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Dirty Little Secret

Dirty little secret


Written by

Clever

Original idea created by

Ginger

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"Brownfire, we can't go on like this!"

"Why not? Who are we hurting?"

"Ourselves!"

"The only thing that can hurt me, Brindlefrost... is being away from you.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

AllegiancesEdit

ForestClan

Leader: Sycamorestar- Handsome dark brown and white tom with dark green eyes
Deputy: Strikestripe- Silver tabby tom with a dark stripe going down his back and a sleek, white underbelly.
Medicine Cat: Brindlefrost- A sleek, silver tabby she-cat with a pale underbelly and bright, sapphire blue eyes
Warriors: Dimlight- Ginger-yellow she-cat with amber eyes

Frozenfoot- Black tom with one white leg, dark blue eyes

Specklefur- Calico she-cat with amber eyes

Hawkswoop- Pale brown tabby tom with a dark brown muzzle and hazel eyes

TEMPORARY APPRENTICE: Stormpaw

Whitepelt- Off-white tom with pale green eyes

Dewspots- Black tom with light grey patches and grey eyes

Soilflight- Brown tabby she-cat with blue eyes

Muddypelt- Mud-brown tom dappled with light and dark brown patches, and yellow eyes

Brokenstep- Pale grey-brown tom with dark legs, light underbelly, arrow marking on his chest, and a twisted paw, and amber eyes (brother to Muddypelt)

Leafshine- Pale tortoiseshell she-cat with vivid leaf-green eyes

Rowanscar- Battle-scarred ginger tom with dark blue eyes

Strikestripe- Silver tabby tom with a noticeable dark stripe down his back, and a white underbelly

Palelight- Pale grey she-cat with black paws and a white muzzle and blue eyes (sister to Frozenfoot)

Gentleflight- Dark grey tom with light patches and amber eyes

Brightsky- Ginger tom with amber eyes

APPRENTICE: Vixenpaw

Brownfire- Handsome, slim brown tom with white paws, underbelly, tail tip, and ear tips, with amber eyes

Ashenfire- Lean grey tom flecked with dark grey with a white underbelly and bright blue eyes

Swirledlight- Pale brown, classic tabby tom with a dark tail and mismatched eyes

Apprentices: Stormpaw- Dark stormy grey she-cat with blue eyes (CloverxRowan)

Vixenpaw- Ginger she-cat with marshy blue-green eyes, white paws, muzzle, and a black tail tip (CloverxRowan)

Queens: Ivyclaw- Battle-scarred white she-cat with a silver tabby back, tail, and back of head, with blue eyes (Mate to Strikestripe)

Mistyrain- Dark blue-grey she-cat with pale yellow eyes and white legs (but not paws) (Mate to Sycamorestar, mother of Squirrelkit, Nettlekit, and Milkkit)

Kits: Squirrelkit: Dark ginger-brown she-cat with white spots and a white tail

Nettlekit: Dark grey tom with white legs and pale eyes

Milkkit: Mottled white and hazel tom

Elders: Dustspeckle- Dusty brown tom with green eyes

Shimmerstream- Grey tabby she-cat with black paws and blue eyes


Who is your favourite character?
 
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The poll was created at 23:33 on December 20, 2015, and so far 3 people voted.

Prologue-A Bump In The NightEdit

A slim, dark coloured she-cat weaved her way through the tight spots between trees. Her luminous green eyes reflected moonlight back at the deep indigo sky. Hard, shining, white stars dotted up above, an almost full moon sending shafts of light down onto the grassy landscape. Water from a river gurgled loudly as it rushed through the night, sending the liquid down to the lake.

A brown pelt shone in the darkness. It was the she-cat’s fur as she padded on the soft, earthy ground. It was an odd time to be out collecting herbs, especially if one of her Clanmates woke up with a severe bellyache. It had happened before, and the she-cat was sure it would happen again.

But the night was so pleasant. It was New-leaf, when the flowers start to bud and the shiny leaves start to grow back after a harsh Leaf-bare. The night wasn’t cold, or too humid. It was warm, with a few cooling breezes here and there. Pale clouds drifted above.

The forest was alive with sounds. Soft birdcalls, the skittering of mice along the ground as they scurried about looking for food, not having to worry about an unsuspected predator leaping out of nowhere to kill them. The chirping of crickets enlightened the woods with music, whilst the buzzing of other insects danced around the brown cat’s head.

The plant the young she-cat was looking for in particular was tansy, or maybe some juniper berries as well. At the start of New-leaf, some of the cats get coughs and sneezes. They never really turn into anything serious,-and they go away quickly, though they occasionally re-appear throughout the season-but it’s good to have them treated if the patient is in pain.

The she-cat stifled a yawn, and gaze a slight sneeze. Pollen was flying around the air, and it stung her eyes. Luckily, a quick breeze blew past, taking the yellow dust with it. The cat shook her drawn head and closed her eyes for a moment. When she reopened them, she took a step forward and continued to look for the tansy.

Her paws thumped on the ground as she walked. She came to a slope and carefully put her paw forward to step down it. She began to slide down, sending up dust and small pebbles. Soil scraped against her paw pads and small, short stones sliced through them.

When she reached the bottom, she lifted up her paw. A thin stream of blood trickled from it and it stung like fury, but she gave it a good, rough lick and made a mental note to put yarrow on it when she got back to camp. She rubbed them on the springy grass to get off the last of the blood.

Out of the corner of her green eyes, she spotted a small, flowering plant. It had round, yellow blossoms and a very strong scent. Tansy! The she-cat thought, and she left towards the green leafed plant. She gently leaned down and nipped the stalks. She was doing so when she heard a voice call her name.

“Seeeeedwhisker...”

“What? Who’s there?” Seedwhisker turned around, startled, her eyes looking all around, scoping the landscape. The voice came again, but this time, it sounded closer, and more eerie. Seedwhisker backed up, her eyes wide with fear as the voice sounded a third time. “Show yourself, coward!” she shouted angrily, her voice shaking.

“I’m cooommming for youuuu,” it said. It was like a snake hiss. Smooth, yet drawn out and freaky. The fourth time, it sounded like whatever was speaking was right behind Seedwhisker. “If you’re trying to scare me, Spruceface, it’s not working!” She screamed, trembling. Her small, brown shoulders were shaking, betraying her true feelings.

She was backing up, and when her tail touched something behind her, she froze. Her heart skipped a couple beats, her breath caught in her throat, and basically all of the key working features of her body stopped for a moment. As she turned, she was greeted with large, narrowed, sinister blue eyes.

“Say goodbye!” shouted the voice. A horrible screeched ebbed from his mouth, and he launched forward, knocking Seedwhisker to the ground. He dug his claws into her shoulder, and Seedwhisker, paralyzed with fear, could do nothing to defend herself. She let out a shrill wail as the warm blood welled at her wounds and slid down her body, like shimmering, crimson water in the moonlight.

She screeched in agony as long teeth slid into her neck, biting down on the soft flesh. Seedwhisker’s eyes shot open in pain as she wailed. The bite felt like torture, as if venom had shot through her veins and bloodstream. The crimson liquid streamed out of her throat as the medicine cat tried to gasp for breath.

Suddenly all went quiet. Seedwhisker let out a quiet moan and then her head drooped to the side, her eyes rolling in the back of her head.

After the bloody murder, the killer quietly and efficiently rolled the body across the ground and into a nearby bush, caking the corpse with dust. After that, he drew his tongue over his paw, lapping up the blood. He snatched a branch from a tree that was sweeping low to the ground, and awkwardly did his best to clean up the bloodstain. He then placed the branch over Seedwhisker and slowly started away.

Chapter One-And So The Story BeginsEdit

Brindlepaw was lying in her mossy nest, stretching as morning light seeped through the den’s leaves. Her brother, Ashenpaw, was still asleep, letting out a gentle snore. Their sister, Blizzardfoot, had become a warrior earlier because of her bravery in the war between IceClan and ForestClan. Brindlepaw had tried to push away her jealousy, but it always lingered.

The grey tabby stood up, shaking away dry moss and grass. The light that poured in was warm to the touch, and it lit up and warmed her pelt as soon as it hit her fur. Her blue eyes glowed in the newly-lit den, as she scanned the inside of the bush. Her best friend, Brownpaw, lay drooling in the corner, his flank rising up and down.

She padded over to him and prodded his belly with her dainty paw. “Wake up, Brownpaw!” She shouted as she pressed down on his soft, white belly fur. Brownpaw was a heavy sleeper, and it usually took forever to get the lump of fur up from his slumber.

As Brindlepaw was trying, Ashenpaw rose from his nest and fixed his sister with a fiery, burning blue stare that could melt an iceberg. “Can’t you wake up your boyfriend more quietly?” He spat, turning, and strutting out of the den, his grey speckled tail disappearing out the small entrance.

“Salty,” Brindlepaw muttered. These days, for some reason the she-cat couldn’t explain, her brother had been more cross and rude lately. Maybe it was those hormones that their mother was telling them about, but she couldn’t be sure. The grey apprentice turned back to her work on waking up her friend, but by then she realized that just prodding him wouldn’t wake up, so she quietly slid behind the tuxedo tom and stepped on his fluffy tail.

That did the trick.

Brownpaw leaped up with a loud ‘ouch’ and hit the ground with an abrupt thumping noise. His bright amber eyes whipped back to Brindlepaw. “Why’d you wake me up?!” he screamed in outrage, stamping his white paw on the ground. “I was having the best dream! You and I had kits, and they...” he trailed off as Brindlepaw collapsed to the ground in laughter, fighting to get enough oxygen in her lungs. “

O-ohmyStarC-clan!” she chuckled. “T-take it slow, b-big guy!” Brownpaw was laughing too.

“Come on, I can’t help what I dream!” he protested, his white pointed tail twitching. He stretched open his mouth wide and heaved a giant yawn. “So,” he continued. “Why did you wake me up?”

Brindlepaw stood up, dusting some dirt of her brindled pelt. He stretched, arching her back in the air and yawned. “Duh, we have chores.” She paused for a moment, and then brought her face so she was nose to nose, her bright, icy blue eyes burning into his. “Did you seriously forget?” she asked, her breath icy. “It’s our warrior ceremony today, dummy!”

The brown and white tom’s eyes widened. His pupils grew dilated as he held her gaze. He then brought his white paw up to his head and pretended to slap himself. “Oh!!!! That’s right!!” he exclaimed as he collapsed into giggles. Brindlepaw chuckled. Brownpaw was forgetful, clumsy, and every quality you would want in a best friend... and crush. When the grey tabby thought of this, she quickly shook away the thought. Besides, it was weird to crush on your best friend, who you’ve gone through everything with! Death, sadness, happiness, birth...

As this came to her, she started thinking about why she and Brownpaw were so close anyway...

The den was dark. The faint scent of milk drifted through the air as Brindlekit was snug in her nest, pressed against her mother’s pale silver belly. Her siblings, Blizzardkit and Ashenkit, had their eyes shut tight as their flanks rose up and down rhythmically. But something was keeping Brindlekit awake. She was tossing and turning in her sleep, and her dreams were dark and filled with screams.

So she blinked open her large blue eyes and quietly stood up. Ivyclaw had her tail tightly coiled around her kits, but the grey tabby she-kit managed to find her way out. A cool breeze rushed towards her as she stepped near the entrance to the nursery. She poked her head out and let the night air flatten her face. The sky was a vivid, dark indigo colour, and the moon glowed bright, shining down on the grassy floor. It was quiet. Everything was silent but a lone cricket.

She suddenly heard something leap up behind her and start to scream. She recognized the voice. She spun around so quickly that it hurt her neck, and sure enough, Brownkit, one of her denmates, was standing up suddenly, screaming so loud Brindlekit was sure it would wake up the Clan. The tom-kit’s eyes were wide with fear, his body shaking, and his fur on its end.

“What’s wrong?” cried Brindlekit, rushing over, alarmed. The grey she-cat’s tail was up in the air, poofed up as Ivyclaw raised her head, Ashenkit mewling in annoyance. The she-cat slowly got up, leaving her kit in the nest. She padded over to the nest, gently pushing Brownkit away.

“Let me see," Ivyclaw mewed.

“NO!” Brownkit screamed, trying to push past the she-cat. Ivyclaw held him back firmly as he wailed in distress, tears flowing down his face. Brindlekit felt torn. She didn’t know what was wrong, but she knew it was enough to upset the kit. She awkwardly walked over and started to calm Brownkit, stroking her tail down his back.

Brownkit looked at her, his eyes sad, but gratitude sparkled in them. Brindlekit had given him a small smile, and it was the start of their new friendship.

What had happened that fateful night they became friends was the Brownpaw had woken up because he felt cold. He looked at his mother, who wasn’t breathing, and was stiff and cold. Seedwhisker had told them that she died in her sleep from unknown causes.

Brindlepaw brushed up against the tom. “Come on, let’s go!”

Brownpaw tipped his head and purred at his best friend, returning her gesture.”I’m in!”

The two of them burst out of the den, leaving Swirledpaw in the dust. The sky was pale blue, the Sun slowly rising from behind the mountains. Orange and magenta clouds flanked the glowing ball of light, dark indigo stretching up from the bottom. Brindlepaw’s heart leaped. Today was going to be a good day.

