Jayfeather padded through StarClan, his joy weighed down by the destruction he sees in the eternal greenleaf forest.
Branches lay on the ground, spattered with blood and claw marks. Warriors limped past him, giving a brief nod before disappearing into the shrubbery.
Jayfeather halts, scenting a familar cat. He follows the stench into a clearing. Sitting on a rock, licking her wounds, was Yellowfang.
Yellowfang jumps off the stone, wincing slightly.
"Greetings, Jayfeather. You have saved the Clans. Yes we lost great warriors, but our legacy lives on." she rasped.
Jayfeather dipped his head. "I know I should be happy, but something isn't quite... right. Why?"
Yellowfang twitched her tail. "I'm not the one to tell you. Go see Firestar."
Jayfeather walked past the old cat. "Thank you."
He found Firestar stalking a squirrel.
"Mouse dung!" Firestar spat as the squirrel escaped his claws.
Jayfeather cleared his throat. Firestar turned around.
"Hello, Jayfeather." he bounded over to his grandson.
"Yellowfang said you wanted to tell me something." Jayfeather deadpanned.
Firestar's bright green eyes darkened. "I'm afraid that you, Lionblaze, Dovewing, and Ivypool haven't completed your destinies yet."
Jayfeather's jaw dropped. "There's more?"
Firestar's mouth twisted into a small, wry grin. "Yes. And this time, you're probably going to get an apprentice. Listen closely, six cats will arrive in ThunderClan and their spirits will defeat a monster no cat has ever seen before."
Jayfeather was taken aback. "What do you mean by their spirits?"
Firestar paused. "I can't tell you."
"What?" Jayfeather felt himself being shook. No, not now!
"Welcome them into the Clan, Jayfeather. I will make sure Bramblestar knows." Firestar called, his voice becoming incresingly distant.
Suddenly, everything went black.
"I'm sure it'll work this time," Twilight Sparkle said confidently.
"I hope so! 'Cause then I can play Dongaggle and Applejack-" Pinkie stopped talking as Applejack stuck a hoof in her mouth.
"It better, Ah don't wanna round up two thousand rotton apples with legs again." Applejack warned.
"It will work this time, I just used the wrong spell before." Twilight protested. She looked around with a scowl on her face. "Rainbow Dash! Stay still, like Fluttershy!"
A rainbow tail that had been hanging out of a nearby apple tree whisked up into its branches.
"And remind me why I have to do this?" it's owner grumbled and slid out of the tree and landed next to Fluttershy.
"Because you simply NEED to do something with your mane, darling," Rarity tossed her mane and sidled up behind her. "And your moving now would be the. Very. Worst. Thing." she finished the dramatic phrase with a mock faint.
"Fluttershy! Stop moving!" Twilight snapped at the timid mare.
"Oh, sorry. I didn't mean to move, I should probably just-" Fluttershy's attempt at flying away was foiled by a resigned cyan pegasus.
"Oh, no. If I have to do this, you do too." Rainbow Dash said around a mouthful of pink tail.
She managed to get the fleeing pony onto the makeshift podium.
"just remember your modeling days, darling." Rarity stood behind Fluttershy.
Fluttershy's only response was "Eep."
The ponies took their places in front of Twilight's magic invention.
"There!" Twilight stood back in admiration at her own skill.
"Come on, sugarcube. Ah don't like the feelin' Ah'm gettin' from this thing." Applejack said uneasily.
Twilight teleported behind Applejack. Applejack nearly jumped out of her skin.
"Really, Twi?" she asked.
"Really. Say cheese, everypony!" Twilight made her horn glow and sparks fell to their hooves.
"What?" Rainbow asked.
"It didn't work. There was supposed to be a-"
The Mane Six screeched as they were knocked unconscious.
Rainbow Dash was the first to awaken. She had been knocked uncoscious more than she preferred, so she wakes up relatively fast. She yawned and stretched her limbs. She lazily took off... except she stayed on the ground. Frowning, she turned her head to examine her wings. Her eyes went wide in horror and she screamed.
"Rainbow Dash! Be quiet!" a lilac cat snapped.
"Wh-who are you? Stay back! I'm awesome!" Rainbow Dash reared and waved her front legs in front of her. She screamed again when she saw that her hooves were gone and replaced with paws with four long, razor sharp claws on her toes.
"What's all th' ruckus 'bout? Whoa Nelly!" a yellowish tabby cat got up.
A cream cat awakened and jumped in surprise. "What's going on?! I mean if you don't mind telling me..."
A cat so white it almost appeared to be pink bounced up giggling. "We're cats, silly filly! Wake Rarity up, we have to find ThunderClan."
A longhaired snow white cat that looked a little bit like Opal still snoozed on the forest floor. Rainbow Dash shook the near-comatose cat.
"Rainbow Dash, you know I need my beauty sleep for- oh my, what is this on my hoof?"
"It's not a hoof. According to Pinkie, we're cats!" the lilac cat exclaimed. "This has never happened before in the history of Equestria! Spike, take a letter."
"Sugarcube, Spike ain't here. We're obviously not in Equestria anymore so-" Applejack-cat explained.
"Patrol!" Pinkie shot up into the air.
"Pinkie..." Rainbow Dash began.
"ThunderClan, we mean no harm! We need to speak with your leader." Pinkie said loudly, facing the trees.
"Stop talking to Fluttershy. No offense, Flutters." Rainbow hastily added.
"Who goes there!" a masculine voice called out from the direction Pinkie was talking.
"How did you- whatever. My name is Twilight Sparkle. My friends and I were involved in an experiment that didn't exactly work as planned, so it would be really helpful if you pointed us toward Equestria." Twilight told the mysterious voice.
A golden tom stepped into sight. "My name is Lionblaze. I don't know what Equestria is, or where, for that matter. But I have to take you to camp for ah, questioning." he finished with an embarassed air.
"What do you mean, questioning? Do we look dangerous to you?" Rainbow Dash said aggressively.
Lionblaze set his gaze upon the young black cat. "Is that a threat?"
"Maybe it is maybe it isn't!" Rainbow bristled.
To her surprise, Lionblaze started to laugh. "Do I look like I could be defeated that easily?"
"Maybe!" Rainbow Dash snarled; he was getting under her skin.
He leaned in. "What if I told you no matter how hard you try, you can't defeat me?" he whispered.
"Nopony is invincible," Twilight cut in before Rainbow Dash could aggrivate further. "We'll follow you to your 'camp'."
Lionblaze turned away from Rainbow Dash. "This way." he marched off into the forest.
The squirrels scampered up into the safe haven of trees as seven cats loudly tromped through the forest.
Fluttershy ran from tree to tree, staring up after the squirrels.
"Come back, I won't hurt you" she desperatly told the trees.
Lionblaze laughed, then saw that Fluttershy was serious.
"You don't eat squirrel in your 'Equestria'?" he asked curiously.
"No, we eat daffodil sandwiches, hay fries, apples, apple pie, apple fritters, apple..." Pinkie cut in, listing off all the food in Equestria.
"Ah think he got it, sugarcube." Applejack stopped Pinkie.
"Lionblaze!" Twilight caught up with their guide. "What did you mean before about Rainbow not being able to beat you?"
Lionblaze froze for a moment. When he recovered, he meowed "In the Clans we train all the cats. Most end up being warriors, but once in a while a medicine cat takes on an apprentice," Silence befell the group. "My brother, Jayfeather, is a medicine cat." he said with a note of pride in his voice.
"That's interesting. What does a medicine cat do?" Twilight asked.
"A medicine cat heals sick and injured cats and shares tongues with StarClan." Lionblaze answered without missing a beat.
"Sharing tongues? StarClan?" Twilight pressed.
