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?


10. Hag

She smiled at him as she approached, her blue eyes glittering. "I knew you were the right one to pick," she murmured. "You've got two kits with Clan names, three apprentices, and a few future warriors practically eating out of your paw!" She rubbed muzzles with him in greeting.

Snowpaw smiled at her. "Rainpaw really liked my story, I think because it involved rain itself," he said. "Do you know any stories about crickets or frost?"

The she-cat frowned for a moment, thinking. "I do!" she exclaimed suddenly. "There is an old Clan story about why the cricket sings, and another story – although not exactly a Clan one – about how frost was named. Are those good enough?"

Snowpaw nodded eagerly, and the she-cat began speaking, spinning the story around him like a spider spins its web. He listened intently to both stories, and asked the she-cat to repeat them. She had to repeat them twice before Snowpaw was confident enough in himself and his memory to retell them to the others.

When the she-cat was finished, Snowpaw smiled at her and was going to bid her farewell for the night, when he remembered his friends' question.

"What is your name?" he asked quickly, anxious to get the answer before the morning came and he had to leave his dream.

The she-cat blinked at him, and it seemed as if there was deep sorrow in her blue eyes. "My name comes with a story," she said softly, "a story that you will someday hear, but not tonight."

Snowpaw frowned, feeling disappointed. It didn't seem right, somehow, that she would be able to know everything about him, to visit his dreams, to make the decision to take him from ThunderClan, when he wasn't able to know anything about her in return. Still, she was a StarClan cat, and therefore higher than any elder or leader to him, and so he simply nodded and bid her farewell as the dream faded around him.

Snowpaw yawned, blinking slowly in the empty den. He shivered slightly, twitching his shoulders as he did. Leaf-fall was approaching, and with it would come chilling cold. Snowpaw wouldn't be able to sleep in this den alone during that time, he would surely freeze. Still, it would provide an excellent reason for Lightning to allow the apprentices to sleep together, as they would in a Clan, although Snowpaw was nervous about what the others would think. Did they realize that by becoming apprentices, they were in a sense giving up their mother's comfort?

He would speak with them about it later, he decided, and rose to his paws, padding out of the den. Sure enough, leaf-fall was coming; he could smell its crisp scent on the breeze that fluttered through camp like a butterfly, pausing to tickle his nose as it went. Snowpaw twitched his nose, resisting the urge to sneeze, and glanced around the camp for the other apprentices.

He spotted them all relaxing together, enjoying a plump rabbit. Their mother hovered nearby, looking almost nervous as she gazed at her kits with soft eyes. She knew they were growing up, but she didn't quite want to let them go, Snowpaw realized. She wanted them to remain little kits for as long as they could.

"Hey," Snowpaw called a greeting as he approached. Cricketpaw turned to Snowpaw with a smile.

"Do you have a story for us?" Cricketpaw asked, touching Snowpaw's side with his tail and looking eager.

"I do," Snowpaw replied, "but before I can tell you, you all need a day's worth of training! You're looking plump and very un-apprenticelike. Your mother's been taking good care of you, but you aren't kits anymore, you're apprentices, and you have to train like apprentices if you want to be warriors. Sorrelkit and Willowkit might be warriors before you!"

"Yeah right!" Frost exclaimed, as Snowpaw pressed his tail against her throat. "Newborn kits, getting the best of us?" she turned to her siblings. "Are we going to let them?"

"No!" Cricketpaw cried, and Snowpaw could feel the enthusiasm brimming in the little cat. He's already changed so much, in just a little over a half-moon, Snowpaw thought, feeling astonished. He's still a bit quiet and a bit timid, but he has real spirit. He'll be just as good a warrior as his brother and sister, once he gets past his fears and shows true bravery.

Rainpaw simply nodded, but his eyes burned with ambition. "I'm going to start training right now," Snowpaw read on his lips, as Rainpaw padded away towards Mud.

"Me too!" Frost exclaimed, racing after her brother. Cricketpaw smiled at Snowpaw before following his siblings, right on their heels. Snowpaw smiled as he watched them find their mentors and stride into the forest together.

