The First Battle

Dawn of the Clans

Warriors

The First Battle

Erin Hunter

With special thanks to Kate Cary

For Josh, my son (Thanks for all the cups of tea)

Allegiances

CLEAR SKY’S CAMP

LEADER

CLEAR SKY—light gray tom with blue eyes

FALLING FEATHER—young white she-cat

MOON SHADOW—black tom

LEAF—gray-and-white tom

PETAL—small yellow tabby she-cat with green eyes

QUICK WATER—gray-and-white she-cat

FIRCONE—tortoiseshell tom

NETTLE—gray tom

KITS

BIRCH—brown-and-white tom

ALDER—gray-and-white she-kit

TALL SHADOW’S CAMP

LEADER

TALL SHADOW—black, thick-furred she-cat with green eyes

GRAY WING—sleek, dark gray tom with golden eyes

JAGGED PEAK—small gray tabby tom with blue eyes

DAPPLED PELT—delicate tortoiseshell she-cat with golden eyes

RAINSWEPT FLOWER—brown tabby she-cat with blue eyes

SHATTERED ICE—gray-and-white tom with green eyes

CLOUD SPOTS—long-furred black tom with white ears, white chest, and two white paws

FROST—pure white tom with blue eyes

JACKDAW’S CRY—young black tom with blue eyes

HAWK SWOOP—orange tabby she-cat

WIND RUNNER—wiry brown she-cat with yellow eyes

GORSE FUR—thin, gray tabby tom

TURTLE TAIL—tortoiseshell she-cat with green eyes

KITS

LIGHTNING TAIL—black tom

ACORN FUR—chestnut brown she-cat

THUNDER—orange tom with amber eyes and big white paws

OWL EYES—gray tom

PEBBLE HEART—brown tabby tom with amber eyes

SPARROW FUR—tortoiseshell she-kit

ROGUE CATS THORN—she-cat with a short, thick gray coat and bright blue eyes

DEW—mangy tom with splotchy fur

RIVER RIPPLE—silver, long-furred tom

MISTY—gray-and-white she-cat

Maps

Prologue

Water cascaded beyond the cave mouth. A gray tom watched it tumble past. It muffled the wind and softened the jagged peaks beyond, before disappearing far below into a rainbow of spray.

Cats moved behind him, hardly more than shadows in the dappled light of their cavern. Longing misted the gray tom’s eyes. Twisting back his ears, he listened to their murmuring.

“Stones in my nest!” An elder croaked irritably. “Always stones in my nest.”

“I’ll pick them out.” Tiny paws skipped across the cave.

“Come back, Jay Frost,” a queen called anxiously. “Your pads are too soft for sharp stones.”

“They’ll need to toughen up sooner or later,” the elder muttered.

The gray tom turned, his sleek pelt pricking.

“Try it, Misty Water.” An old ginger tom was nosing a scrawny mouse toward a dull-pelted she-cat.

Misty Water peered at the prey from her nest in the dimpled cavern floor. “Give it to a younger cat.” She nodded toward Jay Frost as he picked grit from the elder’s nest.

“You must eat,” Lion’s Roar persisted.

“It’s the last piece of prey,” the she-cat protested.

“But the hunting party will be back soon. They may have found more,” a brown tom called from where he was sharing tongues with a white she-cat at the edge of the cavern.

The gray cat pricked his ears happily. “Twisted Branch! Snow Hare!” He padded toward the two cats, rearing in surprise as four kits charged across his path.

“No rough play!” Their mother hurried after them.

Dewy Leaf. The gray tom blinked at the queen. You kitted safely! I’m so glad. A purr rumbled in his throat for a moment, then fell quiet. “If Moon Shadow had stayed to see his kits, he might still be alive now,” he murmured.

“Gray Wing?”

A cracked mew made him turn. An ancient she-cat was padding from the shadows at the back of the cave.

“Stoneteller!” Gray Wing hurried toward her. “You can see me?”

