The sun shone brightly on the colorful field, blowing in the warm breeze. Poppykit drew to a halt, her paws smashing the bright green grass ever so lightly.
“Are you sure that we won’t get in trouble, Mama?” she inquired.
“You’re with me,” Brookshine replied, “And this is special.”
Indeed it was. A million different flowers, of all shapes and sizes, were swaying in the wind. Blossoms dotted the whole meadow with color.
“My mother used to take me here as a kit and an apprentice,” Brookshine mewed, “Her own mother had done the same, and had even been buried here beneath the daisies after a tragic accident with tree-climbing. From that moment, it was sacred. Not only was it beautiful, it taught me and my mother an important lesson.”
Poppykit vaguely wondered what it was, but couldn’t focus too much attention on it, because the flowers were almost hypnotic.
“See, my mother was born without a tail. As an apprentice, she was constantly teased for it. But my grandmother helped her by taking her here.”
She wished that Brookshine would just get to the point. Everything seemed to be going in a complete circle.
“And she taught me the same lesson. Everyone is special, just like each flower in this field. All different, but beautiful. No matter what anyone tells you.”
She nodded in understanding, growing to enjoy the short lesson. Then she tried to imagine what flower she would be. Maybe one of the pretty golden buttercups, she thought. Or a poppy, just like her name.
Without thinking, she took a few steps forward into the field, strolling through the flowers. Soon, she broke into a run, feeling completely free and spirited. Her fur blew as she dashed across.
After, panting and tired, she came back across the field to her laughing and purring mother. I wonder if she did that when she first came here too.
“Come on, we had better get back to camp,” her mother mewed.
Happily, Poppykit nodded, and pranced after her. I’m special, she thought, Special just like every daisy in that field.
Poppystrike sighed, letting the always-persistent wind blow over her fur.
She looked out into the field, remembering that day, years ago. Sighing, she wished that it was just like that then.
When she was only a kit, life seemed to be exactly clear like the stream that ran just past the field, but now it was all complicated like the webs spun around the walls of the warriors' den that no warrior or apprentice felt industrial enough to clean up. Half of the nights, she woke up with a wolf spider on her flank, biting her hide.
"Poppystrike! What in StarClan's name are you doing, you useless lump?" someone spat, just over the rise. Grumbling, she turned around. It was Cloverstripe. What a surprise.
Ambling down the crest like a crow with a broken leg, she muttered a few unintelligible words. Although she was fairly certain that she caught "lazy" and "fox dung".
"Hello Cloverstripe," she mewed cheerfully.
"Don't give me any of that," she snapped, "You know that you were slacking with your duties to PetalClan."
"But since when do you have the right to tell me what to do?" she shot back.
Cloverstripe bared her teeth. "I'm a senior warrior," she hissed lowly, "You've been a warrior for one moon. So I now command you to go backs to camp and clean out all of the dens."
Fury pulsed through her. She bit her lips, to keep in an angry reply. Without another word, she spun around, in the other direction, away from the beautiful fields the bleak world of DawnClan.
Except she didn't actually go into camp. She curved around, avoiding the path leading to the lichen tunnel, and trampled into the forest. Dawn'Clan has been going downhill, since moons ago. Clean the dens? It's injustice. Cloverstripe has no right to boss me around.
Feeling rather proud of herself, she paused, and stepped onto a smooth gray rock to relax for awhile before returning to the loud, awful camp.
But she should've known that it wouldn't last. Before she could even hear them, she knew that a patrol was coming nearer.
Yep. There was Cloverstripe, leading a patrol of her bozos. Also known as Spottedmist and Silvercloud.
"You've been naughty today, Poppystrike," Cloverstripe mewed sadistically, "Now we caught you, and you're coming back to camp."
The problem with having a lot of time to think, is that you had more time to be angry. Although, it was impossible to be in a horrible mood when walking through the field.
