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[ ✦ quickclan 8 ]

Postby eagle, » Sat Nov 03, 2018 3:59 pm

the apprentice did not seem to be in the best of shape, and redstar could not see how he could carry on with a clear conscious by letting the young tom suffer at the paws of a rouge. he felt rookwatcher's amber eyes boring into the back of his head, but he waved his tail to blizzardrush instead, and the pair crept forward quietly together. behind him, he could hear the slight shifting of paws and suspected that brackenrose would be keeping an eye out for the rouge. the apprentice's breathing was shallow and his eyes closed, though they opened when the warriors approached. without warning, the young cat struggled to his paws and let out a pitiful hiss.
at his side, blizzardrush halted, and redstar didn't dare budge further. instead, the young tom eyed them warily, lips pulled back in what could have been an intimidating expression if he wasn't so skinny and bedraggled. finally, the tom grit out several clipped words, though his voice sounded scratchy and painful. "who are you? what do you want?"
before redstar could speak, blizzardrush dared to advance another steps until the tom's claws sunk into the ground. the last thing any of them wanted was a fight, but it remained clear that the cat before them was terrified, hungry, and felt as if he was in danger. in contrast, blizzardrush was soothing and smiled gently. "my name is blizzardrush, and this is redstar," the white tom began, flicking his tail in the leader's direction. "we're clan cats. redstar here, he's leader of quickclan. we have two other friends with us, and, if you'd like, you can come back to live with us." the tom's eyes were unblinking, as if trying to assess whether or not blizzardrush was lying. finally, however, his shoulders sagged slightly when blizzardrush continued, "we can get you away from here."
in response, the young tom nodded. "please. my name is gorse. please help me..."
redstar brushed past blizzardrush, telling him to fetch rookwatcher and brackenrose so they could return to camp quickly. "come on, you'll be safe with us. we won't let anything happen to you, alright?"
brackenrose came from the bushes, her ears pricked and rookwatcher several steps behind. the only molly of the patrol went over to gorse and smiled warmly at him. "c'mon, dear, we have a medicine cat who will look you over, and we'll get some food into you," she continued, whispering gently into his ear and resting her tail over his shoulders while she led him away. before the rest of the patrol could follow her lead and gorse's unsteady pawsteps, rookwatcher stepped into redstar's path, his eyes narrowed.
"what do you think you're doing? they might come after us," he hissed, lashing his tail and paying no regard to whether or not gorse could hear him.
blizzardrush's fur began to bristle, but redstar blinked calmly at the elder warrior. "i hope they do. because we'll protect him and get them off of our moor. he's young, and i intend to give him to blizzardrush as an apprentice to train when he's fit." at his side, he could feel blizzardrush's eyes turn to him, round and curious, but he focused on the way rookwatcher's lip curled.
"sunnywhisker just had her kits. piperskip and aspenwish are due any day now. and you bring danger to our clan? what kind of leader are you?" he hissed. but stepped back when redstar straightened up, making use of the way his broader frame could tower over the lithe rookwatcher if need be.
"i didn't ask for your counsel, rookwatcher. my word is law, as leader. and i say that gorse will is a member of quickclan, and that is final unless he says otherwise." his voice was calm, but steely with resolve. he would not be questioned. "and i trust that my warriors are brave enough and loyal enough to take care of flea-bitten rogues." with that, he flicked his ears and led blizzardrush to follow brackenrose and gorse, who were making steady progress onto the moor and in the direction of their camp.

when the patrol arrived back at the camp, after taking several stops to ensure that gorse could make the journey and that they weren't being followed by the rouge, evening had already fallen and the hunting patrol had returned. among those gathered around the fresh-kill pile, redstar turned his eyes to an unfamiliar gray cat, who immediately stood from where he had been speaking with snakespots and duskflower. the tom dipped his head respectfully and began to speak, "hello, my name is sootstone. i met your hunting patrol by the stream and helped them hunt. i asked if i could join them, and cyanslash was kind enough to bring me here so that i may speak with you and your deputy, tumblejaw. seeing your clan... i would like to stay."
upon seeing his leader, tumblejaw slipped from the warriors clustered around sharing tongues to greet redstar properly. "redstar, i see you've met sootstone."
redstar flicked his ear in acknowledgement. "i have," he answered, though his eyes never turned from studying sootstone. the warrior shifted his paws nervously, and redstar finally looked to tumblejaw. "what do you think?" he could feel the anxiety rolling off of sootstone in waves, as if he was scared of being chased off or killed, added onto the unease that he was spoken of as if he was not within earshot so bluntly.
tumblejaw sat down and casually drew his paw over his ear. "cyanslash reported that he's a good hunter and he looks plenty strong. could be all the makings for a good warrior, in my opinion." redstar nodded once to his friend and finally looked back to sootstone with a welcoming smile.
"i trust cyanslash's judgement," he said, knowing how well the young warrior had been only moons earlier, leading redstar to falconflight and blizzardrush. if cyanslash approved, then redstar was willing to believe that sootstone would be a good warrior. "welcome, sootstone. you are more than welcome here." with that, he dismissed the new warrior, who offered many words of thanks before redstar nudged him playfully back towards where snakespots and duskflower were waiting. he then turned to tumblejaw, "we found a rouge who was holding gorse captive," he murmured gently, tossing his head to where brackenrose and blizzardrush continued to speak to him gently, attempting to coax him to meet the rest of the clan. "get ivystripe for me, i think it would be good for her to see to him." a light passed through tumblejaw's eyes at the mention of the medicine cat, though redstar didn't mention it. quickly, tumblejaw nodded and scrambled to his paths to cross the camp to ivystripe's cave.

after night had fallen and the clan dispersed into their dens for the night, save snakespots who had been assigned as guard for the night, tumblejaw dared to enter ivystrie's den, as he had taken to doing when he had something on his mind. originally, he had assumed that the scent of herbs calmed his mind and made it easier to think, he came to the conclusion that it had much more to do with the molly who gathered the herbs. after blinking several times to adjust his eyes to the darkness, tumblejaw could make out gorsepaw's sleeping form in the far corner of the den. the tom had been given his official apprentice name after agreeing to join quickclan officially. it was evident that patchpaw and berrypaw had been looking forward to a new denmate, but needed to wait until ivystripe deduced that he was fit enough and had eaten enough. for now, the nervous apprentice twitched restlessly in his sleep. instead of focusing on the way the skinny apprentice's paws churned and tail flicked, tumblejaw crossed to where ivystripe slept soundly. hesitantly, he nosed her shoulder gently as to not make her start.
her eyes blinked open, and her expression conveyed disorientation, but she pushed herself up when she recognized tumblejaw. "what is it?" she whispered, and he followed her gaze to where gorsepaw remained asleep. "what's wrong?"
for a moment, tumbejaw was speechless. he knew that what he was about to say was wrong, but he couldn't deny the pull in his chest any further, and he needed to know if ivystripe felt the same way about him as he suspected she might. "ivystripe, i love you. your sense of humor is refreshing, and you never fail to make me smile. i love the moor, but i always look forward to when i can come back and see you," he said, watching the way her sleepiness melted away and her eyes grew in awe. "i love you, and you're the last thing i think about before i go to sleep, and the first i think of when i wake up. everything i do, is with you in mind. will you be my mate?"

several days later, redstar climbed to the top of the rock that stuck out in the middle of the lower level of the camp. the warriors had been waiting for tumblejaw to organize the patrols for them, and looked up in confusion when their leader called out to gather them together. once the warriors and apprentices had taken their places, redstar lifted his head to the clear sky. "quickclan, you all know our history and where we come from. the past quickclan fell apart and my friends scattered," he said, nodding to splashfall. "splashfall found us through starclan's wisdom, and he says that most of the old quickclan were killed in the fighting." murmurs spread through the cats, and cyanslash leaned into splashfall's side to whisper encouragingly to him. the other warrior nodded slowly, though his eyes remained downcast. "i have received word that another cat was looking for our clan when she was captured by twolegs," he paused, allowing his cats to cry out in response, as expected. from the crowd, splashfall's eyes met his, and redstar nodded once. they both knew who he spoke of. "she is one of our own, and i will not rest until we rescue her. who is with me?"
several of the warriors stood up to voice their opinions, and redstar dragged his eyes over them. sootstone was one of the first to find his paws and voice how he wanted to go, along with brackenrose and tallpeak. after it had carried on for some time, redstar waved his tail to silence the warriors and waited until they had all quieted once more. "the hunters will go out to hunt for the clan as usual. tumblejaw, brackenrose, rookwatcher, blizzardrush, and sootstone... when we come back with sweetecho, we will need a feast."

after the rescue patrol left the camp and tallpeak was left in charge, the remaining warriors took to looking over the camp. splashfall, washing his paws by the freshkill pile with snakespots, looked up in surprise when sunnywhisker padded up to them from where she had emerged from the nursery. since kitting, the queen had been nearly inseparable from her kits, but he supposed that she must have joined the meeting since neither aspenwish or piperskip could. "sunnywhisker," he greeted, snakespots mimicking him. "is everything okay? how are the kits?"
sunnywhisker sat down after a moment of hesitation, seemingly more timid than usual, though she perked up at the mention of her kits. "everything's fine, the kits are wonderful. sleeping soundly for now, but i can already tell that they'll be a whirlwind soon enough, sproutkit can barely sit still as it is."
the warriors laughed heartily, and snakespots dipped his head shyly when speaking to sunnywhisker. "you'll have to let them come out and meet all of us soon, they must be tired of padding around the nursery everyday."
with a wistful smile, sunnywhisker purred. "i will, certainly." however, when her eyes turned back to splashfall, it was impossible to read her expression. "splashfall... what do you know about the cat they're going to find?" her voice, normally soft and cheerful, held a calculating edge to it, and splashfall took a moment to clear his throat, unsure of what was being asked of him.
"sweetecho?" when sunnywhisker nodded, prompting him, the tabby cleared his throat again, biding his time. "she was a warrior of quickclan before redstar came to power. our leader was fleetingstar and she was his daughter with the deputy, foxspots." he ducked his head, recalling moons earlier when he had been little more than an apprentice. "when foxspots died, fleetingstar made a cat named brightmoon his deputy. no one really thought brightmoon would be a good leader and expected that a new deputy would be named soon but..." he trailed off for a moment, and snakespots rested his tail on splashfall's shoulder comfortingly. from nearby, the others warriors heard the story-telling and began to creep closer. nightfall took a seat beside snakespots, and cyanslash and falconflight sat together behind sunnywhisker with duskflower and tallpeak in tow. all eyes remained fixed on splashfall, who was lost in time. "brightstar... he wasn't a good leader, never should have been leader. some of us wanted redstar to be leader, even then, but he was too young and had only just been given an apprentice. another warrior, darkclaw, had many supporters. but brightstar named fleetingstar's son - sweetecho's brother - deputy instead. wetclaw was just as weak as brightstar... together darkclaw's followers thought they would kill us all. but instead..." by that point, the apprentices joined the group as well, and berrypaw stepped forward to touch her nose comfortingly to splashfall's head. the warrior blinked gratefully at the apprentice and nodded to gorsepaw, who looked on with wide eyes.
"darkclaw led the attack. redstar, he saw it coming and told a few of us to be watchful and keep an eye out if we had to escape. he said that he was working on a plan, but he never had the time to tell us. he was out hunting when it happened," he continued, each cat hanging on his every word.
"sweetecho was one of them?" that was sunnywhisker, prompting him on.
splashfall blinked, momentarily disoriented, but nodded slowly. "yeah, it was me, sweetecho, wolftooth, a warrior named yellowfeather, wrenstep, blazerush, and his apprentice, thistlepaw." for a moment, silence reigned and splashfall hung his head until snakespots touched his nose to splashfall's ear, asking how he made it out. "there was a gap behind the medicine cat's den. i slipped through when the fighting began and i heard the fighting but i couldn't look. it was too much. i saw sweetecho when i was running but i didn't go after her, i couldn't... i don't know what happened to the others."
while the rest of the cats offered comforting words, sunnywhisker leaned forward once more. "but who is sweetecho?"
splashfall looked up, confused and his eyes clouded with grief. "she was a warrior. we all thought that she and redstar were going to be mates." he said, and none of the warriors seemed to notice when sunnywhisker stood abruptly and headed back to the nursery.
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[ ✦ quickclan 9 ]

