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?


14. Tabby

The group continued along the fence. There weren't many kittypets here, it appeared, and the ones that they found were too timid to speak with them or too aggressive. Cricketpaw nearly had his fur clawed off by an angry ginger tom as they passed by his territory. Rainpaw had attacked the tom and the two of them had fallen off of the fence grappling with each other, until the tom finally fled. Then they had been forced to take a detour as Snowpaw looked for herbs for a bad wound on Rainpaw's shoulder.

They were quickly becoming discouraged. How can we hope to build a Clan, a fighting force, from cats like these? Snowpaw wondered.

Tabby stopped suddenly, and Snowpaw glanced downward into the fenced yard. There was a small pond with rocks surrounding it, and a little waterfall that didn't appear to have a source that Snowpaw could see. At first, Snowpaw thought that Tabby had simply been curious about the mysterious pool, until he realized that she was actually staring at a cat. A dark gray cat – so dark that she almost looked black – was washing her pads in the little pond. Even from atop the fence, Snowpaw could see she wasn't a simple kittypet. One of her ears had a large notch in it, and her smoky pelt was covered in scars, some small and some large. Snowpaw immediately leaped down from the fence.

"Hello," he said. The cat turned towards him, blinking, although she only looked vaguely surprised. Her eyes were bright, the same green-gold that Hedge's had been, although clearly this cat was older.

Then, she spoke, and when Snowpaw read the words on her lips he at first thought he was mistaken.

"What did you say?" he asked, and held out his tail. "Can you touch this, please?"

The cat didn't question him, simply took a step forward so that his tail was resting against her throat. Again, she spoke,

"I can run but not walk. Wherever I go, thought follows close behind. What am I?"

Snowpaw blinked at her, taken aback.

"It is a riddle," Mud said quietly, coming to sit beside Snowpaw. Snowpaw blinked in surprise at the old, scarred warrior. The smoky she-cat smiled at Mud, but said nothing more.

"Loners and rogues often pick up riddles on their journeys, and save them to teach to others," Mud said, sounding almost bored. "This one is easy. It's a nose."

The gray cat let out a rumbling purr. "What can run but never walks, has a mouth but never talks, has a head but never weeps, has a bed but never sleeps?"

Snowpaw glanced at Mud, but although a slight smile curled Mud's muzzle, indicating that he knew the answer, he said nothing. Snowpaw realized it was up to him to answer. Snowpaw frowned, trying to think. The first part sounded like 'nose' again, but he hadn't heard of noses having beds or any such thing. Snowpaw glanced at the she-cat again, hoping for a clue. She simply smiled at him coolly, and then her right ear twitched slightly. Snowpaw blinked, and her ear twitched again. Following the twitch, Snowpaw's eyes strayed to the pool, and to the waterfall. Then, it hit him.

"A river!" he crowed, and the she-cat smiled.

"One more," she said. "A cloud was my mother, the wind was my father, the stream was my son. My daughter is the fruits of the land. A rainbow is my nest and the earth is my final resting place. What am I?"

At this, Snowpaw was completely bewildered, and he could tell from Mud's face that the dark tabby had no idea either. The smoky cat didn't have a smug expression on her face, or pleasure at their confusion; rather, she seemed hopeful, but somewhat disappointed, as if she knew they would never know the answer.

The fruits of the land? What does that mean? And what has anything to do with rainbows? Snowpaw wondered. He could tell from the she-cat's expression that they weren't going to get any hints.

"Ha!" Snowpaw's pelt prickled as Rainpaw nudged him with his shoulder. "This one is so easy! How did you guys miss it? The answer is right in front of you!"

Snowpaw blinked at Rainpaw, and he could tell Mud didn't have a clue as to what the apprentice was talking about.

"Rain," Rainpaw purred. "Rain is the answer."

Snowpaw let out a laugh, and he saw Frostpaw leaping down, laughing as well.

"Only someone as self-centered as you could realize that," she purred, bumping her head against her brother playfully. She turned to the she-cat. "Well? Is that right?"

"It is indeed," the she-cat purred. "Well done, all of you. You're much better than that fool Hedge; she doesn't have a clue when it comes to riddles." She blinked at them all warmly. "My name is Wander."

"You're the one that we've been looking for, then," Tabby said, striding forward. "You've been everywhere, Buttercup said."

