Chapter 27- Shinepaw: Trouble Times Two

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"Shinepaw, wake up!" Nuzzlepaw shook her violently.

"What?" She grunted.

"It's Rainclaw! She's having her kits!" Violetpaw nudged her this time.

"Willowfrost and Goldenlilac will make sure she's ok," Shinepaw yawned, "Go back to sleep,"

"Shinepaw, you don't understand," Nuzzlepaw's voice pierced urgency into the air, "They passed out!"

Shinepaw bolted up, immediately regretting the feeling of her blood rushing back into her system, "What?"

"They passed out! So did Shorestar and Sunpaw!" Violetpaw hissed.

"That can't be right," Shinepaw muttered, "Are they sick?"

"I don't know!" Nuzzlepaw pushed her outside, "Do I look like a medicine cat?"

Most of the clan sat frozen, muttering to the cats beside them. Rainclaw's shrieks pierced her heart like a vicious claw.

"Can we help?" Violetpaw wondered.

"No, we'd no idea what to do! We'd better just ask the senior warriors," Shinepaw cast a worried gaze at the nursery, then the figures of Shorestar, Goldenlilac, and the paw of Willowfrost poking out of the medicine den.

"I think I'm going to be sick," Tunnelpaw groaned, sitting beside the littermates.

"Maybe doing something will get your mind off of things," Featherstorm gave them a hard look, "Go gather as much moss as you can find,"

Shinepaw nodded, "Ok. Come on Tunnelpaw,"

Reluctantly, the older apprentice followed Shinepaw into the woodland.

"Where's the moss most plentiful right now?" Nuzzlepaw sniffed the air.

"Just follow me," Tunnelpaw mewed, a little more confident now that he was away from camp.

They ran on in silence for awhile, the forest illuminating their steps with moonlight, yet she couldn't see the moon. Things are getting worse. This is the second time Shorestar and Willowfrost have blacked out, but the first for Goldenlilac and Sunpaw. Shinepaw bit her lip. I hope Sunpaw is ok, since I totally damaged his eyes. Ugh I hope it isn't permanent, that'd be terrible... And poor Rainclaw, I hope she's going to be ok.

Shinepaw gave a little oof as she bumped into the hind quarters of Violetpaw, "Wha-"

"Hey watch it, we're here," Violetpaw flicked her tail around the hollow. Moss burst from the trunks of trees, shining like silver in the light. The floor felt comfortable and a little squisher than normal.

"Uh, why haven't we been going here for moss?" Shinepaw gazed around and padded up to a moss-rich tree trunk.

"It's only here when greenleaf's sprung. Otherwise there's usually much less moss," Tunnelpaw mewed, eyes trained on delicately removing the upper layers of moss.

"Oh," She lowered her head and they fell into silence again.

On their way back to camp, only the rush of the distant river could be heard; silence stretching like the time that had passed.

"Good your here!" Dawnshadow run up to the apprentices returning patrol, "Featherstorm shouldn't have sent you out without a warrior,"

Tunnelpaw dropped his moss, "But I was there! I'm nearly as big as Featherstorm is!"

"Not my point," Dawnshadow flicked her ear irritably, "Shinepaw and Nuzzlepaw go soak that moss and give it to Rainclaw. Tunnelpaw and Violetpaw be ready on standby if they need more,"

Shinepaw gave an amused nod, then dipped her moss ball in the icy stream around camp. Nervousness knotting in her belly, she approached the now silent nursery. Seeing no response when she scratched the wall, she padded in with Nuzzlepaw behind her.

Moonspark was desperately licking a small bundle of brown fur, while two others lay next to Rainclaw. Shinepaw nearly choked when she saw the still figure of the last, snuggling Rainclaw's chin.

Nuzzlepaw dropped her moss ball, "Moonspark?"

Moonspark raised her dull eyes to the apprentices, and Shinepaw noticed the gray fur lining her muzzle, even in the darkness.

"Stillborn," She rasped at the small bundle under her. Shinepaw's heart picked up speed and she gently lowered her moss ball next to Rainclaw. The queen weakly licked it gratefully.

"What about the other three?" Shinepaw gazed sadly at the small lilac bundle by Rainclaw's chin. To her surprise, it snuggled closer when the queen moved to lick the moss.

"Dead within a day, I think, that small one. The other two will be fine," Moonspark shook her head, "How did this happen to my only daughter?"

Sadness washed through Shinepaw and she exchanged a glance with Nuzzlepaw. Quietly, they left the den to leave the kin.

Immediately, Mudheart came up and bombarded them with questions, "How is Rainclaw? How many kits did she have? Do any of them look like me? Can I see yet?"

Nuzzlepaw looked at her and Shinepaw sighed, "She's doing fine and gave birth to four kits. Um, I couldn't tell but I think one was brown with white spots and, uh, it's best to just leave her for awhile,"

Mudheart's face slowly lost it's excitement, "Did something go wrong? Is everything all right?"

Again, Nuzzlepaw looked at her.

"Well-er- I think it'll be best to wait for Rainclaw to share the, uh, news?" Shinepaw gave a worried glance at the nursery.

Mudheart flattened his ears and padded to the nursery, sat down in front of the entrance, and began guarding it, "Nothing will go wrong if I'm making sure to watch the den,"

But so much already has. And who's taking care of our medicine cats, leader, and Sunpaw? Shinepaw shook her frame with a long sigh.

"What happened in there?" Violetpaw asked eagerly when they returned, "How many kits were there?"

"Four kits, and we just gave Rainclaw some water and left," Nuzzlepaw spoke up.

Oh now you can explain.

"That was literally the saddest explanation for something I've ever heard," Violetpaw gave them a disbelieving look, "Details!"

Shinepaw sighed. I'm sighing a lot today, "Well, she had four kits, but only two are healthy. One was a stillborn and the other is really weak,"

Violetpaw didn't reply at first, but gave a pitiful glance at the nursery, "Poor Rainclaw. And Mudheart's going to be so sad,"

"Don't tell anyone, though," Shinepaw lowered her voice, "I don't know if that was really my business telling you that,"

They nodded and turned a sad gaze to her clan. This isn't natural. But how could I help to stop it? Whatever "it" is. The picture of the weak kitten flashed in her mind. None of this was supposed to happen this way. What if all this could have been prevented? She lowered her tail and raised her eyes to the sky. What is happening, StarClan?

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