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Rowanclaw

I painted the 'Rowanstar' and the scar on myself.

Hi, all users! :3 I really love Rowanclaw, the ShadowClan deputy, and Blackstar has lived way too long, and he's become a pretty easily-tricked, dumb, battle-hungry, elderly kitteh, so I thought I'd write a fanfic about how his deputy succeeds him.

StoryEdit

Rowanclaw's fur bristled with worry as the ShadowClan deputy watched the medicine cat, Littlecloud, run into the leaders' den with a bunch of leaves and berries in his jaws.

It had been a hard, prey-scarce, sickly, long leaf-bare, and Dawnpelt, Ivytail, and Ratscar had fallen ill. Dawnpelt, Rowanclaw's own daughter, had become sick with only whitecough, thank StarClan, and had been nursed back to health under the gentle care of Littlecloud. Ivytail had been the same, but ill for longer, and the Clan was low on catmint, so the black, white and tortoiseshell she-cat's voice was still hoarse from her bout of whitecough, but Ratscar's had quickly become greencough, and he had almost joined StarClan, since his arrogant pride had not let Littlecloud treat him with much herbs, and he had spat that Littlecloud should save them for other cats, although no others had been ill, thankfully, but the medicine cat had refused to be discouraged by the ill ShadowClan warrior's sharpness, and had continued to heal Ratscar's cough. But none of that seemed to matter when Rowanclaw thought about what was currently happening: The ShadowClan leader, Blackstar himself, was badly sick with greencough, and had been for several days.

It seemed like seasons since Blackstar had begun spluttering while leading a hunting patrol of Oakfur, Scorchpaw, Ratscar and Whitewater.

When Oakfur had taken the lead and headed back to camp, while Ratscar, Scorchpaw and Whitewater were left behind, and created a smaller patrol of their own to continue hunting, and Oakfur had brought the Clan leader into the medicine den, Rowanclaw had overheard the small brown tom explaining hurriedly to Littlecloud that Blackstar had begun coughing while on a hunting on patrol, and Rowanclaw had picked up the scents of Littlecloud, Oakfur and Blackstar, mingled with the bittersweet tang of healing herbs, as Littlecloud began sniffing Blackstar's white fur, and eventually announced that Blackstar had a faint smell of illness on him.

Now, Rowanclaw heaved himself to his paws, and sprinted to the leader's den, hurried by caring for his leader but still terrorfied at the thought of what he would find in there. He called softly into the den, and Littlecloud's mew greeted him, his tone full of worry: "Come in." Rowanclaw gulped, then slipped into the hot gloom.

As the ShadowClan deputy ventured deeper into the den, the stink of illness, strong as the smell of salty water if he had been drowning in the lake, hit the scent glands on the roof of his mouth, and invaded his nose, making him sniffle and cough, and he curled his lip to drive the sickly stench out of his nostrils, and he forced his paws to carry him deeper into the smelly den, until a strong scent of Blackstar mixed with the sick smell. Rowanclaw didn't hear any yelps of agony or coughs from his leader, so he relaxed, until a dash of cold sunlight, showing that sunhigh had approached, filtered into the den, making Rowanclaw blink, and he glanced back at his leader, which had been a lump of pale outline in the dark, and Rowanclaw's neck fur bristled, and he swallowed a howl of disbelief at what he saw. Blackstar, who had once been a highly-respected, strong, proud leader, was now just a pile of ragged, pale fur, barely rising and falling to show he was breathing. His pelt was tangled and dusty, as if he was too weak to wash himself, Rowanclaw could see his teeth, broken and yellowed, as the ShadowClan leader's jaws gaped in a silent yowl of pain, his once-powerful legs were splayed out awkwardly, every one of his ribs showed through his ragged, smelly white pelt, and as Rowanclaw looked closer, he noticed small pools of scarlet liquid--blood--soaking his chest fur and bubbling on the smooth floor of the den, and trickling from his mouth, and bits of saliva-soaked leaf was mixed in with the blood, as if Blackstar had coughed the blood and herbs Littlecloud had given him, up. Rowanclaw sat, curling his tail over his paws, and trying not to throw up at the disgusting sight.

