Series: The Rise Series
Preceeding: The Steps of a Warrior
Succeeding: Strangers in the Shadows
Leopardclaw is now a warrior of WindClan. She has suffered yet more losses for the good of her Clan. Now StarClan have told her that the Clouds of her prophecy are coming. But is this going to mean yet more suffering?
A new kittypet had moved to the Twoleg nest. She had a pink, jingly collar, and white fluffy fur. She heard her Twoleg calling her, rattling her food bowl. The cat ignored the promise of food; she was already full fed. She was six or so moons old. Curling up in her nest, she dreamed nothing less ordinary than catching a mouse.
The abnormal thing about this dream was three unusual cats were watching from the shadows. One nodded as another whispered in their ear. The other watched and contemplated her. She pounced and caught the mouse, and the dream faded, the question 'Who are you?' burning on her lips. She thought about the dream, then decided she was hungry. As she wandered to her bowl, she said her name to herself.
Leopardclaw was out hunting, on a patrol with Thunderstrike, and Bravesoul tagging along looking for herbs. Crowfeather burst out a bush; hunting with them also. A rabbit was dangling from his mouth, and his eyes were shining. Crowfeather had been very happy recently, as his mate Nightcloud's kits were going to be born soon. Leopardclaw was looking forward to having some more kits in the Clan; she hoped that Webstar would give one to her as her first apprentice.
"Leopardclaw, look!" Leopardclaw was pulled out of her thoughts by Thunderstrike's excitement. She looked, and saw a kittypet sunning itself near it's Twoleg nest.
"It's inside our territory. What should we do?" Leopardclaw sent the patrol on, telling them that she would deal with it. She didn't really know why, she was little more experienced then them, and she would have been glad of backup if things had gone badly.
But it didn't.
As Leopardclaw approached, she could see the kittypet more clearly. It was well groomed, as would be expected, with long, fluffy, white fur. It was a she-cat, and around her neck she wore a collar. Leopardclaw approached cautiously, unsure of what she was doing.
Leopardclaw had three thoughts very quickly.
Her first thought was It looks like a cloud!
Her second thought was Do I recognise this cat?
Her third thought was Cloud?
"Kittypet!" Leopardclaw spat the word. The kittypet merely raised her head. Her ice blue eyes locked wth Leopardclaw's deep amber ones. "You are on our territory. Get. Off. NOW." Leopardclaw said the words with as much malice as she could manage. But the kittypet still did not run away.
"You're one of those Clan cats, aren't you." The kittypet did not seem enraged, just curious.
"I am, and I will rip you shreds if you do not leave." Leopardclaw's fur was bristling. The kittypet tilted her head, seemingly taunting Leopardclaw.
And it worked.
Leopardclaw's eyes darkened and a fire burned deep within them. Her claws unsheathed and she lashed out, all in one movement. Her claws hit their target, as the kittypet's claws hit theirs.
Both cats pulled back. Leopardclaw had a large gash down her right cheek; blood was dripping from it. A large chunk out of the kittypet's left ear was missing. The kittypet's eyes widened, as if she was surprised, and the darted back off to the Twoleg nest.
Leopardclaw stalked back to the camp. Her blood was dripping from her wound. And yet her anger had faded. She knew she would have a scar. She also knew that she would see that kittypet again.
Leopardclaw was in the Medicine den.
Not for the first tme.
"How did you get this wound?" Bravesoul was applying a poultice and cobebs to Leopardclaw's wound. "That's going to make a nice scar. Just like mine!" Leopardclaw winced, but not at the pain. She winced at the memory of giving Bravesoul his scar. Leopardclaw padded out of the medicine den and paused.
What am I going to do? Leopardclaw changed course, and headed to Webstar's den. She slipped around the Tallrock and hesitantly called out. "Webstar?"
"Come in Leopardclaw, I can hear you out there." Leopardclaw wandered into the den. It was some small shelter, a few boulders together. "What have you come for?" Leopardclaw sat down, and closed her eyes.
