Prologue

A soft, white flake drifted down from the gray and clouded skies, landing gently on the muzzle of a pale figure sitting just outside of a two-leg nest. The figure closed her eyes and stooped closer to the ground to gather the earth's warmth, curling her tail over four smaller figures that leaned into her long, thick coat. Leaf-bare had arrived, and by the harsh nip that the cold gave the figure's nose, she knew that it would be a long, cruel season of suffering and struggle. The figure, a pale blue she-cat, reopened her eyes at the sound of a voice calling to her. Whether it was another cat or the voice of her deceased parents calling for her to join them as she froze stiff in the cold, she was not sure.

"Momma," one of the smaller figures, a brown tabby kit, mewled. "I'm cold. Can we go home?" The kit nuzzled into the she-cat's fur, his teeth chattering against her small body.

Exhaling a sigh that took the form of a billowing white cloud, the she-cat shook her head solemnly. "I'm afraid, my son, that we can never return to that place. It can no longer be our home… it's too dangerous." By now, the snow's flakes had grown dense and were falling at a rapid pace. Already it had blanketed the dying grass around them, causing their unprotected paws to go numb with cold. It wouldn't be much longer, she realized, before her kits would freeze to death, and she would not last too much longer than they. She could already feel the illness settling in her chest, causing her to wheeze with the addition of an occasional cough. I hope you haven't forgotten us, Pineclaw…

Panic rose in the she-cat when she felt one of her kits, who'd she'd instructed to move about as much as they possibly could to keep warm, fall motionless at her side. She lifted her tail to find that among her three other kits, her only other son had collapsed with his eyes frozen open. With a yowl of horror, the pale queen began to run her tongue over his frail body, against the grain, in hopes of reviving him. After several moments of lapping at his fur, however, she realized that it was no use. She'd lost yet another kit.

Feeling as though a thousand shards of ice had cut open her delicate heart, she curled her body tighter around her remaining kits. She was about to succumb to the freezing temperatures, having no will to live the life she'd been forced into, when she heard a voice calling her name somewhere in the distance. It came soft at first, growing louder as its source grew nearer and nearer.

"Hello?" she called. The she-cat's voice was as brittle as her bones felt. "Is somebody out there?" Squinting, a small flame of hope ignited in her chest as she managed to spot the outline of a cat trekking through the growing blizzard. She'd have recognized his amber eyes glowing amongst the curtain of white between them anywhere.

The shape, a dark brown tabby tom, lumbered over the growing mass of snow towards the she-cat to press his muzzle to hers. "Whisper, I've missed you."

It took everything in the she-cat to refrain from raking her claws over his nose; he was their last chance at survival. "Where have you been?" she hissed, her fur bristling with resentment. She couldn't believe that he'd lied to her in a time when she needed him most. "You promised two moons ago that you'd take me back to your Clan when the kits were old enough, and now because of you two of them are dead!"

The tom's amber eyes were glimmering with the pain he felt for the loss of their kits. Lowering his head in shame, he explained, "The night we next agreed to meet, I tried to sneak away from camp. But Driftstar caught me and ordered that I stand vigil to prove my loyalty to my Clanmates…" A layer of snow now clung to his dark fur, camouflaging him into their surroundings. "What's happened to our kits, Whisper? You're frightening me."

"The twolegs took our firstborn son," she growled. She stared through him, out into the distance, with glassy eyes; all she could see was the light diminishing from her kit's eyes as his life faded from his frozen body. "I knew that if we'd stayed they would have taken the rest of our kits, so the night we were supposed to meet I took the kits and came to meet you in our usual meeting place. You never showed and we've been living in the barn since then, but recently the twolegs' dogs have been getting too nosy. Tonight my instincts told me that you'd come for us and thank goodness they were right."

After leaning forward to comfort his mate by nuzzling her cheek, he retrieved their only remaining son. The kit was much larger than his sisters and seemed to stir the most in an effort to keep warm. "Have you named them?" the warrior asked. Though his words were muffled by the kit's brown fur, they were still audible.

"I've given them all names—like the kits of your Clan—except for that colicky one you're holding." She pointed towards their son, who was yowling his protest to being carried, with a flick of her plumy tail. He looked nearly identical to his father.

"He's brave, like his mother," the tom meowed, purring as the tabby kit tried to wrestle free from his grasp. "His name will be Bravekit." At the sound of this, Bravekit stopped his squirming and instead looked up at his father with soft yellow eyes that reminded his mother of the sun. He started to shiver, alarming his father.

