Prologue

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The sun was rising in the lavender and scarlet sky. A new chill wind blew across the mountain, rattling the spindly pine trees, and stirring up flurries of old snow. Deep in the hollow of a rocky gully, lay a mother and her two kittens.
"Tell us again about the cats in the cave." the tiny she-kit asked, warm against the belly of her mother, Rabbit Paws, with her tabby brother, Trembling Bough dozing off beside her.
"Okay Fallen Pinnacle," the queen meowed, "Once upon a time, your father and I decided to explore the higher parts of the mountain. Up there it's freezing cold and always snowing. I thought we'd never find prey to eat up there, but Weasel Fang quickly caught a snowhare, like the ones we have here but with all-white coats."
"Was it delicious?" Fallen Pinnacle twitched her whiskers in amusement when she noticed her brother's burst of energy.
"Very." Rabbit Paws purred, "After we ate the rabbit, we kept climbing. After what seemed like ages, we reached the summit. And right there in front of us, was a beautiful waterfall. We explored around the water like kits, we even splashed each other. We were having so much fun we didn't notice the mud-covered cats that surrounded us, and when we did we were so startled that we fell into the waterfall!" Her eyes stretched wide as she recalled the events of her adventure, Fallen Pinnacle only became more excited while she watched her mother's kit-like excitement, Trembling Bough even shivered a bit. Or maybe that's just the cold....
"What happened then?" he asked, his pale yellow eyes gleaming like the sun.
Rabbit Paws gave him a small purr, because she'd told this story before, many times. But she continued with the same excitement she had before, "We fell all the way, into a deep sloshing pool, we struggled to get to the rocky bank. But it was so dark and cold, we couldn't see where we going. We might've drowned then if wasn't for the strange mud-furred cats. Two of them jumped into the pool and carried us by our scruffs to safety."
The tiny kits purred in contentment. This was their favorite story, and they always started to fall asleep at this part.
"After they rescued us, the cats told us that they were called The Tribe of Rushing Waters. And led us into a cave behind the waterfall. They gave us food and the Kit-Mothers licked helped to make us warm by licking our fur the wrong way."
"Like when Trembling Bough fell in that icy pool!" Fallen Pinnacle recalled her brother's embarrassing moment and laughed against his shoulder.
"Well you ate rabbit-dung when you thought it was a seed." her brother teased, she was not amused.
"Hey!" Fallen Pinnacle lifted a paw to swat his ears, but Rabbit Paws pushed it back down with her soft nose.
"Settle down kits. We've all done embarrassing things. Once, Weasel Fang jumped into a tree because he was startled by a leaf."
Both the kits fell over laughing at that, they couldn't believe their father could be so silly. Now they had something to tease him about.
"Now, let's finish this story before your father returns with dinner," Rabbit Paws meowed, "After we a ate hardy meal of falcon in the cave. A new cat appeared to welcome us. He was huge; he had glistening blue eyes and black fur that was tipped silver and white. He called himself Stoneteller, the Teller of the Pointed Stones, he had the ability to speak ancient cats of his Tribe, that would tell him messages back in his special cave, to help him lead his cats. He was also called Healer, because he was the one who would give medicine to sick or injured cats."
"Was he old?" Trembling Bought asked her.
"His muzzle was graying a bit back then, it's probably very silver now."
"Cool." the tom-kit proclaimed.
"Yes, the Stoneteller was very wise and brave. He told us how a tribe worked. That the cats who guarded the cave and fought off predators were called cave-guards, and the cats who hunted for the tribe were called prey-hunters. The younger cat's in training to be either of the two, were called to-bes, and the oldest cats in the Tribe were called elders. And I already told you the queens like me, were called kit-mothers."
"How many cats were their in the Tribe?" Fallen Pinnacle asked, yawning quickly after.
Rabbit Paws rasped her tongue over her kit's drowsy face before replying, "There were many, I'd say at least thirty."
"Wow!" the two kits exchanged a glance of pure amazement.
"After we were introduced to the whole tribe, a wild snowstorm began on the mountain. There was no way we would be safe traveling home alone. So we stayed there, for a whole moon. We ate many more birds of prey. We played with the tiny kits. We hunted prey ourself, because we knew we would be prey-hunters and not cave-guards if we were part of the Tribe. I got to become good friends with a cat named Beat of Dragonfly's Wing, she even taught me how to fish in a frozen pool."
"Was she a kit-mother?" Fallen Pinnacle wondered.
"Yes, but her kits went missing after they were born. She never found them again."
Both the kits frowned a bit at that part.
"But who knows, she might've kitted in the time I've been away from her," Rabbit Paws suggested cheerfully, "Perhaps my favorite moment I had, in all the time I'd been in the Tribe was battling a wolf. It was so easy for three cave-guards, Beat and myself to attack it, because the Tribe taught me dozens of battle moves. And then, after we drove off the wolf, I confessed to the Tribe how homesick I'd become, your father was too. It was a very sad goodbye, I would miss my mountain friends terribly. But I'm glad I returned to raise my kits on the low half of the mountain, where prey is more plentiful and snow eventually stops falling." With that, Rabbit Paws stood up and shook out her thick, gray pelt. And licked each kits soft head in turn.
"We'll we ever go to the mountains momma?" the kits asked in unison.
"Not while you're young, it's much too cold there." Suddenly, the queen's eyes misted over and she looked longingly towards the sky, "But maybe when your older, I can take you there."
"Really?" Trembling Bough's eyes widened.
"Of course, it's a wonderful adventure." she crouched down on her paws and waggled her haunches playfully.
The kits copied her position and followed her as she bounded out of the hollow.
The sky was periwinkle with wispy clouds, and the sun was fully risen. Sleet gathered at the foot of every pine, but much of the ground was visible, where the rest of the snow had melted.
Rabbit Paws led her kits over to a shallow frozen pool. And she leaped onto the frozen ice, squealing in mock terror as she slid across it.
"Momma!" Fallen Pinnacle pretended to be worried and climbed onto the the ice to follow her. Her claws scraped the surface smoothly, then her hind legs slid under her chest and she was rolling paws over tail.
Trembling Bough had joined but his big paws could't support his clumsy body and he crashed into his sister, sending her up in the air and landing in a mound of snow.
"Help!" she cried, flailing her paws wildly while her head was stuck inside.
Rabbit Paws quickly retrieved her kit, and washed the snow out her gray-brown coat. When the kit regained her paws, she leaped back onto frozen pool and tackled her brother.
"I'm sorry! It was an ac-" the tom tried to explain, but Fallen Pinnacle pummeled his belly with her tiny paws.
"Now, now kits," Rabbit Paws glided near them, plucking Trembling Bough out of the tussle and throwing him on her back.
"Hey! I want a ride too!" the she-kit exlaimed.
Rabbit Paws crouched down on the ice so Fallen Pinnacle could climb up her back. Then once the kits were settled she glided all over the pool, her flat pads made it easy to grip the ice with her claws, and do all sorts of fun tricks. She remembered the first time she slid on ice, it was with Weasel Fang when they first met. He had claimed that he was very skilled at gliding, but fell on his first try. I just couldn't stop laughing...
"Momma, go faster!" Trembling Bough complained.
Rabbit Paws was broken out of her reverie and listened, "Okay! But hold on tight!" she meowed. She scraped the ice hard with her hind paws and sent her body sailing over half the pool. It was long, but still shallow, so nothing was at risk.
She kept gliding over the ice, until Trembling Bough proclaimed he was hungry, then quickly set her kits back on the snow.
"Your father should've been back by now with your food. But, I can try to catch a fish like Beat taught me." Rabbit Paws took position beside the frozen pool and set to work clawing the ice at the deepest end, but while she focused on the water she couldn't help but worry about her mate. He's never been gone this long? Please be okay, Weasel Fang. I just can't lose you....