"Sharing tongues is when you gossip while grooming a Clanmate or during a Gathering, a cat from another Clan. StarClan is where a cat goes when he dies," Lionblaze meowed. Suddenly, his tone darkened as he continued. "But if you were evil, you go to the Dark Forest."
Twilight fell behind after she notice the change in Lionblaze's mood.
"Who crapped in his cornflakes?" Rainbow Dash muttered.
Fluttershy was trudging behind. Rarity took note of the her disappointment.
"What's wrong, darling?" she asked.
"Nothing." Fluttershy mumbled.
"There's obviously something wrong. Now tell me, I won't take no for an answer." Rarity persisted.
Fluttrshy took a deep breath. "ThesquirrelsarescaredofmeeventhoughIwon'thurtthemandAngelbunnywillbegettingworriedandIhavetogetback!"
Rarity was taken aback. "Of course the squirrels are scared of you. Fluttershy, have you seen yourself? That gorgeous shade of yellow, your paws and tail? Darling, you are a cat now. As soon as Twilight finds a way back home, I'm sure out duties will be temporarily taken over," Rarity comforted. Then her tail tapped her chin. "I hope Sweetie Belle doesn't do my job."
Pinkie merrily bounded ahead, circling back every now and then.
Lionblaze stopped, raising his tail as signal for them to stop. Ahead, Pinkie halted in midair and fell straight down.
"Is she alright?" Lionblaze whispered in Applejack's ear.
"Naw, that's jus' Pinkie." Applejack whispered back.
Lionblaze looked startled, then cleared his throat. "We're almost to camp. I reccomend that you tone it down a little, we don't get visitors outside of Clans that often. Well, good ones anyway," he gave the group a hard look. "You are good, right?"
"Duh!" Rainbow Dash snorted. "It's not like we saved Equestria or anything."
Lionblaze gave Twilight a look that asked for verification.
"It's true. We're the Bearers of the Elements of Harmony." Twilight confirmed with a hint of embarrassment in her voice.
Lionblaze had more questions, but held his tongue. "Stay here."
He ran to the tunnel into camp.
"Bramblestar!" Lionblaze spotted Squirrelflight. "I need to speak with Bramblestar." he told her.
"Why? Did something happen?" Squirrelflight asked in a low voice.
"No, we have six cats outside of camp claiming to be from a place called Equestria." Lionblaze's eyes searched around Squirrelflight.
"Take me to them. Now, Lionblaze." Squirrelflight commanded.
"Where did he go?" Rainbow Dash growled.
"Hold on. He told us to stay here, so we're stayin' here!" Applejack grabbed Rainbow's tail with her teeth.
Rainbow Dash yowled. "Hey! That hurt!"
Applejack released her tail. "Sorry, hon."
A ginger cat padded into sight follwed by Lionblaze.
She stopped abruptly and turned to Lionblaze. "What are their names?"
Rainbow Dash bristled. "Are we not here?"
The ginger cat's cold gaze fell upon Rainbow.
"Cool it, RD," Applejack commanded and faced the new cat. "Ah'm Applejack, that there's Rainbow Dash, the purplish one's Twilight Sparkle, the fluffy white one's Rarity, yellowish cat is Fluttershy, and that one is-"
"Pinkie!" Pinkie somehow made a sound like a kazoo and her party cannon.
The ginger cat jumped a little. "My name is Squirrelflight. I am deputy of ThunderClan."
"Really? That's cool, 'cause then when-" Pinkie babbled.
"Piiiiiiinkiiiiiiiie," Twilight warned.
Squirrelflight gazed frostily at the visitors. After several minutes, she looked to Lionblaze. "They can come into camp. But," she flicked her tail toward Rainbow Dash. "You have to keep an eye on that one."
"I don't-" Rainbow began but shut up when she saw the evil look Twilight was giving her. "Fine."
They walked through the woods, leaping over fallen branches when necessary.
"We're here," Squirrelflight announced. "Welcome to ThunderClan."
They crawled through a tunnel in a bush and a huge clearing full of cats milling about.
A small brown kitten bounded over. "Who're you?" he asked. Then he looked at Pinkie. "You look weird."
"Molekit!" Squirrelflight scolded.
"No, it's okay. I get that a lot back at home." Pinkie meowed rather happily.
"This is amazing! The architectural prowess you possess is incredible for using only natural occurrences!" Twilight exclaimed.
"What?" Lionblaze gave her a confused look.
"She thinks your house is cool." Rainbow Dash translated flatly.
"Oh. Our dens are made from a fallen tree. The nests were prickly for a while." he joked.
A tabby tom appeared from a hole in a wall up the cliff from them. He was followed by Squirrelflight and a gray tabby tom.
Squirrelflight and the gray tabby jumped down from the ledge that the tabby stood upon.
"All cats old enough to catch their own prey gather beneath Highledge for a Clan meeting!" the tabby yowled.
"Highledge?" Rainbow Dash looked quizzically to Lionblaze.
"The big rock Bramblestar's standing on."
"P-p-prey?" Fluttershy's eyes widened in fear. "Y-you c-catch prey here?"
"Of course. What do you think we eat?" Lionblaze gave her a confused look.
Fluttershy's pupils dilated to the point of resembling pinpricks.
"Fluttershy, it' fine. I'll figure a way back home. Speaking of home, wasn't Pinkie behind the imagery capturer when it went off?" Twilight suspiciously glanced at the bubbly white cat prancing over to Highledge.
"Go to Highledge. Now, Bramblestar is waiting." Lionblaze nudged the five newcomers.
"Fine. This isn't over, kitty boy." Rainbow Dash warned him as she stalked off to Highledge.
The four remaining cats shared a look and walked over to Highledge.
Lionblaze followed suit once they were mingling with the ThunderClan-born cats.
The crowd murmured with surprise at the strange cats.
"That angry one looks like Bluestar," Graystripe whispered to Millie.
"That pink one hurts my eyes," complained Molekit.
"Hush, you be nice. They're new, treat them kindly." Daisy scolded.
Bramblestar waited among the rocks and pebbles on Highledge until the whispers died down.
"We have six new visitors joining us today. Please step forward." he meowed calmly.
The crowd drew back, revealing the confused six cats.
"Thank you. Tell us your names," Bramblestar coolly stared down at them.
"My name is Twilight Sparkle."
"I am Rarity."
"I'm P to the inkie, P-i-n-k-i-e Pie."
"Rainbow Dash's the name, being awesome's the game."
Many cats looked confused at the names, some muttering about loose kittypets.
Bramblestar must have heard, for the seasoned warrior glared at ThunderClan. "Last night, Jayfeather had a dream. Firestar told him to accept six new cats into ThunderClan. Twilight Sparkle, Applejack, Rarity, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, and Rainbow Dash. Do you wish to train to become a warrior for ThunderClan?"
Rainbow Dash cocked her head. "That's cool, right?"
Several snickers answered.
Rainbow rolled her eyes and turned to the cats. "I take that as a yes." she faced Bramblestar again.
"Ah'm game." Applejack accepted.
"So'm I." Rainbow meowed.
"I'll fight for ThunderClan!" Pinkie bounced.
"Sure, I need a workout anyway." Rarity struck a pose.
Fluttershy stared at the ground while Twilight contemplated.
"I guess I'll train, but I'm going to look for a way back home." she decided.
"Fluttershy?" the other Elements meowed at once and turned to look at the cream she-cat.
"I don't want to fight, if Pinkie's right." Fluttershy crouched low to the ground.
Bramblestar was taken aback. "What?"
Fluttershy looked up to Bramblestar. "I don't want to hurt anyone." she increased her volume.
Jayfeather cleared his throat. "Bramblestar, Firestar told me that I had to take an apprentice."
Bramblestar looked from Jayfeather to Fluttershy. "Jayfeather, do you feel that Fluttershy is who Firestar meant?"
