The ginger cat paced across the pine needles, back and forth, back and forth. The cold pierced through his short, sleek pelt and he shuddered violently.
Grassy scents drifted into his nose, and he suddenly realized he was at the SparkClan border. Instinctively, he scrabbled up a tree, gazing down as four cats emerged from the long yellow grass. He held back a snarl as they leaped over the stream that separated the two Clan territories.
He recognized Amberstrike, a warrior, and Rainspot, the deputy, but the other two cats Redthorn did not know. Hopping like a squirrel from branch to branch, he was soon ahead of them and leaped down to intercept the patrol.
"What are you doing on NightClan territory?" he snarled, unsheathing his vicious claws. Amberstrike lifted her head proudly and padded forward, lean frame shuddering in the cold. Her amber gaze took him in disdainfully, as she did not yet realize he was the new deputy.
"Darkfeather died yesterday. Without an apprentice," she meowed coldly. There was another warrior who dipped her head sadly, and an apprentice-looking cat who seemed scared out of his mind.
"Tawnystar went to the Starstream earlier today and they chose Dawnstream here to be the next medicine cat. We need you to let her stay for a few days and have Snowstep teach her." Dawnstream lowered her brown tabby head, as if she didn't want to give up the life of a warrior. Rainspot stepped forward, dappled gray tail swishing in the frosty grass.
"We are aware of the, ah...tension between NightClan and SparkClan, but unfortunately things are worse with HawkClan," the big gray tom growled. Redthorn knew what the message was-Take us to Snowstep or pay with your life.
Grudgingly, Redthorn flicked his tail and, to the SparkClan patrol's annoyance, took his grand old time leading them to the heart of NightClan territory.
A tabby shape flashed in front of him and he realized Crookedwind had pounced on Dawnstream. The tall warrior loomed over her threateningly, and the deputy saw green eyes flash with fear.
"Crookedwind! Back off, they are here to see Snowstep and no more!" Redthorn yowled. The tabby scrambled back and gave his chest fur a few swift licks to hide his embarrassment.
At the sound of her name, almost on cue, the white she-cat and her apprentice emerged from the forest with herbs stuffed in their jaws. Amberstrike quickly explained the situation, Darkfeather's untimely death and his lack of an apprentice. Suddenly Wolfclaw bounded up to the patrol, bristling and snarling.
"Redthorn, you traitor! The day after you're appointed deputy, and you're already leading kitty warriors into our camp!" spat the high-strung old tom. Rolling his eyes, he turned to face the warrior. Rainspot and Wolfclaw glared furiously at each other, low growls emitting from their throats. The two cats' bodies tensed, and to Redthorn's horror they had already lunged, claws unsheathed and fangs bared.