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The Steps of a Warrior

Author: Leopardclaw
Rating: Safe
Status: Complete



Leopardclaw, now training to be warrior, has suffered many losses to follow StarClan's calling. How much more can she be willing to give up to follow the prophecy: Clouds and Claws will come... And the Ancient laws will sleep at peace once more...?


Prologue

"Are you sure this is the one?" Three cats were sitting by a pool. One was lilac-grey, one scruffy brown and one black and white.

"I am sure."

"And how will the one discover their destiny?" The black and white cat waved his tall tail a little, thinking.

"They will wander into the territory and destiny and us shall guide the one's paws." The lilac-grey cat, however looked worried.

"At least let Leopardclaw finish her warrior training!" The other two cats thought for a moment, and the old brown cat said:

"Very well, but as soon as She is a warrior, the one shall find her, and the prophecy shall be fulfilled. Then the three can save every cat."

Chapter 1

Mouse Dung! Leopardclaw had, yet again, failed to catch a mouse. I"ll never be a warrior if I can't hunt. Pearlwhisker looked at her apprentice, disappointed.

"Your stalking technique is good, but you got distracted and stepped on a leaf. Now try again." Leopardclaw crossly started looking around, scenting the air. Rabbit! She dropped into a crouch, concentrating only on the rabbit. She was two tail-lengths away when the rabbit heard her. No! Leopardclaw raced after the rabbit. Pearlwhisker looked sadly at her paws. However, she was encouraged to see the rabbit hanging in her apprentices jaws.

"Well done, Leopardclaw!" Leopardclaw's eyes shone, she had caught her first prey! Thank you, StarClan.

"Come on, the elders will be hungry, we had better go and see to them." Leopardclaw followed her mentor, her rabbit dangling from her jaws. She took the prey straight to the Elders den. Pearlwhisker was right - they were complaining.

"Hello, Leopardclaw. Come to feed the grumpy old Elders, huh?" Rushtail purred as Leopardclaw put down prey for her. She nodded her head respectfully when Rushtail said,

"Leopardclaw, wait." Leopardclaw turned her head to look at the elder. "You have fine skills, young one. StarClan are calling you to a difficult path." The elders words hardly made any sense, so Leopardclaw, puzzled, went into the clearing. Firestar was stood near Webstar, his eyes shining. Webstar leapt onto the tree stump and called a meeting.

"Cats of WindClan, my old friend brings good news. The land that was stolen from us is ours once more!" The Clan cheered, and Webstar waved his tail for quiet. "Also, his three kits have been born, Blazekit, Spottedkit and Emberkit." The Clan nodded their heads respectfully to Firestar; Webstar and Firestar were good friends, and Webstar had known Firestar since he helped WindClan in the old forest.

"We wish you well, and now you must leave our camp." Firestar left, and Webstar finished the meeting. "Today will be a day of training. Featherpaw, I shall give you a permanant mentor now, as there has been no time since Lavenderwish joined the ranks of StarClan. Featherpaw, your mentor shall now be Spottedfeather. I expect you to pass on all your skills and courage. All the apprentices shall train today, and the sunhigh patrol will be Eagletalon, Nightcloud and Owlwhisker."

Chapter 2

Leopardclaw, Featherpaw and Thunderpaw were at the training rock; they were learining basic battle skills. Spottedfeather took Featherpaw around the other side of the rock; she was the smallest and knew less of battle skills. The training rock was around three tail lengths high, and mentors could watch their apprentices from atop it.

"Beat me, huh?" Thunderpaw sounded cocky; he obviously thought he was going to beat Leopardclaw. How dare he? Leopardclaw was infuriated that the apprentice, moons older than her, thought he could beat her in training. No. I know less battle skills that he does. She forced her fur to lie flat.

‘Remember, claws sheathed!’ The two apprentices arched their backs, waiting to make their moves. Thunderpaw ran at Leopardclaw, and leaped high, onto her back. Leopardclaw shook, trying to knock him off. Then she remembered a countermove; it would surely defeat Thunderpaw.

She stopped wriggling. Thunderpaw was surprised, and loosened his grip for a second. That was all the time Leopardclaw needed. She rolled over, satisfied when she heard Thunderpaw being squashed underneath her. She jumped to her paws, as Thunderpaw staggered to his. He paused for a second, and Leoparclaw leaped. As her paws made contact with his chest, he flew through the air and smacked into the rock.

"Thunderpaw!" Please say he's OK. Oh, StarClan! Leopardclaw raced across to where Thunderpaw lay, he was breathing. He stirred, and Leopardclaw thanked StarClan that he was OK.

