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highgarden ♕ 19.5

Postby eagle, » Sat Feb 15, 2020 8:15 am

paragraphotterfur tried his best to keep his head low in highgarden. he played along with the rest of the knights and roses, and they never seemed to feel the need to question him about what came before. bluetcrest assigned him on patrols with dippernose, who liked to talk endlessly, and mapleshadow, who rolled her eyes a lot at the younger clan-members and flickersky and but she wasn't unfriendly. within his first moon with the clan, otterfur found himself sharing meals with hurricanejaw, one of the more respected highgarden knights, and sagecloud, who was good company when she wasn't out at the strikersclan border. still, he couldn't stop his sense of foreboding that came every single time he was alone with his own thoughts for a little too long. in the gaps between dippernose's chatter and sagecloud's snorted laughs, otterfur felt the shadows encroach on the edges of his vision, and he heard the roar of the bear in his ears. it was hard to snap out of those moments, and even harder to smile when hurricanejaw turned to him, or when mapleshadow looked for some sense of kinship when the younger knights and roses created a stir. he knew that his luck had run out long ago, long before highgarden, but he had hoped that maybe it would have been better, maybe he would have been wrong. and then direfang came like a ghost from the past.
paragraphwolfthorn... he had never been a fan of otterfur, the brown tom knew. he had always been so protective over rosemist, and with good reason, it seemed. rosemist was gone, and otterfur had tried hard to get far away from bearclan, to put as much distance between himself and the shadows that would never leave him alone. so he kept his head even lower, knowing that it was only a matter of time under direfang came to him, and so he did.
paragraph"direfang," sagecloud greeted while they shared their evening meal. hurricanejaw had been busy grooming his fur while sagecloud regaled them of her most recent visit with brindlepelt, and otterfur watched as the sturdy silver tabby approached. "come, sit," sagecloud offered, nodding to a space on hurricanejaw's other side. "i was hoping that we could get hurricanejaw to tell us another story like last moon before it gets too cold to sit outside for the rest of the season. i'm concerned that my whiskers are going to freeze soon, and -" but direfang cut her off, managing a tight smile that otterfur noticed was all teeth.
paragraph"i was actually hoping to talk to otterfur for a moment, if i can?" he asked. otterfur watched sagecloud and hurricanejaw exchange a glance, but neither of them knew the truth. if anything, otterfur assumed that they thought it was strange for the secrecy, but direfang only had eyes for otterfur, who knew better than to linger or deny.
paragraph"'course," he said, hoping that his tone sounded just as flat and nonchalant as he wanted it to as he rose to his paws to follow the other knight. to sagecloud, he tipped his head towards hurricanejaw. "maybe you can convince him by the time i get back? i'd like to hear a story too." without waiting for his friend's answer, he hurried after direfang towards the opposite end of the camp, hoping that the others would be too preoccupied in their conversation to notice how his paws twitched nervously and how he couldn't bring himself to look them in the eyes.
paragraphbut it was even harder to look at direfang when the silver tom turned on him, his eyes blazing with what could only be described as rage. "this game you're playing stops here," direfang said, and otterfur fought to keep his fur from bristling, from letting the rest of the clan know that they were arguing about something so dark, so dreadful, that he knew he would be exiled for it. "i see through you, otterfur. i know who you are, and this cat you're pretending to be... he isn't the real you." direfang's tail swished though the air, impatient, and otterfur backed up a step from the other former-bearclan warrior. "i know who you really are, and i know what you've done."
paragraphotterfur shook his head vigorously, and he felt the all-too familiar quake in his heart, the same nerves that he had been trying to will away since he left bearclan. "did you follow me here just to torment me?" he asked, hearing the hollow tones in his own voice. "do you really hate me so much that you had to track me down when i was trying to get away? i left viperstar, and i'm scared every single day that he'll come to drag me back. so i left, direfang, i left and i don't want to be like i was ever again."
paragraph"bearclan's gone, haven't you heard?" direfang said after a beat, and it was the first time that otterfur didn't hear the rasp of a snarl in his voice. if anything, he sounded suddenly bemused and curious when otterfur blinked at him, uncertain. "after your lot left, the bear came into our camp with a fox. they killed so many cats, and then a storm set our camp on fire. bearclan's gone."