The brown-striped muzzle of the medicine cat and his horrorfied amber eyes appeared from the shadows. "H-he's finally s-sleeping." Littlecloud meowed. The brown tabby padded out of the shadows. "Rowanclaw, I need more catmint to treat Blackstar with, and I can't leave him. Could you lead a patrol to go find some?" Rowanclaw stifled a snort. Warriors weren't supposed to go herb-gathering! He was supposed to be assessing the training of the Clan apprentices, re-marking the borders, and hunting food for his Clan! But then a voice entered his head: Do as Littlecloud tells you. Leaf-bare is ending. Your own leader is dying from sickness, and the catmint-gathering won't take long. Just put another warrior in charge of camp for a minute. Everything'll be fine! Rowanclaw muttered, "Yes" and looked at the medicine cat. "I'll leave right away." Littlecloud nodded, his yellow eyes glowing with gratitude. Rowanclaw turned and padded out of the leader's den.

After about a minute, Rowanclaw exited the den and padded into the camp clearing, marshy and shadowed, despite the pale light streaming through the thin canopy of pine leaves. Rowanclaw sat down, curled his tail over his paws, sat up straight, and yowled, "Warriors and apprentices, gather to be organized into patrols!" In a few seconds, almost every ShadowClan warrior and apprentice emerged into the clearing.

Whitewater padded forward. "Ratscar's started coughing again, and he feels unusually warm," the one-eyed white warrior explained. "His fever may have returned. I'll get Littlecloud to look at him. He's sleeping right now, and I didn't think it was good to wake him." Rowanclaw nodded in approval, although the news sent his heart even lower down, and fastened its nervous beat. Ratscar had taken Blackstar prey and slept beside him for half an hour, anxious for his sick leader, yesterday, and he had come to speak to Littlecloud while the tabby medicine cat had been feeding Blackstar the remains of his catmint stock the day before that. Had the formerly-ill warrior become sick again from visiting the Clan leader? Rowanclaw shook his head to dislodge these troubled thoughts. He needed to think clearly so he could give out orders for patrols that would keep the Clan safe and fit so no more cats would fall ill, and so that Dawnpaw, Rowanclaw's daughter, and Ivytail, Rowanclaw's own former apprentice, wouldn't become feverish again. The deputy cleared his mind, organized some thoughts based on patrols, then meowed: "You all know that our leader, Blackstar, is sick with greencough. We don't want more cats falling ill, so I will double the patrols for a few days. Blackstar should get better, or at least get past the worst of his cough, by then. I'm going to send out more hunting patrols to fetch food so that the Clan can stay strong and well-fed. The prey should be venturing out of their burrows now that newleaf has almost begun, but I won't make too many cats go out a day. I want us to have lots of sleep to keep our strength up, and border patrols will be increased less. Most of ThunderClan haven't been acting very peacefully recently, so we need to make our markers strong and fresh, and any cat that crosses the border should be shredded, but don't kill them. We still follow the warrior code, no matter what, and mentors will need to increase and speed up the training of their apprentices. We must show our rivals that if they decide to attack, we will be more than ready." He paused until the howls of agreement died down, then he went on: "Smokefoot, take a hunting party of Owlpaw and Tawnypelt. Snaketail, I'm trusting you with a border patrol of Kinkfur, Crowfrost and Oakfur. Oh, and tomorrow morning, I'll take Oakfur and Ivytail out, so they can assess the skills of their apprentices, Dawnpaw and Tigerpaw, along with me, and see if I shall organize a warrior ceremony tommorrow night."

Tigerpaw and Dawnpaw, who was crouched at the edge of the clearing, yowled happily, and Rowanclaw continued: "Dawnpaw, bring prey to the elders, and clean out the bedding in the apprentices', warriors' and elders' den. Bring prey to and clean out the nest of, Blackstar, too. Be careful when entering the leader's den. Whitewater, ask the medicine cat for some feverfew to give Ratscar, then take him for a short walk so Dawnpaw can have lots of space to clean out the nests in the warriors' den."

Smokefoot and Snaketail gathered up their patrols and left, Whitewater hurried after Littlecloud, who was entering the medicine den, but Dawnpaw stayed where she was as Rowanclaw called: "Tigerpaw, you can come with me to collect the catmint, so we can carry a bigger load in one small journey." Dawnpaw's pale cream fur bristled. "How come I have to clean out stinky nests when Tigerpaw gets to go out into the forest to fetch sweet herbs? Ivytail hasn't taken me out today!" she spat. Tigerpaw flexed his claws into the soft earth. "Why do I have to act as the pretty little medicine cat apprentice? Flamepaw gets to go to the Moonpool on his own tonight, because Littlecloud's too busy with Blackstar, but why can't Flamepaw go with you? Oakfur's totally forgotten about me, 'couse he's patrolling! He promised he'd teach me a new battle move today!" Rowanclaw sighed. His kits could be so fussy. "Flamepaw is making leaf wraps for Blackstar!"

