Snatched: The Story of Snowkit

Snowkit was always assumed dead by ThunderClan. But what if he wasn't? What if StarClan took him away from the Clan that would have never given him a chance? What if he had a greater destiny than anyone in ThunderClan could have believed?


17. A Pride Divided

Snowpaw awoke early the next morning, before most of the others. He yawned and stretched slowly, enjoying the ripple of his muscles under his pelt. He glanced around quickly, as if checking for enemies, before relaxing and beginning to give himself a nice, long grooming. How long had it been since he had just had time to relax, without worrying about his next meal or the Clan?

"Glad you're awake," he felt Lightning rumble from behind him, as the golden warrior brushed Snowpaw's white flank with his tail. Snowpaw turned quickly, blinking at him. "We need to send out a patrol to see if Fear is really gone," Lightning continued, "and since you weren't out hunting yesterday, I assume you're fresh?"

Snowpaw nodded eagerly. "I'd love to come," he purred, and then glanced over his shoulder at the other sleeping cats. "Who else is going to come?"

"Why don't you choose?" Lightning asked, his golden gaze resting on Snowpaw's face. Snowpaw blinked in surprise and then turned back to his Clanmates, thinking. "I'm sure some of the new warriors will want to explore the territory," he said, "so we should bring Gale. Bree should stay so that when the kits wake up, they won't be scared. Maybe Otter will come too…although, it's early and he doesn't seem to me like the early-bird type."

"And from the original group?"

Snowpaw turned to Lightning, a slight smile on his muzzle. "Maybe you should decide that," he purred. "They're your Clan, after all. I can help you learn the warrior code, but I can't help you lead. It isn't my place."

Lightning nodded. "Gleam and Mud will accompany us," he decided. Snowpaw felt a pang; would Gleam and Gale be able to patrol together?

"Another apprentice, too," Lightning said slowly. "Perhaps…Cricketpaw. He's timid, but being around other cats will help him."

Snowpaw nodded in agreement, and Lightning padded away to go wake up the patrol.

Soon, they were all assembled, and the group set forth moving through the grass quickly. Snowpaw noticed that Gale and Gleam were careful to keep apart from one another, each acting as if the other didn't exist. He frowned to himself; they couldn't have these sorts of divisions in the Clan. Would Gleam do the right thing and talk to Gale? Or would Snowpaw need to convince Gale to take the first step?

The field seemed much smaller than it had the first time, as they neared the forest. Snowpaw realized with a pang that there was not nearly enough territory here to raise a few cats, let alone a growing Clan. They wouldn't be able to stay here and train against Fear's Pride. Would they have to live in the city? Would they have to leave Moss, her kits, and Angel and Kit behind until they were old enough to survive in the city? Worry gnawed at Snowpaw's belly, and he felt a flash of regret; it seemed as if he always had something to worry about; each resolved problem seemed to flow into another.

Lightning halted as they neared the forest. "Do you smell anything?" he asked, raising his own nose to the air. He seemed to be waiting for someone else to answer. Cricketpaw was staring at his paws, and he nearly jumped when he raised his head to see Lightning watching him.

"N-no," Cricketpaw stammered. "I don't smell anything, cat or otherwise."

Lightning nodded slowly, and began walking forward carefully. He's acting like a mentor, Snowpaw thought. It's good that he has this sort of natural instinct; he can pass it on to the other cats, so when they have apprentices they can be good mentors too!

Snowpaw's pelt prickled with tension as they neared the forest. He couldn't scent anything, and this puzzled him; had Fear created new borders? Did she just not want this part of the territory…or was the Pride gone?

Snowpaw let out a purr as his paws felt the soft forest earth. Sunlight dappled the ground in a pattern he hadn't even realized he missed, as the musky scent of forest prey filled his nostrils. How he had missed this place, his home! He saw Lightning, Cricketpaw, Gleam, and Mud relax. Even Gale seemed soothed by the forest, and Snowpaw knew Lightning would never let the Pride drive them out of the forest again, even if they were still here.

They padded several fox-lengths into the forest without incident, and without catching any sign of the Pride. Snowpaw's pelt prickled with unease; there was something wrong here. Then, suddenly, a strange scent drifted into his nose. Snowpaw turned to face it, and noticing his movements, the others did to.

"The Pride!" Lightning hissed, and his eyes flashed boldly. A low growl rumbled in his chest, so deep that Snowpaw could feel it through the earth, vibrating gently against his paws. Lightning padded forward, his head held high and his tail pointing upwards boldly. The others followed him quickly. Cricketpaw's eyes darted around nervously, and Gale's pelt was bristling slightly as the scent grew stronger.