"Are you sure they're old enough?" He felt Gleam's anxious voice through his fur as she pressed her pelt gently against his. Snowpaw turned towards her, seeing the worry in her deep green eyes.

"I'm sure," he said, his voice filled with confidence. "Where I come from, cats are apprenticed at six moons. Your kits are at least seven, right? I'm six and a half moons old now, and they're older than I am."

"About seven moons, yes," Gleam murmured. "But Cricket is so little, and Frost is half-deaf, and Rain is so over-confident…I'm afraid they're going to get hurt someday, and I'm not going to be able to protect them."

"You can't always protect them," Snowpaw said, brushing his tail over her shoulders comfortingly, feeling older than he actually was. Being here, being deaf, it had aged him beyond his moons. "No one can always protect their kits, although every parent feels they should. They'll eventually get into some trouble, I am sure, but Moss and I will be there to help them as much as we can, and do our best to make them better. Cricketpaw is stronger than you think, Frostpaw's other ear is still good, and Rainpaw knows when to stop. I trust them, and so should you."

Gleam simply stared at him for a moment, before dipping her head to him. "Thank you," she said softly, and padded away. Snowpaw smiled slightly, and then rose to his paws, padding into Moss's den. Lightning was there and he looked up from his kits as Snowpaw entered. Snowpaw considered asking Lightning about the apprentice den, but remembering Gleam's anxiety decided it would have to wait a bit, until she was comfortable letting her kits go.

"How are they?" he asked, raising his tail to Lightning's throat and sitting down beside him, blinking down at the kits. Moss licked Snowpaw's paw gently, and Lightning spoke,

"They're both coming along beautifully. Sorrelkit is energetic and strong, and Willowkit is becoming stronger too thanks to her mother's milk." Lightning smiled at his mate, but Snowpaw could tell he still was troubled; his eyes were slightly anxious, the smile slightly strained at the edges. Snowpaw bent down towards the kits, breathing in their milky scents and simply observing them for a short moment, before nodding.

"They're both beautiful, and I'm sure they'll be healthy additions to our family here," Snowpaw said.

"We trust your opinion," Moss said, raising and stretching her tail to touch Snowpaw's muzzle. Snowpaw felt a glow in his chest; she still trusted him, even though she knew about the tansy. He felt honored to have her trust, and he assured himself that he would live up to it; Sorrelkit and Willowkit were his foster-siblings now, after all.

He padded out of the den, taking in a deep breath of the fresh air, before glancing around the camp. Mud, Slate, and Tabby were out with their apprentices, Lightning and Moss were enjoying their kits together, and Gleam was staring into space, appearing oddly distance. Snowpaw felt his pelt prickle; there was no one watching him, no one guarding him, nothing stopping him from leaving camp.

I'll go gather some herbs for Moss, and prove that I deserve her trust, Snowpaw thought, and hurried out of camp, his white tail high with excitement.

As soon as he was out of camp, it felt as if he was in a completely different world, with the scents and sights that attacked his senses. It had only been a half moon since he had last been in the forest like this, alone, besides his short trip for tansy, but it felt as if some great change had happened inside of him, something that made him…more, somehow, than the poor deaf cat he had been before.

He padded along now with a new spring in his step, a smile on his muzzle, and he realized that for the first time in a long time he felt happy, truly, desperately, happy. He felt the rumble of a purr deep in his throat, and he blinked up at the birds twittering above them. He could not hear their beautiful song, but he thought that perhaps he could feel it, a rumble deep within his heart. The world suddenly seemed to be a beautiful, bright place in his eyes, and so he padded along, soon becoming lost in the beauty, any thought of herbs or his family vanished from his mind.

He found himself a little stream, dancing merrily over the rocks. From his time in StarClan he knew that such streams made a happy gurgling sound, and so he puts his paws on one of the rocks, allowing the stream to wash over his paws. He could feel the vibrations in his paws, a fluid sort of sound, and again he found himself smiling. He stepped back, shaking off his paws and sending water droplets flying into the air, each containing a rainbow as they fell. He continued down the stream until he came another part, one that was wider and slower flowing. The water appeared to be still, as smooth as glass, but the waving of little grasses underneath exposed the motion just below the surface. Snowpaw peered into the water, smiling as he saw his own reflection.

