"Hey, Luckpaw, come on, we have to go now!" my eyes fluttered open, and I was surrounded by white fluffy fur.
"Okay, okay, Snowpaw, I'm up!" I smiled, and she moved away, I got up, and shook the moss from my fur, and for a brief moment, I forgot I would be training to Fight, and looked forward to Tracking.
Snowpaw, who I had always considered to be a sweet and gentle cat, was happily jumping up and down, excited about training with me. The other Fighting apprentice, looked exactly like the large she-cat behind her, and just as deadly, she refused to look at me as Snowpaw led me to the three mentors, sitting straight, and well composed.
"Welcome, Luckpaw." A long-legged white tom with brown spots mewed, "We are Fighters, cats sworn to protect the Tribe with our every fiber. We fight for not our lives, but the lives of our kits, our leader, our Tribe mates, and our honor. We fight with tooth and claw, with muscle and bone. We never let injury keep us down, no thorn in our pad, nor shall any scratch on our side keep us long. We are Fighters, bound by honor to protect those who are weak, and defeat those who threaten them. Are you ready to feel the power beneath our paws?" He asked, and hesitantly I nodded.
"Don't hesitate! Your spirit must be strong; we are fighters, not kits!" The large she-cat spat and the white tom growled.
"That brainless she-cat is Vixentooth," He glared at her, and she hissed under her breath, "I am Jumpkick, and this is Boldclaw." The black tabby beside him bowed his head.
"Come on, let's get started." Vixentooth growled, stalking out of camp, Firepaw followed.
Jumpkick rolled his eyes and followed, along with Boldclaw, Snowpaw shrugged and followed.
We followed them to a small clearing that smelled strongly of the cats that were present, but had distant scents of cats but it was extremely old, and I had to concentrate to scent it.
"Alright, first, I want to know how much you already know about fighting." Jumpkick said, and stepped forward. "Okay kit, attack me, remember claws sheathed."He smiled, but my fur rose.
"I'm not a kit!" I said defiantly, and did as he asked, I attacked. I remembered that claws were to be kept sheathed, and I bowled him over, using all of my weight to make him off balance.
Quickly I jumped off of him and he coughed, "Okay, I'll remember that, Luckpaw, from what I've seen, just now, you're letting your emotions lead you blind, and you tend to use brute strength, but don't you fret, we'll teach you how to fight well enough like a true Fighter so that, if worse comes to worse, you won't die in a probable fight." He chuckled.
"Alright, Firepaw, since you lost the assessment, you shall spar with Luckpaw after Snowpaw teaches her some techniques, and then we will help her, everyone alright with that? Good." He didn't wait for any responses, and Snowpaw approached me, her eyes sparkling, and her tail straight, while Firepaw glared at me from a distance.
"I'm so happy, we're training together, so, do you like it so far, I wouldn't be surprised if you picked Tracking though, but you could train with me!" She began to talk rapidly until Jumpkick cleared his throat.
"Oh, well, here, this is an easy one, just drop into a Hunter's crouch." She said, and I did as I was bid, but I could hear her tsk slightly.
"Well, not like that, you haven't trained as a Hunter, do like this." She mewed, crouching low, her stomach fur barely touching the ground, and her paws light, I copied her and she smiled.
"Now I want you to pounce forward, like this." She gracefully surged forward, and landed neatly on her paws. I tried to do the same, but the translation was lost somewhere, and I tumbled into her.
"Okay, a little work on that, do not jump with your back paws and run with your front paws, your front paws don't matter right now, they are only to balance you. Try it again." She explained, and I tried it this time I did it to her satisfaction.
"Great, now, I want to show you a move that small cats and apprentices must know, Jumpkick, if you would please join us." She smiled mischievously, he nodded and padded over to us.
"Okay, please stand, now, Luckpaw, what I want you to notice, see how you could easily slide under his belly and hit his soft stomach, that's what I want you to do, like this." She purred, and slowly walked back a few tail lengths, and suddenly darted forward, easily jolting under his stomach, and turning around to gently jab at his underbelly, he jumped up, and shook himself off, but nodded to her.
