I was woken up by a sharp prick in my side, when I opened my eyes, ready to snap, it was Hailpaw, his blue eyes cold, as I stepped out of the den, Blazepaw shrugged, Lionpaw bouncing at his heels, excited.
The four cats beside them, one of whom I had found interesting, looked stern, and unforgiving, matching Hailpaw's personality to a point.
"Luckpaw! You should always wake early, the early cat catches most prey, and laziness will not be accepted!" one snapped as I sat beside Lionpaw.
"Now, we are Hunters!" A kinder she-cat spoke proudly.
"Every bit of prey you have eaten since you stepped paw into this camp, has come from our hard work and determination!" Another said.
"But have you given any appreciation?" a small tom accused, snapping, but he licked Lionpaw's forehead when the kit spoke up saying that he had.
"Anyways, we are Hunters, we give strength to our Tribe, and provide them food they need, we fill each cat's bellies, and take pride in their enjoyment, and we feed elders and queens, and kits, first." The she-cat smiled at Lionkit.
"Let us introduce ourselves before we begin, I'm Rabbitcatch," The tom with large ears and a white tail mewed, "this is Volejump, Mole-eyes, and Ravenflight, and you've met Blazepaw, and Hailpaw." He flicked his tail, and we started to leave.
I was the last out, when I heard a call, "Wait, wait for me!" I looked back to see a black she-cat with a cream spot on her chest, who I recognized as Softheart, Lionpaw's mother.
"Softheart, what are you doing?" I stopped and asked.
"I'm also a Hunter, come on dear, we have to catch up, they are a stern bunch, but it's only because they only get a pawful of thanks for a camp full of prey." She purred and quickly followed them.
Instead of a clearing, we came upon them standing in the gaps between trees, as we approached they glared at me, and as I came out first, they didn't see Softheart immediately.
"Luckpaw! Now I do not know just how many times I have to mention to you about punctuality! Softheart! What are you doing here?" Mole-eyes snapped.
"I'm a Hunter too, Lilyspirit lets Vixentooth and Boldclaw train Firepaw, and I might as well join you." She said sternly.
"Mom!" Lionpaw said exasperatedly, slumping to the ground.
"Now, now, dear, I'm going to treat you just like Luckpaw here, okay, let's start." She settled beside Ravenflight, who licked her forehead.
"Anyways, drop into your best hunting crouches." We did, Lionpaw and I, of course, Mole-eyes and Volejump took Hailpaw and Blazepaw to train. "Hmm, very good Lionpaw, but don't move your tail so much. No, no, Luckpaw, did those Fighters teach you that? This is almost disrespectful, like this!" Rabbitcatch snapped, and he dropped into the exact same position, but I tried to copy him.
"Rabbitcatch, go train Blazepaw, and Hailpaw, I'll take over if you're going to act like that!" I turned as Sweetmouth appeared her tail flicking.
"I'm still a hunter too, now go, I won't have you yelling at the apprentice!" She ordered and he left, grumbling. She sat on the other side of Ravenflight, who smiled at her, and then I saw the similarity between the three of them.
"Are you related?" I asked.
"Yes." They said in unison, their black pelts melding together Softheart chuckled before straightening.
"Alright dears, now I want you to show me how you would hunt mice." She said sweetly. I nodded and did my best crouch, keeping my paws light, and I crept forward lightly, Lionpaw copied me, and the she-cats nodded.
"Very good, now with mice, you have to remember that they will feel you coming before they can see you, so you have to keep your paws light, it's almost the same for rabbits, only they will also hear you, and usually they're too fast to catch. Now with squirrels, they will feel you coming too, and you have to stay hidden, because many a squirrel has been lost to carelessly padding in front of it." Ravenflight mewed. We nodded and listened to their every word, and when we came back to camp after sun high, he had successfully caught four mice, and I caught a rabbit.
"You did good Luckpaw, Lionpaw, now, go feed the elders, and the Medicine Cats, Lilyspirit too." Sweetmouth mewed.
"I'll take these to the medicine cats and Little-ears, maybe he'll tell me a story!" Lionpaw excitedly carried his four mice by their tails and dropped two off for Vinetail, and the other two for Little-ears and himself to share, I carried my rabbit to Lilyspirit.
As I approached her den I nearly ran into her.
"Ah, Luckpaw, I was going to see how your training was going, what did you and Lionpaw catch?" she asked, her green eyes sparkling with interest.
