"Come on, Snowkit, wake up!" Paws pummeled her sides as Snowkit groaned, slowly opening her eyes. Two fuzzy outlines stood above her. As she blinked the sleepiness from her eyes, they came into focus. Breezekit and Windkit, Snowkit's denmates, were standing over her, grinning widely.
"What?" Snowkit grumbled.
"Come on, Snowkit! Our mothers are going to take us to the river, remember?" Breezekit rolled her eyes at her brother as she spoke to Snowkit.
The trip to the river! Snowkit scrambled to her paws at once, the memory and excitement rushing back. Today was the day that she had been waiting for! The day that the queens took the kits out to see a little of the territory!
Hastily scraping bits of moss off her pelt, Snowkit stood and looked around the WindClan nursery.
It was a fairly large bush with a spacious interior. The outside had been woven with bits of heather and gorse, making it extra strong. Heather flowers had been scattered inside, making the den smell like fresh air and sweet-smelling flowers. The two mossy nests were placed in the corners furthest from the entrance, so that the drafts didn't reach the young kits as easily. The two queens, Dewtail and Nightwhisper, were already awake, chatting to each other as they groomed themselves.
Breezekit's playful meow brought Snowkit's attention back to the other two kits in the nursery. "Let's go out and get some fresh-kill!" Windkit nodded enthusiastically, and Snowkit stood up to run out the den entrance as her answer.
The three kits tumbled out of their den and into the clearing, where the Clan was beginning to stir.
Diamondstar slipped out of the shadows behind the Tallboulder and padded over to talk with Hawktalon, the deputy, who was emerging from the warrior's den. He was followed by Streamfur and Rainstripe, who padded across to the fresh-kill pile. The three apprentices, Skypaw, Cloudpaw, and Bluepaw, were emerging from their den, blinking in the dawn sunlight. Leaftail, Gorsewater, and Heatherwing padded out of their den and slipped out the main entrance on the dawn patrol.
Emberclaw padded over to where the three kits stood in front of the nursery, watching the Clan wake. "So, today's the day you see some of the world," he purred. Snowkit nodded eagerly.
"Yeah!" she squeaked excitedly. Emberclaw nodded.
"I remember my first day out of camp as a kit. We ran into a group of foxes in their burrow. I had to climb up to a tall rock while the warriors fought. It was really scary. I remember seeing a lot of blood, and one warrior was slashed down her flank. She nearly died." He looked seriously at them. "Be careful out there," he meowed, and then padded off to greet Airpelt, who had just emerged from the warriors den.
Windkit looked at Snowkit and Breezekit. "Do you think he was teasing or warning us?" he asked uncertainly.
"Well, if he was warning us... maybe we should ask Dewtail," Breezekit meowed, glancing back at the nursery.
"I don't think he was serious at all!" Snowkit cried, bouncing up and down with excitement, "This will be the best day 'ever!'"
Windkit shrugged at Breezekit. "If Snowkit thinks so, then I guess we shouldn't worry too much."
Breezekit nodded. "Well, what about that fresh-kill?" she asked, purring. Snowkit had forgotten about the fresh-kill. She bounded over to the pile of rabbits, which was running a little low.
"The hunting patrols had better bring back something good," she grumbled under her breath as she settled down with Windkit and Breezekit to eat a particularly stringy young rabbit.
"Hey, that's not very nice!" Windkit exclaimed, purring.
Snowkit purred as well, but agreed with Windkit. "All right, I know they haven't gotten the chance to go out yet." As she chewed on a morsel of fur, Snowkit watched the nursery entrance. As soon as Dewtail and Nightwhisper came out, they could leave.
As they sat eating, the Clan was getting more active. The three apprentices padded out of the entrance for training with their mentors. Diamondstar joined Birdflare and Sungaze on a hunting patrol. Emberclaw and Airpelt padded over to say hello to Crystalwing, the medicine cat. Rainstripe walked across the clearing to talk with Dewtail, who had just emerged from the nursery with Nightwhisper.