"This cat, on the border today. A kittypet. She almost seemed..." Leopardclaw searched for the right word. "Familiar. I..I, feel like I know her, but I don't. I think she has, I," Webstar cut Leopardclaw off.
"You think it has something to do with your prophecy?"
"How...? How....? How did you know about my prophecy?" Leopardclaw was bewildered and stunned.
"I do. Clouds and Claws will come, and the Ancient Laws will sleep at peace one more. Do you think StarClan would not tell me my Clan may be at great risk?" Websatr sounded serious, but he smiled at the same time. "You are the Claws, that is certain."
"This kittypet, my first thought was, that it looked like a cloud. Then it attacked me!" Leopardclaw was trying to sound angry, but in fact could not muster the anger. Webstar paused, and contemplated these words for a moment.
"It seems to me that this cat may be of importance to your prophecy. She may be the clouds. So therefore, only one thing can be done.
"Invite the cat to the Clan."
Leopardclaw was on patrol. She was doing as many patrols as she could.
Just for a prophecy.
Her mother had noticed this. Leopardclaw was going on the evening patrol, although she had already been on all the patrols of the day.
"Leopardclaw," Leopardclaw stopped, just as the patrol was about to leave. "You need to stop doing so many patrols." Spottedfeather was right, Leopardclaw realised.
"I now. But I need to do patrols..." Leopardclaw knew her mother was right.
She headed to the Warriors den. A loud wail came from the nursery.
Nightcloud's kits were coming.
"Breezekit, that's a lovely name." Leopardclaw was admiring Nightcloud and Crowfeather's new kit. He was a spitting image of both his parents. He had blue eyes just like Crowfeather. She hoped that she would get him as her apprentice. Leopardclaw padded out of the Nursery, and went out hunting.
Her paws took her to the Twoleg nest without her even thinking. She had caught a couple of plump rabbits, ad a bird. She stopped dead.
The kittypet was on the fence.
Leopardclaw's heart rose. She approached the fence hesitantly.
"What is your name kittypet?" Leopardclaw did not spit, nor did she arch her back. The kittypet looked at her, and leaped down off the fence.
"I am Cloud. And to which Clan cat do I have the priviledge of adressing?" Leopardclaw was taken aback. The kittypet used words that Leopardclaw had never heard of.
"I'm Leopardclaw of WindClan, former medcine cat." Leopardclaw had misgivings about inviting this strange cat into her Clan.
"Leopardclaw," The kittypet appeared to be talikng to herself. Cloud. "I'll see you again Leopardclaw." And with that, Cloud disappeared. Leopardclaw knew that her words were true.
We will meet again, Cloud.
Leopardclaw dragged her prey onto the fresh kill pile. She headed over to where Bravesoul and his siblings were eating, taking a small mouse with her.
"Hey Bravesoul! Featherflame, Thunderstrike!" Leopardclaw sat down next to Bravesoul, and started eating her mouse. The three siblings went back to their conversation.
"So, you see," Bravesoul was saying, "I'm going to need to stock up on catmint this Greenleaf, because it hardly grows in Leafbare. We were lucky not to get any outbreaks of Greencough. Also I'm running low on Marigold. That's always useful."
"I'll come out with you. I'll hunt while you hunt for herbs." Thunderstrike offered.
"And I. I'll come too. Two paws are better than one." Featherflame agreed with her brother.
"May I come too?" Leopardclaw asked. She would hunt, but her main priority would be looking for Cloud.
"Sure," Thunderstrike mewed. "We're going tomorrow, at sunhigh.
At sunhigh the next day, the patrol set out.
Leopardclaw set out to find the Clouds.
"Leopardclaw? What are you looking at?" Thunderstrike asked Leopardclaw again. She had been jumpy and on edge, and had missed two pieces of prey.
And then she saw what she was after. Not prey or predator, not threat or intruder. The clouds.