But on the other paw, when you were trying to clear out all of the bedding out of every collapsing den while your Clan taunted you while doing it, it was hard not to hate your Clan and curse every single one of them and sink into a pit of anger.
"You missed a spot, Poppypaw!" called out Silvercloud, her beautiful bushy tail curling in amusement. Poppystrike envied her looks and popularity, but was glad she wasn't as stuck-up and snobby.
Her claw snagged across one of the always-abundant cobwebs on the sides of the den. Using some of the old bedding, she began to dab up the webs. Maybe I can give these to Pinefeather, if she's not taking a nap in her den.
After more grueling work, she finally gathered up all of the dirt and was almost done and...
A huge bang was heard on the wall of the nursery. And the wall collapsed, showering her with twigs. Snickers were heard, as paws pattered away.
"Who was that?" she yowled through the gaping hole just broken in the den.
She realized that it was no use. They had already run away, laughing. She could hear Cloverstripe shouting at her from outside the den, but she wasn't really listening. Plus, she didn't see how a destroyed den would've done so much difference since the camp was pretty much disgusting.
Next, she heard some other cat shouting at Cloverstripe about how she needed to go get a life instead of yelling at other cats, so of course Cloverstripe returned the shouting instead of taking the advice. Seemed like the only good cat in the Clan was her and Brookshine, her mother. She had been gone all day, leaving Poppystrike to deal with the whole place herself.
Then Hailspots began yelling at Weedpaw, her daughter. She tried to shut it out.
Great StarClan. Sometimes she wondered if she could hate anything more than DawnClan.
She could hear the drip drip drip of the rain on the roof of the den. Every now and then, a little bit would sprinkle on her fur. I should've done a better job.
Rolling over, she tried to get comfortable without touching Maplepelt, who was snoozing right next to her. But instead, she just ended up burrowing a hole in her thin layer of damp moss, her flank pressing on the cold earth.
As soon as her amber eyes began to close again, she heard a soft mutter.
"Shut up," she groaned to all the cats in her den.
"We didn't say anything!" someone hissed back, "Thanks for waking me up!"
She shivered. And heard another whisper. Cautiously, she peeked her head out of the den, to see who was there. All she ever suspected was a pair of mates giggling with each other, but instead, she came to a pair of yellow eyes glowing through the dark.
Slowly, a brown tom slipped out from the bushes, followed by a few more slim, shadowy figures.
Poppystrike couldn't just stand there anymore. She let out one sharp caterwaul, breaking the silence of the night.
Only about half of the cats dragged themselves out of their dens, alert.
"Intruders!" she yowled. More sluggish cats crawled from the dens.
"Hello, cats of DawnClan," a sleek she-cat mewed, her voice like water running over pebbles on a stream.
All was silent, yet Poppystrike was sure that the same questions were racing through all of their heads. Who are these cats? What do they want? Will they hurt us?
One brave soul stood up on wobbly legs, and asked, "Who are you?"
Poppystrike knew that she hated most cats of PetalClan but... she had a certain amount of respect for the small she-cat who stood up.
Everyone turned in surprise. It was timid, trembling Weedpaw, struggling to keep eye contact with the lead rogue without getting too terrified. She blinked, leafy green eyes gleaming in the moonlight.
Poor Weedpaw. That was the name her mother gave her, after being displeased with her. She didn't know much more than that, and yet, her only source of information was gossip.
"How cute," she purred. It didn't sound much like a purr though. More like someone dragging their claw over a rock.
"My name is Eveningstar. Pleased to meet you and your lot. Now, I really don't believe in long introductions--"
She was cut off, by Rivertail, the Clan deputy. "Eveningstar? But that's a Clan name. The other Clans died out moons and moons ago!"
"Or so you thought."
Dawnstar pushed his way though, taking his place next to his deputy. "Explain all of this."
"We've been off in hiding for a long, long time now," Eveningstar purred, "All because of you. And we're back here to claim what is ours, in whatever way that we can."