"That was some good fighting there." Pearlwhisker sounded impressed. Spottedfeather and Featherpaw hurried towards them; Featherpaw's eyes were filled with worry. Featherpaw greeted her brother happily, and gave a sigh of relief when she was assured that he was fine. Leopardclaw's mother came up to her and said

"Let's go home."

Chapter 3

Moons seemed to have flown by for Leopardclaw since her first prey and her first training fight. Little more than three moons ago, Thunderpaw and Featherpaw had recieved their warrior names - Thunderstrike and Featherflame. Now it was time for her ceremony, and she felt a thrill of excitement. Webstar called a meeting, and Leopardclaw knew it was time.

"A new warrior must be made today. Leopardclaw, step forth." Leopardclaw stepped toward Webstar and, at his signal, leapt up onto the rock. Webstar looked kindly upon her, and said "I, Webstar, leader of WindClan, call upon my warrior ancestors to look down on this apprentice. She has trained hard to understand the ways of your noble code, and I commend her to you as a warrior in her turn. Leopardclaw, do you promise to uphold the warrior code and to protect and defend your Clan, even at the cost of your life?" Leopardclaw dipped her head as she said

"I do."

"Then by the powers of StarClan, I give you your warrior name. Leopardclaw, from this moment you will be known as Leopardclaw, warrior of WindClan. StarClan honors your courage and strength of mind, and we welcome you as a full warrior of WindClan." The Clan cheered as strongly as they had when she had been made Medicine Cat. She stood on the rock, eyes blazing, and relished in her name being called.

"Leopardclaw, Crowfeather and Thunderstrike, come on a patrol with me." Eagletalon, the deputy and Leopardclaw's father called the cats over. Leopardclaw saw pride shine in her father's eyes, and she dipped her head, embarassed. "Let's get going."

Chapter 4

Nothing really of interest happened until the border patrol reached the WindClan/ThunderClan border. A small patrol of cats were hunting just within the WindClan border. Leopardclaw recognized Brambleclaw, the deputy, a bright ginger tom and another tabby she cat. She nudged Eagletalon, who nodded; fury filling his eyes.

"ThunderClan! What are you doing?" Leopardclaw's father yowled a challenge, and the rest of the WindClan patrol stood attent as they made their way towards the tresspassers.

"Mouse brain!" Brambleclaw spat the insult at the young ginger apprentice. "Eagletalon, greetings. We were just... em..."

"Stealing our prey! Get off our territory!" Brambleclaw looked to his Clanmates, and yowled

"Never!" The ThunderClan cats leaped, and suddenly, every cat was fighting. The ginger apprentice jumped at Leopardclaw, and dug his claws into her back. She rolled over, squashing him flat. He tried, clumsily, to land some paw blows, but Leopardclaw dodged them easily. The tom"e eys were a bright green, and filled with fire. He stared Leopardclaw in the eye for the breifest second and charged.

"No!" Leopardclaw was not going to give up that easily. The tom had nearly reched her, and the voice inside her head said Now! She struck as hard as she could, scraping her claws down his face in a cross shape. He reeled away, and turned his head to Leopardclaw, leaving a trail of blood.

He looked Leopardclaw in the eye, scared.

A scarlet drop fell to the ground.

What have I done?

Chapter 5 ~ Bravesoul (Italics - Leopardclaw's thoughts)

"Eagletalon, come in. I can see you out there." Leopardclaw had been in the Medicine den for more than a moon, slipping in and out of consciousness.

"How is she?" Eagletalon was full of concern for his daughter.

Don't talk about me behind my back, I can hear you, I know you"re there.

"She's doing fine, now that the shock has gone."

Shock? I"m not in shock! Talk to my face!

"We just need her to try and keep awake." Bravesoul looked towards Leopardclaw; she was sleeping peacefully.

"Thank you, Bravesoul. You are truly a gifted Medicine Cat." Bravesoul said goodbye, and Eagletalon left the den.

I"m not sleeping! I"m here!

Bravesoul wondered how long it would take Leopardclaw to recover. He remembered back to when Leopardclaw was injured. Her father had brought her into the Medicine Den. He told Bravesoul that she had collapsed just before ThunderClan had retreated. She had attacked Firestar's son, Blazepaw, and he was being treated carefully too, as Cinderpelt had told Bravesoul.

Drip, Drip, Drip...

Bravesoul snapped out of his thoughts by a dripping sound.

Drip, Drip...

Bravesoul looked up, and found his left eye was cloudy.

Drip, drip...It's not raining...

He looked to his paws.

It's raining blood...

Chapter 6

"I"m sorry Bravesoul." Leopardclaw apologized for around the thousandth time for giving Bravesoul a scar.

