Sootfur hated to admit it but he was almost glad, the remaining cats had become one clan. He didn't want to feel that way but it was true. It was for the best for him and his mate, Nightwing, who used to be ShadowClan, he was ThunderClan it was forbidden.
Nightwing padded up to him, but Dawnflower and Ferncloud intercepted her.
"You need to get your rest," Fernclod mewed.
"It's not everyday a she-cat has kits," Dawnflower added.
Nightwing looked back as the two queens led her away, her look told him that she wanted to talk.
Sootfur started to pad after her when Mousefur and Thornclaw walked up.
"You're not getting moony-eyed over that queen are you," Thornclaw asked.
"N-No of course not," Sootfur replied.
"Good, I hear she's expecting Cedarheart's kits," Mousefur replied.
"Well, let's go hunting," Thornclaw mewed.
"Spiderpaw, Shrewpaw," Mousefur called.
The two apprentices bounded up to the three warriors.
"We're going hunting," Sootfur meowed.
The four cats ran and pushed throught the undergrowth t the tree-bridge, that led from their camp, the island, to the other territories. They raced through the Marsh-land and into the Moorland, where they saw Tornear, Robinwing, and Thistlepaw chasing after rabbits. They called a greeting and kept on until they saw the forest that looked like old ThunderClan territory.
"Shrewpaw come with me," Thornclaw meowed, as he led his apprentice into the undergrowth.
"Do you want to hunt with us," Mousefur asked Sootfur.
"No thanks," he replied.
"OK," Mousefur shrugged and led Spiderpaw into the ferns.
Sootfur raced until he came to an old thunderpath, he scented a thrush. He lowered onto his haunched and pounced when he saw the thrush, killing it in one swift bite to the neck.
Sootfur retrieved his thrush, the mouse, and the wren he had caught. He padded back to the shore of the lake and saw Thornclaw and Shrewpaw already there.
"Where are Mousefur and Spiderpaw," Shrewpaw asked.
"Here we are," Spiderpaw called as they came through the undergrowth.
The five cats all picked up their prey and raced along the lakeshore, they joined up with Tornear, Robinwing and Thistlepaw at the marsh. All of them raced across the tree-bridge and dropped their fresh-kill on the pile.
"What's wrong?" Sootfur called across the clearing to Russetfur and Cedarheart who were pacing the clearing.
"Nightwing's having her kits," Russetfur replied.
Robinwing walked to the fresh-kill pile, picking a hare for herself she sat down and began to eat. She watched Nightflower's kits, Deerkit, Wrenkit, and Rainkit, play in the clearing. LakeClan now had four new warriors, Weaselfur, Spiderleg, Shrewpelt, and Thistlefur. And one new apprentice Birchpaw.Boulder and Morningflower had died, and Mousefur moved to the elder's den. Sootfur and Nightwing had announced that Sootfur was the real father. The clan had been surprised but they got used to the news.
"Robinwing," Mistyfoot called, "Can you go on a border patrol?"
"Sure," Robinwing replied, "Who do you want me to take?"
"Doesn't matter," Mistyfoot replied.
"Sootfur, Heavystep, Stonepaw, Birchpaw," she called, "Do you want to go on a border patrol?"
"Sure," Heavystep called back, they follower her out of camp, and Sootfur and Birchpaw follower her on the tree bridge while Heavystep and Stonepaw swam across. Robinwing shivered just thinking about swimming, she used to be WindClan, she hated getting wet!
The traveled by horseplace with nothing to report, but once they reached the edge of the pine forest they saw two kittypets, tresspasing on LakeClan territory!
"Get off our territory," Sootfur hissed, crouching.
"No," one of the kittypets hissed back.
"Well then we'll make you," Birchpaw shot back.
At that the other kittypet lept at him and started clawing him visciously.
Sootfur lept, trying to get the cat off of his apprentice, but it was too late, by the time he had yanked her off, Birchpaw lay, unmoving.
Heavystep, Stonepaw, and Robinwing chased the intruders off the land, while Sootfur pushed his nose into the dead apprentice's fur.
Heavystep and Sootfur carried Birchpaw's limp body back to camp, and when they got there Ferncloud, Birchpaw's mother raced out of the nursery, wailing.
This shouldn't have happened, Robinwing thought.
Webfoot stumbled out of his nest, he walked out into the clearing where Birchpaw's body was still layed out. Ferncloud, Spiderleg, Shrewpelt, and Sootfur were all still crowded around the body. Mousefur, Frostfur, Tornear, and Loudbelly all padded out of their den, ready to bury the body. He bowed his head as the body passed by.
