"I'm bored," Nutkit complained. "Let's go play in the warriors'
Yellowkit blinked at him. "Are you mouse-brained? The warriors
will rip our pelts off."
Three sunrises had passed since the quarrel with Raggedkit and
Scorchkit. Yellowkit still felt uneasy around them, and tried to
avoid them around the camp.
"You're a scaredy-mouse!" Nutkit taunted her. "Go on-peek under
the bush. I dare you!"
I can't back down now, Yellowkit thought, bracing herself as she
gazed across the clearing to the thick bramble bush where the
warriors slept. Like all the ShadowClan dens, theirs was a
shallow dip in the ground, sheltered by tightly woven thorns and
enclosed by the circle of brambles. The dens surrounded a
clearing beneath pine trees, with the entrance to the camp at one
end and a large lichen-covered rock, known as the Clanrock, at
Rowankit nudged Yellowkit. "Don't do it! Brightflower's got her
eye on us. Look over there." She angled her ears to where
Brightflower and Brackenfoot were sharing a vole beside the
fresh-kill pile. In between mouthfuls, Brightflower was turning
her head to check up on her kits.
A wave of affection for her mother washed over Yellowkit. I'm
glad I look like her, she thought. She had seen her own
reflection in a puddle once, and almost thought she was gazing at
a tiny copy of Brightflower. Though her pelt was gray, not orange
tabby like her mother's, she had the same broad, flat face, snub
nose, and wide-set amber eyes.
I want to be just like her, and just like my father, Yellowkit
thought.A warrior and a queen. I'll have lots of kits, and I'll
bring them up to be great warriors for our Clan.
"I know a game!" she announced. "You be my kits, and I'll teach
you how to catch frogs."
"Okay!" Rowankit sat in front of Yellowkit, and wrapped her tail
neatly around her paws.
Nutkit rolled his eyes, but said nothing as he came to sit beside
Yellowkit let out a hiss. "I never saw such untidy kits," she
scolded. "Nutkit, have you been rolling around in the brambles?
And Rowankit, just look at your chest fur. Give it a good lick
Rowankit let out a tiny mrrow of amusement as she started to lick
her chest fur. Nutkit wriggled as Yellowkit used her claws to
pick imaginary thorns out of his pelt.
"This is a dumb game," he muttered. "And your pelt's not so
Yellowkit gave him a light swat around the ear. "Don't you dare
speak to your mother like that!"
She stood back, checking her littermates' fur carefully, then
nodded. "Much better. Now, kits, listen up. We're going to learn
how to catch a frog. Nutkit, pay attention!" She flicked her tail
over her brother's ear as he watched the jerky flight of a white
butterfly. "The most important thing to remember about frogs is
that they jump."
"Can I be the frog? Can I?" Rowankit asked, bouncing up and down
in excitement. "I can jump really high!"
Yellowkit let out a sigh of exasperation. "No! You've got to
Brightflower was padding across the clearing toward them. Her
eyes were warm and amused. "That looks like a good game," she
meowed. "Yellowkit, you'll make a great queen one day."
"And a warrior!" Yellowkit insisted.
"Of course," Brightflower purred. "If that's what you want."
"It is! I'll be the best-" Yellowkit broke off as she spotted
Cedarstar emerging from his den beneath the oak tree.
The Clan leader bounded across the clearing and leaped up onto
the Clanrock. "Let all cats old enough to catch their own prey
join here beneath the Clanrock for a meeting!" he yowled.
Yellowkit turned to her mother. "What's happening?"
"Wait and see," Brightflower replied. "Come sit with me and your
Sweeping her tail around all three kits, Brightflower led them
across the clearing to where Brackenfoot sat beside the
fresh-kill pile. Meanwhile, more of the Clan cats were gathering.
