The breath was driven from Alderpaw's body as Sparkpaw tackled him, her hind paws batting at his exposed belly. He struggled to throw her off, but couldn't manage to shake the weight.
"Come on, Alderpaw! We practiced this move yesterday, you know what to do!"
Alderpaw struggled to remember the lesson from the day before, but he was wheezing and dazed from the attack. The memories came as a blur, but he managed to strike out with a paw with sheathed claws and bat the she-cat's muzzle. Wiggling out from under her legs, he kicked out against her chest and rolled away to catch his breath. Sparkpaw rounded on him immediately, hardly phased, and he dodged her pounce with a shriek.
Blossomfall's voice echoed across the training hollow.
"That's enough, Sparkpaw! Let's work on something else, now."
Alderpaw couldn't bring himself to look Lionblaze in the eye. His mentor would never say so, but Alderpaw knew that he had disappointed him yet again. The only prey he had managed to bring back to camp was a scrawny mouse the day before, and now he couldn't even fight. He was absolutely useless as an apprentice while his sister was excelling in everything she did. He wondered if Lionblaze ever wished he had gotten Sparkpaw as an apprentice instead. He sat with his head bent and ears flat as Blossomfall showed her apprentice a more advanced move.
"Alderpaw, are you okay? Do you need to see Jayfeather?"
Alderpaw shook his head, still not meeting his mentor's gaze. "No, I'm fine."
Lionblaze sat beside him and gently rested his tail on Alderpaw's.
"I know you're not. Whatever it is, you can tell me. You know you can trust me...don't you?"
It was only when Blossomfall and Sparkpaw had moved father into the trees that Alderpaw let himself fall against Lionblaze's shoulder and let out a pained sigh.
"Why can't I be as good as Sparkpaw? She's a much better apprentice than I am. She can hunt and fight, she can even make friends faster than me. I just want to be a good warrior, that's all."
His mentor gave his ear a quick lick and a friendly shove to the shoulder. "Alderpaw, you're a fantastic apprentice. All cats learn at different paces. There's nothing wrong with learning a little slower than your sister, I promise. Besides, you've only been training for a moon; these things take time. If you don't believe in yourself, believe in me. I'll make you the best warrior in Thunderclan, and I don't care how long it takes."
~ ~ ~
Alderpaw flailed helplessly as water filled his lungs, his eyes, his nose. He couldn't see anything but blue as waves crashed over him and drove him deeper, any attempt he made to swim resulting in him sinking farther.
"Skyclan is drowning, Alderpaw. Save them. Save them. Save them save them save them save-"
He woke with a start as Sparkpaw prodded him sharply in the rib.
"Will you shut up? I'm trying to sleep!"
Heart pounding, Alderpaw scrambled to his paws and burst out of the den, racing across the camp to Bramblestar's den. His mother and father were curled up together, their breathing synced as they slept.
"Bramblestar! Bramblestar, wake up, I have to talk to you!"
The dark tabby's eyes blinked open sleepily, glowing orange in the darkness as he looked up at Alderpaw with confusion.
"What? What is it?"
Squirrelflight heaved herself to her paws and flicked Alderpaw's nose with her tail as she passed. "It had better be important," she grumbled. "I don't think I've gotten a good rest in moons!" Alderpaw waited for her to disappear into the warriors den before padding closer to his father.
"I've had another dream," he whispered. "I think Starclan is telling me to find Skyclan."
Bramblestar remained calm, though his ears perked with interest. Alderpaw explained his dream, and when he'd finished, his father's tail tip was twitching anxiously.
"I'll think about it. In the meantime, just continue your training."
"There's no time to think! Firestar himself came to me! That must mean something!"
Bramblestar just sighed and stared down at his paws for a long while. Alderpaw was tired of wasting time, but he didn't want to push his leader too far and make him decide to ignore the dreams all together. After a long pause, the tabby tom lifted his head and called for Squirrelflight. When the ginger she-cat reappeared, he commanded her to round up Lionblaze, Sparkpaw, Blossomfall, Brightheart and Mousewhisker.
"Tell them not to ask questions, I'll explain when they get here."
The rest of the day was Bramblestar patiently explaining the existence of the lost Skyclan to the cats he had called to his den and the mission that was now bestowed upon them.
"I want the lot of you to go in search for Skyclan. Jayfeather has had dreams that suggest the clan is in trouble and needs our help."
Alderpaw's heart dropped when his father placed the dreams on Jayfeather instead of him, but he knew that Bramblestar was just trying to protect him. If the rest of the clan knew about his dreams, they would doubt his ability to become a true warrior. Sparkpaw's tail lashed excitedly.
"You mean we're going on a journey? Like you did?"
Bramblestar licked his chest fur, obviously embarrassed.
"Not quite," he purred.
"Yes," their mother meowed, "You're only responsible for the life of one clan rather than four!"
Bramblestar rolled his eyes and cuffed his deputy playfully on the ear.
"Go rest now, eat, finish your duties, do what you have to. You'll leave tomorrow at sunhigh."
"I can't believe an entire clan was driven out of the forest," Brightheart murmured as they filed out of the den. Mousewhisker nodded thoughtfully. "It's strange, isn't it? Somehow they've survived for seasons without our help, what could be so urgent that they need it now?"
Alderpaw flinched as Lionblaze's pelt brushed his gently.
"It's you who had the dreams, isn't it?" He meowed.
Alderpaw let his tail drag in the dirt. "Yes. I'm sorry..."
"Sorry? What do you have to be sorry for?"
"Dreams from starclan are supposed to go to medicine cats. I'm supposed to be training and hunting for my clan, not interpreting signs!" He scratched angrily at the ground, not meeting his mentor's gaze. Lionblaze nuzzled his ear sympathetically.
"Alderpaw, you choose your own destiny. It's not up to Starclan how you live your life. If you feel this...vision.. or whatever is important, then we'll respect that. Bramblestar already has! You just have to believe in yourself."
Alderpaw leaned against the golden tom's broad shoulder.
"You really think that?"
"I do. Go get some sleep now, you look exhausted."
Relieved, Alderpaw bounded to the apprentice's den. The sun was steadily rising, but his entire body felt as if he had been carrying trees on his shoulders. Just as his eyes were beginning to close, Sparkpaw burst into the den and tackled him, squeezing a pained oof from his lungs.
"Can you believe it? A real quest! Aren't you excited?"
Alderpaw pushed her off and attempted to straighten out his pelt.
"We don't know what we'll find," he warned. "Skyclan could already be gone by the time we get there."
Sparkpaw just shrugged, unfazed. "Still, we've never been outside Thunderclan before! It'll be fun!"
Alderpaw flicked his ears, annoyed. Where did Sparkpaw's never-ending energy come from?
"Shouldn't you be out doing something?"
"Blossomfall's letting me nap a little longer to prepare for tomorrow. Looks like Lionblaze is letting you do the same?"
"I was trying to nap."
Sparkpaw wrinkled her nose at him and prodded him with a forepaw. "Alright, alright! Great Starclan, don't mess with my brother when he's tired! Y'know, you're starting to sound a lot like Jayfeather."
Alderpaw rolled his eyes as Sparkpaw curled up in her own nest, her back to him.
"At least Jayfeather respects a cat's need for some peace and quiet," he muttered, and fell into a dreamless sleep.
|hi, im Danny and i have a lot of ocs that i post way too much about. He/him pronouns please. feel free to talk to me any time/send in requests and I'll do my best to get them done! ^^|