It is now Leaf-fall, Valley Year 8
The weather is now crisp and cool, with hints of frost forming overnight in the later moons. Prey is becoming scarce, leaves are changing colors. The valley feels busier somehow.
STONECLAN DEPUTY AUDITIONS and RAINCLAN MCA AUDITIONS are in progress, please head over to those respective threads if you are interested!
Please mark all finished/inactive threads FINISHED or INACTIVE so they can be moved by staff to the archives.
When she had stepped out of her den the evening before, on her way to run a patrol, Smokestar had not expected to be tackled. The stout young body of her niece, spotted a mere blink before impact, rolled the dilute calico off her feet; Frostkit looked a bit surprised at her success before beaming, bright eyes shining at Smokestar as the leader picked herself up again. The thump of paws announced Slatekit's appearance but he hardly looked at Smokestar, instead hurling himself at his sister.
Thus distracted, Frostkit turned her attention toward Slatekit and the two tumbled over and over in their mock-fight. Smokestar watched them for a moment, noted the attempt at mimicking moves they must have seen warriors practicing, and considered. They were well on their way to full growth, active and determined. Maybe it was time. Leafbare was a rough time for everyone, but it would be easier having these four pulling their own weight than taking prey. They were certainly old enough.
She mulled the decision, and the choices of mentors, in her mind while on the patrol. It was important to her- these would be the first apprentices she would name, as well as being her kin. She had to choose well. The young cats' training depended on their mentors, and she hoped that the cats she selected would be suitable in guiding her nephews and niece to becoming great warriors in time.
She told Mistcloud to prepare them on her return to camp and settled for a few minutes to give her sister time; Rowanclaw's strutting ginger form told her that he'd heard the news as much as the excited squealing from the direction of the nursery. How Mistcloud had coped with four of them, Smokestar would never know.
When she'd finished her shrew, Smokestar leaped to the top of the Rock Pile and called the Clan to attention; she'd barely begun when the whirlwind that was Frostkit darted from the nursery to stand in front of her, tail quivering, her pelt neatly groomed and shining. She had Rowanclaw's muscle, but Mistcloud's pelt, and once she grew that last little bit and filled out, she'd be a warrior worth wariness. The other three soon joined their sister, with Mistcloud settling a short distance back, a hint of sadness obvious even though there was pride there too. Her second litter, leaving the nursery; Palewing was quick to sit next to her mother, leaning into the gray tabby's side.
"Frostkit, Flintkit, Squirrelkit and Slatekit: you have reached the age of six moons, and it is time for you to be apprenticed. From this day on, until you receive your warrior name, you will be known as Frostpaw, Flintpaw, Squirrelpaw and Slatepaw. Flintpaw, your mentor will be Dustclaw, and I hope he will pass down all he knows on to you." She turned to face the brown tabby, her own former apprentice, and who she hoped would be capable of dealing with Flintkit. "Dustclaw, you are ready to take on an apprentice. You were my apprentice- and I hope you haven't forgotten everything I taught you. You have shown yourself to be loyal and steadfast, and you will be the mentor of Flintpaw. I expect you to pass on all you know to him."
It was a gamble and she knew it. To give him the kit who bore his departed brother's name? But Flintfang wasn't dead, had just left the Clan, and she hoped Dustclaw would be able to move past that with his new apprentice.
"Squirrelpaw, your mentor will be Snowfeather, and I hope she will pass down all she knows on to you." It had to be a sign that the pale she-cat had joined the meeting, though there was a glazed look to her eye and it wasn't until she was prodded that she seemed to realize that every cat was staring at her- waiting. Smokestar motioned to her and her blue eyes fell to Squirrelpaw; Smokestar counted it a win when she approached, even though her coat was disheveled and her frame lean- she clearly hadn't been eating well.
"Snowfeather, you are ready to take on an apprentice. You were given excellent training from Sorrelclaw, and you have shown yourself to be strong-willed and persistant. You will be the mentor of Squirrelpaw, and I expect you to pass on all you know to him."
She carried on to give Frostpaw to Owlclaw, and Slatepaw to Foxtrot, watching with satisfaction as each new apprentice joined their mentors; their names were called to welcome the youngsters to the ranks, and as that died down, and the Clan separated, Smokestar jumped down to offer her own congratulations to each new pair- and watched, with some frustration, as Snowfeather's fluffy tail disappeared into the darkness of the warriors' den again.
