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[ ✦ quickclan intermission 24.5 ]

Postby eagle, » Thu May 30, 2019 4:40 pm

paragraphredstar bringing heronkit and scorpionkit to camp

more relationship development
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[ ✦ quickclan 25 pt1 ]

Postby eagle, » Thu May 30, 2019 4:41 pm

paragraphthe snow fell around the clan cats as they gathered along the ridge that overlooked their camp. a snowflake landed on hollowfang's nose, and the newly-named warrior wiped it away with his paw. at the front of the group of cats, redstar spoke. the leader's large paws were caked with mud from digging, as were tallpeak's, cyanslash's, and darkflower's. "tumblejaw was one of quickclan's first warriors, here when we were in need of a deputy to help keep this clan safe and organized," redstar was saying, and hollowfang's gaze traveled around to the various cats. marshpaw and darterpaw sat to one side, their heads bowed together, though hollowfang couldn't tell if it was from reverence or if they were actually sad from the tom's passing.
paragraphhollowfang hadn't been there when tumblejaw died, though he had heard mintstem tell her siblings about it; how the former-deputy choked on his prey and no one had been able to save him. not even the medicine cats, who had tried to dislodge it, to try and force herbs down his throat to make him vomit. but nothing had worked, and the witnesses were horrified to say that they watched the large tom die where he stood. while other cats were dying from the barn cats' attacks, no one had been expecting a strong and healthy warrior like tumblejaw to die the way he did. whereas, days earlier, the clan had been in decently high spirits following hollowfang's ceremony and riding with the knowledge that there would soon be a number of new apprentices to occupy the apprentices' den, they all now gathered to listen as redstar bid farewell to one of his oldest friends, one of the cats that had been with the clan the longest. "for many moons, tumblejaw worked with me to build quickclan. when he joined us, there were only few of us here. we could barely be called a clan," redstar continued, and his gaze flicked towards blizzardrush, falconflight, tallpeak, and cyanslash, who were also among the first members. "since then, many seasons have passed and quickclan has grown to where we are today. tumblejaw has been here the entire time, aiding us with his strength every step of the way. there is no cat that i would have rather had as my first deputy." of course, hollowfang didn't miss the underlying tension that each cat knew so well: that tumblejaw had been forced to step down when he lost faith. hollowfang had never known the tumblejaw redstar spoke of - he never knew the tom of strength and loyalty. instead, he knew the warrior who lagged behind on patrols and was an outcast in the clan. the tumblejaw redstar spoke of was a stranger.
paragraph"he was the best mentor i ever could have had," berrypad spoke up when redstar allowed for an extended pause. snow continued to swirl, spiraling as the wind picked up. at hollowfang's side, mashpaw leaned into darterpaw while rowanfoot blocked rosepaw from the spray of wet snowflakes. "he taught me everything i knew and was so bright and energetic as a mentor," berrypad was saying, though hollowfang continued to search the crowd. redstar was surrounded by the early warriors and members of quickclan, each who had their heads bowed. however, it was sweetecho who looked up when hollowfang's gaze passed over her, and the silver molly held his eyes. berrypad continued to speak, until her voice faded away and cyanslash began to give his own farewell to tumblejaw, but hollowfang could focus only on sweetecho through the haze of flakes. hollowfang tipped his head to one side, as if to question her, though sweetecho's expression remained steeled until, at last, redstar's voice rose through the snowfall to dismiss the group. those who were close to tumblejaw would stay behind to pay their respects one last time, as they had been up all night for his vigil, and hollowfang found himself walking with his littermates back into the lower level of the camp.
paragraphjust before hollowfang split from marshpaw and darterpaw to their respective dens, sweetecho's lithe form blocked the stocky young warrior's path. "come with me for a moment," she said, beckoning them along, and the trio glanced among themselves, unable to argue. it was not an invitation, nor a suggestion, but an order. and so, they followed sweetecho through the camp, past the groups of warriors and apprentices looking to keep warm. falconflight and cyanslash spoke to their kits, fur pressed together and cricketpaw jumping from paw to paw. rowanfoot and rosepaw wrestled not too far away, the longer-legged warrior helping his closest friend as he prepared to retake his warrior assessment again. autumnpaw darted from the medicine cat den to the fresh-kill pile and then back again, surprisingly quick and sure-footed despite her blindness. sweetecho led the littermates through it all until they came to piperskip, of all cats.
paragraphthe dark molly's eyes flickered from sweetecho, to hollowfang and his littermates, and then back again. when she spoke, she addressed sweetecho. "are you sure this is the right time for it?" she asked.
paragraphat that, sweetecho lashed her tail. "when else? tumblejaw is dead," she said, the word dead coming out sourly. marshpaw shivered beside hollowfang, and the young warrior leaned towards his sister in an attempt to shield her from the wind.
paragraph"right," piperskip muttered, "as if we could have forgotten." again, the winds whipped, though neither of the older warriors seemed to mind the weather. instead, piperskip's eyes narrowed thoughtfully at the littermates until she finally spoke up again, "many seasons ago, sweetecho came to me in the middle of the night and asked or help. our medicine cat at the time, ivystripe, was having her kits."
paragraph"us," darterpaw spoke up, his voice nearly drowned out by the wind. "we're ivystripe's kits."
paragraphat that, piperskip nodded to darterpaw, her eyes once more searching their faces. "yes, you. ivystripe needed our help. as you know, medicine cats aren't supposed to take mates, and she didn't want redstar to know what was happening. but things went wrong, and she died. no one knew who her mate was."
paragraphtension prickled along hollowfang's spine, though he remained silent. "the entire clan was heartbroken when ivystripe died. we -" sweetecho picked up speaking, gesturing towards piperskip, "had done everything we could. but there just wasn't any hope. she was gone. and some cats were more upset than others." it was in that moment that hollowfang knew what they were working towards, what was about to be said. his muscles stiffened, his jaw set, and he felt the urge to get away and run. but then he looked to marshpaw and darterpaw, their eyes round as they listened. either they refused to acknowledge what was so plain, or had been in the clan too long to hold a wider perspective. he stayed for their sake, as their brother, though he knew that he would never feel kinship with them. "before she died, ivystripe told us the truth of who her mate was."
paragraph"tumblejaw," hollowfang broke in, not giving piperskip or sweetecho the chance. sweetecho met hollowfang's eyes with her own icy blue ones, and piperskip had the dignity to look down at her paws. for a moment, it seemed that his littermates hadn't heard, but darterpaw stood suddenly, snow flicking when he lashed his tail. marshpaw recoiled into herself. even still, hollowfang spoke again, "tumblejaw is our father. and he was never going to tell us."
paragraph"we tried to convince him for moons. but he always said it wasn't the right time. first hollowfang was taken, then you were busy training," sweetecho said with a slight shake of her head. "but i couldn't let this secret die with him. not telling the truth was what was holding him back for so long." silence fell, broken only by the crunch of snow under marshpaw's paws when she turned and raced back to camp, darterpaw quick to follow after her. piperskip didn't hesitate to follow them, calling out their names, though hollowfang kept his eyes locked on sweetecho.
paragraph"why tell us?" he asked after a moment, when he and sweetecho were alone. at the question, her shoulders drooped and he realized, with a start, that sweetecho was not a young warrior anymore. though not as old as sparrowcall or poppyhaze, she wasn't young like canaryleap or cherrydawn.
paragraph"because i would never want my kits to not know who their parents are," she said, bitterness lining her words, and hollowfang merely flicked his ear, not understanding the added bite and not wanting to know either. instead, he gave the slightest dip of his head and turned to return to the camp, pausing only when sweetecho spoke one last time. "we named marshpaw and darterpaw," sweetecho said, "ivystripe never had the chance to name you, so we queens named them. one of the other queens told tumblejaw that he could name you. so he gave you your name, hollowfang."
paragraph"and what a good father he was," hollowfang muttered darkly without looking back, just loud enough for sweetecho to hear him. "he doesn't reveal his identity and names his son hollowkit. maybe i would have been better not knowing him at all," hollowfang said, padded away before sweetecho could say anything else.

paragraph"cardinalpaw!" the cry rose from the nursery when cardinalpaw entered, and the kits seemed to turn as one. ploverkit led the way, bounding towards the red apprentice, pinekit close behind and crakekit following after. each day, cardinalpaw found himself struck by how large his half-siblings were growing. ploverkit was nearly as tall as cardinalpaw himself, with pinekit and crakekit not far behind. however, a cursory glance around the nursery showed that ploverkit was small in comparison to the older kits. clearly, kestrelkit and frogkit inherited their father's long legs, and he supposed that it would only be a matter of time before they towered over cardinalpaw. meanwhile oakseed's kits wrestled in the back of the nursery, and he could already see their muscles showing under their fur. out of the older kits, valleykit was the smallest, and she shot cardinalpaw a sweet smile when he glanced to her.
paragraph"i can't stay long," cardinalpaw said, giving ploverkit a lick between her ears when she pouted. "screechwing is talking to cyanslash about letting a few of us take our assessments," he explained.
paragraph"you're going to be a warrior soon!" pinekit said, brightening even further. "i want you to be my mentor," she said. before cardinalpaw could shake his head, ploverkit turned on her half-sister and cuffed her ear gently.
paragraph"no way," ploverkit argued, jumping back when pinekit aimed a swipe towards her chest. "cardinalpaw is going to be my mentor." cardinalpaw opened his mouth, but crakekit spoke first from where he was sitting behind the pair of wrestling kits, his eyes focused and tail wrapped neatly around his paws.
paragraph"he won't be anyone's mentor for a while," crakekit said, and green eyes met cardinalpaw's. "he's not old enough to have an apprentice. and who even knows if he'll even pass his assessment." at that, cardinalpaw tipped his head to one side, unsure of what to say. thankfully, ploverkit turned from pinekit to crakekit.
paragraph"of course he'll pass," she said dismissively. "cardinalpaw is going to be the greatest warrior in quickclan. he has to pass, he's redstar's son, duh."
paragraph"i hope i'll pass," cardinalpaw interrupted before any of the kits could speak again, "but assessments are hard and i could get unlucky. peckerpaw and rosepaw have been struggling the past few moons," he said, feeling a tingle of anxiety in his chest. he wanted nothing more than to be a warrior, especially with the looming threat of the barn cats. once more, he was reminded of seeing heatpaw lying in the field, of what those cats did to his brother and how he wouldn't let another of his siblings be hurt. if he was a warrior, he would be able to protect them.
paragraph"but they're them, and you're cardinalpaw," pinekit piped up, her whiskers twitching. "you'll be great." not for the first time, cardinalpaw was struck with affection for the kits, even crakekit. indeed, crakekit was more stand-offish than their siblings, but cardinalpaw knew that he meant no harm, instead he was merely stating fact. cardinalpaw smiled at pinekit, though his gaze traveled to where honeyflower was watching over scorpionkit and heronkit. the two kits were small and didn't have the appearance of many of redstar's kits. but even still, cardinalpaw heard the queens talk about how redstar brought them in and said he found them at the border. the queens had wondered how redstar always found these orphaned kits, so young and alone, but they were thankful that he had. cardinalpaw knew better.
paragraphas if on cue, fleetingpaw poked his head into the nursery, grin lighting his face and cardinalpaw stood, readying himself. "it's time," fleetingpaw said and cardinalpaw followed him with his half-siblings' cheers to send him off.

paragraphleafbare, it seemed, would never leave the moor this season, and chanterellestep shook snow from his paws while the hunting patrol picked their way through the barren fields. at the front of the patrol, blizzardrush was hard to make out among the snow, and chanterellestep thought of himself as lucky for his longer fur helping him keep warm, unlike several of the others. the sound of crunching snow signaled rowanfoot coming up to walk with chanterellestep, and the latter shot his friend a glance at the sight of his shivering. "if you keep stomping around like that," chanterellestep said after a moment of walking together in companionable silence, "you'll scare away all of the prey that isn't hiding from the snow."
paragraphrowanfoot's expression twisted from annoyance and he flicked his tail tip. "i'm not stomping," he argued with a playful hiss, "besides, maybe it would be a good idea. i could wake up some of the sleeping prey."
paragraph"is that some of the advice you've been telling rosepaw to do during his assessment?" chanterellestep asked, letting out a laugh when rowanfoot came to a sudden stop, as if suddenly frozen. sootstone turned his head and shot chanterellestep a confused glance, though the younger warrior ducked his head. sootstone studied them for another moment before shrugging and turned back to talk to sparrowcall. "i just noticed you two spending a lot of time together," chanterellestep said quietly when rowanfoot caught up, having the decency to look sheepish. "i mean, more time than usual."
paragraph"he's my best friend," rowanfoot said, rolling his eyes when chanterellestep let out a low hum. "he's been struggling, so i said that i would help him. sweetecho has been helping him, but we all know that she's been distracted, since the attack. i'm not mentoring him, just practicing with him for his assessment."
paragraph"and that's all it is?" chanterellestep pushed further, continuing to tease rowanfoot, who lowered his head and bumped his shoulder against chanterellestep's.
paragraph"you of all cats know that there's always more to it," rowanfoot murmured, "i know that he's only across the camp, but it still feels too far away. we've never been apart like this before, not for this long."
paragraphchanterellestep let out another laugh, though this time he didn't bother to look up and see if sootstone noticed. "remember when we left graveclan?" rowanfoot nodded and chanterellestep shook snow from his forepaw, "it was total chaos. but you and rosepaw... nothing could have separated you two." at the sight of rowanfoot's fond smile, chanterellestep tipped his head back to gaze at the gray sky. "i could see that you would have done anything for one another, would have fought to stay together. you adore each other, just because he hasn't passed his assessment yet doesn't mean that you two aren't still closer than ever."
paragraph"he jealous," rowanfoot said with a shrug, "especially now that hollowfang's a warrior. he feels left behind. i just hate to see him be gloomy and upset. all he wants is to pass, and i just want to help him."
paragraph"he'll pass," chanterellestep assured, earning a small smile from rowanfoot, who dipped his head in turn. at the same moment, a shout went up from the head of the patrol. the topic dropped and chanterellestep led rowanfoot to where blizzardrush, sootstone, sparrowcall, and brightcreek were circling a pair of mollies. one of the strangers, a brown and white tabby, angled her ears at their approach.
paragraph"our clan disbanded. i'm looking for my brother. he might've passed through here," she was saying.
paragraph"we get a lot of passerbys," blizzardrush answered, glancing among the other warriors, "if you'd like to come back to our camp, you can rest and we can try and help you for -"
paragraphthe second molly cut him off, shouldering past her companion. sparrowcall bristled at the sudden movement, but chanterellestep bounded forward, suddenly aware that he knew the dark molly. "hickorypatch?" he said, calling out to his former mentor. there was no mistaking her dark tabby pelt and pale eyes. in turn, she purred when they touched noses, and her gaze turned to rowanfoot.
paragraph"i never thought i would see you lot again," hickorypatch purred. "chanterellestep and rowanpaw... we've all done a lot of traveling, haven't we?"
paragraphboth of the young warriors nodded, and chanterellestep looked to blizzardrush, who had stepped back during the small reunion. "hickorypatch was my mentor in graveclan," he explained, and rowanfoot nudged the older molly with his nose. "my name is rowanfoot now, i'm a warrior. and hollowpaw and grasspaw are warriors now too," rownfoot rambled, though hickorypatch took it in stride, nodding along excitedly. "and rosepaw is with us to. you must come back and see everyone."
paragraphhickorypatch laughed and looked back to the other molly, who shrugged. "it's better than walking around in all of this snow. my whiskers are about to freeze off." with that, blizzardrush led the patrol back across the moor towards their camp, two new warriors in tow.