Do I look like that, really? He wondered as his gaze fell over his flawless white fur, his soft pink nose, the slight smile curling his muzzle, the inner joy sparkling in his blue eyes. Is that really me, there on the inside?

His eyes traced the shape of his face again, studying it, committing it to memory, when he thought he saw something else in his reflection. He peered closer into the water, frowning as he did so. A pair of golden eyes, the slight shimmer of fur….

Snowpaw wheeled around suddenly, and was whisker-to-whisker with an old she-cat. She was simply sitting there, staring at him. Her head was cocked to one side, and as he watched her head slowly moved until it was cocked to the other side. Her golden gaze searched him, from his face down to his tail, and Snowpaw felt almost as if she was peering directly into his soul with her golden eyes, which were green around the pupil. Her fur was short and gray, with a sort of dull luster to it; if it was groomed properly, it would have been sleek and perhaps even beautiful, Snowpaw was sure of it.

The she-cat said something, but she spoke oddly, her mouth barely moving, and he couldn't quite read her words from her muzzle.

He offered her his tail. "May I touch you?" he asked. "I'm deaf."

The she-cat nodded slowly, looking unsurprised. Snowpaw carefully put his tail on the she-cats shoulder. She spoke again, and Snowpaw felt himself almost wincing; her voice felt like claw-against-claw, or claw-against-stone, something grating and terrible. He could also see that she had no teeth; her mouth was completely empty, the teeth had long ago rotted away. Has she been gumming mice? Snowpaw wondered, before focusing on her words.

"You speak well for a deaf cat," she croaked. "I'm surprised you aren't crowfood already, though; deaf abominations like you don't deserve to live."

Snowpaw felt his pelt bristling, as he took an instant dislike to the cat. "I'm sorry you think that," keeping his speech short, clipped. The she-cat snorted.

"Liar," she growled, sending another prickle of anger running through Snowpaw's fur. "Go find me some food," she demanded, turning away from him. Snowpaw felt like spitting in her face or simply walking away, but the warrior code told him that he should take care of elders. She clearly didn't deserve it, but Snowpaw's Clan didn't have any elders yet and could do with a bit of wisdom. Maybe she would be nicer after she had eaten something.

"Wait here," Snowpaw said, and rose to his paws, padding into the forest. Somehow, the old hag had managed to take the joy out of the day for him; where he once saw beauty there was none, and his deafness seemed to weigh on him more than ever. Deaf abominations like you don't deserve to live, he thought, and his lingering happiness vanished like a puff of smoke.

His nose found the mouse first, but when his eyes did they saw that it was out in the open, nibbling on a seed. A stupid mouse, he thought, and slunk forward, lifting and placing each paw with caution and precision. He could feel the slight tremors of sound he was making through his paws, and he could tell he was actually being quite silent, not bad for a deaf cat.

Then, he lunged, missing the mouse by a tail-length as it scampered away. I need practice, Snowpaw thought. Some apprentice lessons wouldn't hurt me, either.

He located two more mice, missing the first and barely snagging the second with one claw, which was enough to slow it so that he could catch it between his paws. He killed it quickly, feeling triumphant, although sad that his first kill would be going to a creature so spiteful. He carried it back to the elderly cat, the warm taste filling his mouth with water.

He dropped it in front of her. She bent, sniffing it, and then opened her jaws wide enough that the entire back half of the mouse went into her jaws. She wiggled it around for a moment, and then spat it out.

"Couldn't you at least get me something fresh?" she hissed. "I can't eat this anyway, it is too tough. Chew it for me."

Snowpaw stared down at the slimy piece of prey, and then at the elder, feeling both disgusted and angry. He swallowed his pride and took the prey in his jaws, biting off a piece slowly and chewing it. Delicious juice filled his mouth, but he forced himself not to swallow, rather spitting it out in front of the she-cat. She lapped it up almost delicately, and nodded for him to continue.