The tom led their family further from the twoleg place, travelling across the moor between Whisper's old home and ThunderClan territory where her mate lived. Whisper hardly knew anything about Pineclaw's Clan other than the fact that they'd made a home for themselves in the forest and that Pineclaw was what they called their deputy. Normally she might not have trusted the idea of her kits being surrounded by unfamiliar and potentially dangerous cats, but it seemed now that it was their only chance at survival. Carrying her two daughters who were startlingly small, the pale blue she-cat quickly trotted after her mate despite the numbness in her paws. She wouldn't rest until her kits were safe and well.

It wasn't until the metallic scent of blood wafted through the air surrounding them that the she-cat skidded to a halt, slipping on the wet snow beneath her paws. "Pineclaw, what's that?"

Breathing in the air, the tom wrinkled his nose in revulsion. "It's not the blood of a squirrel, that's for sure. Hurry along; the faster we get to camp, the faster the kits can warm up." As the tom continued forward at an increased pace, she could sense the hostility prickling his spiky fur. There was definitely something fishy going on, something that he was keeping from her. Perhaps whatever it may be was the real reason he'd refused to meet for longer than originally intended?

A cry split the air, bringing Whisper to stop in her tracks with wide ochre eyes. The bushes rustled raucously around the cats as they pressed close to one another, Pineclaw's claws sliding out from their sheaths. Their kits mewed anxiously, asking their mother repetitively what was wrong and, each time, she drew the end of her tail over their mouths to silence them. From the shadows then crept a few cats, their faces unrecognizable to even Pineclaw.

"What have we here?" the bulkiest of the newcomers meowed, her voice mischievously sluggish. "We've been keeping an eye on you, Pineclaw, and I must say I'm impressed. No cat has ever been so confident in their decision to betray their Clan the way you have."

"You're on ThunderClan territory," Pineclaw meowed defensively, his stare ablaze with ferocity. "Now I don't know who you are but, unless it wasn't painfully obvious, you're not welcome here."

The she-cat blinked, unfazed. "Those are fighting words, young one. I'd watch what you say. It would be a shame, after all, if your decision ended up to be all for nothing." In the blink of an eye, the strange dark-pelted cats had surrounded them, their upper lips curled back to reveal sharp white teeth. The she-cat, who had proven to be their leading light, craned her neck to grasp their eldest daughter, a blue, ginger-spotted she-kit named Leafkit, by the scruff. Whisper lifted a paw to tear at her, only for her paw to fall through her figure. Rigid with fear, the pale blue she-cat watched in horror as the stranger began to pad towards the river that bubbled nearby.

"Put the kit down!" Pineclaw ordered, the fur along the base of his neck rising. He took a paw step forward, his pupils contracting to form rough slits. One of the she-cat's accomplices blocked his path with an amused purr, looking down on the ThunderClan cat as though he were a pathetic kit, unable to defend himself.

"Momma!" the kit screeched, squirming fearfully as she was hung over the icy and obscure water.

"My pleasure," the dark-pelted she-cat hissed. She released her grip on the kit, dropping her into the vigorous current.

"Momma—" the kit wailed before her voice was silenced by a mouthful of river water.

Whisper stood helplessly and howled her distress as her kit's head slipped below the surface of the water. Even if she were to escape the ring of cats standing in her way, Leafkit would have already drowned if the plummeting temperatures didn't claim her first. The numbness in her paws had spread to her heart, causing her to tremble violently in place as she prayed silently for her deceased kits.

With a blood-curdling cry, Pineclaw reared up before charging for the dark-pelted cats. They moved like shadows, as though the deepening snow weren't a liability to their agility and strength, and raked their claws through Pineclaw's flesh. The warrior was pinned to the frozen earth before he'd had the chance to inflict a single blow against his opponents, his fur matted and the ground below him stained scarlet with his blood. With his last ounce of strength, he craned his neck to peer at his mate a final time. "I wish we could have raised our kits together," he whispered, barely able to move his lips. "Go…" His voice faded to nothing as his spirit struggled to remain in control of his body.

Whisper stared in horror for a moment, her heart pounding in her ears, before she scrambled to retrieve her remaining kits by their scruff, tearing gawkily towards the strange, mingled scents of cats. When she had reached what appeared to be a barrier of sorts in the form of an entanglement of briar, her legs buckled beneath her and her vision was washed over with white as her eyes rolled into the back of her head.


Author's Note:

A year or two ago, I previously wrote A Cinder's Glow, etc. I have removed my previous works, for I wanted to rewrite a lot of it but could never find the time. This trilogy, called Warriors: Generations, that I will be working on will combine my previous works in a new and improved format. This first book, A Finch's Whisper, will allow us into Silverpaw's world to follow her legacy within the Clans.

Chapter Question: Do you believe Pineclaw's story? If not, explain why and suggest what the truth may be.