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?


9. Apprentices

Moss was too exhausted to think of anything, even giving her kits names. She recovered enough to retreat back into her den, and Lightning and Snowpaw carried the kits with her. She wanted Snowpaw to stay with her in the den, but Lightning said Snowpaw could have his den, and so Snowpaw slept in Lightning's place while Lightning slept in his.

"Snowpaw," the white she-cat said, the first thing he heard as he entered his dreams, "it wasn't your fault."

"Are you kidding?" Snowpaw said. "It was completely my fault! I gave her tansy, her kit died. How is it not my fault?"

"The tansy wouldn't have worked that quickly," the she-cat said. "It might have spurred the birth along, but it wouldn't have been enough to kill the kit. The kit was just unlucky, is all."

"I-Is…is the kit in StarClan?" Snowpaw asked. The she-cat gazed at him sadly.

"I can't answer that, Snowpaw," she said softly, and Snowpaw bowed his head.

"I still feel guilty," he said. "Like I didn't do all I could. And what if I had given her the tansy earlier? All the kits might have died!"

The she-cat put her tail on Snowpaw's shoulder. "No one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes," she said soothingly. "You delivered two healthy, beautiful kits. No other cat there could have done more for Moss."

Snowpaw nodded slowly, and bowed his head.

"Now, I have some things to tell you," the she-cat said slowly. "Stories. Tell these to your Clan, will you? They'll help teach lessons you alone cannot."

Snowpaw hesitated, and then nodded. Stories would ease his mind.

The night came and the night went, and soon it was time for Snowpaw to leave.

"Promise to tell at least one of those today," the she-cat said, and Snowpaw nodded.

The dream melted away like the morning dew.

Snowpaw opened his eyes slowly. He didn't panic like he had that first morning, but he found himself missing Moss's warmth. I won't be sleeping with her again, he realized. I'm not her kit now. Now, she'll see me as an apprentice. The thought gave him both joy, and sorrow. He would miss waking up beside his foster-mother.

He padded out of Lightning's den, into Moss's. She smiled at him as he entered. She still looked tired, but triumphant. Snowpaw sat down beside her.

"Lightning is catching me something for the first meal of the day," she said by way of explanation. Snowpaw nodded. "Thank you so much, son," she said softly. "I couldn't have gotten through without you. I knew it was more than luck, when we found you, or when you found us."

Snowpaw stared into Moss's eyes. Did she really believe that?

"Can I ask you something?" he asked quietly.

"Of course," she replied, her eyes gentle.

Do you think I killed your kit? He wanted to ask, but did not dare. "Would you name them in a special way, with 'kit' after their first name?" he asked. Moss blinked slowly.

"Like you?" she asked, and Snowpaw nodded.

"Where I come from, all kits are like that," he said. "All kits have unique first names and the same last names. It binds us together as a Clan."

"A Clan?" Moss echoed, and there was something in her gaze that made Snowpaw wonder if there was more going on in her mind. "Yes, we could, I think," she said slowly. "Lightning won't mind."

She gazed down at her kits lovingly, not unlike the way she looked at Snowpaw. Snowpaw followed her gaze. The golden kit was large and plump, suckling eagerly. The second kit was the same gray-silver-white that Moss was, but was much smaller than the golden kit. Worry clutched Snowpaw's chest as he looked at it, and he had to draw his gaze away.

"They're both females, if you were curious," Moss said softly, and then turned as Lightning entered the den. He glanced at Snowpaw, before presenting Moss with a plump robin. Moss thanked him, and then asked him quietly about Snowpaw's suggestion. Lightning stared at the kits for a moment, and then nodded slowly. Snowpaw hesitated, and then put his tail on Lightning's side, keeping his own side pressed against Moss to feel them both speak.

"I have no problem with the idea," Lightning rumbled. "When they age, they will become 'paw's, yes?" Snowpaw nodded.

"Eventually they'll have unique names, different from any cat in the entire world," he said. "There may be many Lightnings and Mosses, but there will only be one…whatever you name them."