He then went up and got a hare from the fresh-kill pile, and padded over to eat it with Ferncloud.
"Hi," he said, "Do you mind if I sit with you?"
"No," she said, even though her voice was hollow with grief, over her dead son.
Webfoot ate in silence after that, once his hare was finished, he stood up, stretched, and padded over to where Russetfur was organizing patrols.
"Would you like me to finish the border patrol that was never finished?" he whispered.
"Sure," Russetfur replied, "take four others with you, in case you meet those horrid kittypets."
Webfoot nodded, and beckoned to Dawnflower, Stonestream, Robinwing, and Heavystep. The four warriors followed him out of camp and into the pine forest.
Webfoot picked up the pace, and before long they were pelting through the forest at full speed. They reached the kittypet nest soon after, Webfoot slowed and heard a hiss through the fence. He set the markers and continued on towards the moorland.
It had been raining for days and Blackclaw was tired of it, all of the prey was in it's burrows, hiding.
He looked across the clearing and saw the cream-colored she-cat peering out of the nursery, he was still angry at Mistystar for taking in that cat and her kits from the horseplace, though he wanted to mentor one of the kits.
"Blackclaw!" Russetfur called from below a tree, "Can you take Pebblepaw, Minnowpaw, Weaselfur, and Shrewpelt to train in the sheltered clearing?"
"Sure," he called back.
When they padded past the last tree on their way to the clearing Blackclaw started yelling orders.
"We're going to be practicing group battle tactics today," his voice rang out into the trees.
The cats nodded as he seperated them into groups, Shrewpelt and Minnowpaw against Pebblepaw and Weaselfur. He ordered them into position and they lept at each other, even though their claws were sheathed this battle looked viscous.
Shrewpelt constantly cuffing Weaselfur upside the head and Pebblepaw slamming into Minnowpaw's side as quickly as he could.
All of a sudden a shriek came from the shore and the cats pulled apart.
They all raced to see what was happening.
Once they got there they saw Dawnflower in the water, pulling up a limp, brown tabby body.
The cat was dead.
The cat was Thistlefur.
Cedarheart thought back over the last moon's happenings, Frostfur had died of old age, Thistlefur had drowned and Dawnflower had been the one teaching the young tom how to swim and fish, Dawnflower had blamed herself, and moved to the elder's den. Stonestream and Thistlefur were really good friends, so he walked around in a state of greif.
Cedarheart shook his head, it was now leaf-bare and Russetfur, Weaselfur and Tumblepaw had started coughing, and Tornear and Loudbelly were very weak. Barkface had told everyone to come to his den right when they started coughing, to make sure they didn't have greencough.
As Cedarheart led his patrol into the forest he noticed Thornclaw cough.
"You'd better let Barkface see that," he mewed.
"I'm fine," Thornclaw mewed.
"No you're not," Cedarheart replied, "right when we get back to camp go to Barkface."
Cedarheart sighed, if it kept going on like it was there would be no one left for patrols.
As they walked back to camp Cedarheart saw Mistystar with Barkface, Blackclaw, and Webfoot gathered around her, she beckoned to Cedarheart with her tail.
"Weaselfur, Tumblepaw, and Russetfur have greencough," Mistystar explained.
"Thornclaw was coughing on our patrol," Cedarheart said suddenly, his voice betraying his worry.
Barkface shook his head, "How many more will fall ill."
But nobody answered.
Sootfur padded into the clearing with a single mouse to show for all day of hunting. The past moon had been horrible, Russetfur and Loudbelly had died and Webfoot was the new deputy, but on a good point his kits were now apprentices, Wrenpaw, Deerpaw, and Rainpaw. But still through that happiness, the greencough continued raging through the camp. Mousefur, Tornear, Weaselfur, Tumblepaw, Thornclaw, Spiderleg, and Ferncloud had all caught it.
Everyone was looking gaunt, even the queens who were always the first fed.
He sighed things just weren't the same as they were back in the old forest.
He padded into the medicine cat's den and dropped the mouse.
"Is that all you could find?" Barkface asked.
Sootfur nodded, a weary and defeated look in his eyes.
"Nobody's going to get better with just one mouse," Barkface sighed.
"We'll go back out as soon as we can," Sootfur mewed.
"No, you've been out since dawn," Barkface replied with a gusty sigh, for the first time, Sootfur noticed that Barkface had started getting gray fur near his chin.
Sootfur sighed and padded to the warrior's den to see his mate.
Robinwing twined her tail with Blackclaw's and purred. She loved, the gruff warrior, and all of his faults.