Sagewhisker, the medicine cat, slid out from her den in the
shadow of the Clanrock and sat down facing her leader. Poolcloud,
her belly heavy with kits, hauled herself out of the nursery and
padded slowly over to the entrance of the warriors' den, where
her mate, Toadskip, had just appeared. Toadskip's apprentice,
Ashpaw, bounded up to join them. The other two apprentices,
Frogpaw and Newtpaw, broke off their play fight, shook their
pelts, and sat down to listen. Crowtail, Archeye, and Hollyflower
pushed their way out of the warriors' den.
Finally Raggedkit and Scorchkit appeared from the nursery,
followed by their mother, Featherstorm. Their fur was gleaming
and they paced proudly across the camp to stand at the front of
the crowd of cats.
Yellowkit suddenly realized what was going on. "They're being
"Shh!" Brightflower responded. "Nutkit, stop scratching your
"I wish it was our turn," Nutkit whispered to Yellowkit. "We've
got to wait forever."
Yellowkit nodded. "Four whole moons." Raggedkit and Scorchkit
look so grown-up, she thought. I can't believe I'll ever be an
Cedarstar looked down at the two older kits. "Cats of
ShadowClan," he began. "Today we are gathered for-"
Yellowkit squirmed, trying to get comfortable. Her hind paw was
tingling as if she'd stepped on a thorn. She twisted around,
lifting her pad in an attempt to see it.
Cedarstar broke off, looking down at her.
"Yellowkit!" Brightflower hissed. "Stop wriggling!"
"I've got a thorn in my paw!" Yellowkit wailed.
"Keep still, then. Let me look." Brightflower peered at
Yellowkit's paw, then gave it a brief sniff. "There's nothing
there," she snapped. "Stop fussing and listen to Cedarstar."
Yellowkit realized that all of her Clanmates were staring at her.
She wished that she could sink into the earth floor of the camp
and disappear. "Sorry," she muttered, hanging her head. Her paw
was still painful, but she gritted her teeth and tried to ignore
"Cats of ShadowClan," Cedarstar began again, "we are here for one
of the most important ceremonies in the life of any Clan, the
making of new apprentices. Raggedkit and Scorchkit have reached
their sixth moon, and it is time for them to begin their
A murmur of appreciation came from the surrounding cats, though
Yellowkit heard a quiet comment from Toadskip, who was sitting
nearby. "Training half kittypets!" he murmured into Archeye's
ear. "We'll be making hedgehogs into apprentices next."
Yellowkit started to bristle, but Raggedkit and Scorchkit hadn't
overheard their Clanmate's unkind words. The two kits stood with
their heads and tails erect and their whiskers quivering;
Yellowkit thought they looked as if they would burst with pride.
"Raggedkit, come forward." Cedarstar beckoned to the dark tabby
tom with his tail. "Brackenfoot," he went on, "you are ready for
another apprentice, and you will be mentor to Raggedpaw. I trust
you will pass on to him your warrior skills and your loyalty to
My father is going to be Raggedpaw's mentor! A tingle of jealousy
shot through Yellowkit. Now Brackenfoot will spend more time with
Raggedpaw than he does with us.
Brackenfoot dipped his head. "You can trust me, Cedarstar," he
Raggedpaw trotted toward him, and Brackenfoot stepped forward to
touch noses with his new apprentice.
As they withdrew into the circle of watching cats, Cedarstar
called Scorchkit forward. "Crowtail, Scorchpaw will be your first
apprentice," the Clan leader meowed. "You have proven yourself as
a warrior and I know you will pass on all that you have learned
Her eyes shining, the small black she-cat padded to the Clanrock
and gazed up at her leader. "I'll do my best, Cedarstar," she
Scorchpaw bounded over to her, and the two cats touched noses.
"Raggedpaw! Scorchpaw!" Every cat in the Clan yowled the new
names and pressed forward to congratulate the two new
apprentices. But Yellowkit and her littermates hung back.
"They're not so great," Nutkit muttered. "Wait till we're
apprentices. We'll show them!"