paragraphotterfur felt the breath knock out of his lungs. "no," he whispered quietly, and the strength left him when direfang stepped forward to stand over him, glowering.
paragraph"rosemist's gone, otterfur. and bearclan is gone. last i saw your sons, they were fleeing for their lives, and they're gone." otterfur hung his head at direfang's words, and he knew that the other knight wasn't lying. direfang's lip curled and he swished his tail again. "there was no sign of viperstar, so maybe the bear killed him, too. you should've been there. it was your fault. you let it happen, you let it get to the point where the bear came to us and killed us. it's your fault, and i should tell highgarden to drive you out now. how do you think they would react if they found out that they had a murderer among them? what do you think they would do to you?"
paragraphthose questions resounded so fully in otterfur's ears as the same questions he asked himself whenever sagecloud laughed at a joke he made, or when dippernose rattled on about the happenings of his day. he thought of hurricanejaw and mapleshadow driving him out of the clan he had already come to love, and his stomach churned. "i'm trying to be different, direfang. i want to be different, i want to be better," otterfur said, and he dared to glance up at the other knight. "if you want me gone so badly, why haven't you told them yet?"
paragraphdirefang sniffed at that, apathetic to otterfur's pleads and the way his eyes had glossed over with unshed tears, glassy with fear. "prove it," he said simply. "some of the most honorable cats here seem to like you. prove it to me that you deserve their trust. but if you slip up, then i'll make sure everyone knows what you've done and that you're a danger." at that, direfang began to turn away, pausing only to glance over his shoulder at otterfur. "you've got one chance. if you want a second chance so badly, then fight for it. prove that you deserve it." and otterfur watched him pad away, and took the time to slowly come back into himself and steady out his breathing before he could rejoin sagecloud and hurricanejaw, who looked up at him with curious eyes.
paragraphsagecloud had continued to speak about her time with brindlepelt, and though neither of them pressed, hurricanejaw leaned over to otterfur while sagecloud was distracted. "you alright?" he asked quietly, keeping his voice low for only otterfur to hear. "you look a little... skittish."
paragraph"i'm fine," otterfur said, and he knew that it came out too quickly, too rushed to be genuine. hurricanejaw blinked at him again, but didn't push any further. instead, he let otterfur get to his paws shortly after and turn in for an early night. for a while, he laid in his nest, his tail over his nose and eyes shut tight, and thought of what the bearclan camp must have looked like in the blaze, and he wished on all of starclan and the highgarden gods that his sons were still alive.

paragraphas the days passed on, it wasn't long until tawnyrose left her den and began to return to camp life, no longer allowing merlinsong to keep her confined to her den. for much of the day, the kits stayed in the nursery with ferretwhisker and flickersky, letting tawnyrose take her business to the knights and roses. she helped organize patrols with bluetcrest in the morning, and by evening she was socializing with riverfoam's group. "i'm sorry we didn't get a chance to meet formally before now," tawnyrose was saying. her glance skimmed from ayalla and kitechaser to riverfoam and tanagercall. "but bluetcrest and the others have reported great things about what you all have been doing."
paragraphriverfoam swished her tail, letting out a low, easy purr. "of course we understand. highgarden has been very warm and welcoming to us," she began, only to let out a laugh when kitechaser added in:
paragraph"even if the weather hasn't been very warm," the calico said, and tawnyrose purred, her whiskers twitching in amusement. "and we saw your mate with the kits yesterday. they're very cute," kitechaser said.
paragraph"little lightkit already looks so much like you," ayalla added, and tawnyrose grinned at that, her head tipping elegantly.
paragraph"thank you, that's very kind of you to say," she said. to ayalla, she inclined her head with a polite smile. "jaytalon tells me that you've been trying to teach him better tree-climbing skills."
paragraphwhen ayalla ducked her head, bashful, tanagercall flicked her tail. "ayalla climbs trees better than squirrels. you won't find anyone better than her." though ayalla shoved her friend with her shoulder, the others voiced their agreement. they all fell silent when tawnyrose raised her tail, quieting them before ayalla could strike an argument.