Lightning nodded slowly. Then, he pointed his thick tail towards the golden kit. "She will be Sorrelkit," he rumbled, looking to Moss for confirmation. She smiled.

"I love it," she purred, and rested her own tail on the frail silver kit. "She will be Willowkit," Moss announced. Snowpaw could feel Lightning shift slightly, and realized that he was uncomfortable with Willowkit's name; it emphasized her lean build.

"Willows are strong and adaptable, although they look weak," Snowpaw said, meeting Lightning's gaze. Lightning nodded slowly.

"Very well," he said, and licked Moss's muzzle. The love between them was so strong it felt almost tangible to Snowpaw. Lightning nuzzled both of his daughters, and flicked his tail to Snowpaw. Snowpaw blinked, and then followed Lightning out of the den. Lightning moved to the edge of their little camp, where they would not be seen or overheard. Snowpaw faced Lightning, resting his tail on Lightning's side. It looked strange somehow, the splash of white on the gold.

"I…." Lightning trailed off, closing his eyes. When he opened them, they seemed to shine with a mixture of gratitude and newfound respect. "I was harsh when you first came to us, at the very least," he said finally. "I turned you away, believing that you would only endanger my family. However…you saved it. You knew what to do when we did not. And I thank you for that. I…I would be proud to welcome you into our group here. You are as much one of us as Frost, or Cricket or Rain."

Snowpaw's eyes glittered as he stared at Lightning, and he expected to feel something – relief, happiness, pride? – but he only felt a tiny, gnawing guilt, at the mistake he had made that could have cost Lightning so much more than one kit. I'll never make a mistake like that again, Snowpaw vowed. Then, he realized Lightning expected him to reply somehow, and he quickly said,

"Thank you. I'm glad you've chosen to honor me so." It seemed to be the right answer, for Lightning nodded quickly.

"Your daughters are beautiful," Snowpaw said, and a smile briefly flashed on Lightning's face, a true one, not strained or forced, and he nodded slowly.

"They are," he said, and rose to his paws. "I must go to them. Snowpaw…thank you," he said, before turning away and disappearing back into Moss's den. Snowpaw watched him go, and then turned, seeing three curious pairs of eyes watching him from afar. He padded over to Gleam's kits with a smile.

"The kits are well?" Frost inquired anxiously, pressing her pelt against his. Snowpaw nodded.

"Both females, one gold one silver, Sorrelkit and Willowkit," he informed then, and Frost grinned.

"Finally, more she-cats!" she crowed. Snowpaw nodded slowly.

"What did Lightning want?" Rain asked suspiciously from Snowpaw's other side.

"He just wanted to let me know he was thankful, for what I did," Snowpaw said, leaving out the part where Lightning accepted him into the group. Everyone had already assumed that Lightning did when Snowpaw first joined; he didn't want to provoke the delicate peace between him and Lightning now by revealing the truth.

"Are you sure the kits are okay?" Cricket asked, when Snowpaw offered him his tail. Snowpaw nodded slowly, and then Frost blinked slowly.

"Wait, Sorrelkit and Willowkit?" she asked. "Don't you mean Sorrel and Willow?"

Snowpaw shook his head. "I asked Moss and Lightning if they would give their kits Clan names…and so they did."

Frost smiled at him. "So they'll be Sorrelpaw and Willowpaw someday?" she asked, and Snowpaw nodded. Suddenly, Frost blinked.

"Wait a moment," she declared. "We can't let them be Sorrelpaw and Willowpaw, if we're still just Frost, Rain, and Cricket!"

Cricket nodded in agreement. "I want a Clan name too," he said, and his eyes glittered with excitement.

"We can make it into a new game," Snowpaw said slowly, feeling excited. Every day, they were getting closer to becoming a Clan! "How about you three all choose a mentor and I will to, and we can train as apprentices and then become warriors for real?"

Frost and Cricket nodded quickly, excitedly, while Rain gave a cool sort of shrug.

"I want Gleam as my mentor," Cricket said immediately, clearly hoping to take refuge with his mother, who would be gentle with him."

