Tigerkit kneaded his paws on the ground restlessly as he watched his littermates tumble in front of him. Today would be the day that he, Leafkit, and Sparklekit would become apprentices, but Flareeyes has been talking to Honeystar for forever. If he doesn't hurry up, we'll never be apprentices today! Unlike most kits, Tigerkit never rough-housed with his sisters for the fun of it. Instead, he had his own little training sessions, practicing moves that he had seen apprentices doing. I will be the greatest warrior WindClan has ever seen!
Suddenly, in a tangle of brown fur, one of Tigerkit's sisters, Leafkit, bowled into him, almost knocking him off his paws. "Hey, watch it!" Tigerkit growled, leaped away from his tumbling sister.
"Sorry," Leafkit mewed, shaking the bits of grass from her fur.
Tigerkit huffed, and shook his dark brown fur. "Cherryleaf's gonna get upset if she sees you dirty," he pointed out, knowing well that their mother would lick them clean until their fur shone like the lake.
Leafkit rolled her amber eyes. "Come on, Tigerkit. Have a little fun!" She suddenly lunged at Tigerkit.
Tigerkit sidestepped her easily. As she flashed past him, he hooked his paw under her hind legs so that she flopped to the ground on her stomach. Leafkit got to her paws, and glared at Tigerkit. "That's not fair!" she yowled.
Tigerkit shrugged. "It's totally fair," he meowed.
Suddenly, there was a flash of blue-gray fur as Sparklekit bowled Tigerkit over, and pummeled his belly with her hind paws. Her blue eyes shone with triumph. "Ha ha!" she yowled joyously.
Tigerkit struggled to get out of her grasp, but then, an idea came into his head. Slowly, he let himself go limp. Sparklekit leaned down so that her nose almost touched her brother's. "Who's the strongest warrior now?" she meowed.
At that moment, Tigerkit thrusted himself upward, throwing Sparklekit to the ground. He placed his powerful paws on her chest, barely feeling her soft blue-gray paws batting at his shoulders. When she finally gave up, Tigerkit shrugged. "I guess I am," he meowed before releasing his sister.
A flash of movement caught across the clearing caught Tigerkit's eye. Looking past Sparklekit, he saw the WindClan deputy, Flareeyes appear from behind a stone in the center of the clearing. Following behind came Honeystar, the golden WindClan leader. Tigerkit noticed her coughing, and prayed to StarClan that she didn't have whitecough. Too many good cats died during leaf-bare. Hopefully, her cough doesn't spread.
Honeystar climbed up the Tallrock, and raised her slightly raspy voice. "Let all cats old enough to catch their own prey join here for a Clan meeting."
Cats instantly began pooring out of their dens. Tigerkit saw the medicine cat, Silverember, and his apprentice, Dewpaw, settle close to Honeystar's rock. The warriors Sedgesun and Torntail joined the medicine cat while Blackmist, Shademask, and Kestrelash appeared from the warriors' den. The apprentices, Pebblepaw, Nettlepaw, Cinderpaw, and Whisperpaw, bounced into the clearing, clearly excited to have new denmates. Rosebush and Sparkflight emerged from the elders' den while Larkpetal stayed behind, trying to coax out Peppertail.
"Come on, Peppertail. Don't you want to see these young cats become apprentices?" the golden she-cat meowed gently.
"More apprentices?" Peppertail's raspy voice sounded from the bramble. "Great! That means more clean moss sooner!" The branches shook, and the dark gray tom appeared.
Tigerkit was ready to bound into the clearing when a paw suddenly pulled him back toward the nursery, and he felt a tongue rasping across his shoulders. "Cherryleaf, I'm not dirty!" Tigerkit complained.
"Oh, yes you are!" his mother replied. "You look like a fox kit. You too!" she added to Leafkit and Sparklekit, who had started to play again.
When at last Cherryleaf released her kits, they bounded across the clearing to stand right in front of Honeystar's rock. The squeezed through the crowd, and almost bundled into their father, Skystorm. The big, dark blue-gray tom looked down at his kits with pride. "Well, today's the day," he meowed.
Tigerkit nodded enthusiastically while Leafkit bounced up, and down, looking like she had ants in her pelt.