paragraph"i believe it. i've also heard that kitechaser is faster than tigergaze and dippernose," she said, and kitechaser seemed to stand up a little straighter at that. "and smallheart said that riverfoam could track prey scents further than anyone else on patrol." at last, the queen's eyes lingered on tanagercall, who met her gaze without wavering. "i heard that you used to be a housepet, is that right?"
paragraph"it's true," tanagercall said without any hesitation.
paragraphriverfoam took a step forward, as if to step between her friend and the queen. "tanagercall hasn't been a housepet for many moons, and while we were traveling, we all taught her everything we could, she's just as skilled as the rest of us, and -"
paragraph"riverfoam," tanagercall broke in, cutting the eldest of the small group off. her eyes remained locked with tawnyrose's, and the queen's mouth twisted with a small smile.
paragraph"when i first became queen of highgarden," tawnyrose said after a beat of quiet. "i didn't know what to think of those who weren't wild-born. highgarden in my parents' time never would have allowed housepets into our ranks. but, i realized something very quickly..." he paused, letting her eyes trail again over the four newest roses. "i learned that there are different types of skills. to have made it this far for so long, and to be commended by senior knights and roses, that is enough for me." tanagercall exchanged a sideways glance with riverfoam, who nudged her friend encouragingly. "again, my apologies that i couldn't have formally greeted you sooner. but welcome to highgarden, all of you." she directed her attention to tanagercall again. "if you need any help, let me direct you to otterfur. he's a little skittish, but he's kind, and he's been a clan cat for a long time. don't hesitate to go to him, just tell him that i sent you." and then the queen turned, excusing herself politely.
paragraph"tawnyrose," tanagercall called when the queen had taken only several steps away. tawnyrose looked back over her shoulder, and tanagercall shuffled her paws. "what made you change your mind?"
paragraphtawnyrose smiled at that, and she flicked her tail. "i met a cat who changed my mind about what housecats are capable of." without waiting for any other response, she bounded away until she crossed the clearing to where bluetcrest was sitting with pythoneyes. her attendant grinned broadly at her approach, and the queen touched her nose to pythoneyes' in greeting before she went to bluetcrest's side. she rested her chin on her friend's shoulder, and bluetcrest leaned against her while they spoke.

paragrapheven though it was cold, clovershine wasn't surprised when betonypetal suggested that they go out hunting together for a little bit. there was a distinct nip in the air, and clovershine knew it was only a matter of time that another snowstorm hit and plunged highgarden under snowbanks, and bluetcrest had been increasing the number of hunting patrols for the season to make sure that the clan would be fed, even more so with more kits on the way. so, when betonypetal asked for clovershine to join her, he wasn't able to deny her, even though his gut twisted with anticipation and the knowledge of what was to come.
paragraphstill, the longer they were out, trekking through the rose pass and beyond, all the way to the old tower, betonypetal didn't push him, and clovershine finally recognized that she was waiting for him to speak first. so, when they finally reached highgarden's secondary camp at the old tower, clovershine slowed his pace to a walk and turned to betonypetal. "ask me," he said, and betonypetal frowned. she hesitated, only to nod to the old tower, silent, but clovershine didn't need to hear her say anything. the wind was picking up and clovershine felt the chill slice through his fur. he knew that betonypetal was likely getting cold as well. so, when they had settled in one of the dens saved for the springtime, he straightened up again. "you've been wanting to ask me since last moon. you can ask," he said, and betonypetal didn't hesitate.
paragraph"why were you and birchflame fighting?" she asked, and clovershine held her gaze. it was a long story, and not all of it was his to tell, he knew that. but he also knew that it was only a matter of time under betonypetal asked, until someone asked what wedged between the two knights who were once joined at the hip. he couldn't tell betonypetal about birchflame and tawnyrose; he couldn't tell her the truth, but he could tell her some version of some truths, and he hoped that, for now, it would be enough.
