Last chapter, everyone! Thanks to everyone who read this all the way through, and especially to those who gave reviews and constructive criticism. Hate to be corny and cliche, but you guys made this story what it is.

Lunarpaw: thanks!

feathercloud13: I know, I know, it made me so sad... but I don't control Hawkfrost... -sniff-

Shellheart: that's why it's called AU (Alternate Universe). It's not supposed to turn out the same as the book. I mean, it can, but it doesn't have to. Things are different; that's the whole point of setting it in an alternate universe. :)

icethroat21: I agree. The Power of Three is what made me stop reading Warriors. It's just...bleh. That's why we've got fanfiction, though ;)

Painted Inkblot: thank you for picking out my typos ;) and thanks, I was aiming for something along the lines of "epic", so I'm glad it came across that way.

Chapter 12

Squirrelflight could have died of shock when she took in the scene before her.

She noticed her father first, his neck twisted and broken in the silvery loop of the fox trap. She wanted to run to him, to cry in his fur and bring him back to life - but then she noticed Ashfur.

The gray-furred warrior lay next to his leader in the dirt, bleeding from his throat and eerily unmoving. Squirrelflight could tell even from a distance that he was dead, and it made her want to cry out with a whole new level of painful sorrow.

And then she saw Hawkfrost. He was dead as well, she could see, but that brought her no pity or tears. What did, however, was the figure by the RiverClan cat's side, nose buried in his fur.

The soaking wet, crimson-stained tabby was the only cat left alive on the lakeside. It took Squirrelflight a moment to recognize the broken figure for who he was.


For reasons unknown to her, Squirrelflight padded her way over to her living Clanmate before weeping for the dead. Confusion riddled her mind, and grief tore at her heart strings, and in Brambleclaw she sought answers.

The tabby didn't reply. She sat down next to him, trying to ignore the uncomfortable presence of Hawkfrost's corpse and asked quietly, "What... happened?"

Brambleclaw looked up at her for the first time. Squirrelflight was taken aback at the look in his shining amber eyes; they were haunted and glazed, like a dead cat walking.


"Leave me, Squirrelflight," he whispered.

"No!" the she-cat's stubborn streak kicked in. "You're seriously injured - you need to see Leafpool!"

"I deserve to die," he rasped.

"I won't let a friend die," Squirrelflight argued, "Come on, you're coming back to camp with me now -"

"Stop caring about me!" Brambleclaw yowled in anguish, "Don't you see what I've done? This is my fault - this is all my fault!"

Squirrelflight's eyes travelled around the lakeside, falling on Ashfur and Firestar's dead bodies. Murdered bodies.

"You see? You have to leave me here to die."

Squirrelflight's mind pieced together the puzzle as best she could. A part of her wanted to scream her lungs out at Brambleclaw, a part of her wanted to tear his throat out, another part wanted to lick his wounds till he was healed and another part wanted to obey his request and leave him alone to die.

But instead, with tears in her eyes, she forced out a single word.


Brambleclaw shook his head painfully. "You would never understand. I never expect anyone to understand." He looked up at her meaningfully, his eyes shining with tortured tears. "Squirrelflight, please... if you won't leave me, then kill me."

In that moment, the ginger-furred she-cat made up her mind. "No."

"Please, Squirrelflight, I don't deserve to live..."

"I didn't say you did," she spat. His eyes widened, and hers softened. "But you also don't deserve to die alone."

She rested her muzzle on his shoulder, and forced him to slump to the ground. She lay down beside him, muzzle still resting on his bloodied shoulder. The action spoke more than a thousand words - in Brambleclaw's last moments, he and Squirrelflight reached a mutual understanding.

She wasn't sure how long she lay there by his side, pondering, wondering, and grasping for answers to questions that would never be revealed, and most of all grieving. Grieving for Firestar, her beloved father and leader; for Ashfur, the tom she had loved with all her life; and for Brambleclaw, her best friend.

As the sun began to set, and fiery orange light reflected off the bloodstained lake, Brambleclaw exhaled for the last time.