Leopardclaw raced over to the kittypet's nest. Cloud. Thunderstrike watched as she ran to the nest; he was more puzzled than before. To Leopardclaw's dismay, Cloud was not sitting on her fence, so she called out
"Cloud? Are you there?" For a heartbeat, Leopardclaw though that she would get no answer.
Then she saw a glimpse of white fur. The clouds had arrived.
"Leopardclaw?" Cloud sounded mildly surprised. "What are you doing here?"
"Looking for you." Leopardclaw's answer was short and simple. Cloud had a question in her eyes, but before she could speak, Leopardclaw asked the question which she had meant to ask from the beginning. "Will you join WindClan. My Clan." Leopardclaw looked at Cloud; she was evidently taken aback. Still, the answer came hardly before Leopardclaw had take a breath.
"Who's that kittypet?"
"Why has Leopardclaw brought it here?"
"Does Webstar allow this?"
"What's going on?" Leopardclaw heard all the condemning whispers around her as she brought Cloud into camp. Her collar jingled, and Leopardclaw felt her quiver nervously. Webstar had noticed their arrival, and leapt onto the highrock.
"Cats of WindClan, I know you are all wondering why this kittypet has been brought to camp. You may disagree, but in the warrior code, it tells of the leader's word being law. So here is my word, and I trust you all to respect my decision. This kittypet shall join WindClan."
The whole Clan fell silent. Leopardclaw nudged Cloud towards Webstar. She sat, for a moment, and unpicked her collar, which fell to the ground with a soft thud.
"This apprentice has given her collar to show her loyalty," Webstar then spoke directly to Cloud. "From this day on, you shall be known as Cloudpaw, to honour your loyalty and pelt. Your mentor shall be Leopardclaw, seeing as she guided you to camp." Leopardclaw walked forward. "I expect you to pass on your courage and strength." As the Clan hesitantly chanted Cloudpaw's name, Leopardclaw saw a flash in Webstar's eyes; she knew it meant she should pass on her strength of will rather than physical strength.
"Cloudpaw, tonight you can sleep in the apprentice den." She guided Cloudpaw to where she would spend the night, and left her as an apprentice of the Clan.
"Cloudpaw! Wake up!" Leopardclaw gently cuffed her sleeping apprentice's ear. "Today I'm going to show you the territory! Come on!" Leopardclaw raced out of camp, and Cloudpaw followed, her white fur billowing out as she ran.
Cloudpaw slowed as they reached her old nest. Leopardclaw gently changed the subject. "Over there live RiverClan. Fisheaters! Blech! They smell bad and eat fish and always say that the lake is theirs. It isn't, however." Cloud took a deep breath and snorted. Leopardclaw meowed with laughter, knowing her apprentice had a mouthful of RiverClan scent.
Next they ran to the ThunderClan border. Leopardclaw was explaining two rules of the Warrior Code: Do not hunt or trespass on another Clan's territory, and Boundaries must be checked and marked daily. Challenge all trespassing cats.
They stopped at the border, and Leopardclaw told Cloudpaw that boundaries should never be crossed, when a voice said "Especially not when some cat is watching." Cross-scar leapt out of the bushes, and told of another rule in the code: "Defend your Clan, even with your life. You may have friendships with cats from other Clans, but your loyalty must remain to your Clan, as one day you may meet them in battle." He nodded his head to Leopardclaw, and ran away.
"Especially never break that rule." Leopardclaw sighed.
"The Clouds and Claws have come together. This is how it was meant to be." Three cats were crouched around a starry pool, an watery image of two running cats, one white and one spotted, on the surface. The tail of this first cat waved around, the rest of the cat was shadowy.
"Now they must face the past. They must set things at peace." The young she-cat spoke with wisdom past her age.
"But I sense danger coming, before their task. It could be perilous, and... but I cannot see that far ahead. Their futures are clouded and twisted; so many potential paths that could lead to so many different ways." The final cat's eyes appeared haunted, almost as if he was scared of what would happen.
"Whatever happens," said the first cat, "They must fulfill the prophecy. Or else doom could come sooner than we thought."
To be continued in Strangers in the Shadows