BARLEY AND BAXTER

Baxter stood there, trying to decide which path to take. He turned back to ask Anna how he could make such a decision as this but when he turned she was gone. How long had he been thinking? He shook his head. It must have been a while for him not to see the orange she-cat at all. She had been real or had she? Baxter was confused. He had spoken to her, felt her licks of comfort, there was no way that the beautiful feline was just a figment of his imagination. Part of him wanted to turn back but he couldn't. He remembered the words that Anna had spoken of her friend Rhode and how that housefolk had killed him. Baxter knew what the word meant. Killed meant dead. Although he had never seen anything dead before his mother had told him about it. He just couldn't fully grasp the concept since he had never witnessed it himself. The white tom sighed and looked down the path that lead to his right. He could see moorlands and beyond that mountains. That was where he would go. After all, the rumour was that his father had went to the mountains. He would find his father and ask him why he had deserted his family.

Baxter began to walk slowly down the path. He knew that by doing this he was changing his future yet, like all living creatures, he had free will. The will to choose the path of his own life and this is where that path began.

"Tallstar," a black and white tom cat with a twisted paw mewed. "I sent out Onewhisker, Oakpaw, and Mudclaw on hunting patrol. No ShadowClan cats were scented on border patrol at sunhigh. I guess Brokenstar isn't going to keep his threat of taking over our territory."

The tom he was speaking to raised his long tail into the air. "Deadfoot," he said softly. "I believe Brokenstar's threat. Shadowclan is a clan filled with darkness and greed. Even the tiniest kit knows that they will steal from any other Clan's territory. That is why we must keep out all intruders. It is for the safety of our Clan."

Deadfoot sighed and turned from his leader. He was concerned about the safety of WindClan just as much as Tallstar was but he just couldn't understand why his leader wanted to keep out all intruders. There were cats such as loners that crossed their territory to go into the mountains. Should those cats be attacked and driven away also? They were no threat to WindClan or any of the other Clans.

The deputy's ears pricked as he heard Onewhisker's voice followed by Oakpaws. He couldn't make out what they were saying but he could scent a strange cat with them and what was that other thing he smelled? Was that blood? Deadfoot bolted upright and ran as fast as twisted paw would allow. He reached the entance of thier camp just as the three WindClan cats walked in with a small white tom cat right in the middle of them.

Baxter's confidence had grown as he traveled towards the moorlands that lay at the end of the path and, as he stepped off the path and onto the moorlands, he felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off his chest. He felt like a kit again safe with his mother and brothers. He leapt forward, running as quick;y as his young and broken body would allow him to run. The white tom had made it nearly halfway across the valley when he noticed movement around him. He stopped short, trembling in fear. There were three cats coming toward him. They looked mean and hungry.

Baxter had heard tales of the wild cats that lived around here and how they liked to eat young housecats. He thought about running until he realized that there was no where he could run. Those cats would catch him and who knew what they would do to them when they did. Baxter sighed, a sigh rather old for a cat as young as he was and he prepared himself for whatever it was these cats were going to do to him.

The smaller of the three, a dark brown mottled tom, growled firecely as he advanced on Baxter. He leapt upon him and began biting and clawing. The other two toms looked on as Oakpaw assaulted the young white cat.

"Wait!" a light brown tom screeched.

The mottled tom broke off with a growl. "Why, Onewhisker? You know Tallstar told us to drive off any cat that comes into the territory. He may be a ShadowClan spy!"

Onewhisker let out a snort of disbelief as he looked over Baxter. He could see the young cats body was covered in injuries.

"My name is Onewhisker. I am a warrior of WindClan. I apologize for Oakpaw's, um, enthusiasm. He was attempting to defend his Clan, very poorly I might say." The light brown tom turned to the mottled tom. "Oakpaw, did you not notice that not only is this a kittypet but he is also already injured? There is no way he is a ShadowClan spy. More likely than not it was ShadowClan who did this to him. We are taking him to camp. Barkface should be able to give him something for those wounds. Follow us, young one."

ShadowClan? WindClan? Kittypet? Baxter didn't understand those words. The tom though seemed friendly enough and Baxter followed eagerly, so desperately wanting a cat to be his friend.

Just as Deadfoot reached them he heard Barkface's voice. He knew the medicine cat had also scented the blood and was coming out to see who needed him.

"Over here, Barkface," Deadfoot mewed.

The medicine cat reached the patrol just as Baxter fell over unconcious. He looked at the young tom in disbelief. This was a kittypet? Did they expect him to help this cat? He was not a ThunderClan cat! WindClan did not allow kittypets to come into their Clan nor did they allow warriors to leave their Clan and become kittypets. Barkface turned away from the patrol, his tail lashing.

"Barkface," Onewhisker mewed. "Kittypet or not he needs our help. He is not going to make it without your herbs and knowledge. He is younger than Oakpaw. Please help him."

Barkface let out a soft growl, low enough only for Onewhisker to hear. He paused, the tip of his tail twitching slightly.

"Fine," the medicine cat grumbled. "I will help this kittypet but only if Tallstar approves it."

"Deadfoot," Onewhisker turned, facing the deputy. "May you please talk to Tallstar?"

The black and white tom raised his damaged paw and let out a gesture very much like a wave.

"I will see what I can do. I don't know if I can convince Tallstar. He is very worried about ShadowClan. I will try though. I promise."

"Tallstar," Deadfoor mewed, approaching his leader. "Onewhisker and his patrol found a trespasser. He's not from ShadowClan!"

Tallstar didn't even hear Deadfoot when he stated the cat was not from ShadowClan. The instant he heard the word trespasser he was on his paws and heading astraight towards Baxter, a look of pure hatred in his eyes.