paragraph"i never told you where i came from, have i?" he asked, and betonypetal's eyes widened when she shook her head. "it was called azgeda, or the ice nation. it was... a rough clan, at times. when i was still a young warrior, i watched our leader be killed. she was assassinated. that's the type of home birchflame and i came from before we found highgarden. every day, we worried that someone might turn on us with their claws, that another assassin would rise up because they disagreed with the way the clan was run. every time there was an argument or any disagreement, you had to fight to be right." the longer he spoke, the more he could see betonypetal's unease, and clovershine had to look away so that he didn't see the shock in her eyes as he became a monster in her sight. "i had a different name, then. when birchflame and i left, the ice nation was falling. there was a change in leadership, and cats were uneasy. we had to leave, or... or else i don't know what could have happen, or what did happen. i just wanted to get away."
paragraphbetonypetal lowered her head to look at clovershine. her eyes searched his face for a long moment, and he couldn't read her expression. "what does this have to do with your fight with birchflame?"
paragraph"it means that when we fight... we fight. and it's not right, and i'm sorry that you had to see it but the way that we express our anger is different than others would. i don't know how to not use my claws, it's all i've ever known," clovershine said. he sighed heavily and drew his tail closer to himself. "birchflame was the one cat i thought i would always be able to rely on, you know? we got each other out of the ice nation, we found highgarden, we fought in the tournament. and all of that... we did it together. we never needed anyone else, but then he started to be more distant. i asked him about it, and he pushed back. he... no, i overreacted. i did, and i know i can't take it back, but my anger got the best of me. i became who i tried to distance myself from. i left the ice nation, i changed my name, and yet i still reverted back to who i was, and i'm ashamed."
paragraphoutside, the wind tore at the den, but betonypetal was silent for a long time. then, at last, she sniffed the air. "i think that you're confused, clovershine," she said, and clovershine sucked in a deep breath. "you're caught between who you were, who you are, and who you think you are. you're not the cat that you were back then, but i don't think you are who you think, either." she studied his face again, taking in his features as if in a new light.
paragraph"then who am i?" he asked, and betonypetal shrugged.
paragraph"you're you," betonypetal answered. "you're clovershine. and that's reality. whatever birchflame said that set you off... he must have been hurting, too, to say something if he knew that it would make you that upset, and -"
paragraph"it was you," clovershine heard himself say, cutting her off. he cleared his throat and shuffled his paws. "i... i like you, betonypetal. i like you a lot. i like talking to you, i like listening to you. i like being with you, and you make me feel different. when i'm with you, i feel like i'm better. i don't feel as angry, i don't feel sad, i don't feel like i have to worry about anything when i'm with you, because i can only think about how happy you make me, and how happy i want to make you." this must have come to a shock to betonypetal, who gazed at clovershine with wide eyes. when she didn't say anything, clovershine shrugged and ducked his head. "he said that i couldn't know if you cared about me, and i... i was upset. because i want you to care about me, but maybe he's right. what i want and what's true are two different things."
paragraphfinally, betonypetal seemed to gather herself, and she reached out a paw in clovershine's direction. "he's wrong. of course i care about you," she said, and clovershine's ears pricked, suddenly alert. "i care about you so much, and i just want you to be happy. when i saw you fighting birchflame, i was scared. not because i was worried that you'd hurt him, or that he would hurt you but... because i never want to see you not be happy. and he did hurt you, and you did hurt him, but i also thought... what would i do if something happened to you? like, really happened? you shine so brightly when you laugh and when you smile, and i want to be around you all of the time," she said.
paragraph"betonypetal -" clovershine began, but she kept speaking.
paragraph"but i can't if you don't know who you are. i'm not asking you to change, but i'm asking you to realize that you're more than you think, and better then whoever you used to be." she blinked, considering him again. "what was your old name?" she asked.
paragraph"storm," clovershine said, and it tasted like dirt on his tongue. it was a bitter name, and old name, a name that he never wanted to belong to again. it was a name that was his and wasn't his at the same time.