Wander nodded slowly. "Buttercup isn't very bright, but she's certainly kinder than Hedge," Wander purred. "If you're a friend of Buttercup, you're a friend of mine. What can I help you with, then?"

"We're trying to recruit cats, for a Clan," Tabby explained. "The details take awhile to explain, but StarClan – the gods, cats who live in the sky—"

"I know who StarClan are," Wander said. Tabby blinked, and then continued.

"Well, they've given us a mission, to become a true Clan. Snowpaw here was sent by them to help us. We're going to become a Clan and win our territory back."

"And you're wondering if I can help?" Wander asked. "I'm afraid to say I cannot fight for you; I've taken a vow, you see. I can't kill or harm anything or anyone except prey, or unless they attack me first. Still, I do know many things and I know my way around here. You're of SkyClan blood, I take it?"

Wander took Tabby's look of astonishment as a yes. "There are a few cats I suspect have SkyClan ancestry. There is a pair of siblings, a gold tom and a silver female, who visit here in the mornings. They might join you; they're looking for somewhere better than this. And there is a tom who lives nearby, at the park; there is a Twoleg-made stream there that he fishes in." She paused for a moment, thinking. "Ah, and then there are two more than I think will be ideal. There's a tom and a she-cat, both of which are looking for new homes. The tom has always wanted something more than the life he has, and he wanders the neighborhood frequently. The she-cat is quiet and shy, but she is troubled by visions."

"Excellent!" Tabby purred. "Where can we find those last two? We'll go after them first."

Wander looked uncomfortable. "There's only one problem."

"Are they kittypets? If so, that's fine. We don't mind, they can be trained. Every cat will need training before we can fight." Lightning said firmly.

"It 's not that," Wander replied. "They're…kits." Seeing the group's surprised looks, she spoke quickly, "They are both still quite young, but definitely up for travel and training. They're about five moons…and I'm worried for them. They're both very clever, very bright, and are definitely of SkyClan blood. The she-cat is very shy, but she claims to see strange things, terrible things. I cannot help her, I lack the knowledge, but you could help her in ways I cannot. The tom is a roamer and I think his blood calls to him, but he doesn't know where to go. He's a wild one, and I'm afraid that once I leave and go on my way once more, as I was born to do, he'll become even wilder. I'm afraid he will get into trouble with the boss someday."

"The bosses wouldn't hurt a kit," Tabby said, "not if they think he could work for them. He doesn't have a mother, after all. They're usually pretty lax with kittypets, besides."

Wander blinked at Tabby. "You either haven't been here for a long time, or are sadly misinformed," she said. "There are no bosses. There is only one boss here, and he is a tyrant."

The news seemed to come as a shock to Tabby. "What?" she asked. "How…I haven't been away for that long, surely. What happened? Who is the new boss?"

"His name is Ruin," Wander replied. "Many do not know it, but there is a group in the next city over that calls itself BloodClan. They run that city, and their leader Scourge is much feared. It appears he had a son, and sent him over to us. His name is Ruin, and with the help of a few of his father's warriors, he quickly overpower and outmaneuvered the other bosses. He possesses all of his father's cunning and ruthlessness. Twolegplace has fallen under hard times under his rule, and I don't want Kit to suffer because of it."

"His name is Kit?" Cricketpaw asked with surprise.

"He doesn't really have Twolegs, exactly, he simply roams around the street and allows Twolegs to feed him," Wander explained. "They usually just call for 'Kitten' or 'Kit', and he took it as his name."

Lightning sighed quietly. "We'll need to travel a bit," he said. "I'm not sure if we can take on two kits at the moment. We're going to be in a lot of danger."

"They're already in danger here," Wander said quietly. "If Ruin gets wind of Angel's visions, he'll want her either destroyed or bent to his own purposes. I will not have her broken."

"Angel is the she-cat?" Mud asked, and Wander nodded.

"We can't just leave the poor kits here," Gleam said to Lightning pleadingly. "The poor things, they'll die here. This isn't a safe place for any cat."

"If they don't have a mother to care for them, they'll be hard-pressed to survive," Tabby said grimly.

"It is what Moss would want," Snowpaw said softly. "She wouldn't leave kits because they might be in danger with us, when they would be in more danger staying where they are."

Lightning closed his eyes, considering the matter. He finally opened his amber eyes, and nodded slowly. "We'll take the kits," he rumbled. "However, we will come for them after we have the rest of our force."