paragraphkindleflare had returned to her duties as a warrior, though it was with a heavy heart. after patrol, she returned to the warriors' den and tucked her nose under her tail, her body curled tightly. outside, she could hear the mingle of voices, though she felt no joy, no desire to join them. her kits had all died and there was nothing she could do to save them - they were gone. all of them just - gone. made even worse when hawkrise announced that she would be moving into the nursery after alpinemask gave her the good news. several of the queens - zinniabelly in particular - said that it might be better for kindleflare if she stayed, to rest her body and give herself time to grieve. at the time, kindleflare brushed them away, hoping that she would feel better hunting and patrolling. but, in actuality, she felt indescribably hollow.
paragraphthe more she looked around, the more it seemed that everyone was happier than her. chanterellestep had been reunited with his mentor, eagleheart's sister had been brought back by a patrol. everywhere - happy, smiling faces while kindleflare mourned in the privacy of her own nest. that is, until pawsteps came from the entrance of the massive cave where they made their den, and kindleflare glanced up to see eagleheart's lithe shadow, cast from the sunlight coming in from outside. when he noticed kindleflare, he hesitated and offered a smile. "sorry if i woke you up," he said, and kindleflare shook her head, silent. she wished that he would go away and leave her alone, but she also wished that he would come closer and speak to her. that he would be her friend when she needed one so desperately. she heard the scuff of his paws against the floor, then his voice was suddenly closer, "are you feeling well?" he asked, "i can get alpinemask if you'd like."
paragraph"i'm alright," kindleflare managed to mumble, though the words scratched harshly against her throat and she winced. she blinked her eyes open to see eagleheart looking down at her, his head tipped to one side and eyes wide.
paragraph"i was just looking to see if anyone wanted to go hunting with me," he said after a moment, his tail twitching, "i'd like if you came with me, perhaps." in the moment, kindleflare felt the ache of every muscle, felt how cold she was inside, lost and without direction. there was nothing she wanted to do but stay inside and away from the others. but there was something about the way eagleheart asked, surprisingly sincere and gentle, that made her pick her head up. "we don't have to talk if you don't want to, but it'd be nice to know that you were out there than in here alone." at that, kindleflare considered the dark chill of the den around her and how cold it would be outside. still she nodded once and rose to her paws. without a word, she padded towards the entrance of the den, only to pause and glance over her shoulder to see eagleheart watching after her. she blinked at him, confused, then he hurried to catch up.

paragraphwhen peckerpaw padded unevenly through the entrance of the medicine cats' den, he saw flintpaw sitting up in his nest, sharing a rabbit with autumnpaw. he opened his mouth to call out his arrival, but flintpaw twisted to face him, his ears pricked, "hey peckerpaw," flintpaw greeted with a flick of his tail. at the sound of his name, peckerpaw paused and looked to autumnpaw who gave nothing away.
paragraph"did you know i was coming?" peckerpaw asked when he moved forwards towards the pair. since he'd been brought to the medicine cats, it was clear that flintpaw had lost weight and his once-sleek black fur had begun to mat together. now, however, his older brother looked clean and healthy, save for the angry red scars that were forming over his eyes. when the medicine cats concluded that flintpaw would lose his eyesight entirely, peckerpaw hadn't been able to believe it. flintpaw had always been the strong one, that fast one. aspenwish had been beside herself with grief - first peckerpaw's leg, then flintpaw's eyes.
paragraph"no," flintpaw said simply with a shrug of his shoulders. unlike autumnpaw's eyes, which were clouded, the fur on flintpaw's face was only just beginning to grow back from where it had been torn away. "autumnpaw's been helping me tell different cats apart," he said after a moment, likely recognizing the beat of silence. "it's hard to not see you, but i could smell you. and your steps are very distinct."
paragraph"that's great," peckerpaw said, swallowing around the lump in his throat. a shout from further in the den called autumnpaw away, and the blind molly was quick to rise to her paws and follow the sound of alpinemask's voice. when they were alone, peckerpaw padded closer to flintpaw. "is there anything you need or anything i can help you with?" he asked, unable to read his brother's expression confidently.
paragraphflintpaw sniffed the air then drew his paw over his ears. "i'm fine," he said, "just tired of waiting around here for moons when i should be outside, hunting and fighting. what i wouldn't give to claw those rogues."
paragraph"rumor has it redstar is coming up with a plan," peckerpaw replied, though his thoughts drifted elsewhere. flintpaw - going outside? "have they mentioned letting you out of the den?"
paragraph"i've been out in the camp with autumnpaw. she's teaching me how to navigate right with sound and touch. i'm trying to memorize the camp, then i can start going towards the upper ridge and the moor and get back into training." when flintpaw spoke, peckerpaw looked down at his paws and shifted his weight on three legs, unable to look his own brother in the face.
paragraph"so," he drawled, "you're still going to be trying to be a warrior and everything?" peckerpaw asked at last, his brow furrowing.
paragraph"'course," flintpaw said without hesitation, "i'm not spending my life stuck in here. i know how to hunt and fight, it'll just take some reworking so i can use my other senses better. once gorseberry and alpinemask give me the all-clear, i'm going to redstar and cyanslash about it." the question remained on peckerpaw's tongue: was that a good idea? was that even possible? could a cat hunt without being able to see where he placed his paws? peckerpaw broke his legs in a rabbit burrow while being able to see, what would happen to flintpaw? as if sensing the anxiety pooling in peckerpaw's stomach, flintpaw flicked his ears, "you're still fighting and hunting with your leg. why shouldn't i try? it's no different. your injury, my injury."
paragraph"of course," peckerpaw said, rolling his shoulders. "if there's anyone who could do it, it's you." his tone came out flat, though peckerpaw believed what he said - there was no one better suited for the challenge than flintpaw, though he also wasn't convinced. "it'll just take a lot of work. i've been training with snakespots and a lot of the other warriors to strengthen my other legs, learning how to balance ad protect my side so they can't kick my legs out from under me. it's a lot of work."
paragraph"and i'm willing to work," flintpaw said, tipping his chin up defiantly. "i'll show you all. i'll be one of the best, just wait."
paragraphpeckerpaw nodded slowly, swallowing around the lump in his throat. "i know you will be."

paragraphwhen cyanslash heard the news, he rushed immediately to redstar's den, just in time to catch gorseberry as the medicine cat padded out of the high cave. their eyes met and gorseberry shook his head slightly, "no luck so far. i'm giving him some time to come back to himself, but if he doesn't eat soon... he's going to lose more lives," gorseberry said, his tone low. for a moment, cyanslash took him in - the way gorseberry's eyes were red-rimmed from lack of sleep and the hunch to his shoulders.
paragraph"get some rest," cyanslash said at last, touching his nose to gorseberry's ear, though the medicine cat simply shrugged and padded off, his tail low and paws dragging. cyanslash watched him go down the camp's path, but turned when he was gone and entered redstar's den. inside, the scent of rotting prey and death hung suspended in the air and cyanslash sucked in a breath at the sight of the great leader. the season had taken a toll on all of them, but no one more so than redstar, who didn't even look up when cyanslash approached and sat at his leader's side. "redstar," cyanslash said at last, when he concluded that redstar would not be talking to him first, "i know you're not feeling well, but we need to discuss many things. patrols, assessments," he continued to list, and sighed heavily when redstar continued to stare at the corner of his den. ever since tumblejaw's death, redstar spoke to few and was refusing food. when not even splashfall could pry a word from redstar, alarm began to fill the senior warriors and medicine cats. "gorseberry said you lost another life."
paragraphfinally, redstar turned his head and glanced up at cyanslash before returning his stare to the wall. "yes," he said, "i did."
paragraph"you need to eat, quickclan needs you," cyanslash urged, noting the squirrel placed just beside redstar's nest, likely left by gorseberry or one of the apprentices. when redstar didn't answer, cyanslash scuffed his paw against the stone floor. "please, talk to me. i want to help you, boss, as your friend."
paragraphthe old nickname from when they first met, all those seasons ago, seemed to jolt redstar, as his muscles bunched and he finally opened his mouth. "i lost my son, my mate, one of my best friends. and from what? a few tough rogues and a tough piece of hare? sweetecho hates me, cardinalpaw won't even look at me, and heatpaw and tumblejaw are dead. i can't act strong when i feel so defeated."
paragraph"you'd be the first to admit that you've... done bad things in the past," cyanslash said carefully, "you've said it yourself. but you can't get cardinalpaw and sweetecho back if you let yourself die in here. and tumblejaw and heatpaw would want to see you out there, fighting for the clan they loved too. let's beat those rogues so that we don't lose anymore clanmates." cyanslash thought of flintpaw, still in the medicine cats' den, and of heatpaw, who died. he thought of the patrol thrown into chaos by the cats who claimed the clan's territory.
paragraph"what would you do if you lost falconflight?" redstar asked, meeting cyanslash's eyes. "what would you do if a patrol came back to camp with the body of one of your kits?" cyanslash set his jaw but refused to flinch, instead narrowing his eyes.
paragraph"i'd fight starclan themselves to get them back," he answered.
paragraphin turn, redstar let out a low hum and shifted in his nest. "fine. then what do you suggest we do?"
paragraph"send word to groveclan and hazeclan for help. we tell them that our territory is being taken over - if the rouges take our moor, what's to stop them from invading hazeclan and groveclan if they'd like?" he suggested, pushing further when redstar shook his head. "pantherstar and badgerstar are good allies. they would help us," cyanslash added.
paragraph"and we would have to owe them in turn?" redstar said, letting out a toneless laugh, "no - we need to fight this battle on our own. find a better plan."
paragraphcyanslash stared at redstar with wide eyes, alarmed, though redstar flicked his tail, dismissing him. "go check up on the patrols. come back when you have a better plan, or if you figure out a way to bring my son back to life."

paragraphsince his first dream with starclan, gorseberry couldn't shake heatpaw's message from his thoughts. when he scavenged through the snow for herbs, he saw heatpaw's face, when he checked flintpaw's wounds, heatpaw's words echoed in his ears, and when he tended to the queens and miranda, he wondered what danger was already inside quickclan. when he curled up into his nest after a long day, he wished that he could return to the starclan cats, though no dreams came. one night, after he tossed and turned until the moon was beginning to sink in the sky, a voice called his name from the camp. fearing that it might be about honeyflower's kits, gorseberry scrambled to his paws and hurried into the clearing, only to find gullfeather seated there, waiting for him.
paragraph"we must make this quick, gorseberry," gullfeather said, rising to meet him halfway. she touched her nose to his, then moved to speak directly into his ear, "starclan is upset with you," she said, and gorseberry reeled back as if he'd been struck.
paragraph"with me?" he echoed, blinking at his former-mentor.
paragraph"they began watching you after the last time we spoke, they found out about dusklight," she murmured, "we've been ordered not to speak with you, but i couldn't leave you alone," she said, speaking rapidly, quicker with each word. gorseberry's tongue felt heavy in his mouth and he couldn't speak. "they said that we aren't to speak to you unless you break off contact with dusklight."
paragraph"gullfeather, i-" gorseberry began, backing away from her, "i love him." the very thought that he wouldn't be able to see dusklight again made gorseberry's head spin, though gullfeather followed him and pressed her nose to his cheek.
paragraph"i know, i know," she tried to coax him, "talk to alpinemask, don't give up yet. i thought you should know," she continued to say, though gorseberry had his eyes closed tightly. when her voice faded away and he opened his eyes again, he was lying in his nest, gullfeather gone and replaced by sunlight leaking in from outside. even still, he could not find himself comforted by her assurances, and gorseberry rose on shaking paws.
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[ ✦ quickclan 25 pt2 ]

Postby eagle, » Thu May 30, 2019 4:45 pm

never stop running on and on with the wind
▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬ ( archive ) ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬

            number of cats ninety-three | forty-seven ♂ | fourty-five ♀ | one non-binary | servings needed fifteen (+98)
            next moonpool anytime | injuries flintpaw, | kittings honeyflower - now, hawkrise - 2m
            pebbles 20 | den decay 5m

paragraphwriting was too long - can be found here

[ added cats ] thistlestrike (x), hickorypatch via discord
[ consumption ] quickclan eats five hares
[ moonpool ] n/a
[ rank changes ] rosepaw and peckerpaw retake their assessments. if they pass, they will be named roselight and peckernose
marshpaw, cardinalpaw, and fleetingpaw take their assessments. if they pass, they will be named marshstripe, cardinalheart, and fleetingmoon
valleykit, kestrelkit, frogkit, rootkit, hootkit, branchkit, and swoopkit are ready to become apprentices
[ medicine cats ] flintpaw is in need of x1 cobwebs
[ kitting ] honeyflower is kitting, alpinemask is with her, uses x1 borage
[ hunting 1 ] falconflight, twiteflight, dustear, oriolefeather, sweetecho, and kindleflare
[ hunting 2 ] oakseed, berrypad, chanterellestep, sproutclaw, frostfur, and grassthorn
[ hunting 3 ] snakespots, alderpatch, flamestrike, cherrydawn, canaryleap, and brightcreek
[ hunting 4 ] thistlestrike, screechwing, and sagetuft
[ supply gathering 1 ] sparrowcall, whitesnow, minnowjump, mulestomp, hickorypatch, and rowanfoot
[ supply gathering 2 ] redstar, hollowfang, mintstem, duneserpent, splashfall, and acorntail
[ herb hunting ] alpinemask and gorseberry look for herbs
[ training ] darterpaw, owletpaw, rainypaw, and webpaw learn fishing
boulderpaw, daffodilpaw, finchpaw, and cricketpaw learn swimming
dandelionpaw, dovepaw, and plumpaw learn fighting
magpiepaw, tinselpaw, and rivuletpaw learn hunting
autumnpaw learns how to take care of queens
[ event ] redstar loses another life after not eating
[ notes to mod ] i ask that no cats die during patrols, though injuries are fine xx