"Leopardclaw, it's fine. I"m glad you woke up in time to help me. I thought I was going to go blind!" Leopardclaw, in her delerious state, had clawed a deep scar into Bravesoul's face.

How many cats am I going to scar?

"In fact, Thunderstrike and Featherflame might be jealous of me. Their little brother has a scar! And they haven't even got a tiny scar, and they"re warriors!" Leopardclaw could not be so upbeat though. She had just scarred another cat for life.

"All cats old enough to run over the moors, gather here, beneath the tallrock, for a Clan meeting." Webstar's voice broke the silence. Leopardclaw looked to her friend, and Bravesoul nodded, showing that he would be fine for a while. "Cats of WindClan, tomorrow evening is the gathering. Eagletalon and myself have decided upon which cats we will take. Crowfeather, Nightcloud, Thunderstrike and Featherflame, you will come." With a flick of his tail, Webstar dismissed the meeting.

Leopardclaw headed over to Webstar's den. "Webstar?"

"Leopardclaw! What are you doing?" Leopardclaw took a deep breath.

"Aren't I going to the gathering? Bravesoul said I was well enough and, well...." Leopardclaw trailed off and stared at her paws, her ears feeling hot with embarassment.

StarClan save me! I just asked to be taken to the gathering! What is wrong with me?

Webstar's face was warm though. "I was about to ask Bravesoul if you were able to come. I"d rest now, the Gathering is tomorrow!" Leopardclaw, her ears still burning with embarassment, bowed her head respectfully and stumbled backwards out of the Leader's den.

What is wrong with me?

Chapter 7

"All cats who are coming to the gathering, please come forth. We are about to leave." Cats gathered in the clearing as Webstar jumped down off the Tallrock. Leopardclaw looked around. Bravesoul was talking with his siblings; Featherflame looked sorrowful, and Thunderstrike looked amazed. Leopardclaw guessed that Thunderstrike was not too happy at the fact that his brother got a big scar before he even had a liitle one, but all the same Leopardclaw could see that he was being compassionate all the same.

She then turned to watch Crowfeather and Nightcloud. Leopardclaw knew that Crowfeather had been deeply in love with Feathertail, and that his name honoured her. Recently, he had taken Nightcloud as a mate; Leopardclaw suspected that Nightcloud was expecting kits. Having been a medicine cat, Leopardclaw knew the signs of a she-cat expecting kits. She then noticed that Bravesoul was looking towards Nightcloud too; Leopardclaw also suspected that he had realised.

"Leopardclaw." A voice behind her dragged her out of her thoughts. It was her father and Webstar. "Are you ready to leave? We are going now." Webstar rounded up the cats who were going to the gathering, and then marched out into the Leaf - Fall crisp night. The group of cats going followed. Bravesoul, who was a few paces ahead of Leopardclaw, wandered towards Crowfeather and Nightcloud. She pricked her ears, though she knew what she would hear. Bravesoul was telling Nightcloud that she was expecting kits. Just as Leopardclaw had thought.

Nothing much more happened on the journey. As they reached the island they were joined by the RiverClan patrol. Bravesoul went to talk to Mothwing and Willowshine. The RiverClan Medicine Cat apprentice had been given her full name a few moons before. Not long after Webstar and Mistystar had leaped onto the branches of the great tree, ThunderClan and ShadowClan arrived. The leaders started to speak, and Leopardclaw started to head over to where the medicine cats were.

"Hello." A cat spoke a few paces fom Leopardclaw. Is he talking to me? Leopardclaw stopped to face the ThunderClan tom.

"Who are-" Leopardclaw stopped dead as she saw him. He was a handsome ginger cat, with green eyes. He was just like Firestar. In fact, Leopardclaw thought that he was Firestar's son. That just made the realisation worse. a large scar marred his face, leaving a fleshy cross which would mark him forever.

This would be irrelevant, but Leopardclaw knew this cat. But worse.

She scarred this cat.

Forever.

Chapter 8

"No! No! I"m sorry! No!" Leopardclaw's gut was sqirming as the horror of what she had done sunk in. I did this.

"It's not your fault."

"But it is! I did this. Me. I destroyed your face, your life. I nearly killed you. And now, look at you! I"ve made you hideous!" Leopardclaw turned to leave, but one word compelled her to stay.

"Wait."

Leopardclaw turned around slowly. "What do you want...?" She realised that she didn't even know what this cat's name was.

"Cross-scar. Before you go and say anything, I chose the name. I wanted a name that would show me for who I am. My father was going to call me Blazeheart. I, when I awoke once, I asked him to call me Cross-scar. It's my name."