“Of course.” She stretched her muzzle to greet him. “We share the same dream.”

He touched his nose to hers, surprised at how cold it was. He’d lived on the moor for so many moons now that he’d forgotten how the bone-chilling cold of the mountains never entirely loosened its grip.

He glanced around the cave at his old tribe mates. “Can they see us?”

“We can see out of the dream,” Stoneteller told him. “They can’t see in.”

Gray Wing blinked. “Am I here, or dreaming in my nest on the moor?”

“Both.” Amusement lit up Stoneteller’s eyes so that, for a moment, they looked as bright as a kit’s. “For now, all that matters is here.”

Gray Wing stiffened as he saw the speckled pelt of a gray she-cat. “Quiet Rain.” His chest tightened as he recognized his mother curled in her sleeping hollow. Her soft eyes clouded as she followed the rippling light playing on the cave walls. “Is she okay?” he asked Stoneteller.

“She’s fine,” Stoneteller assured him.

“I wish I could tell her we survived the journey, that Clear Sky is well—Jagged Peak, too, despite his injury. She was so worried about us, setting out—even though she told us it was the right thing to do.”

“I’ll let her know,” Stoneteller promised.

Gray Wing hardly heard her. Jagged Peak and Clear Sky are well. It was only half true, and that knowledge brought sorrow that stabbed like an icicle at his heart. Should he confess that Jagged Peak was lame now, his hind leg crippled by a fall from a tree? I swore I’d protect him.

And what about Clear Sky? Gray Wing’s littermate might be safe, but he was so changed that Quiet Rain would hardly recognize her firstborn son. They had found the prey-rich land they had hoped for, but the cats that had traveled through the mountains as one had split into two groups when they reached the warm fields and forests of their new home. Clear Sky had taken possession of the woods with a few of his old tribe mates. It pained Gray Wing to admit it, even to himself, but his brother had become brutal in guarding his share of the plentiful prey.

Shame warmed Gray Wing’s pelt. I failed them—and my mother.

He felt Stoneteller trying to catch his eye, but could not meet her gaze.

“It’s not your fault, Gray Wing.” She swung her muzzle toward her skinny tribe mates. “Having little makes cats share.” She touched her nose to his shoulder softly. “Having much makes us greedy.”

Gray Wing lifted his head sharply. Did she know what he was thinking? Clear Sky had once been his closest friend. Now they faced each other like rivals.

“I’ve lived long.” Stoneteller tipped her head. “I must warn you: greed is only the beginning.” Her eyes darkened. “There will be war.”

Gray Wing swallowed. “With Clear Sky?”

“Don’t be scared,” Stoneteller soothed.

Gray Wing lifted his head. “I’m not scared!” But his heart quickened. How can I fight my own brother?

“Remember the cats who love and trust you,” Stoneteller murmured. “You and Clear Sky may be divided, but you still have Jagged Peak.”

Warmth filled Gray Wing’s chest as he remembered his younger brother’s courage and loyalty.

“And Turtle Tail?” Stoneteller’s eyes rounded with curiosity. “How is she?”

“She’s happy.” A loving purr choked Gray Wing’s mew.

“You recognized the strength of her love at last.” Stoneteller’s eyes shone. “I’m glad.”

Gray Wing shifted his paws. He could picture Turtle Tail now, sleeping beside him as he walked in his dreams. Pebble Heart, Owl Eyes, and Sparrow Fur would be curled at her belly, still kits but growing each day. Though they were the offspring of a kittypet, he loved them as his own and they loved him, as much as Turtle Tail loved him.

A pang jabbed his heart. He missed them all, even though he knew that his pelt was touching theirs, far away on the moor. How? As his mind began to cloud with confusion, he tugged his thoughts back to the cave. For now, this is all that matters.

He turned wistfully toward Stoneteller, but she was staring toward the waterfall, faint moonlight dappling her face.

She closed her eyes. “Why have you come here?”

Did I choose this dream? Unease flickered beneath Gray Wing’s pelt. Somethi ...