Leaves rustled as the young tabby cat slid through a gap between two bushes, his jaws wide open to drink in the scent of prey. On this warm night in late greenleaf, the forest was full of the scuffles of tiny creatures. Movements twitched endlessly at the edge of his vision, but when he turned his head he could see nothing but thick clumps of fern and bramble, dappled with moonlight.
Suddenly he stepped out into a wide clearing and gazed around in confusion. He could not remember being in this part of the forest before. Smooth-cropped grass, glowing silver in a cold wash of moonlight, stretched in front of him as far as a softly rounded rock where another cat was sitting. Starlight sparkled in her fur, and her eyes were two small moons.
The young tabby's bewilderment increased as he recognized her. "Bluestar?" he meowed, his voice shrill with disbelief.
He had been an apprentice when the great leader of ThunderClan had died, four seasons ago, leaping into the gorge with a pack of blood-hungry dogs after her. Like all her Clan, he had grieved for her and honored her for the way she had given up her life to save them. He had never thought to see her again, and he realized for the first time that he must be dreaming.
"Come closer, young warrior," Bluestar meowed. "I have a message for you."Shivering with awe, the tabby tom crept across the shining stretch of turf until he crouched below the rock and could look up into Bluestar's eyes."I'm listening, Bluestar," he mewed.
"A time of trouble is coming to the forest," she told him. "A new prophecy must be fulfilled if the Clans are to survive. You have been chosen to meet with three other cats at the new moon, and you must listen to what midnight tells you."
"What do you mean?" The young cat felt a prickle of dread, cold as snowmelt, creep down his spine. "What kind of trouble? And how can midnight tell us anything?"
"All will be made clear to you," Bluestar replied.
Her voice faded, echoing strangely as if she were speaking from a cavern far beneath the earth. The moonlight also began to grow dim, leaving thick black shadows to creep out of the trees around them.
"No, wait!" the tabby cat cried out. "Don't go!"
He let out a terrified yowl, thrashing his paws and tail, as darkness rose up and engulfed him. Something poked him in the side and his eyes flew open to see Graystripe, the ThunderClan deputy, standing over him with one paw raised to prod him again. He was scuffling among the moss in the warriors' den, with the golden sunlight leaking through the branches above his head.
"Brambleclaw, you crazy furball!" the deputy meowed. "What's all the noise about? You'll scare off all the prey from here to Fourtrees."
"Sorry." Brambleclaw sat up and began picking scraps of moss from his dark fur. "I was just dreaming."
"Dreaming!" grunted a new voice.
Brambleclaw turned his head to see the white warrior Cloudtail heave himself out of a mossy nest nearby and give a long stretch. "Honestly, you're as bad as Firestar," Cloudtail went on. "When he slept in here he was always muttering and twitching in his sleep. A cat couldn't get a good night's rest for all the prey in the forest."
Brambleclaw twitched his ears to hear how disrespectfully the white warrior spoke about the Clan leader. Then he reminded himself that this was Cloudtail, Firestar's kin and former apprentice, well known for his barbed tongue and ready scorn. His impudent talk didn't stop him from being a loyal warrior to his Clan.Cloudtail gave his long-furred white coat a shake and slipped out of the den, flicking the end of his tail at Brambleclaw in...
Author: Erin Hunter
Erin Hunter is inspired by a love of cats and a fascination with the ferocity of the natural world. In addition to having great respect for nature in all its forms, Erin enjoys creating rich mythical explanations for animal behavior. She is also the author of the bestselling Seekers and Survivors series.