The moon was set in the indigo sky, and rain-filled clouds scudded past drizzling lightly. An owl hooted in the fork of an oak tree, alarming the rodents of the forest to hide.
Rabbit Paws couldn't find any fish in the frozen pool, so her kits nursed while they waited for their father's return.
Suddenly, pawsteps sounded on the rocky surface of the gully. "Weasel Fang?" Rabbit Paws cried. The next moment seemed to stretch on for ages before a tawny head appeared in the entrance of the hollow. It was indeed Weasel Fang.
Rabbit Paws leaped up and rushed towards him, "Where have you been? You've never stayed gone so long. I was beginning to think you'd be gone forever." she pressed her pelt against his and nuzzled his shoulder.
"I'd never leave you Rabbit Paws. Or our beautiful kits."
Fallen Pinnacle and Trembling Bough had fallen asleep after they nursed, but now they were waking, rubbing the sleep from their eyes and shaking moss from their pelts.
"I was tracking an injured fawn, but I lost it. So, I caught a quail instead!" he dropped the plump bird with a thud.
"This is enough for maybe 3 days." Rabbit Paws calculated.
"Yes, and quail is very good. Come on, kits, give it a taste." Weasel Fang meowed.
Fallen Pinnacle was the first to her paws, but her brother trailed close behind. The both of them wrinkled their noses when they reached the bird, not because it smelled bad but because they were kits and had to be skeptical of everything.
Rabbit Paws exchanged an amused glance with Weasel Fang.
Finally, Trembling Bough bit off a mouthful from the quail's breast. He chewed for a few seconds, then swallowed with a delighted look on his face, "It's great!" he nudged his sister who joined him; chewing a mouthful and gasping as she swallowed. Weasel Fang joined in the feast, and gradually so did Rabbit Paws, although she was naturally a dainty eater.
They ate until the breast of the quail was gone, then Weasel Fang pushed the bird into a hole in the rock to preserve it for later.
Rabbit Paws lay in her nest and gave her pelt a thorough wash while the kits played mossball nearby. Once Weasel Fang was done covering the quail with leftover snow and leaves, he curled up warm against his mate's flank. They watched their kits with pure joy gleaming in their golden eyes and purred.
Once moonhigh approached, the whole family nestled in the mossy nest and fell asleep, as they did every night. The kits were growing more and more everyday, they were practically juniors now, but Rabbit Paws still looked at them as her babies. When the kits were born, she knew that she and Weasel Fang would travel with them to the mountains when they were grown, so they too could experience the wonder and magic of the cascading waterfall, the seemingly empty landscape, and the ominous whispers that came from Stoneteller's cave....

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