"Your parents can't mentor you, they'd be too soft," Snowpaw explained, and Cricket frowned. "Tabby is nice, though, why don't you ask her?"

Cricket hesitated, and then nodded slowly.

"Lightning can't be a mentor either, leaders never are unless there are no other mentors available or it is a special apprentice," Snowpaw said, reading Rain's mind. Rain frowned.

"What about Mud, then?" he asked, and Snowpaw nodded. Rain looked almost pleased.

"What about me?" Frost asked anxiously. "I can't have Gleam or Lightning, and Tabby and Mud are both taken, and Moss has her kits…."

"You'll have to have Slate, then," Snowpaw said, and Frost's face fell.

"He isn't so bad," Snowpaw said, "he found me, remember?"

Frost nodded slowly, but didn't look convinced.

"Tabby and Slate are always together, so we'll train together lots," Cricket said, pressing his pelt against Frost. She sighed quietly.

"If I have to have Slate mentor me, I will," she grumbled, and Snowpaw smiled, licking her shoulder.

"I expected nothing less," Snowpaw purred, and then glanced around, spotting Tabby and Slate relaxing together. Slate appeared to be asleep in the shadow of one of the still-standing walls, while Tabby lay upside-down beside him, playing with his tail while twitching her own in Slate's face.

"Hey," Snowpaw called, heading over, "can you two help us in a little game?"

Tabby raised her head quickly, and her green eyes flashed with interest. She grinned. "What kind of game?" she asked.

Snowpaw explained the basic idea of the game, and Tabby looked delighted, letting out a long purr. She nudged Slate sharply with her shoulder, and he blinked awake slowly. Tabby explained the game to him in a low voice. Slate blinked, a long, slow blink, and then nodded, sitting up to face the kits.

"So is that it? Are we just their apprentices?" Frost asked, and Snowpaw shook his head. "There's a special ceremony that goes along with it, but we'd need a leader for that and since Lightning won't do it for us, I will."

Frost and Cricket smiled, and Snowpaw frowned, trying to remember what the white she-cat had taught him. She had repeated it to him several times before he had memorized it, and the memories were somewhat sluggish to appear. He began speaking, aware that the ceremony was not exactly right, but close enough.

"Frost, you are six moons now, and old enough to begin your training. Frost, do you promise to train hard to learn StarClan's noble code?"

"I do," Frost said, pressing her pelt against his.

"Then, from this day forward until you earn your warrior name, you will be known as Frostpaw," Snowpaw said. "Slate, you have shown courage in the past, and kindness to others. You will be Frostpaw's mentor. I trust you will pass on your courage and steadfastness to her."

Slate nodded slowly, and Frostpaw glanced at Snowpaw uncertainly. "Touch noses with him," Snowpaw whispered, and Frostpaw nodded, rushing forward so quickly that it was more of a bump rather than a gentle touch. Slate stepped back and rubbed his nose with his tail, and Frostpaw winced, but her eyes still shone triumphantly.

"Cricket, you are six moons now and old enough to begin your training. Cricket, do you promise to train long and hard to learn StarClan's noble code?"

"I do," Cricket said, so softly that it was only Snowpaw who understood him.

"Then, from this day forward until you earn your warrior name, you will be known as Cricketpaw." Snowpaw turned to Tabby. "Tabby, you will be Cricketpaw's mentor. You have shown bravery in the past, and your energy is your strength. I trust you will pass on your boundless energy and spirit to Cricketpaw."

Cricketpaw hesitantly touched noses with Tabby, but this time it was the mentor who was too eager, bouncing into Cricketpaw. Tabby laughed as she rubbed her nose, and then licked Cricketpaw's in apology.

Mud entered the Clan with fresh-kill in his jaws, and so Snowpaw and Rain padded over. Mud seemed pleased that Rain wanted to begin training, especially with him. Mud warned Rain that the training would be very hard, but Rain didn't seem to mind. Rain became Rainpaw, and Mud became Rainpaw's mentor.