“You two!” It was Mistyrain’s voice, calling them from the other side of camp. Her yellow eyes sparkled in the dawn light. Next to her was her brother, Frozenfoot, and besides being siblings, the two of them were also Brindlepaw and Brownpaw’s mentors.

The apprentices trotted over to them, their tails held high, heads held up in pride. Mistyrain met them, however, with a disapproving look.

“Look at you!” the she-cat exclaimed, stepping forward to brush bits of moss out of Brindlepaw’s fur. “Your warrior ceremony will be any minute now, and---” Mistyrain was cut off by the sound of another cat’s voice ringing through ForestClan’s camp.

“All cats skilled enough to climb a tree gather for a Clan meeting.” Fawnstar’s voice was soft yet powerful, her dark paws gripped to the moss covered Highstone. Blearily, some cats stumbled out of their dens, shrinking away at the bright, dawn light. Others calmly walked over and sat in the great shadow of the Highstone, flicking their tails in anticipation.

“Quick!” Mistyrain hissed urgently. “Clean yourselves up!” Frozenfoot snickered as the ceremony began. Brownpaw shrugged as he rushed over to beside the Highstone. Giggling at the glare Mistyrain gave her brother, she dashed over to join her friend.

“We’re gathered here today to promote two of our apprentices to warriors,” Fawnstar meowed, casting a fond glance at Brindlepaw and Brownpaw. She cleared her throat. Brownpaw was eagerly hopping up and down, Brindlepaw standing calmly beside him.

“I, Fawnstar, leader of ForestClan, call upon our warrior ancestors to look down on these two apprentices. They have trained hard and long to understand the ways of your code, and I commend them a warrior in their turn.” The speckled she-cat looked down at the two apprentices.

Brownpaw’s eyes gleamed with ambition. Fawnstar leapt down from the stone gracefully to stand in front of them. Both stepped back.

“Brownpaw, Brindlepaw, do you promise to uphold the warrior code, to protect and defend the Clan, even at the cost of your very lives?”

“Yes!” Brownpaw exclaimed immediately, “I do.” Brindlepaw dipped her head and meowed, “I do.”

“Then by the powers of StarClan, I give you your warrior names. Brownpaw, from this moment forth, you shall be known as Brownfire,” Fawnstar named him. She paused as her licked her shoulder. “We thank you for your lightheartedness and optimism, and we welcome you as a full member of ForestClan.” The leader then turned to Brindlepaw, blue eyes warm.

“Brindlepaw, from this moment on you shall be known as Brindle-” she was cut off by a blur of dark ginger fur bursting into camp, followed closely by a dark and light mottled tom. The two crashed into a heap. Heads turned. Fawnstar tipped her head quizzically, looking at them.

Rowanscar stood up, his legs shaking. His dark blue eyes were clouded with fear as he tried to take a confident stance. “What’s wrong, Rowanscar?” Sycamorebranch asked, concern lighting his gaze.

“What’s wrong?” the deputy repeated, sounding more forceful.

Rowanscar struggled to catch his breath while Muddypelt stood up, shaking out his brown pelt, eyes glittering with terror. Everyone was in a daze, confused at what they were so worked up over. Then they saw it.

Palelight strode into camp carrying something-something too big to be an oversized rabbit. The whole Clan caught their breath. Brindlepaw’s eyes widened, her chest freezing, tail sticking straight up in the air. Palelight dropped what she was holding in her jaws, nudging it forward. A cat’s body, splayed out over the dusty ground of camp. Coat matted with blood, bearing wounds, missing patches of fur, and a messy pelt. Normally dark eyes milky and glazed over. Something in Brindlepaw’s mind clicked as she exchanged a glance with Brownpaw. She knew who it was.

Rowanscar swallowed and raised his voice to state the obvious:

“Seedwhisker is dead!”

Chapter Two-Burden On Your ShouldersEdit

An uproar of murmurs and shouts quickly rampaged through the cats gathered around. Alarmed, Fawnstar quickly paced over to Seedwhisker’s still body, gazing down at it with wide eyes. Her gaze flashed to Rowanscar, who was trembling. Palelight came and sat beside her leader.

“How did this happen?” Fawnstar demanded, but a shaking Brindlepaw barely heard the speckled she-cat. She was frozen stiff, heart skipping beats. Her sky blue eyes were wide in disbelief, pupils narrowed into tiny slits. She stared straight forward through the crowd screaming cats, quickly manoeuvring around each other to steal a glance at their dead medicine cat.

Brownfire slowly turned to her. “Brindlepaw?” he asked, seeing his best friend straightened up tall, eyes glassy. He prodded her shoulder, hard. “Brindlepaw!” he repeated, louder and more forceful. His fiery amber eyes shone with worry.

Brindlepaw shuddered and swallowed, whipping her head towards him. “What!” she screeched, her voice high-pitched. Brownfire stepped back from her, one paw lifted. His expression was one of fear for a quick heartbeat, before fading into one of concern.

He nodded towards Seedwhisker. “Let’s go see what’s up.” Without waiting for a reply, the tom swiftly padded towards the quickly growing group of cats surrounding the body.

The grey tabby narrowed her eyes. “Did becoming a warrior suddenly make you Mister Mature?” she asked sarcastically, ignoring Brownfire as he turned to roll his eyes at her. Giggling to herself, the apprentice picked up her pace and followed her friend.

Murmurs circulated the group of cats.

“How did she die?”

“When did she die?”

“Who’s going to be our medicine cat now?”

But when Brindlepaw had pushed through the crowd and got a decent look at Seedwhisker’s body, she thought that it was pretty obvious how the young molly died. The tabby was fighting against others to keep her view of the medicine cat.

Deep clawmarks marred her body, several in different locations. Her green eyes were frozen open, never again to close. Upon closer inspection, she noticed that the scratches were much too small to belong to a predator like a badger or fox. There was a sickening jolt to her heart when she realized that the markings could’ve been carved from her own claws.

Unsheathing them, she looked at Brownfire, who shared a glance of fear with her. Brindlepaw looked around for someone other than Brownfire to console in, but Blizzardfoot was on the other side of Seedwhisker and she didn’t see Ashenpaw anywhere. Restlessly, her gaze darted back and forth in search of him, but alas, he was nowhere to be found.

Rowanscar was telling an elongated story on Seedwhisker’s death. “... We found her in a bush, under a branch. She was caked with blood,” he told Fawnstar, horrified.

Fawnstar’s face was a mixture of confusion and fear as she studied the marks in the young she-cat’s pelt. Small bite marks in her throat. Wounds that were caused by claws raking down her sides. Her gaze flickered between the body, Rowanscar, and the crowd of cats demanding questions she couldn’t answer.

A lump formed in Brindlepaw’s throat. Brownfire’s tail had wrapped itself protectively around her body, amber eyes narrowed in both suspicion and horror, his expression puzzled.

Brindlepaw’s stomach turned. Who would be their new medicine cat? Maybe she could help... she knew a little about herbs. The she-cat looked at her best friend. “What are we going to do?” she asked, hoping he had the answers she did not. “Our medicine cat is dead.”

Before Brownfire could answer, Sycamorebranch shouldered his way to the front. Brindlepaw stepped back as he collided with her. The brown and white tom looked down at the body before glaring at his leader.

“I don’t know how she died, but first things first; we must get a new medicine cat.” The deputy said loudly. Immediately, murmurs made their way through the crowd. Cats whispered to each other, but Brindlepaw couldn’t hear what they were saying.

Suddenly, everything hit her in a wave of confusion. She knew what she had to do. Heart racing, she felt her legs start to tremble. Then she opened her mouth and let out what she wanted to be a confident statement, but was instead a shrill squeak.

“I’ll do it.”

The cats fell dead silent. Brindlepaw shrank down, growing hot as gazes all gazes whipped towards her. Brownfire’s eyes were wide in awe, pupils slits in shock. Suddenly, she wondered if she had made a horrible mistake. Anxiety sat like a rock in her gut, but she knew that she was doing the right thing... wasn’t she?

The silence was broken when Fawnstar took a small step closer to the apprentice, eyes shining with disbelief. “Brindlepaw?” she asked, voice airy. “Are you sure?” Even though she wasn’t so sure anymore, unease creeping into her stomach, something possessed Brindlepaw to say “yes. I will be ForestClan’s new medicine cat.” She tried to stand up straight, but her legs crumpled beneath her once again.

There was a pause. “Alright...” she started, sounding unsure. Sycamorebranch’s eyes were narrowed, as were most of the crowds. Worry was alight in the eyes of the crowd, but some shone with relief that they weren’t going to be left all alone without someone to treat their wounds.

“I guess....” Fawnstar began. “Even though you’ve chosen a different path, I must finish the ceremony. Brindlepaw, you shall be known as Brindlefrost. We thank you for your integrity and bravery, and we welcome you as a member of ForestClan.”

Brindlefrost flinched after being called a simple member instead of a full one, and that she knew that medicine cats weren’t given that ceremony. She felt empty inside, like she had made a terrible error. The Clan broke apart, and the tabby tried to ignore the looks that were shot her way. Fawnstar and Sycamorebranch were discussing how she would be trained in hushed voices. She headed to the medicine cat den, trying not to look at Seedwhisker’s body, splayed out on the ground. Brownfire, of course, ran up to her. She tried to veer around him, but he blocked her path.

“What the heck was that?!” The tom exclaimed. Not able to meet his gaze, Brindlefrost looked away in shame. “Why did you throw away your own life just like that?!” he hissed.

“I didn’t throw away my own life! I am doing something no one else had the courage to!” Brindlefrost retorted, swishing her tail. Brownfire stepped back, eyes angry.

“Someone else would’ve!” he hissed furiously. “My best friend didn’t have to downgrade to a medicine cat!” Bitter betrayal dripped from his mouth as he continued. Brindlefrost took every word he said to heart; he could’ve just stabbed her in the chest. It would’ve been easier.

“I imagined us together. Romping through the forest without a care in the world. I wanted us to be mates, have beautiful, perfect kits, and grow old together.” His eyes were narrowed. “Now that’s not going to happen.” His growl was low and rumbled in his throat. “I thought you were different.”

The tom lashed his tail. Brindlefrost felt like something had tore out her heart as she watched him walk away. Maybe the same thing that made her choose the medicine cat path. Focusing on the ground, she continued towards the medicine cat den, guilt flooding her body.

“I am different,” she whispered. “I am different...”

Chapter Three-The Ways of the Medicine CatEdit

Fawnstar had decided to bring in a medicine cat from a different Clan to teach Brindlefrost about how to be a medicine cat. The one who agreed was Tulipheart, a gingerish she-cat with pale green eyes. She was older and had an apprentice, Dawnflight, who was more than ready to take over his mentor’s lead of absence.

The DustClan medicine cat had arrived early the next morning, after Seedwhisker’s body had been purified with rosemary and lavender, and properly buried in solemn silence. Her eyes were half closed as she walked in on a sleeping Brindlefrost . She prodded the tabby with her paw. “Wake up.”

Brindlefrost stirred and forced herself to awake. When her eyes opened and stared bleary-eyed into the pale gaze of an older she-cat. Panic seized her heart for a quick moment before recognizing the face of the yellow-ginger she-cat. Hot with embarrassment, she quickly sat up.

“Tulipheart!” she greeted, extending her tail in welcome. The she-cat threw her a strange look, while Brindlefrost brought back her tail sheepishly. “Thanks for coming to train me.”

“You’re brave, you know that?” Tulipheart said, staring into the other cat’s eyes. Her gaze didn’t waver, and Brindlefrost tried with all her might not to drop hers. “There’s not many cats out there who would give up the prospect of fighting for their Clan and having a mate to become a medicine cat,” she continued in a thick accent.

Brindlefrost shrugged, pushing away the thought of Brownfire. “My Clans need a medicine cat. I can’t give them kits, but I can give them service.”

Tulipheart had retreated to the back of the den to scope out their herb storage when she craned her neck to smile at the grey tabby. “You’re already getting wise,” she murmured, continuing to look for herbs.

While Brindlefrost watched the she-cat pull out different leaves and flowers for a lesson, she had realization hit her once again like icy water. She had left life as she knew it to pursue a career she knew nothing of. She swallowed and shuddered. Though there were the two of them there, the cave felt eerily empty as shadows danced on the walls. She could still feel Seedwhisker’s presence.

“Come back here,” Tulipheart called and indicated a pile of herbs. A shaft of sunlight shone brightly down on the leaves. Brindlefrost padded over to the medicine cat and sat down, feeling excitement rise up in her, almost eliminating the cold feeling of knowing her best friend didn’t like her anymore.

“Hmm?” she asked, sweeping her gaze over the herbs.

Tulipheart pushed one closer to Brindlefrost. It was a stem with thin, soft looking leaves and pale purple flowers. A sweet scent wafted up from it. “This is lavender,” she said, looking at the tabby. “Good for fever, helpful for restless kits who are trying to fall asleep.”

Brindlefrost nodded as Tulipheart went over different types of herbs. “Cobwebs for bleeding,” she said as she pushed a clump of white towards her. “Marigold and dried oak leaf stop infections.” Brindlefrost’s head was spinning, not recognizing all these foreign leaves. How was she supposed to remember all of these? She had made a horrible mistake.

