As Kyepaw entered the nursery, six balls of fluff attacked her, and she forgot her worry.
“Kyemama! We’re hungry!” Demonkit announced, his long tail straight up behind him. His white muzzle, throat and paws stood out in the darkness of the den. Phantomkit flanked his brother, his white markings mirroring Demonkit’s, but black tabby stripes over dark grey broke the illusion of twinning. Kyepaw purred and stretched out in her nest.
“Come and drink, my kits, but soon, you will learn to eat fresh kill.”
“I’ll be the best hunter!” Phantomkit bragged.
“No! I will be!” Demonkit argued, and Kyepaw’s purrs pulsed with laughter. The friendly rivalry between her two largest kits pleased her, since they also developed a strong bond that promised to be powerful. The six kits nursed, and Kyepaw flinched, feeling needle teeth pinching her belly. She sighed. Weaning time arrived, and with her next catch, she planned to introduce her kits to fresh kill.
“Your kits grow so big and strong!” Millie commented. “My two are so small in comparison.”
“Your kits thrive.” Kyepaw faced the old queen. “Remember, my breed produces very large kits. Don’t compare them. Greykit and Rainkit are healthy and well!”
“Yes, you are right. I keep thinking they are behind, but, they aren’t, are they,” Millie said. “And thanks to your milk! If not for you, my kits never would have made it this far. I don’t have enough milk. Not enough for only two kits! Just dreadful. I really am too old to be having kits.” Millie’s eyes widened as her kits squealed. Long-haired pale grey Rainkit wailed.
“Millieee! We hungry!”
“So sorry, my little ones,” Millie mewed. “Go to Kyemama. She will feed you.”
The two kits scurried to Kyepaw, and bravely jostled Demonkit and Indikit. Demonkit moved away, and sat down, blinking. Indikit hissed between clenched jaws, her white legs latching on to Kyepaw’s tummy.
“Stop that!” Phantomkit bopped his sister on the head with a big fuzzy white paw. “Rainkit and Greykit need to eat! Remember?”
“No! I’m not full yet!” Indikit protested. “They can wait.”
“Look at your round belly!” Phantomkit cuffed his sister on the head again. “Don’t be so selfish!”
When Indikit growled, refusing to let Greykit feed, Phantomkit pounced on her, forcing her away.
“Owww,” Kyepaw hissed, as Indikit’s teeth and claws scratched her belly. She tapped Indikit with a big paw on the kit’s exposed white belly. “Stop being such a brat and learn to share!”
“Okaaay!" Indikit wailed, and rolled over, her dark-brown tabby back visible again. Jet black striped her head before mingling in the thick puffy fur of her rumpled back. She shook herself and pounced on Phantomkit The two wrestled on the moss bedding, and Indikit's loud squalls of rage echoed in the den.
"She is the only one of your kits that has a very loud voice!" Millie sneezed her amusement. "It’s as if she got all of the lung power."
"It happens," Kyepaw replied with a chuckle in her purr. “Once in a while, one or two of us gets a big mouth. Phantomkit can compete with her when he wishes, but he only uses his strident voice when he has to. Indikit is just a brat.”
“She will be pawful, even for your huge ones,” Millie mewled with laughter, laying next to Kyepaw, grooming her kits as they fed. “If she channels that wild side, she will be a fine warrior one day.”
“Not if I flatten her out first!” Kyepaw bared her fangs. “She will . . .” A commotion erupted out in camp, whipping Kyepaw’s head around as cat screeching filled the air.
“Foxes!” Leafpool’s wail echoed across the clearing. “Demon B! Briarlight! Get inside now!”
“They will not get past me!” Kyepaw heard Demon B snarl.
“ThunderClan warriors!!! Attack!” Kyepaw recognized Bramblestar’s yowl. “They’re running for the queen’s den! Head them off!”
Fear, then rage flashed though Kyepaw, and her maternal instincts rose up with tornadic fury.
“They dare think they can eat our kits?” Kyepaw hissed with wrath. “Not while I breathe!” Kyepaw leaped up, shaking the kits free, ignoring their protests, and jumped for the entrance.
“No!” Millie wailed in sheer terror. “Come back!”
“Kyepaw, NO! If something happens to you. . . ” Daisy shrieked, ranging herself in front of Millie. Kyepaw turned, and hissed at the eight kits.