It's so fresh! Snowpaw thought. They must have marked it only recently! But why mark it here, so far from the forest edge? The territory they've marked isn't large enough to support the Pride…unless there are fewer of them than there were previously.

A small clearing rose up just ahead, and as the smell became almost overpowering, Snowpaw saw several dark shapes on the edges of the clearing.

"You!" Lightning bellowed suddenly, lunging forward. The shapes scattered, and Snowpaw realized they were cats. Lightning raced forward, plunging through the undergrowth as he honed in on one shape. Snowpaw realized it was Hog; the black tom was running away, as quickly as he could. We're heading towards Fear's camp, Snowpaw realized.

Fear's cave came into view, and the patrol skidded to a stop at the edge of the camp. Hog stopped and turned to face them, snarling. Other eyes blinked in the cave, and several shapes emerged, some that Snowpaw recognized and others that he did not.

"Hag!" Gleam spat at one cat, and Snowpaw was surprised at the anger in her gaze. Hag hissed and then coughed, spattering green goo against the grass.

"Where is Fear?" Lightning growled. "Where is she?"

"She's not here," Cricketpaw said to Snowpaw, pressing his pelt against Snowpaw's. Snowpaw blinked at him, before realizing that Cricketpaw had repeated what some cat had said. A tortoiseshell that Snowpaw didn't recognize – she must have been injured and in the cave when Snowpaw met the Pride as a kit – padded forward. Her face was divided cleanly between black and ginger, and her eyes sparkled green-yellow.

"Fear isn't here," the tortoiseshell said again. "She's fled. We are what remains of the Pride now."

Lightning's eyes narrowed. "What do you mean?" he demanded. "Why would she leave? She won our territory!"

The she-cat shrugged coolly. "It was personal," she growled. "Some of the Pride followed her, trying to get her to come back after she abandoned us. Others stayed, and I lead the Pride now. I am Edge." There was a threatening curl to her muzzle.

Lightning seemed confused for a moment, and then a dark smile appeared on his face. "So few of you?" he asked. "Then we are going to take our territory back, now!"

The tortoiseshell's body language changed startlingly fast. She went from calm and cool to fiery and enraged. "You will not take our territory!" she spat, and her green-yellow eyes were wild with anger and hatred. "No one will take it from us!"

"No one," Hog growled, unsheathing his claws. The other cats padded forward, growling threateningly. The only ones that Snowpaw recognized were Hog and Hag; Corse, Savage, Lune, Sin, and Twist must have left with Fear. Snowpaw realized suddenly that with Savage – the mindless killer who gave into his own rage- and Sin – the huge behemoth of a cat – gone, Lightning's group had a fighting chance. The only threat that Snowpaw could see was Hog.

"Cricketpaw," Gleam whispered to her son, "Go run for help!"

"I want to fight," Cricketpaw growled.

"You aren't strong enough!" Gleam exclaimed, her eyes wide with concern. Cricketpaw's jaw was set stubbornly, and his green eyes gleamed.

"I want to fight," he insisted.

"You aren't a warrior yet," Snowpaw said, drooping his while tail over his friend's shoulders. "Hurry, and get the rest. We might win our territory back right now, and if you hurry you'll have time to fight!"

Cricketpaw looked ready to protest, but his bravery finally failed him. He nodded meekly and dashed away, disappearing into the forest. Snowpaw looked at Lightning, half expecting being told to go with Cricketpaw, or hide.

"You'll fight with us," Lightning growled, surprising Snowpaw greatly. "You train in your dreams, don't you?"

Snowpaw nodded slowly. He and the white she-cat had indeed spent several nights learning battle moves, and Snowpaw had been a quick learner.

"Good," Lightning growled. "Cricketpaw is eager to prove himself, but I'm afraid his courage might desert him in battle. You, though…you won't run away."

Snowpaw nodded, and turned to face Edge. Her eyes were glittering with madness.

"What are you waiting for? Get them!" she shrieked. Several cats lunged forward, and Lightning, Mud, and Gale rose up to meet them. Gleam hesitated, but she wasn't the only one; several cats on Edge's side hesitated as well, glancing at one another uncertainly. Edge's hold on these cats isn't as strong as she might want us to think, Snowpaw thought smugly. Gleam suddenly lunged forward, claws outstretched. She raked them down Hag's muzzle, and the old she-cat drew back, hissing. Snowpaw was so intent on watching Gleam that he didn't notice the young cat running towards him until she was nearly on top of him. Snowpaw turned to find claws heading straight for his head. He ducked, and the she-cat missed, but struck again, scoring a long hit down his side. Snowpaw hissed in pain and lashed out, missing the she-cat completely. She snarled at him, and scratched his other side.