“Stop,” Brindlefrost spluttered. Tulipheart looked at her weirdly, her paw resting on a flowering plant. “I-I don’t understand. You’re going too fast.”

There was a pause as Tulipheart searched her eyes carefully. Shyly, Brindlefrost shrank down. Was she even fit to be a medicine cat? Once again, the possibility that she had made an awful mistake came back to her. Was Brownfire right? Had she thrown away her life? “I..I’ll never remember all of these...” she added.

But Tulipheart just looked at her. “Do you think I’m that stupid?” she asked. Before Brindlefrost could reply, she continued on. “Do you think I’m gonna teach you about the herbs once, and then leave you on your own?” the yellowish she-cat shook her head. “Honey, I never would’ve trained Slimpaw or Dawnflight as well as I did if I followed that rule.”

She pushed the herb that was under her paw forwards. “Coltsfoot. Good for cats who are having trouble breathing.” Brindlefrost felt as if she might need some coltsfoot. Her breathing was heavy as she analyzed each herb carefully, marking numbers in the ground with her claws, her head spinning. Drawing in a deep breath, she held it for a brief moment. She released in a large sigh. “Then can we go a little slower, please?”


..-^*^-..

Tulipheart had left the den in search of food for her and Brindlefrost. The she-cat had flopped onto her nest after an exhausting lesson with the older cat. Yarrow for sick stomachs or poison. Mouse bile for ticks. She went over the basic remedies in her head.

Tulipheart had wandered out into the bright day, staggering over to the pile of fresh-kill. She got her footing and continued forward, ignoring the side glances that the ForestClan cats threw her way, or the murmurs that immediately started up when she walked out into the open.

Kneeling down, she picked up two mice from their tails. She saw a flash of white and brown wander into her vision. She looked up and straightened, and saw the cat. A rich brown tom, with white points. His amber eyes blazed in subtle anger at the sight of her.

"Hello, Tulipheart," the young tom said in strained politeness. The medicine cat nodded back in acknowledgement, turning her head and heading back to the den. She could feel his gaze on her pelt. She glanced back and saw he was closer.

"How is Brindlefrost's training going?" he asked. Tulipheart narrowed her eyes in suspicion. The tom was too smooth, obviously hiding some emotion.

"Her training is going fine," she said cautiously, stumbling on some of the words from the mice hanging from her jaws, and trying to reveal as minimal amount of information as possible. Something about the tom rubbed her fur the wrong way.

He walked away, and Tulipheart continued back to the den. Once back in the half-light, her eyes adjusted. Plopping down on the floor and tossing the tired Brindlefrost a piece of fresh-kill, she cleared her throat.

"So, I encountered this tom," she began. "Brown with white paws, belly, muzzle, ear tips, and tail tip. Bright amber eyes. He seemed interested in your progress. Who is he?"

Brindlefrost hesitated. It was for less than a heartbeat, but Tulipheart could tell that there was some tension between them. "That was Brownfire. We are- were friends," she corrected.

Tulipheart's eyes assumed a narrowed position. "Did he not approve of your decision? Do you like him?" pressed the yellow she-cat in her accent. Brindlefrost shifted uncomfortably, looking pained.

"No, and yes." She admitted. "A little. You can't control your feelings, right?" she asked, her eyes desperate. Tulipheart searched them and flicked her tail before replying.

"Sometimes the heart can lead astray. You're a medicine cat now, Brindlefrost. Don't make the same mistake I did." Tulipheart's voice dropped an octave and she stared deep into the grey tabby's sky blue eyes. Surprised, Brindlefrost changed positions.

“You...” she began, but Tulipheart had already shut her out and started eating her mouse quietly, avoiding Brindlefrost’s intent gaze. Her eyes were wide and bright with surprise at the medicine cat’s words. Had she fallen in love? Had she made the mistake the Brindlefrost might make in the future?

Tucking into her meal, the grey tabby she-cat wondered about the warrior code and Tulipheart. Brownfire was so upset at the prospect of him and her not being able to become mates and live a happy life, side by side. But if Tulipheart could do it, why couldn’t she?

Chapter Four-Rainy DayEdit

Rain pattered on the roof of the thickly entwined branches of the medicine cat den. The morning was quiet and the sky was mottled with grey and white. The cold air drafted into the dark den where Tulipheart was sleeping quietly in a makeshift den at the back. Raindrops flashed past the entrance to the den.

Brindlefrost sat near beside the hole that led outside, tail wrapped neatly around her paws. Light hit her chest fur to light it up, pale white light against the blackness of the den. She watched as rain soared down from above and drummed on the ground with a satisfying sound.

She spotted Brownfire crossing back from the entrance to camp to the warrior’s den. The grey tabby stifled a chuckle. His fur was sleek from water and dripping, tail like a rat’s. But she saw the glance he casted towards her way. Once of hurt and betrayal, and it made her heart drop like a rock.

It had been seven days. Seven days since Seedwhisker died. Seven days since she decided to become a medicine cat. Seven days since Tulipheart arrived. Seven days since she had broken the trust of her former best friend. It pained her greatly.

In the past quarter moon, it seemed more interesting then it should’ve been. In addition to the scent of SlickClan barely inside their side of the border, Ashenfire had became a warrior after taking his final assessment, and seemed less than happy to be sleeping in the same space with Brownfire again. Brindlefrost shook her head. It seemed that just a few moons ago, Ashenfire and Brownfire had been buddy-buddy. But lately, it seemed that her brother was developing a hatred for the brown and white tom.

She sighed. The morning was peaceful. The only sounds were her breathing and the soft pitter-patter of the rain. It was like a blanket of silence had been thrown over the camp. Not a rumble of thunder was to be heard anywhere. Though Brindlefrost suspected tough luck for catching as much prey as they had been, it was nice to have a rainy day.

The tabby turned to see Tulipheart stir. She had become good friends with the medicine cat in the days that she had been here. Her eyes opened just before her mouth did.

“If I had trouble breathing, what would you give me?” she quizzed.

“Coltsfoot or juniper berries,” Brindlefrost replied restlessly, staring out into camp. She was wishing that Brownfire would once again cross camp, and she could see his smooth, brown pelt again. She missed the close bond that the two had dearly.

Tulipheart heaved herself out of her nest with a little trouble. She walked over to where the grey tabby was sitting, who shivered when a bought of humid air mixed with a cold draft hit her. The yellow she-cat followed the gaze of the tabby and found her staring at the warrior’s den. Sheepishly, Brindlefrost backed away.

“This... I assume you were watching that Brownfire tom?” she asked. Brindlefrost swallowed and nodded.

“Brindlefrost,” Tulipheart breathed. “I know you’re interested in him, and I know he means something to you. But you can’t keep doing this. ForestClan is your priority now. And if Brownfire would break off a friendship just because you became a medicine cat, he’s not worth chasing.”

Brindlefrost knew that she was right in some way, but she wasn’t going to give up until she rekindled her friendship with the tom. The times she had seen him in the past days, he had been trying his best to ignore her and her den. She knew that others talked and gossiped about them, and she hated it.

She cast a glance at her herb storage. I have herbs that can combat death. I don’t have herbs for a broken heart, she thought to herself sadly. Looking back at Tulipheart, she opened her mouth to speak.

“I know, I know,” Brindlefrost muttered distractedly. “I’m just-” she didn’t meet Tulipheart’s eyes as she thrust her head out of the den. “I’m going for a walk.” She needed to clear her head. She shivered as the rain dampened her pelt, but the last seven days had been so hectic that she needed a break.

“Out in the rain?” The yellow she-cat asked, but Brindlefrost was already halfway across camp. Strikestripe was standing straight, eyes focused ahead as he guarded the entrance to camp. His gaze shifted to Brindlefrost.

“Hello,” the tom purred and stepped closer to nuzzle his daughter. “Where are you going?”

“A walk,” she told him. He looked at her, confused.

“But it’s completely down pouring!” the tom exclaimed. “I don’t want you to get hurt.” He flicked his striped tail.

“Dad, I’ll be fine,” she cut him off before he went all out on a safety lecture. “I’ll be fine,” she repeated, more soft.

Strikestripe looked doubtful, but still moved to the side to let his daughter pass.

Brindlefrost padded out of camp, her paws drumming on the soft, moist ground. Her claws seeped into the dirt. She felt a little uneasy about going out into the forest on her own so soon after Seedwhisker’s death.

Brindlefrost stretched her muscles, feeling the rain that had already slicked her pelt slide down it. The grass was soft and springy, dew moistening it. Puddles formed as rain battered the ground, and the tabby sighed. She already felt a little better than when she was burdened with learning all the herbs.

Humid air wreathed around her neck as she walked through the forest. Stream arose from the ground. She felt the rain pelting down on her back, either aimed directly at her or dripping off the leaves of the tall trees. She kept her ears pricked; listening for both thunder and undetected predators rustling in the bushes.

Her grey tabby tail dragged on the ground as Brindlefrost tipped her head back and thought about Brownfire. The topic made her head hurt, but it had to be addressed. She groaned quietly. Why couldn’t she stay friends with him? She understood that he was hurt, but it wasn’t any easier for her to adjust.

In her eyes, it was selfishness.

Brindlefrost heard something through her pricked ears. The sound of crashing. Gulping, she lifted up her damp tail and quickened her pace. Was she going to suffer the same fate as Seedwhisker? No, no. She couldn’t. Two deaths in the same moon was unfathomable.

Nonetheless, she skipped quicker. The sound was getting closer. She was on the verge of running when she saw a brown tabby body crash onto the ground after sprinting through a bush. It was Swirledpaw. His green and amber eyes looked up at her. They were clouded with fear.

“Brindlefrost!” he gasped, scrambling off the wet ground, shaking out his pelt. “We need your help! SlickClan is invading!”

Chapter Five-Border Skirmish Turned BattleEdit

“What?!” Brindlefrost exclaimed, alarmed. Swirledpaw nodded quickly, swallowing. A headache took a hold of her brain. A medicine cat for not even a moon, and already she would be taking care of wounds. “Well... I.. I...” she stuttered.

Trying to calm herself, she took a deep breath. “Swirledpaw, go back and fight,” she told him. Looking doubtful for a split second, the apprentice turned. “I’ll get the rest of the Clan.” Her jaw was trembling as she watched him take off. Brindlefrost flattened her ears. It was raining harder than ever, pelting down on the tabby. She heard the sky growl. Glancing up, she noticed how significantly darker it had grown since she had left.

Rain pounding down on her drenched pelt, she rushed back to camp, claws gripping the ground. Her eyes were narrowed as water sprayed her muzzle, tail kept low and swishing back and forth slowly. Her wet belly fur hung low, heavily, and uncomfortably. Her toes were played as they dug into the soil. She felt a rising feeling of panic enter her body, but she tried her best to ignore it.”

Brindlefrost burst through the entrance to camp just as another bought of thunder crashed in the sky. “Everyone get up!” she screamed loudly. A heartbeat passed. “SlickClan is invading!” she wailed just as Fawnstar walked out of her den, eyes that were previously heavy with sleep now wide in shock.

“What?” she asked, somewhat loudly, just as more cats poured out of their dens, fixed with masks of alarm. “Where?” the leader pressed.

Anxiously, Brindlefrost faced the sea of confused, angry looking cats. “Swirledpaw went to fetch backup. I-I sent him back to fight. He didn’t specify what b-border, but I’m sure that we’ll be able to find them.” She scanned the crowd, most of which had tensed their muscles and slid down into crouches.

“What are we waiting for?” Brokenstep hissed, stepping forward. It couldn’t have been a coincidence that as soon as he finished speaking, everybody flinched from a bright, white bolt of lightning that split the sky. “Let’s do this!” the twisted-pawed tom ended. Fawnstar raised her head.

“Ivyclaw, Strikestripe,” she said. Brindlefrost felt a little uneasy that both her parents were going into battle. “Rowanscar, Brownfire, Ashenfire, and Dewspots. You’ll be coming as backup.” The leader meowed loudly. All six cats nodded. “Gentleflight, you can come as well.” The timid patched tom’s eyes widened in fear.

“The rest, stay back. Brindlefrost, please be ready for any injured cats. Tulipheart, I’d assume you would want to help?” the yellow she-cat nodded curtly. Brindlefrost’s stomach churned. There was going to be injuries, maybe even fatal ones that she was going to have to deal with.

Fawnstar’s eyes were narrowed in determination. “ForestClan, forward!” the she-cat growled. She turned and marched out of camp, the cats that she had named off following her and cheering promises of victory. Brindlefrost’s breakfast sat like a huge stone in her gut and she headed towards the medicine cat den. Her head was down as rain slicked her coat.

“Go to your nest,” Tulipheart said as soon as the wet, shivering tabby walked into the den. Eyes wide, Brindlefrost shook her head. “No. I must be ready for the wounded.” She padded towards her herb storage, sneezing.

“Brindlefrost, you were out in the cold rain with no protection. Go to your nest and stay there until you dry off, or you’ll get sick,” Tulipheart warned. Brindlefrost glared at her, moving her paw to collect herbs to make poultices. Tulipheart came up behind her.

“Go. To. Your. Nest.” She ordered. “You can take herbs to make poultices, but you have to stay warm.”