Now that the meeting was over, Yellowkit flopped down on one side
and brought her hind leg forward so that she could take a good
look at her paw. Pain was still throbbing through it. But however
much she probed between her pads, she couldn't find the thorn.
Sitting up, she saw that Brackenfoot and Crowtail were leading
their new apprentices through the gap in the brambles that
circled the camp.
They're going to see the territory, Yellowkit thought enviously.
I wish I could go with them. But right now she could hardly put
her hind paw to the ground. Maybe I should go see Sagewhisker.
But as Yellowkit made her way toward the medicine cat's den,
hopping awkwardly on three legs, she saw a patrol emerging from
the tunnel into the camp. Mudclaw was in the lead with Mousewing;
both were carrying mice. Nettlespot followed, dragging along a
squirrel nearly as big as she was. Deerleap, one of the most
senior warriors, had caught a blackbird. Last of all came the
young pale brown warrior Lizardstripe, limping as if her hind paw
was hurting her too.
"Better see Sagewhisker about that thorn," Mudclaw mumbled around
his mouthful of prey. "Your paw might get infected if it's not
"I'm on my way." Lizardstripe sounded irritated. "This is the
last time I go chasing mice underneath a thornbush." She limped
past Yellowkit and vanished between the rocks into the medicine
Yellowkit waited patiently until Lizardstripe emerged again, this
time walking almost normally. "Thanks, Sagewhisker," the warrior
called over her shoulder.
Sagewhisker poked her head out from her den. "Give it a good
lick," she instructed. "And see me again tomorrow so I can make
sure it hasn't gotten infected."
Yellowkit stumbled forward, ready to tell Sagewhisker about the
thorn in her own foot, but when she put her hind paw on the
ground, she realized the pain had gone. The thorn must have
fallen out. She looked around her, trying to see it on the grass,
but there was nothing that looked sharp enough. Oh well, as long
as it doesn't hurt anymore. She pressed her paw harder on the
ground, making sure it was truly better.
"Hey, Yellowkit!" Rowankit's voice interrupted her.
Yellowkit looked up to see both her littermates standing beside a
broken tree stump not far from the elders' den. New branches had
started to sprout from the remains of the trunk, making a shady
"Come over here!" Nutkit squealed. "We've found a fox and her
cubs. We've got to drive them out of our camp!"
For a heartbeat Yellowkit believed him, and her neck fur
bristled. Then she realized this was just another game. Oh, yes,
the elders will make really scary foxes!
Silverflame was peering out of the elders' den as Yellowkit
bounded over to join her littermates. Her fur stood on end and
her teeth were bared. "This is our den!" Silverflame hissed.
"Stay away, or I'll strip your fur off and feed you to my cubs!"
"Go on, attack them!" Littlebird peered over Silverflame's
shoulder. With her ginger pelt she looked a lot like a fox cub.
"I just fancy a nice fat kit!"
"No!" Yellowkit yowled. "This is ShadowClan's camp! No foxes
She hurled herself at Silverflame, trying to grab ahold of the
old she-cat's fur. Silverflame batted at her with soft paws, her
claws sheathed. Rowankit and Nutkit raced past them into the den.
"Out! Out!" Nutkit squeaked.
Yellowkit and Silverflame rolled into the open; Yellowkit ended
up on top, clinging to Silverflame's belly fur. "Do you give in?"
she demanded. "No more eating cats?"
"No more, I promise," Silverflame responded. Then she let out a
gusty sigh. "Go on, my old bones won't stand much more of this."
As Yellowkit bounced off her, Silverflame sat up and shook her
gray-and-orange pelt, panting a little as she caught her breath.
She blinked affectionately at Yellowkit and a purr rose in her
throat. "Well fought, little one," she mewed. "I can see you're
going to be one of the best warriors in ShadowClan."
You're right about that, thought Yellowkit, her chest swelling
with pride. Watch out, foxes!