Chapter One

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The short grass that tickled my paws and the herbal aroma of our territory had changed from being something comforting to being almost a nuisance- a reminder that my life was about to change big-time, for better or for worst. The last few days had been nerve-wracking. Every tribe cat approaching their fourth season hadn't said much all day- most carried about their duties in silence, seeming to dread the night that was coming. Today was the day that would change all of our lives; it would send us on a new journey with a new tribe. A new home, and new friends.

Or at least that's what the elders told us. No one knew for sure what happened when they were marked until afterwards- we were forbidden to speak of anything that happened in the cave.

I followed after the others at the relatively fast pace that they had set, letting out an "oof!" as I scrambled back to my feet after being knocked off of my paws by a stray tree branch. I had managed to trip at least three times so far- I was never the most graceful of cats, especially when traveling quickly through the undergrowth in the dark. Gracefulness was for the Tribe of the Falling Rain- not me. Though, I'd never really liked them anyway, so it didn't bother me much.

"Come on slow-pokes! We're going to be back with our Marks by the time you Swaying Reeds even get close to The Cave," I heard a cat shout from up ahead, undoubtedly a Towering Tree, from the obvious sarcasm laced in his voice. I grumbled something to myself and hurried my pace a bit along with my slower tribe-mates in order to catch up. I felt my cheeks flush with embarrassment in the process of attempting to hide my face from the others. I didn't like having attention attracted to myself, and by the sound of snickering from the cats ahead of me, it was too late for hoping no one realized my tortoise-like speed and clumsiness.

After a little while longer of travelling, we finally made it to the large stone structure known as the Marking Cave. Just looking at it made my stomach churn with nervousness, and it was hard for me to sit and wait as the first cats went in one at a time. "So, what do you think is in there?" I heard someone whisper from beside me, and I instantly recognized the voice as my sister. I'd always been close with Sparrow, and I felt sick to my stomach at the thought that we might not end up in the same tribe. Swiveling my ears to the source of the sound and letting my head follow, I let a small smile cross my face as my olive eyes met with my sisters'. "I know as much as you do, Sparrow," I murmured in response, whiskers twitching a bit nervously. That was the scariest part- not knowing what will happen. I'd always been afraid of the unknown. It freaked me out to not know what was going on exactly.

"You're up, Reed," the cat behind me called, referring to myself. Or at least I figured. I was from the Swaying Reeds, so of course I'd be referred to as such. Or anyone from the Swaying Reeds, I guess. The Towering Trees were referred to as simply Trees, and the Falling Rains as Rains. A pretty simple way to never really get to know anyone.

I took in a deep breath before starting towards the mouth of the cave, turning to look at Sparrow from over my shoulder. I gave her a reassuring look, a look that said "I'll be fine,", though I wasn't sure myself.

Slowly padding into the cave, I blinked a few times as my olive-colored eyes adjusted to the pitch-black of the stone tunnel. It was already pretty dark outside, but in here I couldn't see a single thing. I let my tail-tip drag across the left side of the cave wall in order to keep myself from running into something or going the wrong way, like I'd been told to do earlier.

I could see a slight blue glow up ahead and let my eyes lead me to it, ending up standing in front of a large portion of the cave with a small pool of water in the center. As I warily approached it, I watched in awe as three cats seemed to materialize from the mist. Their starry forms went to sit on the stone platform sitting above the water in the center.

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