The water had reached further than it had the last time the camp had flooded. A ginger and white she-cat's head bobbed above the waves until a dark gray tom dived into the water and dragged her towards higher ground. Some cats had already fled, others were fleeing. Lightning struck a tree, setting it ablaze as the floodwaters continued to rise. Shorestar yowled something that Riverpaw couldn't make out as he made his way back to the hollow they had sheltered in so many seasons ago. But the dirt beneath his paws gave way, and he slid down the slope, into the water. His vision faded, and he saw no more.
"Wake up!" A sharp prod in Riverpaw's side woke him from his nap. Graypaw's blue eyes were glaring down at him; the apprentice felt like ice was clawing at his heart as he met her gaze. "I've been trying to wake you for ages, lazy bones! Shorestar needs you."
Silently, Riverpaw nodded, pelt bristling with fear as he padded away. He weakly padded towards Shorestar's den, paws trembling as he nosed his way inside. "Y-y-you w-wanted to see me?" he mewed shakily.
Shorestar, Quickflash, and Pinestep were all seated inside. "Are you okay?" his mother asked, concern filling her green gaze. "You look like a startled mouse that's hardly escaped its hunter."
"I-- nightmare," he mewed quickly. "Just a bad dream." He paused and tried to make his fur lie flat, but he was unsuccessful; Riverpaw felt like he'd only made himself look worse, and his whiskers trembled. He glanced behind him, certain that at any moment, it would start to rain. "I... I don't want to talk about it right now."
"Only if you're sure," Shorestar mewed gently. "You know you can come to me for anything."
"I-- I know, Shorestar." His mew sounded stronger than he felt. "Now... what was it you wanted to see me for?"
Shorestar's shoulders relaxed as she glanced over her son's pelt. "In half a moon, your siblings are going to have their warrior assessments. I need to know if you want to join them or if you'd rather be a medicine cat."
"I--." Riverpaw couldn't find the words to express how he felt, so he merely looked at the three warriors, eyes wide and dumbstruck.
"It's not an easy decision," Pinestep admitted gently, "but I think that you'd be happier as a healer than as a warrior. I've certainly enjoyed your company, and you've been extremely helpful..."
Riverpaw looked at the dust on the ground between his paws. "I'd be honored, but... Rookfeather will be disappointed. I don't want to disappoint any cat." He looked up at his mother. "I don't want to disappoint you, either."
"You won't," Shorestar assured him. "And I've told Rookfeather that he can have one of Tallfern's kits if he'd like another apprentice. He won't be disappointed; if anything, I think every cat will be happier that he won't be complaining anymore."
"Oh..." So... he doesn't want me anymore? Or...? "Okay, then..." The apprentice turned towards Pinestep and mewed, "I'd like to become a medicine cat. Would you be willing to teach me?"
"I would," she nodded. "It'd be my honor to train another cat in our ways, especially one so dedicated to making sure every cat's needs are met. You have a good heart, Riverpaw."
"We'll have he ceremony now, then," Shorestar announced as she padded outside. Quickflash and Pinestep followed, and then Riverpaw joined them. He watched as his mother leapt onto a rock. "Let all cats old enough to swim gather to hear my words!" Slowly, the rest of the Clan joined them in the clearing. Lightningsong led the elders from their den, and Redpaw was the first apprentice to join the throng of cats that were assembling. Once she was certain that all of the Clan was present, she spoke again. "Pinestep has confided in me that she is ready to take on an apprentice."
Riverpaw saw his littermates staring at him and their mother. Please don't hate me, he pleaded silently. I just don't have the will to be a warrior!
"Riverpaw, step forward," Shorestar mewed proudly. "You have agreed to leave the path of a warrior to become a medicine cat. Do you agree to become Pinestep's apprentice and learn the ways of healing that she will teach you?"
"I do," he answered firmly.
"Then Pinestep shall take you to the Moonstone at the next half moon to speak with StarClan. May they light your path."
Riverpaw turned towards Pinestep and touched noses with his new mentor. "Thank you," he said quietly.
"No," she replied. "Thank you."
"Riverpaw! Riverpaw!" the Clan called; the apprentice noticed that Lightningsong's was one of the loudest. He dipped his head in her direction, and her ears flicked affectionately towards him in reply.
"This meeting is over!" Shorestar called, leaping off of her rock.
Pinestep touched her fluffy tail to Riverpaw's spine. "Come on, new apprentice," she mewed jokingly. "It's time for your first real lesson."