Jayfeather nodded. "I do."
"Psst, Fluttershy. That gray cat over there, I think that's Lionblaze's brother! He wants you to work as a medicine cat, not a warrior!" Twilight hissed.
"Oh, Bramblestar, is it? I think I want to be a medicine cat, that is if you don't mind. It doesn't matter, I'll just-"
"Fluttershy, a medicine cat may never kit. Are you sure?" Bramblestar warned.
"I'm sure," Fluttershy smiled.
Jayfeather stepped forward, closer to Fluttershy. "Cats of ThunderClan, as you know, I will not be around forever. It is time I took on an apprentice. StarClan has chosen Fluttershy for reasons I have yet to discover. Your next medicine cat will be Flutterpaw."
"Flutterpaw?" Rainbow Dash muttered.
"It's a very nice name." the newly christened Flutterpaw whispered.
"Flutterpaw, do you accept the responsibilities of being a medicine cat?" Bramblestar asked.
"I do." Flutterpaw meowed confidently.
"Then at half-moon you will travel with me to Moonpool to receive StarClan's blessing." Jayfeather told Flutterpaw.
"The good wishes of ThunderClan will travel with you." Bramblestar concluded the medicine cat apprenticeship ceremony.
Jayfeather leaned forward and touched noses with Flutterpaw.
Bramblestar peered down at the other five cats. "I suppose you all need a mentor. Twilight Sparkle, it is time for you to be apprenticed. From this day on, until you receive your warrior name, you will be known as Twilightpaw. Your mentor will be Dovewing. I hope Dovewing will pass down all she knows to you. Dovewing, you are ready to take on an apprentice. You have received excellent training from Lionblaze, and you shown yourself to be brave and loyal. You will be the mentor of Twilightpaw and I expect you to pass on all you know to her."
Dovewing padded forward and touched noses with Twilightpaw.
"Applejack, it is time for you to be apprenticed. From this day on, until you receive your warrior name, you will be known as Applepaw. Your mentor will be Ivypool. I hope Ivypool will pass down all she knows to you. Ivypool, you are ready to take on an apprentice. You have received excellent training from Cinderheart, and you have proven yourself to be ready to give your life for the Clan and strong. You will mentor Applepaw and I expect you to pass down all you know to her."
Ivypool padded forward and touched noses with Applepaw.
"Rarity, it is time for you to be apprenticed. From this day on, until you receive your warrior name, you will be known as Gempaw. Your mentor will be Squirrelflight. I hope Squirrelflight will pass down all you know areto you. Squirrelflight, you are ready to take on an apprentice. You have received excellent training from Dustpelt, and you have proven yourself to be generous and kind. You will mentor Gempaw and I expect you to pass down all your knowledge to her." Bramblestar finished somewhat awkwardly.
Squirrelflight padded over to Gempaw and touched noses with a soft look in her eyes.
"Pinkie Pie, it is time for you, too, to be an apprentice. From this day on, until you receive your warriors name, you will be known as-"
"Stop! I want my name to be Skypaw." Pinkie interrupted.
"What?" Bramblestar looked curiously at Pinkie.
"Please?" she pleaded.
"From this day on, until you receive your warrior name, you will be known as Skypaw," Bramblestar continued. "Your mentor will be Foxleap. I hope Foxleap will pass down all he knows to you. Foxleap, you have received excellent training from Squirrelflight, and you have proven yourself to be understanding and loyal. You will mentor Skypaw and I expect you to pass down all you know."
Foxleap looked surprised as he wove through the ThunderClan cats to touch noses with Skypaw.
"And Rainbow Dash, the time has come for you to become an apprentice. From this day on, until you receive your warrior name, you will be known as Rainpaw. You mentor will be Lionblaze. I hope Lionblaze passes down all he knows to you. Lionblaze, you have received excellent training from Ashfur, and you have both great bravery and loyalty. You will mentor Rainpaw and I expect you to teach her all you know."
Lionblaze walked to Rainpaw. He stared evenly at her and touched noses. Rainpaw narrowed her eyes.
"Flutterpaw! Twilightpaw! Applepaw! Gempaw! Skypaw! Rainpaw!" ThunderClan called.
Rainpaw stood tall and proud, yet a cold feeling slithered down her back...
"I can't believe that I'm stuck with Lionblaze!" Rainpaw moaned.
"Lionblaze isn't so bad, darling. I have that Squirrelflight as a mentor." Gempaw flicked her tail.
"Dovewing seems nice. Kinda zoned out, but nice." Twilightpaw contributed.
"Ivypool is quiet and seems sorta... dark." Applepaw remembered the suppressed darkness she had seen in Ivypool's eyes. She shivered.
"Foxleap is awesome! He's chatty, and funny, and-" Skypaw bounced with every 'and'.
"Hold on there, P- Skypaw. If I remember correctly, you weren't in front of Twilightpaw's contraption. How did you get here?" Rainpaw narrowed her eyes at Skypaw.
"I uh," her eyes nervously flicked from one accusing face to the next. "Came through the Fourth Wall! I saw you were gone and followed you!"
"Then why can't you go back and get help?" Twilightpaw asked.
"The Fourth Wall is already fixed! Something else will need to break it for me to go back! And it needs to go to Equestria, not some other universe!" Skypaw protested.
"Uh huh, sure. I'm going to see Lionblaze about training." Rainpaw backed away without breaking eye contact.
"There's one thing I don't understand. Actually, two. One, how did we change shape? Secondly, why Skypaw?" Twilight relentlessly questioned.
"When you break the Fourth Wall and travel to another universe, you change shape to whatever you are needed by. And I'm not ready to answer the other one. I feel like I've done enough explaining for one day." Skypaw dodged Twilightpaw's second question.
"Fine, but this isn't over." Twilightpaw left Skypaw alone.
Applepaw glanced at Skypaw, then ran after Twilightpaw.
"Phew." Skypaw sighed. That was a close bullet.
Jayfeather led Flutterpaw to the medicine cat den. A familiar scent hit his nose.
"Hello, Briarlight." he meowed pleasantly.
"Hello Jayfeather. Sometimes I swear you can see me." Briarlight replied.
Flutterpaw gasped. "Y-you're blind?"
"No, really?" Jayfeather answered with two tablespoons of snark.
A wave of emotion engulfed him. Embarassment, withdrawal, and... fear.
"Sorry, I'm just like that," then Jayfeather went back to the matter at paw. "In a few days we go to Moonpool to share tongues with StarClan."
"Lionblaze told us about StarClan and sharing tongues. What's Moonpool?" Fluttershy asked softly.
"Briarlight could you please get- oh thank you. Moonpool is kind of a bridge between StarClan and the Clans. Medicine cats go there every half-moon to share tongues with StarClan," Jayfeather answered. "I'll tell you more about medicine cats. Medicine cats can cross Clan boundaries. Don't do it often, or the other Clans'll get antsy and threaten all out war. Medicine cats also learn about herbs, which ones heal, and what poultices to make. A medicine cat may never have kits. Believe me, I know the consequences." Jayfeather's eyes darkened.
Silence filled the den.
"Weeeell, I'll just go get some moss," Briarlight said cheerily.
"Okay," Jayfeather replied absent mindedly.
Flutterpaw just stood there, dragging her front paw through the earth.
Finally Jayfeather couldn't stand it anymore. "I'm going to harvest some herbs. Would you like to come?"
The blue she cat paced in front of the warrior den. A golden tom stepped into the sunlight, blinking in the sudden brightness.
"Finally, you're up! I've been waiting forever. When are we gonna start training?" Rainpaw asked impatiently.
Lionblaze chuckled. "My, you're certainly as excited as a Clan-born apprentice. I'll take you out with Dovewing and Ivypool," his ear flicked. "She's still sleeping. I wonder..." he muttered almost to himself.