“Go to Millie and Daisy! NOW!” The wall of fluff scurried back to Daisy’s flank, and eight pairs of bright blue eyes peered back at her. Kyepaw faced out at the camp, hesitating for a breath, before maternal fury overwhelmed her.
“NOBODY hurts our kits or my friends!” She snarled, and plunged forward, her long pelt bristling. She felt the briars on the roof of the den rip wads of her fur out, but she cared not.
“Kyepaw! No! Let the us take care of this!” Kyepaw caught a glimpse of Poppyfrost, a tortoiseshell warrior, who raced at the oncoming threat and the nursery.
“Nothing threatens our kits! I’ll rip them apart!” Kye screeched, racing past her new friend, and inhaled sharply, as two red doglike creatures raced toward the den. The largest ignored the two warriors on his heels, his eyes fixated on the Queen’s den. The second stumbled, but followed, despite the two bleeding warriors, Berrynose and Spiderleg, hanging off its body. A third, smaller than the others, battled two other warriors, yapping and growling by the camp entrance, where Bramblestar stood, battling another young fox. The fifth fox, a smaller vixen, darted toward the medicine den. Kyepaw saw Demon B stretched out in front of the Medicine cat’s den, bristling so he looked twice his already impressive size, and he completely blocked the entrance. His staccato growl echoed across the camp, and with one lightning swipe of his enormous healthy paw, he slapped the little vixen across the hollow, scouring her pelt with deep gashes. The vixen rolled over several times, laying sprawled on the ground, stunned. Bumblestripe, Blossomfall and Cherryfall blocked the Elder’s den, creating a fearsome display of fang and claw.
Kyepaw returned her attention forward, and raced at the menace heading straight for her. In a micromoment, she sized up the enemy, and realized the red dog-fox stood taller than she did, but lacked the sharp claws of her kind. Kyepaw shrieked, and launched herself at the dog-fox. Its yellow eyes widened, showing whites, but before it changed course, Kyepaw smashed into it, and extended her massive claws, latching onto her enemy. She bowled the fox over, and pounced, slashing, driven by raging maternal instincts. Her claws ripped open its face, drawing blood that poured from deep slashes. One claw tore an eye. Ruddy fur flew in every direction. Kyepaw spared one glance for the other fox, satisfied that the warriors chasing her foe turned to the other adult fox, which five warriors now attacked, slashing into its thick fur, drawing blood. Kyepaw renewed her attack, her massive forepaws blurs as she pummeled her enemy. She extended her claws fully, rending and tearing at her enemy, holding back nothing. Blood spattered the fox and Kyepaw’s bristling fur. She tore without mercy into the fox’s belly and flanks, furrowing deep gashes into its flesh.
“Leave us alone, and never ever attack our kits again!” she shrieked. The fox rolled over, and managed to get its legs beneath it, and with a shrill yap, fled Kyepaw’s onslaught. Its mate and half grown pups wiggled free of enraged warriors and escaped out of the camp entrance. The vixen Demon B flung across the camp staggered to her feet and vanished through a small gap in the thorn barrier. Kyepaw slapped the dog fox one last blow before it bounded away, leaving deep gashes on its rump. Kyepaw stood, framed by brambles and thorns, heaving for breath, wrath pounding through her entire body. She barely heard the cheerful meowing behind her, until her heart rate dropped. She walked over to her mate and sat down, regaining her breath.
“Great Starclan!” Lionblaze exclaimed, as cats crowded Kyepaw. “You beat him witless!”
“Fine battle!” Cinderheart added. “I had my doubts about you. Too big to move quick, I thought. Wrong!”
“Excellent job!” Poppyfrost exclaimed, her eyes gleaming. “I always wondered how a big soft kittypet might fight! I’m impressed.”
“Fine work, youngin!” Purdy’s voice called out, as he squeezed between Cherryfall and Blossomfall.. “Kits’ll hear this story fer many seasons!”
“I only thought to protect the kits,” Kye[aw stammered, surprised by the admiration her adopted Clan showed her. She saw Daisy and Millie peering out of the Queen’s den, and clustered at their feet, the eight kits sat, eyes wide with wonder.
“Squirrelflight taught you well,” Demon B meowed, pride ringing in his voice.
“You were magnificent!” Briarlight clambered on Demon B’s back. “Kyepaw is a warrior! You too, Demon B! I saw what you did!”
“She had moves I never taught her!” Squirrelflight retorted, but Kyepaw heard the delight in her mentor’s tone. “Demon B is as powerful as a badger! Amazing move!”