Dejected, Brindlefrost headed to her warm, dry nest with stems of different plants hanging from her jaws. She plopped down in the moss, which immediately started to absorb the water the dripped from her drenched pelt. Tulipheart went to work at the back of the den while Brindlefrost made a poultice of goldenrod, marigold, and comfrey before sliding it into a leaf wrap.

Sighing, the tabby continued to make poultices, a wad of cobwebs beside her and ready to be applied. Her mind wandered off towards the battle, not helping the anxiety that bubbled inside her. She tried to shake away the thought, but it clung like a cobweb.

Brindlefrost shivered. Her tail was wrapped around her drying body as her claws accidentally poked a hole in the leaf. Shrugging, she lifted it into her mouth and slowly chewed as she watched the rain pour down, pelting onto the ground. She flinched as a bolt of lightning cut the sky.

“Tulipheart,” Brindlefrost began after she spat out the leaf.

“Yes?” the yellow she-cat’s voice echoed across the den from the back. Brindlefrost bit her tongue.

“You told me not to make the same mistake you did,” she said slowly. “What was that mistake?”

There was a moment of silence. Brindlefrost kept her head straight, and eyes focused on the leaf wrap in front of her, but she could feel Tulipheart’s green gaze boring into her back. One heartbeat. Two heartbeats. Three. All of silence. Was she even going to reply?

“Names aren’t important,” the yellowish she-cat started suddenly, after ten heartbeats of silence. Brindlefrost pricked her ears and listened closely. “But all you need to know was that I fell in love with a tom while I was a medicine cat.” Her voice dropped. “I guess my punishment was his death.”

Brindlefrost swallowed. Hard. Would that happened to Brownfire is she rekindled her love for him? She shook the thought away. Just when she was an apprentice she was convincing herself that she didn’t have a crush on her best friend. Now she wanted him and couldn’t have him.

“That’s why I’m warning you to be careful,” Tulipheart continued. “With this Brownfire tom. Something about him makes me uncomfortable, and even though I’m sure he’s fine, you’ve told me that you used to have a close relationship.” Without taking her eyes off her work, Brindlefrost nodded.

“He may try to take advantage of that. Brindlefrost, I’m advising you to-“

Tulipheart was cut off as, almost seeming to be on cue, Brownfire burst through the entrance to the den. Brindlefrost was shocked. His eyes were wide in fear, blood dripping from a large gash on his shoulder. A thin pool of red formed at his paws as the rain mixed with the crimson liquid. His pelt was drenched from the downpour and was stuck up in spikes. He was shivering.

“Y-yes?” Brindlefrost stammered. Brownfire locked eyes with the she-cat. It was the first time he had done so since she had chosen the path of the medicine cat.

“Brindlefrost!” he exclaimed, eyes clouded. “Quickly! Blizzardfoot is gravely hurt!”

Chapter Six-When Snow MeltsEdit

Sunlight filtered in through the small patches between the entwined branches of the roof of the medicine cat den. Despite the torrential storm the day prior, cats that awoke were greeted with a pale blue, grey-clouded sky. The rain damage was still prominent, though. A moist ground. Branches blocking paths.

And of course, the wounds from the warriors who had fought in battle.

Brindlefrost was reapplying a poultice to the gash that ran from her sister’s throat, down to her stomach quickly. She held her breath as she did so. Blizzardfoot won’t die, Blizzardfoot won’t die. Even though she repeated the words over and over again in her head, it seemed inevitable.

Brindlefrost stared in horror, her chest frozen as she watched Gentleflight and Ashenfire heave Blizzardfoot’s unconscious body into an empty nest. Blood oozed from a large wound that sliced her belly. Tulipheart slowly walked up and stood beside the tabby.

“What are you waiting for?” Ashenfire shrieked. “Save her! You’re a medicine cat!”

Snapped back to reality by her brother’s screech, Brindlefrost quickly grabbed one of the leaf wraps that she had prepared in advance. It was a mixture of goldenrod, marigold, and comfrey. She spread the poultice over the wound, securing it with a large clump of cobweb. Terror gripped her heart like icy claws as she worked. Her whole body was trembling, and she was painfully aware of Ashenfire’s blazing blue gaze watching her like a hawk, as well as Gentleflight and Brownfire. Swiftly, she smeared some of the mixture onto some of Blizzardfoot’s smaller wounds.

Hopelessly, Brindlefrost turned to Tulipheart miserably. The she-cat nodded encouragingly, and motioned a patch of moss that she kept. Sighing in thanks, the tabby sped off towards it, moistening the plant quickly. She rushed back to Blizzardfoot. At least the cobwebs had stopped her bleeding.

With the moss, she dabbed the grey and white she-cat’s nose, followed by her ears. She glanced at Tulipheart, who separated Blizzardfoot’s jaws. Brindlefrost squeezed some of the water into her mouth.

She waited. Blizzardfoot did not stir. Brindlefrost’s heart was racing with panic, claws dug into the ground as she watched her sister. She would not let her die. She would not die. She could not die. If I let her die, it would all be on me, she thought.

Blizzardfoot’s pale, glassy blue eyes fluttered open, the sunlight that streamed through the woven roof kissing her eyelashes.

“Hello, Brindlefrost,” the grey and white she-cat greeted weakly. Brindlefrost turned from her work, awe alight in her eyes. Her heart arose in her chest. Blizzardfoot had not been awake since she had been brought into the den the day prior.

“Blizzardfoot!” Brindlefrost gasped. She rushed towards the striped she-cat, who had a small smile playing on her maw. She tried to reach towards the medicine cat, but her body was restrained. Brindlefrost laid a gentle paw on her. “Rest.”

“Dear sister...” Blizzardfoot mewed. A cry of pain came from the she-cat as she twisted in her nest. Brindlefrost quickly shifted the poultice back onto the large wound. “I’m dying, aren’t I?”

Brindlefrost could barely speak. The tabby flinched like a weight had been dropped on her stomach. “Yes...” the medicine cat’s voice was coarse with sorrow. Blizzardfoot’s gaze didn’t waver. “I’m... sorry, Blizzardfoot.”

“Justice isn’t blind, Brindlefrost,” Blizzardfoot mewed, her gaze softening when she saw her sister’s eyes fill with tears. “This is my fate. This is the right thing. You might be sad, but you’ll get over it. You always have. You always will.” Brindlefrost held her breath, her throat tightening. If she in took a breath, she was sure to burst into tears. Her chest was frozen, her body trembling. “No!” she exclaimed suddenly, the tears flying from her eyes and streaming down her cheeks. Blizzardfoot looked taken aback.

The grey tabby quickly rushed back to where she was working. “I...I...” she started as she grabbed the mixture. Her legs shaking, she ended up back at her sister’s side. “I won’t let you die!” she shouted, arousing her sleeping patients from their slumber.

Blizzardfoot’s gazed into nowhere as her sister quickly spread the poultice over her wound. “Brindlefrost...” she started. She was cut off by another bought of sobs choking Brindlefrost’s throat. “No!” she spluttered.

“I won’t let you die!” Brindlefrost repeated with a certain ferocity in her voice, her heart pounding out of her chest. Blizzardfoot was taken aback by the other she-cat’s tone. “I can’t let you die! You-you’re my sister! This is my first medicine ca-cat test! A re-real medicine cat wouldn’t let a cat d-die!”

“Listen to me, Brindlefrost,” Blizzardfoot meowed, her voice suddenly hard. She gripped Brindlefrost’s arm. A ghostly wail of pain escaped her. Brindlefrost turned, her eyes boring into her sister’s. They’re so much like mine... The tabby thought sadly, pain stabbing her heart. “You’re so forgiving to everyone else. Try to be forgiving to yourself.”

“But Blizzardfoot... You’re my only sister... You’re my family! I won’t let you go that easily!” Brindlefrost cried. She hadn’t been especially close with her sister, but she was family, and she cared for her deeply. “I won’t be able to talk to you ever again, or ask you for advice! You’re not going to be there! Ever!” the tabby’s voice was hoarse, but rose an octave.

“Brindlefrost, you’re ridiculous,” Blizzardfoot snapped. Brindlefrost watched as the gooey poultice she made dripped down the she-cat’s soft belly fur. She placed a tender paw on her sister’s flank, panic exploding in her heart and mind when she felt an irregular breathing pattern.

“Blizzardfoot!” screeched Brindlefrost. She didn’t move her paw from her sister’s flank, but she arose from her seating position, tail drooping. Her hackles were raised as the white and grey’s she-cat’s eyes slowly closed. “Can you hear me?!”

A heartbeat passed, and Brindlefrost stiffened. Her breathing was slow, but it was still there. A cough wracked her body. “I can hear you...” her voice was weak. Her paws flailed gently, and Brindlefrost felt her heart drop to her stomach like a rock.

“I’ll fix you,” Brindlefrost promised, her voice laced with emotion, a tear escaping her eye. “Please, just hang on,” she pleaded. But she knew her sister’s demise was inevitable. Despite her best efforts, the wound was too deep, and she had lost too much blood. She shook her head. I will fix you. I will fix you.

“Brindlefrost,” coughed Blizzardfoot, her voice faint. It’s alright.” Before her sister could object, the white and grey she-cat went on. “Death isn’t the end. We’ll meet again... I love you.”

And then her breathing stopped.

Chapter Seven-StarClan's WarningEdit

Stormpaw! Vixenpaw!”

The whole Clan chanted the names of the new apprentice while Brindlefrost joined in absentmindedly, watching with tired eyes. It was later in the day, early evening falling upon the pale blue sky. Blizzardfoot had been buried properly, rosemary and lavender scattered all over her body. She tried to shake the image of the betrayed scorn on Ashenfire’s face, and the horror on Brownfire’s.

Brindlefrost sighed. She gazed around, a fake smile on her face. She was supposed to be happy for Stormpaw and Vixenpaw. She was supposed to be happy for their mentors, Brightsky and Ivyclaw. She was supposed to be happy for Clovermark and Rowanscar, who looked ready to explode with pride.

But with her sister dead, she couldn’t really feel much.

“Excuse me, Fawnstar?” A voice sounded from one of the cats below. “I have something to say.” Brindlefrost turned her head, surprised to see the yellow pelt of Tulipheart weaving through the cats in the crowd. Fawnstar’s blue eyes rested on the medicine cat.

“Yes, Tulipheart?” the leader asked. Tulipheart dipped her head respectfully and ushered Brindlefrost towards her. Uncertainly, the grey tabby walked awkwardly through the cats and sat at her mentor figure’s side. She looked at the she-cat in confusion as she continued.

“As you know, I’ve lived here for a quarter moon to train Brindlefrost.” Brindlefrost didn’t like the direction that Tulipheart was taking. “She is a wonderful apprentice, and has a natural gift for remembering herbs. I think that I will be taking my leave at the end of this quarter moon.”

Brindlefrost was appalled, and Fawnstar looked taken aback. “Alright, Tulipheart.” She paused briefly. “ForestClan, you are dismissed.”

The Clan started to head away, some of them throwing confused and angry glances at Tulipheart. The yellow splotched she-cat kept a steady gaze as she swept her head around. Brindlefrost’s bright eyes were alight with fury.

“What in the Dark Forest was that?!” Brindlefrost hissed, lashing her tail. Tulipheart stared into her eyes blankly. She shifted slightly in the direction of the medicine cat den, but Brindlefrost’s paws were planted in the soil.

“Brindlefrost, I’m no liar.” Tulipheart pale eyes bored into her apprentice’s. “You have an extraordinary gift- you were much better than Dawnflight when he started. You were put on the spot to save so many cats’ lives after the SlickClan battle, and you fixed them like you were born to do it.”

Brindlefrost’s lips drew into a snarl. “My sister died,” she growled in a low voice. Tulipheart didn’t even flinch.

“Everything happens for a reason, Brindlefrost. And hers will come soon. I’ve made up my mind, and you can’t change it.” Tulipheart flicked her tail and turned, heading towards the medicine cat den. Brindlefrost felt the anger bubble up inside her. A hiss escaped her mouth, her ears flattened to her head.

She sat in spot, fuming. Through her sealed ears, she could hear the dull patter of paws on the ground. The grey tabby looked up, surprised to realize she was fighting back tears. Leafshine had walked up to her, and had opened her mouth to speak. Brindlefrost let her ears perk up to listen.

“Hmm... I guess your mentor’s leaving you. Too bad. A real medicine cat wouldn’t let family die,” sneered the tortoiseshell. Brindlefrost looked at her, perplexed, and then felt fury start to rise up in her. Her cheeks burned.

And then Leafshine just strode away, tail high in the air and swaying from side to side. Brindlefrost’s teeth clamped down on her tongue, biting back a stinging retort. Profanities quickly swirled in her mind, and she worked hard to keep her claws sheathed. Through her narrowed eyes, she watched Leafshine join up with Whitepelt, Palelight, and Dewspots, and start laughing like she hadn’t just verbally insulted her Clanmate.

The tabby hissed again. The rage sat in her, mixing together with her grief. Together they made a nauseating combo, and Brindlefrost felt her head start to reel. I’m her medicine cat! I deserve some respect! She thought angrily.