Postby eagle, » Sat Nov 03, 2018 4:00 pm

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[ ✦ quickclan 10 ]

Postby eagle, » Sat Nov 03, 2018 4:00 pm

the pool in the back of ivystripe's den rippled when the medicine cat lapped up several mouthfuls of water from it. in the past days, she rarely left her small cave, knowing that the guilt was wearing her down as, with each day that passed, her belly grew larger with life. starclan, she suspected, would be more than upset with her, and would surely curse her for what she was doing. pawsteps at the entrance to her den signaled the arrival of a visitor, and ivystripe turned to a pile of herbs, looking to appear casual and hide her belly as best she could. she blinked when she recognized sweetecho's voice, and the pretty silver tabby sat down a fox-length away, staying out of ivystripe's way while she worked. "ivystripe, i wanted to ask you if you thought that i could possibly be with kits?" ivystripe paused for a long moment. since sweetecho had returned, the molly had been busy acclimating oakseed to the clan life until he started to become friends with patchwing. they hadn't interacted much, their paths rarely crossing over the last several moons, though ivystripe nodded once.
after looking sweetecho over and asking her several questions, ivystripe was certain that she was right. she licked her paw and drew it slowly over her ears, taking a moment to assess what it could mean. "you're going to have kits in a few short moons, sweetecho, congratulations." the new queen immediately brightened and got to her paws. before she could leave, however, ivystripe felt overcome by the need to tell the queen her secret. even if she was the leader's mate, surely she would take pity in the name of love, and not cause an issue when ivystripe had been so careful recently. "i need your help, sweetecho," she murmured, and sweetecho nodded once, prompting her to continue. the silver tabby padded forward once more, wrapping her tail around her paws. "i'm having kits too."
with only a single secret, ivystripe watched a spectrum of emotions pass over sweetecho's pretty face. first, pure joy at the prospect of new kits. then surprise, that she hadn't been expecting ivystripe to have kits, followed quickly by the horror and realization that ivystripe shouldn't be having kits at all.
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[ ✦ quickclan 11 ]

Postby eagle, » Sat Nov 03, 2018 4:02 pm

ivystripe tried her best to concentrate on the herbs scattered around her paws, though anxiety prickled at her pelt. over the past moon, she became increasingly aware that her time was running out. starclan was going to punish her, she knew, because she fell in love with tumblejaw. even now, she hadn't said anything to the clan deputy, and kept the secret from most of the clan by hiding out in her den. more than once, redstar came by to check up on her to see if she needed anything, and cyanslash and falconflight brought prey from their hunting patrols, but she stuck to the dark crevices of her den out of fear that they would see her swollen belly or catch the scent of milk on her pelt. sweetecho came by most days, as her own stomach grew. she offered her own assistance when the time came, and said that she would ask around the queens to see if any of them had experience. duskflower, she said, would be a good try, but ivystripe refused. the dark molly was too bound to the rules of the clan, and word would not be able to spread, not yet, at least. this had to remain a secret and only within the queens.
which was why piperskip came to help. though the dark queen kept to herself, for the most part, sweetecho managed to convince her to come to ivystripe's den when oriolekit had a small cough. she had been hesitant, at first, to offer any help when ivystripe revealed her secret, but agreed that she would be there when the time came, if they asked.
the closer she came, the more anxious ivystripe felt, and the more time sweetecho spent in the medicine cat's den. the pretty tabby queen washed her ears while ivystripe sorted herbs, rising only when the scrape of paws outside signaled the arrival of another cat, and ivystripe found herself soothed by tumblejaw's scent the moment before she heard his voice near the entrance of the den. "ivystripe?" he called out, evidently waiting for her answer.
but sweetecho cut in first, "in here, tumblejaw," she returned, and ivystripe could hear his fur brush against the narrow cavern entrance. "ivystripe is just sorting herbs," sweetecho murmured, before falling silent, and ivystripe imagined her washing her paws again.
"how are you feeling, sweetecho? i hope everything is okay," his deep voice rattled into the den, and ivystripe poked her head out from the crevice where she kept her herbs.
there, sweetecho sat with her paws neatly arranged, her belly showing with the small lives she carried. "of course," she purred. "but with all of the hustle in the nursery with the kits and mothtail moving in, i figured i'd see if ivystripe needed any company."
"plus we do want to make sure the leader's kits and mate are safe," ivystripe broke it, catching tumblejaw's gaze. she didn't move fully from the crevice, still hiding her stomach in the shadows and out of sight, and the deputy's tail twitched.
though ivystripe refused to tell sweetecho who the father of the kits were, she caught the moment when the queen put two and two together, and she sat up a bit straighter. "right, well, now that you're here tumblejaw, maybe i should go see if piperskip or aspenwish want me to -"
"that would be a good idea -"
"you should stay -"
ivystripe and tumblejaw locked gazes at the same moment that they spoke against one another, and sweetecho shifted between them. at last, she looked to ivystripe, who asked her to stay, and needed once. "alright, ivystripe," she said, though she moved slightly to one side, so that she was not sitting directly in the middle of them, but closer to the wall, out of the way.
ivystripe held tumblejaw's gaze when she took a deep breath and stepped out into the open, into the light, so that her belly was fully visible. tumblejaw blinked quickly, only to sit down heavily. "ivystripe..." he murmured quietly. "what are you going to do?" he asked after another moment passed in silence.
"they're our kits," she answered quietly, though not without confidence. "but no one can know they're mine."
"you want them to know that they're mine?" tumblejaw asked. his eyes never shifted from her belly.
ivystripe paused, and it was clear that she hadn't thought that far ahead. "i think that's your choice," she answered with a heavy sigh, to which he nodded.
while sweetecho watched, ivystripe sat down and dropped her head, but tumblejaw stood up a moment later and touched his nose to hers. "we'll figure this out, when they come. don't worry about it, ivystripe, i love you."

later on, the sounds of kits at play echoed from the lower half of the camp. in the middle of it all, cyanslash and falconflight managed to convince sunnywhisker to let her kits out of the nursery along with twitekit, so that the queens could rest with the younger kits. from a distance, splashfall and oakseed watched on to where cyanslash paced up and down the line of small kits, stopping only for a heartbeat to lick affectionately between twitekit's ears. the oldest kit swiped playfully at her foster father's nose, but cyanslash ducked out of the way to the sound of his mate's laughter.
"alright, kits," cyanslash spoke loudly, catching nightfall's attention as he came down the path from the upper camp with snakespots at his heels. "if you want to be warriors of quickclan, you've got to be quick, smart, and always ready to protect your clanmates." sproutkit let out a ferocious hiss, and his sisters bounded on either side with energy, as if testing their agility. with a flick of his tail, falconflight caught the kits' attention, and he crouched down in front of the kits, who leaned in closer to hear him.
"look," he whispered, and tipped his head towards where blizzardrush was dozing in the dying sunlight outside of the warriors' den. immediately, the kits began to giggle and cyanslash quickly shushed them so that falconflight could speak again. "there is an enemy warrior. are you ready for this ambush?" he asked, and the kits wiggled with excitement.
"twitekit, cherrykit, and i will go around past redstar's den to his left flank," cyanslash whispered, and the pair of kits bunched at his side. "mintkit and sproutkit, you'll go with falconflight to the other side." after they had broken up into their small groups and flanked a sleeping blizzardrush, cyanslash flicked his ears in a signal and cried out, "kits, attack!" in the moment, blizzardrush blinked his eyes open to see his friends, but was a moment too late to stop the small bundles of fur that tackled him. at the sounds of the screeching that erupted from the kits as blizzardrush batted gently at them in the same way their small paws tapped his flank, all parties breathless from laughter, redstar came down from his den, deep amber eyes blinking at the sight.
the ginger tom approached cyanslash and falconflight, who sat together, watching the game unfold. "am i right in assuming that this is your doing?" he asked, looking at cyanslash, who merely flashed a smile. with a shake of his head, redstar sat next to the mates and watched along as blizzardrush managed to stand up. twitekit remained crouched on the white warrior's back while the other kits weaved between his paws. "your kit shows some promise," redstar teased, shooting the pair a sideways glance and purred when their chests puffed out.
"of course she does," falconflight answered with a purr of his own. "you should be scared, redstar. make way for the mighty twitestar."

"roll," blizzardrush called out to his apprentice, his voice echoing through the dip in the moor that was used for training the apprentices. "roll, gorsepaw, roll and jump back up," he shouted, watching as his apprentice struggled to duck down and get his legs underneath him in the same fluid motion.
across the clearing, brightpaw followed duskflower's instructions with ease for the battle training, and purred in happiness when she rolled, leapt up, and launched herself forward at duskflower. a growling and frustrated sputtering led blizzardrush's eyes back to his own apprentice. despite his lean muscles, gorsepaw struggled to keep up, and his paws tripped over one another, lacking coordination. at last, when he stumbled over his own tail again, blizzardrush let out a soft sigh and stepped forward to give his apprentice an encouraging lick between the ears. "let's take a little break," he said, and gorsepaw nodded, obviously tired from the long morning of training. gorsepaw stood, shaking out his short fur to rid it of dust and scraps of grass.
"i'm sorry, blizzardrush, i'm trying..." gorsepaw trailed off, only to glance up, confused, when blizzardrush rested his tail across the apprentice's narrow shoulders.
"it's okay, you'll get it. you just need a little time," he encouraged. though gorsepaw found it hard to accept when, across the clearing, brightpaw and duskflower trained together, the pair practicing fighting moves.
gorsepaw murmured an excuse and padded away from the small hollow towards the nearby stream of water. after he lapped at the cool water, his eyes remained fixed on the shadows that lurked underneath the surface and the gentle ripples as the water passed him by. it was only shortly after, when he heard approaching footsteps that he looked up. there, patchwing and berrypad approached, and they touched their noses to his briefly.
"how's the training going?" patchwing asked, settling down while berrypad lapped at the stream.
gorsepaw shook his head slowly. the more time that passed, the less confident he felt about training. at first, he thought it was simply that he missed training with patchwing, and then berrypad, but now he was uncertain if he even wanted to be a warrior at all. "i just -" he started, only to cut himself off with a shake of his head. "i feel like i can't do anything right. how am i supposed to be a warrior if i fight like a lopsided badger?"
to his side, berrypad pressed comfortingly agains his flank. "don't say that," she scolded gently. "besides, badgers are still plenty strong, even the lopsided ones."
together, they laughed, and gorsepaw felt his chest lightened, happy that his friends still stuck by his side. when they lapsed into silence, watching the stream continue to pass them by, he spoke again, "what if i don't want to be a warrior?" where he expected his friends to jump up, to call him a mousebrain, and dismiss the idea entirely, he was surprised when berrypad hummed quietly, as if in thought.
"what would you do instead?" patchwing asked, and he caught her green gaze out of the corner of his eye.
"i don't know... maybe ivystripe needs help. between sweetecho, mothtail, and the kits..." gorsepaw said thoughtfully, unsure if he had any other options.
again, silence stretched between them until berrypad spoke, "you'd become a medicine cat?" she asked and, without waiting for an answer, continued with a sudden smile, "i think you'd be good at that, gorsepaw."
hesitantly, he nodded to himself. maybe berrypad was right, maybe he would be a good medicine cat. "thanks," gorsepw purred, pressing his nose into her flank. "i think i'll think about it, and maybe talk to ivystripe later. but i should go back to blizzardrush for now." and so, with the pair of warriors calling out, he padded back the way he came, with a renewed lightness to his step.

