For many moons, ShellClan has lived peacefully, disturbed only by a passing rogue stopping to hunt or an overly curious kittypet wandering over from the distant Twolegplace. But when a warrior is found dead on ShellClan's territory, the Clan cats' entire world is flung into disarray, and it seems that betrayal comes from inside the Clan as well as outside.
Two apprentices, Finchpaw and Sandpaw, decide that it is up to them to discover the truth about the warrior's death.
Leader - Nightstar - long-furred black tom
Deputy - Dustfoot - dark brown tabby tom
Medicine cat- Sparrowstorm - dark brown tabby tom with yellow eyes
Warriors (toms and she-cats without kits)
Leafpelt - light brown tabby she-cat
Eaglewing - brown-and-white tom
Cloudfoot - white tom
Fernheart - brown tabby she-cat
Adderpelt - brown tom
Sedgefoot - very pale gray, almost white she-cat
Rowanwhisker - dark ginger she-cat
Barksong - dark brown tabby tom
Fawnfoot - brown tom
Nightfire - black-and-white she-cat
Streamtail - silver she-cat with white patches
Dewblaze - tortoiseshell she-cat
Flamefur - ginger tom
Firefoot - ginger-and-white tom
Tigerfur - black-and-white she-cat
Leaptail - tortoiseshell-and-white she-cat
Apprentices (cats above the age of six moons, in training to become warriors)
Ivypaw - gray she-cat
Applepaw - small ginger tom
Queens (she-cats expecting or nursing kits)
Dovesong - pale gray she-cat, mother to Finchkit and Sandkit
Birdflame - sandy-brown she-cat with white chest and paws, mother to Wolfkit, Thrushkit and Rainkit
Kits (cats under the age of six moons, live in the nursery with the queens)
Wolfkit - large gray-and-white tom
Thrushkit - sandy brown she-cat with white chest, paws, muzzle, tail-tip
Rainkit - speckled gray tabby she-cat
Finchkit - gray tabby she-cat with white chest, muzzle, paws
Sandkit - pale ginger she-cat
Elders (former queens and warriors, now retired)
Grayfern - dark gray she-cat
Falconfeather - black tom with white spots, Grayfern's mate
Cats outside the Clan Edit
Quinn - brown tabby she-cat, a kittypet
Rabbit - young brown tom with white paws
Moon - small dappled silver tabby she-cat with blind blue eyes, Rabbit's littermate
Talon - huge black tom with long, slightly curved claws
Star - silver tabby she-cat
Hawk - dark brown she-cat
Moonlight dappled a clearing in the middle of a forest, not far from an inviting beach. In the darkness crouched a black tom, his deep pelt reflecting the night air and his eyes like chips of green flint.
Just then, the ferns trembled, and out padded a silver tabby she-cat, her shoulders hunched and her amber eyes betraying fear. A dark brown she-cat trotted after her, looking grim.
The tom straightened and glared at the silver tabby. 'Well?' he snapped. 'Have you found their camp yet?'
Trembling, the she-cat dipped her head. 'No, Talon,' she admitted. 'We...we are still looking.'
Talon screeched in fury, making the she-cat flinch. Quick as a bird, his paw shot out, and his claws raked the she-cat's muzzle. She yowled in shock, but made no attempt to stop the thin trickle of blood that came from her nose.
'How can you not have found it yet?' Talon demanded. 'Surely it is not so hard to scent? Or am I stuck with a cat without a nose?' His long, black tail swished. 'Star, I warned you that there would be severe consequences if you failed me again.'
'I tried, Talon, I really did!' Star pleaded. 'It must be well-'
'Quiet! I don't want to hear you whining,' Talon growled. Moonlight glinted on his long claws, and Star shifted her paws uneasily.
'It is never wise to fail him, Star...' the dark brown she-cat murmured.
'But I tried, Hawk!' Star protested quietly. 'He always demands so much of me...'
Talon's ears swiveled. He had heard Star's last remark.
I'll make her sorry she ever met me.
'Star.' Talon forced his anger down. Just a few more moments, and she'll regret ever being kitted.
Star jumped. 'Y-yes?' She was obviously afraid that Talon had heard her.
'Do you want to leave me?' He forced his voice to sound soft and gentle.
Star hesitated before nodding. 'Yes, Talon. Please...let me go...'
'I will.' Talon nodded. 'I'll escort you myself.' He lunged forward and sank his teeth into Star's throat, while his front claws gripped the she-cat's back. Star shrieked in surprise, ending in a choked, gurgled sound. Blood welled up around the wound, spilling over Star's throat and coloring the black fur around Talon's mouth red.
Star thrashed desperately, her paws flailing with claws sheathed. Only when she had stopped thrashing and had gone completely limp did Talon let her go. Her body hit the ground with a dull thump.
Hawk was watching with an expression of pure terror.
Talon licked a paw, seeing some of Star's blood transfer from his tongue to his pad. He drew the paw over his cheek in an attempt to wash off the scarlet liquid that clung to his fur. 'Go,' he growled to Hawk. 'You find the camp. Do better than Star did. You know what fate awaits you if you fail me.'
Hawk nodded, her yellow eyes wide, and scrambled into the bushes.
Talon stopped washing and glared at the stars shining overhead. 'Watch out, Clan cats,' he growled. 'I'm coming for you. And I will kill all in my path.'