paragraph"storm..." betonypetal echoed. "you're not storm. you're clovershine, and you need to realize who clovershine is before we can... before we can figure out who we are." she leaned forward then and gently traced her nose along the mark that was beginning to scar below his eye. though merlinsong had said it was nothing serious, clovershine knew enough about scars to know when one would last; the mark birchflame gave him would last the rest of his life. her touch was warming, and clovershine breathed out a deep sigh.
paragraph"i love you," he whispered, and betonypetal pulled back.
paragraph"who does?" she asked, and clovershine opened his mouth to reply, only to snap it shut at the gleam in her eyes. grimly, he nodded, and betonypetal flashed him a tight smile. together, they sat in the abandoned camp for a little while, listening as the wind pulled at the world outside. but inside, it was warmer, and clovershine felt some of the tension begin to ease from his shoulders.

paragraphthey met in the summer, when their paths first crossed, when there was a warm breeze that stirred wolverine's fur and made him forget of everything that happened during the cold seasons. even as a kit, summer had always been his favorite season, with the sunlight to warm his fur and the cheerful bird chatter. it brought him a sense of peace - he'd survived another winter, the world still turned, and all was well. by contrast, arctic seemed to thrive in the colder seasons and had been sluggish for majority of the warmer days. however, when the leaves began to turn and wolverine knew that his time with his new friend was coming to an end, arctic surprised him. the cat that spent majority of the time complaining about the heat and lounging in the shade bounded to life at the first frost of the year, as if new life had been breathed into him. but just when wolverine was ready to leave arctic behind, they found them... and wolverine knew that their days were numbered.
paragraphthey were small, and wolverine knew that they wouldn't last long without a nursing queen to feed them. the small white tom mewled pitifully, and the dark tortoiseshell hadn't spoken since the pair of toms found the two kits huddled together, shivering to keep warm. even still, the little molly had a lot of fight for someone her size, and she extended thorn-sharp claws the first time arctic tried to get close, hissing with all of the ferocity she could manage, and it had taken arctic and wolverine some time before they could convince her that they wanted to help. even then, she spoke little, and wolverine noticed how tired she was, how much she shivered when arctic tried to hold her close and warm her up. it was only after the kits had fallen asleep at his friend's flank when wolverine nodded to arctic.
paragraph"you're pretty good at that," wolverine said, and arctic smiled crookedly.
paragraph"i had kits some seasons ago. they'd been rascals, all of them," arctic said, and wolverine knew better than to ask any further questions. for all of the strength in arctic's shoulders, and as much as he liked to give off a cool exterior, wolverine had seen it many times over: the look of a cat who was one step from falling off the ledge into despair. it was feeling that he knew just as well as anyone else, as well. there were some places that he couldn't and wouldn't ever push. arctic, however, appeared to see through wolverine just as well, drawing the kits closer to his belly to keep them warm. "you have that look in you... the look when a cat's getting ready to up and run. you're leaving."
paragraphfor a long moment, it was all wolverine could do to blink at his friend before he dipped his head. "i was planning to. but not now... they need us both." arctic shrugged his shoulders and used to tail to smooth down a clump of the white kit's fur.
paragraph"even with you here, they won't last long without a queen and somewhere safe," arctic said, and wolverine wasn't surprised at the revelation. instead, he looked towards the darkened horizon, where he could make out the faint outline of distinct mountains in the distance. with any luck, there was a valley there, and he knew what lie within.
paragraph"i know where we are," wolverine said, toneless. "an old friend told me that there used to be a clan living in a valley of flowers." arctic followed wolverine's line of sight, letting out a low, unimpressed grunt. "he said that he was washed away from his home, but rumor had it that the clan's been growing again. with luck, the rumors are right and they can help us."
paragraph"and we can expect to meet your friend there?" arctic asked, and wolverine turned his cheek away in answer. there was hurt in his eyes, and arctic clicked his tongue after a beat, recognizing wolverine's answer for what it was. "fine, then... what's it called?"
