The following is an exerpt from Dawn, Book 4 off the New Prophecy series.

Disclaimer: I do not own Warriors or the following italicized quote. It was written by Erin Hunter.

The cats fell into single file to pick their way along the ledge.

"Carry the kits!" Blackstar called down the line, and his yowl echoed eerily off the walls of the gorge.

The ledge followed the curve of the mountain, sloping up toward a narrow pass between the two peaks. The mountainside echoed with the rattle of stones as the edge of the path crumbled beneath the cats' paws and sent grit showering down into the shadows below. Leafpaw walked as close as she could to the rock face, her heart hammering. She could feel Sorreltail's warm breath behind her.

Suddenly a wail rang out from up ahead, and a large chunk of rock clattered endlessly down into the abyss. A hole yawned in the narrow path, sending Smokepaw, a ShadowClan apprentice, plummeting into nothingness. For a moment he clutched desperately at the ledge, his claws scratching against the stone. Russetfur, the ShadowClan deputy, lunged to grab him, but her extra weight only dislodged more stones, and the edge where Smokepaw clung suddenly dropped away. Russetfur leapt backward, only just managing to save herself. The apprentice fell, twisting violently into the air, and disappeared into the darkness.

A ShadowClan queen leaned over the precipice. "Smokepaw!"

"Get back!" Stormfur yowled. He weaved like a fish back along the ledge and dragged her back.

As the cats stared in frozen horror, Leafpaw willed StarClan to take the apprentice quickly. Blackstar peered over the edge. "There's nothing we can do," he meowed, straightening up. "We have to keep going."

"You're going to leave him?" wailed the queen.

"He won't have survived that fall," Blackstar told her. "And we can't reach his body." He touched the queen's flank with his muzzle. "I'm sorry, Nightwing."

Smokepaw landed with a thud on a ledge. He couldn't feel his front right paw, which he'd landed on. He must have broken it. The smoky gray tom gazed painfully up at the hole he'd fallen through, a shower of pebbles landing on his face. He could barely make out a dark head peering over the side, and then it withdrew. After a frozen silence, a few blurs began to hop over the hole he'd created. Probably the cats who were behind me, he thought guiltily. He hoped no one else fell through, because it would be his fault.

Soon the blurs stopped crossing above him. No more cats leapt over the gorge, and no more heads peered into the abyss. Shivers racked the apprentice's body, partly from the piercing cold and partly from fear. The Clans had gone on without him, probably taking him for dead. He was alone, stranded on a ledge off the side of a mountain in an ice covered world.

It was alright, though, because he would probably die soon anyway. If not from his broken, battered limbs it would be from hunger. If not hunger, it would be thirst. And if not thirst, it would be loneliness. Smokepaw tried to push these thoughts from his mind, but then realized the pool of blood forming underneath him. Somehow, he'd deeply cut one of his back legs on the way down. If not from loneliness, it will be blood loss, he thought bitterly.

He lay still on the icy ledge for a long period of time, or so it seemed. He could barely see the crack of light at the top of the hole, so he really had no sense of time. Shivers of coldness racked his frame as frost began to form on the tips of his smoky fur. The pool of blood had spread out below his body, but he didn't mind. He was too tired to move, and he didn't want to risk further hurting his broken paw. Besides, the blood was warm.

He began to think not about how he was going to die here, but about how lucky he was that he wasn't dead yet. Yet. But he had had the luck to have landed on this ledge. Had he missed it, he would have continued tumbling down into the seemingly endless pit. He wondered what was down there, and what he would have landed on. He didn't want to risk peering over the edge in case he fell over, and then he would surely die. But even if he had taken a peak over the ledge, he was too high up to see the landscape below him.

Smokepaw slowly closed his eyes. The pain of the cold and his broken paw left him as his mind left consciousness. When he opened his eyes again, the pain returned to his body like a tidal wave. He looked up, and realized that the crack of light from above had disappeared. It must be night now, he thought. How long have I been asleep? It could have been just until night that day, or he could have been asleep for two days. Or a week, or a moon. It was impossible to tell.

Was there no way of getting out alive? Did he really have to just lie still on the icy ledge until he died? The realist part of his mind told him that there was no point in trying to live. The cynical part of him told him just to jump off the edge and get it over with, so he wouldn't have to lie there and suffer. And the optimist in him kept trying vainly to convince him that there was a way out.

But even if he escaped alive, what would he do? The Clans had already left him, and he would still be left alone, said his cynical side. But maybe he could start a life on his own, like a loner, said the optimist in his mind. Or he could just be a realist and lie there and die. That seemed like the easiest option other than throwing himself off the ledge.

No! yelled a voice inside of him, maybe the optimist or the stubborn apprentice. You can't just give up like a terrified mouse!

The ShadowClan apprentice heaved a sigh, then cried out in pain. It hurt his shattered rib cage just to have a large intake of breath. He resumed his shallow breathing, careful not to breath in too much at once. He realized that at least two, maybe more of his ribs were broken.

He lay there motionless and unmoving for a while longer. At least he thought it was awhile. He couldn't tell. Any cat who could have seen the broken, battered body lying on top of the blood stained ice would have immediately thought he was dead. He allowed his mind to wander in despair, wondering how much longer he would have to lie there suffering. Maybe he should just throw himself off the cliff. He wondered what StarClan was like. It must be pretty nice. All the prey you could ever want, whenever you wanted it, all the water you could ever wish for, and it must be warm. Not freezing cold like his blood covered ledge.

But would StarClan be happy with him for just giving up? I've been through this before! he thought angrily. There's no choice but to give up!

He didn't know why or how, but somehow the young apprentice worked up the courage to peer over the ledge. He couldn't make out the darkness far below him, but he suspected that the darkness was made up of treetops. Great, he thought cynically. I get to be skewered by tree branches.

He slowly felt the pain that had engulfed his body being numbed, probably by the cold weather and the increasing amount of frost on his fur. As the pain left, his mind cleared, and he realized that not far below him there was another ledge. If he could just get down there... but he couldn't. Not with his broken paw and ribs. And besides, what if he didn't make it onto the ledge? He was dead for sure.

But then he spotted another ledge, below the previous one. And below that was another small ice ledge. They were all perilously tiny, barely large enough to hold his body, and he wasn't sure they'd hold his weight. But he had to try. After all, if he didn't try, then he was really dead for sure.

Smokepaw had no idea what he'd do if and when he reached the bottom of the icey mountain face, but all he could do now was try.

I'm sorry that was so angsty, but it gets happier. Hehehee, Smokepaw has no idea what he's getting himself into... please, I'm hoping for a few reviews before I continue. See you next chapter!

Moonstar