I've got to get this together! Snowpaw thought, but panic rose up inside him. The white she-cat had always been gentle, and her little training hadn't prepared him for this ferocity.

The she-cat lunged towards him again, and Snowpaw moved to the side, evading her and allowing him to give her a wound down her side. They faced each other, and Snowpaw moved quickly, darting to the side as she prepared to spring and leaping up on her back. Her legs crumpled beneath her and she was stuck, trapped underneath his weight. She wiggled underneath him, and Snowpaw began slashing her back, seeing the blood well up from underneath his claws. She let out a howl of pain, one that Snowpaw could feel through his paws. Sudden revulsion at his cruelty welled up inside of him, and he released her. She ran off wailing into the forest, and Snowpaw was certain she wouldn't return.

He looked around the battlefield, trying to place the other cats. Lightning was fighting some strange tom, Gleam and Hag were still sparring, and Mud and Gale were fighting Hog together. Snowpaw felt heartened at their fighting the huge black tom together; their willing to cooperate would benefit the Clan greatly.

It might even be an advantage to be deaf, in battle, Snowpaw thought. I don't have to worry about the blood pounding in my ears to distract me, or the wails of battle. As he was thinking this, Snowpaw didn't hear the approaching pawsteps, as a tom charged and sprang on him from behind. All that Snowpaw knew was that he was suddenly face-down in the dirt, with a huge weight pressing down on his back. He turned his head to one side, spitting out a mouthful of dirt. He tried to see his attacker, but could not. Snowpaw writhed, trying to get out of his grasp, only to let out a yowl of pain as the tom's sharp claws dug into his back. The tom began tearing into him just as Snowpaw had to the she-cat, only from the tom's panting against the back of his neck, Snowpaw knew the wounds wouldn't stop until Snowpaw was dead. These cats were fighting for their home, just as Lightning was; the only difference was that Lightning wouldn't kill for it.

Snowpaw let out another wail as pain spiked through his body. Snowpaw wiggled, but the fight was ebbing out of him along with the blood that was staining his pelt crimson.

Then, suddenly, the tom was dragged off of him. Snowpaw turned to see Cricketpaw and Rainpaw dragging the tom together, by his scruff. The tom wailed as Frostpaw attacked his soft stomach. Frostpaw slashed him again and again, her mouth opened in a feral snarl, her mismatched eyes wild with anger.

"Frostpaw!" Snowpaw shouted feebly. "Stop it, you'll kill him!"

Frostpaw looked up and the anger in her eyes eased as she saw Snowpaw. She stopped attacking, and her brothers released the tom. He disappeared into the forest with a parting shriek.

"Are you okay?" Frostpaw asked, rushing to Snowpaw side and licking his muzzle. She let out a whimper. "It looks bad."

"I'll be fine," Snowpaw rasped, although his back burned as if it was on fire. "I'm glad you're here."

"Cricketpaw was so fast! I thought he'd be exhausted after running so far, but he wants to fight," Frostpaw said. Her eyes blazed.

"We're winning, right?" Snowpaw asked. He tried to sit up, but let out a cry and slid back to the ground. Frostpaw hovered over him.

"I'll stay and protect you," she said quietly, and glanced around quickly. "Hog's running away, with Gale chasing after him," she said, pressing her muzzle against Snowpaw's head. "And Lightning is fighting a tortoiseshell."

"Is her face cut in half by black and ginger?" Snowpaw asked anxiously, unable to see for himself. Frostpaw blinked at him, and then nodded.

"Edge, she's the leader," Snowpaw said. "Fear's gone and so are most of the others…if we win this battle, we'll have our home back."

Frostpaw's eyes glowed. "We'll be a Clan!" she breathed. "Oh, Snowpaw…." She gazed down at him, before suddenly raising her head. "He's done it!" she said excitedly. "Edge is running away!"

Snowpaw raised his head as high as he could, to see Lightning's triumphant face. Lightning bellowed something Snowpaw couldn't read, and the rest of the Pride began to scatter, disappearing into the forest.

The group began to gather again, checking each other over. Mud had a slash on one shoulder, Gale's fur was hanging off of his hindquarters in clumps, Gleam's side was stained crimson, and both Tabby and Slate had several gashes. Lightning strode forward, his eyes glowing with pride. He had a deep bite on one shoulder, a cut on his nose, and he walked with a slight limp, but from his face it looked as if he was ready to take on fifty more cats, Pride or not.

"We have done it!" Lightning shouted, and Snowpaw could almost feel his voice ringing over the clearing. "We have won our home back! Never again shall we give it up! Never again shall we give in to another group of cats! It is ours!"