Skystorm looked at each of his kits individually. "I hope you do exactly what your mentors tell you to do," he meowed.
"We will!" the kits exclaimed.
Skystorm nodded. "Good." His eyes settled on Tigerkit, yet he continued to talk to all three of them. "I hope you become the greatest warriors the Clan has ever seen."
Tigerkit puffed out his chest as he realized how much his father expected from him. I won't let you down, Skystorm! he thought determinedly. He sat down beside his sisters, and waited while the rest of the Clan had gathered.
"Cats of WindClan," Honeystar yowled once the Clan fell silent, "today is a very special day. Today, three kits will become apprentices of WindClan. Tigerkit, Leafkit, Sparklekit, step forward."
While Leafkit bounded forward, tripping over her own paws, Tigerkit and Sparklekit stalked forward, holding their heads high. Tigerkit's eyes never left Honeystar. He wasn't about to ruin his apprentice ceremony, and embarrass himself like what Leafkit did. The three kits lined up in front of the Clan, and faced upward as Honeystar began to speak again.
"Tigerkit, Sparklekit, Leafkit, you have reached the age of six moons, and it is time for you to be apprenticed," the golden she-cat meowed. "From this day on, until you receive your warrior name, you will be known as Sparklepaw, Tigerpaw, and Leafpaw."
A tiny yowl of excitment from one of the apprentices was quickly silenced by Peppertail. The newly named Tigerpaw flicked his tail in amusement, and puffed out his chest, as did his sisters. Tigerpaw, he thought, I'm Tigerpaw now!
Honeystar's gaze drifted past the kits, and to the warriors behind them. She was choosing mentors for them. Tigerpaw wondered who his would be. He didn't care who it was, as long as they provided excellent training.
"Sedgesun," Honeystar called out, "you are ready to take on an apprentice. You received amazing training from myself, and you have shown yourself to be tactical, and swift in battle. You will be the mentor of Sparklepaw, and I hope you will pass on all you know to her."
Tigerpaw turned his head to see the light brown-and-white she-cat slowly walking up to his sister. She looks just as nervous as Sparklepaw! Tigerpaw thought, and quickly realized that Sedgesun had never had an apprentice before. I guess she has the right to be nervous. Sedgesun's nervous yellow eyes met Sparklepaw's excited blue eyes. The two she-cats touched noses, and the Clan called out the new apprentice's name. "Sparklepaw! Sparklepaw!"
That's going to be me in a moment, Tigerpaw thought proudly as he turned his attention to Honeystar again. "Kestrelash," she yowled, "you received great training from Sparkflight, and proved yourself a great mentor with Seedwing. You have shown yourself to be a great fighter, and skillful in all Clan activities. You will be the mentor of Tigerpaw, and I expect you to pass on all you know to him."
Tigerpaw, forgetting that he was an apprentice, spun around like an excited kit, but quickly calmed himself when he saw Kestrelash approaching him. The gray she-cat had an expectant look in her blue eyes as if she was wondering if Tigerpaw would be worthy enough to be her apprentice. Tigerpaw calmed himself, and puffed out his chest. Bring it on, Kestrelash! Leaning forward, he touched noses with Kestrelash, and relished as the Clan called out his new name. "Tigerpaw! Tigerpaw! Tigerpaw!" Feeling satisfied, Tigerpaw joined his mentor beside the brown-and-white warrior, Thrushfur, and his apprentice, Cinderpaw.
The little gray she-cat leaned toward Tigerpaw, and mewed, "I'm glad you're finally an apprentice!"
Tigerpaw simply flicked his tail, and gave her a small nod. He didn't want to seem curt, but he also didn't want to miss the rest of Leafpaw's ceremony.
"Weaselflare, you received astounding training from Winddapple, and have proven yourself strong, and courageous in any situation. You will be the mentor of Leafpaw, and I expect you to pass on all you know to her."
Leafpaw jumped in the air with joy, and nearly ran into Weaselflare as the brown-and-whtie tom approached her. Tigerpaw wanted to claw his sister's ear. You idiot! he yowled inwardly. Now, he's gonna treat you like a kit! But Weaselflare just flicked his ears in greeting, and touched noses with his new apprentice. "Leafpaw! Leafpaw!" the Clan yowled for the new apprentice.