Squirrelflight felt his breathing stop, and the weak rhythm of his heartbeat cease altogether. And then, for the first time since her arrival at the scene, she let out her tears.


ThunderClan later learned of an elaborate plot by Hawkfrost of RiverClan to kill Firestar, as well as take revenge on his half-brother, who had valiantly placed himself between his kin and his leader. By fatal misfortune, Ashfur had gotten involved, and died trying to save his fellow warriors.

The entire Clan sat vigil that night, and held a solemn burial for three honored warriors the next morning.

Squirrelflight moved past her lie and on with her life. She volunteered to take on Birchpaw, her mate's apprentice, for the final two moons of his apprenticeship. The poor apprentice was guilt ridden, lost and confused; he was convinced that had he gone against Ashfur's orders and followed his heart, then the three dead warriors would still be alive.

Meanwhile, Leafpool went to the Moonpool to ask StarClan what to do about the leader situation; the Clan could not agree on what to do, as a situation where a Clan had lost a leader with no deputy had never occurred before. StarClan illuminated their choice as leader - Sandstorm.

While some considered the choice unexpected, Squirrelflight couldn't help but feel pride for her mother. And no cat could deny that Sandstorm was prepared to be leader, and would probably make a great one at that.

By sunset the next night, Sandstorm chose Brackenfur to be her deputy. The golden-brown tom was humbly surprised and incredibly honored, and took a place he had never expected to be in next to Sandstorm on Highledge.

Sandstar agreed to take on Hazelpaw as her apprentice, but the little she-cat was distraught. She refused to train at all, and was in a state of what Leafpool characterized as denial.

"We'll get through to her eventually," Leafpool mewed in a hushed tone to Sandstar.

The newly named leader shook her head sadly. "I hope so."

Whitepaw was there to comfort her fellow apprentice. She had guessed the emotion that Hazelpaw was going through, and it wasn't just grief - it was heartbreak. The two apprentices spent a lot of time together over the next moon, until Hazelpaw finally agreed to continue her training.

Two moons after the tragic loss of a great leader and two beloved warriors, it finally seemed as though life in ThunderClan was going back to normal. Squirrelflight took immense pride in her apprentice becoming a warrior, but not even Birchheart's induction to the ranks of the warriors of ThunderClan could mend her fractured spirit.

She was torn between pride and jealousy every time she saw Brackenfur and Sorreltail sharing tongues, Brightheart and Cloudtail hunting together, or the adorable blossoming affection between Birchheart and Whitewing. This should have been her fate - she and Ashfur should have watched ginger and gray kits bouncing around the nursery with joy.

She took solace in helping care for Sorreltail's new kits. There were still things in life, she decided, that made her happy. Even as every day her mind flashed back to that day on the lake side, the day her sister's prophecy came true - before there is peace, blood will spill blood, and the lake will run red.

When she remembered that day, the day permanently etched into her mind for all eternity, she couldn't help but wonder if they were all watching over her. Firestar, a proud leader joining the legendary leaders past, and Ashfur a shimmering figure in StarClans ranks. Also... she hoped that Brambleclaw was with them. Because though she knew Brambleclaw had betrayed her and her Clan, she couldn't help but see the good that had been buried in his heart, and that had emerged at the very end.

So every night when Squirrelflight gazed up at the glittering cats of Silverpelt, longing for Firestar's guidance and Ashfur's touch, she got the feeling that Brambleclaw was there too.

A/N: I've always wanted to write a not-so-happy ending. But this one still came out slightly happy-ish. I guess I fail.

Quick notes: one, I wasn't so happy with the way the ending came out. I'm not so good with endings; drawing things to a close and tying a pretty ribbon on a story isn't my forte, so I hope this worked okay. Second, I know that Birchpaw's warrior name was Birchfall. But really, what kind of name is Birchfall? I thought that Birchheart was more appropriate, and I changed it because I could. So deal with it. Third, yes, I know Brambleclaw died in the last chapter, when you thought it was all over. And yes, I know that was really mean. But it just kind of had to work out that way.

Thanks to everyone for reading, and happy (belated) holidays! :)