"Now you try." She offered. I nodded, backed up a bit, and copied hers almost exactly, only I may or may not have accidently knocked his feet from underneath himself.
"Well done, that could work as well…" Snowpaw observed, smiling. We worked for a while longer, and she taught me a couple more moves and then it was time for me to spar with Firepaw.
"Okay Firepaw, go easy, don't kill her." I heard Jumpkick tell Firepaw, who had fallen asleep at some point.
She nodded and her eyes flared, I tried to look confident, and nodded.
Suddenly she surged forward, her fur fluffed out, and her paws a blur, I started and jumped over her, causing her to become confused, which I used and jumped on her back, she let out a yowl of defeat and slumped to the ground, confused, I relaxed, and she jumped up, shaking me off. I was surprised, but I barely managed to land on my feet, "Beat that!" She yowled before turning around to see me on my feet she scowled, and slowly sauntered over to me. I could tell she was trying to confuse me, and it would have worked, if I hadn't decided to attack, and I hit her full force with my side, which sent her hurtling across the clearing, she let out a yowl of outrage, and was going to attack again when Jumpkick stepped in her way and grasped her scruff.
"Enough, sometimes cats are lucky enough to beat an experienced Warrior, through surprise and skill." He let her go, and she shouldered past Snowpaw, following her mother out of the clearing. Snowpaw smiled, and we left the clearing.
When we got to camp, Boldclaw stopped me.
"You did well Luckpaw, you live up to your name, and you defeated my daughter, an easy enough feat, though, she prides herself in her skills, she is quick to anger, which leads to weakness, one day she will learn to overcome her rage, and then, she will beat any cat who crosses her path, now, go eat, and rest." His low voice rumbled.
I nodded, and shared a thrush with Flamepaw, and then fell asleep.
For the next moon, I got more battle bruises from Firepaw than anything else, until, the day of the Gathering, she used her claws, which I used my claws against her to protect myself, and banned us both from going to the Gathering, and I had to watch as all the apprentices leave, some giving me sympathetic looks.
When they were all gone, and I had eaten, I sighed and padded into the den, there, Firepaw glared at me, and hissed under her breath.
"Okay, what is your problem with me? You've spat on me since day one!" I snapped, she looked surprised, but quickly composed herself.
"Stay away from my little brothers, they don't need you to come into their lives, leave them alone!" She hissed, and I blinked.
"But Flamepaw and Blazepaw and I are just friends." I said firmly.
"Really, you're new, you're pretty, and they're practically drooling over you, though, they don't know it themselves, you'll see when you're all older, until then, don't hurt them, or I'll hurt you!" She growled and unsheathed her long sharp claws, I nodded, unsure and she smiled. "Good, I'm sorry for that scratch, but, I thought you might as well get a scar, all Fighter apprentices have them!" She purred, the sudden change in her demeanor frightened me, and I had a feeling I had made a friend more unpredictable than fire.
The rest of my apprenticeship as a fighter went much the same, albeit, a bit more friendly from Firepaw.
I learned how to evade my enemies and confuse them with speed and agility from Jumpkick, who liked to hold races with us, though, Firepaw usually won, she let me win the last race we had, and congratulated me, which made Snowpaw freeze in her tracks saying "Forest's Tribe! Now I must be dead! Surly I haven't see Firepaw act civilly?" Firepaw had then play-pounced on her stomach, and the two rolled with laughter.
Then I learned how to act like you have more strength and muscle than you already do, how to act confident as you approach any enemy, and how to use my strength, and my enemies strength against them from Boldclaw. He liked to have contests on who could hit him the hardest, or who could knock him down, if we managed it, he would let us crawl over him like kits, and play fight over who actually won.
But from Vixentooth, I learned how to sneak up on an enemy, and how to figure out an attack plan that they wouldn't be able to know what you were doing until it was too late. I had made the mistake of asking that wasn't it the Trackers' job to come up with strategy, to which she immediately snapped that those lazy good for nothing 'Slackers' only came up with complicated plans and these were improvised plans made in the heat of battle. And she let us come up with plans on our own to try and trick her.