As Leafpaw joined Tigerpaw, Sparklepaw, and their mentors, the Clan rose their voices one more time to welcome the new apprentices. "Tigerpaw! Sparklepaw! Leafpaw!" Tigerpaw held his head high, and felt pride for himself, and his sisters rise up inside him like a blue jay lifting into the air. We're ready for anything!
At last, the Clan began to break up, returning to their duties, and heading out on patrols. Tigerpaw had been so caught up in his thoughts about what a great warrior he would become that he barely noticed his sisters, and their mentors heading out of the hollow. They were off to explore the territory.
Tigerpaw spun around to face Kestrelash. "Are we going to go see the lake?" he asked excitedly. "Or the ThunderClan border?"
Kestrelash shook her head. "Something much more important to the Clan." And with that, she headed for the bracken tunnel at the top of the hollow.
Tigerpaw followed Kestrelash anxiously, wondering what special task would be put upon him on his first day as an apprentice. Hunting? Joining a border patrol? Chasing out a fox, or a badger? Tigerpaw forced his mind to calm down, and followed Kestrelash over the hills, heading away from the lake. The cool grass felt lush underneath his pads, and the smell of the wind filled his lungs. This is what it means to be a WindClan cat! he thought proudly. Turning his head, he saw the herd of sheep on a faraway hill. They weren't a threat, but the dogs that chased them were. Tigerpaw pricked up his ears to pick up the sounds of barking, but there was nothing.
Turning his head toward the ThunderClan border, he saw the border patrol. With the wind blowing toward him, he could pick up the faint scents of Torntail, who was leading the patrol, Shademask, Spottail, and his apprentice, Nettlepaw. They stayed in sight for a while before disappearing over the crest of a hill.
Tigerpaw faced forward again, and strained his ears forward when he heard the sound of running water.
"I like how you're observing the territory," Kestrelash mewed. "Actually paying attention to what's around you, not like Seedwing when he was an apprentice."
Tigerpaw let out a mrrow of laughter. He had been a very young kit when Seedwing was an apprentice, but he knew that he was a frisky cat, who always wanted to run, and explore. I'm not like that, Tigerpaw thought. I'll be the greatest warrior the Clan has ever seen!
Eventually, the sound of running water grew louder, and Tigerpaw could make out a small dip in the ground where water trickled out from between two jagged rocks. Moss grew on the stones, and around the pool of water. To Tigerpaw, it seemed like a good place for prey. He looked up at his mentor when she came to a stop at the edge of the water. "Are we going to be hunting here?" he asked.
Kestrelash shook her head, and flicked her tail towards the moss. "We're gathering moss for the elders," she meowed casually.
Tigerpaw's heart plummeted. Gathering moss? he wanted to yowl out loud. This isn't fair! Then, he remembered Peppertail complaining about the moss earlier today. Cinderpaw was supposed to get moss for him this morning. I guess Cinderpaw forgot... again!
Tigerpaw sighed, and looked up at his mentor. "How do I do that?" he asked, trying to keep the disappointment out of his voice.
But Kestrelash saw that Tigerpaw was disappointed because she narrowed her eyes, and flicked her tail irritably before padding up to one of the rocks. She lifted her paw, and unsheathed one claw. "You get your claw like this, dig it in between the moss, and the rock like this," she meowed, putting her paw underneath the moss, "and yank it up." In one swift movement, Kestrelash pulled up on the moss, and held up a small patch of the soft green plant. "Don't tear all of it off, though. That way, the moss can continue to grow."
Tigerpaw nodded in understandment, and went to work by the edge of the pool, slowly pulling up the moss, and making sure there was nothing inside it. Though Kestrelash commented on how good he was at this, he couldn't help but wish he was hunting, or exploring the territory with Leafpaw and Sparklepaw.
Once he had a small pile beside him, Kestrelash showed him how to shake the water off of it so that it would be dry for the elders. Tigerpaw knew how Peppertail was when he didn't have his moss dry, so he double checked to make sure that it was perfectly dry.