Something caught her eye. Pushing through the crowd, were two agile black she-cats, with two struggling forms between them.
Once they came into the starlight, it was revealed what it was.
Writhing between them was Rosesplash, one of the new warriors. Next to her, was Brookshine.
She tried to look at the dark outline of the trees, trying to distract herself from it...
Nope. No use. Pain laced throughout her face, as her mother struck her hard across the face.
"You rat!" she snarled, "What were you thinking, embarrassing me like that!"
"I'm sorry," she whimpered, "I was just trying to help DawnClan."
"I know what would help DawnClan," she growled, "Maybe showing everyone a bit of respect and shutting up for once!"
A few cats in the back row of the crowd turned around to look. Her cheeks flushed. Sometimes she wondered what cats thought of her. Orchidpaw and Goldenpaw, the most popular apprentices, were always so sympathetic. But sometimes she wondered if they actually liked her. Or they just viewed her as a poor little kit that had been kicked around too much.
Eveningstar's voice rang through her ears. True, it was calm, but it had a sharp edge to it. Like she was about to burst and slice her claws through anything that crossed her path. Weedpaw tried to listen, but Eveningstar's voice was drowned out by the mutterings of cats and the fact that her mother was squashing her face on the ground with one of her paws.
A hiss broke out, towards the front of the crowd.
And the bushes rustled.
And the shadowy shapes of the cats slowly rustled through the bushes on the edge of the clearing.
"Are they gone?" Weedpaw tried to whisper to her mother.
"Yes. Now shut up, before you embarrass me again," she snarled, and let her up.
Weedpaw spied Starfire slowly turn around, icy blue eyes glowing. Her golden fur rippled.
"Hailspots, don't you think that you've been a bit harsh with your daughter?" Starfire said sharply, for the whole clearing to hear.
Hailspots' head turned slowly, to meet Starfire's eyes.
"Mind your own business."
"Hi Weedpaw, how's it going!" Weedpaw cringed at her name. It was the one her mother specifically gave to her, after being born sickly.
She looked behind her. Sure enough, Orchidpaw was flouncing up behind her, her velvety blue eyes cheery.
"Hello Orchidpaw," she replied, voice lacking all emotion.
"Ooh, your fur looks so cute today!" she purred. Weedpaw gave a small smile. Yet she could barely accept the empty compliments.
The silence was beginning to get to her. "Where's Goldenpaw?"
"Oh, she's dragging herself out of the den," she mewed airily.
"Oh. Okay," she responded stickily as possible, even though her fake sweet voice was laughable. "Catch you later."
And she turned tail as fast as possible.
"No! Weedpaw! Wait!" Orchidpaw shouted after her.
"What is it?"
Orchidpaw looked to the ground, looking rather hurt. "Well... I'm sorry if it might be awkward after last night and your mother... but I'm always here to help. I know that things have been rough between you two."
"Stop trying to pry your nose into my personal business!" she yowled, "I've had enough of it. You don't treat poor Lotuspaw this way, just because she's unpopular. You're so biased, just because of my mother! I don't even want all of this attention!"
A look of shock crossed her face. Then a tear dripped down her face, falling so perfectly that any cat had to feel bad for her.
"What did you just say?"
The full realization of her situation crossed her mind.
"Look--I'm sorry, I didn't know--"
Goldenpaw came up from behind, disgusted.
"I heard the whole thing. I'm ashamed that I ever called myself your friend."
Weedpaw tried to talk, but only a choking sound emanated from her throat.
And she was all alone. Abandoned. What have I done? I just drove off the only cats that I could even rely on.
Flashfur's pelt pressed uncomfortably against hers.
"Okay, everybody. Patrolling the left edge of our forest, will be Violetsplash and Goldenpaw, led by Willowstep. The right edge, will be Spiderfoot and Weedpaw led by Hailspots."
Her stomach lurched.
