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Tales of Fangs and Fur (Warriors)

By @Dappledfern

Chapter 1

   Dapple pounced. Excitement rippled through her body. Wham! Her paws slammed down on bare ground. Slash! Her claws passed through empty air. Still, her frustration could not suppress her insistent urge to be better. Better than he littermates, of course.

   The mouse let out a terrified squeak. It was a mottled brown with a dull sheen. Its black, beady eyes darted back and forth. Dapple loved how it ran from her attacks, unlike the dead leaves she’d always chased. 

   Dapple narrowly missed the mouse, its thin tail flicking away from her claws. Come on, mouse! The rodent scrambled away from Dapple, but was turned back towards her by a glossy white paw.

   “I don’t need help, Finch Leap!” Dapple insisted. She readied herself to spring, but her sister beat her to it. 

   Clover flew in a short, graceful arch, landing squarely on the mouse. Dapple whimpered as the mouse’s terrified squeal abruptly cut off. 

   Dapple sat, curled her tail over her paws, and hid her embarrassment by turning to lick at a clump of fur on her haunches. Morning, her other sister, purred to comfort her. Morning seemed to be the most mature and resourceful of the litter, and Clover was nearly always the first to master techniques for hunting or fighting.

   Dapple’s parents, Grey Raven and Finch Leap, were some of the best at their jobs in Darting Foxes Colony. Grey Raven was Master Guard admired by many. Finch Leap was the Warrior Champion. I have to be the best at something, if not everything.

   “Alright, let’s stay out of the den while we eat, so Toad can sleep,” announced Finch Leap. Toad was another kit, one who wasn’t even a half-moon old yet and still stumbled when he walked. 

   Dapple was soon passed the smallest portion of the mouse- even though Dapple was the biggest, she wasn’t very confident, or skilled. It angered Dapple that she wasn’t able to impress her parents enough to get the prey she wanted to deserve.

   Dapple bit into the mouse’s scrawny hind leg. She glared at Clover, now sunning herself on her back. Dapple admired Clover’s fur- unlike Dapple’s, it was long and well-groomed. Clover was a caliby, which meant she had stripes on both colors of patches. Her black turned to soft brown, causing a beautiful patchwork of white, ginger, and pale brown.

   Morning had short fur like Dapple, though she also had more black than her, and less white. 

   Dapple licked her muzzle, savoring the taste of the mouse blood.

   Aspen Dust, a blue mackerel tabby queen, reached out with a paw and scraped the mouse bones toward her when they kits were finished. She ducked to grab them with her teeth, and then swished her tail as she disappeared out of camp through the tunnel. Finch Leap nodded in thanks.

   Dapple liked Aspen Dust. The blue queen was her half-aunt and the one who provided most of her meals, at least since she and her littermates started eating prey. Aspen Dust always made sure not to kill prey before bringing it to her older half-sister’s litter, that way the kits could practice hunting. Since Finch Leap had such an important job, Aspen Dust ended up caring for the kits a lot too.

   “Hey, Finch, what do you want the Warriors to practice today?” asked a cheery voice. It was Crow Stare, Finch Leap’s littermate. Crow Stare had long black fur and bright green eyes. Crow Stare was a Master Warrior, which meant she was in charge of half of the Warriors, and her boss was Finch Leap.

   Finch Leap looked thoughtful for a moment. “It’s always good for a bit of improvement on dodging. Don’t push yourselves too hard today, we’re still trying to recover from the Council.” Crow Stare dipped her head in agreement.

   The Council! That was so fun! Every season the Colonies would gather. They called it the Council. Darting Foxes Colony hosted the Councils that took place when Orange-Tree started, and the moons that followed were always tough. Hosting a Council meant giving up a lot of prey for the guests of the event.

   “And tell mother to have her cats practice accuracy, especially Fennel,” Finch Leap continued. 

   Dapple watched Clover. The caliby was washing her ear. She would lick her paw and then draw it over her head smoothly. Dapple crouched, her tail tip flicking, and then leaped into her sister’s flank, bowling her over.

   “Got you!” Dapple mewed, batting Clover’s ear. Clover mock-growled and heaved her off with a kick. 

   “I am Finch Leap, the Champion Warrior!” Clover announced, holding her tail high in pride. “Do you dare challenge me, Dapple?”

   Barely suppressing a laugh, Dapple nodded, slashing at her littermate’s soft tail. She was careful not to prick Clover with her tiny claws.

   Scrambling away, Clover ducked. The longhaired molly squealed as she dodged Dapple’s blows. Soon Dapple had slammed into Clover, and her sister collapsed, her paws spayed as she hit the ground with a dull thump.

   Dapple felt a hint of concern, but it quickly subsided when Clover hopped to her paws, giggling as she lowered her haunches to pounce. 

  Darting back, Dapple barely missed the pounce. Her whiskers twitched in amusement. She couldn’t help but feel jealous, however. Clover’s leaps went much higher and farther, and she landed neatly.

  Dapple suddenly felt tired. She nosed Clover’s ear, purring, and then tottered drowsily towards Finch Leap to curl against her mother’s flank.

   She watched Clover pounce on an unsuspecting Morning, who squeaked in fear and annoyance. Clover pranced a few paces away energetically. “Let’s play the game where I run and you have to catch up to me!” she insisted.

   Morning shot a forlornly glance at Finch Leap, who called the other kits to her with a sharp mrew!

   Finch Leap ducked to grab Dapple by the scruff. Dapple kicked once in protest, then hung limp in wait to be set in her nest. She remembered with a jolt not to be loud, so she could avoid waking Toad and his mother, Quail Foot, as well as a scolding from Finch Leap.

  Finch Leap tucked Dapple in the side of the nest, then curled next to her, drawing her in with a paw to her belly. The rest if the kits nestled on either side of Dapple.

   A rumbling started in Finch Leap’s throat, and she purred an ancient rhyme to help her litter sleep. 


   The day is now waking

     The bright-cats wake with it

        Oh, the risks that they’re taking

          They live when it’s sun-lit

             They have oh-so-bright pelts and not-so-bright ways

                When we’re near invisible ‘neath the moon’s rays


   Dapple listened intently to the rhyme. The Daylights are so silly! Don’t they know that most predators can’t see you in the dark? That’s why we don’t go outside camp in daylight! 

   Dapple felt herself slip into dreams.

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