paragraph"highgarden," wolverine said, and by the time dawn rose, silhouetting the mountains and the valley, they set off with the kits. with winter in full swing, wolverine felt the telltale press of the curse thrumming against him, waiting for its moment to strike. he had mentioned only once to arctic that the winter made him... different, but arctic hadn't pressed, and wolverine hadn't answered. instead, his friend gave wolverine his space, though the bicolor knew that he was losing his fur in clumps as the monster slowly woke from its slumber, and arctic noticed. because arctic noticed things like that.
paragraphthey made good time, and the weather held for them. by the time the sun reached its height, they had crossed a border of scent markings, and arctic sent wolverine a surprised glance. they each carried a kit, and wolverine's neck began to ache from the little tom's weight. at the height of the day, they reached an agreement, and they settled in a small clearing, where the sun shone brightly overhead, and arctic took the time to show wolverine how to groom the kits' fur to keep them warm.
paragraph"there you go," arctic was saying between licks of the molly's dark fur. when he opened his mouth to speak again, however, he went suddenly rigid and, in one smooth motion, shoved the little kit to wolverine. "there's someone here," he said. in that same moment, wolverine felt his fur bristle at the back of his neck. he stood protectively over the kits to shield them, and they bunched together between his legs. arctic shot wolverine a concerned glance, but wolverine merely flicked his ears in a silent signal. voices carried on the wind, moving closer, and arctic slipped among the treeline, stealthy. at last, a strange shout rose about the trees:
paragraph"you're on our territ -" but the speaker didn't have a chance to finish before his black and white form broke into the clearing, and arctic was on him in a heartbeat, bowling him over. together, they rolled for the length of the clearing before arctic managed to pin the larger tom down. a small group fanned out, and a young spotted tabby let out a surprised yowl before bunching her muscles, ready to launch herself at arctic, though the pinned tom shouted again: "iguanaspots, no," he ordered, and the tabby stilled, though her eyes flicked between wolverine and arctic. when arctic said nothing and made no move to let the tom up, the leader of the patrol fell still. "my name is hurricanejaw, and you're trespassing on highgarden's territory." finally, arctic looked instead to wolverine.
paragraph"was that the name you said?" arctic asked, his brow arching. "this is highgarden?" wolverine nodded, and the patrol's gaze swept towards him. at last, arctic shrugged and moved off of hurricanejaw. "someone should teach you lot to move faster and protect your sides," he commented, wrinkling his nose before bounding back towards wolverine's side. "alright then, we're burning daylight, let's get back to the camp. lead the way." while the patrol exchanged confused glances, arctic scooped up the white kit by the scruff and nodded to hurricanejaw, who blinked his bewilderment.
paragraph"i don't understand exactly what's happening here -" hurricanejaw began, but wolverine stepped forward at last, giving the small tortoiseshell a gentle nudge with his nose.
paragraph"my friend and i have been traveling and we found these kits. they need a queen to take care of them," wolverine explained, and one of the other patrol members stepped forward. she was pretty, a long-furred brown tabby. she met arctic first, leaning forward to give each of the kits a sniff before her gaze swept back towards hurricanejaw, and they exchanged a swift, unreadable glance. at last, hurricanejaw inclined his chin towards wolverine, who took it as a gesture to continue speaking. "i heard of highgarden some time ago and was hoping you could help us."
paragraph"who told you about us?" that was a smaller tabby tom, who tipped his head to one side, curious.
paragraph"i've been traveling for a long time, and i met a cat who said he was one of the princes of highgarden. he said that he had been washed away in a flood, and rumors had it that highgarden had rebuilt since he was last home. he said that he supposed his sister had taken over as queen... lighteyes, is it? or lightrose?" at wolverine's words, hurricanejaw straightened and gestured toward a small ginger molly. he only said a few words before the little molly tore away in the opposite direction, kicking up dirt as she went, and arctic shot wolverine a sideways glance.
paragraph"according to our current queen, lighteyes was her sister and should have been made queen. unfortunately he was killed in the flood. our queen is tawnyrose, lighteyes' sister... if your story is true, she would want to hear it," hurricanejaw said after a beat. the brown tabby tom stepped forward, hesitating for just a beat before wolverine let him take the little tortoiseshell kit. "please, follow me. we'll take you to highgarden."