      leader (1/1)
      redstar | 52 moons | ♂ |

      cyanslash | 41 moons | ♂ |

      medicine cats (2/2)
      alpinemask | 46 moons | ♂ |
      gorseberry | 27 moons | ♂ |

      medicine cat apprentice
      autumnpaw | 9 moons | ♀ | | blind

      warriors (51/55)
      sparrowcall | 76 moons | ♂ | (left)
      poppyhaze | 72 moons | ♀ | (right)
      sootstone | 69 moons | ♂ |
      duskflower | 62 moons | ♀ |
      snakespots | 58 moons | ♂ |
      mothtail | 58 moons | ♀ |
      tallpeak | 53 moons | ♀ |
      piperskip | 50 moons | ♀ |
      sweetecho | 50 moons | ♀ |
      blizzardrush | 48 moons | ♂ |
      brackenrose | 47 moons | ♀ |
      falconflight | 46 moons | ♂ |
      flurrywind | 46 moons | ♂ |
      splashfall | 45 moons | ♂ |
      hickorypatch | 45 moons | ♀ |
      aspenwish | 44 moons | ♀ |
      nightfall | 43 moons | ♂ |
      frostfur | 39 moons | ♂ |
      hollyfur | 39 moons | ♀ |
      eagleheart | 39 moons | ♂ |
      thistlestrike | 39 moons | ♀ |
      kindleflare | 38 moons | ♀ |
      fluffytuft | 36 moons | ♂ |
      oakseed | 34 moons | ♂ |
      duneserpent | 33 moons | ♂ |
      loonlight | 32 moons | ♀ |
      screechwing | 30 moons | ♂ |
      patchwing | 29 moons | ♀ |
      pearsblossom | 29 moons | ♀ |
      treespirit | 28 moons | ♂ |
      berrypad | 27 moons | ♀ |
      whitesnow | 27 moons | ♀ |
      flamestrike | 27 moons | ♂ |
      alderpatch | 27 moons | afab |
      brightcreek | 26 moons | ♀ |
      acorntail | 24 moons | ♀ |
      minnowjump | 23 moons | ♂ |
      mulestomp | 23 moons | ♂ |
      canaryleap | 23 moons | ♂ |
      chanterellestep | 22 moons | ♂ |
      sagetuft | 20 moons | ♀ |
      twiteflight | 19 moons | ♀ |
      sproutclaw | 18 moons | ♂ |
      mintstem | 18 moons | ♀ |
      cherrydawn | 18 moons | ♀ |
      grassthorn | 16 moons | ♀ |
      oriolefeather | 16 moons | ♂ |
      dustear | 16 moons | ♂ |
      rowanfoot | 14 moons | ♂ |
      hollowfang | 13 moons | ♂ |
      name | age | gender | [url=link]☼[/url]

      apprentices (21/25)
      flintpaw | 16 moons | ♂ | | blind
      peckerpaw | 16 moons | ♂ | | limp
      rosepaw | 14 moons | ♂ |
      marshpaw | 13 moons | ♀ |
      darterpaw | 13 moons | ♂ |
      cardinalpaw | 12 moons | ♂ |
      fleetingpaw | 12 moons | ♂ |
      owletpaw | 12 moons | ♀ |
      webpaw | 12 moons | ♂ |
      rainypaw | 12 moons | ♀ |
      boulderpaw | 11 moons | ♂ |
      daffodilpaw | 10 moons | ♀ |
      dandelionpaw | 10 moons | ♀ |
      dovepaw | 10 moons | ♀ |
      finchpaw | 10 moons | ♀ |
      cricketpaw | 10 moons | ♂ |
      plumpaw | 9 moons | ♂ |
      magpiepaw | 8 moons | ♂ |
      tinselpaw | 8 moons | ♀ |
      rivuletpaw | 8 moons | ♀ |
      name | age | gender | [url=link]☼[/url]

      queens (17/20)
      zinniabelly | 63 moons | ♀ |
      honeyflower | 51 moons | ♀ |
      hawkrise | 29 moons | ♀ |
      name | age | gender | [url=link]☼[/url]

      valleykit | 6 moons | ♀ |
      kestrelkit | 6 moons | ♀ |
      frogkit | 6 moons | ♂ |
      rootkit | 6 moons | ♂ |
      hootkit | 6 moons | ♀ |
      branchkit | 6 moons | ♀ |
      swoopkit | 6 moons | ♂ |
      ploverkit | 5 moons | ♀ |
      pinekit | 4 moons | ♀ |
      crakekit | 4 moons | ♂ |
      charredkit | 4 moons | ♀ |
      lagoonkit | 4 moons | ♂ |
      heronkit | 1 moon | ♂ |
      scorpionkit| 1 moon | ♂ |
      name | age | gender | [url=link]☼[/url]

      elders (1/5)
      miranda | 111 moons | ♀ |
      name | age | gender | [url=link]☼[/url]

      den materials
      rocks x0
      moss x0
      brambles x0
      feathers x0
      clay x0
          ally clans
          hazeclan | nightwolf950
          groveclan | solyn
          clan | user

          enemy clans
          clan | user
          clan | user

          north | hazeclan | nightwolf950
          east | clan | user
          south | clan | user
          west | quartzclan | miles morales

          medicine store
          alder bark | x1 eases toothaches
          beech leaves | x1 carry herbs for travel
          bindweed | x0 keeps broken bones in place
          borage leaves | x1 for fevers, tight chests, bad bellies; also
          produces milk for queens
          bright-eye | x2 cures coughs when used with loveage
          burnet | x1 traveling herb to keep up strength
          catchweed | x2 stops poultices from being rubbed off
          catmint | x2 treatment of whitecough and/or greencough
          chervil | x0 treatment of wounds, kittings, and infections
          cobwebs | x0 bind broken bones and stop bleeding
          coltsfoot | x1 eases cracked and/or sore pads, eases breathing,
          and treats kittencough
          deadly nightshade | x1 poisonous
          dock leaves | x1 soothes scratches, sore pads, and wounds
          elder leaves | x0 soothes sprains
          fennel | x1 helps pain in the hips
          feverfew | x2 treatment of fevers, chills, and headaches
          foxglove | x1 causes paralysis and heart failure
          goldenrod | x1 used to treat wounds
          honey | x1 soothes sore throats, coughing, infections
          horsetail | x1 treats infections and stops bleeding
          juniper berries | x1 soothes bellyaches, strengthens, calms,
          and eases troubled breathing
          lavender | x2 cures fever/chills; hides scent of death
          marigold | x1 used for infections, bleeding, and inflammation
          parsley | x2 cures bellyaches; stops milk production
          poppy seeds | x2 soothes shock, distress, and eases pain
          ragwort | x1 used to soothe aching joints and give strength
          stick | x0 distracts cats from pain
          stinging nettle | x2 induces vomiting
          tansy | x2 cures coughs, soothes throats, and can be used on
          tormentil | x1 good for treating wounds and extracting poison
          water hemlock | x2 poison
          water mint | x1 eases bellyaches
          wild garlic | x1 draws out poison in rat bites and prevents
          willow bark | x1 eases pain
          wintergreen | x1 treats wounds and poisons
          yarrow | x1 extracts poison from wounds, induces vomiting
          herb | usage

          fresh-kill pile
          minnow | x11 | 1 serving
          mouse | x14 | 1 servings
          rabbit | x9 | 2 servings
          small fish | x10 | 2 servings
          squirrel | x8 | 2 servings
          hare | x17 | 3 servings
          big fish | x10 | 3 servings
          bird | x10 | 3 servings
          total | 190 servings

          gorseberry | autumnpaw | 2
          nightfall | flintpaw | 4
          snakespots | peckerpaw | 4
          sweetecho | rosepaw | 4
          duneserpent | marshpaw | 4
          loonlight | darterpaw | 3
          screechwing | cardinalpaw | 4
          splashfall | fleetingpaw | 4
          sootstone | owletpaw | 3
          duskflower | webpaw | 3
          tallpeak | rainypaw | 3
          blizzardrush | boulderpaw | 2
          hollyfur | daffodilpaw | 3
          brackenrose | dandelionpaw | 1
          pearsblossom | dovepaw | 0
          treespirit | finchpaw | 3
          patchwing | cricketpaw | 3
          cyanslash | plumpaw | 0
          aspenwish | magpiepaw | 1
          mothtail | tinselpaw | 1
          piperskip | rivuletpaw | 1
          mentor | apprentice | 0

          ivystripe | 34 moons | died during kitting
          petalkit | 0 moons | weakness after birth
          flashkit | 0 moons | stillborn
          batkit | 0 moons | stillborn
          privetfang | 23 moons | died during kitting
          flutterkit | 0 moons | stillborn
          gullfeather | 34 moons | killed by nolan
          heatpaw | 10 moons | killed by nolan's group
          tumblejaw | 47 moons | choked
          cat | cause of death

          duskflower + ♂ = patchwing
          sunnywhisker (pine) + ♂ = sproutclaw, mintstem, cherrydawn
          aspenwish + ♂ = flintpaw, peckerpaw
          piperskip + ♂ = grassthorn, oriolefeather, dustear
          ivystripe + tumblejaw = hollowfang, marshpaw, darterpaw
          sweetecho + redstar = fleetingpaw, owletpaw, webpaw, rainypaw,
          redhawk (hurricane) + redstar = cardinalpaw, vanillastrike (hurricane),
          kestrelheart (hurricane), rowankit, russetkit, windkit
          poppyhaze + sparrowcall = magpiepaw, tinselpaw, rivuletpaw
          mothtail + ♂ = boulderpaw
          mushu (hurricane) + sootstone = juniperpaw (hurricane), daffodilpaw
          hollyfur + frostfur = berrypad, whitesnow, alderpatch, flamestrike
          gullfeather+ paleflick (hurricane) = petalkit, flashkit, batkit
          meadowspirit (hurricane) + alpinemask = laurelkit (hurricane), valleykit
          turtledove (haze) + falconflight = dandelionpaw, dovepaw, finchpaw,
          flowerskip (char) + redstar = oleanderkit (char), ploverkit
          cleopatra (empire) + redstar = liftkit (empire), sneezekit (empire),
          aspkit (empire), pinekit, crakekit
          privetfang+ ♂ = charredkit, zipperkit (haze), and lagoonkit
          zinniabelly + ♂ = cloudykit (haze), flutterkit
          oceansplash (haze) + snakespots = kestrelkit, frogkit
          honeyflower + redstar = expecting
          bearclaw (haze) + oakseed = rootkit, hootkit, branchkit, swoopkit
          deerleap (bear) + redstar = rainkit (bear), ryekit (bear), heronkit,
          scorpionkit, lionkit
          hawkrise + genetstorm = expecting
          ♀ + ♂ =
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[ ✦ quickclan 26 ]

Postby eagle, » Wed Jun 12, 2019 4:23 pm

      total 88 : ♂ 46 ♀ 41 nb 1 | servings 14 (+91) | moonpool anytime | pebbles 20 | den decay 4 | mod kacchan, | archives xx xx xx



paragraphthe sunset painted the sky in shades of red and orange with a hint of purple creeping around the edges to signal nightfall while cardinalpaw sat at the top of the path that led down to the ravine into quickclan's camp. he breathed deeply through his nose and felt his chest expand with air before exhaling slowly, with a purpose. at the sound of approaching pawsteps coming up the path, cardinalpaw opened his eyes to assess the sky, allowing his mentor to settle in beside him. "you know, when cyanslash came to me about being your mentor, i told him that i didn't think that i was up to it," screechwing said, his voice quiet, blending into the cool night wind that tore across the moorland. the comment pulled an indignant sound from cardinalpaw, who had only ever thought highly about his mentor, though screechwing hushed him before he could speak. "i was one of the newest and youngest warriors then, i was the youngest warrior to get an apprentice when you and the others were given mentors." while screechwing spoke, he studied the sky, just as cardinalpaw had been moments earlier, and his tone was surprisingly relaxed. "so, when i was supposed to train one of redstar's sons, i was floored." at that, cardinalpaw stiffened and he felt the fur at the back of his neck begin to bristle, though screechwing continued to speak:
paragraph"i kept looking around at the other mentors those first few days, and i kept wondering why i was put with them. rookwatcher was the most senior warrior at the time, duneserpent was a great hunter, tallpeak was one of the first warriors, and duskflower has been here longer than most," he said, listing through the various cats with a gentle smile. "and i was just a loner who managed to stumble into a hunting patrol. and i stayed because of oakseed, but suddenly i was training an apprentice. me? who felt i had so little to teach."
paragraph"you taught me everything," cardinalpaw cut in suddenly, and screechwing's smile grew. it was in the moment that screechwing turned to face him that cardinalpaw realized that screechwing was small - smaller than he was. somewhere along the way, cardinalpaw outgrew his mentor from the kit he once was, looking up at the lithe tabby with round eyes. at the same time, screechwing had grown into the clan and could reflect on it with a sense of nostalgia. "everything i know came from you."
paragraphinstead of responding immediately, screechwing ducked his head to smile down at his paws. "everything," he echoed with a soft chuckle, "that's a lot of things." the sun continued to dip lower and lower in the sky, fleeing the approaching indigo hues, and cardinalpaw dared to lean forward and press his nose into screechwing's shoulder.
paragraph"thank you," he murmured softly, to which screechwing rested his chin on top of cardinalpaw's head.
paragraph"thank you for being such a good apprentice. i probably learned more than you did. i can only hope my kits will listen to their mentors like you listened to me," screechwing said with a purr, standing when cardinalpaw picked his head up.
paragraph"no offense, but i've seen your kits," cardinalpaw said, "and knowing that they have you and oakseed as dads? they won't listen to anyone." when screechwing aimed a swipe at his ears, cardinalpaw ducked away with a laugh, dodging easily out of the way. "they'll be great, just a lot to handle. like i said, you and oakseed are their dads. they'll be great." screechwing opened his mouth to answer, but a shout came from further down the path, and cardinalpaw recognized rosepaw's voice calling up to them.
paragraph"redstar called the meeting, get your tails down here or you'll miss the ceremonies." in that moment, cardinalpaw and screechwing exchanged a wide-eyed glance before they sprinted their way down together, screechwing not wanting to miss his kits be made apprentices and cardinalpaw wanting to receive his full name. when the pair reached the gathered clan, redstar raised his eyes to acknowledge them, but he had already begun speaking and didn't falter.
paragraph"tonight we celebrate the growth of our clan. tonight is one for celebration and reflection of all that we have accomplished," redstar was saying, and his gaze passed over cardinalpaw and screechwing to assess the rest of the clan. "and it is my honor to present quickclan and starclan alike with new apprentices and warriors, as those who are ready to learn the ways of our clan, and those who have only recently completed their training." he paused and glanced up at the faint outline of the moon hovering over their heads as twilight intruded, effectively washing the day away.
paragraphredstar flicked his tail then, and cardinalpaw craned his neck to watch as frogkit and kestrelkit darted forward, followed by swoopkit, hootkit, branchkit, and rootkit. valleykit followed after the others, taking her time to join them below redstar's perch. "starclan, i present you with these kits who are ready to enter into their training to become warriors. accept them, as i give them mentors to guide them into the future." with that, redstar jumped down into the space before the kits, and he strode forward. "from this moment forward, you are apprentices of quickclan. valleypaw, your mentor will be brightcreek," redstar said, listing through the new apprentices and their mentors, who came from the crowd to greet their apprentices at the call of their names. when redstar had finished, he stepped back, allowing the clan to cheer for the pairs. in the midst of it, cardinalpaw looked up to see redstar staring directly at him, and cardinalpaw fell silent, meeting his father's gaze until, at last, redstar waved his tail to silence the crowd.
paragraph"we also have several apprentices who have finished their training and passed their assessments. they have earned their full names, and i call upon starclan to look down on them with approval." when redstar nodded to him, peckerpaw stood and padded to redstar, his steps uneven as his limp persisted. after so many moons, it seemed that peckerpaw's leg would never completely heal, his hind leg twisted at an unnatural angle despite the medicine cats' best efforts. even still, he carried himself well from what cardinalpaw could tell, and he had been able to perform in his assessment. "peckerpaw, from this moment forward you will be known as peckernose. starclan honors your determination and resilience," redstar said, and so he went through he different ceremonies for each apprentice, "rosepaw, you shall be known as roselight. starclan honors your warmth and spirit," then, "you shall be known as marshstripe. starclan honors your kindness and loyalty." after marshstripe had backed away, rejoining the clan, redstar gestured to fleetingpaw, who moved forward with grace, his head held high and his fur silver in the gathering moonlight. redstar regared his son for a moment before addressing the clan, "from this moment forward you shall be known as fleetingmoon. starclan honors your intelligence and strength."
paragraphat last, redstar called out to cardinalpaw, who rose on unsteady legs to pad through the gathered cats until he reached his father. their eyes met once more, and redstar held his son's gaze for a long moment before he spoke aloud, "cardinalpaw, from this moment forward, you shall be known as cardinalheart. starclan honors your honesty and altruism." at last, the crowd began to cheer for the new warriors, chanting their names to the sky, though cardinalheart couldn't tear his eyes from his father.
paragraphhis own name felt as if redstar had cursed him, and redstar stood there, as if waiting for cardinalheart to say something. so he did. "i'm not doing it for you," cardinalheart said, his voice lost under the exuberant cheers around them, though he was certain that redstar could hear him still. "i'm doing it for them, for all of them. because they're my siblings and i love them. but you?" he said with a flick of his tail, "you're just the clan leader." before redstar could say anything, cardinalheart turned and felt himself pulled in by the energy of the rest of the clan. there, fleetingmoon met him with a beaming smile.
paragraph"can you believe it?" fleetingmoon said, eyes bright with joy, "we did it!" not for the first time, cardinalheart felt the weight of his knowledge and the desire to tell fleetingmoon everything he knew. through the sea of familiar pelts, he spotted screechwing with oakseed and their kits, and cardinalheart relaxed, his muscles loosening in tension for just a moment, that there was at least one family in the clan that wasn't torn apart.

