|"Isn't it obvious? These kits are what you find in the shadows!"|
|— Needlepaw to the Alderpaw in The Apprentice's Quest, page 270|
- Below contains in-depth information for chapter twenty two of The Apprentice's Quest. If you are looking for a shorter summary of the entire book, please check the main article.
- Chapter Number: 21 (of 24)
- Page Numbers: 263-270
- Continuing on their way back home, Alderpaw and Needlepaw approach the first Thunderpath that they had crossed when they started their quest, and the apprentices realize that they are almost back to the lake territories. Needlepaw voices her excitement to return to ShadowClan territory, but Alderpaw predicts that she will be in trouble for leaving without permission. Needlepaw claims that she left to help her Clan, and she adds that cats don't get into much trouble in ShadowClan.
- Once they are closer to the Thunderpath, the two young cats halt, and Alderpaw stares into the distance. Needlepaw asks him what he is thinking about, and Alderpaw admits that he isn't eager to return home, because that will mean that the quest is over, and he didn't get to find out what it was about. Needlepaw tells him that it was about embracing what they find in the shadows, which they didn't find, but that they did find out a lot about it. She encourages him to stop being regretful, but Alderpaw admits that he thinks he should be doing more. He explains Sandstorm's dream from the night before, where she instructed him to take a different path. Needlepaw is annoyed that Alderpaw hadn't told him about his dream earlier, then starts looking around in search of a different path. Alderpaw doubts that Sandstorm meant for them to interpret her words literally, but Needlepaw ignores him. She runs away from the Thunderpath and into a dip in the grass, and she calls out to Alderpaw to look.
- The dip in the grass leads to a tunnel opening covered by Twoleg bars, and a musty scent flows out of the opening. Alderpaw says that it looks dangerous, but Needlepaw points out that they originally crossed over the Thunderpath, and taking the trail underneath it is a 'different path.' She also adds that the path under the Thunderpath is in the shadows. Alderpaw doubts that StarClan wants them going through a tunnel, and he once again voices his worries that it might not be safe. However, Needlepaw has already started making her way through the bars, much to Alderpaw's annoyance. Alderpaw glances at the Thunderpath, and he mulls over if he should cross over the Thunderpath himself and let Needlepaw cross underneath through the tunnel alone, but he decides to follow her into the tunnel anyway.
- The tunnel is dark, but once Alderpaw's eyes adjust, he is able to see the light from the entrance and exit of the tunnel, and he can also see Needlepaw's figure running ahead of him. The ShadowClan apprentice stops and wonders where Sandstorm would want them to go next. The gray she-cat suggests taking a different path back to the lake territories by going around the Clans and through ShadowClan, or by going around the lake and through RiverClan, although Alderpaw scoffs at her ideas.
- Needlepaw continues her way through the tunnel, and as Alderpaw prepares to follow, he hears a cry coming from further ahead, against the wall of the tunnel. The ThunderClan cat follows the sound, and finds a nest of moss and dry leaves. He is shocked to find two tiny she-kits squirming in the nest; one gray and one black-and-white. The kits, whose eyes aren't even open yet, crane towards Alderpaw, mewing. Needlepaw turns around in the tunnel and runs back towards Alderpaw, asking what is going on, but she stops when she sees the nest. The gray apprentice realizes that they are kits, and she wonders where the mother is. The she-cat also observes that the kits can only be a few days old, as their eyes aren't open yet. Alderpaw notes that they are very thin, and Needlepaw decides to go look for their mother. She runs to the other end of the tunnel and passes through the bars, then begins to call for her once she is outside. Alderpaw, examining how skinny the kits are, yowls at Needlepaw to find the kits food first before looking for their mother, and Needlepaw obliges. She returns to the tunnel shortly after with a vole, and Alderpaw is impressed with how quick she was. He then states that they must chew up the vole to feed it to the kits.
- Once the apprentices have chewed up some of the fresh-kill into a pulp, Alderpaw tries feeding some of it to the gray kit, but the kit spits it out. Needlepaw is frustrated, saying that they need milk as the kits are not used to prey, but Alderpaw points out that they have no milk and have to continue trying to feed them the vole. He puts more of the pulp in the gray kit's mouth and massages her throat. This time the kit swallows the meat and wails for more, to Alderpaw's relief. Needlepaw begins to feed the black-and-white kit, and she murmurs that they would have starved without the two apprentices. Alderpaw is glad that, even though his quest failed, he at least is able to save the kits.
- Once the kits are full and have stopped eating, Alderpaw mews that he and Needlepaw need to get them warm. The tiny cats have already curled up to the apprentices, and the gray kit bats Alderpaw on the nose. He licks the kit backwards, from tail to head, to get her blood flowing, and Needlepaw does the same with the black-and-white kit. The she-kits are soon purring and asleep, and Alderpaw tells Needlepaw that he doesn't think they would have survived much longer without them. Needlepaw wonders what happened to their mother, and asks if she could have been hit by a monster. Alderpaw is unsure, but he says that he thinks they should take the kits back to camp to be cared for, which Needlepaw agrees with. Needlepaw also decides that the kits need names. She suggests Violetkit for the black-and-white one, since she can pick up the scent of violets; the ShadowClan cat guesses that the mother used some violet leaves for the nest. Alderpaw says it's a good name, and he decides to name the gray kit Twigkit, since she is tiny as a twig. Needlepaw purrs in laughter.
- The apprentices rise, preparing to pick up the kits by their scruff. Needlepaw turns to Alderpaw smirking, and she asks when he will thank her for leading him into the tunnel. Alderpaw is confused, and Needlepaw explains that the kits are obviously what they must find in the shadows.
Notes and references
|The Apprentice's Quest chapters|
|Prologue • Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5 • Chapter 6 • Chapter 7 • Chapter 8 • Chapter 9 • Chapter 10 • Chapter 11 • Chapter 12 • Chapter 13 • Chapter 14 • Chapter 15 • Chapter 16 • Chapter 17 • Chapter 18 • Chapter 19 • Chapter 20 • Chapter 21 • Chapter 22 • Chapter 23 • Chapter 24 • Bonus Scene|
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