Chapter 8

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The cat who cried badger was Hazelflower.

"Stay together!" Russetsky hollered. Before Skypaw or Rainpaw could do or say anything, the warriors had crowded around them in a circle, trapping the two apprentices inside.

"Let us out!" Skypaw hissed. "We can fight!"

"Badgers are risky," Bramblefrost meowed. Skypaw noticed his eyes were full of terror for his kits. They weren't even warriors yet and they were facing their first badger, something not even some of the older warriors had seen.

Large pounds were storming through the forest. Rainpaw and Skypaw shared a glance, and she saw a reflection of herself in Rainpaw's eyes; fear. Skypaw's ears wanted to melt, for the pounds were getting much closer. She could feel the vibrations of the ground beneath her paws.

"We need to warn camp!" Russetsky hissed. "Sunstar needs to know!"

"No need," The familiar deep meow reached Skypaw's ears just as her leader's flaming pelt emerged from the bushes. Blizzardfur, Stormpelt, Duskwave and Firesoul ducked out of the bushes after him.

Skypaw noticed how much muscle the warriors standing in front of her had. Looking down at her own limbs, she noticed she was very much lacking. Even Rainpaw seemed to have more stronger legs than Skypaw did. I'm no match for a badger, Skypaw thought to herself.

"Who's guarding camp?" Russetsky asked the ThunderClan leader. Skypaw was relieved that her mother seemed to have trust in this eerie cat. Maybe he wasn't so bad, after all.

"Flowermoon and Flarecloud," Sunstar answered. "Shadepaw's guarding Appleleaf. The warriors are taking positions around camp, for there are no unguarded cats that can't fight, but we can't afford for our camp to get too damaged."

"Look out!" Petalheart hissed. Skypaw's eyes darted ahead and saw the brown, huge figures with a single stripe coming at her and her Clan. Sunstar yowled something that Skypaw couldn't quite make out, but he darted in the direction of the badgers. Bramblefrost, Russetsky, Duskwave and Blizzardfur were on his heels.

"Remember your training," Hazelflower and Petalheart meowed in unison before taking off after their leader and deputy.

"It's going to be okay," Stormpelt's raspy meow sounded. He gave the apprentices a reassuring look before bolting away.

"Do we go?" Rainpaw and Skypaw hissed at each other in unison. They were as confused as two voles scenting cat.

"Yes," One more fiery pelt ran up next to them. The brother of Sunstar and Flarecloud, here was Firesoul. "Remember your battle training, and don't run towards camp.The badgers will follow you." He instructed. "Follow me."

As his flaming fur ran ahead, Skypaw and Rainpaw were hard on his heels. The bitter scent Skypaw had caught earlier was stronger. She heard her mother's and Sunstar's battle cries yowl up ahead, signalling ThunderClan had met the badgers and was officially in battle. Firesoul's fur bristled and his claws unsheathed, so Skypaw knew he was waiting to sink his own claws into the flesh of such an evil creature on their territory.

Skypaw didn't dare look at anything else but the path in front of her. Her paws pounded on the hard forest floor, and she was concentrating hard not to get herself tangled in brambles in her first battle. Lungs burning from breathing so hard, she looked ahead. She took in a sharp gasp when she saw how huge the badgers actually were. As terrified as she was to see her Clan fighting the enormous creatures, she was starting to get excited of thinking of fighting one herself.

As soon as they caught up to the yowling sounds and the already bloodstained scene, Firesoul cried a vicious cry and leaped at one of the badgers Sunstar was fighting. Skypaw took a moment to notice the scowl on his face, how his claws were unsheathed all the way and how he quickly dodged out of the way when the badger seemed to try to hit him with one of their powerful paws.

Skypaw was about to turn around to see where Rainpaw was, but claws raked her back. Howling in pain, she spun around just in time to see a badger's large paw hit her side. Flying across the clearing and landing with a sickening thud, she could feel blood pouring from her claw marks. Her head dizzy and her body stinging, she reluctantly climbed to her paws.

However, Skypaw was too late. The same badger was already upon her, its claws drenched in her blood. Its large and deadly mouth opened and its eyes settled on her neck. Preparing for the worst, she tried to run, but her spinning head from her fall brought her crashing down to the ground once more.

Just when she thought she was about to join StarClan, two familiar growls rang through her ears. Glancing at the badger, she saw a shadowy russet pelt leaping at it's neck, and a dark brown tabby pelt clawing at its shoulders. Her mother and father had come to save her.

Skypaw had finally recovered enough to climb to her paws. Fearful but determined, she leaped at the badger's neck, as Russetsky had done. She was surprised when she felt her claws slash it's flesh, and a cry of pain come from it. This fueled her strength and she slashed its side.

Backing away, pretending to look scared and afraid, she let out a small wail. The badger took advantage of this supposedly injured apprentice and charged towards Skypaw, but she was not done with her fight. She started to run towards it, and feeling it was close enough, she leaped. Concentrating more than ever on turning perfectly to her side in the air, she felt a large wave of triump when she collided with the badger's face in a swift and poweful way.

Dropping after her blow, she landed on her paws. Slashing at the badger's eyes a few more times, it began to run away, cries of terror coming from its mouth. Skypaw didn't blame it. Russetsky and Bramblefrost had injured it well, and now Skypaw had left her own mark on its pelt.

The feeling Skypaw had was incredible. She just defeated a badger! The warriors had been right, to use her training. She had pretended she was fighting Hazelflower the best she could to impress her, only it was for real. Teeth beared and claws unsheathed, she had finally done it.

The other badgers, seeing one of its kind run away, freed themselves from the fight with ThunderClan. They ran after their friend, unaware of what had happened to them. The Clan cats looked confused, for apparently, badgers stayed and fought for longer amounts of time. One by one, sighs of relief and cries of victory ran from the ThunderClan cats.

However, Skypaw was worried she had done something wrong when two cats above all were not cheering with victory. Russetsky and Bramblefrost's eyes, wide with terror, focused behind her.

Confused, she turned around and followed her parents' eyes. She felt her own jaw drop when she saw the bloody, motionless sight in front of her.


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