piperskip allowed herself the chance to doze in the cool sunlight for the first time in several days when she left the nursery and stretched out her muscles. though she loved her kits, it was nice to take a break, trusting that aspenwish would look out for them, and call her back if she needed anything. as it was, the nursery felt rather crowded as of late, though she supposed that it wasn't about to change anytime soon. the kits were growing, and there were more kits on the way, she thought to herself. sweetecho, mothtail... ivystripe.
though she stuck mainly to herself and the nursery so long as she was in the clan, piperskip knew that it was unconventional for a medicine cat to have kits. it also struck her as suspicious that ivystripe didn't reveal who the father was. the very thought made her pelt itch when she closed her eyes. piperskip herself made many decisions she regretted over the seasons. her own mate had been a flea-bitten rogue, but his smile had been sweet and he treated her better than her twolegs ever had. though she should have suspected that he would leave the moment she revealed that she was pregnant. some cats just weren't to be trusted.
but her kits... piperskip had no regrets when it came to her kits. thanks to ivystripe, they were lovely, happy, and healthy. not a day earlier she heard the warriors gossiping about them around the fresh kill pile after a hunting patrol. nightfall and snakespots, in particular, both seemed interested in mentoring either oriolekit or dustkit, and she couldn't blame them. even at their age, oriolekit and dustkit seemed just as big and strong as sunnywhisker's kits, if not bigger and stronger. any mentor would be lucky to have them. as if on a cue, piperskip opened her eyes when someone cleared their throat nearby, and she was met with the sight of snakespots' long legs. the lanky tom approached her carefully, as if he didn't want to scare her, and she flicked her ear at him, "how were the patrols, snakespots?" she asked tentatively, unsure of what the tom wanted. slightly annoyed from his interruption, she sat up.
"they went well, thank you, piperskip," he answered, and she raised her eyes at him, waiting for him to speak. it took him slightly than she would have liked, but he sat down beside her and smiled, nodding to where mothtail emerged from the nursery. "are you excited for more kits in the nursery? friends for your kits."
the very mention of her kits made piperskip smile, though she shrugged. "i'm sure they'll like not being the youngest in the clan anymore, though the nursery will be too full soon, at this rate," she said, deciding to be brutally honest with what she was thinking. if snakespots came to ask her, then the least she could do is give him an answer. "i don't think i've seen you in the nursery to see the kits," she added, evidently catching him off-guard.
snakespots ducked his head bashfully, and e quickly lapped at his chest fur to smooth it down. piperskip liked seeing him embarrassed. maybe he wasn't so bad after all. "no, i suppose not," he murmured. "i'm a little shy, and i wasn't sure if that would be appropriate - since none of them are mine."
it seemed like an odd thing to say, piperskip noted with a flick of her ear. "you'd be surprised. cyanslash and falconflight always hang around for twitekit - it's almost like they gave birth to her themselves," she said, earning an amused purr from snakespots that, admittedly, warmed piperskip's heart. she was happy to make the long-legged tom laugh. "and nightfall tends to poke his nose inside. he says he likes the kits, but i think he's more interested in aspenwish."
at that, she noticed a slight shift in snakespots' demeanor, and he appeared to sit up a little taller, puff out his chest a bit more, when he looked back at her. "what about you?" he asked. "does anyone come to visit you?"
admittedly, piperskip found herself taken off-guard by his bold attempt at flirtation, and it was her turn to duck her head, unused to the way her pelt burned. she knew little about this warrior - or any of them, really, except for what she heard through the nursery gossip - but she couldn't deny that snakespots was handsome and, evidently, charming. she opened her mouth for a retort, but clamped it shut once again, speechless. before she could reply, snakespots stood and touched his nose to the base of her ear, "maybe i'll come by to visit you sometime, then?" he offered.
"maybe i'll consider letting you into the nursery," piperskip answered, earning another purr from snakespots. and so he went, saying that he would see her later on - she certainly hoped so, at any rate - and that he would leave her to her nap. eventually, darkness overtook the queen and she basked in the rays of sunlight.
until a paw prodded into her side, and she sat up immediately, finding herself nose to nose with sweetecho and staring into those clear blue eyes. it took piperskip a moment to recognize the way sweetecho's eyes were widened, her pelt fluffed out, and anxiety rolling from her pelt in waves. "you need to come, we need your help," the silver queen said, voice urgent, and piperskip followed after the pregnant queen to ivystripe's den.
piperskip knew something was wrong from sweetecho's reaction, but the scent of blood coming from the deep corner of the den struck her, and she hesitated for a moment. but sweetecho turned, having noticed that piperskip wasn't behind her, and she beckoned her onward. "please, piperskip, i can't do this alone and she needs our help."
dawn was breaking when sweetecho emerged from the medicine cat's den and climbed the slope to redstar's den. inside, her mate was sleeping soundly, though she woke him with a gentle nudge and a call of his name. immediately, his amber eyes met hers and she saw the way his gaze traced her form, from the curve of her stomach to the blood that stained her paws. urgency made the fur on his neck stand on end, and sweetecho shook her head slightly. "i'm okay. our kits are okay," she murmured, and pressed forward before he could ask any further questions. "it's ivystripe. she was pregnant. and something went wrong. she's dead, redstar."
her mate stared up at her, dumbfounded, before standing abruptly and leaving her to follow him back down to ivystripe's den. "she can't be dead," she heard him mutter to himself, and her heart ached, because she knew what he would see. piperskip, still trying to save their medicine cat, and ivystripe... oh starclan, why ivystripe?

as the morning stretched, the news spread that ivystripe was dead, and most of the cats remained in various states of shock. those such as mothtail, sparrowcall, and poppyhaze, who knew her the least, seemed moderately upset that there had been a death, but were not crushed as cyanslash, falconflight, and tumblejaw were. the latter especially was inconsolable, and redstar allowed his deputy to leave his duties for the time being. sweetecho's eyes followed tumblejaw's shape as he hunched over ivystripe's body, and her pelt prickled. only the two of them knew the secret ivystripe died for, and the question everyone in the clan was asking - who was ivystripe's mate? as if sensing sweetecho's gaze, tumblejaw looked directly at her, and he shook his head slightly. she knew that he was right - now wasn't the time. now was a time for mourning and, from what she knew of redstar, a time for action.
after paying his respects to their medicine cat's spirit, redstar crossed the camp's clearing to the center, where he raised his voice, "quickclan," he began, and all eyes turned towards him. the clan had already been gathered together in the hollow of the lower camp, and no more pretense was necessary. "we will honor ivystripe for who she was. a loyal quickclan cat, who wanted the best for this clan, no matter what. she had a good sense of humor, and was an extremely gifted medicine cat. for that, no cat could ever blame her." towards the center of the clearing, falconfligt had wrapped his body around cyanslash's smaller form, the pair of mates crying together. blizzardrush sat close to them, his head bowed. patchwing, berrypad, gorsepaw, and brightpaw, remained huddled together with hollow eyes, and so on, as redstar continued. "however, we are in need of a new medicine cat. i will ask starclan at the moonpool to send us a healer in our time of need. hopefully, with the guidance of our ancestors, ivystripe included, we will be safe." murmurs passed throughout the clan.
nearby, she heard brackenrose whisper to blizzardrush, "we're still in mourning... isn't it too early for a new medicine cat to replace ivystripe?" and sweetecho found herself agreeing. it was too soon. ivystripe had only just died, and she was still grooming her blood from her pelt. it felt hasty, but redstar paced through the cats and stopped when he reached sootstone. redstar whispered several words to the dark gray tom, who nodded in turn. sweetecho watched while sootstone weaved between the warriors, sending several of them towards the entrance to the camp - those who appeared to be composed enough to patrol, she supposed.
however, it was gorsepaw who stepped in redstar's path, having brushed past his friends and mentor. "redstar," the young apprentice spoke up, catching the clan's attention once more. they all knew gorsepaw as a generally nervous cat, who twitched and was rumored to be a poor apprentice because of his anxiety. "i would like to help this new medicine cat as their apprentice."
immediately, attention turned from gorsepaw to blizzardrush, who looked up at redstar. "gorsepaw came to me about it, and said he was interested. i told him to speak to ivystripe but..." he broke into a choked sound, and splashfall pressed his flank to the white warrior.
in response, redstar looked back to gorsepaw with a slight nod. "alright, gorsepaw. when the medicine cat comes, i will allow you to speak with them about becoming their apprentice."
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[ ✦ quickclan 12 ]

Postby eagle, » Sat Nov 03, 2018 4:03 pm

as dawn began to break over the grieving clan, cyanslash managed to unwind himself from falconflight and he padded across the clearing to where redstar sat with his head held high, as if he could still see the stars above. for a moment, cyanslash waited for his leader to say anything, though he finally cleared his throat and spoke, and redstar finally turned his broad head to face him. "tumblejaw," cyanslash murmured, glancing back to the heart of the camp's lower level, where majority of the clan was gathered. falconflight was exactly where cyanslash left him, his head bowed, and tumblejaw remained hunched over ivystripe's cool body. "shall i organize patrols, boss?" he offered, though the words burned in his throat. already he didn't think that it would be possible for the clan to move on without ivystripe. or, rather, that they would be able to move forward in the same way. from the beginning, quickclan had remained relatively peaceful, and had never suffered a tragedy such as this. had the circumstances been different, ivystripe would have acted as a backbone to keep the clan going, but now she was dead.
redstar blinked, as if he hadn't realized that the night had given way to dawn, and he nodded once. "yes, thank you," he answered, only to turn his eyes back to the sky. cyanslash hesitated for a moment, though when he dipped his head to the gathered clan, redstar spoke softly once again, though he didn't look directly at his friend, "what happened to the kits?"
cyanslash cleared his throat carefully, his tail tip flicking anxiously. "sweetecho and piperskip saved them. they said that they all seem healthy. the queens took them into the nursery." redstar hummed, and cyanslash waited for any other comment, but finally back away when redstar fell silent.
after sending several of the warriors out to hunt and patrol the borders, cyanslash paused at his own mate. falconflight hadn't moved from when he left to talk to redstar, and cyanslash lingered to press his nose into his mate's golden fur. "you know what she would say if she saw you standing here like a rock," he murmured gently when he felt falconflight lean into the touch.
"yeah," falconflight whispered after a prolonged moment of silence. "she would ask if i had stones instead of paws, and then would say that she wanted to eat another muscly rabbit we caught for her." a quiet huff escaped his chest, and cyanslash knew that it was meant to be laughter. silence fell between them, and cyanslash couldn't help but look to where ivystripe's body remained stretched out. she would be taken to be buried shortly, before sunrise, though he wondered if tumblejaw would allow any of the other warriors to touch her body. he knew that the deputy and medicine cat had been close friends, and he saw them together often enough, but he couldn't shake the feeling that tumblejaw looked as if he had died within his own right. his eyes appeared hollow, not filled with vivacity as they often were. if he didn't know better, he would have said that tumblejaw looked defeated, beyond that of losing a mere friend.
without lingering on it any further, cyanslash stood and nosed falconflight to his paws. "c'mon, let's go check on the queens and twitekit. leave him to grieve for a little longer," he urged, and together he and falconflight began the short climb to the nursery.

