The day was nigh unto nightfall. Hues of reds, yellows, oranges and purples streaked across the sky, painting the scape below it an assortment of splendiferous tinges. The sun peeked bashfully over the horizon line, the trees a silhouette beside its drift, and the snow a iridescent sapphire against the sky's shade. Yet, As comely as the display was, it wasn't enough to entice the solemn haze beneath it. His heart ached sorely for his Clan. They had been as still and mum as they had been during their enduring journey - even before then, they had not been as jovial... StarClan, he longed to see their smiling eyes, and cheerful mouths once again; to bask in their easygoing luster was his aspiration. For moments, hours even, he pondered the selfishness of this decision. After so much tribulation had unfolded itself upon the clan, was it the wisest of ideas to host this ceremony now? Perhaps he should have waited. It felt so soon...
Still, he couldn't do that to the apprentices.
For a moment his thoughts drifted back to the rest of his clan-mates, and he let out a quiet exhale, shutting his intense blue eyes. It was a narrow move, but, whether they liked it or not, it was time...they had reached their twelfth moon such a long time ago. It was wrong to delay their ceremonies any further. Decision made, the massive tom-cat stalked towards the far end - the cliff-side - of their camp, muscles gurgling underneath his white and gray fur; still stained with the burn wound he had sustained back in the fire. With a mighty leap, he mounted the strange incline from the ticklish topiary dubbed the Precarious Tree and, after the deepest of breaths, let out a loud yowl, beckoning for every cat to gather beneath him. "Let all cats old enough to catch their own prey gather beneath the Precarious Tree for a clan meeting."
It had been a mere moon or two since SnowClan's world had been flipped upside-down. The only thing that had been keeping their territory alive - two-leg machinery - had long since been abandoned, and it had left their home in a filthy, muddy disorder. Moreover, the blaze had rampaged their homes, the deadly black smoke had risen and swallowed, and two-legs had infiltrated their forests, thieving many a cat away. The Clan was still recovering from the damage, the trauma still stubbornly toilsome on their hearts and minds. Most every cat had already emerged from the nooks and crannies of the newfangled camp, and out of the corner of his eye he spied Sundancer and Rookfeather peeking out. He allowed his gaze to travel over the gathered cats before beginning.
"As you all know, trouble has fallen upon our Clan... upon the entire forest." He paused a moment, starling blue eyes faltering ever so slightly. "...Many of our loved ones have been taken from us."
"However despite this, we will still flourish. This new home will be the beginning - the start of anew. Four new warriors will join our ranks today." With a deep breath, he began.
"I, Echostar, leader of SnowClan, call upon our warrior ancestors to look down on these apprentice. They have trained hard to understand the ways of your gallant code, they have worked for and poised their clan-mates during our harshest of times, provided a paw in support for our home and family, and I commend them to you as warriors in their turn."
"Blizzardpaw, Nightpaw, Fawnpaw and Dancingpaw, do you promise to uphold the warrior code and to protect and defend your Clan, even at the cost of your life?"
A quiet chorus of solid 'I do's rose up, and he nodded quietly, satisfied.
"It has been a hard, strenous path in all four of your lives. But for moons, you all have risen to occasion, and you've given it your all." He mewed, looking down at the four expectant apprentice. "You deserve this day. Today, Blizzardpaw, Nightpaw, Dancingpaw and Fawnpaw will finally get to the top and be recognized for their skills as true warriors of SnowClan. As such, by the powers of StarClan, I give you your warrior names. Blizzardpaw, please step forward." Waiting for the tom to come forth, Echostar continued. "Blizzardpaw, you have passed the age of twelve moons, and you are more than ready to evolve on to Warriorship. From this moment on, you shall be known as Blizzarddust. StarClan honors you for your fidelity and strength - your ability to act as a resilient shoulder to your Clan and clan-mates... we welcome you as a full warrior of SnowClan."
At his words, the clan could be heard chanting Blizzarddust’s name, welcoming him to his new role as a warrior. The massive leader dove down from the slant to rest his head on the newly dubbed - and he gave his shoulder a respectful lick before backing away. Nightpaw was next.
