A one-shot by Ginger.
“Oi! Darkpaw! Pass me some of that moss, will you?”
I narrowed my eyes and stalked forward, not bothering to give Tigernose any of the moss clamped between my jaws. The broad, ginger tabby she-cat was grinning at me, obviously proud of herself. I hated her, and she loved teasing me. Tigernose laughed harshly.
“Jeez!” She snorted. Her friend Silverdust trotted up beside her, whiskers quivering in silent laughter. “What’s your problem? Help a Clanmate out, Darkpaw!”
I placed the moss at my paws angrily, trying desperately to keep my claws sheathed. “That’s not my name,” I growled through clenched teeth. Tigernose looked at me in mock surprise. Her mouth gaped in an o, like she hadn’t realized it before. Silverdust chortled cruelly, and I did the only thing I could do: pick up my moss and head towards the apprentice’s den.
I hated Tigernose for a lot of reasons: before she had become a warrior two moons ago, we had been apprentices together. She would steal my bedding and prey numerous times. She insulted me in front of everyone as much as she possibly could. And worst of all, she had never, not even once, called me by my real name.
As I stalked around to the apprentice’s den, my brother and sister were inside, heads close in a murmur. When she saw me, Leafpaw blinked up at me with her great emerald eyes. She was so beautiful- long, golden fur, huge green eyes, and a voice like the river. I was envious, to say the very least. My brother Dustpaw wasn’t exactly like Leafpaw, but his skill made up for it. He was only eleven moons old, and he was already one of the better hunters in ThunderClan. His fur was golden-brown, and his eyes shone a piercing yellow. My real name was better off on them than on myself.
I looked down embarrassingly at my own dull fur before dropping the moss. I tried to remind myself that I was angry, and made it as noticeable as possible. Dustpaw didn’t immediately catch on, but Leafpaw’s eyes rounded with understanding.
“Tigernose again?” She meowed sympathetically. I nodded sharply, glaring at the moss. I pictured it was the tabby warrior’s sneering face, and dug my claws into it. Ha!
Leafpaw exchanged a glance with Dustpaw. She stood, shaking out her coat, and looked genuinely pitied for me. “We’re almost warriors, you know. You have to make a stand at some point,” she explained softly.
“Yeah,” Dustpaw added. He arched his back in a stretch and gazed at me thoughtfully, but yet still judgmentally. “You can’t let that she-cat bully you because of something you can’t help.”
“It’s all Mom’s fault,” I spat, molding the moss into a bed. Our mother died almost immediately after giving birth to us. I was the middle born, so there was nothing special about me in that sense. She just named me and died. No reason behind it, she just happened to chose me. At first our father had been confused: I was a dull black cat with dark green eyes. But he insisted we keep in in honor of my mother. On the other paw, he had waited until Leafpaw and Dustpaw had developed actual personalities before he named them. By the time I had developed my personality, ThunderClan began to realize maybe, just maybe, they should have just waited.
Great StarClan, I hated my name so much.
“Well, maybe once we pass our assessments you’ll get a good suffix,” Leafpaw offered hopefully. I only grunted in response.
“I think Tigernose’s words are getting to you,” Dustpaw murmured. He gave my ear an affectionate lick. “And honestly, it’s not a bad name-”
“It’s the context and irony,” I finished sourly. “Whatever. I’m taking a nap.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
When I awoke, Leafpaw and Dustpaw were about me, whispering frequently to one another. I blinked sleepily and confusedly.
“Wha’s goin on?” I yawned. My eyes wouldn’t open all the way- I could thank the noon sun for that- but I could see Leafpaw’s shape lean over me.
“Thistlestar wants to see you,” she explained quickly. “The faster the better. Hop up.”
I suddenly felt my stomach wrench. What had I done this time? “Am I in trouble?” I whispered, eyes widening. Dustpaw and Leafpaw exchanged a look I couldn’t read.
“No,” Dustpaw replied. “In fact, I think you’ll be thanking us once you’re done.”
Despite Dustpaw’s efforts, my nerves were anything but calmed. I ducked into the brown tabby leader’s den, fur raising. “Hello?” I called. I heard my own, piercing voice echo through the cave-like den. “Thistlestar?”
I watched as a dark shape rose from the corner, ears alert, and approach me. “Ah, yes,” Thistlestar began in his deep, unsettling voice. “I expected you’d wake soon. Come on in.”