inside the nursery, sweetecho looked fondly at the trio of kits that were tucked against piperskip's belly. the dark queen sent her kits to play in the back of the nursery with the rest of the older kits, and the queens fell into a hushed silence among themselves. sunnywhisker sat back with mothtail in the darker shadows of the nursery. mothtail took to grooming sunnywhisker's pelt, as the latter had been nearly unresponsive when she discovered what happened to ivystripe. mothtail, who knew the deceased medicine cat the least, gave up her attempts to speak quietly to the other queen, to try and coax her to eating a small mouse, and stuck to her own silence.
surprisingly, it was aspenwish who spoke. the black and white queen was normally quiet - kind, but calm and soft-spoken. "they're beautiful kits," she murmured softly, and the rest of them nodded their agreement. "i think they deserve proper names."
lately, the nursery felt cramped. the kits were growing too big and there were more than enough queens to take up space, with more kits on the way. however, in the moment, sweetecho felt that there was a large empty space, enough to swallow them all, with the knowledge that there was a queen missing, and the three kits were mother-less. more often than not, cyanslash and falconflight took the kits out to play games, to give the rest of them some rest, and twitekit was expected to be given a mentor any day now. but ivystripe would never be there to play games with her own kits, or to watch them be given their first names, let alone apprentice names.
sweetecho shifted slightly and nodded to the single molly of the litter. "what do you think of marshkit?" she asked. as if in response, the small kit nestled closer to piperskip's soft fur, and the dark queen ducked her head to nose at the kit.
"i think she likes the name," piperskip concluded with a gentle smile that sweetecho had only seen when the queen looked at her own kits.
before any of the queens could comment further, cyanslash appeared at the entrance to the cave, with falconflight following him inside. sunnywhisker murmured her greeting and tipped her head further back into the tunnel. "twitekit is in the back with the other kits," she said, and falconflight smiled gently at her, though it was clear that the tom wasn't in a good mood, based on the way his paws dragged against the cool bare stone.
whereas falconflight went to find the kits, cyanslash paused to touch his nose against sunnywhisker's, aspenwish's, and sweetecho's in turn, offering gentle smiles to the other queens as well. "is there anything you need? we'll be taking a hunting patrol out in a little bit, and i can ask gorsepaw if he can go through the herbs if you need some," he offered, looking to piperskip as he spoke. the dark molly shook her head and wrapped her tail tighter around the newborn kits at her belly.
"we'll just need food, but brightpaw has done well at seeing to that," piperskip said, managing a tight smile.
sweetecho looked between piperskip and cyanslash, and she cleared her throat gently. "if you and falconflight could take the kits into the camp later to play, i'm sure we'd all appreciate it. they're getting too big, not just twitekit," she said, and could see piperskip smiling out of the corner of her eye. oriolekit and dustkit were already twitekit's size, and she seemed proud to think of how they would turn out as warriors, though they had moons before they would leave the nursery.
without hesitation, cyanslash dipped his head to sweetecho, who blinked gratefully at him. as it was, sweetecho found herself more tired than normal, as her belly seemed to grow each passing day. she supposed that it was likely one of the reasons redstar was adamant about getting a new medicine cat, despite the fresh wound of ivystripe. it would take seasons, she suspected, for many of them to move on from ivystripe's sudden death, but redstar was concerned for the future, as he always had been. it made sense that she would be on the top of his list of concerns. his medicine cat just died giving birth, and sweetecho and mothtail had kits coming on the way.
after cyanslash promised that he would occupy the kits after his patrol, aspenwish picked her head up and looked to cyanslash, her whiskers twitching. "any gossip going around the clan lately, cyanslash?" she asked, and it was clear that the tom caught on to the queen's attempt to lighten the mood of the nursery.
sweetecho blinked gently at the young warrior and beckoned him over to sit with her when she caught a glint of his usual mischief in his eyes.
"a few of the warriors are taking bets on who will be the next molly to join the nursery," he said, stretching out beside sweetecho. at the same moment, falconflight and twitekit came back to join the group.
when piperskip, aspenwish, and sunnywhisker looked expectantly at the golden warrior, falconflight chucked softly, clearly in a slightly better mood than normal. "fear not, flintkit found a feathe tangled in sproutkit's fur. after they got it out, they started a war over the feather," he explained, and the queens purred gently and relaxed once more. falconflight wasted no time in curling alongside cyanslash, and twitekit wedged herself between their shoulders.
"keep going, cyanslash," mothtail urged, and cyanslash nodded quickly.
"of course, of course," he allowed, pausing only to lick twitekit between the ears, who proceeded to whine until falconflight shushed her. "my current theory is that poppyhaze and sparrowcall are finally planning on having kits," cyanslash continued when he was sure that he held all of the queens' attention.
"poppyhaze?" piperskip sniffed haughtily, flicking her tailtip. "just the other day i heard her saying to sparrowcall that the kits were too destructive for her taste. as if dustkit and oriolekit had offended her by venturing out of the nursery." piperskip huffed, returning her attention to grooming ivystripe's kits, though her ears remained perked and alert.
"maybe she thinks that her kits will be perfect. they'll never stick their noses into trouble like some kits," falconflight interjected, his gaze straying to twitekit. in retaliation, twitekit hissed playfully until falconflight cuffed her ear. "go make sure the other kits are safe," he said, nudging her with his nose. with a final playful hiss, twitekit rose and scampered back the way she came.
"who else?" sweetecho asked, and cyanslash grinned at her, as if they shared a secret.
as cyanslash opened his mouth, falconflight rolled his eyes and lowered his chin to rest on his outstretched paws. "rule number one with cyanslash, don't ask him to gossip or he'll talk your ear off," falconflight yawned, though his tone remained fond.
cyanslash didn't acknowledge the interruption, though he paused for dramatic effect. "well, a few of us have noticed that snakespots and nightfall have been hanging around here," he said, his eyes darting over the gathered queens.
while aspenwish had enough dignity to at least look sheepish and duck her head, piperskip rolled her eyes. "don't you have a hunting patrol, cyanslash? tumblejaw will be here soon to tell you to stop gossiping with us," she cut in defensively.
cyanslash and falconflight rose to their paws together when sweetecho sent piperskip a sharp look that had the other queen returning to grooming the three kits, and the pair of toms dipped their heads. "of course," falconflight said after a long moment. after saying goodbye and saying that they'd be back later to play with the kits, they padded out of the nursery.
after a long moment of silence, mothtail dared to look at sweetecho. "what was that about?" she asked.
instead, it was piperskip who answered in a soft voice, "tumblejaw was ivystripe's mate." this time she wasn't silenced by sweetecho's glance. "and we're the only ones who know, other than ivystripe and tumblejaw. and ivystripe's dead." at her stomach, one of the tom kits mewled, and she coaxed him back to sleep with a gentle lap of her tongue.

several days had passed before redstar took the time to go to the moonpool. night had fallen by the time he padded into the mystical cavern, though he took his time to pick his way to the water's edge. the hole in the cavern's roof provided a clear sight of the stars overhead, and he looked to them when he sat down beside the moonpool. his low voice echoed through the cavern, "ivystripe, the clan misses you. i miss you..." he trailed off and looked to the water. "please help me."
with that, redstar settled down and touched his nose to the water until his dreams took him. the sensations were familiar, and when he blinked his eyes open again, sure enough, he was greeted by a familiar tabby shape. "redstar," ivystripe greeted warmly and stepped forward to touch their noses together. "don't look so surprised to see me. you asked, so here i am." her purr was soft and held the familiar edge of humor he found himself missing in the camp.
"i just - i was worried that you wouldn't be here." in starclan, ivystripe's pelt was unmarred and looked soft. needing the comfort of his friend, redstar leaned down to rest his nose on her shoulder. in death, she was still warm, and he could feel her chest vibrate when she laughed.
"oh, redstar," she coaxed, licking his shoulder in turn. "no, starclan decided to forgive my mistake. they say i suffered enough, and that i can be allowed to watch over my kits."
before redstar could process the words, a question came unchecked from his mouth, "who's the father?" he asked, only to clamp his mouth shut when ivystripe stepped back from him, all of the humor suddenly gone from her eyes. he could tell she was going to reject answering, so he dared to push through the sudden crackle of tension between them. "wouldn't you want them to know their father?"
the former medicine cat's eyes flashed. "of course i want that, redstar, but i died keeping this a secret. isn't that enough? he can tell the clan himself."
the rawness in her voice made redstar pause before he ultimately dipped his head in respect. "of course, ivystripe. we just all miss you. i miss you."
"i miss you too. i miss everyone..." she trailed off for a moment, and a sad smile rested over her features. "i miss the way tumblejaw would always come by my den, at least once a day. i miss the way cyanslash, splashfall, nightfall, and falconflight would come running back from hunting as if they hadn't just run across the moor."
redstar laughed softly and nodded. "did you know that gorsepaw wanted to be your apprentice?"
ivystripe smiled fondly and nodded once. "i had a feeling. i heard blizzardrush telling snakespots and duskflower that gorsepaw had no interest in fighting, and i considered going to him about it." ivystripe paused then, and she took the time to sit down and wrap her tail neatly around herself. "in any case, he'll need a mentor, and quickclan needs a medicine cat." the words came out softly, and redstar caught the underlying sadness in her voice. it was clear that she was sorry to have left the clan, though it was beyond her control. "luckily for you, redstar, i've picked out just the cat, and she'll be meeting you very soon."
redstar's ears pricked with curiosity. "who are they?" he asked.
"she's from beyond the barn, comes from twolegs, but she knows about herbs and will be a good mentor for gorsepaw," ivystripe said of her replacement. "she seems a little stuffy, but i'm sure she'll warm up soon enough. have her talk to sweetecho, it's impossible to not like your mate," ivystripe added, and redstar couldn't help but smile.
"she misses you, you know. i know you didn't know each other well, but she wishes she could have done more..." redstar looked down to his paws. to his surprise, ivystripe smiled back at him with a brief nod.
"i know, but she did everything she could. her and piperskip - i'm grateful. but i paid the price for what i did." ivystripe stood suddenly, and redstar noticed that the sky was beginning to lighten up. without waiting for him, ivystripe pressed her nose against redstar's again, and she spoke quickly, "fear not, redstar. your new medicine cat will be there when you wake up, and we'll be watching over you. look after my kits, please."
redstar opened his mouth to answer, but spluttered when he found his nose dipping under the surface of the moonpool. across the water, a black and white molly looked at him from where she was stretched out and grooming her fur.
"i take it you're redstar?" she asked, and redstar nodded while taking in her form. it was clear that she wasn't a wild cat. her fur appeared soft, unmarred, and her paws looked delicate and unlike most of the warriors', who spent their time running the moor and hunting. still, her eyes held a distant light that reminded him of ivystripe, and he felt inclined to trust his clan with her.
"i am, who are you?" he asked.
as he stood and shook out his fur, she followed suit and turned towards the entrance of the cavern. "my twolegs called me play-doh. however, starclan said that you would give me a new name when i met you."
as they walked back towards the camp, redstar decided that her name would be gullfeather.

