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Can you imagine what that feels like? To be rejected twice? To be a loner when all you tried to do was love? But don't worry, I made them pay. I looked for revenge whenever I could! Why do you think I'm here?.
~ Mapleshade to Crookedstar.

Mapleshade is a major villain in Erin Hunter's Warriors book series. She serves as the main antagonist of the super edition Crookedstar's Promise and the novella Goosefeather's Curse, and is also one of the main antagonists of the story arc Omen of the Stars. She is also the main protagonist of the novella Mapleshade's Vengeance, which shows how and why she became evil in the first place.

History

Mapleshade was a female wildcat born in ThunderClan, just one of the five warrior Clans, during the time that Oakstar was leader. Nothing is known about her kithood, but it is said she was a bold, loyal and skilful warrior, known for her courage in facing enemies such as foxes, badgers and other cats. It was believed by some that she would be leader one day. However, she ended up falling in love with a RiverClan tom named Appledusk, which was forbidden by the Warrior Code. She kept their relationship a secret, creeping out at night to meet him in private. He told her he loved her more than anything.

After many moons of secret meetings, Mapleshade became pregnant with Appledusk’s kits, giving birth to them in ThunderClan. She had two sons and a daughter, naming the daughter Petalkit and the sons Patchkit and Larchkit. When Mapleshade said she would raise them alone, Oakstar's daughter, Frecklewish, assumed that her deceased brother, Birchface, had fathered Mapleshade's kits. The irony in this is that Birchface was killed (apparently by accident) by Appledusk, the real father of Mapleshade's kits, during a battle between ThunderClan and RiverClan. Not wanting to lie to her Clanmates, but also not wanting to put herself or her kits in danger, Mapleshade neither confirmed or denied this assumption.

However, Ravenwing, the ThunderClan medicine cat, later deduced that Appledusk was the real father of Mapleshade's kits after seeing her meeting Appledusk at the border, and told the Clan. Mapleshade and her kits were then exiled by Oakstar as traitors. She left vowing that they would regret what they did that day forever. In her desperation to get her kis to safety, Mapleshade tried to take them across the river to seek refuge in RiverClan. However, on the way there, the river suddenly flooded and her kits were swept away. Mapleshade bravely tried to save her kits, and almost drowned herself in doing so, but they were already gone. She made it to the other side, but to her horror, Appledusk blamed her for what happened to their kits. He rejected her in front of RiverClan, which refused to let her stay, not even for just one night. Heartbroken and enraged, Mapleshade left, swearing vengeance.

Mapleshade then became a rogue and quickly fell into insanity, her mind crawling with hallucinations of her drowned kits. She vowed to kill the cats who were to blame for the death of her kits. First, she stalked Ravenwing, the cat who had revealed her secret, and murdered him. She then uncovered his grave and left his corpse to be eaten by a hawk. Next, having learned that Frecklewish had watched her kits get swept away and done nothing to help, Mapleshade lured the other she-cat to a snake nest and got her bitten by an adder, blinding and eventually killing her.

Mapleshade then turned her rage toward Appledusk. Using his apprentice, Perchpaw, as bait, she lured him to RiverClan's border and challenged him to a fight. Appledusk refused, but then his new mate, Reedshine, already pregnant, arrived on the scene. Blinded by rage and jealousy, Mapleshade attacked Reedshine, but Appledusk jumped in the way and was killed instead. In the same moment, Mapleshade was attacked from behind and mortally wounded by Perchpaw. Mapleshade vowed to the pregnant Reedshine that she would haunt Appledusk's descendants forever for what he did to her.

Because of the murders she committed, Mapleshade's spirit was denied entry to StarClan and instead sent to the Place of No Stars, also known as the Dark Forest. There, her lust for vengeance unsatisfied, she plotted against ThunderClan and RiverClan, the clans who cast her out. She discovered that she could dwell in the dreams of others, and watched over Stormkit, Appledusk's great grandson, destined to be RiverClan's next leader. When Stormkit's jaw was permanently disfigured, resulting in him being rejected and renamed "Crookedkit" by his mother, and leaving him restless with unfocused ambition, Mapleshade seized the opportunity. She promised Crookedkit that she would make all his hopes come true in return for one thing: that he would hold his Clan more precious than anything else in the world. Crookedkit agreed.

With the future RiverClan leader in her thrall, Mapleshade trained him to become the warrior she had been, while steadily stealing everything he loved most. She made him watch his mother drown, his brother fall in love with a ThunderClan she-cat, and his mate and all but one of his daughters die of sickness. After this, Crookedkit, now known as "Crookedstar", finally realized that Mapleshade had been manipulating him and confronted her in a dream. Mapleshade, however, bested him in single combat and made an impression upon him by revealing her tragic past. When rookedstar's last remaining daughter, Silverstream, fell in love with a ThunderClan tom called Greystripe, and died giving birth to his kits, Mapleshade declared Crookedstar's "punishment" complete. She was delighted to see another cat go through the same pain that she had.

Meanwhile, Mapleshade was also targeting cats in ThunderClan. First, Goosefeather, a medicine cat who had the ability to always see the spirits of both StarClan and the Dark Forest. Mapleshade briefly trained him in his dreams, but eventually did not bother with it anymore, as she knew he was "already doomed by StarClan". She was proven to be right, as Goosefeather's ability slowly overwhelmed him and drove him mad, without the need for her input. Next, she helped another Dark Forest cat, Silverhawk, train the ambitious warrior Thistleclaw, while she did the same with Crookedstar. Unlike Crookedstar, Thistleclaw failed to become leader and didn't escape the Dark Forest's influence, joining them after his death. 

