branches shifted away to reveal a russet-colored fox with a squirrel in its jaws. Blood stained its muzzle and it bore its teeth into a snarl.
"Fox!" Leopardpaw yowled and turned tail and ran.
Please leave me alone! Please go away!, she tried to think, but she could hear the fox's panting behind her legs.
"Honeywhisker, help me!" Leopardpaw yowled, hoping her mother in StarClan would save her. She could hear the fox getting closer…and closer…
Is this how it will end? (Me: NEVER!!! Quick, Vec, come up with an excuse!)
"Mrrow!" a cat yowled and a brown tom suddenly tackled the fox into a tree. The tom stood in front of the russet-colored fox with his shoulder fur pricked and his teeth bored into a snarl. (Me: Phew!)
"Pinepaw!" Leopardpaw yowled. "What are you doing here?"
"I heard you yowl and I came to help!" Pinepaw meowed as the fox struggled to get up. Another yowl was heard and a dark gray tom slammed into the fox before it could get to its paws.
"Ashpaw, where did you come from?" Leopardpaw asked. (Me: Why not add the whole gang? XD)
The gray tom leapt off the fox and quickly dashed toward them. "I heard yowling and came to investigate what was going on."
"Well, we're glad you came!" Pinepaw purred. "He's getting up again!" The fox scrambled to its paws and let out a fierce, low growl.
"We can take that minnow-brained fox!" Leopardpaw meowed. "Only if we do it—"
"Together!" all three siblings meowed on cue.
The fox snarled and quickly leapt at the three siblings. Pinepaw hissed and briskly clawed the fox on the amber eye. The fox yelped and instantly fell back a step and shook its head like it was shaking off water. Leopardpaw hurriedly nipped at the fox's skinny hind legs while Ashpaw scraped its ear. Pinepaw slashed the fox's narrow muzzle as it tried to bit Ashpaw on the neck. Leopardpaw rammed into its side while Ashpaw snapped at its fluffy tail. The fox managed to claw Ashpaw on the shoulder and bite Leopardpaw's ear. Pinepaw drew his ears back and tried to claw the fox's face, but the sneaky enemy dodged to the right and snap at Pinepaw's shoulder. The apprentice let out a shriek of pain as the fox slowly rounded the three apprentices.
"StarClan save us!" Ashpaw yowled. Just as it seemed the fox would leap at them, a yowl was heard and three cats swiftly leapt out from the trees. It was Blackfrost, Flyingcloud and Stripedwhisker! (Me: Yay! )
The three warriors slowly crept up to russet animal and all cats bore their teeth into snarls.
"Leave now so we shall spare you," Blackfrost meowed and dug his claws into the ground.
The fox quickly glanced from the Clan deputy to the apprentices and back again. He let out a low snarl and hastily disappeared into the shadows.
The tension in the area decreased as Blackfrost padded up to the three apprentices. "Did you three fight off the fox by yourselves?"
"Yup!" Pinepaw meowed and puffed out his chest. His littermates nodded in agreement.
Blackfrost blinked in surprise. "Well done!" he purred and gave each of the apprentices a quick lick on the ear.
Flyingcloud waved his striped tail happily. "Thank StarClan we heard yowling, or the fox might've made a meal out of you!"
Stripedwhisker nodded in agreement. "Yes, very well done. We better take back your prey and report back to Redstar."
Leopardpaw quickly ate her fish as Pinepaw came out of the apprentices' den.
"How are your wounds?" Ashpaw asked as he looked up from his vole.
"Fine," Pinepaw meowed and flicked his tail to the cobwebs plastered on his right shoulder. "Do you think they'll make us warriors?" He nodded toward the tall tree where Redstar was meeting with Blackfrost, Stripedwhisker and Flyingcloud.
"They have to!" Ashpaw insisted. "We fought off a fox!"
"But we didn't finish our assessment," Leopardpaw pointed out. "We each only caught two pieces of prey, not three, like we were instructed to."
Pinepaw let out a snort. "Frog-dung to that! We proved that we can be strong warriors!"
"I just hope we proved enough," Leopardpaw muttered as she looked at the sky. The sun was slowly setting down above the tree tops.
Suddenly, Redstar appeared from his den among the roots of the tree and leapt on Hanging Branch. Blackfrost sat under the branch while Stripedwhisker and Flyingcloud sat not far from the Clan deputy.
"Let all cats old enough to catch their own prey, join here beneath Hanging Branch for a Clan meeting!" the Clan leader yowled. Leopardpaw and her brothers immediately joined the rest of the Clan under Hanging Branch, but she noticed that two cats were not there. "Today, three apprentices did their assessment, but all three cats failed to complete it. That is because a fox interrupted Leopardpaw's assessment, but with the help of her brothers, they managed to keep the fox at bay until their mentors arrived to scare the fox away. Their mentors, Blackfrost and I have all agreed that they should be made warriors today because of the courage all three cats have shown."
Murmurs of approval rippled through the Clan as Redstar leapt down from Hanging Branch.
"I, Redstar, leader of CreekClan, call upon my warrior ancestors to look down upon these apprentices," Redstar requested. "They have trained hard to follow your noble code and I ask you to make them warriors in return. Pinepaw, Leopardpaw and Ashpaw, do you promise to defend and protect your Clan and uphold the warrior code, even with the cost of your life?"
"I do," Pinepaw meowed, his voice unusually strong.
"I do," Leopardpaw promised, knowing that she would risk her life for her Clanmates anytime.
"I do," Ashpaw agreed, his amber eyes burning fiercely.
"Then by the powers of StarClan, I give you your warrior names!" Redstar meowed. "Pinepaw, from this moment on, you shall be known as Pineheart! CreekClan honors your honesty and patience and we welcome you as a full warrior of CreekClan."
Redstar touched his muzzle to the brown tom. Pineheart licked his leader's shoulder in return.
"Leopardpaw," Redstar went on. Leopardpaw could barely keep still as Redstar called her new name. "From this moment on, you shall be known as Leopardnose! CreekClan honors your courage and loyalty and we welcome you as a full warrior of CreekClan."
Redstar touched his muzzle to the young she-cat. She licked his shoulder in return.
"Ashpaw," Redstar meowed. "From this moment on, you shall be known as Ashwhisker! CreekClan honors your intelligence and kindness and we welcome you as a full warrior of CreekClan and we also mourn for a certain cat that cannot be here with us."
He named Ashwhisker after our mother…
The dark red tom touched his muzzle to the dark gray tom. The newly named warrior licked his leader's shoulder in return.
"Pineheart! Leopardnose! Ashwhisker! Pineheart! Leopardnose! Ashwhisker!" the Clan yowled, including Blackfrost who yowled to the darkening sky.
I can't believe it…we are finally warriors!
Just when it seemed like nothing could go wrong…it did. Just like her apprentice ceremony, a cat rushed through the camp with wounds on his back and fear coming off his pelt.
It was Quailpaw.