Leopardclaw looked at him, but properly. She didn't look at his apperance, she looked at the cat who he was. And pushed away what she saw. "Bravesoul told me that Cinderpelt thought you were going to die."

"She did. And so did Firestar, my father. But I pulled through. I"m strong. I lived. They fought hard, to save me. They really did think I would die. But my face is like this forever. Because of you!" His voice was suddenly venomous. Leopardclaw flinched. His eyes, full of fire, suddenly appeared quenched.

"I"m sorry. I really have ruined your life." Leopardclaw drooped, her voice was little more than a whisper.

"I"m sorry too." Cross-scar hung his head. Leopadclaw could not stand his sorrow.

"I hurt everyone recently. I used to have dreams, of becoming leader, but now..." Leopardclaw trailed off. She felt defeated, lost, alone.

"Me too. But now I know what life really means to me. My dream now is to be content, to live to be an elder." The two cats had stepped closer together. Leopardclaw could feel his breath against her cheek. A tear dripped onto his paw.

Her tear.

"I hope, I hope I can see you again, Leopardclaw." Cross-scar looked into Leopardclaw's eyes, and saw a sea of grief, and pain. "Goodbye."

"I, I hope to see you, too." Leopardclaw watched as the ginger warrior merged into the crowd.

Goodbye.

Chapter 9

Three moons had passed since the gathering. It was moonhigh, and the moon was a slither in the sky. Claw-moon. Bravesoul was watching, listening peacefully in the dark. He had seen Leopardclaw wander out of camp. He wondered why. And sat, watching.

Leopardclaw was sitting too. By the ThunderClan stream. She sat, letting the gentle breeze ruffle her fur gently. She was sat on the bank, her paws partly submerged in the stream. She was thoughtful, and was deep in her thoughts as the cool, clear water flowed over her paws.

Cross-scar was walking. The leaves of Leaf Fall were mostly mud now. Moonlight filtered through the leafless trees, casting shadows everywhere he looked. A bird flew out of a bush, silver in the moonlight, and made it rustle. He didn't notice. He was too intent on getting to where he was going.

Across the stream, two cats met. The shadowed tails entwined, their paws splashing the clear water. They splashed each other, and then ran around to dry off.

"Oh, Cross-scar, you know this is against the warrior code."

"I know, but I love you, Leopardclaw. I can't stop seeing you."

"But what happens when some cat finds out? You know it will. What then?"

"It"ll be ok. It is ok." Leopardclaw thought she heard a pawstep, but she ignored it, telling herself she was imagining it. But then

"It won't be ok when some cat finds out." Leopardclaw and Cross-scar whipped around, to see a cat illuminated in the moonlight.

Bravesoul. "What are you doing here?" Leopardclaw demanded.

"Every night, for a moon, you have left camp. I have been watching, and now, I followed you. For StarClan's sake, this has to stop!" As the echo of Bravesoul's words died, the only sound was the running water over the rocks.

"Please leave." Cross-scar spoke quietly, but he may as well have shouted. Bravesoul comtemplated his words for a moment. He gave Cross-scar a look, poignant and accepting, saying What would your father say? and then softening slightly, to look at them both, Very well.

Chapter 10

Two cats that were once stood together now sat on either side of the stream.

Leopardclaw was sitting as she had been when she had been waiting. But this time her thoughts were darker, heavier, deeper.

Cross-scar was forcing himself to sit. He wanted to get up, pace, to yowl to the world of how nothing in it is fair, happy, lasting.

"He's right, you know." Leopardclaw spoke in not much more than a whisper. She did not look up from her paws. "We shouldn't be together. We shouldn't be here. We shouldn't be friends! Let alone lovers! I don't want us to be like Greystripe and Silverstream! I don't want to be like Silverstream. I don't want you to be hurt. Please." Leopardclaw had raised her voice, but the final words had drained her.

"I know." Cross-scar bent his head in submission. "But IT"S NOT FAIR!" Cross-scar got up, yowled to the world, leaped over the river and sat with the cat he could never love, the cat he loved.

They sat for most the night, and when they finally got up to leave, only one word was uttered. They left to their own Clans, their own lives. To separate worlds, to separate Clans and clearings.

And the word was

Goodbye.

Epilogue

Leopardclaw was in a green, grassy meadow. She was in StarClan. Three cats appeared, they had a message.

"Welcome." An old brown tom spoke first. Barkface.

"We have a message." A black and white tom with a long tail spoke next. Tallstar.

"Are you ready for your destiny?" A lilac she-cat spoke finally. Lavenderwish.

And the message was

The clouds are coming!


End of Book Two


The Rise Series, 2/6
Preceded by:
Amber Eyes in the Dark
The Steps of a Warrior Succeeded by:
The Tail of a Friend

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