An idea flashed into his head that would silence Tigerpaw and Dawnpaw. "Well, do you want to switch jobs? Tigerpaw can refresh the dens' nests, and Dawnpaw can collect the catmint with me." The two littermates exchanged uncertain glances, then nodded. "Herb-gathering is boring, but I want to see how Blackstar is when I clean out his nest." Tigerpaw agreed. Dawnpaw's whiskers twitched excitedly. "I like fighting, but I love the idea of sniffing out the strong-smelling plants, and healing my Clanmates." She trotted up to Rowanclaw, and Tigerpaw disappeared into the elders' den to clean it up.

Rowanclaw tore another mouthful off his vole. He and Dawnpaw had found plenty of catmint, and given it to Littlecloud, and all the nests were fresh and clean, and the elders and leader fed, thanks to Tigerpaw, Redpaw, and Scorchpaw. It was the next morning, and Oakfur, Ivytail, Rowanclaw, and the apprentices, Tigerpaw and Dawnpaw, were all eating, getting ready to go out for the day on Tigerpaw and Dawnpaw's final assessement.

Rowanclaw picked the vole bones clean, crunched them up into a bitter powder, which he swallowed, with his teeth, gave his fur a quick cleanse with his rough tongue, then rose to his paws.

Ivytail, Oakfur and Tigerpaw were sitting together outside the entrance to the warriors' den, sharing tongues, while Dawnpaw twisted and jumped around nearby, trying to catch fallen leaves. Rowanclaw stretched his limbs, purring in amusement as he watched his creamy-furred daughter. Dawnpaw would be nicely warmed up for the assessment. The ShadowClan deputy padded quickly over. "Everyone finished their meals?" he asked. Ivytail was stretched out on her side, revealing her soft white belly, while Oakfur groomed her shoulder fur. Tigerpaw had dropped into a hunting crouch and was creeping up behind his sister, who was prodding a leaf which was torn from where her claws had snagged in its smooth green material while she was trying to grab it from the air. Toadfoot pushed past Oakfur's broad, brown-pelted back just as Rowanclaw addressed the mentors. "Are you finished washing?" he asked.

Rowanclaw glanced up at the sky, clear and blue, with a very pale orange still glowing on the horizon from where the sun had risen. The hot yellow circle was halfway up the sky. "It's about half an hour till sunhigh, and I thought we could start the assessment early, so the apprentices have plenty of time to show off their skills before dusk comes." And so I have lots of time to think up their warrior names, Rowanclaw added silently. He had been so distracted by the Clan leader having greencough, and the fact that two of his own kits were about to become warriors, that he hadn't thought of their full names. He usually relyed on Blackstar to think up names, and he had always been grateful that he could just sit back, relax, and calmly hope that the apprentices liked their new names.

He was sent back into the present by a surprised squeak from Dawnpaw just in time to hear Ivytail's answer to his question: "Yes, we're fine. This would be a good time to begin the asessement. I'll go get the apprentices." Rowanclaw's gaze followed the white-and-tortoiseshell she-cat across the clearing to where Tigerpaw and Dawnpaw were wrestling beside the fresh-kill pile, throwing mud, dust and newly-fallen leaves onto the pile of prey. The tabby tom was close enough to hear Dawnpaw's mentor scolding the two littermates, and sending them scurrying across the shady camp clearing to their father and Tigerpaw's mentor Oakfur. The tom flicked his tail over both young cats' shoulders. "Tigerpaw, Dawnpaw, calm down. You need to be good, concentrating listeners if you're going to pass this assessment and reach the rank of a warrior tonight. It's going to be a long, tiring day, and you'll have to stay awake and be silent while performing your night post-ceremony vigil, so save your energy for the tasks that lie ahead. We'll rest and eat few times, too." Oakfur's serious words seemed to relax and focus the apprentices, since they fell apart, sat up, and began to quietly lick the mud and dust from their pelts. Suddenly, an angry yowl split the calm air in the clearing, and Rowanclaw, along with Ivytail, Oakfur, Tigerpaw and Dawnpaw, whipped around to see what all the noise was about. The dark brown shape of Toadfoot stood beside the sheltered fresh-kill pile, turning over a plump frog. He looked up, eyes flashing darkly. Confident that he had the patrol's attention, he flexed his shoulder muscles and meowed loudly, "The fresh-kill pile is caked in mud, and bits of damp leaf are sticking out of every piece of prey!" Toadfoot glared accusingly at Tigerpaw and his sister. Bravely, Dawnpaw stepped forward. "Sorry, Toadfoot," she mewed, scuffing the ground nervously with her forepaws, "Me and Tigerpaw were play-fighting near the fresh-kill pile. We made it dirty. We'll clean it up now." Toadfoot's mud-coloured tail was still bristling, and Rowanclaw expected a few more furious words to escape the grouchy warrior's lips, but, to the deputy's surprise, there was a warm glint in Toadfoot's eye. His fur flattened."It doesn't matter, Dawnpaw. You're good for speaking up and not hiding the truth. I approve of that. I will clean off the fresh-kill pile." As the warrior turned away to begin the task, he threw a couple of words over his shoulder: "Just be more careful in the future."