"Um, hello? Wake her up and I'll get Twilightpaw and Applepaw." Rainpaw dashed across camp to find her friends.
Lionblaze shook his head. He padded back into the darkness of the warrior den and gently shook Ivypool.
"Ivypool," he whispered. "Are you in Dark Forest?"
"Ivypool." he shook more vigorously.
Ivypool blinked awake.
"I'm up, I'm up," she yawned. Catching a look at Lionblaze's intent expression, she cocked her head. "Is something wrong?"
"Were you in Dark Forest?" he asked quietly.
"No. It's nice to get a full night's rest again." she stretched. "Where's Dovewing?"
"Somewhere with Bumblestripe, I think."
A mrow of happiness escaped Ivypool's lips. "Lovebirds."
"Yeah, well Rainpaw wants to get training with Applepaw and Twilightpaw. Maybe we should teach them Dark Forest moves?"
The question hung in the air as Ivypool fumbled for options.
"You mean you want me teaching them battle moves that the most evil cats the Clans have ever known taught me?"
"Yes. No. I don't know. Apparently, Jayfeather had a dream and Firestar told him to accept these cats into the Clan. Probably another looming battle."
"I just don't think I'm ready to teach anyone those moves. Maybe later, but just not now." Ivypool shook her head to clear bad memories from her mind.
"Okay, just the easy stuff." Lionblaze backed out of the den with Ivypool in tow.
Once again blinking in the bright sunlight, Lionblaze scoured the camp for the three apprentices. At the edge of camp, near the tunnel, stood the apprentices. They had an animated conversation and he spotted Jayfeather and Flutterpaw leaving.
"Come on." he told Ivypool and set off toward their apprentices.
"I sure wish Dovewing was here." Ivypool said loudly and for no apparent reason.
"Hello, Applepaw and Twilightpaw. Hello, Rainpaw." Lionblaze greeted.
"Hiya, Lionblaze." Applepaw said brightly.
"Are we going now?" Rainpaw scowled.
"As soon as my sister gets back." Ivypool replied.
Dovewing raced through the forest, faster than ever before. Bumblestripe was pressing at her heels. Hitting sand, they slowed. At the water's edge, they stopped.
"That was fun, Bumblestripe." Dovewing grinned.
"Yeah. You're fast, too." Bumblestripe panted and lapped water from the lake.
Dovewing took the opportunity to expand her hearing. A kit was whining in RiverClan, Blackstar was taking some fresh-kill to his den, a cat she didn't recognize caught a hare in WindClan. She checked the ThunderClan camp.
"I sure wish Dovewing was here." she heard Ivypool say.
Dovewing rubbed her ear.
Bumblestripe gave her a concerned look. "Ears hurt again?"
"No, not really. I just think I should get back," Dovewing said a little sadly. "I think Twilightpaw would want to train. Kinda weird having an apprentice, even weirder to have one older than me."
Bumblestripe looked disappointed.
"We can hang out later!" Dovewing promised.
"Okay," Bumblestripe said dejectedly.
Dovewing toned her hearing down to that of a normal cat. She ran back to camp dodging trees and brambles.
Eventually, the gorse tunnel came into sight. Dovewing burst into camp, seeing Twiligthpaw.
"Hello, Twilightpaw. Hello, Rainpaw and Applepaw." Dovewing purred; she was in a good mood.
"Where's Bumblestripe?" Ivypool teased.
"Probably at the lake," Dovewing answered. Then, more quietly. "I heard you." she added.
"Let's go already. Dovewing's here, so let's a-go." Rainpaw impatiently kneaded the soil.
"We're going." Lionblaze told Rainpaw. Rainpaw is gonna be a lot harder than Dovewing. Lionblaze thought sullenly.
"Okay, so for this move, you're gonna face away from your opponent and kick both of your hind legs back. In practice we keep out claws sheathed, but in battle we use our claws. Watch closely." Lionblaze demonstrated the back kick for the apprentices.
"So ya want us to buck?" Applepaw asked.
"Buck?" Lionblaze asked quizzically.
"Y'know, like this," Applepaw bucked a tree.
The tree shivered slightly.
"Okay, partner up and practice." Dovewing told them.
Applepaw jumped over Twilightpaw and tried the back kick. Twilightpaw was sent flying, landing a fox-length away.
All eyes turned to Applepaw as she blushed.
"Guess Ah bucked a little too hard." she walked over and helped Twilightpaw up.
"Let me try," Twiligthpaw swiftly moved behind Applepaw and did some quick calculations. If I use fulcrum and shark pull, the result will be of... Twilightpaw did the back kick and Applepaw stumbled a bit.
"You two keep trying. I'll partner up with Rainpaw." Lionblaze sauntered up to Rainpaw.
Rainpaw leaped over Lionblaze and turned in midair to catch his rear end with her paws. Rainpaw turned again and back kicked, sending him flailing.
An unsettling feeling took up residence in Ivypool's stomach. That almost looked like a Dark Forest move. she thought as a chill ran down her spine.
Ivypool shared a look with Dovewing.
Lionblaze got up and shook his head. "That was complex for somebody who's never trained before. Have you done that before?"
Rainpaw yawned. "I've done some pretty tough maneuvers before. That was easy compared to a Sonic Rainboom."
Twilightpaw stepped forward. "She got flying so fast that she broke the sound barrier and created a Sonic Rainboom. Her mane and tail made the colors."
"Flying? Mane and tail? Whatever." Lionblaze shrugged it off.
"Can we do something harder?" Rainpaw rolled her eyes.
"Wh-where are we going?" Flutterpaw asked timidly.
"To the Old Twoleg nest. That's where my herbs grow." Jayfeather replied.
The uneven ground beneath their paws led to a black strip.
"What's this?" Flutterpaw tentatively put a paw on the road.
"That's a Thunderpath. Monsters usually run on them, but they don't use this one." Jayfeather warned.
"Oh," Flutterpaw took her paw off the Thunderpath.
"Come on. This way." Jayfeather prodded her toward the Old Twoleg nest.
There's the Old Twoleg nest where my herbs grow. I have catmint, borage, daisy,..." Jayfeather listed.
Flutterpaw sniffed the air. "What's that amazing scent? It smells like candy, but better!"
"That's catmint. We generally collect it when the morning dew gets burned off. That way it doesn't spoil during the winter. Catmint is for cats with greencough or whitecough." Jayfeather informed her.
"Wh-what're we collecting today?" Flutterpaw asked.
"Poppy seeds. Poppy seeds help a cat get to sleep if they're sick or injured." Jayfeather tasted the air.
"They should be over here. They're small." Jayfeather said helpfully, pointing with his tail toward the poppy seeds.
Flutterpaw tasted the air like Jayfeather did. There was a faint difference in the air where her mentor pointed. She followed it until there she saw several black dots. She scooped several into her mouth, careful not to break any, lest she get drowsy.
Flutterpaw's belly grumbled.
Jayfeather laughed. "I guess you're hungry. Let's get back to camp and get some fresh-kill.
"Y-you want me to eat that?" Flutterpaw stared in horror at the mouse laying at her paws.
"Yes, we eat mice here.What in the world do you eat?" Jayfeather curiously asked.
"We eat hay fries, daffodil sandwiches, uh, apples and-"
"Oh, right. Lionblaze told me. Just try the mouse." he pushed it toward her.
Flutterpaw jumped when the fresh-kill landed on her paws. "Y-you don't understand. I take care of animals at home,"
Jayfeather cocked his head. "You'll starve if you don't eat. And we eat while we can; leafbare can be brutal."
Flutterpaw paled under her cream fur. "This is all you eat?"
"Yes. We also eat squirrels, birds, and sometimes we get a rabbit." Jayfeather said patiently.
