"Rookfeather, will you just shut your mouth?" Quickflash snapped. "You've been bullying Riverpaw for days. He's not doing any harm by helping out Pinestep."
"He needs to be preparing for his assessment," the blind tom growled as he lashed his tail. "He doesn't need to be fawning over herbs."
"Then maybe he just isn't meant to be a warrior."
Ripplepaw sighed as he slipped away from the other members of the hunting patrol. Bicker, bicker, bicker, that's all that mangy old tom does anymore, Ripplepaw thought to himself. He needs to retire before he crosses the wrong cat. At least elders are allowed to be grumpy.
Dewwhisker flicked her tail and added, "Pinestep asked us to keep an eye out for these herbs. Riverpaw should take them back to camp."
"Some other cat can do that," Rookfeather snapped.
Riverpaw, Graypaw, and Ripplepaw silently sat to the side and watched their mentors argue. "Don't worry," Ripplepaw whispered to his brother, "he's just upset because you might be his last apprentice."
"I know," Riverpaw mewed quietly, whiskers twitching disappointedly. "I just... being a warrior doesn't feel like it's meant for me."
"We've been training for almost six moons," Graypaw whispered back. "Surely you won't change your mind now."
"I'm... not sure." Riverpaw pawed at the ground uncomfortably. "I've never been the best fighter... maybe it's better that I stick to my strengths."
"What're you three whispering about?" Rookfeather growled, interrupting their conversation.
"We were trying to figure out when our assessments will be," Ripplepaw lied quickly. "We've been training for ages. It can't be too much longer before we're warriors."
"Maybe you and Graypaw," Rookfeather sneered. "Riverpaw won't be a warrior if he doesn't--"
"Riverpaw, take the herbs to Pinestep and see if she needs anymore help," Quickflash interrupted. "Graypaw, you and Ripplepaw are going to hunt near the stepping stones instead of finishing this patrol. Consider it a test of your skills. Speckleheart was there this morning and said it was a bit misty, so be extra careful."
Ripplepaw felt his fur lie down; he hadn't realized it was even bristing. He shook his head trying to clear his head a bit before turning towards the river. He flicked his tail for Graypaw to follow while Riverpaw started back towards camp. As the three warriors headed towards the border, Ripplepaw turned back to look at his sister. "You don't really think he'll abandon us, do you?"
Graypaw was quiet as she pushed past him, changing from a brisk walk to a steady jog. "It's up to him," she reasoned. "I can't decide what he does anymore than you can, and really I'd rather not think about the possible repercussions that could have. Shorestar wanted all of us to be warriors. She's not going to like being told that one of us mght not become one."
Ripplepaw sighed as he followed her, carefully trudging over the twigs and stones that were scattered all over the ground. Since when is she not one to talk about our family? he asked himself.
Graypaw held her tail straight up, signaling for Ripplepaw to stop. "Do you smell that?" she whispered, lowering herself into a crouch.
Ripplepaw crouched closer to the ground as well, opening his jaws to scent for prey. The aroma of heather and gorse overwhelmed his other senses. "Rabbit!" ghe mewed giddily.
"Shh," Graypaw warned as she started to move forward, fur brushing against the ground. Then, like a bolt of lightning, she lashed forward and growled as she pounced on top of an unsuspecting bunch of fluffy fur. The rabbit squeaked loudly; Graypaw has acted just a moment too late as she nipped at its spine, killing it. "Mousedung," she hissed.
Ripplepaw stood up again and looked at the massive rabbit. "That's as big as Stormkit!" he exclaimed. "It's more than enough to feed all of the elders and still have some left over."
Graypaw shook her head and replied, "There won't be more prey around here now. It's all been scared off."
"We can go back towards camp and catch more prey on the way," Ripplepaw reasoned. "Then we'll have time to find more prey as we go." Graypaw nodded slowly and picked up her rabbit in her jaws. Ripplepaw watched as she emotionlessly padded back up towards where they had left the others earlier. There's something wrong with her, but I can't quite put my paw on it, he thought.