"Look what I caught!" Rowanclaw raised his head until it was clear of the clump of mud-splashed pondweed he'd been sniffing around in at the sound of his daughter's voice. The dark ginger tabby shook muddy water from his thick fur, then waded through the mud and reeds until the ground sloped up a little. Soaked, dirty pebbles clattered down into the marshy, cold water, and the raised, wide, strong, mud-caked roots of an old pine tree snaked into the bog. Rowanclaw unsheathed his claws, dug them into the biggest root, and hauled himself onto the pine needle-covered, firmer, slightly drier ground above the water.

He picked up Dawnpaw's scent, strong and mixed with the scent of warm prey, which meant that she was nearby, and that she had made a kill. Rowanclaw padded across the muddy ground and through clumps of reeds, past the arching roots of trees, until his daughter's scent grew so strong that she could be on the other side of the clump of mallow growing right in front of Rowanclaw's nose. He parted the leaves with a hefty, dark ginger paw, and saw the creamy shape of Dawnpaw standing over a small heap of gray fur. Her father padded up, and she drew herself away from the pile of fluffy fur so Rowanclaw could see it properly. In the cool, late morning sunlight, Rowanclaw saw that the heap of gray fur was a squirrel. It had black stripes running across its back, legs, head and tail, and the ShadowClan deputy noticed a large nut sitting beside the dead squirrel. Eating distracted it from Dawnpaw's approach. A good find, Rowanclaw thought, his heart glowing with pride. Dawnpaw was turning into the finest hunter in ShadowClan. The prey was very fat, too; unusually plump for the beginning of newleaf. Rowanclaw would expect this as a lucky find for a senior warrior in the middle of a very kind greenleaf, not from an apprentice just at the end of leaf-bare.

Rowanclaw sniffed the fresh-kill. It smelled funny. Just at that moment, he realized that the nut it had been nibbling while Dawnpaw was creeping up on it was not a pine nut--it was a beech nut. He smelled that. It had the same strange, achingly familiar scent as the actual prey. Rowanclaw's heart darkened with suspicion. He'd have a word with the squirrel's hunter about it. Rowanclaw turned and padded over to where Dawnpaw was washing a front paw with her tongue and drawing it over one pale-coloured ear. "Dawnpaw," he meowed, "I would like to speak with you about the squirrel." Dawnpaw paused from her washing, one paw still raised, her tongue half-out, her eyes beginning to glitter with caution and worry. Then she gave herself a bit of a calming shake, and dropped her paw onto a leaf, slipping her tongue back into her mouth. "What?" she asked. Rowanclaw's suspicion that Dawnpaw knew she'd done something bad grew, and he mewed sternly, "I smelled the fresh-kill. And the nut. Their scent was strange and unfamilar. Where did you catch it?" Dawnpaw's neck fur bristled, but she forced it flat again and meowed nervously, "Er, around h-here, I guess...where else would I catch it? A Clan uses its territory to provide it with food."

