"Caught in the Act"
The overgrown apprentice twitched drastically in her sleep. Her back right leg flicked out, kicking her brother Ghostpaw in the shoulder. He grunted and turned over. The makeshift camp in Skyclan's territory was far from comforting and far from roomy. The remains of the heart of Thunderclan slept together for warmth and security. However, Gracepaw was not an easy cat to sleep near. In her dream, the dilute calico was in another world.
"I'm ready." She spoke in a heated tone to the dark figure with blood coursing down his chest. He simply dipped his head in a noncommittal way. Quicker than sight, he dashed towards the apprentice, and claws raked down her muzzle. She managed to rake the back of his shoulder as he flew past her, and to her that was an accomplishment. He was almost twice her size, and Gracepaw was close to her adult height. The large tom knocked her over with his weight and Gracepaw fell over, feigning defeat. He had seen this trick before, though. He had taught it to her. He lunged for her throat, but like a snake, she whipped around on her back. Gracepaw, her claws unsheathed, ran her paws under the Heartless One's belly. A trickle of blood dropped from the undead cat's stomach as he backed away. It was not a retreat, but the teacher was done for the night. For once, Gracepaw felt accomplished. She turned into the dark forest behind her and couldn't help but feel her fur prick like someone was watching her.
Maplestar was not able to catch some sleep that night, and so she decided to look up to the stars and pray. Many cats have been loosing their hopes in StarClan now more than ever, because everyone was crammed in here. /I must not loose faith. StarClan, you have always been there for us.. please help us through this dire situation, we need your help and guidance... I-/ before she was able to finish more what she had to pray and think to StarClan, she noticed that a cat in the distance was grunting and moving their arms and legs apart. She noticed that cat to being none other than her apprentice, Gracepaw. She noticed that she hit Ghostpaw in her sleep.. but that wasn't the most disturbing part. Her claws were slid out as if she were fighting in battle. /Oh no.. her? StarClan not her../ she thought to herself as her heart sank. Webstrike had told her what to watch out for when cats are aligning themselves with the Dark Forest, and this was just one of the signs. Her blue eyes gazed at the young apprentice with such an unamused glare, /I have to put a stop to this now./ she thought firmly. She walked up to her apprentice, and she meowed curtly, "Gracepaw, get up."
Jerked awake, Gracepaw gasped out loudly, waking some of the surrounding cats who growled before falling back asleep. With wide eyes, Gracepaw looked around, panicked. "What!?" She whispered fiercely before realizing the cat who woke her was the leader of her clan, her mentor, Maplestar. The cut the Heartless One gave her on her muzzle had manifested in real life and was starting to trickle blood. The iron taste slipped into Gracepaw's mouth and she realized secret was out. "There must have been a thorn in my nest." She explained lamely. It sounded fake even to her ears. "Skyclan needs a better camp..." She refused to meet the leader's eyes.
Maplestar's irises shrank in shock of the sudden disrespect and then the blood trickling from her apprentice's muzzle. That lie that her apprentice managed to spill was not at all convincing to the leader. "Get up now. We are going on a walk. NOW." she said in a very stern voice. She couldn't describe how she felt. She felt betrayed by her own apprentice. No wonder her apprentice was always so tired and not very interested in training with her. /How dare she disrespect you StarClan. I am so sorry for her actions. I will make sure this will NOT go unpunished./ the fawn brown leader thought to herself.
Gracepaw rose, feeling that she did not have a choice in the matter. The cut on her muzzle started to ache and the apprentice hoped it would not scar. Gracepaw risked a look at her mentor, and she felt a shiver down her spine. Maplestar did not look happy. In fact, furious was a better word. The apprentice followed her mentor away from the other cats in silence. Her compact small frame shivered in the night air since her fur was too thin to keep her very warm. It felt like judgement day and she was the one on trial.