days later, it was nearing the dead of night when sunnywhisker managed to coax her kits to sleep. around the rest of the nursery, snores came from kits and queens alike. twitekit took her own nest nearby a moon earlier, and sproutit didn't lie far away, and the pair snored in tandem. soft puffs of air came from where aspenwish was sleeping with her own sons snuggled close to her belly, and piperskip's kits spilled out of the nest to leave room for ivystripe's trio of kits. though the queens now knew the father, sunnywhisker couldn't help but see tumblejaw in both of the toms, particularly the elder, who had the same white patch of fur on his chest. of course, sunnywhisker wondered how sweetecho and piperskip came to know the truth before the rest of them, and she felt her tail twitch in annoyance that the deputy hadn't come to see them. though rumor had it that, since ivystripe's death, tumblejaw hadn't been seen out of his nest often, and redstar passed his deputies to cyanslash for the time being, who handled organizing the patrols.
after sweetecho named the molly marshkit, cyanslash and falconflight suggested the name darterkit for the younger tom, though the older one renamed without a name that stuck. if sunnywhisker had a say in it, she would suggest that the father himself come to visit them and name his eldest kit. though they all seemed to hold their breath on the matter.
which was why she was surprised when the sound of pawsteps outside the nursery brought the deputy's familiar scent on the air, and she glanced up in time to see his green eyes flash in the moonlight and his broad shoulders cast a shadow.
sweetechl, who fell asleep closest to the entrance, shifted and lifted her head, woken by the intrusion. "tumblejaw?" she questioned with a voice thick from sleep, and the tom nodded once.
sweetecho's voice woke the other queens, who had a various array of expressions. sweetecho appeared piteous, mothtail sympathetic, and piperskip looked as if she had been personally scandalized. "what do you want?" she asked when he made no move further into the nursery.
"i came to see them... may i ?" cyanslash and nightfall had both said that tumblejaw hadn't spoken, eaten, or moved much since ivystripe had been buried, and sunnywhisker felt that the rumors were confirmed. where the deputy once was an imposing figure with glossy fur, a sturdy figure, and a strong voice, tumblejaw's fur appeared matted and ungroomed, and his voice scratched against his throat from not being used.
despite this, piperskip bristled slightly when he stepped to her and leaned down to sniff his kits. in their moons of living in the nursery together, sunnywhisker only saw piperskip care about her own kits. now, however, it seemed that her protection extended to the kits who she was granted care over. "why haven't you come before?" she asked, and tumblejaw recoiled as if she struck him.
"i couldn't - i didn't want -"
"didn't want anyone to know that they're yours?" piperskip interrupted, and tumblejaw ducked his head at the accusation. she huffed but shifted her tail to give him access to the three sleeping kits. "figures."
tumblejaw sat back on his hunches and stared at the three in awe. in her sleep, marshkit batted her paw and hit darterkit, who kicked his brother in turn. "what are their names?" tumblejaw asked, and piperskip's eyes seemed to softly slightly.
"the molly is marshkit, the little tom is darterkit, and we haven't decided on a name for the other tom," she said, and tumblejaw nodded slowly.
"maybe you should give him a name," sunnywhisker broke in, and sproutkit shifted nearby. "you are their father, after all."
tumblejaw appeared surprised and looked at the other queens, who offered no other words. he shifted, suddenly uncomfortable, and nodded once. "hollowkit," he said, meeting piperskip's piercing gaze. "his name is hollowkit, because my heart feels empty without ivystripe."
as he must have expected, piperskip hissed lowly at him and thrust her head in the direction of the entrance. "you need to leave before you wake them." her words were cold, and tumblejaw didn't fight her, only dipped her head to them and padded out.
several minutes passed in silence, wherein sweetecho and piperskip whispered rapidly between each other until sunnywhisker couldn't follow. when she was sure that they all fell back into sleep, she rose carefully to her paws, her limbs moving faster than her brain. she stopped several steps outside of the nursery, when she noticed tumblejaw sitting in the middle of the lower camp, his eyes searching the night sky.
the next thing sunnywhisker knew, she was sitting down next to the deputy, who shot her a sideways glance. "did piperskip send you?" he asked, and sunnywhisker shook her head quickly, earning a sigh. "they're cute and all, but they look so much like her. i want to tell the clan, because nothing that redstar can do is worse than what has already happened, but... i'm scared, sunnywhisker."
for a moment, sunnywhisker knew that he was looking for her to give him advice, to pass on some wisdom that she might have. but she didn't think she had any to spare. "i don't think she would want you to hurt like this," she said, fully aware that it sounded flat and weak.
still, tumblejaw managed a smile, and sunnywhisker felt her heart melt for him. this poor tom who had only tried to find love that ended in tragedy. without realizing it, sunnywhisker leaned in closer to him until her head fell to his shoulder. for a moment, she felt his muscles tense under her contact, though he relaxed only a heartbeat later. "thank you, sunnywhisker," he murmured, and they remained like that for what felt like an eternity to sunnywhisker.

gorsepaw blinked when he emerged from the medicine cats' den, his eyes having to adjust quickly to the sunlight. outside, the chatter of his clanmates filled the air, and he feared that he was the last cat to wake up and join the activity of the day. the previous night, gullfeather told him to rest after a long day of helping her sort herbs. from what he could see of the new medicine cat, she was far more quiet than ivystripe had been - with an ache, he recalled his first moons with the clan in ivystripe's den - but she was confident and assertive. frankly, gorsepaw found himself admiring gullfeather already.
curious, gorsepaw lifted his nose to sniff the air. before he had the chance to descend into camp, however, twitekit's voice from above caught his attention.
"gorsepaw!" twitekit called out. the small molly's fur was fluffed out in excitement, and she bounded towards him from the path down the camp. when she met him halfway, twitekit reached up to touch her nose to him, and gorsepaw purred softly.
"good morning. shouldn't you be in the nursery with the other kits?" gorsepaw asked, though he looked up when falconflight padded into view from the path, and he dipped his head politely.
"no way," twitekit answered with a happy bounce, shifting her weight between her forepaws. "cyanslash and falconflight told sweetecho that i could play with them until redstar gives me a mentor." gorsepaw purred, having forgotten that twitekit was old enough to start her training. with a glow of pride settling in his chest, he bent his head to lick between her ears.
"congratulations! that's amazing, twitekit."
by that point, falconflight reached them and cuffed his adopted daughter's ear with a paw. "what did i tell you about annoying gullfeather and gorsepaw?" he asked, and twitekit turned to bat at falconflight's chest. the golden warrior winked mischievously at gorsepaw, who smiled in turn. "redstar gave cyanslash the duty of setting up patrols since tumblejaw hasn't been up to it." as the rumors were spreading across camp, the quickclan deputy was growing unfit for his duties and would likely be demoted. in his place, it was unclear who might be named, though redstar seemed to favor giving cyanslash or sootstone governance of patrols and upkeep of the camp. "which means that i'm stuck chasing twitekit alone."
gorsepaw looked between falconflight and twitekit, and couldn't help his own smile. "her mentor will be chasing her down across the moor for sure," he teased, flicking twitekit's ear gently only to earn a playful hiss. "can you see if gullfeather is down in the camp?" he asked when falconflight stood.
before falconflight could reply, twitekit shot up and headed for the path with a wave of her tail. "i'm on it!"
for a moment, falconflight watched her go before shrugging and sitting down once more, and gorsepaw took the cue to do the same. when twitekit was out of earshot, he looked to her father. "do you know who her mentor will be?"
falconflight paused a moment before shaking his head. "redstar told cyanslash that he wasn't sure yet. i think that redstar could have paired her with cyanslash based on their personalities, if we hadn't taken her as our own." falconflight shrugged and ran a paw over his ear. "she might also get along with splashfall, but i'd bet on snakespots, since he has seniority."
"do you think you'll get an apprentice soon?" gorsepaw asked, his gaze straying down the path to seek twitekit or gullfeather's pelts among the gathered cats.
"with all of the kits in the nursery, i think it's probable." falconflight seemed to hesitate, as if unsure how much he could or should share with gorsepaw, but shrugged and continued after a beat's silence. "i think cyanslash has his eye on one of sunnywhisker's kits. maybe cherrykit or mintkit. and other warriors are falling over themselves for piperskip's kits. they think that dustkit and oriolekit will be good fighters and grasskit could be a good hunter." he shrugged again, this time from nonchalance. "and aspenwish's kits seem quiet, but have potential, of course. if not, there are more kits on the way."
"do you think blizzardrush will take another apprentice soon?" gorsepaw asked suddenly. since he decided that he wanted to discontinue his warrior training, gorsepaw tried to avoid his former-mentor, fearing that blizzardrush would be disappointed or resent him.
however, falconflight's eyes softened just as twitekit came barreling back towards them, gullfeather several steps behind. "oh, gorsepaw, blizzardrush just wanted the best for you." when twitekit nudged his flank, her adoptive father stood and rested his tail over her shoulders. "if redstar offers him an apprentice, i'm sure he'll accept. but blizzardrush just wanted you to be happy."
with that, falconflight bid gorsepaw and gullfeather goodbye, and went to nudge his daughter back down the pah towards camp. gullfeather paused when she looked at gorsepaw, her yellow eyes unblinking. "everything alright, gorsepaw?" she asked after a long moment, and gorsepaw found himself smiling.
"yes, gullfeather. what can i do?" he asked in turn, and his mentor returned her own gentle smile. "come on, i'd like check on sweetecho and mothtail."

later that night, redstar waited until his clan was gathered together to eat their evening meal until he stood in the midst of them all. earlier, he had dared to get splashfall alone, and his close friend agreed to take twitekit as an apprentice. when redstar moved to the center of the clearing, his eyes trailed upward, to seek the nursery where his mate was resting by gullfeather's orders, and then to the darkening sky, where the first stars were beginning to shine. up there, he knew, ivystripe was sitting among their ancestors, and the thought made his chest warm.
redstar pulled himself up to his full height and looked from to sky to his clan, and his gaze landed on where twitekit was eating with cyanslash and falconflight. the mates had taken care of twitekit as if she truly was their own from the moment ivystripe brought her to camp. twitekit, who would have the honor of the first apprentice ceremony of the young quickclan, falconflight, who was a gifted hunter, and cyanslash, who served the clan as deputy while tumblejaw remained stuck in his grief. where the entire clan still felt a monumental loss, redstar couldn't think of a kit who deserved the attention of praise that twitekit would, and her fathers on her behalf. so, with a flick of his tail, redstar beckoned the young molly to follow him to the pointed rock at the edge of camp. when the clan turned to look at them and twitekit had settled at the base of stone, redstar began, "tonight we mark a new era for our clan. we will remember ivystripe always, but we can not let ourselves be held back by tragedy. ivystripe would want us to continue in her memory." he saw the grief ripple through the clan, and redstar dipped his head respectfully. "tonight, with ivystripe watching from above, we are to celebrate twitekit becoming an apprentice."
this time, the ripple that passed through the crowd was a joyous one, and redstar spotted cyanslash's sleek head peering up to catch his daughter's eye and mouth her words of encouragement. "twitekit, while you train to learn the ways of our clan to become a warrior of quickclan, you shall be known as twitepaw." redstar jumped down from his perch to stand beside the quivering apprentice. the young molly had always been popular with the clan, first because of her adoptive fathers, and then for her own spirit and tenacity. "splashfall," redstar announced, catching his old friend's eye. the lithe tabby tom seemed to hesitate, unsure, but redstar flicked his tail. "you were mentored by fleetingstar in the old quickclan, and you know this moor longer than many of us," he said, able to see the way splashfall's whiskers trembled when he finally came to a stop before his apprentice. "i trust that you will pass all of your knowledge onto twitepaw."
"of course," splashfall breathed out shakily, just loud enough for twitepaw and redstar to hear.
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[ ✦ quickclan 13 ]