"Nightpaw, from now on, you shall be known as Nightchaser. StarClan honors you for your aid, and the devotion you have given to our home. We welcome you as a full warrior of SnowClan."
"Fawnpaw, you are bubbly and kind, but battle-ready, and quick to encounter foes for the sake of your Clan and clan-mates. This is why from now on, I give you the name Fawnleap. StarClan honors you for your hard work and dedication."
He repeated the ritual with the two new warriors, before turning to their sister.
"Finally Dancingpaw, you are cheerful, and your grace is enough to bring smiles on the faces of your entire clan. Yet, you are stalwart and benevolent, and you are there when your clan-mates are in need. From this moment on, you will be known as Dancingspring. StarClan honors you support and grace."
Echostar rested his head on the new warrior once more, and a quiet ensemble of cheers for the new warriors rang up. The four warriors ran down to greet their proud parents. However, the ceremony was was not yet concluded.
"Now... Waterpaw, Slushpaw, and Laughingpaw please step forward." He called out to the three she-cats who quickly came forth. Echostar continued, "Just as your newest warrior clan-mates you three have also reached the age of twelve moons and it is time that you all are recognized for your skill and dedication, and are made into warriors. To all of you: do you promise to uphold the Warrior Code, and to protect and defend your Clan even at the cost of your life?"
"I do," they all responded in unison, no uncertainty nor terror in their eyes as they spoke. Echostar continued.
"Then by the powers of StarClan, I give you three your warrior names," he meowed, nodding his approval as he turned his face towards the first she-cat.
"Waterpaw, though you've pulled your pranks more than once," He paused, eyes twinkling amusedly, "you are strong, vigilant and loyal. You are an excellent fighter who strives to better herself in every way and a young she-cat who never hesitated to do what had to be done for the sake of your clan and for your clan-mates. Thus, from now on, you shall be known as Watertiger. StarClan honors you for your hard work and help."
"Laughingpaw, you are very optimistic and kind, but you know when it is time to be serious. You are strong, and you have always had a clear understanding of what needed to be done. From now on, you will be known as Laughingbrook . StarClan honors you for your gentleness, strength and understanding." He turned to the final she-cat.
"Finally Slushpaw, " he began with a deep breath, "you are typically a happy and collected she-cat. But you are also a natural-born leader, and you know which way to point your clan-mates when they are in need of direction. Not only this but, just as your sisters, you are a strong fighter, and have proven countlessly in every moon of your training as an apprentice, that you are more than eligible to be a warrior. As such, from this moment on, you will be recognized as Slushnoise. StarClan honors you for your will and ability to lead. "
Once the chanting had stopped and all eyes were back on him again, he continued.
"We also have a very special apprentice ceremony, welcoming two kits to finally step out of the nursery and to be taken under the paws of mentors who will help them fathom their full capability. Raspberrykit and Oakkit, please step forward, the both of you." Echostar meowed gently, and as one, the two kittens padded forward, both buzzing with unmistakable excitement.
"Going into apprenticeship is no easy task. It requires hard work and dedication, but I know that with the help of your mentors, you both will be able to pull through with ease. Raspberrykit, " he breathed, "You have reached the age of six moons, and it is time for you to be apprenticed. From this day on, until you receive your warrior name, you shall be known as Raspberrypaw. Your mentor will be Rookfeather. I hope that he'll pass on all he knows to you."
Having acknowledged his decision, Rookfeather gave a respectful nod, and met up with the newly dubbed. The two of them touched noses while the clan chanted Raspberrypaw's new name.
"Oakkit," Echostar called, once the chanting had stopped. Much like his sister, Oakkit's joy and anticipation was apparent, and the black ball of fur tumbled forward at his name.
"Just as your sister, you've also reached the age of six moons, and it is time for you to be apprenticed. From this day on, until you receive your warrior name, you shall be known as Oakpaw. Your mentor will be Crystalmoon. I hope she'll pass on all she knows to you."
With these words, the Clan proceeded to chanting Raspberrypaw's and Oakkit's new name while they and their mentors and touched noses; their spirits lifted by the ceremony... or so Echostar had prayed. He flicked his tail as he called the meeting to an end, and then he leapt down from the Precarious Tree and returned to his den.