Squirrelkit woke that morning, feeling stiff in the legs. The nursery, as the queens had complained on multiple occasions, was getting very crowded. When he was younger the den seemed to be so large—his whole world was inside the nursery after all—but now it was cramped and hot and he was simply itching to move into the apprentice den. The white and ginger tom rose to his paws and stretched his forelegs, one at a time, then bowed with a big toothy yawn. Next he stretched out his back legs. First one, then the other, toes pointed outwards, claws poking out through his white toes. As he stretched he accidentally poked a dozing cat with his toe, and the bundle nearly jumped out of its pelt.
“Squirrelkit--? Is something wrong? Has something happened?”
“No—no! Everything is fine. Sorry, Mistcloud.” Squirrelkit purred and gave his mother an affectionate head-butt as her fur began to lie flat again. “I was just stretching.”
His mother tucked her paws under her, looking around. “Your littermates are playing in the camp. Why don’t you go out and play with them? That will stretch your legs. But don’t go too far, and—”
“Be careful. I will!”
Squirrelkit gave his mother an affectionate lick on her ear before poking his head through the nursery and into the morning air. He always tried not to startle his mother, which was difficult considering how nervous she was all the time. Was it selfish that he wanted to become an apprentice just to have some space from her, or was that a natural part of growing up? He didn’t want to just ‘be careful’ his whole life. He wanted to hunt and fight for his clan! Would Mistcloud always fret, even when he becomes a warrior?
Squirrelkit was so lost in thought that he almost did not notice the ice under his paws. He slipped once, tail bushed out, then saw the other kits slipping and sliding on the rocks. Now that looked like plenty of fun! He began chasing his siblings back and forth through the camp, tumbling around and around with them. Frostkit even barreled into Smokestar, which Squirrelkit had gasped at, though Slatekit went barreling after her.
Squirrelkit rocketed after his siblings, tried to turn sharply left, skidded on the ice, and landed right at the white paws of Cloudtail. The imposing white tom scowled down at him, ears flat. “What in Starclan’s name do you think you’re doing, running around camp like this?”
The warrior let out an annoyed hiss, tail flicking from side to side, “Sorry? You kits are running around wasting energy and prey. It’s about time Smokestar apprentices you—well past time if you can run around like this all day. When you become an apprentice you won’t have energy or time for idle running…”
Squirrelkit stopped listening. Could he be old enough to become an apprentice? Would he grow bigger? Would his teeth grow sharper, his claws longer? Would he feel any different or would it be the same except more exhausting? It might be fun to find out how fast I can run, or how high I can jump, Squirrelkit thought to himself.
“…Squirrelkit are you even listening to me? If you were my apprentice I’d have you pulling ticks for moons!” Cloudtail hissed, then stalked off, muttering under his breath about ‘apprentices these days’ and how ‘Smokestar waited too long’ to apprentice them.
Squirrelkit caught up to his siblings, who had paused to chortle at his misfortune of being cornered by the dreaded Cloudtail. “I sure hope I don’t get him as a mentor.” They all shuddered in unison.
Later that day, Squirrelkit and his littermates got the big news: they were to be apprenticed! Their ceremony would be held as soon as Smokestar returned from patrol. Squirrelkit was ecstatic! Mistcloud seemed proud but also sad, which normally would have worried Squirrelkit but he was just too excited to worry. He spent the remaining time grooming himself, especially his tail, and fidgeting impatiently.
Once Smokestar returned he joined his littermates in rushing to the rock pile where Smokestar made the announcements.
First it was Flintpaw, who was apprenticed to Dustclaw. Squirrelkit was happy for his brother—Dustclaw would be a good mentor. He yowled his brother’s new name loudly, “Flintpaw! Flintpaw! Flintpaw!”
Then it was his turn. Squirrelkit tried not to look directly at Cloudtail, but he knew the tom was there, watching. Would he be Squirrelkit’s new mentor? The idea terrified him.
The dread feeling in the pit of his stomach lifted when Snowfeather’s name was called instead, and he tried not to look too relieved. It was well known that Snowfeather was an ill cat a lot of the time and Squirrelpaw was almost afraid to touch noses with her, she looked so frail that he thought she might disintegrate. Squirrelpaw knew what he had to do,
“I’ll be the hardest working apprentice ever.” He promised Snowfeather, “We’ll be a great team!”