Huffing, she dragged herself to the den, groaning at the fact that she had so many patients in the bush. So many injured patients to remind her of Blizzardfoot. She pushed through the entrance. Blizzardfoot had only died that morning- it hadn’t even been a day yet. How was it going to be to go through the rest of her life knowing her family died on her paws?

Leafshine was right. She didn’t deserve to be a medicine cat.

Grateful that she saw Tulipheart re-applying poultices, she plopped down in her nest. She heard the nasty words swirl in her head. Leafshine was right. No she wasn’t, you piece of dung, suck it up. A real medicine cat would never let another cat die. You’re worthless. Stop crying, you prick.

Brindlefrost squeezed her eyes shut, warm tears welling up around them. Her muscles tensed as she shook her head slight, shifted positions uncomfortably. That day had just been a wild ride of emotions, and she needed a rest.


=..-^*^-..=

“H-hello?”

Brindlefrost’s voice trembled. She stared through large, frightened eyes. There was a plain field in front of her of tinted violet grass, and a deep, starry sky. It seemed so empty and large. Her voice echoed, though there was no walls for it to hit.

“Brindlefrost?” the voice pained her as she heard it.

The medicine cat angled her ears, whipping her head around. Her heart rose in her chest like a bird when she saw the thin body of Blizzardfoot, not a scar to be seen. No blood marred her pretty white and grey coat. Her pale eyes were no longer clouded, but glimmering. White light surrounded her body.

“O-oh, Blizzardfoot!” Brindlefrost exclaimed, shaking. “I... I...” It was so strange to see her dead sister standing in front of her, calmly, baring no signs of the wounds that killed her.

“Hush, Brindlefrost,” Blizzardfoot purred soothingly, stepping closer to her sister. The tabby winced. The white and grey she-cat looked her sister up and down. “You look exhausted,” she commented. “You must be tired from treating all those patients. You’re a good medicine cat.”

Leafshine’s harsh words hit Brindlefrost like a storm. “No... I.. let you die.” She mumbled.

Anger sparked in Blizzardfoot’s gaze. “I never, ever want you to say that. I died for a purpose. You will not doubt your skills.” She spoke in a hard voice, but regret flashed in her eyes. “It was my fault, if anything. I was promoted early from my skills in battle, so I must be able to win anything, right? I guess I underestimated SlickClan. At least Fawnstar killed Rosestar for revenge.”

Brindlefrost shivered. She had heard the rumours around camp.

“Anyways,” Blizzardfoot meowed as she shrugged. “I’m here to warn you.”

“Warn me?” Brindlefrost’s heart started pounding. “About what?”

“The future is foggy. I do not know yet, but Owlstar sent me.” The words flew out of Blizzardfoot’s mouth like she was discussing what to have for breakfast. There was a pause, and several heartbeats passed before the white and grey tabby spoke again.

“The heat melts the frost. If you play with fire, you’re gonna get burned.” Blizzardfoot’s voice was spacey, and her words chilled Brindlefrost to the bone. A shiver went down her spine.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” she asked cautiously.

“You’ll find out soon enough,” Blizzardfoot mewed. Brindlefrost stared as she seemed to thin out, and then realized she was disappearing. Starlight swirled around her as the grey tabby lunged towards her. “Don’t go! Not yet!”

But Blizzardfoot was already gone.

Brindlefrost awoke with a start. It was much later than she thought it would be, and shadows were cast upon the den’s walls. Everyone in the den but her was sleeping soundly.

Her heart raced. What did Blizzardfoot mean? She looked around the den in panic, her sister’s words echoing over and over in her mind. Fire? What?

Then she was hit with it. Fire.

Brownfire.

Chapter Eight-New Life's PromiseEdit

A draft of humidity found its way into the medicine cat den. A couple of days had passed since Blizzardfoot had warned Brindlefrost, and rain had fallen once again. The air was muggy and the sky was grey; promising later showers.

“Hello, Mistyrain,” Brindlefrost greeted as she saw the blue-grey she-cat push through the entrance. The tabby was making some poultices for the cats who were still seriously wounded-her father, Strikestripe, and Gentleflight, who had exhausted himself enough bringing Blizzzardfoot back.

“I think I’m sick,” Mistyrain meowed. “Lately, I’ve been feeling exhausted and I’ve had belly pains.”

“Alright, lie down.” Brindlefrost suspected she knew what the problem was, but wanted to double check. Dipping her head, Mistyrain awkwardly lied down on a mossy nest. The tabby drew her paw over her flank. Regular breathing, she thought. She detected a slight fever. Brindlefrost pressed her paw to Mistyrain’s stomach. The blue-grey she-cat flinched, and the medicine cat felt small kicks.

Brindlefrost glanced at her Mistyrain’s belly, where her teats were swollen. “Mistyrain...” the tabby bit her tongue, anxiety churning in her stomach. A huge rush of nervousness swooped up her chest. What if I diagnose her wrong? She took a deep breath. No. All the signs were present. “Congratulations! You’re pregnant!”

Mistyrain’s pale eyes widened. “Really?” she squeaked in excitement. “I... I have to tell Sycamorebranch!” with a little trouble, she got off the ground and rushed though the entrance of the medicine cat den.

Brindlefrost tipped her head to the side. Sycamorebranch? She had noticed the two together frequently, but she didn’t realize they were mates. She stifled a purr. She had never seen her strict former mentor act so kittish and excited.

Tulipheart turned her head, her pale eyes gleaming. “Smart choice,” she meowed.

“I’m not an idiot, I know what a pregnant she-cat looks like,” Brindlefrost retorted.

The yellow she-cat shrugged, flicking her tail. There had been a lot of tension between the two she-cats since Tulipheart had told Brindlefrost she was leaving soon. The medicine cat was angry; but more so scared. She knew that she wouldn’t be a very good medicine cat without Tulipheart holding her paw.

“I never said you were stupid,” Tulipheart murmured. Brindlefrost muttered something unintelligible under her breath.

“I’m going out,” the tabby huffed. Tulipheart rolled her eyes and shrugged, turning back to making some sort of mixture. Brindlefrost bit her tongue and rushed out of the entrance to the medicine cat den, just in time to see Mistyrain disappear into the warrior’s den. She smiled lightly. There hasn’t been kits in the nursery since Brownfire and I were kits, she thought, another spear stabbing her heart when she thought of the name.

Brindlefrost exhaled deeply. What herbs did she need? Was she running thing on anything? Marigold and goldenrod... she had been using a lot for the wounds. She headed out of camp, glad that today was nothing like the day she went out and been confronted with battle. But yet she felt a twinge of unease climb into her stomach.

She burst out of the entrance to the camp, her tail twitching in annoyance. Marigold is first, Brindlefrost thought to herself. Her foresty territory was good for an abundance of the healing herb. The tabby picked up her pace as she jaunted about.

Brindlefrost flattened her ears to her head, feeling sweat drip down her forehead. The tabby sighed. It seemed that ever since she chose the path of a medicine cat, time had been dragging by slow as a snail.

“Brownfire definitely has been a contributing factor,” Brindlefrost murmured to herself.

=..-^*^-..=

“Hungry?” Tulipheart asked, a couple of mice clamped in her jaws. Brindlefrost had just finished applying a poultice to Strikestripe when she turned to face her mentor.

“Sure,” Brindlefrost replied. “You can leave now. You’re healed. You may be a little stiff, and it will scar, just don’t put much pressure on it,” she meowed to her father.

Strikestripe’s eyes brightened. “Thank you. You’re a brilliant medicine cat,” he praised as he licked her forehead. Tulipheart padded towards her as the tom left, dropping one of the mice. “Why can’t you believe your father?” she asked as his tail disappeared out the entrance.

“Not this again,” groaned Brindlefrost. Tulipheart smirked and shrugged. “You can go too,” the tabby called to Gentleflight, who was in a snoring gently. He was aroused from his slumber by the medicine cat’s words, and he started to rise from his nest. “Really?”

“Yup,” Brindlefrost responded. Eyes twinkling, the tom headed out of the den.

The she-cats ate in silence until Tulipheart spoke, several heartbeats after. “I won’t be here when Mistyrain gives birth,” she meowed, chewing a tough piece of mouse.

“I know,” Brindlefrost meowed simply.

“Can you handle that?”

“I’m not a kit.”

More silence. Tulipheart exhaled deeply, leaning back. “I want to leave on good terms.”

“And you will,” insisted Brindlefrost. “I can take care of myself.” The tabby flicked her tail, whiskers twitching in irritation as she took another bite of her meal. Tulipheart’s eyes betrayed her tone, and Brindlefrost could see that beneath the green pools, she was worried.

“I can sense your fear,” the grey tabby meowed. “Cut the exposition and say what you want to say.”

Tulipheart hesitated, her pale yellow fur ruffled up. “I want you to be careful. Not want, need. You’re like a daughter to me, Brindlefrost, and I fear that you’re heading down a bad path.”

Brindlefrost was flabbergasted. “Seriously?” she rolled her eyes. “You must be joking. I’ll be fine,” she meowed, her undertone dark. “You have nothing to worry about,” she assured her mentor. Tulipheart’s gaze was doubtful, and she had a lingering aura of uncertainty.

“Well...” the she-cat began. “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Stay away from that Brownfire tom.” Her voice had a sharp edge to it, and Brindlefrost was taken aback. Her eyes flashed dark for a moment before she returned to eating her meal like normal.


Chapter Nine-Second ChancesEdit

“Push! You have to push!” Brindlefrost meowed, gently rubbing Mistyrain’s belly, massaging lower. One of the kits was stuck the wrong way, and she was trying to turn it around.

“I’m trying!” Mistyrain wailed in pain, wriggling her legs in discomfort.

Tulipheart had been gone for a moon now. Brindlefrost had been getting on fine without her, but now this was the test of her abilities. She knew that the birthing wouldn’t of gone any different if her mentor was with her- the kit would’ve gotten stuck anyway –but it didn’t stop the panic that laced her mind.

She remembered the spotted cat greeting her at the gathering, just to check up. It was a bittersweet feeling, meeting Tulipheart. And luckily, the other Clans accepted her as the medicine cat of ForestClan, though they were sad to hear of Seedwhisker’s passing.

Stay calm, she thought to herself. She massaged the top, trying to slightly push it down. Mistyrain gave a high pitched groan, and the kit popped out, sliding onto the nest. The she-cat exhaled heavily, her breathing troubled.

Brindlefrost passed the kit to Swirledlight. “It’s a tom. Unclog its mouth and ears, and lick its fur the wrong way to warm it up,” she instructed him. The tabby nodded, and leaned down to clean up the kitten.

“Two more, Mistyrain,” Brindlefrost mewed. Mistyrain’s eyes were glazed and she looked very tired. Sycamorebranch was lying next to her, whispering kind words in her ear. “You can do it,” he soothed his mate.

Mistyrain screeched in agony, her breathing laboured. Another kit was birthed, this one much for easily, for she was smaller. Brindlefrost gave her to Swirledlight. “She-kit,” she said, not taking her eyes off of Mistyrain.

“Here,” Brindlefrost meowed, taking a water-drenched moss ball and letting the water drip down into the queen’s open mouth. Her eyes flashed with gratitude. “One more. You’re doing great,” she meowed to Mistyrain.

The grey she-cat pushed hard, grunting. She wheezed, inhaling and exhaling sharply, her tail flip flopping on the ground. “Almost done,” Sycamorebranch murmured.

Mistyrain convulsed. She yowled angrily, tossing her head back and forth. Another kit- the biggest one –slid out onto the nest. Brindlefrost took this one and nipped it out of the sac, licking his fur and freeing his mouth of mucus.

“Congratulations,” Brindlefrost meowed warmly. She gave the kit to Mistyrain, who immediately latched onto her teat and started suckling. Swirledlight passed the two he had to her as well.

“I’m so proud of you,” Sycamorebranch meowed, licking her cheek. Tears sprung to his eyes, and the salty drops ran down Mistyrain’s face. They were both smiling happily. Brindlefrost grinned before turning to leave the den, joy rising in her heart. She did it!

She sighed, tired, heading back to her den. She raised her head and was surprised to see Brownfire awkwardly standing in front of the entranceway. His amber eyes lit up when he saw her.

“Uh, hey Brindle,” he started. “Good job, uh, back there.”

“Thanks... I guess,” Brindlefrost wrinkled her nose. She tried to push past him, but he stuck out his paw and stopped her. She glared at him.

Awkward silence.

“So, uh, Brindle, I was, uh, thinking about stuff...” Brownfire meowed, dropping his gaze. “Stop saying ‘uh’ so much,” Brindlefrost criticized. The tom flinched.

“Look, I know I was a super douche, but I think everyone deserves a second chance. Including me. We used to be best friends, didn’t we? We were Brindle and Brown, against the world.” Brownfire looked at her slightly, his eyes barely visible from beneath his tuft.

“Key word, used to. Best friends don’t ignore each other because of a decision,” Brindlefrost growled, her words icy. She lashed her tail. Brownfire shrunk down, her words cutting through him like a tender piece of prey.

“I’m sorry,” Brownfire mewed quietly.

“Sorry isn’t gonna cut it anymore.”

=..-^*^-..=

“What’s that?” Squirrelkit’s fluffy brown body popped up in front of Brindlefrost.