"N-no apples or hay?" she queried as her stomach rumbled angrily.
"No apples or hay. Eat the mouse or starve." he turned around and went to the medicine den to help Briarlight.
Flutterpaw once again stared at the mouse. Imagine it as a pickle. It's a dill pickle. she tried to think as she took a small bite. Her eyes widened. How is a mouse this good?! Even better than-
"Hey Fluttersh- Flutterpaw! whatcha eating?" Rainpaw sauntered over.
"Nothing, nothing," she attempted to hide the fresh-kill.
Rainpaw moved her friend's paw out of the way. "No. Bucking. Way. Hey Twilightpaw, check this out!" she called to the exhausted bookworm entering camp.
"Just...take a bite." Flutterpaw whispered.
"Are you crazy? It would taste awful." Rainpaw gave her a weirded-out look.
"It's actually good. Better than hay fries or pie." Flutterpaw tempted her with a certain Wonderbolt's favorite dish.
"It can't be. Twilightpaw, hurry up!" she hollered.
"Eat it," Flutterpaw Stared.
"O-okay," Rainpaw took a bite. "Mother of- Twilightpaw! Come over here and try this!"
"In a minute, Spike!" Twilightpaw yelled, annoyed. She then blushed. "Oops. Sorry."
Flutterpaw ate until she was content. Noticing that the mouse was almost gone, she brought back another from the fresh-kill pile for her friends.
Minutes later, most of the Equestrian travelers were enjoying their very first mouse while Flutterpaw returned to the medicine den, hunger satiated.
She was surprised to see Jayfeather gathering different herbs and bundling them up into the piles.
"Hello Flutterpaw. I'm getting the herbs ready for the trip to Moonpool tomorrow." Jayfeather greeted her.
Flutterpaw crouched down near Jayfeather. "What herbs go into these bundles?" she asked.
Jayfeather chuckled. "My, eager aren't we? Okay, we have chamomile, daisy leaves, and sorrel."
"What do they do?"
Rainpaw sparred with Applepaw outside camp. Applepaw reared up, attempting to force Rainpaw down.
Rainpaw kicked a paw, unbalancing her adversary and giving her the upper paw. She pinned Applepaw down, raking her belly with sheathed claws.
"Okay, sugarcube, you win," Applepaw laughed as Rainpaw helped her up.
"Very good. Although why the sheathed claws?" a dark figure with glowing white eyes asked from the shadows.
"I don't wanna hurt her, duh." Rainpaw rolled her eyes.
"Why not?" the shadow asked.
"Well she's my friend. I wouldn't think about hurting her." Rainpaw unsheathed her claws and sank them into the pale soil.
"Very well. You are not ready yet." the figure faded, glowing eyes narrowed and remaining for a moment after the body dissipated.
"That was weird. I'm kinda creeped out, RD. Let's go back to camp." Applepaw uneasily glanced at the spot where the mystery cat appeared.
"Okay." Rainpaw gazed blankly at the shadows.
"Uh, Rainpaw?" Applepaw waved a paw in front of her friends face.
Rainpaw shook her head. "What? Oh, yeah, going back to camp. Right."
"Um, you wanted to see me, Bramblestar?" Twilightpaw poked her head into the Clan leader's den.
"Yes. Come in." Bramblestar invited.
Twilightpaw walked in and sat down in front of Bramblestar.
"You are the leader of your friends, correct?" Bramblestar asked.
"Good. I have something to ask you, then," he leaned in. "Why are you here?"
Twilightpaw chuckled. "I honestly don't know. If I had my way, I'd be back home, rearranging books at my library.
"What's a library?"
Twilightpaw's fur lifted. "You don't know what a library is?" she said. alarmed. "Its where knowledge is stored in books and anyone can learn."
Bramblestar looked taken aback. "Anyone?"
Twilightpaw nodded. "Anyone. My nuber one assistant, Spike helps me around the library." her heart lurched with homesickness when she thought of Spike.
"Spike... you truly have strange names in Equestria." Bramblestar smiled.
"Spike is a dragon, Bramblestar. He has little spikes on the back of his head and neck." Twilightpaw explained.
"A- whatever. Why did you really want to see me, Bramblestar?" Twilightpaw cut the explanations.
Bramblestar sighed. "If you really want to know. Jayfeather had a dream from StarClan, vague as usual, tell him to accept six new cats into the Clan. Tell me, Twilightpaw, do you happen to have any powers?"
Twilightpaw stared blankly at him. "Here or in Equestria?"
"In Equestria, I used magic daily, so did Ra- Gempaw. We were unicorns, rainpaw and Flutterpaw were pegasi, and Applepaw and Skypaw were Earth ponies. Rainpaw and Flutterpaw had wings and could fly; Rainpaw was one of the fastest fliers in Equestria. Applepaw and Skypaw were strong, and had more accurate Cutie Marks. Skypaw was a partier, a really intense partier. Applepaw has incredibly powerful hind legs from bucking apple trees on her farm. In Equestria, I was the private student of one of the most powerful ponies, Princess Celestia. She has wings and a horn, her sister is also like her. They raise the sun and the moon, and once Princess Luna-" Twilightpaw rambled.
Bramblestar raised his tail. "I've heard enough. One more thing, was there anything special about the six of you?"
"Oh yes, we are the Spirits of the Elements of Harmony."
Bramblestar leaned back. "And is there anything you want to know about Clan life?"
"There are four Clans by the lake. RiverClan, ShadowClan, WindClan, and ThunderClan. There is another Clan, one far,far away called SkyClan, but nobody has seen one of them in a while..."
"Let me see your pounce."
Gempaw leaped high into the air and hit the root she had been told to pounce on.
"This isn't a beauty show, Gempaw. Show me a more practical pounce." Squirrelflight said with a hint of annoyance.
"Oh, fine," Gempaw sighed and backed up to retry.
She dispatched the root swiftly.
Squirrelflight nodded. "That was better. You still need to work on your stalking. But good nonetheless."
Gempaw fluffed up her fur in delight. "How do you stalk again?"
Gempaw crouched, haunches waving in the air.
Squirrelflight pushed to offending rear down. "Keep your back end down; tail low to the ground but not dragging. But careful with your paws; don't disturb the ground. And... pounce!"
Gempaw efficiently slaughtered the root.
"That's good. Try it again."
Gempaw stalked another root.
"I think you got it. You have to learn to scent prey. Actually, I smell squirrel. Watch and learn." she said and slowly walked into the trees.
Gempaw peered into the undergrowth to see Squirrelflight crouch down and stalk a squirrel at a pace that would be comfortable for snails.
In a blur of motion, Squirrelflight pounced and bit the prey in the neck, quickly killing it.
Scooping the deceased squirrel in her jaws, she eyed Gempaw. "Think you can do that?"
"And sorrel is a good traveling herb," Jayfeather finished. "Tell me what chamomile does?"
"Um, it makes you feel better if you're sad and it gives you strength." Flutterpaw parroted back.
"Jayfeather!" Graystripe yowled.
His head snapped toward to cat.
"Brightheart got a thorn stuck in her pad!"
Brightheart limped into sight, heading for the medicine cat den.
Jayfeather turned to his apprentice. "Think you can manage this?"
Flutterpaw nodded. "I think so,"
Brightheart sat down in the den and held out her front paw. A massive thorn was lodged in the middle of her pad.
Flutterpaw gripped the thorn in her teeth.
"She's going to- AUGH!" Brightheart yelped as Flutterpaw pulled it out.
Flutterpaw scooped up some damp moss and cleaned the dirt from the wound. Then she tossed it aside and chewed some chervil and marigold into a pulp and prodded it into the red spot where the thorn was.
Brightheart sighed with relief and noticed Flutterpaw staring at her face. "Just now noticing it, eh?"