Rowanclaw could sense that the apprentice was choosing her words carefully. "Were you close to the border?" Rowanclaw pressed, a bit more gently. He knew that Dawnpaw would not tell the truth if it looked like the cat talking to her suspected she was lying, like Rowanclaw was beginning to. Dawnpaw's tail-tip twitched. "Yeah, I was." "Which border?" "The one with ThunderClan." Rowanclaw's heart raced. It was time to ask Dawnpaw openly. She was dropping too many nervous hints that didn't fit together. Rowanclaw took a deep breath, then meowed, "Dawnpaw, I'm suspicious. You were hunting close to the ThunderClan border. The prey and nut smelled weird. Also, there was no cuts in the nut that would suggest a squirrel had been nibbling on it. I'm asking you now exactly where you caught that squirrel, where that un-eaten nut, and where the strange scent on them all came from. Tell me now." Dawnpaw gulped, her fur bristling. She took a deep breath, tensing her muscles, then blurted out: "I'm sorry, father!" Her voice was barely less than a horrified wail, and she dropped her voice lower: "I'm sorry! I'll admit it: I didn't catch that squirrel. That squirrel didn't eat the nut. Neither even came from ShadowClan territory. I cheated. I went across the border into ThunderClan territory, keeping to the shadows, and rolled in a thick clump of mushrooms to hide my ShadowClan scent. I saw a ThunderClan patrol of Lionblaze and Cloudtail along with a gray-and-white tom with a faint, strange smell of kittypet mixed with the scent of dried grass mixed in with his much stronger ThunderClan scent that I didn't recognize, led by Firestar's mate Sandstorm. Cloudtail was burying something in the leaves at the roots of the old beech tree in ThunderClan territory, and the gray-and-white cat and Sandstorm were both carrying a plump vole, while Lionblaze held two wood mice and a pigeon, so I guessed it was a hunting patrol. Then they went off deeper into ThunderClan territory, and I pushed away all the leaves at the spot where Cloudtail had buried his thing, and saw that it was a squirrel. A very plump one. I couldn't find anything in our territory, so I snatched up Cloudtail's catch and went over the border, back into ShadowClan territory, and rolled in one of our scent marks so no cat would think I've been out of ShadowClan territory, picked up a nut from the roots of the ThunderClan beech tree, then came here, dropped the squirrel, which I'd quickly rolled in the ShadowClan scent markers, too, put the nut beside it as though it had been nibbling it, then yowled that I'd made a kill. I thought it would trick everyone."

She was out of breath by the time she'd finished her story, and gulped in air. Rowanclaw could not believe it. "Dawnpaw, you've broken the warrior code by going across the border and getting prey in a rival Clan's territory." "But I didn't hunt there!" "But you stole the catch of a cat from another Clan, in another Clan's territory! That's even worse. It'd be bad enough if you stole one of your Clanmates' prey stashes. That was a terrible twist of the warrior code you made, Dawnpaw. And on your final assessment! I'm very disappointed in you." Suddenly, Dawnpaw's eyes widened in utter horror. "You won't tell the others, will you? Will you stop me from becoming a warrior?" Rowanclaw's tail flicked. "I should delay your warrior ceremony and make you watch your brother become a warrior before you. I should make you stay as an apprentice, and make you look after the elders for the next moon, and not let you ask any fellow apprentices for help. I should tell the Clan all the details of your code-breaking." Rowanclaw's eyes softened, and his voice became gentle and forgiving as he meowed: "But I won't. I'm as excited as you that the day of your last assessment has finally come. And you showed great skill and instinct to hide your secret, although it was in the form of breaking the warrior code. You can become a warrior tonight with your brother. But I will tell your mentor about your rule-twisting, and leave it up to her to give you a punishment tomorrow." Dawnpaw's light, creamy fur fluffed up. "You-you can't! Ivytail'll have my pelt for nest lining!" Rowanclaw couldn't keep back a mrrow of laughter. "You'll be very lucky indeed if she doesn't, Dawnpaw. Now, pick up that squirrel and follow me. Let's find out how Tigerpaw, Oakfur and Ivytail are doing."

Rowanclaw dropped the two voles he'd caught onto the fresh-kill pile on top of Dawnpaw's ThunderClan squirrel. He, Dawnpaw, Tigerpaw and Ivytail had returned from the assessement, and the two mentors and deputy were happy with the apprentices' progress.

Before they had gone hunting, the cats had tested Dawnpaw and her littermate with some battle techniques. The apprentices' skill had been phenomenal. Rowanclaw glanced up at the sky, which was becoming scarlet with twilight, and the puffy clouds had turned from white to pale orange.

Dawnpaw, Tigerpaw and Ivytail were eating along with the rest of the Clan at the evening meal, and as Rowanclaw picked up a plump thrush for his own supper and went to join the two apprentices and mentor, he began to wonder if Oakfur would manage to return in time for the ceremony. When he and Dawnpaw had caught up with Ivytail earlier, Tigerpaw had appeared from behind a mud-splashed clump of bracken, and had reported that his mentor had left him to hunt peacefully on his own and renew the border markers, and would return to camp soon after evening mealtime.

Rowanclaw looked up at the sky and saw the small, blazing, pale yellow circle of the sun disappearing behind the horizon just as he heard rushed pawsteps in the entrance tunnel, and looked down in time to see Oakfur burst into the camp, brown flanks heaving, and two magpies and a fat lizard in his jaws. The tired warrior padded heavily across the clearing, dropped his prey onto the fresh-kill pile, picked up a frog, and flopped down beside Rowanclaw. When he'd got his breath back, Oakfur rose to his paws and faced his deputy. "Sorry I'm late! I was thinking so hard about something while marking the border, I lost track of time, and when I glanced up and saw the dusk sky, I was worried I'd missed the ceremony, so I came racing back here." He took a deep breath, let it out slowly, then took a bite from his frog.