The four apprentices gathered together again.

"Now, from your mentors you'll learn important things like hunting and fighting," Snowpaw said, "but you'll need other things too, like learning the history of the Clans and the importance of StarClan and the warrior code and such."

The other three apprentices nodded, and then Cricketpaw blinked.

"What about you?" he asked. "Who is your mentor?"

Snowpaw hesitated for a brief moment – he wanted to keep his meetings with the beautiful she-cat in his dreams secret – but then sighed quietly. If he was a part of this group, he wanted to be trustworthy and honest. "I have been meeting with StarClan in my dreams for a little while now," he explained. "There is a she-cat there who I think is my mentor; she's been teaching me words, how to memorize voice-rumbles, the warrior code…all of these things. I couldn't have learned them in my old Clan, I didn't know how."

Frostpaw's eyes sparkled. "That's so cool," she breathed. "What's her name?"

Snowpaw blinked, feeling surprised, and realized he didn't actually know. "I'm not sure," he admitted, "we don't meet every night or anything, and when we do meet we need every moment to squeeze as much training as we can into the night."I'll ask her tonight, if she comes, Snowpaw thought.

"When do we begin training?" Rainpaw demanded.

"We'll wait until tomorrow," Snowpaw decided. "For today, though, I can tell you a story or two."

Cricketpaw nodded eagerly, and Snowpaw closed his eyes for a moment, trying to think of a good story to tell them. His eyes opened, and his gaze strayed to Rainpaw, and he knew the story he would tell.

"Have you ever heard the story of why rain falls, why SkyClan was thought of as a traitor, and why there are only four trees at Fourtrees?" Snowpaw asked. The other apprentices shook their heads, and Snowpaw smiled, beginning his story.

"There were originally five Clans in the forest, ThunderClan, RiverClan, ShadowClan, WindClan, and SkyClan," he said, watching them in case they reacted to the name of their ancestors' Clan. They did not, and so he continued. "They all lived in the forest together, the forest that I came from. The leaders were Thunderstar, Riverstar, Shadowstar, Windstar, and Skystar. They were all very smart and wise and brave, and much loved by their Clans.

"For many moons after the five Clans settled in their forest, there was peace. However, the peace could not last forever; all five leaders were also crafty and cunning, Shadowstar most of all. He was a very dark cat, the darkest in the forest, and the one with the most evil in his heart. He tried hard to repress it, but couldn't always. His son, Shadeclaw, inherited his darkness, but that is another story.

"Shadowstar decided that he wasn't happy with ShadowClan's territory; it was marshy and too close to the Two-legs nearby, and it smelled strange. Shadowstar wanted more territory for his Clan, and so he sought to expand his borders. WindClan's territory was nearest, but very scarce in prey. ThunderClan's was much richer, and so Shadowstar decided to attack ThunderClan.

"Windstar found himself also unhappy with his Clan's territory, with its lean prey. He too wanted to expand, and so he and Shadowstar formed an alliance against ThunderClan.

"Thunderstar knew his Clan would be consumed and at the mercy of the two Clans. He turned to Riverstar for aid, and she granted it, and so RiverClan and ThunderClan became allies.

"All four leaders knew the war would be too even if it was just the four of them, and so they turned to SkyClan for aid. Wise Skystar wanted to stay out of the war, however, and would not ally with either side, preferring to stay out of the conflict. All four leaders branded Skystar and his Clan as cowards from that day on, and that is perhaps what led to their eventual exile.

"One morning at dawn, the sun rose exposing the four Clans assembled at FourTrees, only it was FiveTrees then, for there were five great oaks. All four leaders offered the other side one chance to back down, but none took it, and so the worst battle the forest had ever seen began.

"It lasted for days without stopping; every Clan fought hard and furiously, fighting for their territory, whether to keep it or expand it. StarClan watched wordlessly; they did not want to interfere in the Clan's destiny, although they knew the war was wrong. Countless cats died from all of the Clans save SkyClan, and still the battle did not stop.