“It’s borage. It’s to help your momma make more milk for you,” the tabby explained, setting down the leaves beside Mistyrain. Squirrelkit and her siblings were a few days old, and were already running around camp causing mischief.

“Whoa! Was it hard to learn all those herbs?” Squirrelkit asked.

“A little. I learned them pretty quickly, though,” she told the kit. Her bright green eyes widened. “Wowie! That’s cool!”

“It is,” Brindlefrost chuckled.

“I’m gonna go play with my siblings!” Squirrelkit exclaimed. She fluffed up her white chest fur and pounced onto her brother, Nettlekit. The dark grey tom was surprised and flopped over on the ground, pawing at his sister with sheathed claws. Milkkit, their brother, tumbled over to them.

Brindlefrost smiled slightly, watching the kits pile onto each other. She felt a twinge of sadness knowing she was never going to raise her own family.

“They are wonderful, aren’t they?” Mistyrain asked, chewing the herb that the tabby had brought her. The queen caught the medicine cat looking at her kits.

“Truly,” Brindlefrost agreed.

“So sad you can’t have your own!” Mistyrain sighed. “You’d make a wonderful mother.”

Brindlefrost cringed. “My Clan are my kits now,” she told the queen. “What does Sycamorebranch think of them?” she asked, changing the subject.

“Oh, he loves them! Squirrelkit looks so much like him, doesn’t she?” the dark grey she-cat asked, her pale eyes shining.

“Definitely,” Brindlefrost told her. “But Nettlekit looks like you,” she insisted.

“I’m flattered,” Mistyrain giggled.

“Nice talking to you,” the grey tabby meowed, dipping her head. She turned her gaze to the exit of the nursery and padded out. “I’ll be back tomorrow with more borage,” she called as she left.

Brindlefrost sighed, twitching her whiskers. As she headed to the prey pile to pick up a meal, her pelt grew hot. It felt as if someone were watching her while she picked up a vole and went back to her den. Pebbles skipped at her feet.

Just before entering the medicine cat den, she craned her neck to see Brownfire watching her from just outside the warrior’s den. Angrily, she thrust herself into the den. Just leave me alone! She thought, throwing down the vole and taking a bite.

But as she ate, she realized she was starting to cry. As much as she didn’t want to admit it, she missed Brownfire. She missed their friendship. She missed having an adventure buddy and a playmate. Her heart stung as she recounted their happy memories. The tabby shook her head thoughtfully. The more she thought about it, the more she came to a conclusion.

Maybe some cats do deserve a second chance.


Chapter Ten-This is GospelEdit

It was the next day, and the Sun hung in the sky, bright light beating down.

“Um, Brownfire?” Brindlefrost heart hammered in her chest nervously as she approached the tom. Slowly, he turned to meet her sky blue gaze, twitching his white-tipped tail.

“What do you want, Brindlefrost? Wanna drill into me some more about how much I suck as a friend? Is that it?” Brownfire growled curtly. Brindlefrost flinched.

“No... I was, uh, thinking about what you said. And, I think you’re right. So... would you like to go on a walk? To, uh, talk about stuff?” the grey she-cat asked, averting her gaze and curling her tail around her paws nervously.

Brownfire looked at her weirdly, narrowing his eyes, giving her the slightest smile. “Look who’s come around, eh?” He stood up, shaking his pelt out. “Let’s go, sweetcheeks.”

That was easy, thought Brindlefrost. Struggling to keep cool, she puffed out her light coloured chest fur confidently. “Yeah. Let’s.” She swallowed, walking beside Brownfire as they headed out of camp. She held her head low, ignoring the strange looks that they were given.

“Who’s that with Brindahfwost, momma?” she heard Squirrelkit meow.

“That’s Brownfire. She and him used to be very close in their apprentice days,” Mistyrain responded. Luckily, Squirrelkit knew nothing of their fight and went on babbling about how excited she was to be an apprentice in her coming moons.

The two cats burst out of camp.

“So, why did you suddenly wanna become buddy-buddy with me?” Brownfire asked when they were out of earshot of their Clan. Brindlefrost felt his amber gaze on her, and she shrunk down as if it belittled her.

“I’m giving you a second chance, so don’t blow it,” Brindlefrost replied simply. Brownfire chuckled softly. “Plus, I’ve... missed having a best friend. It’s kinda lonely being a medicine cat. And since Tulipheart left, I’ve never really had no one who is close to me.”

“So, you miss me and you want me back,” Brownfire summarized. “Couldn’t stay away, could you?”

“My emotions don’t justify your actions, mister,” Brindlefrost meowed, her tone hard. She thrashed her tail, irritation sparking her heart.

“Sorry,” Brownfire meowed sheepishly, with a hint of smugness.

“Don’t push it,” Brindlefrost wrinkled her nose.

“I’ll settle for pulling it,” the brown and white tom replied quickly. Brindlefrost rolled her eyes, letting loose a giggle.

There were a couple heartbeats of silence as they pushed through sproingy foliage. “It’s too tense between us. No one would believe we’re friends,” Brownfire meowed. “We’re not friends yet,” Brindlefrost told him.

“Alright,” Brownfire shook his head gently. “Will things ever be the same between us?”

“Stop being depressing.”

“Whatever you say, princess.”

Now it was time for Brindlefrost to shake her head. “No cutesy nicknames yet. Now, let’s climb a tree.” Brindlefrost pitched the idea as she sunk her claws into the soft bark of a tree, hoisting herself up and clinging to the stump. Her tail flickered back and forth, sending up dust.

“Man, I didn’t know friendship had so many rules,” Brownfire noted, following Brindlefrost up the tree.

“Pfft,” Brindlefrost muttered, pulling herself up the tree with some trouble. The tom was pushed up close to her, as his climbing skills were much more superior. “Could you get a move on, maybe?” the brown cat suggested. “Some cats are waiting.”

“Don’t patronize me!” the tabby exclaimed, seizing a strong-looking, thick branch with her claws and pulling herself up onto it. She wheezed, tensing her muscles. “Eep!” she wailed as her legs were left dangling in the air while she climbed onto it.

Brownfire hopped on with no trouble. “You’re so out of shape,” he heckled.

“Cat-like is a shape,” Brindlefrost stuck out her tongue.

The tuxedo cat leaned back ever so slightly, but not so much that he would fall off and end up faceplanting into the soft soil, fur filled with thorns and leaves from the bushes surrounding them. “It’s been awhile,” he exhaled.

“It has,” Brindlefrost mewed. “How’s life?”

“Not the same without you by my side,” Brownfire meowed, his amber gaze fixed on Brindlefrost. The tabby turned her head to meet it, and felt her heart skip. She swallowed. “I’m a medicine cat,” she reminded him. “No one said that I wouldn’t continue to stay by your side.” She paused. “Except for you.”

“Except for me,” the tom replied. He inhaled. “Really driving the point home, eh, Brindle?” “Yup. It’s my duty to guilt trip you.” This was so easy! Brownfire was like clay in her paws! Why was he so agreeable all the sudden? Must be mating season. Brindlefrost giggled to herself. Brownfire looked at her, arching an eyebrow.

“It’s been kinda stressful since Tulipheart left,” the tabby admitted. “And even when she was here. I felt like every death and wound was on my paws. It’s my fault if they die. Especially Blizzardfoot.” Just thinking of the horrible memory made her eyes water.

Suddenly, she remembered Blizzardfoot’s message to her. The heat melts the frost. If you play with fire, you’re gonna get burned. The words haunted her, and she felt her whole body tremble. She squeezed her eyes tightly, shuddering.

“What’s wrong?” Brownfire asked.

“Nothing,” Brindlefrost lied, curling her tail around her paws. Why was everyone telling her to stay away from Brownfire? They used to be best friends. What was wrong with them? Her mentor, even her family... And she could even feel the vibe from Ashenfire as well.

Her Clanmate wouldn’t do anything to hurt her... would he? Or, at least, not more than he already had. She didn’t think that was possible.

Chapter Eleven-HeatwaveEdit

“I warned her, what more do you want me to do?” Blizzardfoot shook her head.

Swanfur shrugged, twitching her whiskers and sighing. She glanced into the small pool of water that surrounded her small paws. In the reflection, she could see Brindlefrost and Brownfire sitting next to a river and talking. She watched intently, her pale gaze fixed to the cats. When she finally looked away, she turned her head to Blizzardfoot. “They might need to figure this out for themselves.” The white she-cat curled her tail around her front paws, the picture in the water starting to fade.

“Are you guys talking about Brindlefrost and Brownfire again?” An older, white she-cat with grey tabby patches stepped into view, her body peeking out from behind a cluster of foliage. Her blue eyes shone bright and hard as she looked at them.

“Hello, Azurepetal. Yes,” Swanfur responded. “Tsk tsk,” Azurepetal responded, bounding down a couple rocks to stand beside the other she-cats.

“You need to stop trying to control their lives, especially Brindlefrost’s. She’s a grown cat now, and though she may be younger than most of the cats in the Clan, she can think for herself.” Azurepetal told them. “Who are we to say what is wrong and what is right? What is black and what is right?” her pale gaze turned to Blizzardfoot. “You’re her sister, you should know better.”

Blizzardfoot narrowed her eyes. “You’re her family, too. And I’m just trying to protect her. This is the best I can do, now that I no longer walk the world of the living.”

“Do you blame your sister for your death?” Azurepetal asked.

“What? Of course not! It’s my foolishness that got me injured. I died like a warrior, and I knew I was done for as soon as Lightningfur struck that blow.” Blizzardfoot was appalled. “What, did you blame Gingerpounce for your death?”

“I was killed by a sickness,” Azurepetal meowed simply. “Not by poor skills. Not that I’m suggesting Brindlefrost has poor skills, she’s actually quite extraordinary...”

“I think we should end this conversation now,” Swanfur cut her off, waving her tail in dismissal. Blizzardfoot shrugged, Azurepetal muttering something under her breath.

=..-^*^-..=

About a moon had passed since that conversation.

Duckpelt, unfortunately, had passed away a while back. Luckily, upon closer inspection, Brindlefrost had found that he was not in pain when he died. His passing came peacefully in his sleep, and just of old age rather than sickness.

Brindlefrost leaned against the wall of her den. Since the beginning of a new quarter moon, it had been unbearably hot, and some cats were coming down with sicknesses because of it. She had Specklefur and Vixenpaw in her den, both sleeping in a cool corner.

Brownfire was helping out, fetching water every so often to keep the patients cool and hydrated. He was dabbing their foreheads gently, trying not to wake them up when Ivyclaw walked into the den.

“Hello, Brindlefrost?” she asked quietly, walking towards her. The tabby padded up to her mother, brushing her tail across her forehead. “Don’t tell me you’re sick, too!” she exclaimed. She twitched her ear and heard the rustling of dry moss in the corner, and lowered her voice. “What’s wrong?”

“Well, I’ve already told Ashenfire, but... I’m pregnant!” she mewed excitedly. Brindlefrost’s eyes widened in awe, her heart skipping a beat.

“Really? That’s great!” the tabby purred happily. “We better move you into the nursery right away! Mistyrain could use some company,” she chuckled. When she had visited the queen in the past, she seemed kind of lonely and very talkative. “Do you know how many?”

“Two, I think. Doesn’t feel like you three did, that’s for sure,” Ivyclaw meowed, nuzzling her daughter. She turned to leave, and Brownfire walked up to her.

“You’re gonna have new siblings?” he asked.

“Yup,” Brindlefrost nodded her head.

“So, uh... do you wanna go on a walk tomorrow night?” Brownfire asked hopefully. Brindlefrost hesitated, and shook her head.

“I have to go to the medicine cat thing, and then we have the gathering the next day,” she meowed, shrugging her shoulders. “Sorry.”

“Sorry isn’t gonna cut it,” Brownfire meowed in mock anger, thrashing his tail. He laughed, and Brindlefrost joined in tentatively.

“Hey lovebirds, some of us are trying to sleep!” the two heard Vixenpaw’s giggle from her nest, and Brindlefrost went red with embarrassment, pinning her ears to her head. Brownfire grinned slightly, a blush painting itself on his cheeks.

“Uh, I’m gonna go get us something to munch on.” Brindlefrost meowed before getting up and quickly rushing toward the exit of the den. She felt Brownfire’s gaze on her, a feeling she had come quite accustomed to in the past moons.

As soon as she left the den, she was hit with a blast of heat. She squinted her eyes, and saw her Clanmates sluggishly dragging themselves around camp. She stuck out her tongue. How did the warriors work in these conditions?

Humid air wreathed around her neck and ankles. She bit her lip in discomfort, pulling her gaze to the ground so her eyes weren’t injured by the brilliant light of the Sun.

She crossed towards the fresh-kill pile, but was intercepted by Fawnstar. Actually, intercepted was not the correct word. The leader had clumsily bumped into her, something that was not a common occurrence. Brindlefrost looked at her. The brown she-cat looked tired and feverish, her normally bright eyes glazed. Worry gripped Brindlefrost’s heart. Her thick, fluffy pelt could not be doing her any good in the heatwave.

“To my den, right away,” Brindlefrost ordered before Fawnstar could even open her mouth. The leader swallowed, and nodded. “Brownfire will build you a den and get you water.” Surprise sparked in her eyes at the mention of the tom, but she didn’t object, and headed to the den. The grey tabby watched her, and didn’t turn back to the prey until she had entered.

