Chapter 4

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"Russetsky." Sunstar's eyes had found the shadowy tabby she-cat as his eyes searched the Clan for his chosen cat. Baffled and horrified, Russetsky stared at him before rising to her paws.

Bramblefrost's eyes shone with pride as he watched his beloved mate stand as the new deputy of ThunderClan. Shadepaw's and Rainpaw's eyes danced with happiness and excitement, and Skypaw knew her expression must be the same.

"With pride, I announce you the new deputy of ThunderClan." Sunstar's bold meow made the fur along Skypaw's spine raise, but in a good way. She was too happy for her mother to be disturbed by her new leader now.

"Russetsky! Russetsky!" Bramblefrost's cheer was first to be heard. Quickly after, Skypaw and her littermates joined into the chant for their mother until all cats, including Sunstar were breaking out in cries of joy, for a reliable deputy had come.

"I," Russetsky's meow was full of shock. "I don't know what to say! Thank you, Sunstar. I will be sure to serve my Clan well as ThunderClan deputy." Russetsky looked sincere, and Skypaw knew that she was.

"Let ThunderClan thrive and may the Clans see that we are strong once more!" Sunstar's yowl hurt Skypaw's ears, but she seemed to be the only cat who was disturbed.

"How does that feel?" Appleleaf's mew snapped Skypaw out of her cheering. "Your mother being the deputy?"

"Wonderful," Skypaw replied warm-heartedly. "She deserves it."

"Sandstar didn't make a mistake raising that one, that's for sure." Appleleaf's eyes clouded with memory.

"You knew my mother when she was a kit?" Skypaw's meow was, once again, disbelieving.

"Of course, do I look younger than her?" The old tom's eyes shone with humor. Skypaw studied his appearance well for the first time. He looked somewhat like Mousetail, only more well-built and had a lot more muscle. His muzzle was almost completely gray. Skypaw thought it was a shame no she-cat claimed him as a mate when he was younger.

"What was she like?" Skypaw couldn't help but ask.

"Russetsky was a brilliant cat. Did nothing but train during her apprentice moons, trying to prove she was worthy of the ThunderClan title."

"You two should probably get some rest," Willowleaf interrupted. "It's getting late. You both have patrols tomorrow." Willowleaf's eyes glimmered as she looked at Skypaw. Skypaw couldn't be more excited. Hazelflower would teach her so much!

Saying goodbye to Willowleaf and Appleleaf, Skypaw headed to her den. Once she reached there, she saw Rainpaw and Shadepaw curled up together. Remembering what Appleleaf had told her, she decided to join them.

Skypaw was surprised when she noticed they were asleep. Didn't they want to talk about their first day as an apprentice like she did?

Her tail dropped to the ground when she realized her sisters probably chatted without her.

Refusing to let her un-liked littermates ruin her day, she curled up and let the memory of the happy cheering cats congratulating her mother soothe her into sleep.

"Skypaw!" Skypaw jolted awake to her name being called from the clearing. Bursting from the den, thinking she had overslept, she was blinking with surprise when she realized the sun was just rising. It was dawn.

"Morning!" Hazelflower chirped happily. Judging by Hazelflower's hazel eyes, Skypaw believed she was just as excited as she was.

"Morning!" Skypaw tried to sound just as enthusiastic as her mentor, but sleep hadn't fully left her body yet.

"Russetsky assigned us to the dawn patrol. Then, we're going to come back to camp, grab some fresh kill and get training." Now Skypaw was awake.

"Patrol?" She echoed excitedly. Maybe Russetsky had listened to her in the nursery when she blabbed about patrols, after all.

"Yes, patrol!" Hazelflower leaped a bit on her paws, too excited to stand still any longer. Skypaw wondered if she had been the young she-cat's first apprentice.

"Who's leading?" Skypaw questioned, eager to figure out who she would be checking the forest with.

"Hey!" Skypaw jumped as a voice called out to her in the just awakening camp. It was Mousetail.

"Hi, Mousetail," Hazelflower replied. Did Skypaw see a glimmer in her eye?

"Who are you going out on patrol with?" Mousetail questioned, excited for the two she-cats.

"Just us," Hazelflower meowed, then remembered her apprentice's previous question. "Sunstar is leading it himself." She boasted proudly.

Mousetail's excited expression faded. His eyes clouded over with something Skypaw couldn't quite place, and his tail lashed back and forth.

Mousetail murmured something, then padded away. But Skypaw had heard every word he said. It rattled her to think about why the young brown warrior would say such a thing.

"I'll pray to StarClan for your safety."

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