“I’m bored,” Nutkit complained. “Let’s go play in the warriors’ den.”
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 the other.
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 Rowankit.
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 right
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 great, either.”
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 listen.”
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 father.”
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
Yellowkit suddenly realized what was going on. “They’re being made apprentices!”
“Shh!” Brightflower responded. “Nutkit, stop scratching your ear.”
“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 apprentice.
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 it.
“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 training.”
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 your Clan.”
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 meowed.
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 to him.”
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 responded.
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
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 seen to.”
“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 cat’s
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 allowed!”
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!
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