Nervous butterflies fluttered in Rowanclaw's belly. It had begun to grow dark, the Clan's evening meal was finished, and it was time for his kits' warrior ceremony. He pushed down his nervousness. He had been waiting for this moment from the second he had first slipped into the nursery to visit Tawnypelt when she'd given birth to Flamekit, Tigerkit and Dawnkit. He licked his bristling fur flat, cleared his mind with a deep breath, then unsheathed his claws and scrambled up onto the Highstump, Blackstar's vantage point to call Clan meetings and ceremonies. He sighed when he thought of Blackstar. When cats had begun to share tongues or catch up on their sleep before the ceremony, Rowanclaw had visited his leader. The huge white-furred tom had looked a bit better than had had at Rowanclaw's last visit yesterday morning. His amber eyes, which had been clouded and dull, were clear again, though still too-bright with greencough, and, although the ShadowClan deputy could still count Blackstar's ribs, the Clan leader had had a large, half-eaten magpie at his hefty, dark-coloured paws. The medicine cat, Littlecloud, had been grooming Blackstar's light-coloured, tangled, rough, messy pelt, while his apprentice, Flamepaw, Rowanclaw's third kit, pushed a leaf wrap gently toward the sick leader.

Rowanclaw dug his claws deep into the rough bark of the Highstump to steady himself, then yowled the familiar summons: "Let all cats old enough to catch their own prey gather beneath the Highstump for a Clan meeting!" Almost instantly, cats began to slip out of all the dens, some going into the dens to wake others up for the ceremony and soon, the whole of ShadowClan was huddled in the clearing. Rowanclaw's heart warmed and the beat of it seemed to become slow and steady when he saw the black-and-brown shape of his mate, Tawnypelt, pad out of the warriors' den with Tigerpaw on one side of her and Dawnpaw on the other. All the three cats' pelts were sleek and glossy, and their eyes shone with pride as the crowd of cats parted to let Tawnypelt and her two kits through, until they stood just below Highstump, and, as Tawnypelt gave each of the apprentices an encouraging lick on the ear, the Clan began to back away slightly, leaving an open space around Tigerpaw and Dawnpaw, who, Rowanclaw noticed, were shivering with nervousness, and their eyes were stretched wide in awe as their father leaped down from Highstump and stood in front of his two kits, and their mother backed away to join the throng of her Clanmates, leaving space for Dawnpaw's mentor, Ivytail, and Tigerpaw's mentor, Oakfur, to step forward to stand beside their apprentices, tails curled neatly over their paws and eyes sparkling. They might be remembering when the Clan leader performed this ceremony for them, Rowanclaw thought as he meowed: "Ivytail, are you confident that Dawnpaw is ready to become a warrior?" The black, white and tortoiseshell she-cat nodded. "Dawnpaw performed well in the assessment today. I couldn't be more proud of her." Rowanclaw dipped his head approvingly, and turned to Oakfur. "Are you happy with Tigerpaw's skill?" Rowanclaw asked the brown tom. Oakfur nodded like Ivytail. "Tigerpaw is very strong and proud, and I believe he can easily live up to his father's skill, bravery and loyalty." Rowanclaw nodded, his ears twitching with embarrasement at Oakfur's praise.

After the two mentors dipped their heads low in respect to their deputy, then disappeared into the crowd of ShadowClan cats, Rowanclaw looked up at the sky, which was a very dark blue with ragged patches of black cloud scudding across it, and the silver moon floating like a large droplet of dew on it, with tiny white stars scattered acround the moon. Rowanclaw focused his gaze on the brightest one. "I, Rowanclaw, deputy of ShadowClan, call upon my warrior ancestors to look down on these two apprentices. They have trained hard to understand the ways of your noble code, and I commend them to you as warriors in their turn." Rowanclaw took a deep breath, then dropped his gaze from the night sky to the two apprentices, his son and daughter. "Tigerpaw, Dawnpaw, do you promise to uphold the warrior code and protect and defend this Clan, even at the cost of your lives?" he asked, already knowing their excited answer. "I do." Tigerpaw meowed strongly, and his sister echoed his words: "I do." Rowanclaw gave a tiny nod of his head, then meowed, turning to Dawnpaw, "Then by the powers of StarClan, I give you your warrior names. Dawnpaw, from this moment on you will be known as Dawnpelt. StarClan honours your bravery and beforethought, and we welcome you as a full warrior of ShadowClan." Rowanclaw rested his muzzle on top of Dawnpelt's head, just he'd watched Blackstar do so many times with other new warriors, and he knew Dawnpelt would respond by licking his shoulder fur, which she did, and the Clan deputy stepped back, looking at Tigerpaw. "And, by the powers of StarClan, I give you your warrior name. Tigerpaw, from this moment on you will be known as Tigerheart. StarClan honours your strength and loyalty, and we welcome you as a full warrior of ShadowClan."