But the hardest lesson I learned, was one that one day you may have to meet your friends in battle, to where we had use what we had learned, and try to defeat one another, I lost immediately, because I hadn't had much training, but Snowpaw and Firepaw had continued. Apparently, Firepaw was trying to make up for failing when Lilyspirit had watched the day I came here, and when she looked beat, Snowpaw did something incredible.
She still looked like she was trying, but it was almost like she was in a slower time, delayed. Every strike Firepaw made hit home, but every strike Snowpaw made brushed Firepaw's fur. I watched in amazement as Firepaw aimed one last blow, and hit Snowpaw, who fell, and waved her white tail.
"Enough!" Jumpkick had signaled that it was over, and Snowpaw got up and brushed her fur off.
"Wow, good job Firepaw, you really deserve to win, you did great!" Snowpaw had congratulated her den mate. She then turned to me and saw the look in my eyes but signaled for me to keep silent.
On the last day of the moon, I was given rest, and allowed to stay in camp, though I wanted to explore the rest of the territory.
Instead, I contented myself to play with Lionkit, who was getting very big. When he got too rough (in his mother's eyes), he was called to a nap, and I decided to spend time with Little-ears.
"Why hello there Luckpaw, I was just about to tell a story, would you like to hear it?" He asked, beside him was Hailpaw, who had gotten in trouble, he had accidently crossed the border chasing prey and had caused a small skirmish.
"Sure." I mewed.
He began to tell a story of the Tribes' beginnings: "An uncountable number of moons ago," Little-ears started, his eyes lost in memories, "the Tribes, not yet Tribes were plagued with foxes. They attacked innocent cats, and cats would lead patrols to destroy their pups. Until one day, four cats aimed to end the madness. In turn, four foxes decided to do the same. So they met in the Grand Clearing, cats on one side, foxes on the other. The cats' names were Forest, who represented our Tribe, Leaf Tribe, Flood, who represented Drip Tribe, Zephyr, who represented Swift Tribe, and Shade, who of course represented Dark Tribe." He paused, "Now don't go too far ahead, this was before the Tribes were made!" He snapped, and I nodded, "Now, where was I? Oh, yes. The foxes, Flame, who represented the Black Foxes, their cunning and wit makes up for their small size, Ember, who represented the White Foxes, though not as clever as the Black Foxes, they are twice as big, Cinder, who represented the Red Foxes, and Ash who represented the Brown Foxes. They made a pact, in front of all their brethren, that they would never harm one another, cats and foxes I mean. Of course. And they kept their promises, mostly, except every now and again, more so now, really, there have been instances of fox activity, but they haven't launched a full scale attack, and probably never will. Well, that's my story, get you gone! I want to take a nap!" He playfully swiped at us.
I was about to pick out something to share with Firepaw, when I heard Lilyspirit's call.
"Cat's of Forest's Tribe, heed my voice, come and join me, for I have news for those with Chosen Paths!" She said, and I among others gather beneath the Announcement Branch.
"My cats, I am proud to announce, that it is time for Lionkit's Three Moon Path Training!" She yowled loudly, every cat smiled as Lionkit raced beside the Announcement Tree, his fur slick and groomed.
"Lionkit, you have waited patiently for six moons, and now, you shall learn about each Path. Lionkit, by the powers of the Tribe That Knows All and Sees All, you are now Lionpaw, the first Path you shall learn about, is the Path of Hunting, may you find the Path that brightens you day." She purred, licking Lionpaw's forehead.
"Lionpaw! Lionpaw!" a chant rumbled through the Tribe, and I felt a pang, I hadn't gotten the same reception, but it went away as Lionpaw tackled my side.
"Yeah! We're going to train together!" He yowled, and I smiled.
"Only for a moon, though." Waterpaw sat beside me as I got up, dusting my fur. But Lionpaw wasn't listening, he raced over to the Apprentice den, his golden fur and white paws attacking anything that crossed his path, and it was almost moon high before he finally settled down in his nest in the center of the den.