Chapter Eighteen - Announcements

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It was only a few days before the BloodClan Hunger Games were going to begin, and as every day went by, my anxiety strengthened as I imagined me going into the deadly, gruesome battle that was for entertainment only.

We had trained non-stop everyday from dawn to dusk with only one battle with a small group of rogues in between. Bloodpaw had healed within two days and was eager to go train before he was aloud out of the medicine den. He was back in training four days after the accident.

I was eating a sparrow alone when Poison hops up onto his den and summons the Clan. It was early in the morning and Ice hadn't even made patrols yet. "All cats old enough to draw blood, gather to hear my words!"

I licked my lips after quickly finishing my prey and got up to sit with the crowd. I noticed Coldkit, Haykit, and Heatherkit were getting cleaned by Runningbrook and Onewhisker and I realized this must be their apprentice ceremony. Coldkit's amber gaze locked with my blue eyes for a quick heartbeat and then I blinked and he was turned away.

In a huff, I looked away and narrowed my eyes at my paws. What did I do to make him ignore me? What did Haykit and Heatherkit say to him? I wondered in frustration.

"By naming apprentices, we show that BloodClan will never be beaten and remain strong and merciless. Haykit, from now on, you'll be known as Haypaw. Mistyfoot, you will be Haypaw's mentor." Poison announced. The grey she-cat stepped forward - her eyes serious and unexcited - and touched her nose to her new apprentices'.

Poison repeated that and announced Goldenflower as Coldpaw's mentor and Boulder as Heatherpaw's.

The Clan cheered their names half-heartily, mostly coming from Runningbrook and Onewhisker, along with the other apprentices and the new apprentices' mentors. I muttered a cheer or two and prepared to stand when Poison kept going.

"Ocean, Birchpaw, you've proven you're worthy to be warriors. Step forward." I tilted my head as I wondered about Tabby. Tabby had been two moons old when they had found her, wandering in Twolegplace, yowling for food. Scourge was on patrol when he heard her, and he decided to take her in.

At least, that's what Tawnypelt told Deathpaw one night as kits.

I glanced at Tabby and she exchanged a glance with Ocean as she left her to stand beside Birchpaw.

"Birchpaw, you're brave and cunning, and you've proven your loyalty and strength many times." Poison meowed, "Birchpaw, you'll now be known as Birchleaf." The Clan waited until Ocean was told she was a warrior to cheer their names.

"Now, Tabby," Poison started, and all eyes turned to the muscular brown she-cat. She stood up straight as all eyes focused on her. "You've proven your loyalty, strength, braveness, and you're quiet like the other guards. I am happy to say you'll be a guard like Lostface and Blackfoot." Tabby's name rippled among the Clan.

I hadn't of even known they accepted new guards unless a death occurred.

"And as for new kits," Poison began yet again, turning to Minty, "I'm glad to say Minty is expecting Hoot's kits. She will be moving into the nursery today." Cats gathered around the mates and congratulated them. Hoot nuzzled Minty under her chin and I could tell she was purring. It was rare to see cats purr now.

I only then noticed her swollen belly as she waddled into the nursery, Hoot close behind. I assume he was going to help we settle in.

The Clan went back to normal; Ice announced patrols: Tawnypelt led one to the Island Marshland, Rowansting joined one to hunt in the low moor, Longtail took a large patrol to clear out the Arena, while Mousefur took one to the pines to hunt.

The new apprentices were taken out with Deathpaw, Mothpaw, and Hawkpaw - plus their mentors - to see the territory they hadn't yet been shown. Bloodpaw was taken out for some one-on-one battle training with Tess while Mudclaw kept his head close together with Snake and Poison. Snake was Ice's brother, and I knew whatever Snake found out, he'd tell his brother.

I padded over to Mudclaw and prodded him with my claw. The warriors had hushed as I approached. "Are we battle training?" I mewed. Mudclaw glared down at me and responded grimly, "When I'm done here. Go clean your fur or something!" I narrowed my eyes at the brown, muscular - and rude for that matter - cat. Reluctantly, I padded away and headed toward the medicine cats' den to see how they were.

"Icepaw! So nice to see you." Cinderpelt purred, her once dull eyes turning bright. Littlecloud and Mudfur greeted me as well, but Barkface only dipped his head from where he sat in his nest. The old medicine cat looked frailer than any of the medicine cats, his muzzle freckled with grey, his bones sticking out. He was bound to die in his sleep any night now.

"How are you feeling, Barkface?" I mewed softly, padding over to the old cat. "Old and tired." He grunted, shakily standing. "And cranky." Mudfur muttered under his breath. Cinderpelt let out a mrrow of amusement, but Barkface didn't look so amused.

"I've given you plenty of fennel for your sore hips and daisy leaf for your joints. Plus, you've been given chamomile not long ago, so you'll be strengthened up soon." Littlecloud reassured the brown cat.

"So, what did you come in for, Icepaw?" Mudfur asked as he picked out the dead herbs. "Mudclaw is too busy talking up a storm so I decided to come see how you guys were doing." I responded.

"All is good in here. Boring and crowded, but good." Cinderpelt mewed, shooing me out with her nose. "You should be heading off now. I'm sure your mentor won't be pleased if you're talking to us. Good luck!" I sighed and headed over to the now standing Mudclaw.

As I began to pad toward him, he dipped his head to Poison and Snake and turned to me. "We'll practise today how to fight near and in water." He mumbled without looking at me. I didn't reply, just padded on his heels.

My heart sped up and the fur along my spine rose up in fright. He's going to teach me how to swim? Why? Is he going to drown me and call it an accident? Or is he preparing me for the Hunger Games because he knows something I don't?

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