Wander nodded quickly. "Thank you," she said quietly, "I'll be sure to tell them when I see them."

Lightning nodded gravely, before turning to Tabby. "Do you know where this 'park' is?" he asked, and Tabby nodded quickly.

"My mother and I used to hunt there sometimes, and fish," she said. "There are lots of Twolegs there, but there won't be as many this close to leaf-fall. They hate the chill."

Lightning nodded slowly, and then smiled at Wander. "We need a place to stay the night, and then we can go to the park. Might you…?"

"Of course you can stay with me," Wander said, and flicked her tail. "Just follow me, please."

She sprang up onto the fence with ease, although Snowpaw noticed that her pads were pink, and she didn't have the build of SkyClan. The others followed her along the rooftops. Snowpaw glanced up at the sky. The sun was beginning to sink downward, and Snowpaw couldn't help but yawn. It had been a long, trying day.

Wander led them out of the Twoleg nest maze, back into a dirtier part of the city. There, she led them down an alley, just far enough to make Snowpaw nervous, before she suddenly disappeared. Snowpaw blinked, thinking his eyes were playing tricks on him.

Then, Wander's head appeared, in what seemed to be a hole in the thick stone wall. She smiled at them. "This is where I've been spending the night lately," she explained. "There are mice nearby for you to catch if you choose. Also, there is a big pool of water, which I would suggest you take advantage of. Finding water in the city can be tough."

Tabby nodded, and flicked her tail to the others, leading them down to the end of the alley. There was something that appeared to be the hollowed-out trunk of a tree, inside of which was water.

"Rainwater," Tabby explained. "There are these things like veins, up at the tops of the houses. Whenever it rains, it brings the water down to this barrel here." Tabby flexed her powerful hind muscles and leaped upward, landing neatly on the top of the strange trunk. She began lapping up the water within. Snowpaw suddenly realizing how thirsty he was, and he sprang upwards as well, landing a bit awkwardly, but safely. Rainpaw, still feeling proud of his riddle-solving, tried to show off by jumping further into the air. Instead, he ended up falling straight into the water. Rainpaw bobbed to the surface, flailing. Quickly, Tabby grabbed him by his scruff and pulled him up, back onto the lip of the trunk. Rainpaw sat there, panting. The look on his sodden face made Snowpaw laugh, and Rainpaw glowered at him sourly.

"Try not to fall in," Tabby purred down to the other cats, her eyes glowing with amusement.

Snowpaw peered down into the water as it stilled, calming itself from Rainpaw's splashing. He frowned, thinking to himself. There was too much rainwater here to be from just one rain; this rain had been collecting for a long time, seasons even. Some of it might even be older than him, for all he knew.

The others sprang up and drank as well, until they all felt full and refreshed. They all turned and padded back to where Wander had gone, peering into the dark hole. What was inside?

"It is just an under-den," Tabby explained. "Some Twoleg nests have them. There are some like these which are small and unused, but there are some that are huge that Twolegs play in or store their things in." She padded forward, squeezing into the hole. Slowly, the other cats followed her, blinking in the dim light.

"There are mice in here, but they won't bother anyone," Wander said. "I caught a few for you." She flicked her tail, indicating several still bodies. Gratefully, the group settled down and began eating. Even as the delicious taste filled Snowpaw's mouth, weariness caused his eyes to droop. He finished off his mouse, and then yawned, curling into a ball. He felt Frostpaw's pelt on his left, Cricketpaw's on his right, and Tabby's restless tail on his flank, as he closed his eyes and drifted off.

He wasn't sure what woke him, hours later, only that something was missing. He sat up, blinking slowly and glancing around. Now with only the moon for light, the tiny den was even darker than before. Slowly, careful not to disturb his friends, Snowpaw sat up and glanced around, wondering what had caused him to wake. He yawned slowly and was about to lay down, when he realized what it was; the feeling of Tabby's tail on his pelt was missing.

Snowpaw glanced behind him, trying to see if she had moved, but he did not see her. Snowpaw frowned and stood again, padding towards the entrance while carefully stepping over the others, so he would not disturb them.

He squinted in the moonlight as he slinked out of the entrance, and then blinked as he saw Tabby, sitting on the water-stump and staring up at the moon, Snowpaw hesitated, unsure if he should disturb her or not, but curiosity drove him forward.