paragraphfor a long time, tawnyrose could only blink at the pair of cats across from her. "say it again," she said to the gray and white tom, but softglow interjected from her shoulder.
paragraph"he's already said it three times, my queen," softglow said, and tawnyrose flicked her tail, impatient.
paragraph"and i want to hear him say it again," she shot back, and softglow dipped his head. at tawnyrose's over shoulder, she noticed that bluetcrest was fidgeting, but he offered no comment, leaving tawnyrose to stare at the bicolor until he said it again:
paragraph"he said his name was yewbloom, prince of highgarden," the cat, who hurricanejaw had introduced as wolverine, said, and tawnyrose held his stare until the younger tom looked away, unable to bare the weight of the queen's expectant gaze. 'we met several seasons ago, and he mentioned hearing that highgarden had been rebuilt."
paragraph"say it again," tawnyrose said after a beat, but this time it was the other cat, arctic, who stepped forward. "i mean no disrespect, tawnyrose, but wolverine and i have been traveling for a long time. he's already said yewbloom's name and his story several times. we're exhausted, and i think it would be in the better interest of everyone if we can move on."
paragraph"move on," tawnyrose echoed, drawing the words out carefully. her tail flicked again, and the way she wrinkled her nose suggested that she disliked the way the sounds rolled off of her tongue. "the last time i saw any of my family, it was to find my sister's body washed ashore and she was dead. along with my mother, my father, and my other sisters. as far as i know, i am the only surviving member of my family. and now he," she said, jutting her nose in wolverine's direction, "comes out of no where to say that he has met my brother. no... i don't think i will be moving on from this," she said, but bluetcrest finally shifted, turning to face the queen.
paragraph"surely it's not impossible that yewbloom is alive after this time," he said, and tawnyrose let out a low sigh.
paragraph"he always wanted to leave highgarden for some great adventure... no, i never thought it would be impossible, he was always the one wandering off, never wanted anything to do with our family and the clan," she said, pondering this so deeply that she missed the look bluetcrest and softglow exchanged. at last, tawnyrose sniffed and looked to wolverine and arctic. "are you intending to stay with highgarden?" she asked.
paragraph"no," wolverine said, at the same moment that arctic said: "yes." tawnyrose said nothing in return, merely glanced between the pair. at last, with arctic's sharp blue eyes trained on his, wolverine sagged and nodded slowly, and arctic looked to tawnyrose. "those kits needed a home, and my time of wandering is done. i think it's time to settle," he said, and when wolverine murmured his agreement, tawnyrose shrugged and nodded to bluetcrest.
paragraph"good," she said. "in this trying season, we ask that every able cat pull their weight. bluetcrest organizes patrols at dawn every day, and you can get on the rotation tomorrow." then, to arctic, she nodded her head. "i do ask that you don't attack the other knights and roses again." when arctic dipped his head, hiding his muffled laugh, tawnyrose didn't interrupt, but instead glanced between the two new members. "if the kits have names, then they may keep them. you may, as well, choose if you would like to keep your names or be given new ones, and you can let me know your decision later. for now, we have other business to attend to here. i expect you know your way out," she dismissed them, and they didn't miss their cue wolverine got to his paws quickly, though arctic waved his tail towards tawnyrose, softglow, and bluetcrest. it was only after they were gone that tawnyrose rolled her eyes and shifted so that she was lying down. "tell me we're almost done for the day, i'm tired," she said, and bluetcrest shot her a tight smile.
paragraph"nearly done," he said, only for his smile to waver when tawnyrose gestured for him to continue. when he looked to the king for help, softglow blew out a sigh.
paragraph"we still need to talk about the erasmus situation," he said, and, within an instant, tawnyrose's mood soured. she frowned deeply and rested her chin on her paws, but softglow wasn't so easily dissuaded. "this is important. after what happened with juniperstorm... we need to discuss what we should do."
paragraph"the groveclan cat was never supposed to see him," tawnyrose snapped, though softglow was used to her anger and didn't even blink. "it's why we never sent him on patrols near groveclan and kept an eye on him at all times." at that, her eyes flicked to bluetcrest, who shook his head slightly.