She only ate half of the mouse before declaring herself full, a woeful waste of Snowpaw's first meal. The part she had made him chew for her was the front half, and the front half was covered in her saliva. She may eat food from another cat's mouth, but I won't degrade myself that way, Snowpaw thought and he buried his first kill, feeling mournful of the waste.

"Are you pleased?" he asked when he returned to her. She snorted again, a disgusting sound, and spat out something strange and slimy onto the grass.

"Hardly, it was tough and stringy," she replied, and Snowpaw realized her snappish personality was not simply because of hunger.

"What is your name?" Snowpaw asked.

"Hag," the she-cat grunted, and then peered at him intently. "Where do you live? I'm tired."

Snowpaw hesitated, thinking he might lose Lightning's trust after all if he brought this smelly, ill-tempered creature into the Clan. However he couldn't simply leave her here, for she would surely starve; she was all skin and bones.

"Come with me," Snowpaw said, flicking his tail and rising to his paws. The she-cat began padding after him. She did not ask his name.

Snowpaw entered camp, and instantly all eyes were on him. Frostpaw, Rainpaw, and Cricketpaw had returned from their training with their mentors, and Lightning was out of Moss's den. He frowned as he saw Hag.

"Snowpaw, who is this?" he asked, striding over so that Snowpaw could feel his voice, his displeasure.

"This is Hag," Snowpaw replied. "I found her in the forest. She's alone and a bit sick." Behind him, he felt Hag shaking as she coughed, sending more green stuff onto the ground. Lightning wrinkled his nose, but nearby Gleam looked sympathetic.

"Are you ill?" Snowpaw read Gleam's lips. Snowpaw laid his tail on Hag, moving one paw to touch Lightning instead.

"I'm obviously in perfect health, I just cough for fun," Hag said nastily, and Gleam shrank back slightly, ears low to show her hurt.

"The warrior code says that elders must be taken care of," Snowpaw said, trying to explain but feeling foolish. Why had he thought bringing this ill-tempered creature home would be a good idea.

"I…see," Lightning said, eyes narrowed slightly. "Well, Hag, you may stay with us for a few days, until you feel well." He glanced at Snowpaw, his amber eyes showing displeasure.

"Sorry," Snowpaw mouthed, careful not to verbalize it in case Hag heard.

"Good," Hag said, without a thank-you. "Now, where do I sleep? This dump has a den for me, right?"

Lightning's pelt prickled, and Snowpaw realized that Hag had the knack – or rather the curse – for saying the exact wrong thing to the exact wrong cat.

"Why don't you show our guest to her den, Snowpaw?" Lightning asked through gritted teeth. Not wanting to anger him further, Snowpaw nodded quickly and flicked his tail to Hag. There was not another den for her, actually, but Snowpaw had a plan. Slate and Mud shared a den, and Tabby had her own den that was too large for her. Tabby and Gleam could share, and then Gleam's den could be for the apprentices, freeing a den for Hag.

"You can sleep in here," Snowpaw said, indicating Lightning's den. Hag disappeared down inside it, reappearing moments later.

"The bedding is old," she growled at him. "Get me some new moss." Without waiting for an answer, she disappeared. Snowpaw sighed, and went looking for Gleam.

He found her watching her kits, a short distance away.

"They seem so big, so full of dreams," she said when he sat down beside her. "Their training session really made them happy."

"Can I sleep with them?" Snowpaw asked. Gleam blinked at her, and Snowpaw outlined his plan, explaining how apprentices slept together, to bring them closer together. Gleam looked troubled.

"They've always slept with me, though," she said. "Might Cricket get scared? Or what if they caught a chill? They still want to sleep with me, right, they haven't asked you to ask for them?"

"It's not like that," Snowpaw assured her, using a soothing voice. "It's just that I'm lonely in my den, honestly," he said, changing his tone from soothing to sorrowful. "It's empty and a bit cold, and I miss sleeping with cats my own age…and I don't want to offend Moss and make her think I like you better than her, you see? And besides, when it gets cold I'm sure Tabby will welcome a warm body in her den."