"Are you okay?"he asked, and Tabby turned around, startled. She blinked at him.

"I-I didn't realize you were there," she said, speaking slowly so that he could read her lips.

"Are you okay, though?" Snowpaw pressed. Tabby glanced away, the only reply Snowpaw needed. It only took a jump, and he was by her side, his tail pressed against her flank. "Want to tell me about it?"

Tabby stared into the water, watching her reflection. A slight breeze sent ripples across the glassy surface, distorting her face. She took so long to speak that Snowpaw didn't think she was going to reply at all, and he almost jumped when she did.

"It's just…being here," she said quietly. "It reminds me of when I lived here as just a kit…playing with my brothers, Stripe and Flare. Stripe was small, like Cricketpaw, and he died when he was only about two moons old, of disease…and then Flare died too, when a tomcat attacked our nest while my mother was away. Flare was at the front of the nest, and he tried to fight the tom off, while telling me to run…our mother got back in time to save me and watch him die." Tabby closed her eyes. "And then, two moons later, I lost her to a Thunderpath monster." She bowed her head. "I was only six moons old."

Snowpaw's eyes widened. He had been six moons old when the hawk had snatched him away, but he at least had his mother to love him, and Big and Ginger to play with. He couldn't imagine losing them all so early, before he was even six moons old.

"I knew I wouldn't make it very long on my own," Tabby said quietly, "it hurt me, but I had to find a Twoleg to take care of me until I was older. It felt like I was turning on my mother's memory, by running away to Twolegs; she was always scornful of kittypets. But she had always wanted something better for my brothers and I, and this was the only chance I would ever have to get it. I found a Twoleg, a kind elder, who took me in. She didn't have the resources for the cream and fish meals that some kittypets had, I only had the scraps of what she ate, but it was enough. She let me sleep at the foot of her bed, and sometimes spoke to me at night in a ragged voice. She had a strange little monster, a silver one with round paws, that followed her around. Its tail was attached to her face. I never figured out what the monster was for until the night she died."

Tabby closed her eyes. "One night she was sleeping, and the tail slid off of her face. Her breathing was more ragged than before, and woke me up. I didn't understand what was going on, until her breathing slowed and stopped all together. It was only then that I realized she needed it to breath. Several days before that, I found a bunch of images of dogs in a little folder in a drawer. She had been going to get a dog, I think, one that could be trained to take care of her. Instead, she picked me up off the streets…and I wasn't smart enough to just put the tail on, to figure out what it did for her." Tabby bowed her head, shaking slightly. "It's my fault she died."

Snowpaw pressed his pelt against hers in comfort. "It isn't your fault," he said. "How could you have known? You lived on the streets, you didn't know anything about monsters that helped Twolegs. Your mother was killed by one, it was right that you would be distrustful of it." He nosed her shoulder. "Have you told anyone this?"

"No," Tabby croaked. "Never."

The burden of knowledge was already beginning to weigh on Snowpaw, but he couldn't let Tabby bear this alone. "Go on then," he said. "Tell me everything."

"Are you sure?" Tabby asked. "You're so young, I don't want to…it was stupid of me to tell you these things, you shouldn't have to worry about them."

"I lost my family when I was six moons old too," he told her, "and I've done stupid things. We aren't too different, when it all comes down to it."

Tabby nodded slowly. "Alright," she said.

"It took the Twolegs next door three days to realize my Twoleg was dead. I didn't leave her side for those three days, hoping she would come back, hoping I wouldn't lose my family again. Blue and red flashing lights told me that monsters were here to take her away from me, and I knew I couldn't fight them. I slipped out the back door, in the little flap she had made. It was much bigger than myself, designed for a dog, but I hadn't realized it before. I sat on the fence and watched Twolegs wheel her away.

"And then I was on the streets again for another moon. I found Shaw, who had helped take care of my mother and I after my brothers died. He blamed himself for my mother's death; he thought that if he had visited that day like he usually did, bringing prey, my mother wouldn't have gone out to hunt for me. Maybe he was right, maybe he wasn't, but it didn't matter then. I stayed with Shaw for about a moon, but every day I woke up with memories. I visited the place where my brothers and I had played, I visited the nest where Flare had been killed, I visited the Thunderpath where my mother had died, and I visited my Twoleg's home. All of these battered me with memories, memories that I knew I could never escape…unless I did what my mother had always dreamed of. I had to leave the city.