Her mother made her way toward them, nodding to Spiderfoot. "Let's get going, shall we?" But when she turned to Weedpaw, her gaze darkened. Gulping, she followed after, making sure to stick near Spiderfoot.
Even though she was nervous, to her surprise, she found herself thinking about Orchidpaw and Goldenpaw more than the fact that she had to patrol with her mother. She should've realized what valuable friends they were, before they were gone. Now she had no one. A dead father, dead siblings, and a vengeful mother.
"A real surprise, an EveningClan comeback," Spiderfoot mewed, trying to break the silence. "We all thought that they had been wiped out."
"Tell me something that I don't know," Hailspots responded under her breath.
He flicked his tail irritably. "I'm just trying to make a point here. It turned from a strange night into a huge problem. You realize that DawnClan will have to fight EveningClan at some point?" Just after that statement, Weedpaw realized how attractive Spiderfoot was, and his sleek black coat. Like she would ever get him, with her drab gray pelt.
"What we really need to start worrying about is the system of our own Clan. If you ask me, EveningClan can just sit by as we crumble by ourselves. And it's all due to... certain types of cats."
Weedpaw's breathing quickened, as Hailspots turned around to look at her, eyes narrowing. What did I ever do?
Arriving at the border, Spiderfoot sniffed the air.
"No trace of EveningClan here. Let's move on." He sniffed again. "But there's some up there. Why don't you two go up there, while I stay here?"
"Who's the patrol leader?" her mother reminded him. "Weedpaw and I will stay here, while you go."
From the look in Spiderfoot's eyes, she could tell that he just wanted to rage like Briarpaw assigned to elders' dens. But he kept his calm and collected cover on, and padding up over a gentle rise to where the scent seemed to be coming from.
"Now. We've got rid of him," Hailspots mewed, pleased.
"What did I do? What do you want?" she whimpered.
"First of all, stop crying like a kit. And second, it's about time that you learn something."
Huh? "Learn what?" she dared ask, "Why you hate me so much? I never did anything. Yet you name me Weedpaw, just because I was born ill."
She laughed, and struck her across the face, just because she wanted to. "Think again. There's more to your kithood than you can remember."
Despite how her vision was blurring from fear, she was able to see... tears glistening in her mother's eyes? It was hard to tell, but they seemed to be coated in moisture. Maybe it was just a mistake. Hailspots never cried, she was too cold and hard to even get close to it.
"Me and your father... we always wanted a son. A little handsome son who would always be a bit of a troublemaker yet sweet at heart and loved his parents. And we almost had one. He was born alongside you, a much less attractive kit." She spat the last words out.
"You were the bane of our existence ever since you were born. Sickly, you took up all of the resources. And when leaf-bare hit, it was even worse. Since we had to try and care for you, your perfect, sweet brother died. And it's all your fault."
The words hit her like a falling tree branch. All my fault?
"But--but I was only a kit," Weedpaw tried to argue.
Hailspots leaned in really close, so she could see every hair on her pale gray pelt. "You can't hide the fact that you killed your littermate. That's why you are named Weedpaw. Nothing but a weed to root out of the system."
Her mother raised a paw. It stretched up higher than usual, blocking out a few rays of sunlight. Weedpaw cowered in fear, when she noticed Hailspots' claws slowly sliding out of her paw. No... claws unsheathed... She braced herself for the painful sting as claws sliced through her fur.
And Spiderfoot pushed through the clearing. He was panting, eyes wide.
"EveningClan! They're coming!"
Weedpaw found herself tearing through the forest, on the heels of Spiderfoot and Hailspots. At this point, the EveningClan scent was drifting into her nostrils, causing her fur to stand on end.
Bursting through the row of trees, to her shock, what was practically the whole Clan. They stood in a battle formation, snarling, ready to spring.
"Bring it on, you pathetic DawnClan cats!" one of the she-cats in the front row yowled.