I felt the steady orange gaze follow me as I passed the entranceway. I sat down, uneased by the coldness of the ground and the tawny leader’s gaze. Suddenly, the tension was broken. There was a deep, bellowing bout of laughter from Thistlestar.
“You look absolutely terrified,” he explained. “Don’t worry, you’re not in trouble. Dustpaw and Leafpaw came to me with the suggestion that you’d like a change in name.”
My ears flipped up at the word name. Could it be? “R-really?” I meowed, slowly beginning to purr. “I can change my name?”
Thistlestar laughed again. “Of course you can! I had always suspected you weren’t fond of your name, but since it’s your last reminder of your mother…”
My purr faltered. Did he have to guilt-trip me? “You don’t understand,” I replied quietly. I averted my stare to the walls, the floor- anything but his eyes. “Your name actually makes sense.”
Thistlestar purred. “You think I look like a thistle?” he joked. Ignoring my persistent protests, he went on, “I’m not trying to stop you. It’s your life, not mine. I won’t rename you until your warrior ceremony, since your assessment is tomorrow. Now, do you have any suggestions?”
I raised my chin. My mind ebbed back to every insult Tigernose had given me, and they were all the same. Would she win? Maybe in her eyes.
“I’d like to be Darkpaw.”
* * * * * * * * * * * *
“Good luck, Darkpaw,” Tigernose sneered. Silverdust giggled harshly behind her. The due was perched on a rock, silently judging everyone that walked past (though with me, they tended to voice their judgement.)
For the first time I can remember, I wasn’t insulted at their attacks. A day had passed, and Leafpaw, Dustpaw, and our mentors were readying for our assessments. Tigernose didn’t know about my name change, and I was ready to see her face turn to pure shock when she did.
Tigernose’s smile faltered ever so slightly when she saw me reply to her with only a smirk, but before she could insult me further, the deputy, Frogwhisker, padded past.
"Tigernose!" he called. He ducked his head in slight embarrassment. "Everyone else is patrolling and we need food. Would you mind a solo hunt?" The ginger she-cat fixed me with a cold yet quizzical glare as she slid down from her rock and headed towards the woods alone. Silverdust gave me a scornful look, but I knew she was too scared to shame me herself. Frogwhisker glanced over at me in confusion, but I merely shrugged.
“Alright.” The six of us were all sitting in a circle. My mentor, Hollowpelt, went on. “You will each be assigned a solo hunt with as much prey as you can before dusk. Your mentors,” he added, motioning at Leafpaw and Dustpaw’s mentors, “will be checking up on you. Rules.” Hollowpelt cleared his throat, looking at the apprentices sternly. Leafpaw wriggled with excitement and anticipation; Dustpaw was making a failed attempt to look like he was solemn and ready. They were going to do well, I could tell.
“There will be absolutely no talking or communication with the other apprentices or any other cats, for that matter,” Hollowpelt continued. “Pre-killed prey will not count and take away from your score. You must kill the prey either using your claws or any other taught statistics. No stealing other apprentice’s prey. I think that about covers it. Apprentices, be off, and may the best of luck go with you!”
Without thinking, we each darted off in a different direction. I headed towards the dense woodlands; there was always an abundant source of small prey there.
A few hours had passed, and the sun had risen to its highest point. I had collected a decent amount of prey, and briefly wondering if there would be a winner as I added a sparrow to my pile. Lightly, I paced away from the fresh-kill, despite how tempting it was. I hoped I was doing well enough to recieve my name; after all, I was going to have a fresh start in less than a da-
My thoughts were screeched to a halt as a ghostly wail echoed through the forest. Pricking my ears, I leaned in to make sure I had heard it right. I forgot about the prey almost immediately and hared off towards the screech, keeping low to the ground. If someone was in danger, I couldn’t just sit and listen.
I broke into a clearing, panting heavily. In the center, a metallic object giving an odd shine from the sun was creeping towards the broad figure of a cat. Snake!
The cat took a step backwards, bristling and hidden by the overgrown ferns. The cat had provoked the snake, accident or not, and was going to pay the price. I saw a claw lash out, and retaliate as it realized its mistake. The snake, now angry, bunched up and heaved forward. Its jaws were poised at the cat’s throat.
Without thinking, I felt my claws unsheathe against the dusty ground and leapt. The cat screamed at the same moment my jaws clamped down on the snake’s neck. In a horrifying moment, the snake twisted and the fangs were only a whisker away from my leg. But then came a satisfying crunch, and it limpened and fell.