paragraphas nolan paced the length of the barn, he was ever aware of the eyes that followed him. how many were there? too many to count, he supposed. he remember when it first started, when it was just him and layla, barely managing to scrounge by. how layla had been too sick to move, and how nolan feared that her death was imminent. now, he had power thrumming under his paws.
paragraphlayla herself was lying among the hay, her eyes half-lidded while she watched nolan pace towards and away from her. at last, when the silence had stretched on for too long, she called out to him, only to roll her eyes when he didn't acknowledge her. at that, she stood and blocked his path. "you need to relax," she hissed softly. nolan, however, merely bypassed her entirely on his march, halting only when layla hissed again, louder this time, "you really think that this is helping? because it's not. graham is out there getting them, and you're doing what? nothing," she said, padding closer. nolan turned his face away from her, though she merely spoke directly into his ear, "what do you think that they're thinking, seeing you act like this, huh? their leader, looking like he's on the verge of panicking."
paragraph"and what do you expect me to do?" nolan spat back, "graham has been gone all day, and we haven't heard from them in nearly a moon."
paragraph"you're forgetting," layla argued, lashing her tail, "that graham takes an eternity to get anything done. but he does, and he will. and they have been busy gaining the clan's trust. everything is fine, and will be fine unless you crack," she continued, "so don't crack."
paragraphnolan stared at layla for a long moment before turning from her when a cat entered through the front entrance of the barn. the skinny gray tabby dipped his head to nolan and layla before speaking. "graham has given the signal as instructed," he panted softly from his rush inside, "we are ready to go."
paragraphnolan glanced over his shoulder to layla, who leveled her gaze at him. "like i said," layla purred, her light tone hiding the bite from a moment earlier. "everything is fine." in the same moment, nolan lifted his tail, signaling to the cats in the barn. bodies emerged from the shadows, slipping into formation with ease behind nolan.

paragraphkindleflare was curled up in her nest when she heard a familiar purr. "you're missing the beautiful weather outside," eagleheart said, though kindleflare remained silent. ever since they had gone out hunting together, eagleheart had been rather adamant about speaking with kindleflare. or, rather, he spoke to kindleflare. hunting for eagleheart turned into him speaking about his life before quickclan, asking kindleflare questions about her life in quickclan, to which she offered, at most, a flick of her ears. it wasn't that eagleheart annoyed her, but she didn't feel like talking to anyone. she remained silent ever since she cried over her kits, those who hadn't survived long enough to speak for themselves. they died, and with them went her voice.
paragraphonce, kindleflare loved to speak. she loved little more than talking. being able to chat over her evening meal with the other warriors after a long patrol, gossiping with loonlight about the newest topic. which warrior would get an apprentice next, which molly would be moving into the nursery next. her voice was hers, back then, but now she didn't miss it. instead, she took her time to acknowledge eagleheart, unwinding her tail from around her body and lifting her head to look at him. "she awakens," eagleheart said with a broad smile. there was a strange glaze over his eyes, like he wasn't entirely focused on the moment, and kindleflare hesitated, though he pushed. "come, love, the sun's shining. it'll be good for you," he urged, though kindleflare remained for a long moment, taking him in. he had a nervous energy to him, which made him shuffle his paws, his fur sticking out. he smelled like the moor, as if he had already been outside of camp, and his fur was rumpled. had she been able to speak, kindleflare would have asked what he did all day. but she couldn't.
paragraphwhen he went to nudge her with his nose, kindleflare shrank away, and eagleheart recoiled as well. "i'm sorry - i didn't -" he stuttered, taking in a deep breath. he stilled for a moment and she watched him, anticipating his next move. questions swirled through her head - why was he so agitated? what was he thinking? as if he could read her mind, he spoke then. "i'm sorry, kindleflare, i just - i know it's so sudden but. i like you. i like spending time with you." at that, kindleflare stilled and eagleheart rambled on, "i just think it's a nice day. there's not much snow. i think it would be a nice day to hunt, or just go for a walk, if you'd like that." kindleflare didn't respond for a long moment, instead narrowing her eyes to study him. was he just acting strangely because he liked her? maybe that was just him - he did come across as a little strange under normal circumstances. maybe that was all there was to it. at last, kindleflare dipped her head and pointed her nose towards the entrance to the den, urging him to lead the way out. eagleheart's eyes lit up and he hurried off, leaving her to follow, "come on, there's no time to lose!"

paragraphthe training hollow was abuzz with activity in the wake of the new apprentices and mentors. as the warrior with the most experience training apprentices, falconflight had gathered the group together and was busying overseeing their activity. before him, frogpaw remaining crouched low in the dust, practicing a stalking crouch that falconflight showed him. nearby, twiteflight was demonstrating how to evenly distribute her weight while kestrelpaw looked on, nodding before attempting to do the same. the sight of his adopted daughter working hard to pass on her own knowledge to her apprentice made his heart swell before he looked back to frogpaw. "you're doing well," he praised, offering a broad smile to the young tom. at that, frogpaw sat up, his ears pricked.
paragraph"can i try practicing it outside of the hollow?" frogpaw asked, and falconflight paused for a moment to consider. before falconflight could decide, frogpaw shuffled his paws, "it's just - wouldn't it make more sense to try out there? the ground here is even, but that's not how it really is." even still, falconflight felt a pull of reluctance, though he couldn't place where the feeling came from. surely it was a good idea - frogpaw demonstrated that he understood what he was doing in the hollow, so it would be good to see how he fared on the moor. but apprehension pricked his fur and falconflight licked his lips, looking across to the other mentors to try and bide his time.
paragraphat last, it was the genuinely innocent expression on frogpaw's face that made falconflight nod. "alright," he said, feeling himself smile when frogpaw jumped to his paws. "just for a little while," he cautioned as an afterthought, though it was too late. frogpaw had already charged from the hollow and falconflight was left to follow in his wake.
paragraphindeed, after some time of helping frogpaw adjust to the uneven terrain, it was a good idea. by the time the sun was inching down the sky, falconflight called frogpaw over to him, though frogpaw glanced away, "i just want to get a drink at the stream," he called, and falconflight waved his tail dismissively, sitting down again to wait. when a moment had passed before frogpaw reappeared, however, the surge of apprehension washed over falconflight again and he stood, sprinting over the lip of the hill to where frogpaw had gone to. there, frogpaw stood with his jaws parted, taking in a scent. when he spotted falconflight, the apprentice waved him over.
paragraph"there's a scent here, but i don't recognize it. it doesn't smell like prey." at that, falconflight breathed in the air and, sure enough, a sour taste rolled across his tongue that he instantly recognized as rogue. it was fresh, and close. immediately, falconflight nudged frogpaw back the way they had come, and his thoughts went to twiteflight, along with his other kits training in the hollow.
paragraph"we need to get to the hollow, hurry," falconflight urged, pressing his young apprentice along until they reached the hollow. behind them, the scent grew stronger and stronger, but falconflight exhaled when they reached the hollow, where the training appeared to be coming to a close. however, their arrival caught the attention of the warriors and apprentices, and mothtailspoke up first.
paragraph"falconflight - what is it?" mothtail asked, and falconflight told them about the scent frogpaw found.
paragraph"we need to get back to camp," he said, meeting twiteflight's eyes. together, the mentors round up their apprentices. however, just before they managed to leave the hollow, a battle cry split the air before a pretty molly came crashing through the entrance with cats streaming after her. without further warning, the rogues attacked, slashing out at the clan cats with claws outstretched and teeth bared. a cat barreled into falconflight's side, knocking the air out of his lungs. claws raked down his side, dragging a yowl from falconflight's jaws, but he kicked out. his claws connected with fur, but, suddenly, the cat was pulled away, and falconflight looked up to see twiteflight wrestle the larger tabby to the ground.
paragraphhis eyes scanned the hollow, taking in the unfamiliar pelts and searching for any he knew. close to twiteflight, berrypad and loonlight fought side-by-side against a towering gray tom with a torn ear. berrypad ducked under the tom's stomach at the same time that loonlight reared back to score her claws down her face. behind them, flamestrike, whitesnow, and alderpatch had managed to herd the young apprentices together, blocking them against the far corner of the hollow and batting away any rogue that tried to get close. falconflight spun when a familiar voice called his name, and he spotted cricketpaw fighting against a skinny molly. his son was bleeding from the shoulder, but falconflight reached himin two bounds, leaping onto the molly's shoulders and digging his claws in deep. "get her belly," he called, and cricketpaw jumped to action. under his grip, falconflight felt the molly try to get away from cricketpaw, though his weight held her in place until she began to crumple from the attack. in a smooth motion, falconflight released her and allowed her to run off into the trees.
paragraphit seemed that several of the rogues had fled, though falconflight spotted several bodies on the ground. whitesnow's fur had been turned red from several wounds and mothtail was slumped, though falconflight could see her flank rise and fall unevenly with her breathing. "go help alderpatch," falconflight told cricketpaw, who turned and followed the order without hesitation. however, in that moment, three scarred cats crashed into the hollow and bolted immediately for the cats guarding the young apprentices. falconflight tried to cut them off, but his muscles ached from a day of training and he was too slow. however, a screech broke the air and a dark shape barreled into one of the cats. rivuletpaw snarled, latching onto the cat's foreleg and biting down. the cat screamed and attempted to shake her off, but it was no use. instead, one of his companions grabbed the lithe molly but her scruff and flung her away. rivuletpaw landed hard on the ground and was still.
paragraphin the moment, the third cat managed to sweep cricketpaw and alderpatch aside, lunging into the young apprentices. there was a moment when it appeared that the cat might have killed them all, falconflight's vision blurred by his running across the hollow. however, the tom was overrun by fur as the apprentices swarmed him. his body slumped to the side, and by the time falconflight had turned to find the other two, loonlight and brightcreek chased them away. at that, the hollow fell silent and falconflight glanced around. rivuletpaw had yet to move, though magpiepaw and tinselpaw approached her body, and mothtail's breathing had stopped. from the far corner, hootpaw screamed swooppaw's name, and falconflight realized that the young tom was bleeding heavily, his eyes closed. falconflight felt his stomach twist in a wave of nausea of the sight of piperskip's body not far from mothtail's, and the world spun. it was only in the moment of near-silence when he turned to make sure that cricketpaw and twiteflight were still standing that flamestrike raised his head, ears pricked.
paragraph"there's more fighting," the tom said, and sure enough, falconflight could make out the sounds of battle screeches. flamestrike padded forward, his ears pricked, "it sounds like it's coming from the camp."
paragraph"apprentices stay here," falconflight deadpanned, "they split us up, it'll be safer here where you can hide." already, flamestrike had dashed off towards the camp and falconflight looked towards cricketpaw, who was ready to argue.
paragraph"i'll watch them," a voice spoke, and falconflight dipped his head to aspenwish, who stood beside a wounded whitesnow. "i'll keep them safe." with that, falconflight led the rest of the warriors to follow flamestrike back to camp.