“Great battle,” Bramblestar meowed, and he walked up to Kyepaw. In his eyes Kyepaw saw admiration and gratitude. “Well done to all. Kyepaw, you have shown yourself a worthy warrior, and your injured mate used his advantages to help protect the medicine den and our precious medicine cats.”
Bramblestar turned,and trotted up the cliff to Highledge. Warriors milled, mewling and muttering with excitement, many glancing at the large branch marked with memorials to fallen warriors. Kyepaw learned the tales of the Great Battle, heard how they almost lost the stick in the Great Flood, and the memorial meant more to her with each passing day. She vowed to defend her Clan and honor their memories by always fighting with all the strength she possessed. She heard Bramblestar’s paws land on Highledge. ThunderClan’s leader faced the expectant growing crowd, and uttered the command.
“Let all cats old enough to catch their own prey gather here!” Bramblestar’s voice rang out over the camp. “We gain new Warriors this day!”
“Come on.” A cat bumped Kyepaw. She turned, meeting Cinderheart’s amber eyes. Excitement danced in their depth, and Kyepaw saw it mirrored in every pair of eyes. She followed the throng of cats, glancing at the nursery, where Millie and Daisy sat just outside the entrance. The eight kits, sat in front, wide-eyed and obedient. Even Indikit sat rooted to the ground, not moving or fidgeting. She stared at Kyepaw, her blue-green eyes wide with shock and wonder.
“Your kits are so fluffy and adorable,” Poppyfrost mewed, and Kyepaw heard the delight and longing in her voice.
“You’ve had kits?”
“Oh yes, I have, and long for more. After all that is happened, none of us, except Millie, has been able to have kits. She and Graystripe did not expect them, but they are a blessing from StarClan, as are yours!” Poppyfrost regarded Kyepaw with solemn green eyes. “We’re all hungry all the time. Hungry bodies can’t produce kits.”
“Then you keep your prey, mousebrain, and do NOT give your share to me any longer!” Kyepaw gently cuffed Poppyfrost. “I hope you do have kits soon.”
“Me, too. . .” Poppyfrost paused. “It begins!”
“Today we name two new warriors.” Bramblestar’s voice thundered, shattering the conversation. Kyepaw shook herself and hurried to the base of the leader’s rock, joining her mate, who lay between Jayfeather and Leafpool. “Two former kittypets displayed courage and bravery and helped their Clan this day. If any cat disagrees, please say so now, or forever keep your jaws shut!” Bramblestar's golden-amber gaze swept over the gathered clan “Kyepaw! You and your mate have proven your courage and loyalty in the face of grave dangers. I, Bramblestar, leader of ThunderClan, call upon my warrior ancestors to look down upon this apprentice and her mate. They have trained hard to understand the ways of your noble code, and I commend them to you as a warriors in their turn”
Kyepaw trembled in spite of herself. She felt acceptance wash over her, and knew her home lay here in this hollow.
“Kyepaw,” Bramblestar continued. “Do you promise to uphold the warrior code, and to protect and defend this Clan, even at the cost of your life?”
“I do!” Kyepaw answered without hesitation. She stood, pride and astonishment causing every hair on her long thick pelt to rise. She flagged her bottlebrush tail high over her back
“Then by the power of StarClan, I give you the warrior name Kyestorm. From this moment you will be known as Kyestorm, a storm that fights for and protects the Clan! Welcome to ThunderClan new Warrior!”
“Kyestorm! Kyestorm! Kyestorm!” erupted from many throats.
“Thank you, Bramblestar!” Kyestorm sat down, and glanced at her mate, who lay beside her, still healing from his wounds. Blood seeped from the injury on his foreleg, but he ignored it. Demon B purred raggedly, looking worriedly around at the throng of cats.
“Demon B!” Bramblestar called out, and with a flick of his tail, indicated that Demon B remain prone. Demon B gazed up at Bramblestar. His golden eyes blazed, and though his wound bled, he struggled to sit up. Leafpool moved, but Demon B shook his head vigorously. Bramblestar continued. “Though you have not apprenticed, in the light of special circumstances, you have earned this. Do you promise to uphold the warrior code, and to protect and defend this Clan even at the cost of your life?”
“Yes, I do!” Demon B rumbled, flicking his thick bushy tail.
