Epilogue

I shivered as I padded out of the leader's den, fluffing my fur out and folding my wings tighter on my back against the cold snow drifting from the sky, gathering in deep drifts around the edges of the clearing. Two seasons had passed since the eagles had murdered most of the Clan and AirClan was back to normal. There were kits in the nursery and apprentices to be trained, at least.

"Snowstar!" I glanced around as Rainfeather came bounding across the clearing, snow crunching under his paws. He had grown into a fine warrior, his voice deepening at last and his fur rippling over new muscles.

"Yes?" I asked as he skidded to a stop next to me, sending a wave of snow in my direction.

"Oh, sorry," Rainfeather said, his eyes widening as he saw the freezing snow covering my fur. "Well, at least you can live up to your name." He smiled at his own joke.

I purred, nuzzling the tom who had become my mate. "Very funny," I said with a touch of sarcasm. "What was it you wanted?"

"Oh, right, that. Stormkit and Icekit are ready for their apprentice ceremony."

I snorted. "We'll see about that." I bounded over to the nursery and slipped inside, shivering with delight as the frigid air outside turned to warmth and comforting scents.

Stormkit had taken after his father with his dark gray tabby fur and his bright yellow eyes. He was a big, bulky sort of kit with shorter, wider wings useful for flying long distances. Icekit, however, looked more like me, with her white fur and blue eyes. She was slender and delicate-looking, with longer than average wings useful for agility while airborne. Surprisingly, she and Stormkit looked well-groomed and excited, bouncing up and down yet taking the trouble to keep their paws clean.

"I had to help Rainfeather with their grooming," said a voice from the other end of the den. I turned to see Cloudwing curled around her four two-moon-old kits.

I'd only seen those kits once or twice when Cloudwing took them outside to play, closely supervised by herself and their father, Mossflash. One of the kits, a tiny she-kit, looked like her father. It took me a moment before I remembered she was Flamekit. She was always sitting to one side, watching her three older brothers tussling. Sunkit was a white and orange tom who was always challenging Stormkit to fight him. (Stormkit always won.) Moonkit was the stealthy attacker, always lying in wait for his littermates before leaping on top of them. He was well-suited for this because of his gray and white fur, inherited from his mother. Goldkit was always sneaking off to the medicine den to help Mistrose with one thing or another. I figured he'd be our next medicine cat apprentice.

"Snowstar, come on!" Stormkit called, standing impatiently by the nursery entrance, Icekit beside him.

"I'm right behind you," I replied before turning back to Cloudwing. "Thanks for helping," I said gratefully. "Are you coming to their apprentice ceremony?"

"And wake this lot up? I think not," Cloudwing sighed, laying her head on her paws. "Thanks for the invite, but I'm afraid this will probably be the one chance I get to rest today. I'm planning on taking advantage of it."

I nodded. "Very well. But if you're not coming, I should probably tell you who their mentors will be. I'm planning on giving Stormkit to Blackstrike and Icekit to Skyflight."

Cloudwing purred. "The only cats left without apprentices besides you and Breezeheart. I hope the two of you will be mentors to two of my kits?" she nodded at the sleeping kittens.

"Of course." A yowl of "Snowstar!" from outside forced me to cut my conversation short and, with a nod of farewell, I slipped outside again.

Stormkit and Icekit were racing each other across the clearing. Icekit tripped over a stick hidden and held fast by a snowdrift. Stormkit let out a yowl of triumph as he dashed ahead, but ran straight into an apprentice.

"Careful there," Nightpaw meowed, steadying Stormkit with a paw to keep him from also toppling over. She smiled at Stormkit before bounding over to her sisters, Shadowpaw and Cinderpaw. The three she-cats sat between their parents, Skyflight and Blackstrike.

I spread my wings and launched myself into the air, landing on a long, sturdy branch of the Talltree. Turning, I looked out at AirClan – my Clan – and felt myself smiling. After all these moons, AirClan had still survived. And so it would for many moons after, on until the end of time. I could just feel it.

THE END (for real, this time)