I stumbled away from the snake, coughing as debris flew up from where I had landed. There was a funny dizzy feeling as I stepped back, and I momentarily wondered if I had been bitten. But then I looked up and saw the cat.
Her mouth was half-open, but there was no scream. Her tabby fur was ruffled in fear. And since there was no patrol to save her, she must have been on a solo hunt.
“Th-thank you,” she managed to stutter. A long, awkward moment of staring had passed. “You saved me.”
I dipped my head awkwardly. There was a thump behind me, and Hollowpelt appeared in the clearing. His eyes went from the dead snake, to Tigernose, to me. “I saw what happened,” he assured, looking me in the eyes with what could only be pride. “Your assessment is done. No hunt is going to compare to that. Come on back to camp. Oh-” he added, giving me a smirk, “-and bring that adder back with you.”
“Leafpaw, from this moment on, you will be known as Leafsky. StarClan honors your wisdom and kindness.”
Newly named Leafsky hopped down beside Dustfur, who looked equally thrilled. I squirmed in excitement, waiting eagerly to recieve my new name. Behind me, our medicine cat was treating Tigernose. Luckily, she was only spooked, and needed a bit of rest to recover.
Dustfur nudged me gently with his shoulder. “You’re up, bro,” he whispered. “Good luck.” Thistlestar looked down upon me, nodding as my invitation to join him.
“...And finally, we have one last apprentice ceremony. However, upon request, he would like to be renamed Darkpaw, so-”
I expected it to be anyone else. Dad, maybe, to protest against the name Mom gave me. Maybe Leafsky or Dustfur had a change of heart about my new name. Maybe it was Mom, even coming down from StarClan to chew me out. But no- as the cats parted, Tigernose was angrily swaying on her paws, fierce glare for once not on me.
“Tigernose?” Thistlestar meowed. I could tell how desperately he was trying to hide his surprise. “Do you have an objection?”
“Yes.” The ginger she-cat stepped forward. “I do.”
“Well this day has gotten weirder,” Thistlestar muttered under his breath. I looked at Tigernose in confusion and expected her to jump up, expression changing, and scream, “gotcha!”, but she never did. Instead, her yellow stare surged with determination.
“It’s my fault he feels ashamed to have his name,” she explained, head drooping. “I didn’t mean to take it this far. It’s a name his mother gave him, and it’s his last reminder of her. Please.”
I tipped my head to the side. “But my name still doesn’t make sense,” I protested. Tigernose switched her gaze to me. A strange rumbling sound came from her throat. Was… was she purring?
“Of course it does,” she retorted lightly. “You may not have shiny, bright fur or eyes like the sun, but today, you saved my life.” She looked down at her paws embarrassingly. “Even after all I did to you. And that… that’s why your mother named you. Not for your looks. For your heart.”
“So… is he keeping the name or not?” A she-cat meowed loudly from the crowd. Thistlestar looked down at me, and I felt every other head in ThunderClan turn towards me. Flushing, I stepped behind the great brown leader. “It’s up to you,” Thistlestar explained softly.
I looked out at all the familiar faces. Leafsky and Dustfur were looking up at me, as if they were telling me to make it myself. It’s your name, not ours, they seemed to say. My gaze traveled to Tigernose, who didn’t meet my stare. She looked downright ashamed, but I knew she was thankful. Then I was looking at Silverdust. For once, her eyes weren’t narrowed in disgust.
“Please,” she whispered. “You saved my best friend. The last thing we want you to do is lose what makes you special.”
“I… Okay.” I looked back at Thistlestar, this time determined in my answer. “I want to keep my name.” Thistlestar shrugged.
“Alright, then. I had the perfect suffix in case this happened.” He winked and grinned, and faced the Clan with his chest puffed like a leader should. “Do you promise to uphold the warrior code, even at the cost of your life?”
“I do.” My stomach fluttered as Thistlestar gave me a half-smile and went on.
“Then by the powers of StarClan, I grant you your warrior name. StarClan honors your bravery and spirit. From this moment on,” he paused, and I swear I could almost feel Mom’s presence behind me, grinning with the rest of ThunderClan, “Lightpaw, You will be known as Lightheart.”
I felt my heart catch in my chest. They began to chant my name, Tigernose the loudest. And suddenly, I understood her words. It wasn’t my outside that made my name, it was my heart.