“Then by the power of StarClan, I give you the warrior name Demonstone. From this moment you will be known as Demonstone. I give you this name in recognition of your courage, in making yourself a barrier to protect the Medicine cats and den, despite your own injuries. You have shown your warrior spirit, strong and solid like stone. You have shown you have no connection to the Dark Forest. If Briarlight shows no fear, and only love for this injured warrior, then none shall fear him, except our enemies! Welcome to ThunderClan new warrior!”
“Demonstone! Demonstone! Demonstone!” The cries echoed in the camp. Kyestorm watched every pair of eyes, and saw acceptance. Warriors crowded Demonstone, gently bumping him or cuffing him, all eager to fight beside him in some future battle. Many witnessed the enemy vixen’s unceremonious exit from the camp. Kyestorm’s heart swelled with pride and gratitude that her adopted Clan finally accepted her mate.
“ThunderClan honors your bravery and dedication. We welcome you both as full members to ThunderClan.” Bramblestar jumped down to where Kyestorm and Demonstone rested. He touched his head to Demonstone’s, who licked his shoulder, then with his tail, Bramblestar beckoned to Kyestorm. She stared for a moment, before she realized she needed to lay down for Bramblestar to complete the ceremony. She dropped to her chest, and Bramblestar rested his head on hers. She impulsively licked his shoulder.
“Thank you for what you did this day,” he whispered, then raised his voice. “ Soon, in five moons, we shall have new apprentices!” Bramblestar nodded towards the Queen’s den. “ThunderClan recovers. We will meet any challenges ahead.”
Warriors meowed and yowled in agreement. Bramblestar stood up, and gazed at Kyestorm, his features breaking into a feline smile.
“Go to your kits. There is good reason why we sacrificed meals to you. And all should know what you do for Millie’s kits as well. By offering them your milk when she dried up, you saved their lives. I know you’ll take good care of them all.”
“I will,” Kyestorm nodded and turned away, hurrying back to her kits. She paused and looked back, worried for her mate, but Demonstone stood up, and hobbled back to the Medicine den. Warriors and apprentices alike assisted him, meowing all at once, asking him to tell the tale of the vanquished young vixen. Leafpool and Jayfeather swarmed all over him, replacing the cobweb, making sure the wound sealed. Demonstone stretched out, and Briarlight draped over him, purring. Kyestorm walked into the nursery, and the kits pounced on her.
“I am so thankful for your mate,” Millie meowed. “Briarlight does love him like a big brother. I don’t worry about her as much with him there.”
“He won’t let anything happen to her,” Kyestorm said. “And she gets exercise pulling herself off and on him all day.”
“I saw everything, Kyemama!” Phantomkit squeaked in excitement. “Demonpoppa was so brave, too!”
“We grow and be strong like you,” Demonkit added.
“I slap foxes! Slash and do the same!” Indikit exclaimed, pouncing on an imaginary enemy.
“Yes, my sweet kits. You’re the Maine Coons of ThunderClan,” Kyestorm mewed at them, mirth shaking her voice. “Come and eat. Grow strong. Greykit and Rainkit, you, too.”
“Kyestorm,” Daisy murmured Kyestorm’s new name. “A great warrior name. Will you really fight?”
“Of course she will,” Millie scoffed. “Why wouldn’t she?”
“She’s a kittypet, like me. I wouldn’t blame her if she didn’t,” Daisy retorted with a hiss.
“I will fight. Foxes are too brave these days.” Kyestorm growled. “Invading our camp is just unacceptable.”
“They are too brazen,” Millie shifted nervously. “We head into Green Leaf soon, and prey should be plentiful, but Leaf Fall and Leaf Bare come so fast and last ."
“We’ll be apprentices then!” Phantomkit sat down, facing Kyestorm, intelligence flaring in his blue eyes, which glittered with flecks of sea-green. “They won’t get us!”
“Never! They won’t get any kit, ever! Not on my watch,” Kyestorm bared her teeth and hissed. Rage flashed through her. “Next time I will kill them!”
Her denmates purred approval and Kyestorm saw the hope shining in their eyes. A flicker of alarm rippled her fur, as she realized what she just claimed. She nosed all the kits to her belly, and as the adrenaline ebbed from her body, she felt tired. She heard Millie’s purring as she washed each kit. Daisy fussed with bedding. Fears crept in to replace Kyestorm’s bravado. What have I done, she thought, what have I promised? She shivered, trying to purge the anxiety from her body and mind before she sat vigil that evening.