Chapter 39

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Skypaw yawned as she woke up. Her teeth chattered and she meowed with surprise when she realized her breath was giving off a frosty glow.

Looking at her sisters, she noticed that they too were shivering. Ducking out of the den, she gazed around at a white wonderland.

Frost layered the leaves of the den that were cracking and falling off, leaving sharp pieces on the camp ground as they shattered. Snow layered the dens and as Skypaw padded forward, she could tell by the way that her paws slipped and slid that there was indeed ice hidden underneath it.

Skypaw figured she was dreaming as the memories from the night before relived in her mind. She had sat and chatted on Splashstar's branch well after moonhigh with Hawkspirit, their mrrows of amusement and purrs of happiness rang through the air. It had been cold then, but never in a million moons would Skypaw expect leaf-bare to roll in so quickly within a couple of hours.

They had arranged to meet every night until the Gathering, both of them both denying that it would be easy to live until then without seeing each other. Their goodbye lasted for more than an hour, and Skypaw's spirits were lifted to the maximum as she padded into camp.

She had collasped in her nest, remembering all of the conversations they had, his meow forever implanted in her ears. However, the one thing that she couldn't forget was how he said that the tom that would claim her as his mate was the luckiest of all of StarClan.

However, there wasn't any other cat in ThunderClan she would ever love, and she knew that. Skypaw figured she would live as a lone warrior, devoting her life to her Clan needs and joining the ranks of StarClan without any line of kin behind her.

Skypaw snapped her head around when she heard the, usually beautiful rustling of the medicine den lichen, shattering of ice as Willowleaf's tortoiseshell pelt padded towards her.

She wasn't dreaming after all.

"Skypaw," Willowleaf's meow was loud compared to the complete silence of the camp. There was no wind howling, no murmurs of cats, no bird song, and no leaves rustling in the breeze.

"Willowleaf," Skypaw dipped her head slightly. "I wasn't expecting leaf-bare to come so quickly."

"Neither were the other Clans," The ThunderClan medicine cat replied. "StarClan's angry."

"Why?" Skypaw's voice was filled with alarm.

"Multiple reasons," Willowleaf looked Skypaw in the eyes. "But, I bet you could guess one of them."

Skypaw stared at her paws as Hawkspirit drifted into her mind. When she looked back up, Willowleaf wasn't standing in front of her any longer, but ducking into the nursery.

"Dear StarClan!" Skypaw looked up as Sunstar's deep meow echoed throughout camp as he gazed around his surroundings. His piercing green eyes were full of shock and anger.

Warriors came bursting out of the den at their leader's call. Their tails were bushed and their eyes were full of fear. However, that emotion quickly changed to surprise as their paws slid against the ice.

"There's no way!" Hazelflower exclaimed.

"It's leaf-bare," Skypaw meowed.

"No, I thought it was greenleaf," Firesoul rolled his eyes. Skypaw glared at him.

"Cats of ThunderClan!" Sunstar growled as he settled himself against the cold Highrock. His Clan quickly gathered, meows and hisses of surprise coming from them.

"It appears leaf-bare has settled in early," He meowed lowly, his gaze threatening. "Leaf-fall hasn't even set in yet!"

"We still have young kits in the nursery," Bumblefoot yowled. "If prey goes scarce, they'll starve!"

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