Postby eagle, » Sat Nov 03, 2018 4:05 pm

the stream of water flowed clearly, the cold water rushing over the smooth pebbles. overhead, the sun beat down on her shoulders, and her tail twitched irritably. a fox-length away, splashfall had walked into the water and didn't seem to mind the way the water pulled at his short fur, or lapped at his belly. over the past moon of training, twitepaw found herself all the more frustrated with her mentor. from the clan, particularly her fathers, she heard how splashfall was thought to be one of the more easy-going, fun-loving cats. he was known for chasing hares with cyanslash and snakespots, the fastest cats in the clan, and twitepaw expected that he would have jumped on the chance to teach her the same. by now, she had hoped she would know the battle moves brightpaw practiced in the evenings, showing off everything duskflower taught her.
instead, twitepaw usually found herself splashing after fish most days, and even gorsepaw's duties seemed more interesting. at least he was out and about on the moor and wasn't told to stand in one place until his paws felt numb with cold and like stone.
then, like a flash, twitepaw saw the silver scales of a fish from the corner of her eye. as splashfall demonstrated time and time over, she shifted her weight seamlessly, lest she create a ripple and scare the fish. just when she made a move to scoop the fish out of the water to catch it, her other paw slipped in the sand, sending twitepaw sputtering and splashing in the water.
immediately, splashfall was at her side, helping her up and out of the water to rest at the bank. "easy there, twitepaw, you got overexcited. it happens," he murmured gently, tone soft and encouraging.
twitepaw, however, was not so easily placated, and she let out a frustrated hiss, standing and marching a few steps away to shake the water from her pelt. "i can't do it, splashfall! i'm sorry, but i can't. i want to train, not sit in the water for another moon," she exclaimed, and her mentor watching with a measuring, clear gaze. when splashfall didn't immediately answer, twitepaw let out a sigh and turned to look back at the water.
after another moment had passed, splashfall's tail brushed across twitepaw's shoulders. "come on," he mumured gently, leading her away from the stream and steering her back towards the camp. "let's take the rest of the day off. we'll try again tomorrow." though the very idea of fishing again settled wrong in twitepaw's gut, she allowed splashfall to lead the way.
when the pair drew closer, and the breeze carried the distinctive scent of the clan, twitepaw turned her head, catching the slightest voice in the distance. "splashfall, i think i heard something," she called to her mentor, who turned, his ears pricked.
the warrior's stripped tail twitched, and he angled his ears in the direction twitepaw nodded. "you're sure?" he asked.
twitepaw paused, swiping her tongue over his muzzle. "i mean - i think i did - it might've just been -"
"twitepaw, did you hear something?" splashfall cut her off. his gaze searched her face, and twitepaw felt herself calm down.
determined and trusting her own senses, twitepaw nodded. "i'm certain i did."
at that, splashfall smiled and beckoned her with his tail. "alright, then, let's go check it out." together, side by side, mentor and apprentice crossed back to the windy moorland.

meanwhile, redstar carried a young kit, holding him by the scruff of his neck. the small tom whimpered softly when redstar tried to move at anything faster than his usual walking pace, and the leader's neck ached from carrying the kit all the way from the border. for the most part, his son was quiet and didn't struggle, but he was steadily growing hungry, redstar expected. if the small tom was going to survive, he needed to get him back to sweetecho, who had her kits only a day earlier.
of course, he loved sweeetecho with all of his heart. she was the one he would have gone to the end of the world to find, who he only ever wanted to protect. but when he met redhawk, he hadn't been able to help himself. the floodclan molly had stolen his eye in sweetecho's absence. he loved his mate, but he also felt an attraction for redhawk, though every fur on his pelt tried to deny it.
ivystripe had engaged in a forbidden relationship, and paid the price. redstar just hoped that none of his kits would suffer for his love reaching across the border and to different mollies.
after walking across the open moor for most of the early afternoon, redstar settled down to rest, his son tucked neatly between his forepaws. "it's alright," he tried to soothe when the kit whimpered softly, burrowing into the warmth of his stomach. the kit was young, not even a moon old yet, and he needed help soon - help from a queen that redstar couldn't provide on his own. warm winds whipped across the moor, and the kit let out a wail.
"starclan help us," redstar whispered, keeping his ears pricked. he worried that any predator might hear the kit's cries and try to swipe an easy meal. the very thought made his claws flex - he would not let one of his own be taken so easily. no, he resolved that he would get his son safely back to camp.
what would come after, however, was still uncertain. there were already so many kits in the nursery, and sweetecho had five of them at her own belly. perhaps if the kit was one he passed on the border, or one of a dead queen, his mate would be willing to take him in. but the kit her mate had with a different queen - he doubted she would react well to that. and yet, this was his own kit, and his blood ran through his veins. it would be impossible for redstar to deny claiming him as his own.
before redstar decided his course of action, the familiar quickclan scent washed over him, and his fur stood on end. "redstar!" splashfall's face peered around the boulder redstar had sought for shelter, and twitepaw stood at her mentor's shoulder.
"splashfall," redstar breathed out relief, though his tail curled protectively around his son. of all the cats to find him, he was glad it was his dearest and oldest friend. splashfall opened his mouth and closed it again, only to glance down to twitepaw. understanding his friend's hesitation, and thankful for the warrior's thoughtfulness, redstar stood and nodded to the pair. "we need to get him back to camp."
in turn, splashfall nudged twitepaw with his nose. "i'm going to help redstar. you scout on ahead, but don't go far. if you see anything, come back to me." for a moment, it looked that twitepaw might argue, but when the small tom whimpered, she nodded quickly and dashed in the direction of camp. when she was gone, splashfall fixed redstar with a searching glance, and redstar's whiskers twitched.
"we'll talk later, splashfall," he said.
splashfall reached forward to sniff the kit, and recoiled when the foreign scent reached his nose. "he's a clan kit," he whispered urgently, glancing back over his shoulder to see that they were still alone.
redstar nodded once and ran his tongue over the kit's head. "he's a quickclan kit. he's mine."
it took a moment for the statement to register in splashfall's mind, but redstar saw the moment it did. his gaze darkened, but he only said, "i'll find you later." with that, he reached forward to take the kit's scruff. together, with twitepaw in the distance, the pair of toms carried the kit back to camp.
at the top of the trail, the new warrior, loonlight, was standing guard. she brightened at the sight of the arrivals, and greeted them. "welcome back, redstar," she said, pausing only when she saw the small bundle of fur splashfall carried. "oh my, you found the kit!" she said, and redstar paused.
"found?" he repeated, ears pricked.
loonlight stood and shifted her weight. "piperskip said the kits were missing, but you found them! she'll be so relieved!"
without waiting for loonlight to say anything further, redstar bounded down the path to the lower camp, where cyanslash was standing in the middle of the mass of warriors. the lithe tom's tail lashed and his tone carried authority. "snakespots, you and nightfall search along the northern border. you will need to be fast, but we can't waste any time. then circle back until you meet brackenrose and sparrowcall to the east -" he was saying, and redstar pushed through the crowd.
"cyanslash," redstar called, and the warrior immediately dipped his head. "where's tumblejaw?" he asked, and cyanslash shook his head.
"we don't know, redstar. i thought he would have looked for you or the kits." cyanslash said, and redstar immediately felt sympathy for cyanslash. over the past moons, he had taken over most of the duties as deputy. where tumblejaw should be the one to be organizing patrols, overseeing the training, and taking over in redstar's absence, he spent most of his time in his nest or the nursery. now, he was no where he to be seen. after a moment, redstar nodded once to cyanslash, and he heard the tom return to organizing search parties while he climbed to the nursery, praying to starclan that his newborn kits were still safe.
inside, splashfall sat with sweetecho. his mate was curled protectively around their five kits, and redstar spotted a reddish pelt huddled closer to her belly. sweetecho looked up to redstar with a sad smile, "they're all still here," she murmured, though the rest of the nursery was empty of the queens, save a sleeping mothtail, who's belly was swollen with her own kits that were due in the approaching days. the others, he assumed, were looking to be placed on patrols to find the missing kits.
"who?" redstar asked quietly, padding closer to sniff his kits.
sweetecho paused, and glanced to where the older kits were huddled protectively together. sproutkit and his sisters must have urged the other kits into piperskip's nest, and cherrykit's voice carried gentle words. "grasskit and hollowkit," she whispered, and redstar let out a long sigh. one of ivystripe's kits had gone missing. as if reading his thoughts, sweetecho shook her head slightly, "he was still too young to go on his own, even with grasskit. he was too small." which meant that there was either a predator or they had been stolen directly from the nursery.
silence reigned over the nursery, broken only when sweetecho gave the red tom a brief sniff. "he's precious," she murmured, and redstar felt tension ease from his shoulders. at least for the time being, sweetecho would take care of his eldest kit. "where did you find him?" she asked, and redstar could feel the burn of splashfall's eyes boring into his shoulders, though he didn't dare to face the warrior just yet.
"at the edge of the moor," he said, not entirely lying. "will you take care of him?" redstar asked his mate, and watched as sweetecho's gaze ran over the kit once more. then, her clear eyes turned back to her mate, and redstar smiled when she offered a curt nod.
"of course," she said, then, "does he have a name?" her gaze flickered between splashfall and redstar, though the former remained silent, a mere observer.
redstar considered the kit for a moment. redhawk said that she left the kit for him to name, feeling it was only his right. out of the surviving kits, this was, without a contest, his to raise as quickclan. a small smile touched his muzzle and he nodded once. "he'll be called cardinalkit," he decided, and sweetecho let out a purr.
"well, cardinalkit, welcome to quickclan. meet your new denmates," sweetecho murmured as redstar turned to leave, splashfall at his tail.
outside the entrance to the nursery, poppyhaze and berrypad were settled, and redstar paused between the mollies. poppyhaze flicked her ears to the nursery. "the other queens insisted that they would have their own search party. so cyanslash told us to stay here to guard sweetecho and mothtail," the black molly explained, and redstar nodded once, imagining that cyanslash must have had his paws full with piperskip. the entire clan knew piperskip for her short temper and protective nature over her kits. it was no surprise that, given grasskit's disappearance, that she would not rest until hollowkit and grasskit were back at her belly.