Jayfeather was surprised at how fast Flutterpaw remedied the injured paw. She was a natural medicine cat.
"When I was an apprentice in the old forest, another apprentice and I went after some dogs running through our territory,"
Flutterpaw sat in awe as she explained.
"I was lucky they found me when they did, or I'd be dead right now, like Swiftpaw." Brightheart grimaced at the terrible memory. "But thanks for taking the thorn out of my paw, it feels better now." she called as she walked back outside.
Flutterpaw turned to Jayfeather. "Did that really happen?" she whispered.
Jayfeather nodded. "Yes. But that was moons ago."
She looked outside, deep in thought. It barely registered that Twilightpaw was climbing down from Highledge to see two frantic cats.
Rainpaw rested her head on her paws. The apprentice den was strangely snug with moonlight streaming through the walls. Her nest was soft; moss free of thorns and soft down feathers lining.
Her friends were already asleep, their slow breathing lulling her to sleep.
Rainpaw's eyelids slowly forced themselves down. Apprentice training was tougher than even the most hardcore Wonderbolt tryout.
She closed her eyes, covering her rose irises. Welcome darkness greeted her. Rainpaw's breathing gradually slowed.
She opened her eyes. She was not in the apprentice den.
Rainpaw jumped to her feet in the pitch darkness. Suddenly, a familiar sight greeted her.
The moon was rising, just a claw scratch in the sky. It grew larger as it rose, turning from a luminescent silver to a deep blood-red.
As it rose, it illuminated her surroundings.
Tall trees loomed above her; massive pillars of smoke that could be easily batted. Brambles circled around the apprentice, barring any escape routes.
"Hello Rainpaw. I didn't expect to see you so soon." an eerily calm voice commented from the brambles.
Rainpaw spun around. "I didn't expect to see you either," she countered. "What the buck are you doing in my head, shadow-dust-cat-thing?"
It's glowing eyes narrowed as it stepped out of the bushes, it's body moving through the pricker bush like a ghost.
In the light, she saw truly how small it was. It was slightly larger that the boisterous kits in ThunderClan, yet possessed a great calm. The kind of calm you had to look out for.
"I am not in your mind. You are in my territory." it looked another way.
"What I meant was who are you, what are you, and why am I here!" she grit her teeth.
"Tsk, tsk. I do not approve of impatience. You will find out in good time," it turned it's ghostly gaze toward her. "Though you are here because I called you."
"Let me rephrase: Tell me who you are or I'll shred your face off." Rainpaw unsheathed her claws.
It looked down. "Quite a colorful set of claws there."
She briefly glared at her paws. Her claws had at least one hue from her mane. "You didn't answer my question." she growled.
"Oh, fine." it sighed. It's tone changed. "I suppose loyalty being in your nature means suspicion of anything new."
"That's not true!" she snarled and lunged at the shadow cat. It didn't even try to dodge; it just stood there.
Rainpaw raised her forelegs and raked them down on the cat's face, feeling-
Nothing. She attacked absolutely nothing.
"Where are you?" she growled.
she blindly leaped toward the call, eyes closed.
Yowling, Rainpaw scrambled out of brambles.
The cat sat on the opposite side of the circle looking amused.
"Aggressive. You know, the saying goes 'look before you leap'. You should try that."
Rainpaw turned. "Answer me," she hissed.
"I'll tell you. But you have to return for little chats with me, as I am very lonely."
"Oh bother, not very fun, are we?" it's gaze leveled with her glare. "You can call me Scourge."
Twilightpaw awoke peacefully, stretching as she blearily opened her eyes. They widened with shock as she examined her new surroundings.
Oh no! Am I in another universe? she thought, panicked.
Suddenly, a she-cat with a pelt like Rainpaw's burst into sight, sprinting after a rabbit.
"Um, hello? Where am I?" she asked the cat.
The cat stopped chasing the rabbit and turned to face Twilightpaw. "You're in StarClan, little one. But you are not joining us, not yet." she purred, apparently pleased by the starled apprentice's appearance.
"Um, why am I here?" Twilightpaw asked.
The cat padded over. "Sorry, I forgot to introduce myself. I am Bluestar."
"That gray tom said Rainpaw looked like a Bluestar. My name is-"
"Twilight Sparkle. StarClan is honored by your presence." Bluestar bowed her head.
"How do you know my name?" Twilightpaw asked suspiciously.
"We are in Silverpelt; we look down on the lake and guide our Clans," Bluestar explained. "We know all Clan cats."
"We? Do you use the Royal We?" Twilightpaw asked, a mischievous glint in her eye.
Bluestar chuckled. "No, we don't use 'the Royal We'. StarClan is where all honorable warriors go when they die."
"What about medicine cats?"
"They go here, too."
"Good. And, if I may ask, why are my friends and I here?" Twilightpaw once again questioned.
"You ask a lot of questions," Bluestar's tone darkened. "You were called here to serve your ancestors once more, to-"
"Ancestors? We're from Equestria." Twilightpaw said quizzically.
"I know. you were born here in a past life, Skypaw remembers this and chose her ancestor's name to honor it."
"So you're saying that I was a cat?"
Bluestar nodded. "Yes. Your name was Dawnsight of SkyClan. Gempaw's was Whitepelt of SkyClan. Applepaw's was Poppynose of SkyClan. Skypaw's was Skystar of SkyClan. Rainpaw's was Stormflight of SkyClan. Oddly enough, she was a tom." Bluestar allowed a small laugh on her part and continued. "Do you see the pattern?"
"We're.... all from SkyClan?" Twilightpaw hesitantly answered.
"Yes. You've got it. Just in time, too. Wouldn't want to miss the morning patrols." Bluestar's voice faded as the her eyesight went dark.
Flutterpaw skipped through a bright forest, happy as a dove. A deep rumble announced a coming storm and she stopped skipping. The sky darkened and lightning flashed red. It began raining; a raindrop landed on her forepaw. She lifted it to clean it off, but froze when she saw it. A droplet of blood was on her paw, and more were raining down from the sky.
Flutterpaw was frozen in a stupor as noiseless rain pelted her from above. Lightning flashed once again, catching a large branch on fire.
The branch creaked and moaned as flames licked at it, blood fueling the growing inferno. Finally the branch gave way, pounding the forest floor in front of poor Flutterpaw.
The blaze reared, growing ever taller. It formed the shape of a cat raising it's paw to swipe at her when-
a downpour of rain, glorious rain doused the flames.
Pressing Flutterpaw's fur to her sides, words ominously repeated themselves in her head.
From the sky comes threat, and from that threat, salvation the voice echoed.
In the distance, Flutterpaw saw a tri-colored lightning bolt strike a tree. Then the light flared and she woke up.
"How are you doing that?" Foxleap asked dumbfoundedly.
"Y'know, you just jump like you're gonna tackle the enemy- ShadowClan, for instance- except at the last moment tuck in and you'll rolled under their belly, giving you the advantage!" Skypaw demonstrated.
"That's really, really complicated! I've never heard of that move before, and you're just an apprentice!" Foxleap sputtered.
"It's not so hard when you've figured it out." Skypaw demonstrated once again.
"O-okay then." Foxleap laughed nervously. "I guess we should try stalking now."
"Okie dokie lokie!" Skypaw said cheerily.
"Crouch down with your tail low and straight. Keep low to the ground, but down let your paws drag over the leaves. Then pounce on the prey quickly." Foxleap instructed.
Skypaw complied to his instructions, as she thought one scaring a day was enough.
"Perfect! Now, if you do that on hunting patrols, you'll be the best hunter in the Clan!" Foxleap said happily.
"Can I go on a dawn hunting patrol tomorrow?" Skypaw asked.
"That's up to Squirrelflight." Foxleap purred.
Lionblaze stepped to the side as Rainpaw barreled past.