The other warriors, tired but not by any means defeated, let out a resounding cry. Snowpaw imagined it echoing against the trees, spiraling into the sky, finding its way to the stars and their warrior ancestors. How could StarClan ignore that?

"Snowpaw?" he saw Tabby ask, padding towards him. "Are you okay?"

Snowpaw sat up slightly and opened up his mouth to reply, but pain lanced down his back, so strongly that he let out a gasp of pain, slumping to the ground. He saw Tabby's anxious face, before everything slowly faded to black.

Snowpaw awoke, blinking slowly. He saw Moss's worried face blinking down at him, and an anxious smile crossed her face as she saw he was awake.

"Snowpaw?" she asked gently. "Can you feel me? Can you feel my words?" Snowpaw felt a tickle against his side, and realized her fluffy tail was pressed against him.

"Yeah," Snowpaw croaked. He tried to sit up, but found Moss pinning him down.

"Your back needs to heal," she said softly. "It's like when we first found you, after the hawk. You're badly injured. You'll be fine, though," she added quickly, seeing the panic in his eyes. "You just need time to heal, and you'll be out there with the others."

Snowpaw nodded, and then blinked as he realized it wasn't grass underneath his paws, but soft moss. "Where…?"

"We're back in our old camp," Moss said, her eyes shining. "You're in the…what do you call it? The medicine den? We've rearranged the dens recently at Lightning's insistence. The warriors sleep together and the apprentices do too. Lightning has his own den now, which is probably for the best; the kits aren't tiny after all. They're about a moon old now, you know."

Snowpaw nodded slowly. "So, we won?" he asked. The memories of the battle were slightly fuzzy in his mind. "We beat them?"

"We have our home back," Moss purred, licking his ear. "Thanks to you, Snowpaw. You've made the idea of a Clan a reality!"

"Almost," Snowpaw said tiredly, and his eyes drooped. "Not quite. There's so much to do…the warrior code, battle training, name ceremonies…." He found himself slipping away, as if he was sliding down a hill coated with ice. No matter how hard he fought, he couldn't escape the darkness that was threatening to overtake him.

"Snowpaw!" the white she-cat cried as she saw him. "I'm glad you're okay! You had us worried there."

Snowpaw blinked at her. "I'm not dead, am I?" he asked uncertainly. The she-cat laughed.

"You might have been, if it wasn't for your friends," she said, and then smiled at him. "We're very proud of you."

"You say that every time," Snowpaw said, rolling his eyes.

"I mean it!" the cat insisted. "No cat so far has done what you've done, by crafting these cats into a Clan! You've still got a long way to go, but I'm confident you can do it."

"Thanks," Snowpaw said quietly. The she-cat looked nervous. "What is it?" Snowpaw asked.

"This is one of the last times I can speak with you, this way," the she-cat confessed. "You've got your territory back and your Clan is on its way. You won't need me for about another moon."

"What happens then?"

The she-cat looked uncomfortable. "I can't say, I'm afraid," she licked his cheek. "Just remember, Snowpaw, there's more to a Clan than fancy names and the warrior code. You've got to keep in touch with your ancestors, too."

"How can I, if you won't appear to me in dreams anymore?" Snowpaw demanded, but she shook her head. Around Snowpaw, the dream began fading at the edges, and he realized he was waking up.

Snowpaw blinked slowly for a moment, as his eyes adjusted to the darkness. From the moonlight streaming in through the den entrance, he deduced that it was night, perhaps moonhigh. Snowpaw felt uneasy, and he wanted to take a look at the camp, to see how it had changed, but he knew he couldn't risk hurting his back further. He sighed quietly, resting his head on his paws. It was lonely in the medicine den; Moss had to sleep with and provide for her kits still, after all. She couldn't be in here with him, not when her kits needed their mother still. Snowpaw shivered slightly; leaf-fall had arrived, bringing with it the chill of leaf-bare. It was lucky they had won their territory back; they might not have made it through leaf-fall in the field, let alone leaf-bare.

Why did Fear leave? Snowpaw wondered. She was devoted to her Pride, I know it. It would have taken more than an argument to send her away. And most of the Pride was loyal enough to go with her, so it couldn't have been something they did…unless the ones that remained behind rebelled, or something? Snowpaw frowned, feeling troubled. If Fear had disappeared, they might never know the reason why. What if there was something lurking in the forest, some unknown danger? However, if that was true, why had the rest of te Pride stayed? And why wouldn't Fear have fought the danger off? It just didn't make sense.

Snowpaw found himself trying to puzzle it out, even as the sun rose and dawn brought rosy light to the sky over the Clan's camp.

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