She sighed, looking across the clearing at Ferncloud, the pale gray queen was looking gaunt, even more gaunt than usual for leaf-bare, she had barely eaten anything since Birchpaw had died. This leaf-bare seemed so hard, is this how the Clan would finally be extinguished? she mused to herself.
"What's wrong?" Blackclaw asked, seeing the expression she had on her face.
"Nothing," Robingwing mewed, shaking her head as if to get rid of all of those thoughts.
Blackclaw gave a stiff not, but she could tell that he didn't believe her.
"I'd better go join a hunting patrol," Robinwing suddenly said, breaking the uncomfortable silence.
Blackclaw gave another stiff nod, but still said nothing.
He can be so stubburn, Robinwing thought to herself, as she got up to pad away.
Blackclaw snorted and turned the other way, deliberatly avoiding where Robinwing was going.
She looked back and saw him, with his back to her. While she was looking back she ran into the apprentice, Minnowpaw.
"Watch out!" Minnowpaw hissed.
"Sorry, I didn't see you there," Robinwing quietly meowed.
Those apprentices are almost big enough to be warriors, she thought.
"Webfoot," she called across the clearing to the gray tabby tom, "May I join a patrol?"
"Sure," he called, "Join Thornclaw, Weaselfur, and Rainpaw's hunting patrol."
Robinwing gave a nod, and padded over to join the cats.
"Where are we going?" she asked Thornclaw, the leader of the patrol.
"To the abandoned Twoleg nest," he meowed. Robinwing winced, and so did Weaselfur, even though they were one Clan now, she was born a WindClan cat, and she always felt the most comfortable on the moor, where the wind rushed through her fur.
She followed Thornclaw across the tree-bridge and onto the pebbly shore, they raced on the shore, and skidded to a halt next to where the foreboding, gloomy, trees stood.
Robinwing sniffed, she hated trees.
Ther slowly entered the forest and Thornclaw waved his tail for the cats to stop.
"Robinwing, take Rainpaw, and go that way," Thornclaw said, beconing to a small clearing to Robinwing's left, "And Weaselfur and I will go to the abandoned Twoleg nest."
Robinwing nodded, and led the tiny light gray apprentice through the undergrowth. As they neared the nest where the kittypets had murdered poor Birchpaw, Robinwing shuddered, Birchpaw had so much potential, but he was hunting with StarClan now.
She crept, her haunches raised, into the small clearing, and saw a mouse, she lept and killed the small creature with one swift bite to it's neck, as she lifted her head with the mouse in her jaws, she heard a furious caterwaling somewhere in the forest. Oh, no, she thought, What now?
Mistystar had been captured by Twolegs and Webfoot, feeling he wasn't the right cat for the job, stayed as deputy and gave his leadership to Sootfur, now Sootstar. Cats murmered that Webfoot had been scared, or afraid of leading his Clan, but Webfoot knew the truth. He was dying. A disease that would have killed him nine times over, if he had been leader, it was a lump, it sounds small and simple, but Barkface said that it was deadly enough to kill him time and time over.
"Webfoot," he heard Sootstar call, as he watched the leader pad up to him, "Can you let Minnowtail lead a patrol, I want all of the young cats to get expierence leading patrols."
Webfoot nodded, already planning the patrols in his mind.
"Minnowtail," he called, "take Spiderleg, and Nightwing on a border patrol, make sure those kittypets haven't wandered from their nest again."
The young she-cat nodded and beckoned to her patrol with her tail.
"Voletooth," he yowled, "take Stonestream and Tumblestep to the river to fish."
The three toms nodded, and Webfoot felt the satisfaction that he felt everyday, when he orginized the patrols, the satisfaction of knowing everything that was going on in his Clan.
One more patrol, he mused to himself.
He looked up as Robinwing padded up to him, "May I join a patrol?" the pregnant queen asked.
"Are you sure you want to?" he heard Blackclaw mew, as the burly tom padded up to them.
"Yes, I'm not the first she-cat to have kits you know," Robinwing snapped back.
"Well then feel free," Blackclaw replied to his mate.
"Robinwing, Shrewpelt is leading a patrol, with Deerpaw and myself, would you like to join us?" Webfoot asked.
"Sure," Robinwing shot back, giving Blackclaw a look as she padded away to join Shrewpelt and Deerpaw by the tree-bridge.
Webfoot was worried about Robinwing, she was almost ready to kit, according to Barkface, and he didn't know if she should be on patrol.
As they trecked to the moor, a moan emitted from Robinwing's mouth, and her face withered in pain.
Shrewpelt's eyes widened, and Deerpaw, stood frozen, her mouth agape.