"What are we going to do, they outnumber us by so many!" Spiderfoot hissed. Hailspots shrugged, tail twitching in terror. They began to circle.
Do these cats have no honor at all? Attacking a patrol of three cats is horrible! she thought, struggling to hold her ground.
Spiderfoot snapped around to Weedpaw.
"Weedpaw. We need you to run back to camp and get reinforcements!" he shouted at her.
She scuffled her paws. "But... I..."
"No, she needs to stay here," Hailspots snarled, "About time she fights, possibly getting some battle scars..."
"No," Spiderfoot mewed in objection, "Weedpaw goes."
Nervously turning around and sprinting away, she wondered what was better. Going to camp, knowing how they would react, and not getting cats over until the battle was over and her mother and Spiderfoot were dead.
Her mother. With ever pawstep towards camp, she relived the scene over and over, were she tried to injure her... or maybe even kill her.
She was no safer with her than in the battle with EveningClan.
But now, now she was free, just running through the territory, free from her murderous mother. No cat to boss her around, nothing.
If she wanted to, she could even run away.
What a ridiculous idea, she told herself, They'd find me.
Not if you were careful.
If she did it, she could escape it all. All of DawnClan's corruption, her mother, the knowledge that she coped with. The guilt after driving off Orchidpaw and Goldenpaw. Everything. She could start as a rogue, with a new, clean slate.
Never before had the woods beyond seemed so tempting. The reality of how simple it would be kept on bubbling up.
She had to do it. She couldn't stand living like she did anymore.
And she took a few steps away from the camp.
But what about Spiderfoot? she reminded herself, What will happen to him? He's innocent!
No, Spiderfoot was smart enough to flee if he knew he would be killed. Weedpaw took a few more steps.
From then on, she was free, pattering through the woods. Surprsisingly, the worries about Clan life instantly evaporated.
It was time to start a new life, one without her mother.
But she should've known that it wouldn't last. Because as she was stumbling along, blinded with joy, she didn't realized that she crossed into EveningClan scent. But she was lost, she couldn't find her way out--
The bushes in front of her rustled. Twigs snapped. A large patrol stood in front of her, reeking with blood.
One of them spoke. "Hello, little kit. Looking for anything?"
And that was when her legs collapsed, awaiting her fate.
A shimmering turquoise dragonfly flitted above her, it's little wings buzzing ever so slightly by her ear. She lazily reached up a claw to snag it, unable to get to her paws and catch it for real.
Her gaze followed it lazily to the front of the camp entrance, seeing the bushes rustle.
She leaped up in surprise, as Hailspots and Spiderfoot burst through the entrance, scratched and bloody.
"EveningClan! They attacked us on the patrol!"
Voices rose into an uproar.
Hailspots cleared her throat. Just the sound caused everyone to fall silent. For the first time, Poppystrike wondered what sort of tom would fall for her. From what she could tell, she was to be avoided by all toms. Curiosity bit at her.
"And I sent my daughter for you to send a backup patrol. And you never came."
Leopardleaf, the DawnClan deputy, pushed her way forward. "Well, she never came then. Because we got no message."
Hailspots' eyes narrowed, fur blowing in the gentle wind. Flightly clouds shadowed her ever so slightly.
"Well, then she's the traitor. The filthy traitor!" The last words came out of her mouth as a yowl.
"Traitor!" some cats yowled, despite how the whole Clan had always felt bad for poor Weedpaw.
She didn't expect the sudden surge of fear she felt at that moment. But Weedpaw could be in danger, if Hailspots was involved.
Well, she could be being paranoid... but she had to make sure. She had to find Weedpaw.
Another thought hit her. What if Weedpaw was abducted by EveningClan?
She took a few steps back, no one noticing her, as they were still listening to Hailspots and Spiderfoot.
And her tail was in the brush as she backed out...
Then the other half...
And then she was out, ready to find Weedpaw.
