Chapter 3

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Sandstar had passed the next morning. Although she had served ThunderClan well for many moons, greencough had claimed her ninth life quickly. She was loved by all of her Clan, but no one grieved for the fallen leader more than Russetsky.

Sunblaze and Willowleaf set off for the Moonpool shortly after Sandstar had joined StarClan. Skykit sensed positive energy throughout the Clan. Their sick, pretty much useless leader had finally fallen after serving her Clan for so long. Skykit was always more than ready to be happy with her Clan, but only three cats weren't ready to see the bright side out of their leader's passing.

Russetsky, Bramblefrost, and strangely, Mousepaw.

Skykit couldn't quite tell why the brown apprentice wasn't happy, but she fully understood Russetsky and Bramblefrost. Russetsky had lost her mother figure, and Bramblefrost was mourning for his mate.

The Clan had shared tongues with their leader for a final time before the senior warriors had to bury Sandstar. The Clan was lacking elders, which Skykit supposed was one less burden on ThunderClan right now. Every once in awhile, she would catch Appleleaf looking longingly at the empty bramble den, but he never said a word out loud. She wondered how much longer the elderly warrior could keep at it.

After Sunstar had returned to camp Clan leader, he did not hesitate to give the Clan orders. Most of the Clan didn't mind and was happy to function as a full Clan again, but others like Russetsky needed time to grieve without being forced to eat and play with her independant kits.

Sunstar had given Featherpaw, Bumblepaw, Berrypaw and Mousepaw their warrior ceremonies. Mousepaw and Bumblepaw were made warriors with the two older apprentices because during Sandstar's last days, she didn't think about ceremonies much. The four young warriors were welcomed to the Clan as Featherfur, Bumblefoot, Berrypelt and Mousetail.

Skykit, Shadekit and Rainkit were made apprentices not long after. Eager to start training as the Clan's only apprentices, they took on their 'paw names as Skypaw, Shadepaw and Rainpaw. Skypaw was pleased when she found out her mentor would be Hazelflower. She would get along well with the black she-cat, both bright and eager to learn. Shadepaw was assigned Flarecloud, and Rainpaw would train with Petalheart.

As moonhigh finally approached after the long day leading after Sandstar's passing, Sunstar leaped up the rocks onto the Highrock.

"All cats old enough to catch their own prey please gather beneath the Highrock for a Clan meeting!" His deep yowl sounded through the camp. Skypaw's eyes burst open, for she had been sleeping in the apprentice den after touring ThunderClan territory with Hazelflower. She gave her pelt a quick grooming before erupting into the clearing.

Skypaw scanned the clearing for someone to sit next to. Russetsky was sitting alone with Bramblefrost, but Skypaw thought sitting with her mother and father after being declared an apprentice would not be good for her image in the Clan.

Not to far off, Bumblefoot and Featherfur sat together, their tails twisted together and their heads bent down close as they spoke. Skypaw hadn't spoken to Featherfur since the day her and Bumblefoot brought her the vole, and she remembered the connection she thought she had seen. Turns out it had been love.

Appleleaf sat with Willowleaf at the other side of the clearing. Figuring an old tom and the medicine cat couldn't be so bad, she took a deep breath and padded over to them.

Appleleaf's and Willowleaf's eyes widened with concern as Skypaw approached. "Are you hurt?" Willowleaf meowed immediately.

Instantly regretting her decision, she meowed quickly, "No, I'm fine." Appleleaf and Willowleaf exchanged a glance. "I'm fine!" Skypaw snapped.

"Sorry," Willowleaf meowed slowly. "Not to sound rude, but why are you here?"

"Am I not allowed to sit with you?" Skypaw asked. "I didn't realize we had Clan groups," she meowed, accusingly.

"We don't," Appleleaf spoke with the same tone as Willowleaf, gentle and cautious. "but it's not every day a young apprentice sits with an old tom and the medicine cat."

"I," Skypaw suddendly felt bad for Appleleaf. He didn't appear to have any friends in the Clan. ThunderClan gave him all the respect he deserved, but there's a difference between that and friendship. Skypaw realized that was probably the reason Willowleaf was over here with him in the first place. "I just didn't have anywhere to sit," she admitted.

Appleleaf's eyes brightened just a bit. "You can sit with us," he invited warmly.

"I'd have thought you'd be sitting with your littermates," Willowleaf meowed. "but there is nothing wrong with sitting with your other Clanmates. You are welcome to sit where you like."

"I don't like my littermates very much," Skypaw admitted, feeling a little bit more comfortable. "they never really paid much attention to me in the nursery. I was only with them because I had to be."

"You may not like them, but they could help you in the future. Don't let whatever bond you three ever had break at the call of freedom." Appleleaf warned. Skypaw liked this old tom. Maybe she would be his friend.

"Okay," she agreed, sincerely. "What happened to your littermates?"

Appleleaf's eyes darkened. "They were killed by a fox, Nightpaw and Brightpaw. At least, that's what Sunstar said. He was Nightpaw's mentor, and he had taken them out on a patrol." Skypaw's eyes widened.

"You mean, just like Moonfur?" Her tone was disbelieving.

"Exactly," Appleleaf meowed. He looked as if he wanted to say something else, but Willowleaf cut him off.

"Sunstar is about to speak," she meowed, her gaze leading to the Highrock.

"Cats of ThunderClan," Sunstar's mew was deep. "we are gathered here today to say our final goodbye to Sandstar. Today is the day a new deputy will rise, signaling Sandstar's leadership gone forever." Skypaw shifted uncomfortably on her paws. She glanced at Willowleaf, and the medicine cat's eyes were hardened into a glare. So maybe she wasn't the only cat who thought Sunstar's little speech was a little harsh.

Skypaw glanced at her mother. Russetsky's tail was bushed and her eyes were narrowed into slits. Deciding to dismiss the issue, Skypaw turned her attention back to her new leader.

"The warrior code states that a new deputy must be elected at moonhigh," Sunstar continued, his muzzle pointed to the bright moon. "and that is now." The Clan was dead silent, waiting for his next words.

"I am saying these words in the presence of Sandstar, so she can hear and approve my choice." Sunstar took a deep breath and his eyes raked over his Clan until he stared at one certain cat. "The new deputy of ThunderClan will be..."

End of chapter! Cliffhanger, I know. XD I already have the name of the deputy figured out, but just under curiosity I want everyone to comment the name of the cat who they believe will become ThunderClan's new deputy. XD None of your comments will change my choice, but I will find it interesting to see your responses. Thank you so much for reading, and I'll update hopefully very soon! :D)

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