“Can I ask you something?” Applescar didn’t quite look Sagespeckle in the eye, flicking an ear distractedly.
“What is it?”
“Willowstar or Meadowmist didn’t name you, so who did?”
“Sagekit,” Weaselbelly murmured, light brown fur turned gray in the starlight, “from this day on, until…” She paused, staring up at the night sky and back down at Sagekit, uncertainty in her eyes. She took a deep breath. “Until you receive your warrior name. You will be known as Sagepaw. I will be your mentor, and I will pass down all I know to you.” She leaned down, and added in a whisper, “Now we touch noses.”
“My mother trained me,” Sagespeckle said. “And when the other apprentices my age became warriors, I…”
Sagepaw slipped behind the nursery and trudged down the hill it rested on top of, disappearing in the dips of long grass in a perfectly practiced manner until she couldn’t hear WindClan’s cheers for their new warriors. The ground was soggy from the recent rainfall, soaking her paws as they sunk in and splashing her as she picked up her pace. The dirt became mud became a pool at the lowest point of a valley, and Sagepaw stared down at the murky water. Her face (ears too small, the rest of her too large) reflected back at her, ginger speckles wavering on her cheeks.
“I call upon my warrior ancestors to look down on this apprentice,” Sagepaw said softly, echoing what she’d just heard Meadowmist say. “She has trained hard to understand the ways of your noble code… and I commend her to you as a warrior in her turn.” Her voice broke as she continued, “Do you promise to uphold the warrior code and to protect and defend your Clan, even at the cost of your life?”
How could she uphold the code that her very existence broke? What right did she have to be a warrior alongside the real WindClan cats that would be sitting in noble vigil tonight? “By the powers of-” Sagepaw looked up at the sky, pale blue with thin clouds skidding across it. “StarClan, please give me this warrior name. From this moment on I will be known as- as Sagespeckle. I am devoted to WindClan and hope to be welcomed as-” Her throat tightened, and her eyes burned as tears finally welled up and streaked down her face, falling into the puddle and rippling her reflection. “Please, just let me be a warrior.”
“I named myself.”
“You named yourself?” Applescar gasped. She’d heard of a few cats in the past requesting suffixes to honor someone, but the ceremony itself was always approved and performed by a leader. “That’s…”
Sagespeckle cringed. “I know it’s improper, especially here, but-”
“It’s incredible,” Applescar said. She leaned to the side, brushing against Sagespeckle’s shoulder. “You made it your own, it’s even more special than a regular warrior name.”
“You think so?”
“Forging your own path is special, even if it’s hard sometimes.” Emberstar wrapped a foreleg around Applepaw’s slumped shoulders. “Your experience as a molly is unique to you, just like my own is unique to me. It’s a sacred thing, Applepaw, make it your own.”
“Yeah,” Applescar breathed. “I really do.”