When at last the moss was dry, Kestrelash gave it a good sniff, and looked at her apprentice with approval. "Nice job, Tigerpaw," she meowed. "We won't have to hear Peppertail's complaints for another moon!"
Tigerpaw huffed in amusement. At least she's not harsh on me like most mentors are. He picked up the moss in his jaws, and headed back to the camp. Sunset had settled on the territory, and it wouldn't be long before Tigerpaw could finally sleep. He headed for the elders' den, which was in an old badger set. Thankfully, the stink of badger had faded away seasons ago to be replaced with the smell of WindClan elders.
Inside, Larkpetal and Rosebush were sharing tongues while Sparkflight groomed himself near the back of the den. Close to the ginger tom was Peppertail curled up in his dirty looking nest. Tigerpaw stood there, unsure if it was a good idea to wake up Peppertail from his doze.
Larkpetal saw Tigerpaw's confusion, and got up. "Don't you worry, Tigerpaw," the golden she-cat meowed. "I'll wake him for you." She padded over to Peppertail's nest, and poked him gently in the ribs. "Peppertail," she meowed quietly. "Peppertail, the new apprentice has moss for you."
At the word moss, Peppertail's amber eyes flashed open. "More moss?" he rasped. "Oh, finally! I thought I would have to collect moss myself!" The dark gray tom got out of his nest so that Tigerpaw could clean out the old moss.
"And once you're done with that," Peppertail meowed, "you can go get some mouse bile, and help me with my ticks."
Tigerpaw nearly choked on the moss he was carrying. Mouse bile? Ticks? This wasn't how he imagined his first day as an apprentice at all! Holding back a grown, Tigerpaw dropped the dirty moss outside of the den, and retreated to get the rest.
When he finally set up Peppertail's new nest, Tigerpaw bounded across the clearing to the medicine den, flicking his tail irritably. I'm going to claw Cinderpaw! he thought angrily. It's because of her that I have to get my paws dirty with mouse bile! Shaking his head, Tigerpaw ducked into the crack in the rock that led to Silverember's den, only to side step out of the way when the medicine cat's apprentice, Dewpaw, shot out of the den with dark green leaves in his mouth, and raced across the clearing to the nursery. Tigerpaw realized that the herbs must be for Mothears, who was ready to burst with kits. He ducked back into the den, and saw Silverember sorting out herbs at the far edge of the wall.
"Great StarClan, why is there barely any juniper on our territory?" the medicine cat murmured. "Ugh, and I need more borage for Mothears... maybe some poppy seed as well..."
Tigerpaw cleared his throat to announce his presence. "Um... Silverember?" he mewed.
Silverember jumped, and spun around. "Tigerkit!" he yowled, then shook his head. "Sorry, I mean Tigerpaw. You nearly scared the fur off of me!"
"Sorry," Tigerpaw mewed, "but Peppertail has some ticks so... I need some mouse bile."
"Ah, of course," Silverember meowed. He retreated farther into the den, and came back a couple of heartbeats later with a stick. On the end of the stick was a wad of the stinking mouse bile. Tigerpaw wrinkled his nose as Silverember brought it closer.
"I know it's not the greatest thing in the world," Silverember said when he saw Tigerpaw's disgusted face, "but it's either take care of the ticks, or hear Peppertail's whining for another moon."
Sighing, Tigerpaw took the stick, trying to hold the bile as far away from his as possible. "And for StarClan's sake, wash your paws in the stream!" Silverember added as the apprentice headed back outside. "Don't lick them!"
Tigerpaw flicked an ear to show that he heard, and padded back across the clearing to the elders' den. Peppertail was curled up in his nest, and when he saw Tigerpaw, he narrowed his amber eyes. "Oh, good. You haven't forgotten me," the old cat rasped.
Tigerpaw let out a low growl, hoping no one could hear. "Don't worry, Tigerpaw," Larkpetal meowed. "His tongue his sharper than his claws."
"Huh!" Peppertail growled, sinking his claws into the moss. "My claws were the sharpest in the Clan when I was a warrior." A distant look came into the old cat's eyes as if he could almost see his memories. "I remember the time I fought off a fox on my own to save Thrushfur and Weaselflare when they were kits."