paragraph"do new warriors always get stuck on guard duty instead of joining patrols?" roselight asked marshstripe as they sat together in the middle of the clearing. for most of the afternoon, marshstripe had been with roselight while they patrolled the camp. twice they had to usher charredkit and lagoonkit from the path that led up towards the moor, though that had been the most excitement they had seen all day since they relieved dustear and canaryleap shortly after dawn. at the very least, marshstripe supposed, roselight was someone she didn't mind spending time with. he was funny and kept her entertained while the rest of the day bored her to death. "because i have never seen rowanfoot on guard duty, not even when he was made a warrior," roselight continued with a flick of his tail.
paragraph"it could be worse," marshstripe said, "we could've gotten stuck with the nightfall guard. and you would have to be quiet." roselight wrinkled his nose and shook his head. at that, marshstripe let out an amused purr. "yeah, i don't think you're capable of being quiet."
paragraphwhen roselight cuffed her ear, marshstripe shook him off and shoved him over with her shoulder, though he held fast to her, and together they rolled to the ground in a heap of giggles and pushing. they broke apart only when someone cleared their throat above them, and marshstripe blinked up at cyanslash, who glanced between the two of them. "hi cyanslash," roselight breathed out, and marshstripe gave him one last kick before standing and shaking out her fur.
paragraph"well, i sure hope that you two are taking this seriously," cyanslash commented. there was no anger in his eyes, marshstripe noted with relief, though his voice was also stern - the tone of a deputy. roselight shook out his pelt and cyanslsh nodded towards the upper level of camp, "roselight, why don't you take a look to see what's happening up top?" he suggested, though his tone made it clear that it was an order, not a suggestion, "and report back what you see. if there's so much as a mouse, i want to know about it." with that, roselight raced off, up the path, kicking up dirt as he went. when roselight was gone, cyanslash looked back to marshstripe with an amused smile. "there's nothing wrong with a bit of fun," he said with a twitch of his whiskers, "but i also need my guards to make sure the camp is secure at all times so that-"
paragraph"cyanslash!" roselight's yell broke the deputy off, and the lithe warrior turned. at the top of camp, roselight stood with his fur fluffed out so that he appeared to be twice his size. "cyanslash! there're cats on the moor headed this way! smells like a band of rogues. there are a lot of 'em."
paragraphwithout responding to roselight, cyanslash let out a warning cry which echoed though the camp. before her eyes, marshstripe watched warriors materialize from the various dens and secluded corners of camp. a flash of white showed blizzardrush running to meet roselight, splashfall's tabby and white form barely a step behind. cyanslash flicked his tail to the next nearest warrior. "cherrydawn, get redstar from his den. acorntail and mulestomp, get the queens and kits in the nursery," he shouted out orders, telling warriors to go to where blizzardrush was commanding the patrol at the top of the camp, where the moor met their home. at last, he glanced to marshstripe, who was waiting for her deputy's command. "get miranda from her den and get her to the medicine den. i need you to guard it."
paragraph"alone?" marshstripe squeaked, but it was too late. cyanslash melted away to meet with redstar and marshstripe was left to watch after him while a patrol came closer.
paragraph"i'll help you," a voice to her right said, and marshstripe turned to see hollowfang standing there. without another word, she nodded and sprinted to miranda's den, hollowfang hot on her heels. however, when they peered inside, miranda was gone and her scent was stale, as if she hadn't been in her den since that morning. the first battle cry went up from the top of the ravine and marshstripe met's hollowfang's gaze. "maybe she's already with the medicine cats," he said, and they had no choice but to go there. in the medicine cats' den, alpinemask was alone. when asked where gorseberry and autumnpaw were, he shook his head. only flintpaw remained, though alpinemask was quick to hide the blinded tom into the very back, where he wouldn't be found.
paragraph"out gathering herbs," he said, though his voice gave away his nervousness as to where the others were. "i'm sure they'll be fine. gorseberry has warrior training and autumnpaw doesn't need eyes to claw your ears," he said, though it was no time for jokes. in the camp, the fighting had begun. redstar's voice echoed against the rock face from the top of the path, while cyanslash could be heard from below, ordering the warriors into formation for the oncoming attack. marshstripe and hollowfang positioned themselves shoulder to shoulder to protect alpinemask, though the older tom pushed past them and set down a bundle of herbs. "the others aren't here and i don't need you two guarding me. you should be fighting." marshstripe opened her mouth to argue, that cyanslash had given her an order, but the sounds of battle pressed closer and she watched as, before her eyes, fluffytuft came sprinting down the path from redstar's patrol, his pelt slick with blood. without further hesitation, hollowfang streaked away. from there, marshstripe remembered alpinemask pushed past her, running to follow fluffytuft with a bundle of cobwebs. then there was a battle cry as the rogues broke the line of redstar's patrol to meet cyanslash's tight formation of warriors. there was a screeching, the sound of blood pumping in marshstripe's ears, and then he was fighting alongside hickorypatch against a tom with a scarred muzzle. though hickorypatch was still new to quickclan, she fought hard to defend her new home, and she pursued the tom when he turned to flee.
paragraphin her wake, marshstripe was left to lash out, trying to remember the moves she had been taught in her moons of training, though the different moves were lost to her. she knew only how to strike out with her claws and hope to catch skin. as time pressed and her muscles wore of biting and scratching, it seemed the camp only became more full. for every cat she drove away, another two took their place. one cat bit her ear, another clawed her side. the world swam and then she was on the ground, recalling only a second too late that a cat struck the side of her head, catching her off-balance. teeth met her scruff and she braced herself for the worst, but a voice sounded in her ear. "i gotcha, you're fine," marshstripe heard, recognizing screechwing's voice. the lithe tabby managed to pull her through the thick of the fighting and off to the side. there, alpinemask was pressing cobwebs into peckernose's side. the black and white warrior tried to shake alpinemask off, but the medicine cat scolded him harshly. in the meantime, a cat charged at screechwing and marshstripe, though screechwing reared back to catch him off balance. for a moment, it seemed that it would work - that screechwing had surprised the cat. however, at the last moment, the cat dropped down and scored his cats down screechwing's belly. screechwing collapsed and the cat turned to marshstripe, one paw raised. too weak to defend herself, marshstripe braced herself for the end and closed her eyes. when nothing came, she opened one eye to see grassthorn standing over her, bleeding from her ear and side. roselight was holding to the cat's shoulders and rowanfoot clawed at the cat's face. marshstripe felt pressure at her side and glanced up to see alpinemask there, hollowfang assisting him.
paragraph"screechwing," marshstripe heard herself say, but hollowfang avoided her eyes. "no," she whispered, then louder, "no, no!"
paragraph"there's nothing you can do," alpinemask said sternly. "they're driving the rogues away." marshstripe dared to raise her head and, sure enough, rogues were running back up the path. "we won," alpinemask said, though his voice held little joy.
paragraph"did we?" marshstripe asked, looking to hollowfang. but her brother looked down and studied his paws.

paragraphthe river had been frozen for most of leafbare, though the thaw gave way to the rushing current as gorseberry searched the patches of frost-bitten plants for anything salvageable. at first, he had been uncertain that this was a good idea. autumnpaw was still learning how to navigate the vast stretch of moorland, and gorseberry had been leading her outside in small doses, but miranda came to their den that morning, asking if they would join her on a walk. "i need to get some air, and i walk slowly so you two can gather herbs along the way." even still, gorseberry's hesitance came from knowing that it would be difficult to look after more miranda and autumnpaw. but miranda insisted, pushing and pushing until, at last, gorseberry agreed under the condition that they not go too far from camp. at the time, miranda agreed, but it seemed that they got ahead of themselves. when they reached the river, miranda sat down and tucked her paws neatly under herself. "i say we rest here a little while. it's so peaceful." and so, gorseberry nosed through the grass, autumnpaw beside him.
paragraphfor a long time, they heard nothing beside the rustle of wind in the grass and the river's current rushing past them. autumnpaw heard it first - the battle cries. "gorseberry," she whispered, getting her mentor's attention, "do you hear that?" the trio lapsed into silence and, sure enough, they could hear the screeches and shouts of warriors fighting. gorseberry had never seen a large battle before, but he remembered the time his family fought rogues when he was only a kit. "it sounds like it's coming from the camp," autumnpaw said, and gorseberry turned to miranda, who stared back at him with wide eyes.
paragraph"you're staying here," gorseberry said, looking between autumnpaw and miranda. autumnpaw began to argue, but gorseberry cut her off, "no, you need to stay here and keep miranda safe. i need you to do that for me. stay here so i know where you are." to miranda, he tipped his head at autumnpaw, then managing a tight smile at her subtle nod. without waiting for further argument, gorseberry nudged autumnpaw to miranda's side before running to the camp, where the sounds of battle reached its peak.
paragraphgorseberry saw only the final moments of battle, too far away to help but able to make out the cats he knew so well fighting for their lives. at the top of the path, blizzardrush wrestled on with a gray cat, and splashfall was a blur as he chased off a bleeding tabby. though it was evident that quickclan had won the battle and managed to chase the invaders away, he couldn't help but eye the mound of dark fur. with a final push of energy, gorseberry reached poppyhaze's side, grabbing her scruff and pulling her away from the final traces of fighting. the dark molly let out a low whimper when gorseberry released her, and the blood seeping from her side hadn't gone unnoticed. already, she was slipping away before his eyes, though she looked up at him. "look after sparrowcall, please," she murmured her final words before she shuttered out her final breath. she was gone. gorseberry touched his forehead to her shoulder before standing and moving among the other warriors.
paragraphit was clear that this had been a fight for their lives, and all of the warriors showed signs of the battle. falconflight was speaking to cyanslash, who shook his head slowly. falconflight was missing clumps of fur from his flank and shoulder, and cyanslash's ear was shredded. by the time, gorseberry reached the lower level of camp after assessing the warriors on top, he saw that alpinemask had tended to most of the remaining warriors, but he beckoned gorseberry to his side. "redstar lost two lives. the queens and kits were protected. falconflight reported that the hollow had been attacked. we lost rivuletpaw, swooppaw, piperskip, and mothtail there," alpinemask said, listing through the different points in a clinical fashion, removing his emotion from the matter.
paragraph"poppyhaze died on the path," gorseberry said, matching alpinemask's tone, though there was no hiding the heaviness in his chest. "miranda and autumnpaw are by the river. we were out gathering herbs. i told them to stay there when we heard the fighting. i'll go get them."
paragraph"no," alpinemask said suddenly, "i'll get one of the warriors to do it. there's something else." for a moment, alpinemask paused and cleared his throat. his eyes were fixed on a point over gorseberry's shoulder, and gorseberry turned the same time a cry went up from one of his dearest friends. "screechwing is dead," alpinemask said, though gorseberry was already walking away from him to where oakseed was crouched over the smaller tabby.
paragraph"oakseed," gorseberry said, unable to find any words that might be able to comfort him, though oakseed shook his head and pressed himself against screechwing's body.
paragraph"he's gone," oakseed said, "he's gone, he's gone, he's gone. i loved him so much," oakseed cried into his mate's fur. all around gorseberry, apprentices were huddled together, crying for their friends gone. sweetecho and aspenwish were leaning on one another to grieve the loss of the friends they had shared the nursery with for so long. cats comforted other cats, and gorseberry touched his nose to oakseed's shoulder.
paragraph"he loved you too," gorseberry said, grieving for the loss of his friend, and for the pain he was unable to mend for oakseed. for now, it was all he could do to press himself close and try and be there for oakseed.

→ actions


LEADER ⎯⎯ (1/1)
redstar, 53m, ♂
4 lives remaining

cyanslash, 42m, ♂

alpinemask, 47m, ♂
gorseberry, 28m, ♂

autumnpaw, 10m, ♀

WARRIORS ⎯⎯ (52/55)
sparrowcall, 77m, ♂
sootstone, 70m, ♂
duskflower, 63m, ♀
snakespots, 59m, ♂
tallpeak, 54m, ♀
sweetecho, 51m, ♀
blizzardrush, 49m, ♀
brackenrose, 48m, ♀
falconflight, 47m, ♂
flurrywind, 47m, ♂
splashfall, 46m, ♂
hickorypatch, 46m, ♀
aspenwish, 45m, ♀
nightfall, 44m, ♂
frostfur, 40m, ♂
hollyfur, 40m, ♀
eagleheart, 40m, ♂
thistlestrike, 40m, ♀
kindleflare, 39m, ♀
fluffytuft, 37m, ♂
oakseed, 35m, ♂
duneserpent, 34m, ♂
loonlight, 33m, ♀
patchwing, 30m, ♀
pearsblossom, 30m, ♀
treespirit, 29m, ♂
berrypad, 28m, ♀
whitesnow, 28m, ♀
flamestrike, 28m, ♂
alderpatch, 28m, afab
brightcreek, 27m, ♀
acorntail, 25m, ♀
minnowjump, 24m, ♂
mulestomp, 24m, ♂
canaryleap, 24m, ♂
chanterellestep, 23m, ♂
sagetuft, 21m, ♀
twiteflight, 20m, ♀
sproutclaw, 19m, ♂
mintstem, 19m, ♀
cherrydawn, 19m, ♀
grassthorn, 17m, ♀
oriolefeather, 17m, ♂
dustear, 17m, ♂
peckernose, 17m, ♂
rowanfoot, 15m, ♂
roselight, 15m, ♂
hollowfang, 14m, ♂
marshstripe, 14m, ♀
cardinalheart, 13m, ♂
fleetingmoon, 13m, ♂
APPRENTICES ⎯⎯ (21/25)
flintpaw, 17m, ♂
darterpaw, 14m, ♂
owletpaw, 13m, ♀
webpaw, 13m, ♂
rainypaw, 13m, ♀
boulderpaw, 12m, ♂
daffodilpaw, 11m, ♀
dandelionpaw, 11m, ♀
dovepaw, 11m, ♀
finchpaw, 11m, ♀
cricketpaw, 11m, ♂
plumpaw, 10m, ♂
magpiepaw, 9m, ♂
tinselpaw, 9m, ♀
valleypaw, 7m, ♀
kestrelpaw, 7m, ♀
frogpaw, 7m, ♂
rootpaw, 7m, ♂
hootpaw, 7m, ♀
branchpaw, 7m, ♀
QUEENS & KITS ⎯⎯ (11/20)
zinniabelly, 64m, ♀
honeyflower, 52m, ♀
vermillionkit, 0m, ♂
hawkrise, 30m, ♀
expecting 1m
ploverkit, 6m, ♀
pinekit, 5m, ♀
crakekit, 5m, ♂
charredkit, 5m, ♀
lagoonkit, 5m, ♂
heronkit, 2m, ♂
scorpionkit, 2m, ♂