but, after weeks of sending out search patrols, neither kit made a reappearance, nor was there any clue of what happened to them. as far as any of them could guess, the kits turned into ghosts, leaving no trail behind. cyanslash padded down the trail from the warriors' den just before the break of dawn. at any moment, he expected the moonhigh patrol to return from the moor, and the gentle sounds of voices from above alerted him that the dawn patrol was coming together. as if on cue, patchwing appeared by the freshkill pile with berrypad at her side. whereas patchwing spoke excitedly, berrypad yawned when she moved to pick up a mouse for herself, and cyanslash settled down to groom his chest fur.
through half-lidded eyes, he watched the camp come to life. after sootstone, rookwatcher, and tallpeak returned from their patrol, patchwing and berrypad went off with snakespots for the dawn patrol. it was only a matter of time until cyanslash gathered the warriors together to divide up their duties. his blue eyes took in the face of each of his friends, and he flicked his tail. "duskflower, you can take loonlight and brightpaw hunting," he said, earning a nod from the older molly, who blinked gently at him, and cyanslash pressed on, stopping only when redstar weaved through the crowd to stand at his side. catching the leader's glance, cyanslash nodded to blizzardrush, "blizzardrush, finish splitting the patrols," he said, bounding off to catch up with redstar back to the leader's den.
inside, cyanslash found himself staring at splashfall, who blinked his own confusion in return. redstar, meanwhile, settled into his nest before speaking, "i intend to install a few changes within quickclan," redstar began, and a chill ran down cyanslash's spine, though he kept his mouth shut. "i no longer think that tumblejaw is fit to serve as deputy, and i intend to name a new deputy for our clan," he continued, and cyanslash glanced to catch splashfall's reaction. just as he hoped, the other warrior appeared just as surprised, and the fur on the back of his neck began to rise.
"who will you name?" cyanslash blurted out when he caught redstar's glance.
redstar tipped his head to one side, eyes widening slightly. "i thought my choice would be clear. there is only one cat i would have for the duties," he said, though cyanslash still found himself at a loss.
yet, it was splashfall who turned to him, ears pricked and eyes light with respect. "cyanslash, he means you."
for a moment, cyanslash blinked dumbly at his friend before turning his eyes to redstar, who leveled his own amber eyes to meet the warrior's. "redstar - i -" cyanslash stuttered, shocked to near-silence. "is it true?"
"yes, cyanslash, and i'd like you to accept the position," redstar answered with a flick of his tail. "you have taken over all of tumblejaw's duties. i hoped it would only be temporary, but..." he tailed off with a sigh, and the muscled tom lowered his head. "the clan looks to you now, cyanslash. i've already spoken to tumblejaw, and he agreed that he wasn't up to the task. please, for quickclan, accept."
cyanslash looked to splashfall, and the tabby warrior smiled broadly, as if to encourage him. in his chest, cyanslash knew that he would accept, that he was a good choice as deputy. that the clan would accept him. still, he hesitated, "i've never had an apprentice, though."
redstar tipped his head to one side before nodding curtly. "this is true. because of the special circumstances, i'd be willing to bend the code. but you have a point." cyanslash felt his heart drop to his stomach, and he wished he never said anything. that is, until redstar stood and carefully stretched his long legs. "which kit would you like to mentor, then?" he asked, continuing only when he caught cyanslash's confused glance. "sproutkit, cherrykit, and mintkit are all ready to be given mentors any day. which of them would you like to mentor?"
cyanslash's answer came quickly and without hesitation, "cherrykit." because of the time he spent in the nursery with twitepaw, he had the chance to observe the other kits. he admired cherrykit's spirit and believed that she would grow into a fine hunter and great warrior in a matter of time.
redstar nodded and flicked his tail once more. "very well. i've also considered snakespots and brackenrose as other mentors. what do you think?"
cyanslash was momentarily taken aback and had to weigh the options before shaking his head once. "i think sparrowcall should be given an apprentice before snakespots." when he caught redstar's glance, curious but not a rejection, he cleared his throat and ducked his head to elaborate. "snakespots would be a better mentor for either flintkit or dustkit. either of them could use a mentor to make them more outgoing, whereas sproutkit and mintkit need a mentor to temper their energy into their training. so, sparrowcall."
redstar's smile seemed to come all at once, approving, and cyanslash felt his pelt flush. then, just as redstar made to dismiss them both, splashfall piped up, and all of the lightness in the den dissipated, though cyanslash could not pinpoint the reason. "redstar," splashfall said. "tell me about the kit." when cyanslash looked to splashfall, confused, the tabby twitched his whiskers. "redstar brought a kit back to camp today. twitepaw and i found him, alone with the kit. and it's a newborn kit, my guess is clanborn."
from the way he stood, standing in his nest, shoulders rigid and fur beginning to fur out, it was clear to cyanslash that redstar had something to hide. yet, the leader had the dignity to dip his head when he sat down, curling his tail around his paws. "the truth is that the kit is mine," redstar admitted. "his mother is from a different clan. i love sweetecho, but i love redhawk too." his shoulders slumped at that moment, and cyanslash spared a sideways glance to splashfall. "i want to claim him as my son, but i should wait, shouldn't i? until he's older. old enough to understand?" in that moment, he was asking his warriors, but neither of them had an answer for him. instead, redstar looked to splashfall. "cardinalkit is my son, and i want to raise him as my own. but if sweetecho took him in... maybe that's enough. i can treat him as if he is my own." splashfall looked away, and cyanslash had nothing to add.
by the time the pair of warriors exited redstar's den, the sun reached its peak in the sky. when splashfall slipped away to join a patrol, cyanslash was pleased to find falconflight had returned from hunting, and was sitting beside nightfall and blizzardrush. falconflight's fur was warm, and cyanslash reveled in him for a moment, curling up into his side and pressing his nose to his shoulder.
"hey," falconflight murmured softly, under the sounds of their friends bickering. "you and splashfall were with redstar for a long time. everything okay?"
even though falconflight was his mate, cyanslash knew he couldn't tell him everything. he couldn't talk about the helpless look in redstar's eyes. instead, he nodded once and said one secret he could share, as redstar said the entire clan would be informed by dusk. "falconflight... i'm going to be deputy."
for a moment, falconflight seemed not to hear him, but, suddenly, he twisted to look at his mate properly, whiskers twitching and eyes bright. "are you serious?" he asked, voice hushed in their private conversation. when cyanslash nodded, falconflight's entire body seemed to vibrate with his purrs. "i'm so proud of you. you're going to be great - you already are great," falconflight praised. without answering, cyanslash smiled and leaned against his mate. together, they watched blizzardrush swat half-heartedly at nightfall, who dodged easily with a laugh.

berrypad trailed behind the rest of the patrol, dragging her paws from exhaustion. up ahead, she watched the new warriors, kindleflare and loonlight, chase down a hare. after the early patrol, however, she barely found the energy to keep her legs moving across the moorland after the other mollies asked if she and patchwing would want to go hunting. patchwing had ducked away to flush out a rabbit's den, and berrypad lost sight of her best friend along the way, but the wind soon carried the familiar scent on the breeze, and patchwing came bounding back a moment later with a hare in her jaws.
"c'mon, berrypad, you look like the wind has knocked you down," patchwing teased gently when she set the prey down. then, with a glance to make sure that their newest denmates were out of earshot, she leaned closer to berrypad. "what do you think of 'em?" she asked, whiskers twitching.
berrypad considered for a moment before shrugging. "loonlight is a little loud. and kindleflare seems nice, even if she is a little stuffy," she answered at last. when they first set off on the patrol, berypad feared that loonlight's voice would carry across the moor and scare all of the prey away. kindleflare, meanwhile, told the small patrol how she had been a leader of her own clan until it disbanded. looking at the way she held herself, berrypad supposed kindleflare had the appearance of a leader, but she seemed so young and lighthearted in comparison to redstar.
thankfully, patchwing seemed to agree with berrypad's thoughts on the pair, and nodded her assent. "do you believe kindleflare?" she asked, and tipped her head to one side when berrypad said that she did. "maybe." patchwing looked back, and flicked her tail when she saw the two approaching. quickly, to berrypad, she hissed, "we should have brought oakseed along. he would have a better read on them." the very thought of oakseed following along with the patrol made berrypad laugh. though the former-kittypet took well to the clan life, he'd already remarked more than once on loonlight's volume. even in her sleep, he claimed, she would give him headaches.
characteristically, loonlight shouted to the younger warriors when she got closer, kindleflare several steps behind, "nice catch you got there!" she praised, and kindleflare brought forward her own hare.
"you too," patchwing answered, and berrybad managed a smile.
kindleflare merely flicked her ear, nonchalant. "it was nothing. i think i'm a natural on the moors here."
out of the corner of her eye, berrypad watched patchwing try to suppress her own laugh. with a roll of her eyes, berrypad picked up patchwing's hare and led the way back to camp.

in the aftermath of watching cyanslash be named deputy, with tumblejaw stepping down, and her kits' apprentice ceremonies, sunnywhisker felt s if she was torn in different directions. pride, that her beloved kits were growing up, but lonely now that she would be moving into the warriors' den to join the patrols and leave behind the close friends she had in the other queens. in fact, she was saddened that she wouldn't be there to see piperskip through her pain, nor would she be with mothtail when she had her kits. happy, to see that cyanslash was made deputy and was accepted by the clan, but upset for tumblejaw. she was sure that redstar made the change for the good of the clan, but tumblejaw, as far as she knew, had been a very capable deputy until ivystripe's death.
when most of the clan had returned to their dens for the night, sunnywhisker found tumblejaw sitting alone at the top of the camp. after moons of grief, his eyes lacked their usual glint, and his paws were raw from searching the entire moor for hollowkit. for some time, the large tom took to guarding the nursery with piperskip, though the pair eventually retired the plans when it was clear that the kits were gone.
his head snapped up when sunnywhisker approached him, and his green eyes flashed in the moonlight. "sunnywhisker - are you okay?" he asked, and her heart floated in her chest. of course, he always seemed to care more about others than himself.
"yes, i'm well," she answered simply. "i wanted to ask you how you are. i hope - did you know?" she asked, "i mean, about cyanslash?"
tumblejaw looked to the sky, where the stars cast light onto the moor. she imagined that he looked to the stars often, hoping to see ivystripe. "redstar came to me, asking if i ever intended to take my duties back," he started, and sunnywhisker realized how tired he sounded. "i said that i wasn't ready, and i agreed that it would be better if i was replaced. i think cyanslash will be a good deputy. if he isn't, then there are others." with a shrug, he glanced to the smaller queen. "i think he knows that they're mine. and i would claim them, but only marshkit and darterkit are left. there's no telling what happened to hollowkit..." he trailed off then, and sunnywhisker pressed herself against his flank, as if to offer comfort.
"he's your son. wherever he is - i'm sure he would make you proud," she said, basking in the warmth of her fur when he relaxed against her. "and i think, for your other kits, you should claim them. it would be for their good. marshkit is already a troublemaker, and darterkit has the makings of a clever warrior yet. don't give up on them."
tumblejaw listened to the encouragement in silence, such that sunnywhisker wondered if he was paying any attention. however, when he relaxed further and he nodded, she smiled, knowing that the best had yet to come.
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[ ✦ quickclan 14 ]

Postby eagle, » Sat Nov 03, 2018 4:06 pm

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[ ✦ quickclan 15 ]

Postby eagle, » Sat Nov 03, 2018 4:07 pm

sootstone had been acting strange lately, redstar noticed. through the moons, the gray warrior had been a steady presence, just as he had been named for. while other warriors in quickclan lived up to the high energy their clan was named for - not exclusive to cyanslash, nightfall, falconflight, and loonlight - sootstone kept his head high at all times and watched from a distance. whereas cyanslash might run directly into a rabbit den to try and flush it out, sootstone was the type of warrior to consider his options and find the best way out of his situation. but, lately, it seemed that the blue-eyed warrior had something else on his mind. as the senior warrior redstar was most friendly with - considering sparrowcall spent most of his time with poppyhaze in the nursery, and rookwatcher kept to himself more often than not - he noticed when sootstone stared off into the distance during patrols. his actions were completely out of the ordinary, and redstar felt the need to get to the bottom of it.
after noticing it for several weeks, redstar decided to get sootstone alone, where they would have the better chance to talk. in the middle of a patrol along the far borders, redstar shot sootstone a sideways glance. "hey, mind if we stop for a minute? i'm exhausted," he said, huffing out a laugh. sootstone nodded, though his gaze appeared distant, and redstar knew his time had come. after the pair settled down behind a rock, out of the wind, he licked his chest casually. "you seem a little distracted, is everything alright?" he asked.
just as he suspected, sootstone's brow furrowed, as if he hadn't noticed redstar speaking to begin with. "i'm sorry, redstar, can you repeat that?"
with another huff, redstar flicked his eyes back in the direction sootstone had been directed. "i said that you seemed distracted. is there something going on? you've been acting like rookwatcher."
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[ ✦ quickclan 16 ]