"I told Shaw I was leaving and he bade me good luck, and then I left. I had never even been sure if the city did have limits; to most cats, it seemed endless. So, I picked a Thunderpath and I followed it, all the way out of the city, into that field that Moss and Slate are in now. I stayed there for a little while, catching field prey. It was a little hard compared to what I was used to, and the prey wasn't as big; in the city, mice are fat with kits and Twoleg garbage. Curiosity drove me into the forest, and there I met Slate.

"He didn't want anything to do with me at first, of course, and I don't blame him. I was persistent, however, and I had nowhere else to go. He finally just started ignoring me, and then gradually warming up to me. He showed me all sorts of things, hunting forest prey, fighting moves that were very different from those used in the city. And over the course of a moon, we bonded, and became very close. I…adored him. He was everything I wanted to be. He was strong, he was resilient, he was stoic, and he had his share of hardships as well.

"Sometimes he would disappear at night. I never thought anything of it, I just thought he was hunting or restless. But one night, I decided to follow him, as a little prank. I was going to pounce on him. However, as I followed him, I caught the scents of strange cats, cats I hadn't scented before. I caught up to him in a clearing, but hid rather than pounce. A chocolate she-cat padded forward and began speaking to him, about some sort of 'mission' and how he only lived in the forest 'because I allow it'. I then realized that Slate, while not a member of his strange group she spoke of, was a spy for them. He was supposed to spy on the other group of cats living in the forest, and kill one of them, their leader.

"But then, Slate began arguing with her, saying that he didn't want to work for her any more. He didn't need protecting and he was capable of fighting his own battles.

"The she-cat, Fear, slashed his face, and they began fighting." Tabby closed her eyes. "In the city, I had seen some very brutal fights…and this was one of them. For a soft-looking cat she held her own against Slate, and although he succeeded in driving her off, he was very badly wounded. I ran to his side as Fear fled, and he realized I knew everything. I knew I had to find help.

"I sought out the other cats, Lightning, Moss, and Mud. I thought they would turn us down, but to my surprise, they agreed to help. When Slate saw Lightning, he attempted to get to his feet and fight him, as if by defeating Lightning he would gain Fear's protection again. Lightning kept his distance and Moss tended to Slate's wounds. He blacked out.

"It was another half-moon until Slate was even able to do simple tasks, like walking around camp. Lightning granted us temporary sanctuary in his group, until Slate was healed. After that, Slate never again tried to raise a claw to Lightning. He was deeply grateful for what Lightning had done for him, and had sworn to protect Lightning, rather than try to hurt him. Slate and I stayed with Lightning's group until Slate was strong again. Then, Gleam and her kits were found in the forest, and when the group adopted her, we had somehow become permanent members."

"You don't think Slate was still with the Pride though, do you?" Snowpaw asked anxiously. "You don't think he stayed to hurt Moss, or anything?"

"He owes Moss his life," Tabby said simply, and then her eyes darkened. "And I know why he chose to stay. It was my fault."

Snowpaw blinked at her questioningly, and Tabby sighed. "I love him."

Snowpaw's eyes widened with surprise. "Does he love you?" he asked, and Tabby closed her eyes.

"I don't know," she whispered. "We grew so close, and I was so enamored of him…I loved him. I've loved him for moons now, ever since he took me in. I finally told him, several days ago. He was quiet for a long time, and then told me that it didn't matter what his feelings were for me, that we couldn't be mates. He wanted someone different for me, he wanted me to find a younger tom, one not so scarred by hardship. He wants me to fall in love with someone else. He decided to stay because he knew there might be a tom in the city somewhere for me…and he hoped that by spending time away from him, I would get over my feelings, realize it was all just a big crush." She shook her head. "I don't know whether he loves me or not, but it doesn't matter. Even if he does, he'll put his own feelings aside so that I will find a younger tom to be with, have more years with. I think he's afraid that if he died and left me alone again…that I might never recover."

Snowpaw didn't have any words, at that moment. He simply pressed his pelt against Tabby, offering the only comfort he could for a cat with such a hard past, and with a grim future. Tabby rested her chin on Snowpaw's head, drinking in his comfort, and they stayed like that together until the sun rose.

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