Tigerpaw's ears pricked up. He had never heard that story before.
Peppertail saw Tigerpaw was begging for a story, so he turned to him, narrowed his eyes, and said, "Well, come take care of these nasty ticks, and I'll tell you. Or I could just go complain to Kestrelash."
Ignoring the elder's threat, Tigerpaw padded up to Peppertail's side, and parted his fur with one paw, searching for the ticks. "So I was just sharing tongues outside with Larkpetal here," Peppertail began, "when all of a sudden, I heard it: a fox snarling for blood mixed with the sound of squealing kits. I jumped to my paws, and before Larkpetal could say mouse, I was out of the camp. Now, it was raining outside, you see, and what a mighty thunderstorm it was!"
Tigerpaw spotted a large, black tick on Peppertail's shoulder, and dabbed it with mouse bile. "How did you hear them if there was thunder?" he asked.
"Don't you know?" Rosebush rasped from the other side of the den. "Peppertail had the best hearing the Clan before he retired. I remember the time when-"
"Hush!" Peppertail snapped, flicked his tail irritably. "This is my story, remember?"
Tigerpaw let out a mrrow of laughter, and began searching for more ticks.
"Anyways," Peppertail continued, "I raced across the clearing like a LeopardClan warrior. I could see them now, the kits trapped between the stream, and the fox. An old, scarred fox, he was, but a very worthy opponent. I leaped on that creature, and I shouted, "You get away from those kits right now before I claw you so bad, you'll be crawling back to the nursery squealing, 'Mommy! Mommy!' with your tail tucked between your legs! But the brute ignored me, and sank his teeth into my shoulder. Bad mistake that was," Peppertail growled, turning to look at Tigerpaw as he located a tick on the tip of the elder's black tail. "So I yowl to StarClan, and scratch that fox's eyes out! Oh, great StarClan, you've never seen a fox run so fast! That coward went squeaking back to his den like a pathetic mouse lucky enough to escape a cat's claws. I stood in front of the kits, and I shouted, "Yeah, you'd better run! Go back to your mommy! And if you dare come back to my territory, I'll send you runnin' from here to StarClan, and I will haunt your nightmares!"
"Like you could," Larkpetal mewed.
"I would if I could," Peppertail replied, sounding sure of himself. "I'd make that fox wish he had never been kitted!"
Tigerpaw moved to Peppertail's other side, and located a tick on his haunches. "What did Thrushfur and Weaselflare say?" he asked.
"Oh, they thought I was the greatest warrior ever," Peppertail rasped. "They wouldn't stop squealin' 'I want to be just like you, Peppertail!' 'You sure showed that fox, Peppertail!' 'I want you to be my mentor, Peppertail!'" The old gray cat sighed, and closed his eyes. "Good times, those were. Good times..."
"There," Tigerpaw meowed in satisfaction as the last tick dropped off. "I think that's it, Peppertail."
"Good," Peppertail rasped. He opened his eyes, and rested them on Tigerpaw, "And make sure you tell Cinderpaw not to forget the moss next time!"
"I will," Tigerpaw promised. He padded out of the den with the stick still in his jaws, and headed out of the camp to go to the stream that was the border between WindClan and ThunderClan. He abandoned the stick near the lake shore, and jumped into the icy water. Though chills ran up his legs, and the water brushed his belly fur, Tigerpaw was glad to be rid of the mouse bile.
Once he was positive that the disgusting stuff was off of his paws, and the scent was gone as well, Tigerpaw hauled himself out of the water, and shook his fur to dry himself off. Sighing, he began to make his way back home, but stopped when his gaze rested on the lake, which turned into a fiery orange color as the sun went down behind the pine trees across the lake, silhouetting ShadowClan territory. Awestruck, Tigerpaw sat down on the grass, and gazed out at the lake, and the territories around it. He never realized just how beautiful it was, how special this place was. Tigerpaw couldn't imagine a better home than here. I'm glad I'm a WindClan cat, he thought with satisfaction. After a few more peaceful minutes, Tigerpaw got to his paws, and made his way home.