Snowkit leaped to her paws. They were finally out of the nursery! "Windkit! Breezekit! They're here!" she cried, and bounded over to her mother.
Nightwhisper purred and licked the top of Snowkit's head. "Ready to go?" she asked.
"Definitely!" Snowkit meowed happily. Beckoning to Windkit and Breezekit, Dewtail padded towards the entrance, taking the lead of the small group. The three kits tumbled after her, tripping over their own paws in their eagerness to get out of the camp. At their first glance at their territory, they stopped dead, staring.
"Nice, isn't it?" purred Nightwhisper, coming up behind them.
Nice was an understatement. It was beautiful, the hills sloping gently upwards from the valley in front of them, reaching to the sky. Fluffy, white clouds floated slowly across the clear, blue sky, casting drifting shadows on the bright green grass. A path led straight through the valley, curving around the base of the hill to follow a small, clear stream flowing around the hills. Snowkit saw a few brown rabbits munching on grass beside a bunch of holes. She realized that the rabbits were eating in front of their version of a den. Diamondstar, her father, had described this scene to her, but she had never imagined it would be this amazing, or this enticing. She wished she could run down the slope and get lost in a patch of heather, drink from the stream, be free.
"Snowkit? Are you coming?" Breezekit was waiting for her at the beginning of a path she hadn't seen before, curving around the edge of the camp and out of sight.
"Yeah, I'm coming," Snowkit replied hastily. She bounded forward, brushing along the grass that lined the trail. By following the others, she managed to make it to the bottom of the hill without getting lost. Dewtail led the kits up the next hill, and around a second valley, a little like the first one in front of the camp. They padded along a narrow gully and through a clump of heather. All the while, Windkit and Breezekit were playing, chasing each other around and around.
Snowkit joined them at first, but decided against it after a while. She was too excited to care much about Catch the Tail, Rabbit, and the other games they usually played together.
The sun beat down hard on Snowkit's back as she walked along, making her feel hot and tired, draining her excitement of the river. She knew they must not be far away, but there was another water source she knew of.
The stream she had spotted from the top of the first hill in front of the camp had been enticing enough, even without a burning pelt and a dry tongue. She thought longingly of it. The cool, clear water seemed a long ways away, but she was very thirsty, and thought she knew the relative location of it, and the river could be a long ways away, perhaps across the territory from here. Finally, it grew to be too much.
"Nightwhisper, can I go make dirt?" she asked, her voice higher pitched than normal due to lack of use and thirst.
"Of course, Snowkit. We're going to head along to the top of the hill over there, so you can meet us there, ok?"
Snowkit nodded and padded off behind a large, thick clump of green grass. She wondered how it managed to stay green, even with no water in sight. She listened hard, waiting for the others to move onward, at least to the bottom of the hill Nightwhisper had indicated.
Once their pawsteps faded to nothing, she slipped out from behind the grass stalks and back along the path, hoping the others wouldn't notice her absence much.
She was going at a steady pace until she thought that maybe it would be a little quicker if she went through the grass instead of along the path. She padded over to a clump of grass and forced her way through it, then began clawing a path through to reach the stream.
It was tiring work, and she began panting. Her thirst increased severely, adding to the difficulty. Stalks of grass cut her paw pads, slowing her down. Snowkit wondered if she should go back to walk along the path instead, but decided against it. She should be nearly there.
On she worked, through the hot sunlight, until she decided that she must have missed it, that it had, perhaps, curved away around another hill. She turned to follow the path back, even if it took longer, only to find that the grass was closing around her path!
With a yowl of fright, she plunged forward, racing along the path, but the grass was closing, even more quickly. It was getting narrower and narrower, quickly closing in around her. She looked wildly around, skidding on the loose stalks, as the grass closed on her path, and it disappeared forever.