They ended the ceremony with the same part of the ritual Rowanclaw had performed with Dawnpelt, and, after Rowanclaw flicked his tail to signal the end of the meeting, the cats broke up into chattering knots. Rowanclaw raised his voice above the excited murmuring. "According to ancient traditions, Tigerheart and Dawnpelt will sit vigil tonight, staying awake and silent till dawn, to guard the Clan and reflect on their new names and status."

Toadfoot padded toward the fresh-kill pile, his brown pelt glowing in the silvery moonlight washing the camp, and yowled: "This calls for a meal before the new warriors sit vigil!" The Clan yowled in agreement, and Toadfoot began flinging pieces of prey across the clearing, which the cats raced for, while some hurried over to the heap of prey to choose their food. Dawnpelt and Tigerheart were raised up onto their haunches, watching a plump mouse fly through the air toward them. It hit Tigerheart softly in the shoulder, unbalancing him, and he collapsed into a heap of dark tabby fur, allowing Dawnpelt to snatch up the mouse and dig in. Tigerheart scrambled to his paws, flicked his sleek tail irritably at the sight of his littermate eating the prey, and lept over to the fresh-kill pile to fetch a meal of his own. Rowanclaw padded forward, selected a fat water vole, and sat with the two former mentors, Ivytail and Oakfur, to eat. Ivytail was ripping the last couple of mouthfuls from a toad, but Oakfur didn't have anything of his own to eat, so Rowanclaw shared his with the small, brown-furred warrior.

Horrorfied howling woke Rowanclaw. He blinked open his eyes, and saw gray light flowing steadily into the warriors' den. He leaped to his paws, licked clinging bits of moss and feathers from his nest out of his thick fur, and padded groggily out of the snug den, his mind clouded and drowsy, and his legs weak. It was cold outside, and he looked up at the sky. Straight up, without the sun stinging his eyes, and he realized that the sky was covered with a thick layer of gray-black cloud, unmoving. It completely covered the sun, and a chill breeze ruffled Rowanclaw's pelt. A faint, deep orange glow showed on the horizon. The ShadowClan deputy realized that it was only dawn, and it seemed like it was mid leaf-fall. The dark ginger tabby sniffed the air. Rain was on the way. On the other side of the camp, a big throng of his Clanmates were gathered near the entrance to the leader's den, yowling. Rowanclaw, his mind cleared, padded over and slipped into a spot between Kinkfur and Scorchpaw near the front, and saw Littlecloud, the Clan's medicine cat, standing in an empty space at the entrance to the den, blocking the way. Flamepaw hurried to his mentor's side, ginger fur bristling. "Don't come any closer," Littlecloud warned, "Blackstar is the most ill he's been so far. We don't want the sickness spreading. I've already had to cure Dawnpelt, Ratscar and Ivytail, and Whitewater noticed that Ratscar began coughing again after he spent time with Blackstar, told me, and we managed to get rid of his fever before it got any worse. The illness spreads very easily, so I want two cats to guard the entrance to Blackstar's den until our leader gets better, but even guards will not be allowed to fully enter the den. Flamepaw and I are now the only cats permitted to enter Blackstar's den. Cats who disobey the rules and become sick will not be tended to. Their clumsiness will be their own problem. Me and my apprentice need to devote all our time and healing herbs to Blackstar."

Kinkfur spoke up, her voice deeply troubled. "But what if you and Flamepaw get sick? Who will look after the Clan then? It would matter much less if a warrior or apprentice fell ill and died." Littlecloud shook his head. "A Clan needs all the warriors it can get, Kinkfur. And medicine cats are specially gifted by StarClan so they can take care of the sick. It takes a lot to make us fall ill." Kinkfur said nothing, just turned away. Rowanclaw glanced around the clearing and noticed a thin pile of pine leaves, flattened into the shape of two cats, lying in the center of the clearing. The deputy guessed that was where Tigerheart and Dawnpelt, who were now sitting a few tail-lengths away from their father, had sat vigil last night. It wasn't part of the ancient ritual to make a nest for a warrior vigil--the new warriors were supposed to show they were enduring and loyal to the warrior code by dealing with having their vigil on cold, bare earth--but Rowanclaw couldn't blame them; It had been icy even in the warriors' den that night.