Brindlefrost picked up a plump rabbit from the dusty ground. When she lifted her head, she saw Sycamorebranch looking down at her. “Fawnstar- is she okay? She’s seemed out of it lately,” he asked, concerned.

“She has the heat sickness, and hers seems more severe than the others.” Sycamorebranch bit his tongue. “Can you go check on your mate?” Brindlefrost asked. “Kits are more susceptible to sickness, and Mistyrain could contract it from sitting outside and watching them.”

Sycamorebranch dipped his head and hurried towards the nursery.

Sighing deeply, Brindlefrost squeezed her eyes shut tightly and prayed that she wasn’t experiencing her first outbreak of sickness.


Chapter Twelve-Something to HideEdit

“Greetings, Brindlefrost,” Rustedfur meowed, dipping his head in welcome. Brindlefrost returned the nod, flicking her tail.

“How’s your Clan been doing with the heat? Some of our members have fallen ill,” the grey tabby informed them.

“Nothing severe. Some sick bellies and fevers,” Rustedfur said, tipping his head to the side. Tulipheart shook her head, her green eyes closed.

“We don’t have much cover on our territory, so many of our cats have gotten sick,” the yellow medicine cat murmured. Dawnflight twitched one ear. “It’s not very bad though. Rabbitpounce is the sickest, and he’s only been vomiting a little,” the ginger tom put in.

“Our cats stay cool by swimming,” Goldnight mewed. “So we have no problems,” Bluepaw butted in, raising her head proudly. Goldnight brushed her tail over her apprentice’s muzzle. “One or two minor cases, nothing big.”

Brindlefrost bit her tongue. The other medicine cats were making it a point to say that their cases of sicknesses were minor and not life-threatening. Were they trying to hide something? Did they have dying patients back at camp? Were they hiding the truth? The tabby shook her head slightly. “We’d better be on our way, then,” the tabby said.

Tulipheart dipped her head, and swept up her paws to start walking. Brindlefrost followed suite, glad that the heat had died down in the night. The day, today, was even hotter. Nettlekit was ill, and Fawnstar didn’t seem to be getting better.

“It’s been so hot,” Bluepaw complained. “Why does the gathering have to be the day after our meeting all the time? I never get a good sleep. We need time to rest after this heatwave!” she pushed her muzzle in the air. “At least we have water to swim in.”

“Tit for tat,” Goldnight responded. Bluepaw rolled her eyes.

“So Bluepaw,” Dawnflight began, “how’s your training going?”

“Great,” Bluepaw mewed. Brindlefrost straightened her neck, and could see the small alcove of rocks and quartz where they spoke with StarClan. “We’re almost there,” the tabby meowed. The ground underpaw was soft and thick from the Sun’s warmth, and she felt her paws sinking into it.

Bluepaw picked up her pace, bounding towards the cave. “Wait up!” Goldnight called. The black she-cat waved her tail, shaking her head. “She’s so impatient.”

Rustedfur let out a meow of sympathy.

Once they reached the cave, the medicine cats crawled into it. Despite the heatwave, the rocks were cold to the touch, a chilly aura surrounding them. Brindlefrost shivered, the only light the faint, coloured glow of the quartz.

She curled up on a flat, rounded stone. “As your oldest medicine cat, I must lead the prayer,” Rustedfur began, clearing his throat. “Repeat after me for the first line, and then say it with me.” He took a breath. “Oh, StarClan, come to me...”

“Oh, StarClan, come to me,” the medicine cats repeated. Rustedfur looked at them, and Brindlefrost opened her mouth to pray along.

“If you have something for me to see. Through the darkest nights, shine your light, and tell us the battle we have to fight,” they chorused together. They nodded in sync, and bent their necks to touch their nose to one of the gems.

A spike of rose quartz lay before Brindlefrost’s gaze. She touched her muzzle to them, and felt their cold touch on her nose. The tabby hesitated, than slowly laid her head down on the rock, feeling the hard surface press against her cheek.

She squeezed her eyes shut, seeing the dim light fade from beneath her eyelids. She curled her tail around her body, pulling her head in towards her chest.

And finally, sleep came.

Brindlefrost’s eyes flung open to the feeling of heat scorching her pelt. She bolted into an upright position so quickly she felt her head hurt. The air was burning hot and humid, so much so she almost felt choked by it.

“What?!” she exclaimed, but it sounded like a ghostly wail. Her throat was dry and parched, and pain coursed through her body. She coughed as a reflex, pinning her ears to her head.

Her pelt wasn’t even that thick, but Brindlefrost started to sweat beneath her fur. The tabby panted, but her tongue felt like sand. Humid air blasted in her face, and when she looked up, the brilliant light of the Sun glared back down at her, leaving her to stumble around, momentarily blind.

“Help!” her voice was thin. “Water! Shade!” Brindlefrost’s posture fell, and her movements were sluggish and uncomfortable. Her fur stuck to her skin, beads of sweat running down her body. Her fluffy tail dragged on the ground.

“Someone...” Brindlefrost had to speak in a whisker, but still, hardly any sound came from her mouth. She broke out in a cold sweat, feeling a huge, freezing rush that was replaced by a burning sensation. Her neck prickled.

As she walked, she felt her movements slow. Her breathing became uneven and shallow, and Brindlefrost felt her body gravitate closer and closer to the ground, like some force was pulling her down. It almost felt like she was melting.

“Brindlefrost!”

A tom’s voice; and it sounded familiar. Brindlefrost looked around through half-opened eyes but couldn’t see the source. She thought it was to her left, but it was deserted as far as the eye could see. The land was dry and dusty; nothing but tumbleweeds.

“Brindlefrost! Brindlefrost!” she felt something pawing at her shoulder. She shrank away, looking around. “Brindlefrost! Wake up!”

Startled, Brindlefrost woke up in a flash. Cold air washed over her, and her eyes adjusted to the dim light quickly. The shape in front of her faded into something recognizable.

Ashenfire.

“What? What is so urgent?” she asked, slowly putting one paw down and pushing herself up. Her mouth gaped open in a yawn. Ashenfire’s blue eyes were dark, and his tone was serious.

“Fawnstar just lost her second-last life.”

Chapter Thirteen-All We Can DoEdit

“Hurry up, Brindlefrost!” Ashenfire hissed through closed teeth, his eyes focused ahead. Brindlefrost, still bleary upon just waking up, stumbled quickly after her brother. She was fumbling, her paws heavy. It was also dark out, clouds covering the moon. The tabby was surprised at how fast Ashenfire could move in the black of night.

“I’m hurrying!” Brindlefrost retorted.

A few moments later, the two burst into camp. Despite the fact that it was moonhigh, the camp was awake, and distressed. Swirledlight’s eyes flooded with relief as his head whipped around from his post at the entrance to camp.

“Oh, thank StarClan!” the tabby sighed. He stood up quickly and flicked his tail to lead the two to the medicine cat den. “Thank StarClan,” Swirledlight repeated, “that Ashenfire is fast on his feet. Fawnstar has a bad fever, stomachache, and she’s been vomiting,” he explained as Brindlefrost barged through the cats crowding the den.

Anxious murmurs raged through the crowd. Squirrelkit, eyes wide with fear, looked up and Brindlefrost. “U-um, Brindlefrost?” For the first time in her life, the eccentric she-kit stuttered. “I-I gave Fawnst-star some borage... I-I heard y-you say it was g-good for sickness...” She looked down at her paws guiltily.

The grey tabby sighed. “It was naughty of you to feed herbs to Fawnstar, you could’ve made her very sick.” Squirrelkit’s bottom lip trembled. “But- you are right. Borage brings down fever, so thank you.” The ginger kit’s head whipped up, eyes shining.

Brindlefrost smiled before dawning a serious expression and pushing into her den. There lied Fawnstar in the middle, curled tightly up in a ball. She was convulsing rapidly, both Sycamorebranch and Brownfire by her side.

“Oh StarClan,” Brindlefrost breathed. Fawnstar’s thick pelt was slicked down with sweat and water, which she assumed was brought by Sycamorebranch. Despite her coat, thin shedded furs were around her nest. Her eyes were squeezed shut tightly, her tongue out and panting heavily.

Brownfire looked up, his face expressionless. “Her fever has gone down quite a bit since Squirrelkit fed her the borage. Sycamorebranch brought her water, but...” his voice seemed to fade as Fawnstar started to dry-heave.

“Alright,” Brindlefrost meowed. Swiftly, she grabbed some borage leaves that were scattered on the ground and started chewing them up for a poultice. As she went to search for chervil root, she turned to Sycamorebranch. “Can you see if she can keep water down? Or at least get her mouth and throat moistened. She needs it so she can swallow the poultice.”

The white and brown tom dipped his head, and headed to the moss storage. “What can I do?” Brownfire asked, his amber eyes burning.

With the chervil root in her mouth now as well, it was hard for Brindlefrost to speak. “Keep her mouth open for Sycamorebranch and I,” she meowed. She didn’t want to smash the herbs completely, but she wanted to grind them up enough so they would easily go down Fawnstar’s throat. Brownfire nodded as the tabby added some feverfew into the mixture.

Sycamorebranch had returned with a dripping wet wad of moss. Carefully, he squeezed some water into Fawnstar’s forced open jaws. She gulped, and shuddered violently thereafter. Wincing, Brindlefrost spat the poultice out and into the leader’s mouth. She gagged as the tabby massaged her throat.

Fawnstar’s breathing had started to slow shortly after. Not back to normal speed, but she wasn’t hyperventilating anymore. After she had calmed down a bit and wasn’t spasming as much, Brindlefrost gave her a small dose of coltsfoot, because she could hear the irregularity in her breathing.

“Brownfire,” the tabby asked quietly. “Could you tell the waiting cats that they can go back to sleep, and Fawnstar is doing better?” The leader hadn’t thrown up since she was treated, which was much better, according to Sycamorebranch. Brownfire got up, shaking out his pelt, and headed towards the entrance.

After the camp had cleared out and the cats had gone back to their dens, Brindlefrost took Fawnstar’s temperature. She held her breath as she pressed a paw lightly to her forehead.

Mildly warm to the touch. Brindlefrost exhaled deeply. “What is it?” Sycamorebranch asked anxiously.

“She’s back to normal now.” All three shared a collective sigh of relief.

“But then there’s the question,” Brownfire meowed. “What do we do now?”

“All we can do is wait,” Brindlefrost responded.

And so the night went. Brindlefrost and Brownfire spent it lying in a nest together. Brownfire was trying to cheer her up, but there was the underlying worried tone. The grey tabby’s gaze was focused on Fawnstar the whole night, who Sycamorebranch was pressed against.

Cautiously, she leaned into Brownfire’s chest. “This job is so stressful sometimes. If someone dies, it’s all my fault. I couldn’t save them. What’s the point of having a medicine cat that can’t stop someone from dying?” she asked.

“Don’t put all that pressure and guilt on yourself. It does no good.” Brindlefrost winced. She could feel the vibrations of Brownfire speaking.

“Oh yeah, says Mr. Imma Stop Being Your Friend Because You Want To Help The Clan,” the tabby retorted.

“Pshh, can you stop bringing that up?” Brownfire’s voice was twinged with annoyance. He rolled a pebble between his paws. “Here’s a rock.” He guided Brindlefrost’s paw to it, lifting it in the air. “Now get over it.”

“Sorry for telling you about the things that really hurt me.”

There was a silence between the two. “Whatevs, darling. But, as I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted; some cats are already goners. You can try to help them, but they’re already dead. On the inside, I mean.” Brownfire mewed.

“Wow, you’re so optimistic!” Brindlefrost exclaimed.

“You’re not the biggest ball of sunshine, either.”

“Pfft.” The grey tabby playfully jabbed him in the shoulder, and Brownfire threw her a look of mock pain.

Soon the Sun came up over the horizon, after what seemed to be tireless hours. The dark sky turned purple, and before the cats knew it, pink and orange streams of light were dancing among the indigo clouds. Sunlight filtered in through the cracks in the top of the den.

Brindlefrost, stiff from being in the same position all night, stood up and stretched, her tail up and claws outstretched, sinking into the ground. Sycamorebranch had gotten up as well, his eyes reddened and tired. The medicine cat was surprised- she thought he had slept. “I’ll get the water if you want to make another poultice.” Brindlefrost dipped her head.

But just as they were about to head and get their supplies, shifting was heard from Fawnstar’s den. The leader half-opened her dark eyes. They were crusted with sleep dust. In disgust, Fawnstar looked down at herself.

“I’m sorry,” Fawnstar mewed. Her voice was hoarse and weak. “That this is how you have to see me before I pass on to another life.” She was staring at her matted chest hair that had dry vomit on it. The rest of her brown pelt was knotted and unkempt.

“Oh, Fawnstar!” Brindlefrost was so surprised that the she-cat was alive- and awake! And she was speaking! “Thank StarClan you’re alive!” Sycamorebranch added.

“Not for long, I admit.” Fawnstar flopped onto her side, eyes glazed as she rubbed the dust out of them. Her teeth were clicking as she spoke, and her voice was dry. “I’ll get you some water,” Brownfire meowed. The leader barley turned her head to acknowledge the tom. “That’s not needed.” “Please,” Brindlefrost begged. “Hope for the best!”