"I caught a rabbit, and Lionpaw caught four mice." I said proudly, placing the rabbit at her feet, "This is for you." I mewed, and she gave it a small sniff before smiling and licking my forehead, "Well done, grab something from the pile, the rest of the Hunters have returned, and join me."
I nodded and padded to where the Hunters were placing prey on the pile.
"Hey! Luckpaw, how was Hunting?" Flamepaw asked me, his brother padded to his side.
"It was great, I caught a rabbit, and Lionpaw caught four mice." I said proudly and they smiled.
"Come on, let's eat by the den!" Blazepaw urged impatiently staring at the den where Snowpaw and Firepaw were sharing a raven.
"I can't Lilyspirit offered for me to eat with her." I said quickly and grabbed a large vole from the pile and hurried into Lilyspirit's den.
"Ah, there you are." Lilyspirit looked up from the rabbit; it had a bite or two taken from it. When I settled beside her, she took a bite before turning to me, "You seem to be settling in well enough with the life in my Tribe." She stated and I nodded, taking a bite from my vole. "But, I wonder, do you miss your old life? No rules, no schedule?" She asked.
"In parts, I guess I do miss it, but, this is better, I like a lot here, the cats are friendly, it's like a family, and I'll need a family as I get older and grow weak." I said thoughtfully, and she nodded.
"And what about your friends? Curly and Bobby, is it?"
"They were a small sacrifice for what's best." I didn't meet her eyes and took another bite from my vole; she smiled thoughtfully and finished her rabbit. She asked me a few nonessential questions, and I answered them, glad to be on a different topic, when Jumpkick stepped inside the den.
"I'm sorry, Lilyspirit, but, Whitespirit wishes to speak with you." He bowed his head.
"Whitespirit?" Lilyspirit asked, her eyes wide, and she stepped out of the den, I followed her.
When we stepped out of the den, Whitespirit was sitting with his tail neatly wrapped around his paws, beside him Crowpaw, who I remembered being a Healing apprentice, and beside him was Finchkit, and three other cats I didn't know.
"Whitespirit what is the meaning of this, and why did you bring a kit?" Lilyspirit demanded, staring at Finchkit.
"I'm not a kit, I'm Finchpaw now!" Finchpaw said boldly, and looked past her and saw me.
"Hey! Lucky!" She raced forward and rubbed her head against mine.
"Stop! Finchpaw!" Whitespirit's voice whipped through the air and she raced back to his side.
"I came to take you advice, Lilyspirit; I am going to thank Luckpaw personally for returning my precious daughter to me." He rumbled, he walked towards me, his ice blue eyes boring in mine own, but I didn't let my head down, and he stopped, his Tribe's scent was, dark, it smelled like shadows.
"Thank you very much Luckpaw, for returning Finchpaw, I appreciate you finding her." His voice was calm and indifferent, but his eyes showed true appreciation.
I nodded, and he smirked, flicked his tail, and they disappeared.
When the camp settled down I padded over to Rabbitcatch, and bowed my head, "Thank you." I said, he smiled, and nodded.
After that day, Hunting training became a breeze, combining Tracking, and a little bit of Fighting, I quickly caught anything I set my mind to.
On the last day, the day before my break, I was sent to hunt, Lionpaw would be hunting too, but we wouldn't be hunting together.
I chose the harder place to hunt, near the no fur stuff, because I didn't want Lionpaw to have a hard time with all the scents and sounds.
I was doing well until I sensed I was in a familiar place. I looked around, and through the bushes I saw Curly and Bobby, talking quietly among themselves, I couldn't hear them, but I was drawn toward them for a second, but I snapped out of it when my paw stepped on a twig and it made a large Crack!
I quickly jumped away, and strained my ears.
"Did you hear that?"
"It's probably nothing."
I breathed a sigh of relief and carried on.
That day I caught two rabbits, a squirrel, a thrush, and three mice.
When I returned to camp, Lilyspirit and Rabbitcatch met me.
"Luckpaw, you have done amazingly well, and, I'm proud of you." Rabbitcatch's ears twitched uncomfortably, unused to praising.
"Tomorrow you rest, take that time to explore the territory as you please, and think carefully about your choice of Path, there are no changes." She bowed her head and they walked over to greet Lionpaw who caught a rabbit, and two voles.
I rested my head on my paws after my meal and gave a world weary sigh, tomorrow I contemplated the decision that would change my life, again, I had to choose between Tracking, Fighting, and Hunting, how would I do that?