The forest was strangely peaceful, after the events occurring lately. Birds flew from tree to tree, leaves rustling. Her pawsteps sunk into the moist dirt.
She picked up a fast pace through the forest, for a while, until stronger scent of EveningClan drifted to her. Veering that direction, she stayed alert for any other sort of scent that she could possibly pick up.
Before she knew it, she stumbled upon the clearing. Pawsteps were trodden into the soil. Amazingly, from all of the overwhelming scents, she was able to pick out the faint one of Weedpaw, with a faint taste of blood.
Reluctantly, she pattered away in that direction. She felt as if she was getting close...
And it disappeared. Swamped out by more EveningClan.
That was not good. Nope, not at all.
To her surprise, a tear leaked out of her eye, due to how Weedpaw was so young, so innocent, so tortured by life. And it was gone, like that. I should be thankful that I had a mother as wonderful as Brookshine.
But, of course, she is a hostage now.
More salty tears slipped out of her eyes. She missed her mother. And surprisingly, Weedpaw too.
Poppystrike padded back to camp, paws dragging across the earth. Using the dirtplace tunnel, she slipped back into camp and into the warriors' den.
Her eyes were just about to close with exhaustion, when the den rustled. She assumed it was just the wind blowing at the flimsy frame, or some apprentices shoving at the walls of the den again. But then she felt some pawsteps vibrate beside her.
Automatically, she moaned. Please, whoever you are, just leave me alone.
"Poppystrike? Are you okay?" the voice said again.
She cracked open her eyes. "Who is it?" she growled.
Her eyes met with a pair of pale blue ones.
"Um... it's Skystream."
"Well, what do you want?"
He twitched, eyes wide. She noticed his claws scuffling in the bedding, creating a huge mess out of it. But Poppystrike could deal with that at the moment. Because she couldn't stand not knowing why Skystream would come to talk to her.
"Leopardleaf asked me to take someone hunting with me... so I decided to come to you, cause you seem a bit lonely." After the sentence was out of his mouth, he realized what it had sounded like, and instantly slapped his tail over his mouth.
"Oh- I'm sorry- it didn't mean to sound like that," he mewed.
She shrugged. "It's fine. I don't want to hang out with any of these idiots anyways." She laughed a little, just to show that she was partly joking. Just partly.
"So um... should we go?" he mewed. "Leopardleaf will probably be getting impatient.
Poppystrike chuckled to herself. Yeah, I'm sure that Leopardleaf specifically asked that you bring me. Even with these thoughts, she couldn't help but be flattered.
It felt like all eyes were on her as she stalked out of the camp beside Skystream, all glaring at her. She knew that she should be ecstatic, finally having a tom ask her out hunting. But something... something felt wrong. There was a tug in her gut. Not having to do with Skystream-- something else.
Soon enough, the forest surrounded them, as they padded through. It was another beautiful day, despite the current circumstances. Her heart tugged to go to the field of her kithood, but she knew that she had to hunt, and couldn't just blow off Skystream. And she wasn't ready to show him, either.
"So where do you want to go?" she mewed, "Maybe the Pine Grove?"
He shook his head softly. "I know a better place."
Poppystrike looked at him as if he were insane. "Why the river? We don't swim."
"We don't swim, but we can fish," he pointed out.
She uttered a large sigh. A bit torn between agreeing or just telling him to go to the Pine Grove, she finally gave in.
"All right. Let's go."
"Great!" He bounded away, with the energy and excitement of a young kit. She followed up behind him, pattering across the earth a bit slower.
"So have you fished before?" she inquired.
Skystream cocked his head and smiled. "Nope."
She rolled her eyes, but couldn't help laughing.
But soon, she jerked out of it. She swore that she saw a flash of pale green, hiding in her mind. The green of Weedpaw's eyes.
Shaking all of the strange thoughts away, she continued, letting her pawsteps guide her to the pebbly banks of the river.
to be continued