Mapleshade then moved onto Tigerkit, the grandson of Oakstar, who previously banished Mapleshade and her kits. Since the day he was born, she acted as a second ghostly voice in Tigerkit's head, not revealing herself until late into his adulthood in a dream. Under Mapleshade's influence, Tigerstar killed many Clan cats in his quest to rule the entire forest, eventually uniting ShadowClan and RiverClan as "TigerClan" briefly. However, after allying himself with BloodClan, a large of violent stray cats from the human city, Tigerstar was betrayed and slain by their leader, Scourge. After his death, Tigerstar joined Mapleshade in the Dark Forest. 

When the Clans moved to new territories, Mapleshade followed and plotted with the other Dark Forest cats to destroy them once and for all, taking in and training more living trainees than ever before. During the battle between the Clans, StarClan and the Dark Forest, she tried to kill a ThunderClan senior warrior, Sandstorm, because she had everything Mapleshade ever wanted: a mate who loved her, having kits that she could watch grow up and one day have kits of their own, and respect from her Clanmates, all of which she believed StarClan stole from her. Mapleshade nearly killed Sandstorm, but was stopped by Spottedleaf, the spirit of the former ThunderClan medicine cat. Enraged, Mapleshade attacked and killed Spottedleaf, causing her to fade away forever. Mapleshade was then attacked by Sandstorm and retreated with the remaining Dark Forest residents, her quest for revenge still unfulfilled. 

Physical appearance

Mapleshade is a large, thick-furred, tortoiseshell-and-white she-cat with amber eyes, and a long, thick, fluffy, white tail. After spending moons in the Dark Forest, her appearance became rather distorted and emaciated, with a scarred head, muzzle and face, and ragged, patched, matted fur.

Personality

Mapleshade was once a good-hearted cat, bent on serving her Clan to her last breath. She was a brave, compassionate, loyal and skillful warrior, kind to other cats and willing to fight any enemy she encountered. As a result, she was held in high esteem by her Clanmates, who believed she would one day become deputy and then leader. Mapleshade was ambitious and enjoyed their admiration.

However, Mapleshade ended up breaking the warrior code by falling in love with Appledusk, a cat from RiverClan. She was able to keep their relationship a secret, until she gave birth to their kits. Mapleshade loved her kits with all her heart, especially Patchkit, who seemed to be the most attached to her. She planned to raise them until they were fully accepted, then reveal their half-Clan origins at the "right" time. She hoped both ThunderClan and RiverClan would accept them for who they were. When her secret was unveiled prematurely, however, she and her kits were exiled from ThunderClan as traitors. Mapleshade was both heartbroken and enraged, and vowed revenge. In her desperation to get her kits to safety, she tried to take them to RiverClan, only for them to be swept away by the swollen river. She tried her best to rescue them, showing that she cared more about them than her own life, but failed. When Appledusk and RiverClan as a whole rejected her, blaming her for the kits' deaths, Mapleshade was heartbroken and enraged all over again, and vowed revenge.

These traumatic events left a huge mark on Mapleshade. She became cold, vicious, ruthless, manipulative and obsessively vengeful, her psyche distorting to the point of insanity. Having lost everything she'd cared about, Mapleshade had nothing left to live for and her only goal was taking revenge on those who had ruined her life. Even in death and after exacting revenge, she could not let go of her pain and hatred, and targeted her enemies' descendants, even going so far as to turn her back on StarClan, whom she previously had faith in.

All-in-all, Mapleshade is one of the most ruthless and dangerous of the Warriors villains, but at the same time, she is also one of the most sympathetic. This is due to the fact that, unlike most of the other major villains, whose evil actions are driven by a lust for something they've never had, Mapleshade's evil actions are driven by grief and anger over something she has lost.

Quotes

I will never forget this. You have betrayed me and my kits. You will live to regret this day forever, ThunderClan, and that is a promise.
~ Mapleshade when she is exiled from ThunderClan.
You told me you loved me! I went through the agony of bearing your kits! And now you treat me worse than prey. You will regret this, Appledusk. That is my last promise to you.
~ Mapleshade swears revenge against her former mate, Appledusk, for turning his back on her.
You must promise me that you will be loyal to your Clan above all other things. What you want for yourself is nothing compared to the needs of your Clan. Nothing, remember? Do you make that promise?.
~ Mapleshade demanding Crookedkit's fateful promise.
Why would you want to go to StarClan? That place is full of weak-willed cowards who clung to the warrior code like ants to a leaf in a puddle. You will find much better company in the cats here, Tigerclaw.
~ Mapleshade's changed opinion on StarClan.
My name is Mapleshade. I have walked beside you from the day you were born, guiding your paw steps, laying out your destiny before you. For now, you don't need to know anything else. Much, much more lies ahead of us, Tigerclaw. Be patient, and you will find out everything.
~ Mapleshade revealing herself to Tigerclaw.
You have everything that I wanted, Sandstorm! A mate that loved me, kits that I could watch grow up and have kits of their own, the respect of my Clanmates! I should have had all that!.
~ Mapleshade attempting to murder Sandstorm.

Trivia

  • Mapleshade is listed number 4 on the Best of the Worst list of Warriors villains. 
  • Mapleshade is one of the few major female villains in the Warriors series. She is also one of the most popular characters of the franchise, among fans and authors alike. 
  • During her exile, Mapleshade had visions of her drowned kits, initially wailing for help and then urging her to commit murder. According to one of the authors, Vicky Holmes these were actually hallucinations caused by Mapleshade's grief and feelings of betrayal, which drove her mad.
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