Chapter 1 Edit
Finchkit dived at the moss ball, trapping it beneath her soft, fluffy kit paws. She dug her claws in, pretending she was killing a fat, juicy mouse.
'Good job, Finchpaw!' her mentor Dovesong purred. 'You're going to be one of ShellClan's best warriors!'
Her littermate's sharp call snapped Finchkit back to reality. She tilted her head back towards Sandkit. 'What?'
'You're destroying it!' Sandkit cried in dismay, rushing over and yanking the shredded moss ball out from under Finchkit's claws. 'We've got to have a good game with that yet! Applepaw says he's not gathering any more moss for us.'
Finchkit wrinkled her nose. 'Applepaw's mean.'
'He's not mean,' a voice mewed from behind them. 'He just doesn't want kits running under his paws every time he has to go somewhere.'
Finchkit jumped. She spun around to face the owner of the voice; Sparrowstorm, ShellClan's medicine cat.
Sandkit rolled her eyes, undeterred. 'Come on, Finchkit. Let's go find Wolfkit. Maybe he wants to play something.'
Finchkit nodded and bounded after her sister, eager to get away from Sparrowstorm's burning yellow gaze. As they passed, soft snores sounded from the wide dip in the ground that formed the nursery. Rainkit and Thrushkit must still be asleep, Finchkit guessed.
Finchkit saw Wolfkit first, eating a mouse by the fresh-kill pile, looking more like an apprentice than a kit. She bounded over, with Sandkit on her heels.
'Can I try some?' she asked Wolfkit. 'I've never had mouse before. Dovesong says that squirrels are better.' She wrinkled her nose as the soft, furry taste of the squirrel entered her mouth once more as she thought of it.
Wolfkit shrugged. 'Sure.' He pushed the half-eaten mouse towards her. As Finchkit hungrily took a bite, he asked her, 'Wanna play something after you've eaten?'
'Yeah!' Finchkit mewed with her mouth full. She ate speedily.
'Don't eat so fast,' Wolfkit advised her. 'You'll only give yourself a bellyache.'
Finchkit nodded and tried to slow down. Sandkit settled down next to her and began eating calmly.
When her belly was full, Finchkit sprang to her paws. 'What shall we play?'
Wolfkit gazed at her steadily. 'How about Catch the Mouse!'
Finchkit nodded, and Sandkit next to her mewed excitedly, 'Yeah! Finchkit's the mouse!'
Finchkit was about to protest, but didn't. Anyway, I bet I'm faster than Sandkit or Wolfkit will ever be!
'Can't catch me!' she called teasingly, darting away. Pounding pawsteps behind her told her that her denmates were giving chase. She hared towards the edge of the clearing. Judging by the triumphant squeaks behind her, Sandkit and Wolfkit were falling for the bait. She scrambled towards the tall, earth walls.
I hope this works...
As Wolfkit and Sandkit neared, ready to touch their noses to her fur to catch her, Finchkit leaped against the wall. Using her hind legs to push her back, she went flying over her denmates' heads before darting back to the other side of camp.
'Finchkit! Game over!' Sandkit yowled, rushing over. Finchkit halted and turned to face Sandkit and Wolfkit. The two kits skidded to a halt in front of her, their amazement clear in their eyes.
'Finchkit...' Wolfkit began. 'How did you do that?'
Finchkit shrugged, her pelt prickling. 'I just launched myself off the wall. It was instinct, I guess.'
'You have a true warrior's instinct.' Finchkit jumped at the Clan deputy, Dustfoot's, voice. The normally stern deputy was gazing down at her, his amber eyes warm. 'I've never seen a kit do that before,' he went on. 'You will make a fine warrior.' He turned and stalked away. 'Firefoot! Lead a hunting patrol. Take Eaglewing, Cloudfoot, Rowanwhisker and Ivypaw with you.'
Finchkit's pelt burned with envy. I want to go on a hunting patrol.
'Five cats?' Firefoot's mew was sharp with surprise as he bounded over. 'Isn't that a bit many for one patrol?'
'Leaf-fall is coming, and prey is growing scarce,' Dustfoot reminded him. 'We'll need to hunt as much as we can. Split your cats into groups if you have to.'
'You could've just sent out two separate patrols to get that done,' Firefoot argued.
Dustfoot gave him a hard glare. 'I'm not sure if Nightstar would approve of you questioning me.'
Firefoot scowled at him. 'Fine.' He bounded towards the warriors' den to call Ivypaw and Rowanwhisker. When the two young cats had come shambling out of their dens, blinking sleep out of their eyes, he headed to the fresh-kill pile, where Cloudfoot was eating, and the medicine den, where Eaglewing was recovering from stepping on a thorn.
Next to her, Sandkit sighed deeply. 'I wish we were apprentices.'
'Yeah,' Finchkit agreed. 'Right, Wolfkit?'
There was no reply.
'Wolfkit?' Finchkit glanced around, to find that the young gray-and-white tom had vanished. She glanced uncertainly around camp in time to see Wolfkit hauling himself up the slope leading to Nightstar's den with effort.
'What's he doing?' Finchkit mewed curiously, nudging her sister.
Sandkit shrugged. 'Who knows?'
A few heartbeats later, Wolfkit emerged from the hollow rock of Nightstar's den, looking pleased, before racing back to the nursery.
'Come on.' Sandkit prodded her gently with a paw. 'Let's go see if Rainkit and Thrushkit are awake yet.'