Something didn't smell right. Oakfern stalked through the trees with Mistpaw and Cinderheart flanking him. With his jaws parted, he knew something was wrong. Then he saw it--or them.
In the clearing by the stream sat two she-cats, looking utterly exhausted. One was lean with a sleek black pelt, whilst the other was smaller and black-and-white. He waved his tail, signalling for his Clanmates to stop. The she-cats didn't seem like a threat--they looked exhausted, and they didn't carry the scent of any of Grassclan's neighbours. Signalling for his Clanmates to follow him, Oakfern padding into the clearing.
The lean she-cat jumped up, despite the fact that she was obviously expecting kits, and hissed furiously at the Grassclan patrol. The smaller she-cat looked startled but too close to kitting to stand up.
"What do you want?" hissed the lean one, her fur bristling and her back arched.
"This is Grassclan territory," Oakfern told them, making her narrow her eyes. "You will have to leave."
"What do you mean? We don't have to do anything. We have been traveling a long way, since our housefolk abandoned us, in the search of a new home. We are staying here until our kits are old enough to travel."
She's expecting soon, Oakfern thought. Or else she wouldn't even consider hissing at us like that.
"Oakfern!" Cinderheart hissed from beside him. "We can't let them! We have to at least take them back to camp."
Oakfern glared at Cinderheart. "Stay out of this!"
Mistpaw was looking at the two she-cats with interest and then leaned in to mew something to Cinderheart. Oakfern just caught it: "Did you hear what they said? Their housefolk...they're kittypets!"
Oakfern silenced her with a flick of his tail. Mistpaw was right. These she-cats were kittypets. So they wouldn't be able to fend for themselves like they were intending.
"Follow us," he meowed to the she-cats. He turned and left at the head of the patrol before they could argue.
Cinderheart went back to help the smaller cat, and the lean one stared at her with narrowed eyes, suspicion brewing in them.
When they reached camp, Angelstar was sharing words with Tangleheart and Icetail. Bluepaw was sitting close by.
The patrol went straight to them. "Angelstar?" Oakfern asked, and then described what had happened.
Angelstar narrowed her eyes at the kittypets, as if wandering if they were planning on staying long.
"Show them to the nursery, Mistpaw," Angelstar said at last. "But what shall we call you?" she added to them.
"I'm Flower," the lean one said. "And this is my sister, Dawn," she added, gesturing with her tail to the smaller cat.
"I am Angelstar, leader of Grassclan. Our nursery is full at the moment, but there's nothing we can do about it right now, I'm afraid."
Flower dipped her head, a new found respect in her eyes, but Dawn looked as confused as ever.
"My brother joined a Clan, so I know all about Clan life, the way he goes on about it," Daisy explained. "Dawn doesn't get on well with him, as she's from a younger litter."
Embarrassment flooded into Dawn's eyes and she looked at her paws.
Mistpaw tapped Flower on the shoulder with her tail, a signal for her to follow her, and led Flower and Dawn to the nursery.
Angelstar was right--the nursery was incredibly full at the moment. Between Angelstar's own four kits, Mouserise and her three, and Hazeleyes, Sorrelheart, and Brightflower expecting kits, Oakfern wondered if there would be any space for the two kittypets, let alone after they'd kitted.
Suddenly a surge of pride burst through Oakfern as he thought of Mouserise's kits. For they were also his: Tigerkit, Crowkit, and Grasskit, after the previous leaders of Grassclan: his mother, his sister, and his brother. It was just luck that his other sister was leader now. Only he and Jayfeather remained, though he doubted they would ever become leader, especially since Jayfeather had joined the elders and Oakfern wasn't far from doing so himself.
"Are you going to allow them to stay?" Oakfern murmured to his sister.
"What else can we do? We've taken them in now, so we can hardly throw them out once they've kitted. They won't survive."
Oakfern nodded at his sister's decision. On a level, he agreed with her. But on another, he wanted to tear the two kittypets apart.