Gleam still looked uncertain.

"It is that, or we build a new den for Hag, because no one wants to sleep with her. There's no time for that tonight, though, and that means someone will have to sleep with her…and I really don't want it to be me," Snowpaw said, trying another angle. Finally, Gleam sighed.

"We'll try it for one night and see how it goes," she said slowly. "I'll decide then."

"Okay," Snowpaw agreed. "Thank you very much, Gleam, it means a lot to me."

Gleam smiled at him and nodded slowly, but her smile was small and her green eyes still looked sad. Snowpaw rose to his paws and went to tell the others.

"Great!" was the first thing Frostpaw said. "We should make you a nest right now!"

Cricketpaw looked nervous. "Mother isn't going to sleep with us?" he asked, and his voice trembled slightly.

"She'll be with Tabby, she'll be fine," Rainpaw said, pressing his pelt against Cricketpaw. "And I'll protect you."

"Is Mother hurt by this at all?" Frostpaw asked, glancing at her mother who was still watching them, and then blinking back at Snowpaw.

"A little," Snowpaw admitted. "She's afraid you guys are growing up too fast, but that's the fear of lots of mothers, don't worry. She'll be fine, and it isn't like you can be kits forever, right?"

The others nodded.

"We should make sure she knows we still love her, though," Cricketpaw said, looking troubled.

"Let's make her a nest in Tabby's den," Frostpaw suggested.

"That makes it looked like we are too eager for her to move away," Rainpaw argued, "which is definitely not what we want her to think. We want her to know we are big and strong and old enough to do things like that, but that we still care about her."

"I have an idea," Snowpaw said suddenly, and he whispered to the other apprentices. They liked his plan and discussed it in hushed tones, glancing at their mother frequently as they did so. Finally, all four heads nodded as one, and then Gleam's kits raced away to find their mentors, eventually disappearing into the forest.

They came back when the sun was dipping down low onto the horizon. Gleam greeted her kits looking anxious, and then surprised when Frostpaw, Rainpaw, and Cricketpaw all dropped prey down in front of her. The three apprentices grinned, and then raced back into the forest, returning with prey after prey until they made a little fresh-kill pile. Gleam was astonished. Her kits beamed up at her proudly.

"It is all for you," Cricketpaw purred, rubbing his head against his mother's side.

"Although you can donate it to the rest of the group if you like," Frostpaw said, her eyes glittering with mischief. She knew her mother couldn't eat all the prey herself.

"D-Did you catch this all yourself?" Gleam stammered, and at this the apprentices blushed, glancing at one another almost sheepishly.

"Our mentors helped a little," Rainpaw admitted, and glanced over his shoulder. Tabby was grinning at Gleam, Slate had a slight smile on his muzzle, and even stoic Mud had a twinkle in his eyes.

"We are trying to prove that we aren't just kits, we're getting older now too," Frostpaw said, "but we'll never be too old to not love you anymore." She licked her mother's muzzle. "We'll always love you and need you as our mother."

Gleam seemed utterly overwhelmed, from both the prey and emotion. "Thank you," she said softly, and that was all the invitation her kits needed to pounce on her pinning her down and letting their little bodies shake her with their purrs.

And then, Snowpaw entered the camp. In his jaws was a raven, and padding behind him was Lightning. Moss, who had left her den for a moment to see what the commotion was about, was astonished when Snowpaw dropped the raven at her paws.

"Lightning helped me catch it," Snowpaw said, "but I wanted you to know that I love you too, Mother."

Moss's eyes shone down on her adopted son, and she pulled him close to her with one paw. He nuzzled her chest, feeling her heartbeat pound strongly against her ear.

"I love you," Moss murmured to him, and then gave her mate a loving lick as well. "Thank you both."

That night, nestled between his new friends and with his loving mother just a den over, Snowpaw felt the morning's happiness rise up within him again, and as he finally drifted off to sleep, he knew that he had truly made himself a place in this family, in this home, in this Clan.

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