"Gonna have to be faster!" Lionblaze told her.
"That's what you call fast?" Rainpaw laughed.
She lived up to her pony name and dashed up to her mentor and batted his head to the sides. Before her could react, she danced out of harm's way.
"I admit. That was pretty fast. But how long can you keep up your speed?" Lionblaze asked and charged at Rainpaw.
She bunched her muscles and surged upward, jumping higher than any cat Lionblaze knew.
She looked down at him in midair and laughed.
"Ha h- HURK!" she was cut off by a branch introducing itself to her neck.
Lionblaze pounced on his apprentice when she toppled to the ground. "Watch out for branches. They hurt."
"I never knew that. I definitely haven't flown into branches before. Never ever," Rainpaw said sarcastically as she got up and licked her paw with dignity.
"I had wings in Equestria, featherbrain."
"Who're you calling featherbrain?" Lionblaze lunged at his apprentice.
Rainpaw yowled with surprise and unsheathed her claws. They tumbled across the clearing they were practicing in.
"Ohsorrysorrysorrysorrysorrysorry!" she gasped.
"It's okay," Lionlaze got up and dusted himself off.
"No, I had my claws out. Let me have a look," Rainpaw moved forward.
"No, I'm seriously fine." Lionblaze took a step back.
Without warning, Rainpaw dashed forward and pinned Lionblaze to the ground. She smelled for blood, but detected none.
"I definitely felt my pointy hooves graze you." she said, puzzled.
"Erm, could you get off? It's kind of uncomfortable with you perched on my chest," Lionblaze wheezed.
"Oh, heheh, sorry." Rainpaw got off.
Lionblaze gasped. Rainpaw was heavier than she looked; yet she was no kittypet.
"But please tell me you're not hurt." she looked concerned.
"Er, yeah. See? All good," Lionblaze flexed his legs.
"O-o-oka-a-a-a-y then," Rainpaw said as if to end the conversation. "I want to learn more battle moves."
Lionblaze smiled. "Not today. Today we're going to...." his face shifted to that of one deep in thought, then a devilish grin spread across his face. "Collect moss for the elders."
"Flutterpaw. Pay attention." Jayfeather scolded his apprentice. She has been very distracted lately...
"Huh, what? Oh, sorry." Flutterpaw attempted to hide behind a nonexistent mane.
"What?" Flutterpaw barely hid the alarm that flashed across her cream face.
"Did StarClan give you a dream?" Jayfeather demanded.
"You've been shocked and scared all day. Tell me."
How can he know what I'm thinking? Flutterpaw wondered.
Jayfeather barked out a laugh. "I'm blind, if you haven't noticed. And I'm a medicine cat, we sense things. So tell me, now. Or you'll be getting the ticks off Purdy." he warned.
Flutterpaw's eyes widened in shock. "No, not that! Gempaw'll go insane!"
Jayfeather chuckled. "Then you better tell me."
Flutterpaw took a deep breath. "Ihadadreamwhereitwassunnyandniceandhappy,butthenitgotrainyandstuffandlightningzappedabranchinfrontofmeanditfell. Thenitstartedraininganditputthefierybranchoutandsomeponysaysthatdangercomesfromthesky,butsodoesthehelp. ThenRainpaw'sCutieMarkflashedandIwokeup." she gasped for air. "Happy?"
Jayfeather blinked. "Once more, just five times slower."
Flutterpaw slowly repeated her dream.
"Oh, great StarClan. Not again." Jayfeather muttered. "What time is it?"
Flutterpaw glanced up at the sun's position. "About sunhigh."
Jayfeather sighed. "We have to go soon. Eat the traveling herbs and we'll go."
Flutterpaw was taken aback. "Do you know the way to the Moonpool?"
Jayfeather chuckled. "I've been there many times. Now eat up or we'll be late."
"What then, Gempaw?" a small white kit with tabby splotches asked, transfixed with her story.
"Why, then I realized I had been so preoccupied with making dresses for the others who came with me, I hadn't made one for me at all!" Gempaw exclaimed as the kits gasped in horror.
"But then, out of the blue, they had made me a dress! It was gorgeous. Very chic." Gempaw added, almost to herself.
"Chic?" a silver tabby kit piped up.
"Chic is very cool, Silverkit." Gempaw explained.
"I think that's enough storytime for today, Gempaw." Whitewing purred. "Silverkit, Thornkit, it's time for a nap."
A chorus of high-pitched awws permeated the nursery.
Whitewing herded the kits over to their nest, then whispered into Gempaw's ear. "Thanks for occupying them, they can be a bit... restless at times."
Gempaw smiled. "It's fine, Whitewing. I'd be happy to do it more often, when I'm not training."
Whitewing sighed with relief. "You will? Thank you, so much. They just adore you and your little stories." she looked fondly at the now-asleep kits.
"Well, I do have to deal with my sister and her friends at home, and they can be quite destructive." she smiled wryly.
Whitewing had a questioning look on her face.
"They can be quite destructive at times." Gempaw added.
"Oh," Whitewing smiled once she got it.
Flutterpaw scented a... different cat. "What's that?"
"That's WindClan. Don't worry, we don't go through their territory." Jayfeather replied without missing a beat.
A creek gurgled in front of them. The WindClan scent was particularly strong here.
"They put scent markers here," Jayfeather explained.
They turned and padded upstream.
A mottled, brownish gray tom sauntered up to the pair. "Hey, Jayfeather!"
"Kestrelflight, medicine cat." Jayfeather murmured. "Hello, Kestrelflight."
"Who's this? Finally take one on, eh?" Kestrelflight grinned at the timid apprentice.
"Yes, I decided it was time." Jayfeather answered.
"I'm Kestrelflight from WindClan. Your name?" he asked Flutterpaw.
Her pupils grew to the size of saucers.
"Her name's Flutterpaw." Jayfeather told him.
Kestrelflight blinked. "Okay, hi Flutterpaw."
"Well, we better get going; don't want to keep ShadowClan waiting." Kestrelflight yawned.
"ShadowClan's already there?" Jayfeather asked with mild concern.
"Yeah, can't you smell him?"
"I take that as a no."
"Let's just go to Moonpool."
They walked the rest of the way in a comfortable silence. A glint of the water shone in the setting sun's light.
"That," Jayfeather said. "Is the Moonpool."
"Wow," Flutterpaw said softly, not out of her personality. Moonpool was spectacular, with it's silvery waters and small waterfalls that shimmered and flowed from an unknown source.
"It is something, isn't it?" he murmured with her.
"Hey Jayfeather!" Mothwing called.
"Hello Mothwing. This is my apprentice, Flutterpaw." he told the RiverClan medicine cat. He turned to Flutterpaw. "Flutterpaw, is it your wish to enter the mysteries of StarClan as a medicine cat?"
She nodded. "Yes, it is."
He nodded briskly in return. "Then come forward to the Moonpool." he turned to face Moonpool. "Warriors of StarClan, I present you with this apprentice. She has chosen the path of a medicine cat. Grant her your wisdom and insight so that she may understand your ways and heal her Clan in according to your will."
Flutterpaw still gazed at the Moonpool in wonder. Jayfeather nudged her.
"You're supposed to lap from it now," he whispered.
She blinked. "Oh, sorry. I didn't realize that-"
"Just do it."
"Okay." Flutterpaw crouched down at the water's edge and daintily took a sip. Instantly she felt flooded with energy, yet drowsily calm.
The other medicine cats lapped from the Moonpool, laid down, and closed their eyes heavily.
Jayfeather did likewise and motioned for Flutterpaw to do the same.
"Just fall asleep." he mumbled.
And she did just that.
Jayfeather felt guilty as he slipped into Flutterpaw's dream. The usual black of his vision was replaced by the eternal greenleaf of StarClan.