ELDERS ⎯⎯ (1/5)
miranda, 111m, ♀


gorseberry, autumnpaw, 2
nightfall, flintpaw, 4
loonlight, darterpaw, 4
sootstone, owletpaw, 4
duskflower, webpaw, 4
tallpeak, rainypaw, 4
blizzardrush, boulderpaw, 3
hollyfur, daffodilpaw, 3
brackenrose, dandelionpaw, 2
pearsblossom, dovepaw, 1
treespirit, finchpaw, 4
patchwing, cricketpaw, 4
cyanslash, plumpaw, 1
aspenwish, magpiepaw, 2
alderpatch, tinselpaw, 2
brightcreek, valleypaw, 0
twiteflight, kestrelpaw, 0
falconflight, frogpaw, 0
berrypad, rootpaw, 0
whitesnow, hootpaw, 0
flamestrike, branchpaw, 0
rocks x1
moss x1
sticks x1
brambles x3
feathers x0
clay x0



minnow, x12, 1 serving
mouse, x14, 1 servings
rabbit, x10, 2 servings
small fish, x10, 2 servings
squirrel, x9, 2 servings
hare, x12, 3 servings
big fish, x11, 3 servings
bird, x10, 3 servings
total: 172 servings
hazeclan, nightwolf950
groveclan, solyn


north, hazeclan, nightwolf950
north-east, n/a, n/a
north-west, n/a, n/a
east, n/a, n/a
west, quartzclan, miles morales
south, n/a, n/a
south-east, n/a, n/a
south-west, swiftclan, phina d wolf
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[ ✦ quickclan 27 pt1 ]

Postby eagle, » Sat Jul 13, 2019 9:34 am

paragraphcardinalheart felt hollow, a knot in his throat that made it impossible to swallow or breathe. though it wasn't yet night, the sky was overcast with clouds, announcing that there was a storm coming. the scene was one that he had seen too many times in the past pawful of moons, so much so that he couldn't feel sorrow anymore, only a lingering numbness. he wondered, vaguely, as the first drop of rain hit his nose, what happened to the days when he was a kit and a young apprentice, when his days consisted of talking to fleetingmoon and heatpaw about a new game, or when rainypath would be the first up in the mornings and was tasked with waking up her siblings for a day of training. the days when he was careless, when his biggest worry was a far-off assessment and whether or not screechwing would ask him to train until his muscled burned and he was too tired to raise another claw. now, screechwing and heatpaw were both gone and the quickclan camp was stifled with grief as families bid members goodbye.
paragraphcries fell to the wayside as cardinalheart padded across the camp, barely aware of the feeling of the ground under his paws. faces blurred in his vision, so much so that his attention was caught only when fleetingmoon fell into step beside him, and cardinalheart flicked his ear when his brother spoke. "the kits shouldn't be seeing this," fleetingmoon said, and it took cardinalheart a long moment to register the words. when he did, he halted mid-step to follow fleetingmoon's gaze to where charredkit and lagoonkit were sobbing into zinniabelly's flank, pinekit and crakekit looking on with wide-eyes, and cardinalheart could only imagine what they were thinking in the moment. without saying anything, cardinalheart veered off his original aimless path to head towards the kits. though he didn't look to see if fleetingmoon would follow him, he felt his brother's breath on his tail and knew that he wasn't alone.
paragraphwhen they reached the kits, cardinalheart looked back to fleetingmoon, who merely pricked his ears. there was an emptiness to his eyes to which cardinalheart could empathize, but the red tom knew that having something else to focus on beyond his own feelings of loss would be for the better. he needed a task to take his mind off of things, even if only for a moment, and the kits needed them more than anything else right now. "we should get them back to the nursery, it's getting late and hawkrise and sagetuft can take care of them," cardinalheart said to fleetingmoon, who nodded once.
paragraph"i'll get charredkit and lagoonkit if you get pinekit and crakekit," fleetingmoon said, brushing past cardinalheart and pausing only long enough to nod again when cardinalheart asked him to meet him at the top of the camp after they were done. with that, cardinalheart turned to pinekit and crakekit. though none of the four kits had a birth mother in the camp, zinniabelly had raised them all after redstar brought pinekit and crakekit to camp, and after privetfang died. to see their adoptive mother lying cold in the middle of the clearing must have taken a toll on the kits, who were still so young, and cardinalheart wished that he could erase their pain. however, it the best he could do to go to them.
paragraph"come on, you need your rest," he urged, feeling his heart break at the sight of pinekit's shoulders heaving as she leaned heavily against her brother. behind him, he heard fleetingmoon get charredkit and lagoonkit to their paws and pass them by, leaving cardinalheart with his other half-siblings. though redstar had only ever explicitly told cardinalheart about ploverpaw, there was no denying that these kits were redstar's kits, and his suspicion was confirmed by the way crakekit's eyes met his, a brilliant green even in the gathering darkness. they were eyes that cardinalheart recognized as like his own, like their father's. unlike his sister, however, who showed her grief openly by weeping into crakekit's chest, crakekit himself was rigid, his posture straight and his fur bristling along his shoulders. cardinalheart opened his mouth to say something further, but crakekit lifted his chin to cardinalheart.
paragraph"i'm going to kill them," crakekit said, so suddenly and so forcefully that cardinalheart wasn't sure what to say for a moment. "they hurt us, i'm going to make sure it can't happen ever again."
paragraphfinally, cardinalheart cleared his throat and nodded once before leaning down to nudge the kits gently to their paws. "we're going to get through this, crakekit, it's all going to be fine." however, cardinalheart glanced down at the lower level of the camp as he led the kits to the nursery. the sight of the destruction left behind was nearly too much to bear. how can we ever be fine again?

paragraphwhen redstar woke, it was with a start. his muscles ached when he jolted upright, eyes widened to take in the thin silvery moonlight that slanted through the entrance of his den, though he was instantly aware that he wasn't alone. the soft puffs of air came from the corner of his den, and he quickly recognized sweetecho's silver fur, and he felt instantly calmed by her presence, watching the way her flanks expanded and contracted with each breath. the last few moons without her had been difficult, indescribably lonely. more than once, honeyflower came to redstar, to ask if he wanted to see their kit - she'd named him vermilionkit, she'd said, for his father. though redstar knew that his entire clan knew who vermilionkit's father was, just as they likely had caught on to the real reason why redstar brought in seemingly orphaned kits every few moons, offering no explanation of how he found them, where they came from, or how he knew that it was best for them to not look for their mothers, he still couldn't help but linger on the first cat he had ever come to love. he'd known sweetecho from as far back as he could remember, had loved her since he was an apprentice. her brother had been one of his closest friends. where and why he had strayed along the way, engaging in countless flings, he couldn't be certain, and there was no excuse. he'd done wrong by sweetecho time and time over, yet she was asleep in his den.
paragraphhe must have made some noise, rustled the bedding or otherwise, as one of sweetecho's blue eyes cracked open, meeting his gaze before she sat up suddenly. "dear starclan," she said, voice scratchy and tired, but even more relieved, "you're awake." with that, redstar's eyes widened when sweetecho stood and leaned into him, pressing her forehead against his broad chest. "you're awake," she repeated again before stiffening and backing away, suddenly. "i'll be back, i need to get alpinemask -" she started, though redstar shook his head quickly as if to clear it.
paragraph"wait, sweetecho, please," he said, and his heart clenched when he called to her, his tone uncharacteristically soft, so uncertain and wavering. in that same moment, the memories came rushing back to him in a tidal wave, and suddenly his entire body ached and burned. he felt hollow, not like himself. he felt like he was running on empty, a mere shadow of his former self. "tell me, what's going on?" he remembered claws dragging across his pelt, the burn of his muscles working to fight off attackers. he remembered his clanmates alongside him, all fighting for their lives against the rogues who wanted them to leave the moorland. then, darkness. "what happened?"
paragraphredstar watched as sweetecho's expression shifted, caught the way her eyes tracked back and forth between redstar and the entrance towards the rest of the camp. then, at last, her shoulders slumped and she looked back to redstar. "you weren't waking up, you've been asleep for days," she said at last, and her voice echoes in redstar's ears. the world tilts, and then sweetecho rushed forward, her pelt pressed into his side as she guided him back to lay down. "when the rogues attacked the camp, you lost a few lives. alpinemask said it was because you lost so much blood, you kept dying and coming back to life, only to die again. it was horrible..." she paused then and drew in a breath. redstar couldn't bring himself to look into her face, so he opted to look down at his paws instead, his tail wrapped around his body as if to comfort himself. it took him a long moment to realize that he was trembling. you've been asleep for days. even though he couldn't believe his own ears, redstar knew that it had to be true. his mouth was dry and his joints ached as if he hadn't moved in some time. it couldn't be right, and yet there was no other explanation. he remembered faint snippets of dreams, of waking in starclan with the sad smile of his past clanmates staring down at him as he walked the line between life and death over and over.
paragraph"alpinemask and gorseberry finally managed to stop your bleeding, but they said that you needed to be watched, just in case you slipped away again. they said you didn't have many lives left. they said you lost lives during the battle and since then," sweetecho said, and redstar kept his gaze fixed to the floor of the den, knowing the truth just as it was: he had only one life left. moons earlier, he had nine lives to give in service for his clan, and now he had only one left. one life left to protect the cats he had sworn to lead until he joined starclan. he had as much to lose as anyone else, and the thought terrified redstar. still, he swallowed around the lump in his throat and finally looked up at sweetecho.
paragraph"who did we lose?" he asked at last, fearing what she would say. he remembered the sight of blood, seeing pelts lying on the ground. he remembered the rogues breaking through the first line of defense, there was no way they hadn't lost any of their own. however, there was no preparing himself for when sweetecho listed off the casualties.
paragraph"mothtail, swooppaw, rivuletpaw, piperskip, poppyhaze, and screechwing..." sweetecho trailed off with a heavy exhale. "marshstripe and whitesnow were touch and go for a while, but alpinemask finally cleared them, and they should be on their paws any day now."
paragraphfor a long moment, there was a tense silence before, at last, redstar asked the last question that nagged him. "how long was i out for?" he asked, and his paws prickled with apprehension.
paragraphsweetecho, however, didn't hesitate and met his eyes without flinching. "almost four days. the medicine cats and i have been forcing water and food down your throat, waiting for you to wake up. but... the clan isn't well, redstar. cyanslash has been doing what he can, but... there's something else." she sighed again and redstar's ears pricked, his apprehension shifting into acute anxiety that made his stomach roll. "it's sootstone. after the battle, no one could find him. we think the rogues too him."
paragraphat that, redstar felt the den sway again and it took all of his strength to keep his legs from giving way under him. sootstone was one of the senior warriors, always dependable and sturdy, there when the clan needed him. now, when the clan needed him, sootstone was gone and redstar feared for the worst.

paragraphdaffodilpaw stood over the father she had never known she had. when she thought of sootstone, she thought of the senior warriors who ate on the other side of the camp. she couldn't recall an instance when she had ever spoken to him directly. maybe he was always gentle in the times they had interacted, but it was always in a group, with the warriors speaking to a large training group of apprentices. the taste in her mouth was distinctly sour, and daffodilpaw couldn't be certain if it was sorrow or anger. she had gone her whole life thus far thinking that she had no family, that she never would have any family. then, suddenly, she did, but he was dead and she never had the chance to talk to him properly. she would never know what dandelionpaw, dovepaw, finchpaw, and cricketpaw had with cyanslash and falconflight. she would never have the luxury of having a littermate like flintpaw and peckerpaw. she was entirely alone, sitting with the body of her dead father, that is, until she heard pawsteps behind her.
paragraph"i don't want to talk," she said, recognizing boulderpaw's scent as if it were her own. she would know him anywhere, the only cat who had ever been like family to her. even without looking at the gray tom, she could imagine his reaction, eyes wide and brow furrowed. he would be trying to keep his expression clear, but she knew that boulderpaw was bad at that. his eyes gave him away every time, and he always looked like he was thinking too hard. maybe because he always was.
paragraph"then don't," boulderpaw said, and daffodilpaw decided that she hated the sound of his voice. maybe because it made her shoulders slump, reminded her of all of the better times, when it was them against the world. back then, they'd just been kits. but now mothtail was gone, and so was sootstone. it really was just the two of them, though their game didn't seem so fun anymore, not when it was real. but she didn't hate his voice, never could. boulderpaw was her best friend, the only real friend she ever thought she had. when he sat beside her, daffodilpaw allowed herself to lean against his shoulder. "do you want me to talk?" he asked after a beat of silence, only to clear his throat when daffodilpaw said nothing, taking it as allowance to continue. "when we were kits, i was really scared of the dark, did you know that?" he asked, but daffodilpaw said nothing. so he spoke on. "well, i was. and mothtail realized that i would stay to the back of the nursery at night, away from the entrance. i wouldn't play after twilight, didn't want to be alone in the nursery either. so, one day she took me outside at night when it was a full moon. the camp was pretty quiet because redstar took a patrol for a gathering," as he told the story, daffodilpaw stared down at sootstone, wondering how it was possible for him to look like he was sleeping. at any moment she expected him to open his eyes and say something, anything.
paragraph"she told me to look up at the stars and see that it wasn't so dark after all. she said that nothing bad could happen if i looked up, because there were warriors looking down at me. and she told me stories of the warriors that were in the sky as stars. she told me about quickfoot, who quickclan is named after when he brought the cats to their rightful home on the moor. he never lived long enough to become leader, since he died saving his son, shalestar," boulderpaw continued, resting his chin atop daffodilpaw's head. "if i ever felt lonely, she told me to look up, because that's where the good warriors go. they go to the stars to watch us and be with us forever. and one day we'll be like them too." daffodilpaw wasn't sure when it started, but she felt her shoulders shake, the trembling moving down until she was wracked with sobs. under the stars and in sight of all of the dead warriors, she sobbed into boulderpaw's chest. she sobbed for sootstone, for mothtail, for quickfoot, and for the rest. all those who were gone, she sobbed and boulderpaw sat with her through the night, though the gathering clouds and rain that drenched their pelts.

paragraphat the same time, the medicine cats were gathered in the elders' den after gorseberry had been helping autumnpaw clear miranda's bedding. however, gorseberry quickly sent his apprentice to retrieve alpinemask when miranda said that there was something important she needed to tell them. when the four of them were seated in a circle, miranda heaved out a heavy sigh, her eyes trailing from gorseberry, then to alpinemask, finally resting on autumnpaw. "when i came to quickclan, i was told i was supposed to gather information and gain your trust," she said at last, and watched as gorseberry and alpinemask exchanged a baffled glance. before any of the medicine cats could ask questions as to what she meant, she flicked her tail. "the leader of the rogues, his name is nolan. he's my son," miranda said, "and i'm the one who led the rogues to the camp. it's my fault." met with eerie silence, miranda continued to explain to the only ears she hoped might listen without killing her immediately. and so she spoke, spilling her entire story...

