Umberpaw's eyes flew open. He sprang to his paws, looking around. Cats were milling around him, not even so much as glancing at the strange apprentice standing there. Umberpaw was about to freak out when he remembered; he was dead, and he was in ThunderClan.
Almost as soon as he realized this, a cat walked right by him.
The cat had walked through him.
Umberpaw gasped as another cat passed right through him, not even noticing. Umberpaw spun around and found himself face to face with a she-cat. She had a black pelt and a big, white spot on her back. Umberpaw couldn't help but notice how pretty she was.
And that she was staring right at him.
It wasn't until another warrior gasped that Umberpaw also noticed the splashes of blood all over her pelt. Another cat stumbled into the camp behind her, and they stared at each other in horror.
The new cat, a broad shouldered tabby, took a shaky step away from her, saying, "Murderer."
There was a collective gasp throughout the Clan. The she-cat looked mortified.
"Murderer!" The tom said again, louder this time. "You killed him!"
Suddenly a tall silver tom stepped out of a cave at the top of a rock pile. "What is going on out here?" He boomed. A hush fell over the Clan.
This must be Birchstar, ThunderClan's leader, Umberpaw thought. He had seen the tom at Gatherings, but never this close. Umberpaw was curious, though. Birchstar was said to have the power to see StarClan cats. I wonder if he can see me.
"Duskfeather! Sh-she killed Owlclaw!" The tabby tom exclaimed. The Clan gasped, throwing surprised and accusing glances at Duskfeather.
Birchstar looked at Duskfeather in surprise. "Is this true?" He growled.
The she-cat, Duskfeather, shook her head quickly. "Of course not! I would nev--"
She was cut off as a small gray tom came through the entrance, dragging a white and brown-striped tom along with him. Both toms had blood all over them, but the white tom was leaving a trail of blood as he was dragged in. Duskfeather gazed at the tom with grief and hopelessness.
"I told you!" The brown tom exclaimed. "She killed him. Me and Skypaw were there to see it, too!"
Birchstar ripped his gaze away from the white tom, Owlclaw, and glared at Duskfeather. "This is unacceptable. You have killed our deputy," he rasped, his voice sharp. "From this moment on, you, Duskfeather, are not a ThunderClan warrior. You have committed a crime that can never be forgiven." Birchstar raised his head, his eyes cold as ice, and said, "Now get out!"
Duskfeather looked around. She was obviously searching for someone, anyone, who could prove she would never do that.
"She's innocent!" Umberpaw yelled to Birchstar. The silver tom didn't seem to hear him.
No one did.
Except Duskfeather, who was staring at him in awe.
"GET OUT!" Birchstar roared again.
Duskfeather turned on her heal and ran. Umberpaw ran after her, but she was too quick, and he lost her.
Umberpaw padded through the forest. It was unfamiliar, and yet he knew his way around. When he had lost Duskfeather, he had decided to find his way out of ThunderClan's territory, so that was what he was doing.
There was an almost full moon above him, which was odd, since it hadn't even been a day since he had died. There wasn't even a half moon when he died.
How long was I gone?
Umberpaw jumped as Raymond's voice rumbled in his head.
How are you in my head? Umberpaw asked.
I'm not here to explain myself. Raymond sighed. Ever the pinnacle of impatience. I just came to tell you that you were given your warrior name after you died. You are now called Umberstrike.
Umberstrike. It had a nice ring to it.
That's all? Umberstrike asked the invisible tom. He was answered by the retreating feeling he had in his head. Raymond was gone.
Umberstrike let out an exasperated sigh. A bush to his right suddenly shook and a small yelp came out of it. Umberstrike turned and pushed his nose through.
There she was, cowering in fear in a bush with no pride, no dignity, left inside her.
She looked in fear at Umberstrike, who was frozen. This cat could actually see him.
Umberstrike was about to say something when Duskfeather beat him to it.
"What are you?" She growled. "You certainly aren't ThunderClan, or my Clanmates would have actually acknowledged your existence back in the camp. So where are you from? ShadowClan? WindClan?"
I'm actually dead. "I'm from RiverClan," Umberstrike replied, leaving out the extra details.
Surprise flickered through Duskfeather's eyes, and she stood up. "What's a RiverClan warrior like you doing in ThunderClan?" She asked, studying him closely.
Umberstrike stepped through the bush to stand in front of her. She was slightly taller than him. "That's none of your concern," he said dismissively. "what we need to worry about right now is getting you back to your Clan."
"Why would you help me?" She asked. "I'm a murderer, remember?"
"I don't believe that," Umberstrike replied, flicking his tail. "You certainly don't look like a murderer. You don't act like one, either."
Duskfeather looked unconvinced. "How do I know you're not here to punish me? That's something Birchstar would do, especially because it was Owlclaw who died."
Umberstrike decided to avoid the question. How could he explain himself without giving away too much detail? "Was Birchstar close to Owlclaw?" He asked.
"Oh, yes," Duskfeather nodded vigorously. "Those two were always together. Birchstar never did anything without Owlclaw. Hey, what's your name, anyway?" She peered closely at Umberstrike, as if trying to read his mind.
"Umberstrike," he replied, taking the smallest step backward.
Duskfeather seemed satisfied. "Alright. I'm Duskfeather, but you probably already know that." Umberstrike nodded. "Yeah, thought so. Well come on. We need to get out of ThunderClan territory before they send a patrol after me." Duskfeather turned and began walking toward the edge of the territory. Umberstrike followed close behind.
At some points, Duskfeather would get ahead, and Umberstrike would feel queasy and lightheaded, so he tried to stay as close as possible.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity of walking, the strong ThunderClan scent disappeared. Duskfeather turned to get a better look at Umberstrike. She tilted her head ever so slightly. Umberstrike could feel her gaze travel along his legs and torso.
Then, a realization hit him smack in the face. Great StarClan! She's going to attack me!
Before Umberstrike could protest, though, Duskfeather pounced.