"Hello Flutterpaw, we've been expecting you." a melodious voice wove itself through the warm air.
"Wh-who are you?" Flutterpaw stuttered.
"I'm Spottedleaf, an old, dead medicine cat from ThunderClan." Spottedleaf purred.
"H-hello, Spottedleaf. I'm-"
"Fluttershy, Element of Kindness. You are quite the ideal cat for medicine." Spottedleaf interrupted.
"How do you know that?" she asked.
"Dear, I'm in StarClan. We tend to be knowledgeable about our cats. And I love how you dealt with that manticore and Cerberus." she told Flutterpaw.
"Fluttershy, you are here for a reason. It was not Twilight Sparkle's C.A.M.E.R.A. that malfunctioned. We have brought the Elements of Harmony here to defeat an enemy that no cat can. Claws and teeth will be useless against it, and StarClan is still recovering from the War of the Place of No Stars. It is up to you six to save the Clans." she warned.
"But the Elements-- they're in Canterlot!" Flutterpaw protested.
"But then how did you defeat Nightmare Moon?" Spottedleaf quipped.
"With the Spirits of the Elements, but-"
"Did you have the Elements?"
"Then how are you going to defeat this enemy?"
"With our Spirits..."
"With our Spirits."
Flutterpaw inhaled deeply. "With our Spiriiiiiiiits."
"You're going to need more enthusiasm than that,"
Flutterpaw paused. "Too loud?"
"Flutterpaw, you're going soon. Remember this and only share this information with Lionblaze, Dovewing, Jayfeather, Ivypool, and your friends."
"Where am I-" Flutterpaw's voice disappeared.
"Jayfeather, I know that you're there."
Jayfeather walked out of the shrubbery where he eavesdropped on their conversation.
"You have to protect her."
He was taken aback. "Excuse me?"
"StarClan is not sure of what this new threat is, but it has come from the Old Forest. You must ask Cinderheart about the Old Forest to screen for clues as to who- or what- it is. Not Tigerstar, he's gone. But something else. Worse." she paused. "It may even be more intimidating than the War."
"I have a feeling, but you're a smart cat." she laughed darkly. "Smarter than I."
"No, I'm not as smart..."
"Go back, Jayfeather. Fluttershy is waiting." Spottedleaf started fading from sight as his vision went dark.
"So Twilightpaw, tell me about the Princesses you talked about earlier," Bramblestar continued their conversation.
"Princess Celestia raises the sun each morning and her sister, Princess Luna raises the moon each night. Princess Cadence, on the other hoof, she's the Princess of Love. She's the best Princess ever- not including Celestia and Luna, of course, but she's the most caring, most fun foalsitter ever!" Twilightpaw's tail swished some leaves across the floor of Bramblestar's den. "She's different than the Celestial Sisters, though. Princess Celestia told me that she was a pegasus from Cloudsdale, the City of Clouds. Her specialty was love, and when she found out everything there was to learn about it, she was transported to a mysterious realm."
"My mentor, Princess Celestia met her there. To paraphrase, she said that since Cadence had learned all she could about love, it was time for her to ascend to Princesshood. A powerful spell was cast, one synonymous with the magic of the universe, and have her unicorn magic in addition to her pegasus magic." Twilightpaw concluded her miniature lesson on Equestrian history.
"And you say that this Celestia is basically the persona of the sun itself?" Bramblestar mused. "Interesting."
"Yes, very interesting. I mean, she's been around all these years and done so much as a leader and pony, it's astounding!" Twilightpaw said proudly.
"Twilightpaw, do you remember what the Gathering is?"
"Hm? Oh, yes, isn't it when all Clans meet at night?" Twilightpaw asked.
"You're right. At Moonhigh, specially selected cats from the Clans meet to discuss news. The medicine cats all come, which includes Flutterpaw, and several warriors as well. Since you have been training hard and learning about the Clans as much as you possibly could, I'm inviting you to come to the Gathering with your other friends." Bramblestar meowed amicably.
"Me? I would be honored, Bramblestar." Twilightpaw dipped her head in thanks. "But shouldn't the mentors of the others know?"
"I've already told them. And you might want to keep Skypaw in check; I heard Foxleap mention something about how she was teaching him."
Twilightpaw stifled a laugh. "That's just P- Skypaw being Skypaw. But something's been bugging me for a while. Why did our names change?" She traced a shape in the dust. "I mean, Twilight Sparkle was a fine name, not to criticize your choice of naming, of course."
"I'm guessing an observant cat like yourself saw the age pattern for the names?"
Twilightpaw nodded. "Yes, the fi- kits and apprentices generally have 'kit' or 'paw' to end the name."
Bramblestar stood up. "Come on. See, the first half of the name is something kept for life, while the other half changes. Like if something were to happen during an apprenticeship, they wouldn't be locked into a name that doesn't fit them well." They emerged from the dim cave. "See Brightheart?" He flicked his tail toward said cat.
"When she was an apprentice, she was mauled by dogs. The current leader at the time had lost faith in StarClan and gave her a terrible name, but Firestar changed it when he became leader."
"Something like that happened once near Dodge City," Twilightpaw said after recovering from the shock of Brightheart's predicament. "A pegasus filly -I think her name was Bloom Sky- got attacked by some renegade Diamond Dogs and lost an eye. An earth pony named Tree Kicker rescued her and ran to the Manehattan Hospital. I got to meet him at his ceremony for a Medal of Loyalty."
"That's an Element of Harmony, right?" Bramblestar leaped down from a boulder and waited for the apprentice to follow.
"It's actually Rainpaw's. She really earned it not all that long before we were sent here. So sh-" Twilightpaw stopped talking and laughed awkwardly. "You know what, I'll tell you later."
Bramblestar laughed in return. "Go and talk to your friends."
The lilac cat dipped her head. "Yes, Bramblestar." She picked her way over some wrestling kits to chat with Applepaw.
Bramblestar sighed. "Squirrelflight!" he called.
"What is it, Bramblestar?" the ginger she-cat greeted him.
"There's something about Skypaw. Something... different."
"I've noticed something as well. She just has this -what's the word- this aura. Just being near makes me giddy," Squirrelflight meowed quietly, as if someone was listening in.
"That whole group has those auras, to quote you. Gempaw makes me want to give my freshkill to one of the kits, though they're usually stuffed when I'm around her. And Applepaw... it's like she can see every lie I've ever told." Bramblestar flicked his ear. "Even here, they're still the Elements."
He fixed his deputy with a long stare. "You know their origins?"
Squirrelflight rolled her eyes. "They're from an 'Equestria'."
"They embody the six core elements of friendship." He informed her of the nature of the Elements of Harmony.
"So you mean to say that they--" Squirrelflight flicked her tail at the apprentices. "--are capable of power greater than anything?"
"And I'm training one of them."
"And a warrior fresh out of apprenticeship gets to train the leader."
"You underestimate Dovewing, Squirrelflight. She held her own and more during the battle." He didn't need to elaborate on which battle.
"It's true, but why not a more experienced warrior? And why did they ally themselves with us in the first place? They could have just refused to fight." She flicked her tail in anxiety.
"Squirrelflight, I don't know why they came to us. I chose the cats whom I thought were qualified to receive an apprentice; I thought you were ready for one. And by the looks of Gempaw, it looks like you are." Bramblestar sighed. "Look, I want you to speak to her about the Gathering. I want them all to be there, and I want you to tell no one of the Elements. They can only know that they're some cats that wandered in after fighting a badger with us. They wanted in, we let them. that's the story, understood?"
Squirrelflight nodded. "Their secret's safe with me. And I'll speak to her about it during training later."
"Good." Bramblestar surveyed the Clan. "The Clan's aren't ready for this yet. I'm not sure that even TunderClan is ready, either."