“Brindlefrost.” Fawnstar’s voice was still regal and powerful, despite her condition. “I’m your leader. I’ve lived many lives. I’ve seen cats be born. I’ve seen them die. I’ve witnessed the cycle of life. And I’m afraid mine has come to an end.”

Sycamorebranch was trembling. “Fawnstar...”

“You will make an excellent leader, Sycamorebranch.” Dreamily, Fawnstar looked around at the three cats who were towering over her.

“Thank you. And goodbye.”

Chapter Fourteen-Death Can WaitEdit

“Please!” Sycamorebranch’s voice was choked by tears. “I can’t lose two of my closest friends in the span of one day!”

“I won’t let her die!” Brindlefrost hissed. Mistyrain had suddenly come down with the same sickness Fawnstar had gotten- her symptoms were a little less severe, but nonetheless, she was suffering. They were trying to keep her kits in the dark about the whole situation- she would try her hardest to keep their mother alive. She would keep their mother alive.

The day had dwindled down into the evening when the queen had stumbled into the den, complaining of a headache and stomach pains. The rest of the Clan was mourning Fawnstar, exchanging final goodbyes and words.

Brindlefrost bit her tongue. “A real medicine cat wouldn’t have let their leader die,” is what Ashenfire had told her when the news was spread. She shook her head. Why was he acting so nasty? He had a major attitude shift when he was an apprentice. Leafshine, as well, shared some rude words.

Sycamorebranch had already tried giving Mistyrain water and dampened her head. The she-cat wasn’t vomiting yet. Brindlefrost grinded her teeth back and forth- she found that a pulp did work quite well for feeding medicine.

She pawed out the poultice and let it fall into Mistyrain’s mouth. Carefully, she took the jaws of the cat and worked them back and forth so the medicine could get down. The dark grey she-cat gagged and a huge shiver went through her body.

Mistyrain’s eyes were glazed, and she was still awake. “How do you feel?” Brindlefrost asked slowly and quietly. Sycamorebranch drew in his breath anxiously. For that moment in time, the den was so quiet and the tension was so thick it could’ve been sliced with a claw.

“Like I’m... on fire.” Mistyrain’s voice was strained, and Brindlefrost could see that her eyes were steaming. “But... it’s starting... to fade.”

With a swab of wet moss, Brindlefrost drew her paw over the patient’s forehead. She was so scared, so anxious that she would lose another clan member on her paws. Her sister, her leader, and now her mentor? She couldn’t let this happen.

“I’m just... tired, now.” Mistyrain’s head lulled to the side. Brindlefrost swallowed. “Well, I’ll let you nap, but before that, what pain is most extreme? The headache, the stomach pains, or the fever?”

“The headache is... still there, but... not as bad... the pains, they’re dull... I’m... really warm, though,” she mewed.

“Okay. So, um, before you go to sleep, can you swallow this?” Brindlefrost had a feverfew leaf hooked on her outstretched claw, and she held it out to Mistyrain, flicking it onto her tongue. She slowly closed her mouth and chewed.

“Thank you,” Mistyrain mewed. Brindlefrost flinched. Those were some of the last words that Fawnstar had said. Her eyes began to close as she drifted off, her snoring uneven. Sycamorebranch and Brindlefrost exchanged a glance.

“Could you sit with her? I’m going to go wash my paws in the river- I don’t want to contaminate the water here,” the tabby asked. Sycamorebranch dipped his head slightly. “If she wakes up complaining of a fever, give her some of this.” Brindlefrost patted the ground beside a clump of feverfew. “If she says she has stomach pains, give this to her, and this if she has a headache.” She pointed out chervil root and lavender, respectively.

“What if she has breathing problems?” Sycamorebranch asked worriedly.

“You can give her coltsfoot or juniper berries, both of which are over there.” A small nook in the wall contained the flowering plant and small, purple berries. Drawing in a breath, the deputy-no, wait, technically leader-nodded once again. He smiled, but his eyes betrayed his expression.

Brindlefrost smiled wanly and quickly padded out of her den, her tail waving in the air in irritation. She felt stressed out. Her Clan was without a leader, and the to-be one was too enveloped in the life of his mate. Not that that was a bad thing- it was quite understandable. But he would have to select a new deputy before Moonhigh, and the thought that he might forget worried Brindlefrost.

Sighing, she walked out of camp.

Uninterrupted, she padded on the winding path to the river, her pawsteps slow. She needed time to herself, and despite all the sickness Greenleaf brought, it was indeed beautiful. Small butterflies fluttered back and forth, and flowers edged the path. Bright orange, red, and pink. Brindlefrost pricked her ears, hearing the sound of rustling leaves.

“Hey.” It was Brownfire. The tom smiled warmly. “Crazy day, huh?”

“If that’s how you want to phrase it,” Brindlefrost mewed, glancing towards him. “Walk with me? I’m just heading to the river,” she added. Brownfire dipped his head, and fell into step beside her. “I didn’t know,” she breathed, “that my job would be this hard. I hope one of the kits, or my soon-to-be younger siblings show an interest in herbs.”

“Mistyrain is going to live,” Brownfire assured her. “You’re a good medicine cat.”

“I hope. I don’t think Sycamorebranch would forgive me if I let her die.”

“Don’t beat yourself up.”

Silence followed. Brindlefrost twitched her nose, spotting the river up ahead. It was gurgling gently, water rushing through the small, smooth stones. “Who do you think will be the new deputy?” Brownfire wondered aloud. “I think that Rowanscar would be a good option.”

“Maybe Mistyrain?” Brindlefrost pondered. “Sometimes leaders choose family for deputies, and she’s a good warrior, granted she lives.” The tabby shuddered.

“Which she will,” Brownfire responded, lightly bumping Brindlefrost with his shoulder. “Come on, Brindle. Have a little more faith in yourself.”

Brindlefrost exhaled deeply. “I miss when we were kits. We could frolic and play and had no idea of what lied ahead. Now, it seems like the weight of the world is on our shoulders.” Her smile weakened. “When did everyone decide to grow up?”

They had reached the river. The tabby draped her paws into it, rushing water dragging them slowly. She wished it was powerful enough to wash away all her troubles, but unluckily for her, water wasn’t a cure-all. The liquid felt good on her fur, so natural.

“Thanks for coming,” she meowed. Brownfire tipped his head to the side and grinned. “No problem, Brindle.”

Chapter Fifteen-FriendsEdit

“I bet I can catch this one,” Brownfire insisted. His eyes darting back and forth, he leaped at a small leaf that was drifting down, swirling in the wind. Brindlefrost stifled a chuckle.

It was Leaf-fall now. Greenleaf had dwindled down into chilly weather, and the plants were starting to die and the leaves turned brown. Petals on the flowers were wilting, the tips darkening. Brownfire’s claws punctured the leaf he chased, bringing it down to the ground.

“Do you think I should bring this back to camp? I think it’d be a very filling meal for Ivyclaw,” the tom said. “Her kits will be due soon, won’t they?”

“Yeah. In about a quarter moon or two, I’d assume. Mistyrain’s kits will be apprentices soon, which is good, because that den has been empty since Stormbringer and Vixenwind became warriors,” Brindlefrost confirmed. She swatted at another leaf in the air.

“Has Leafshine told you that she’s pregnant?” Brownfire asked. Brindlefrost’s brow wrinkled. “What? She’s having kits?” Brownfire nodded. “She’s not really the motherly type. Where’d you hear that?”

“Hawkswoop. Whitepelt. Specklefur. According to them, she refuses to say who the father is,” Brownfire meowed, flopping down on the ground. “She hasn’t come to see you?”

“She hates me,” Brindlefrost meowed, lying down beside him. “Hey! Maybe Ashenfire is the father! They both have some sort of aversion towards me.” She shook her head. With her sister dead and distant brother, the tabby hoped that her younger siblings brought the family back together.

“Ashenfire doesn’t have an aversion towards you,” Brownfire mewed, facing her. “He just... isn’t a fan of medicine cats, I don’t think.” His gaze softened as cold air breezed past them, pulling his friend close to him.

“Brownfire,” Brindlefrost meowed in a cautious tone. “Medicine cat.”

“Friends snuggle,” Brownfire insisted. “Especially when it’s cold,” he tacked on. He turned his head up to the sky, watching the pale clouds drift across the sky, the leaves swirling down. Brindlefrost sighed, pressing her face into his fluffy, white chest fur. She enjoyed the comfort of her friend. Friend, the word echoed over and over again in her head. Friends and nothing more.

“Friends,” she meowed. Brownfire shifted his gaze.

“Friends.”

=..-^*^-..=

“They’re beautiful, mom,” Brindlefrost whispered. Tears slipped from my eyes, and she wiped them gently with her paws. Ivyclaw was grinning uncontrollably, crying. She was looking down at the small, fluffy bundles suckling at her stomach. Strikestripe licked her cheek.

Ashenfire was leaning against the wall. His eyes showed no emotion, but he was smiling lightly. “Two more daughters,” Ivyclaw mewed. “Two perfect daughters,” Strikestripe nodded his head slightly. Ivyclaw glanced up at Brindlefrost. “I hope that they grow up like you.” She looked at Ashenfire as well.

“Do you want to name them?” Strikestripe asked. Ivyclaw nodded. “We could each name one,” he meowed.

“How about Twilightkit for this one?” Ivyclaw pointed to a grey kit with dark splotches and a stripe running down her back, and a pale belly. “She looks like you.”

Strikestripe smiled. “This one has my mother’s colours.” He indicated the other she-kit, a small ginger kitten with tabby patches. “Cherrykit for her?”

“Cherrykit is a beautiful name,” Ivyclaw meowed. She and Strikestripe touched their foreheads together. Brindlefrost felt a stab in her heart. Her parents really loved each other. She would never be that close to another cat, feel their warm embrace, or feel the joy of watching her kits grow.

Unless... Brindlefrost bit down on her tongue, hard. No! You cannot have those thoughts.

“Twilightkit and Cherrykit are wonderful names,” Brindlefrost spoke warmly. “I’ll bring in some borage to help your milk come. Would you like some thyme? It’s for frayed nerves,” she told her mother. Ivyclaw shook her head lightly. “I don’t need it, I’ve given birth before,” she chuckled.

“Okay. I’ll bring some, just in case.” Brindlefrost wanted to bring the thyme for Leafshine as well- she’d gotten the stubborn she-cat to move into the nursery, with some trouble. She was scowling in the corner currently, glaring at the medicine cat.

“Squirrelkit,” Brindlefrost asked. The young kit poked her white and ginger poked her head out from behind Mistyrain’s back. “Would you like to help me get herbs?”

She sprang out, tail fluffed out. “Yeah!” she meowed excitedly, hurrying to Brindlefrost’s side. Her mother raised her head slightly. “Thanks for keeping her busy,” Mistyrain dipped her head.

Brindlefrost smiled. She cherished every moment with Mistyrain since her brush with death. “No problem,” she mewed. Glancing down at Squirrelkit, she opened her mouth to speak as she led the kitten out of the den. “So, do you know what borage looks like, Squirrelkit?”

“Oo!” The kit chided. “Is it the... the one with the blue flowers?”

“Very good!” Brindlefrost purred, flicking her tail. Squirrelkit beamed happily.

“Here,” the tabby meowed as she pushed into the entrance of her den. “Can you fetch me some? It’s in the back of the den, right there...” she indicated a crevice that had blue flowers peeking out. Squirrelkit nodded and scuttled towards them, tail raised high in pride.

Brindlefrost grinned and headed towards her thyme supply, grasping some of the rough leaves between her sharp teeth, trying to not puncture them. Squirrelkit rushed back to her, borage leaves clamped in her jaws and drifting down. The tabby chuckled.

A determined look on her face, the mottled kit charged out of the den, leaving a trail of herbs in her wake. Brindlefrost shook her head slightly and followed her back to the nursery, twitching her whiskers in amusement.

The dim light of the nursery fell back over her as she headed to the corner of the den, where Leafshine had built her nest. She pricked her ears, hearing an overzealous Squirrelkit feeding Ivyclaw the borage. Leafshine’s gaze darkened as Brindlefrost approached.

“What?” she demanded. Brindlefrost dropped the herbs at her paws. “It’s thyme,” she meowed, spitting out some loose bits of leaves. “I want you to eat it.”

Leafshine eyed her suspiciously. “What does it do?”

Brindlefrost sighed. “It’s for anxieties, okay?” The tortoiseshell wrinkled her nose and held her gaze for a bit longer, before leaning down and lapping them up. Her face scrunched up. “Ew,” she muttered.

The tabby turned her head to leave when she heard Leafshine’s voice. “Brindlefrost, wait.”

“Yes?” She angled her bright blue gaze towards the queen.

“Do you know how many kits I’m having?” she asked anxiously.

Brindlefrost was surprised. “It’s a little early on in pregnancy to tell, but from the looks and feels of it, it’s more than two.” She quickly groomed her muzzle. Leafshine blinked and nodded her head. “Okay. Thanks... I guess.”

“No problem. It’s my job,” Brindlefrost meowed as she left, her pawsteps soft.

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