paragraphthe news spread quickly that redstar had woken up, and it brought a new energy to the clan that had been needed ever since the attack on the camp. with their faith in their leader's health restored, the warriors were able to carry their chins a little higher. cyanslash continued to listen to grievances, understanding when oakseed asked to be excused from patrols for a few days while he settled after screechwing and swooppaw's death. however, there was no mistaking the fear that made his clan nervous. with each dip in the moor, the warriors watched for sudden shadows, and remained wary when looking over their shoulders. no cat traveled alone, and the camp and training hollow was heavily guarded. especially since there was still no sign of sootstone, cyanslash wasn't willing to take any chances. it was with that in mind that he settled in front of redstar.
paragraph"we need to send word to hazeclan and groveclan," cyanslash said bluntly after filling in redstar on the most recent events of the day. when he proposed going to their allies moons earlier, redstar had balked. this time, cyanslash expected the leader to be more open to the thought, to at least consider that he was putting the lives of his clan on the line. however, redstar shook his head and tipped his chin.
paragraph"badgerstar and pantherstar are good allies and friends, but we can't ask this of them, cyanslash. hazeclan is recovering from their illness, and what have we ever done for badgerstar where he would send his warriors to fight for us? no, this is something we face on our own," redstar stated bluntly, standing and raising his tail when cyanslash made to argue. "i mean it, cyanslash. quickclan was caught off-guard, but next time we'll be ready. nolan and his rogues came for us, but they won't again. we chased them away, but i intend to go to them this time," redstar continued, leading the way out of his den, cyanslash in tow.
paragraphthe lithe deputy huffed out a breath. "this is why we have allies - so they can help us. we need help now. all the better if we have them with us when we attack the barn. the rogues know how big quickclan is, but not groveclan or hazeclan." again, redstar waved his tail, but cyanslash bounded in front of him, cutting off his path. "what if you lose another of your kits next time, redstar? i'm not prepared to lose one of mine. we should send word to our allies, they'll help us." as his eyes met redstar's, he caught the uncertainty there, though it was clouded by pride, the desire to reassert himself as the unshakable leader he so desired to be. "please, redstar, let's not go into a fight we aren't prepared for. they have sootstone."
paragraphbegging, however, didn't seem to work, and cyanslash's shoulders dropped when redstar shook his head again. "no," he said, softer but just as firm as before. "and we aren't going for a fight. i intend to propose a deal. i want you to gather a patrol, we leave at sunhigh. i want to finally speak to nolan." just like that, redstar walked away, passing one of the new warriors that had come while redstar had been incapacitated. ravengaze's wide yellow eyes dropped when redstar passed, then he offered a polite nod to cyanslash, who returned the gesture with a smile.

paragraphit had been moons since sweetecho entered the nursery, and she was overcome with a sense of loss. it had been moons since she had her own kits, and now her litter were warriors. back then, she had been content to spend her days with aspenwish, piperskip, mothtail, and sunnywhisker while their kits played. so much had changed since then. aspenwish spent most of her days with her sons, helping them get on, though flintpaw refused help from everyone with the exception of autumnpaw, pushing away his mother and brother time and time again, and peckernose had been training hard to make up for his twisted leg and limp, so much so that he was nearly as fast as most of the other warriors, and he could climb just as well. heatpaw, mothtail, and piperskip were dead, and sunnywhisker had vanished all those moons ago. suddenly she felt as though she didn't belong, but the rain was picking up outside, and hawkrise picked up her head when sweetecho entered. "hi," the young tabby queen purred, "come on it, your son was just in here with cardinalheart. they brought in the kits before the rain started," hawkrise explained, gesturing to where charredkit, lagoonkit, pinekit, and crakekit were huddled together in one of the nests. "they're all becoming fine warriors." at that, sweetecho smiled and dipped her head, murmured politely to hawkrise before she set her sights on honeyflower.
paragraphthe red and white queen was in the back of the nursery with vermilionkit asleep at her stomach, her eyes closed, though she looked up when sweetecho approached. for a moment, it was all sweetecho could do to look down at vermilionkit, and her heart twisted in her stomach. wherever she looked in the nursery, she realized, she was surrounded by his kits. if not vermilionkit, then pinekit and crakekit, or heronkit and scorpionkit, or starlingkit and smokekit. her stomach rolled, but honeyflower looked up at the silver molly expectantly. "i'd like to... can we talk?" sweetecho asked, and honeyflower studied her for a moment before nodding and sitting up slightly, moving slowly so as to not disturb vermilionkit. honeyflower pointed towards the empty nest beside her, and sweetecho took it with a murmur of thanks. again, she was overcome with the feeling of nostalgia and loss, and her heart tightened from the pain, that she had lost so many of her friends over the past several moons. "i'm just going to ask this - did you love him?" she asked, honeyflower, who's expression shifted from closed off and cold to become less guarded. still, she merely blinked at sweetecho, who sighed in turn. "i used to. and i still do, even though i wish i didn't. redstar - he used to be so nice to me. he did everything to save me when brightstar was killed. it feels so long ago, now. but he was gentle, caring, and he rescued me when i was taken by two-legs. how could i not fall in love with him?" she said, looking to honeyflower when she paused, letting out a quiet laugh. "i think i always knew that he was out there, traveling and meeting other cats. he was so close with ivystripe, and he was never the same after hazestar... i think he was looking to make connections for a long time. i think he was looking for someone to love him," sweetecho said, sighing once more. she opened her mouth to speak again, but was cut off when honeyflower reached out a paw, effectively bridging the gap between them.
paragraph"when vermilionkit was born, i thought he would have visited. even if he didn't want to stay with me, i wished he would have. for him," honeyflower said, her gaze trailing down to her sleeping son. "your son, the one that died... i can't imagine how much pain that must have caused you," she said after a longer beat, and sweetecho ducked her head, her ears pressed back against her head.
paragraphwhen she had composed herself, sweetecho shook her head once and watched vermilionkit's steady breathing. "it's a pain i wouldn't wish on anyone. but we've all had our fair share of pain lately." there was another stretch of silence. it seemed that the kits had all fallen asleep between hawkrise and sagetuft. life would go on, sweetecho supposed, though quickclan would never be the same again. not after everything that happened. she would never be the same. "i just wanted you to know that... if you ever need anything, or need someone to talk to, i'd like to help you." sweetecho said at last before standing, pausing only when honeyflower spoke again.
paragraph"we should be friends, sweetecho," honeyflower proposed, to which sweetecho managed a tight smile and walked out into the rain.

paragraph"you're sure this is a good idea?" cyanslash asked, not for the first time that morning, as the quickclan patrol crested over one of the final dips that lead to the field and the barn that lay beyond, casting a dark shadow. redstar spared his deputy a sideways glance before looking at the cats that he had brought with them, stretching out along the ground behind them. the plan was simple: they brought a small patrol of senior warriors with them as a display of force, though tallpeak was leading a secondary, larger patrol in the case anything went wrong. redstar wanted to talk to nolan, and spoke to length with cyanslash about making peace terms. they would allow the rogues the field and the barn, along with a small strip of moorland beyond, and in exchange they would demand sootstone's release and a cease to the fighting. no one else had to die.
paragraph"it has to work," redstar stated simply, his green eyes scanning over his warriors. blizzardrush and nightfall were crouched side by side, snakespots and falconflight paced further off, with brackenrose and duskflower on cyanslash's opposite side. "this war needs to stop, i can't lose anyone else." with that, he waved his tail and gestured the other warriors to follow before cyanslash could reply. redstar led the march down through the fields, aware that, out there, eyes were watching and waiting. a twig cracked, the grass rustled, and redstar expected that they would either be attacked or met at the front of the barn. sure enough, the patrol made it to the front of the barn, and redstar finally laid eyes on nolan, the cat who had killed or ordered the killings of his clan. gullfeather, heatpaw, poppyhaze, piperskip, screechwing... all gone because of the bright ginger tom that faced him. other cats sat in a semi-circle around nolan, a pretty molly on his left, a scarred tom on his right, but there was no doubt in redstar's mind who nolan was.
paragraph"interesting of you to come here like this," nolan spoke, his voice pitched as he spoke, echoing against the wooden beams of the barn, whispered in the long strands of grass. "it's a shame we never had the chance to properly meet before now, redstar. i've heard much about you," he continued when redstar remained silent. "i was expecting an artful attack from you and your cats, redstar, something... inspiring. something to catch me off guard. i must say, i am disappointed."
paragraphat that, redstar tipped his chin up at nolan, assessing him for a long moment before he rolled his shoulders in a shrug. "i come to make peace with you. the moorland is expansive. there's no reason we can't all live in peace. i want an end to the fighting. we have peace terms," he said, not missing the glint in nolan's eye. maybe, he thought, this would work after all. it would mean quickclan would be without a decent portion of their territory, though it was worth the risk. if it meant protecting his kits, if it meant protecting his clan, it was worth it. anything was worth saving their lives.
paragraphnolan stood then and took several steps forward away from the barn. he was only a few steps away now, close enough that redstar was able to catch the scent of hay and mice on his pelt. "maybe i was wrong, redstar. this is interesting after all. though i know what you really came here for, no?" he flicked his tail tip and the scarred tom stood, making way when two other rogues dragged a writhing heap of gray fur forward. sootstone's eyes burned with anger, and redstar took a half-step forward. the rogues had the senior warrior pinned to the ground, though he continued to struggle in the dirt, calling out to the patrol.
paragraph"daffodilpaw! she's mine," sootstone was saying, his breathing ragged. there was a desperation when he clawed at the ground, but it was clear that he was injured and weak, no match for the rogues. "don't do this redstar, they'll -" he said, though he reeled when nolan flicked his tail, and one of the rogues batted at sootstone head at the command. sootstone felt silent, momentarily stunned and nolan shrugged, apathetic. at his back, redstar caught the signs of his patrol bristling. cyanslash stepped in darkflower's way when the senior warrior moved forward, obviously with the intent to try and help their friend. snakespots spat indignantly and nightfall's tail lashed.
paragraph"in exchange for sootstone, we will give you the barn, the fields, and the moor until the stream. it is yours to have, and there will be no need for us to fight any longer. let's end the war here," redstar said, tearing his gaze from sootstone to nolan.
paragraphfor a moment, nolan turned his head to speak to the pretty molly, and redstar felt his heart rise to his throat. surely it would work. it had to. but nolan shook his head when he turned. "no, there's something else i want," nolan said, and redstar bunched his shoulders, posturing straightening. "i want you, redstar. i want your life, and then i'll make the deal. i'll leave your beloved clan alone, we'll stay to our border." immediately, cyanslash bounded forward until he reached redstar's shoulder, speaking urgently to him, though redstar couldn't hear him. the blood pounded in his ears. faces flashed in front of his vision, of those who had gone before him, of his current clanmates he needed to protect before all else. all of his kits, sweetecho, cyanslash and his family. he thought of hazestar, of badgerstar. of what badgerstar told him at the last gathering: perhaps we are getting old, redstar, but i'd like to think we have a good few moons left in us yet, and he wished so sorely that it could be true.
paragraphhe heard himself say "it's a deal," and he stepped forward to the sound of cyanslash's shout, giving the signal to tallpeak to bring the second patrol in for an attack. he heard sootstone beg as he was hauled to his paws. redstar met nolan halfway, the ginger tom's eyes like ice when he leaned close. he heard nolan say "you shouldn't have trusted me, redstar. i don't make deals," and then another scream when sootstone fell under the claws of his captors. he heard a war cry go up from behind him, likely as tallpeak's patrol came to the rescue, but it was too late. his head hit the ground and his throat burned from where nolan raked his claws to end his life. then the world went black, and redstar's last thought was that he had tried his best, that he had always tried his best to protect the ones he loved.

paragraphit had been raining off and on all evening, and the storm finally slowed to a drizzle when cyanslash left the den, with falconflight in tow. his mate pressed close against his side, whispering gentle words of encouragement before disengaging and leaving cyanslash to climb the boulder that marked where redstar had always made announcements, from the early days of the clan until when he called together the patrols for the parlay with nolan. the memory flashed behind cyanslash's eyelids each time he blinked. after nolan's followers killed sootstone and nolan himself attacked redstar, the following battle had been a difficult one. the barn was filled of rogues, and the patrol would have been overcome if not for tallpeak coming in at the last minute with back up. though it hadn't been entirely without loss. besides redstar and sootstone, they also lost dustear and zinniabelly, who had volunteered to join at the last minute despite being out of practice from being in the nursery for so long.
paragraphthe four cats who had left them were stretched out in the middle of the clearing by the time cyanslash climbed the wind rock, and a cool wind scored across his pelt. though the battle had been only that morning, it felt as though so much time had passed since then. but the moon was beginning to crawl up the sky, and cyanslash needed to address the clan for the first time. "cats of quickclan," he yelled, surprised at the way his voice echoed back towards him against the opposing cliff face where the dens were. there were already several cats in the clearing - daffodilpaw, grassthorn, oriolefeather, and sweetecho and her kits, and they turned to face him, though they didn't remove themselves from their spots by the bodies of their family. slowly, silhouettes emerged from the dens, sliding into focus before him. for a moment, cyanslash felt disoriented, looking down at the expectant faces who stared back up at him, looking for some greater answer. the thought made his heart hammer against his ribs, overcome with the sudden spike of anxiety that this was all wrong, he should not be standing where the great redstar once did. but his gaze found falconflight's, who held it and offered a small nod of his head. so cyanslash spoke to him, to his family. he breathed in deeply.
paragraph"we have suffered many severe losses these past several moons. we've lost family, friends... leaders who brought us all together. you all know that today marks another dark day in quickclan history, for many reasons," cyanslash said, moving forward until he reached the apex of the rock, the highest point to look down at the gathered cats. "we will mourn the losses greatly for a long time to come, but i also urge that we look towards the real threat, as nolan and his rogues remain a dark shadow on the moor. we cannot be safe so long as they are here. and i intend to stomp them out so that we will no longer have fear," he paused long enough to draw in a deep breath and lash his tail. "if you accept me, i will lead you as best i can. stand with me, and nothing will get in our way." then came the moment of truth. "will you have me as your leader, quickclan? i cannot fill redstar's space as the greatest, but i strive to be the best for you and will continue to serve in whatever way you will have me."
paragraphsilence filled the clearing when cyanslash's voice faded off, and his head spun. cold claws gripped his chest as the cats below him exchanged knowing glances. at last, oakseed's large frame rose from the edge of the clearing. the dark tabby stared directly into cyanslash's eyes, even when his voice broke, full of pain. "i've lost my mate and one of my sons. quickclan needs to be strong so we cannot take this issue lightly," he said, turning his head to sweep the crowd before coming to rest at cyanslash again. "i would have you as my leader. i want cyanstar," he said, moving to sit as other shouts of his name rang out. cyanslash, cyanstar, his clan called for them. cyanslash dipped his head to oakseed, who's eyes were dark, his expression grim, but he flicked an ear.

