Goldenpaw kept low the ground, careful to keep her tail still and above the leaves. The trees cast shadows across the undergrowth and in the distance, the horizon was beginning to turn pink.
Goldenpaw crept forward, picking her way over twigs and fallen branches. The smell of mouse filled her nose and made her mouth water, but she forced her hunger down. ThunderClan came first, she could eat later.
Goldenpaw concentrated on her prey and bunched her muscles together. With a triumphant yowl, she leapt into the air and trapped the mouse between her claws, squeezing the life out of it. She gave it a quick nip of the throat and it lay limp on the ground at her paws.
“Nice one, Goldenpaw!”
Goldenpaw turned to see her littermate Flashpaw emerging from a bush, dragging a large squirrel. Behind him, their mentors Bloomtail and Rainpelt followed, Bloomtail with a fat shrew dangling from her mouth and Rainpelt carrying a couple of mouse tails.
Bloomtail set her catch on the ground and purred at her apprentice. “You’ve caught a lot today, Goldenpaw. We haven’t even retrieved the prey you buried earlier yet.”
“It’s greenleaf!” Goldenpaw replied, though her eyes were shining with pride. “There’s enough prey to last us through leaf-bare.”
Beside them, Rainpelt squinted through the trees. “The sun’s setting. Let’s head back to camp before a fox digs up your catch.”
Suddenly, leaves rustled and Goldenpaw spotted the familiar brown shape of the vole darting away.
Without hesitation, Goldenpaw gave chase. The forest was beginning to darken, but she could still make out the fleeting shape of the vole as it scrambled out of her reach. Goldenpaw wove through trees and jumped over logs, keeping her prey in sight. She was only inches away from it and was about to make the final leap when something barreled into her side.
Goldenpaw tumbled off her paws and rolled away from her attacker. She scrambled to her feet, teeth bared, claws unsheathed, glaring at the cat who had knocked her over. Goldenpaw was vaguely aware that the vole was gone.
“What did you do that for! I was about to catch it!” Goldenpaw growled, then suddenly stopped.
A russet colored tom loomed over her, amber eyes narrowed and blazing like a wildfire. He was tall, with a single black stripe running from his head to tail. Goldenpaw didn’t recognize him, then a familiar stench overwhelmed her nose and her eyes widened in horror.
“Goldenpaw!” The ginger apprentice turned to see her mentor skidding to a in the Clearing. Rainpelt and Flashpaw scrambled to a halt next to her. “Goldenpaw, what happened? Why are you in ShadowClan territory.”
Completely focused on catching her prey, Goldenpaw hadn’t realized she’d strayed to far to the edge of ThunderClan territory and crossed the border. The Clearing that belonged to ThunderClan where Bloomtail, Rainpelt, and Flashpaw were standing was just a couple of tail lengths away, but that didn’t change the fact that Goldenpaw had trespassed.
“Hey, I know you!” Flashpaw suddenly said, his eyes trained on the russet tom. “You’re Blazepaw, right? I saw you at a Gathering once.”
He’s an apprentice? Goldenpaw cast an astonished glance at the ShadowClan cat. He’s so tall! I thought he was a warrior!
Blazepaw passed his amber gaze over the ThunderClan cats, then rested his eyes back on Goldenpaw. Goldenpaw flinched, then immediately scolded herself for showing weakness to the enemy. She swallowed, lifted her chin, and stared straight into Blazepaw’s glowing eyes.
“This isn’t the first time ThunderClan has trespassed.”
Goldenpaw almost jumped at the sound of Blazepaw’s voice. It was smooth and quiet, but echoed through the forest all the same. Goldenpaw gritted her teeth and tried to stop her tail from quivering.
“And I doubt it will be the last.” Blazepaw sighed, then glanced at the clearing where Bloomtail, Rainpelt, and Flashpaw were anxiously standing. Suddenly, he leaned close to Goldenpaw’s face, his eyes blazing like his name.
“Go back to where you belong, fox-pelt,” Blazepaw hissed. “Before I make sure you won’t be going back at all.”
Goldenpaw obliged and ran.