Rowanclaw heard Owlpaw nearby: "Will Blackstar get better soon? ShadowClan will be nothing without him!" Rowanclaw's neck fur bristled with anger at the apprentice's words, but he stayed silent. Had the dumb apprentice forgotten that ShadowClan had a good deputy who would take Blackstar's place if the leader died?

Littlecloud looked at the young tom who had spoken. "Only StarClan knows, Owlpaw. I'm doing all I can for our leader, but in the end, it's in the paws of our warrior ancestors." Then the small tabby turned and vanished into Blackstar's den.

Rowanclaw lept up onto Highstump and yowled: "Yesterday, it seemed as if Blackstar was recovering. But his health level has dropped again, and we must not show that something bad is happening in our camp by decreasing patrols. Ivytail, lead a hunting patrol of Dawnpelt and Redpaw. Whitewater, you can hunt with Oakfur. Toadfoot, I'm trusting you to patrol the WindClan border. Take Olivepaw, Snaketail, and Smokefoot. I'd also like you to check the Twoleg nest with those two feirce kittypets who Talonpaw died at the claws of. Make sure neither of them are wandering through ShadowClan territory, or, even worse, scent-marking over our border. If any patrols get caught by them, help to fight, and send a cat back to camp to tell me so I can organize an extra, fresh battle patrol. There are your orders."

The deputy clawed his way down from Blackstar's viewpoint, and padded across to the fresh-kill pile. As the patrols gathered and left camp, Rowanclaw hissed to Ivytail: "I'll take you and Tigerheart to patrol the ThunderClan border a bit later." The tortoiseshell warrior nodded, and walked past Rowanclaw and out of the clearing, leading Dawnpelt and Redpaw. Rowanclaw picked up a mouse from the top of the fresh-kill pile to take to Blackstar. The sick ShadowClan leader would need food to keep his strength up if he was going to recover. The tabby deputy turned and, with the plump piece of prey swinging from his jaws, he padded into the leader's den.

Soon enough, Rowanclaw emerged into the shadowed cove where Blackstar made his den. As Rowanclaw's eyes adjusted to the smelly gloom, he began to notice the heap of white fur, messy and boiling hot with fever, that was his leader. The ShadowClan deputy padded over, wrinkling his nose at the foul, ill scent that filled the den, and dropped the mouse at Blackstar's huge, inky-coloured paws. "I've brought you some food, Blackstar." Rowanclaw meowed gently. The large tom, skinny with age and sickness, bent his head to sniff the fresh-kill, then dropped his head to the smooth cove floor again, coughing hard. Suddenly, Rowanclaw sensed a familiar, warming presence, and turned to see the Clan medicine cat Littlecloud's amber eyes, two glowing yellow discs in the shadows, glittering with worry. "He's too weak to eat or drink, and he can't keep anything down, anyway. He coughs too much. He just spends the whole day in a restles sleep. He mutters and coughs while he's dozing, and he can't talk." The brown tabby stepped out of the shadows. "Rowanclaw, he's the sickest cat I've ever seen, apart from Nightstar, who died before you were born. Our old leader. He was killed by sickness when a rat disease spread through ShadowClan. Ages ago. Runningnose was our medicine cat then. I was a warrior. It was caused when an apprentice brought an infected rat from Carrionplace into camp, and a cat ate it, and became deathly ill. The disease spread so easily.I'm not sure if you know of it, but Carrionplace was a huge Twoleg bit of land, covered with stinking piles of Twoleg rubbish. Lots of rats--infected and fresh--lived there, and the Clan ate them, because we were trained for fighting, not hunting. We hunted slow, sick rats and collected crowfood from Carrionplace. Me and Whitethroat, another ShadowClan warrior, found a place to stay at the roots of an old tree just inside ThunderClan territory, close to the RiverClan border. We were only faintly ill. The former ThunderClan medicine cat, Cinderpelt, who was the apprentice of Yellowfang, back then, helped us. Cinderpelt was very kind and generous to us, hunting prey for us and giving us herbs to heal our sickness. Firestar, who was a warrior back then named Fireheart, found out, and was convinced by Cinderpelt to let us stay until we became healthy again. Cinderpelt did heal us, gave us some herbs to treat the rest of the ShadowClan cats with, then Fireheart and Sandstorm took us into ShadowClan territory. After the Clan was healed, I became Runningnose's apprentice."

More Coming Very Soon!!!!

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