"Finally, StarClan became afraid that the war might never end, that it might continued until the four Clans were completely destroyed, leaving SkyClan the sole survivor. StarClan could not let that happen.

"They summoned up a mighty storm directly over the battle, and then sent a bolt of lightning down at FiveTrees. They meant to hit the tree for ShadowClan, but missed and hit SkyClan's tree instead, destroying it instantly. StarClan did not realize this, but the entire forest was terribly dry at the time, and a fire sprouted from the ashes of SkyClan's tree. The fire spread incredibly quickly, and suddenly the battle cries turned to cries of fright, for the fire consumed everything in its path.

"The fire spread all over the forest, killing everything in its way as it did. The fire achieved Shadowstar's and Windstar's dream of achieving the entire territory of the forest, but by doing so it destroyed it. The few cats who were left alive were forced to flee into SkyClan's territory, for there was little vegetation that the fire could burn. The four Clan's camps, all surrounded by some sort of rock or water, were unharmed, but the rest of the forest burned. The four Clans were forced to take refuge with SkyClan until the fire died down, and they could return to their charred homes. The four Clans blamed SkyClan for the fire, misreading StarClan's sign and thinking that StarClan had condemned SkyClan for not choosing a side in the war and ending it easily, and they had punished SkyClan by destroying their tree. There were only four trees remaining, and so they were renamed FourTrees, and have been ever since.

"The fire finally did die, and once it did the true destruction was visible to every cat, including StarClan. StarClan blamed themselves for not interfering or guiding the Clans, for making it seem as if they were against SkyClan, and for starting the fire that had cost so many cats their lives. StarClan wept, and their tears became rain falling down over the forest. StarClan's tears began to heal the forest and start it on the path back to the forest it had once been, although FourTrees would never again have five trees.

"Ever since that day, StarClan has held their greatest mistake deep in their hearts. Sometimes the guilt and sorrow becomes too great for them, and they weep again, and their tears fall on the forest as rain." Snowpaw finished, and then waited somewhat anxiously for the apprentices' reactions. What he hadn't realized was that Tabby, Slate, and Gleam had been behind him, listening to the entire story as well.

"That was beautiful," Frost said, licking Snowpaw's muzzle. "You're a great storyteller!"

"Yes," Slate rumbled, pressing his tail against Snowpaw's shoulders. Snowpaw turned in surprise, blinking up at Tabby, Slate, and Gleam.

"It was indeed beautiful, a very well-spun tale," Gleam said softly, resting her muzzle against Snowpaw's. "You have a gift."

"What was FourTrees, or FiveTrees, though?" Tabby asked. Snowpaw hesitated, and then explained to the small group about the warrior code again, and about how the Clans had gatherings at FiveTrees and FourTrees. When he was finished, Tabby's eyes sparkled.

"How amazing," she purred. "That's where you came from? It is no wonder you are such a special kit." She brushed her tail against Snowpaw's muzzle, tickling him. Snowpaw smiled, as Tabby and Slate padded away. Gleam hesitated for a moment, and Snowpaw blinked at her, suddenly realizing how young she was. Gleam reminded him of the youngest she-cat in the nursery when Snowpaw had been there, Brindleface. She had been very young, but kind as well. Gleam finally got to her paws and padded away, leaving the apprentices again.

Snowpaw turned to his friends and saw that Rainpaw actually looked pleased with the warrior story. It is because of his name in the story, a story about rain, Snowpaw realized. It makes him feel kind of special, involved. I should do the same thing with Frostpaw and Cricketpaw; I wonder if there are any interesting stories about frost and crickets? He decided that he would ask the white she-cat that night.

The rest of the day, Snowpaw played with the other apprentices. They weren't overly gentle with him, but they made sure not to sneak up on him or attack him from where they couldn't see him. Snowpaw did the same, to be fair. The day finally ended with Snowpaw retreating to Lightning's den; Lightning would be sleeping with Moss and the kits again.

Next order of business, Snowpaw thought, feeling drowsy despite the emptiness of the den, convince Lightning to let the apprentices sleep together.

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