A tortoiseshell she-cat with matted fur padded out of a misty section of the Place of No Stars near the StarClan border. Her amber eyes glinted at the sunny forest on the other side.
Her nose twitched. "I know you're there, Appledusk."
A pale brown tom appeared out of the forest, his green eyes focusing on the she-cat. "Hello, Mapleshade." he meowed cautiously.
Mapleshade grinned at him, showing the full length of her thorn-like teeth. "I suppose you know what's coming, being a StarClan cat and all." she hissed.
Appledusk gave a small growl. "Don't you touch them, Mapleshade."
The Dark Forest warrior slashed at the StarClan tom, her claws stopping at the force field, leaving Appledusk just out of her range.
"Sleekpelt and Cedarpelt are to have and raise those kits in peace, Mapleshade. I and the rest of StarClan will not let you corrupt those kits." Appledusk mewed, his green eyes calmly meeting hers.
Several other cats emerged from behind him, all glaring at Mapleshade.
Bloomheart emerged from the crowd and stood next to Appledusk. His amber eyes studying Mapleshade's scarred face. He shook his head silently and returned to stand with two other StarClan cats, Birchface and Frecklewish.
Mapleshade shot a glare at Frecklewish, snarling. "I've still never forgiven you. You let my kits die." She paused, a grin forming at the corners of her lips. "But I'll have new ones to raise soon."
The spotted she-warrior didn't respond to the dark cat's words.
"I won't tell you again, Mapleshade." Appledusk warned. "Stay away from those kits."
"You think I'll bow to StarClan just because of your numbers? Well, I have an army of my own." she said as she let loose an echoing yowl.
With hissing and snarling echoing from the trees of the dimly lit forest, several cats with sickly frames and glowing eyes appeared, perched on tree branches and rocks.
The StarClan cats began to drop into battle positions, claws extended.
"Mapleshade, if you want those kits, you have to get through all of StarClan first." Appledusk hissed.
"Challenge accepted." she growled with a flick from her tail.
Chapter One Edit
"Dawnstep, hurry!" a brown tabby tom meowed across the ThunderClan camp.
The pale golden medicine cat scrambled from her den. "Now? But it's nearly moonhigh."
He looked at her with fearful eyes. "Sleekpelt says she's sure this time. They're coming."
Several warriors poked their heads out of their den as the two cats darted to the nursery.
Dawnstep padded up to the ginger and black calico queen, a few herbs in her mouth. She rolled a pawful of poppy seeds at her. "Here. These will help with the pain."
Sleekpelt licked up the seeds without hesitation. Her stomach convulsed and she buckled in pain, a yowl echoing from the nursery. She dug her claws into the nest, gritting her teeth.
Firepaw, the medicine cat apprentice, ran into the den, trotting to a stop next to Dawnstep. "How is she?" she panted.
The elderly medicine cat shook her head. "I don't know if she'll pull through."
"What?" Cedarpelt blurted out, his brown pelt bristling.
"She isn't doing well, even with the poppy seeds. I don't know if she or the kits will make it out alive."
A shriek from Sleekpelt cut their conversation short. A kit had begun to emerge.
A tiny brown bundle rolled into the nest.
Dawnstep grabbed the kit, handing it to Cedarpelt. "Lick."
Cedarpelt began to quickly run his tongue along the kit, licking it clean.
A second kit dropped into the moss, a rich red-brown she-kit with swirling markings.
She pushed the kit towards Firepaw and she began to clean the tiny ball of fur.
Dawnstep put a paw on Sleekpelt's stomach. "There's one more."
Sleekpelt's eyes struggled to stay open. She panted heavily.
The last kit tumbled into the nest with a soft mew.
Dawnstep lifted the kit into her teeth and settled it down into Cedarpelt's paws.
The kit rolled over as the brown tabby began to clean her tortoiseshell fur.
Sleekpelt looked over at her mate as Firepaw set the red-brown kit into Cedarpelt's paws. "What do you want to name them?"
Cedarpelt looked down at the tiny bundles of fur on the ground in front of him. "The older she-kit one can be Redkit, and the tom can be Aspenkit." he meowed as he looked down at the tortoiseshell kit. "You can name the last one."
Sleekpelt smiled faintly at her youngest kit. "Can we name her Maplekit?"
Cedarpelt nuzzled her. "Of course we can, Sleekpelt."
Dawnstep laid the three kits down next to their mother. "You need to rest. And so do they. I'll check up on you at dawn." She flicked her tail, gesturing for Firepaw and Cedarpelt to follow her out. "Leave her to rest. The kits need to sleep."
Sleekpelt laid her head down as she began to drift into sleep.
Chapter Two Edit