Postby eagle, » Sat Nov 03, 2018 4:08 pm

after flintpaw and peckerpaw were given their names, mentors, and places in the apprentice's den, aspenwish had, admittedly, been looking forward to going out to hunt and patrol alongside her clanmates. when she came into the clan as a pregnant queen, she had watched for moons as cats came to and from the moor. cyanslash and falconflight would barrel into the nursery some evenings, pelts fluffed out and whiskers trembling with excitement. of course aspenwish loved her kits and wished that they would be kits forever, but reality didn't allow for that. they would grow up into fine warriors, she knew, with wonderful mentors to guide them.
besides, as their kits grew up, the queens she spent many moons with in the nursery returned to their duties as well to provide for the clan. sunnywhisker had gone first, though she seemed the most reluctant. as many of them had suspected, sunnywhisker's smaller size made it hard for her to keep up with the lithe and practiced warriors. her shorter legs simply couldn't grant her the same speed as snakespots or cyanslash. all the same, she couldn't be faulted for trying her best. cyanslash even reported that she became useful for flushing out rabbit dens.
then it was piperskip and aspenwish's turn. that left only sweetecho, mothtail, and poppyhaze in the nursery. poppyhaze's belly grew more round each time aspenwish saw her, and sweetecho had her paws full with her kits. mothtail took charge of ivystripe's remaining kits, along with the kit sootstone brought in, and her own boulderkit.
the breeze ruffled aspenwish's fur when she led her small patrol from the camp, and she basked in the chilled air of leafbare. freedom from the nursery filled her chest, cut off only when minnowjump chimed his first complaint, "it's too cold already, my paws are going to freeze off."
sure enough, mulestomp snorted his assent and trotted past aspenwish. the tabby flicked his tail impatiently, turning back only when aspenwish continued with her steady pace. "hey, aspenwish," the new warrior called out, minnowjump charging after him. "maybe we should split up? cover more ground or somethin', you know?"
aspenwish sighed, resenting the way her breath clouded the air. when cyanslash put her on patrol with the pair of new warriors, she feared that they would wind up in some lick of trouble. the gut feeling became a pit in her stomach, but she nodded once. "i'll head over to that dip, we can meet up when we've caught something?" she suggested, but it was too late. already the pair took off, minnowjump taking the lead and mulestomp chasing after them.
aspenwish had just managed to lose a rabbit when a yowl split the air. running on instinct, aspenwish ran in the direction of the sound, having recognized mulestomp's voice. there, she found the young toms bristled and facing a pair of haggard-looking warriors. the first was a sand-colored tom, whose ribs showed through his pelt.
"i was sent by starclan to find your leader," the tom hissed, taking a step forward. minnowjump growled viciously, his tail lashing.
"sounds like something a traitor would say," mulestomp cut in.
the other stranger was a skinny molly with tabby markings and golden eyes. "why would he lie?" she asked, and her eyes flickered to aspenwish. "we hoped your clan would know how to rein in apprentices," she said, nodding to mulestomp and minnowjump, who balked at her statement.
aspenwish approached the cats, flicking her ears at the quickclan toms. "why do you think they're lying? if they evoke starclan, surely we are not to deny them a hearing," she said. she imagined her own sons acting out in such a way, and was grateful for their mentors. surely she could trust snakespots and nightfall to make flintpaw and peckerpaw respectable. without waiting for the young warriors to speak again, aspenwish turned to the strangers. the molly flicked her tail as if finally interested in speaking without bristling fur, though the tom remained in a defensive stance. "what are your names?" aspenwish asked.
"hawkrise," the molly answered, tipping her head up. when the tom remained still, her whiskers twitched when she spoke again, "his name is dune. starclan called him to your quickclan. your leader requested a warrior, and here he stands." she spoke in clipped sentences, and her eyes kept flicking back to minnowjump and mulestomp. "admittedly, we thought we would be more welcome here."
"and you are," aspenwish corrected. she controlled herself from sending a look to the younger warriors; she was not their mother and it was not her responsibility to chastise them. "please, allow me. i will take you to redstar."
finally, dune spoke, and his withering gaze was sent towards mulestomp, "that would be nice."

redstar was absent when aspenwish led the way down the sloped path into the camp. snakespots and peckerpaw lounged in the middle of the clearing, grooming their fur after a long training session, when the patrol approached them. the tom's eyes scanned the pair of foreign cats, and peckerpaw rose to his paws to greet his mother, only to pause when snakespots took a protective stance in front of his apprentice.
before anyone had the chance to speak up, dune stepped forward. with a curt dip of his head, his green eyes scanned snakespots' body. "you are not redstar," he decided, though his teeth flashed when he smiled, "your fur is not red."
"this is snakespots," aspenwish cut in, earning a slow nod from the older warrior. then, she addressed his directly, "is redstar here?"
peckerkit peeked out from behind his mentor's legs to speak. "redstar left on a patrol."
dune took a step closer, hawkrise and the rest of the cats watching when he crouched down so that he was on eye-level with the small apprentice. "what's your name?" he asked, offering another smile, this time softer.
after a pause, peckerpaw glanced from dune to his mother and mentor. snakespots looked to aspenwish, who nodded encouragingly to her son. "go ahead, it's alright," she said.
i'm peckerpaw," he said. the slight breeze in the air ruffled the kitten-soft fur that remained around his ears and neck.
dune nodded once, "pleased to meet you, peckerpaw. my name is dune." with that, he straightened up again and looked to aspenwish. "he's your son?" he asked, nodding again when she agreed.
"aspenwish!" a call came from the higher portion of the camp when cyanslash emerged from the nursery, alpinemask and falconflight in tow. with what seemed to be only a few quick bounds down the path, cyanslash met the patrol, his eyes flicking between hawkrise and dune. "it seems you found someone," he observed as falconflight came to a halt behind his right shoulder, alpinemask picking his way carefully down the slope. "i'm cyanslash, redstar's deputy. redstar just left, but i doubt his patrol will have gone far. i can send a cat to fetch him for you?" he offered, and snakespots straightened up.
still, dune shook his head. "i don't believe that is necessary. hawkrise and i," he said, indicating the young molly, "have traveled a long way. we can rest and wait for him. there is no urgency."
"of course," cyanslash said, then looked to peckerpaw. "peckerpaw here can get your freshkill to eat while you wait. the moor has a habit of making travelers hungry." it only took a flick of cyanslash's ear for peckerpaw to dash across the camp.
in the meantime, hawkrise stepped forward and dipped her head. "thank you."

in the following days, quickclan welcomed the pair of strangers into their ranks and dune took on the name of duneserpent. altogether, the clan had returned to its easy rhythm while the queens lounged in the nursery to look after their kits or anticipate the new arrivals. when oakseed poked his head into the nursery one windy day, sweetecho smiled broadly at her friend and waved him in. several of her kits tussled deeper in the cave while cardinalkit and rainykit slept at her belly.
"you haven't been here enough," she chastised when oakseed took a seat at her side. the larger tom bet his head to give the kits an appraising sniff, and his subsequent laugh stirred rainykit's soft fur.
"i know, i'm sorry," oakseed murmured when he straightened up and touched his nose to sweetecho's. "but who would have guessed that redstar would give me an apprentice?" he laughed again, and cardinalkit swiped a paw in his dreams.
sweetecho hushed the small tom, unable to hide her tender smile. though he wasn't her own, she came to love him as if he was. "you deserve it. after everything you've done. and you're a good warrior."
"not too bad for a kittypet, huh?" oakseed answered. already, it felt as if those days were long behind him, even if it had only been a matter of moons. he clearly remembered when he first saw his own humans' neighbors carry a pretty tabby into their home. within a matter of minutes, he watched her fly to the window and try to claw her way out. within a matter of moons, a large red tom brought a bunch of muscled and scarred cats to save the pretty molly. during that time, oakseed managed to talk to sweetecho through the mesh screen of the window and kept her company during her captivity whenever his twolegs let him into the garden. when redstar came to rescue sweetecho, oakseed made the choice to follow his new friend into the wilderness, and he had no regrets.
"you're hardly a kittypet anymore," sweetecho said, her gentle voice breaking through his thoughts.
for a moment, oakseed regarded the kits at her belly and then shrugged. "maybe, maybe not. though it's weird to think that these kits have wild blood in them. true warriors." silence stretched between them when they both looked down at the tiny kits. across the nursery, mothtail snored softly and poppyhaze groomed her fur. the black queen's belly was swollen, her kits due any day. "he looks a lot like redstar," oakseed murmured thoughtfully after a moment.
"i thought so too," sweetecho hummed. in his sleep, cardinalkit's head tipped back and his small flank rose and fell.
oakseed raised his eyes back to his friend, curiosity spiking. "where did he say that he found him?" he asked, whiskers twitching.
sweetecho didn't tear her eyes away from the young kit. "he said he found him on the border," she murmured. when cardinalkit shifted, as if suddenly aware of the attention even in his sleep, sweetecho tutted and dipped her head to lick his ears. "do you think it's strange that he found him?" sweetecho asked suddenly, bringing her eyes up from the kit to oakseed. in the moment, oakseed sat back on his haunches and his gaze snapped to poppyhaze, who had shifted so that she rested on her belly, her eyes shut as if asleep.
"i mean - not necessarily," oakseed answered after little deliberation. "it's not like we don't find kits here sometimes. ivystripe found twitepaw, sootstone found daffodilkit," he said. then, "do you think it's strange?"
"i don't know," sweetecho answered without hesitation. "i know you're right, he's not the first lost kit, and he won't be the last but... i can't shake this feeling in my gut." suddenly, she shook her head. further in the cave, fleeingkit's voice echoed and she purred to herself. "i think i'm just tired. this lost has been keeping me up," she said, and oakseed nodded slowly.
"right," he said, "of course. i'll see if any of the other warriors might be able to take them to play in the camp, if you'd like." even as he said this, sweetecho's eyes met his own. though they said otherwise, it seemed clear that they had other thoughts abut where cardinalkit came from.

"tumblejaw! tumblejaw!" from across the camp, the cries of the oldest kits in the nursery carried through the air to where the former deputy sat and stared into the dirt beneath his claws. ever since hollowkit disappeared, most of the clan came to accept tumblejaw as a recluse. on occasion, redstar could convince tumblejaw to join a patrol, though the tom spent majority of his time in his nest. this, however, didn't stop marshkit and darterkit from dashing across the clearing and skidding to a halt a breath away from the warrior. "sweetecho says we can play with the apprentices and the younger kits when they get back from training!" marshkit gushed happily.
tumblejaw couldn't fight the smile that grew on his face. despite everything he had lost, his daughter's energy made him feel warmth and life, as if the past moons hadn't taken everything from him. after leaving the nursery, piperskip gave sweetecho leave to watch the pair of kits. it seemed that marshkit and darterkit grew out of the nest and had taken to playing different games with any warrior they found lounging in the middle of the day.
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[ ✦ quickclan 17 ]

Postby eagle, » Mon Jan 07, 2019 6:18 pm

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