"Well don't just stand there!" Webfoot ordered, after he had recovered, "Run to camp and get Wrenpaw and Barkface."
Deerpaw nodded and raced off.
Robinwing was having her kits.
Blackclaw's chest puffed with pride every time any-cat had come to look at the three kits.
He and Robinwing had decided on names for them, Newtkit for the brown-and-white tom, Primrosekit for the tiny black-and-white she-cat, and Blizzardkit for the pure-white she-kit with huge amber eyes.
They all have white in their pelts, Blackclaw reflected, Just like Robinwing's mother, Whitetail.
Robinwing purred, wrapping her tail around the kits, she looked up at Blackclaw, love and pride in her eyes.
Even though there was a warmth of love, pride, and safety in the nursery, Blackclaw felt a coldness growing deep in his heart, and he didn't know if he would be able to control it for much longer.
That night, in the Dark Forest Blackclaw, Minnowtail, Shrewpelt, Deerpaw, and Ferncloud grouped around Thistleclaw.
"Don't worry, you will fight soon," the gray tom mewed persuasively, "they'll regret everything, and we'll destroy them, just as we destroyed the rest of the puny Clan cats."
Blackclaw looked around, to see eyes peering from every break in the thick undergrowth, he shivered, but as Thistleclaw spoke Blackclaw knew that he wanted the Clan times to end. They'd be better off, without other cats to rival, like Spiderleg, he curled his lip, just thinking of the name, Spiderleg had wanted to be Robinwing's mate, and even now, Blackclaw saw him look at Robinwing with love in his gaze. Blackclaw snarled at the thought and clawed the ground impatiently.
"Shh," Deerpaw hissed, nudging his side.
Blackclaw narrowed his eyes at her and looked back at Thistleclaw, who was staring intently on him.
"Are you finished now Blackclaw," the tom asked.
Blackclaw gave a quick nod, licking his shoulder from embarrassment.
"Now, after Blackclaw so rudely interupted," Thistleclaw continued, "We need to finalize our battle plan."
He beckoned for the cats to join him, and the group moved foward as one, heads bent, tails swaying.
Cedarheart yawned, oblivious to the evil that was around him. He was listening to a lecture from Sootstar, about the new apprentice, Mousepaw, Hazelpaw, and Berrypaw.
Sootstar's a good leader, but he rambles too much, Cedarheart thought, yawning again. He wished he had a good battle right now, one that would wake him up.
He looked around and caught a glimpse of something moving near the entrance of the camp. He silently got up and walked to the tunnel leading out onto the pebbly shore of the island, and saw a familar looking tortoiseshell pelt.
As he got nearer he could smell the stench of crow-food on the she-cat's pelt and she appeared to be sopping wet,
Cedarheart curled his lip back and growled, "Who are you?"
"D-don't you remember me," the she-cat spluttered, "I was a member of ThunderClan, my name is Sorreltail."
Cedarheart narrowed his eyes, ans suddenly recognition flashed in his gaze.
"Follow me," he mewed, "I'll take you to Sootstar."
Cedarheart led the she-cat into camp and ignored the shocked gasps from Spiderleg, Mousefur, Thornclaw, and Shrewpelt, who were all Sorreltail's Clanmates in the old forest.
"Sootstar," he yowled, "We have a new member of the Clan."
It had been a moon since that happened and Cedarheart had moved to the elder's den. He watched with pride as the Clan went, like a stream that never stops running, day after day.
The threat is over, the Clans will survive! Cedarheart mused as he watched a patrol leave the clearing.
In the end the Dark Forest didn't attack. Thistleclaw had just stopped visiting the cats' dreams one night. Ferncloud and Shrewpelt, had then abandoned the Clan, taking new names, Fern and Minnow, they joined a group of rogues that attacked mountain cats.
Webfoot, Sootstar, and Nightwing died from greencough, and Weaselfur, became leader, now named Weaselstar.
Blizzardkit, Newtkit, and Primrosekit were now warriors, named Blizzardspeck, Newtheart, and Primrosewish.
Berrypaw, Mousepaw, Hazelpaw, Wrenpaw, Deerpaw, and Rainpaw were now Berrynose, Mousewhisker, Hazeltail, Wrenwing, Deertail, and Rainpuddle, all great warriors of the Clan.
Blackclaw, Spiderleg, and Sorreltail had moved to the elders' den, only after Sorreltail had Spiderleg's kits, Toadpaw and Lizardpaw.
Minnowtail had also had kits, Brightkit, Littlekit, and Smokekit were wonderful additions to the Clan.
The Clan had survived and would survive for moons to come, like a swift stream, it never stopped running.