As soon as they exit the camp and were away from any prying eyes, Maplestar stopped and turned to her. "What in the name of StarClan are you thinking training with the Dark Forest?! Gracepaw, I thought you would know better than this. You do know why cats end up in that dreadful place, don't you?" she hissed. "This is not funny Gracepaw. You don't understand how dangerous that place is!!"
Gracepaw had been visiting the Dark Forest since she was old enough to stand. The Heartless One had been summoning her for as long as she could remember. His face was as familiar to the apprentice as her own mother's. She didn't know why she was chosen, only that the Dark Forest had helped her in ways that no other cat had. "At least the cats in the Dark Forest act like they want to train me!" She hissed to her mentor. Gracepaw was not usually this disobedient, but she was frustrated, shamed, and upset with Maplestar all at the same time. Gracepaw's skinny tail swiped across the dirt in an agitated way.
She flattened her ears and she growled, "I do train you and I do want to train you!! But not when you are like this!! I send you off with other apprentices a lot because yes, I do have other duties, but surely I have taught you something." how dare she show her this much disrespect to her leader AND mentor. "So you think that what it takes to being a warrior is by training by traitors? Traitors who have killed their own clanmates for the thrill of it, destroyed lives, and break the warrior code without a worry or a care!" her tail thrashed about angrily, "Who is the brute that is training you in the Dark Forest. I want a straight answer now Gracepaw."
"They are not all bad cats!" Gracepaw pleaded. Hot, angry tears swelled in her eyes and she blinked hard to push them away. "He never told me his name... " Gracepaw answered honestly. Her mystery tutor did not talk much and never offered his back story. Suddenly, Gracepaw realized something important. Maplestar could prevent her from becoming a warrior because of this! "I don't want to be an apprentice forever... ," she murmured, pained.
"Yes they are?! Why else did they go to the Dark Forest? Because StarClan willed of them to? No. Only true warriors die and GO to StarClan. The cats that end up in the Dark Forest, they should have never had the right to be considered a clan cat. They threw it all away when they put their selfish needs and wants first before anything." Maplestar growled, she needed to be intimidating to show that she was not going to take this lightly."So you trust a stranger over your own clanmates? That's just as bad as going to the Dark Forest." she chided. Maplestar heard the genuinity when she told her that she didn't get his name. She signed deeply and she meowed in a stoic toned voice, "Oh do not worry, you won't be an apprentice forever. You will remain an apprentice until I am sure of it that you are not visiting with the Dark Forest cats any longer, and that you know where your loyalties lie. You can not have a paw in two places. It's either you stay loyal to ThunderClan to be a true warrior, or you will walk among those cats."
Dejected, Gracepaw dipped her head to Maplestar. There was nothing left to say except the promise. "I won't go back to the dark forest..." Her voice seemed tiny in the foreign territory.
"Good." Maplestar mewed. She knew that she sounded harsh, but she needed to get her point across in order for her apprentice to truly listen to her. "Please know that I'm doing this for your own good. You are my apprentice, and whether or not you think it is true, I do care for you." she said in a softened voice, not wanting the calico tabby to think that her mentor was going to hate her or dislike her for her actions. "But actions do have consequences, and sometimes we have to face them. I need you to be true to not only the clan, but also to yourself and your heart when you face these consequences."
Gracepaw looked down at her paws and felt her face flush with embarrassment. She didn't like to be scolded and she felt unhappy with the turn of events. But she knew she would never become a warrior unless she showed Maplestar loyalty. "I'll do better. " She spoke softly. Her grass green eyes rose to meet the leader's and she forced the fur on her neck to settle down.
Maplestar nodded and sighed, "Come on now Gracepaw. We better head back to SkyClan's camp before anyone suspects a thing." She got up and she headed herself to the camp. "And then when the day sets, we will talk about our training and see what we can do."
Gracepaw watched her mentor leave towards the camp. The dilute calico started to follow when she felt someone watching her from the shadows. Her eyes widened as the shadow seemed to form a pair of eyes then it began to slink back into nothing. Her tail puffed up slightly, and she sucked into her breath. Quickly, the apprentice turned and followed Maplestar into the night.