paragraphthey returned to camp with scarred pelts and battered spirits, tails dragging low on the ground when the patrols returned. at the sight, mintstem turned from where she had been posted as a guard, and she raced her way, her voice echoing the shout for the medicine cats. when cyanslash paused at the lip of the path down into the camp, he turned once, and falconflight's stomach dropped at the expression on his mate's face. they'd been lucky, compared to what could have been. nolan and his rogues would have killed them all if tallpeak's patrol hadn't rescued them at the right moment.
paragraphsnakespots carried redstar's body while hollowfang had dustear, duskflower had zinniabelly, and brackenrose and nightfall carried sootstone between them. it was a long, tiring walk back to camp, and the sun had reached its peak by the time they arrived and alpinemask met the patrols with gorseberry and autumnpaw bringing herbs out of their den. however, cyanslash turned to falconflight instead of going to the medicine cats, even though his ear appeared to be shredded from the fighting. "can you get tallpeak and splashfall to meet me up on the moor when they're done getting looked at? i want to talk to you all," cyanslash said, and his eyes were so tired, so sad, that it was all falconflight could do to brush his muzzle against cyanslash's cheek when he passed. he watched cyanslash go with soft eyes before going off to speak to alpinemask, to make sure the medicine cat would look at the clan's deputy when he had the chance.
paragraphsome time had passed, though cyanslash was exactly where he said he would be, sitting neatly with his paws delicately arranged with his tail wrapped around him by the time falconflight brought the other warriors to him. tallpeak's side was covered in cobwebs, and though splashfall dragged his paws, he had not been with the patrols at the barn, instead left behind the in case he was needed to defend the camp. when they approached, cyanslash's eyes stared forward, looking out onto the moor, and he reacted only when falconflight pressed close into his side. "there's a storm coming," cyanslash said absently, tipping his head towards the far border, where dark clouds were gathering, just as he said. falconflight hummed his acknowledgement, only to feel the rigid tension fall away from cyanslash's body. "i just - i can't believe it," cyanslash said absently, and it was splashfall who spoke next.
paragraph"quickclan needs a leader," the tabby and white tom said, his voice cracking with undisguised grief. "redstar's gone now, it should be you. he chose you as his deputy." at that, cyanslash flicked his ear.
paragraph"by that logic, it should be tumblejaw, not me. it was almost you," cyanslash said, turning his head just long enough to thrust his muzzle at splashfall. "you were in the old quickclan, he almost chose you to be deputy. or tallpeak, who's been here the longest. starclan, maybe it should be blizzardrush or -"
paragraph"it's not," tallpeak cut cyanslash off in the middle of his frantic rambling. "redstar chose you, so unless the clan chooses otherwise, it's always going to be you." silence stretched between the warriors before splashfall spoke again.
paragraph"you'll need a deputy," splashfall said, and falconflight nodded silently, stopped short when he realized that cyanslash was looking to him.
paragraphwithout hesitation, he shook his head. "no, love, not me. i wouldn't be a good deputy. i like where i am," falconflight said, not missing the flash of hurt that flickered in cyanslash's eyes, though it was quickly glossed over by understanding and acceptance. again, cyanslash leaned into his side.
paragraph"splashfall," cyanslash said, addressing the other warrior, who met his eyes. "i need you in the warriors' den too. you and blizzardrush, i need you both to help me there, if i'm going to be leader," he said, and splashfall dipped his head. there was no hurt in splashfall's eyes, and falconflight felt a wash of respect for the tabby tom. then, attention turned to tallpeak when cyanslash spoke her name. "tallpeak, be my deputy. you nearly chased me out of the territory when we first met. but i need you by my side now," cyanslash said.
paragraphthere was a lingering hesitation when tallpeak regarded the lithe tom. her gaze met falconflight's, then traveled to splashfall, who was looking off at the moor. at last, she nodded with a bittersweet smile. "yes, cyanslash. i will be your deputy."

paragraphwhen the time finally came for cyanslash to go to the moonpool, cyanslash halted at the top of the camp to turn to address tallpeak. his deputy's ginger and white fur turned silver in the moonlight, and her eyes were wide. "you need to go," she urged cyanslash, "we're already running out of night." though cyanslash shuffled his paws for a moment without saying anything before, at last, he swallowed. alpinemask was waiting for him several steps away, his face raised towards the star-speckled sky.
paragraph"do you remember when we first met all those moons ago?" cyanslash asked her, and tallpeak's ears pricked. "do you remember when it was just us, redstar, and ivystripe?" he asked her again, and this time tallpeak dropped her chin and shut her eyes tightly. she took in a long, shuddering breath before nodding with a low chuckle.
paragraph"of course i do," she said, and cyanslash caught the traces of nostalgia in her tone and he knew that she felt the same way. of course she did, after all. she had been redstar's first warrior all those moons ago. tallpeak cleared her throat then and looked up to meet cyanslash's eyes. "i remember when redstar found me, half-starved after shatteredclan fell apart. i remember when we found you spying on our camp, and dear starclan were you annoying. you, falconflight, blizzardrush... you three were so annoying it's a miracle i wasn't the one to shred your ear," she said, and cyanslash let out a laugh, ducking his head to butt it against tallpeak's chest, allowing the sound of her purr soothe the nerves that made his stomach turn.
paragraph"and you were a total stick in the mud," he teased in return, allowing his eyes to close when tallpeak licked between his ears. not for the first time in the past moon, he couldn't help but wonder how it had all worked out. how he found blizzardrush and falconflight to give them shelter in the barn. he wondered how he'd gone from a loner without a care in the world to deputy of quickclan with a mate and kits, how he'd become leader of his clan so suddenly. "maybe it should've been you," he heard himself say, the words muffled when he spoke towards tallpeak's fur. "you, or blizzardrush, or splashfall. or even tumblejaw."
paragraphbefore he could say anything further, tallpeak pulled back and met his eyes. "redstar chose you, and you were a great deputy. you'll be a great leader, cyanslash, and i'll do everything i can to be a great deputy. but now you need to go, starclan is waiting for you, and i'll be here when you get back, i'll keep them safe," she urged again, this time shoving him towards the awaiting moorland that stretched before him. his paws scraped against the dirt and he took a moment to gather himself before padding down into the darkness to follow alpinemask.
paragraphwhen they reached the entrance to the moonpool, alpinemask stopped outside, his tail raised high. "this is as far as i go tonight," he told cyanslash, "let your paws lead you. starclan is waiting." at that, the gray and white tom turned his eyes away to give cyanslash the time to breathe in deeply and plunge down to the slope of abandoned fox den. the tunnel led down from the moor, and cyanslash was left to feel his way by the brush of his fur against the sides, and he imagined redstar and the medicine cats coming down to meet with the ancestors time and time again. redstar, who's body was still stretched out in the middle of camp for the clan to give their final respects. redstar, who was respected among the other clans, who had brought his clan from the ground up, and who was admired by his own clan, from cyanslash and tallpeak, the longest members, to those as new as swiftscreech, ravengaze, and thunderpaw. redstar, who would no longer be leading the clan he fought so hard to protect.
paragrapheventually, the tunnel began to lighten and open until, at last, cyanslash stood above the moonpool which glinted from light filtering in through a hole overhead. a few moons earlier, perhaps, cyanslash would have gone off to explore the tunnels and the secrets held within, but the water lapped at the soil, and he knew that he had wasted enough time. it was time for him to finally meet starclan. the water was cool to the touch, cyanslash realized with a jolt when he touched his nose to the glassy surface. he lapped up a mouthful and swallowed thickly until his eyelids drooped and fell close. when he opened his eyes a moment later, it was with a jolt, and he sat upright, his gaze tracking across the space. a chill went down his spine, though he saw nothing out of place, exactly as it had been when he blinked. that is, until a voice rang out clearly, calling out his name, "are you looking for something, cyanslash?" it was a voice cyanslash recognized instantly, one he hadn't heard in several moons, and he whipped around to find himself staring up at tumblejaw.
paragraphfor many moons leading to his death, tumblejaw had been a bit of a ghost in the quickclan camp, his eyes dull and fur ungroomed. he spoke to few, merely following orders and going about his days as the wind took him. now, however, he appeared younger, more like the tumblejaw cyanslash first met when he came to quickclan. his green eyes were bright with boundless energy, and he strode forward to touch his nose to cyanslash, who noted the flecks of starlight in his fur. "you look well," cyanslash managed to say, not missing the glimmer of humor that charged tumblejaw's expression at the comment, though it was not tumblejaw who spoke next.
paragraph"starclan does wonders for you, after all," another voice said, and cyanslash's ears pricked when ivystripe came into view, brushing past tumblejaw to touch her nose to cyanslash's. "welcome, cyanslash, it's been a while, hasn't it?" she said, to which cyanslash could only nod dumbly. Of course, he had known that he would see those who had passed on, but seeing ivystripe and tumblejaw again was still so surreal that cyanslash could only blink up at them for a long moment, his tongue tied. ivystripe purred gently and swept her tail around the moonpool, where many other starry pelts could be seen. some were familiar to cyanslash, blinding with the stars that decorated their pelts. zinniabelly leaning down to hush a small kit with privetfang by her side, poppyhaze and rivuletpaw, screechwing with swooppaw and heatpaw. in the center of them all, redstar's broad frame stood the brightest, his chin raised toward the moor over their heads. cyanslash made to step closer to his friend and former-leader, but tumblejaw stepped into his path instead and raised his voice so that it echoed across all of the starry forms, those bright and those dim, known and unknown.
paragraph"when i was deputy, i didn't give my clan the attention and dedication that it needed. i wasn't able to devote myself to my family or my clan, and i failed there. learn from my mistakes, cyanslash," tumblejaw said, and the large warrior's green eyes flickered to where ivystripe settled nearby before turning back to cyanslash, "i give you the gift of duty, both to your clan and your family. falconflight and your kits are equally as important as the clan, but it's important to know how to devote yourself to both," tumblejaw said before touching his nose to cyanslash's head. immediately, cyanslash experienced a rush of emotions. the hollowness and pain of loss that made him double over, his whiskers brushing the floor, and he gasped for air. redstar's words from moons earlier echoed in cyanslash's head, asking what he would do if he lost falconflight or his kits, and by the time cyanslash looked up again, tumblejaw was walking away. the dark tom brushed against ivystripe who got up to take his place in front of cyanslash instead.
paragraph"when you came to quickclan, i remember thinking that you were a young, foolish cat who would only cause trouble," ivystripe laughed, her smile wide and eyes even brighter than cyanslash ever recalled them to be in ivystripe's life. "and that was coming from me, who let you get into trouble with falconflight and nightfall. yet, i was the one who was in trouble, wasn't i?" she said then, her voice moving from light and humorous to serious when her tipped her head at cyanslash. "i broke the code and had kits, but i was forgiven by starclan, and i am grateful for it. with this life, i give you the compassion to give second chances and forgive cats who may cause some trouble from time to time, and for those who makes mistakes. we're not all perfect," ivystripe said, and cyanslash tried to brace himself for the feeling that rushed through him. he felt as though his entire body was torn apart, wracked with guilt and pain, only to be soothed over. when he opened his eyes open, ivystripe smiled gently and licked between his ears. "be strong, look out for my kits, please." with that, ivystripe turned and left him to wait.
paragraphgullfeather moved with grace as in her life, and cyanslash purred at the kits that tumbled along with her, and it struck him that they must have been gullfeather's kits. as if she could read his thoughts, gullfeather purred and nodded. "yes, they're mine," she said, and cyanslash smiled down at the three kits before gullfeather shooed them away, "with this life, i give you the gift of wisdom and farsightedness. sometimes we make impulsive decisions and don't realize that there may be consequences, and it's important to think clearly when one act can affect the entire clan," she said before leaning forward, and cyanslash finched under the rush that sent through his body, lighting his pelt afire. the painful peace of loneliness, cut short by a flash of pain, and then gullfeather was gone.
paragraphin gullfeather's place, screechwing's smile was welcome by cyanslash. "oakseed -" cyanslash tried to say, though screechwing's expression faltered slightly. the smaller tabby tom leaned forward to brush his cheek against cyanslash's.
paragraph"take care of them for me, won't you? please? i don't want oakseed to be in pain forever... tell him that i'm okay. me and swooppaw - we're okay," screechwing said, waving his tail to where his son was still sitting with a tight smile. then screechwing stepped forward and raised his voice to address all those gathered. "i give you a life of love, for the clan and your family. we'll do anything to protect those we love and care about. your clan loves you, just as you love your kits. they'll do anything to keep you safe, just as you will for them," screechwing said before leaning forward. cyanslash had expected another rush of pain, to feel the agony that screechwing had in his final moments, though the life was warm and left cyanslash panting, but feeling energized, prepared to get through the rest of the ceremony.
paragraphheatpaw was taller than cyanslash remembered, built like his father. if he had been given the chance to grow up, cyanslash suspected that heatpaw would have been bigger than any of his siblings. now, heatpaw was shorter than cyanslash but glowed brightly when he offered cyanslash a smile. "i give you a life of training younger cats and being a mentor. we all learn differently, and it's important to have patience. and you can learn from young cats as well, sometimes we're smarter and braver than we might look," heatpaw said, his smile broadening before he leaned up and cyanslash lowered his head to receive the life. a sense of urgency raced through him, the feeling of being weightlessness. he thought of plumpaw, waiting for him back at camp and of cherrydawn, who had grown into a fine warrior, and was more skilled with each passing day. she was warrior to be proud of, and plumpaw would be as well one day. then heatpaw was gone, and piperskip stood before cyanslash with a small smile on her muzzle.
paragraph"cyanslash, i give you the life of confidence and intuition. when my kit was taken from me, i knew that he was out there somewhere and that he would return to me in time. and i wasn't wrong," piperskip said, and her eyes traced to where dustear was seated among the group of cats. when he met cyanslash's eyes, dustear dipped his head respectfully. "trust your gut. while it's good to ask for help, you also need to believe in yourself and hold yourself with confidence." with that, piperskip touched her muzzle to cyanslash's head, and he felt the jolt of electricity that left his pelt fluffed out. at last, piperskip backed away to join her son. the space was silent for a long moment before redstar rose from where he had been waiting. his paws appeared to glide over the ground, not walking so much as floating. when he was closer, cyanslash noted that his pelt was free of the scars earned during his life.
paragraph"redstar, i'm sorry," cyanslash said, ducking his head, though redstar let out a laugh and nudged cyanslash with his shoulder.
paragraph"it was my time. but i'll always be here to watch over my clan and my kits. but now it's your time to lead, and you'll do a great job," redstar said, before scanning the crowd of shining cats. "it may look grim now, cyanslash, but there is no cat i trust more to save our clan. quickclan is strong, but you were right. we do need help sometimes." at that, cyanslash dipped his head, knowing that redstar was right, that with a little help from their allies, quickclan would be able to persevere. "with this life, i give you the gift of hope. quickclan has had a long past of disbanding, yet we are stronger than ever now. have hope, the darkness will not claim our clan yet." at that, several of the dimmer shadows began to fade away completely around them and cyanslash met redstar's brilliant gaze. "have hope, cyanstar, and lead our clan well."
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