paragraph"sagecloud and i have been doing all we can, and how were we to ever know that she would come to highgarden? groveclan has kept their distance for a long time, they respect the borders."
paragraph"yet she came here anyway," tawnyrose said, and bluetcrest could only shrug his shoulders at that.
paragraphstill, softglow let out a long sigh. "there's nothing we can do about juniperstorm and groveclan now. what happened in the past has happened. we need to control the damages. we can count ourselves lucky that badgerstar hasn't tried to come here since finding out, or that our own cats haven't tried to dig any deeper."
paragraph"hornetshade and otterfur heard everything that was said," bluetcrest pointed out, but tawnyrose scoffed at that.
paragraph"otterfur is scared of his own shadow, and tanagercall will keep him too busy to do anything of notice, i've made sure of it," she said, though her whiskers twitched when she considered the other tom. "hornetshade, however..."
paragraph"he's loyal," softglow said, though bluetcrest snorted quietly.
paragraph"also impulsive and in his own head a lot," the attendant said. "and juniperstorm was looking for him. lest we forget how friendly he was with badgerstar's son."
paragraph"still," softglow interrupted. "it's better to risk that he'll move on than try to push him. like you said, he's impulsive and in his own head. if we push him, who knows what he'll feel the need to do in turn?" at last, bluetcrest murmured his reluctant agreement, and tawnyrose kept her mouth shut. at that, softglow felt the first inch of closing in on rationale, and he looked to tawnyrose. "we should get rid of him while we can, before badgerstar sends groveclan to our border. we should exile him and send badgerstar an envoy to try and keep the peace." it was a bold statement, but bluetcrest's eyes were round, and softglow knew that it was exactly as he had been thinking. still, as always, tawnyrose and her king didn't meet eye-to-eye.
paragraph"no," she said curtly. "if badgerstar hasn't retaliated yet, then he won't. groveclan aren't violent, and it's better to keep erasmus where we can keep on eye on him. don't forget that we have the only cat he cares about." the three shared a knowing glance with their shared knowledge of erasmus and spencer, and tawnyrose hummed thoughtfully. "we have spencer, and badgerstar knows that we didn't kill his kit. highgarden has done no wrong, he has no reason to attack us," she said, but this time it was bluetcrest who tried to argue.
paragraph"even if we didn't kill the kit, erasmus admitted it. by morals alone, we should exile him," bluetcrest said, uneasy. he looked to softglow for help again, and the king merely shrugged his shoulders; tawnyrose had a better chance of listening to bluetcrest, and they both knew it.
paragraphhowever, tawnyrose finally rose to her paws and waved her tail dismissively. "for now, we stand down. we carry on as usual. the more we overreact, the more fallout we'll have to deal with. if badgerstar makes a move, then we deal with it. but erasmus won't do anything so long as we have spencer. bluetcrest, i want you and sagecloud to watch him more than ever. if he so much as snores in his sleep, i want to know of it." reluctantly, bluetcrest dipped his head, though softglow's blue eyes were cold, and tawnyrose frowned at him. "we do nothing, softglow. highgarden is in high spirits because of the kits, and i intend to keep it that way. keep them content, and they'll ask less questions. do you understand?" when softglow said nothing, tawnyrose rolled her eyes. "you're dismissed from this meeting, both of you. your worry makes me feel sick." with that, she shouldered her way out of the den, leaving softglow and bluetcrest to look at one another through the shadows.
paragraph"this is bad, isn't it?" bluetcrest said, and it wasn't a question. softglow let out a final sigh and hunched his shoulders.
paragraph"and i fear it may get worse."

paragraph"do you keep track of whenever i happen to be on the night watch?" hornetshade asked in the quiet of the night, and ferretwhisker hesitated on her approach towards the young tabby, one paw poised mid-air. when hornetshade didn't say anything further, however, and she caught only the faintest trace of sharp hostility on his tone, she pressed on until she reached his shoulder. though his eyes didn't budge from his steady stare at the camp entrance, ferretwhisker noticed the way he squared his shoulders, and she let out a long exhale through her nose.
paragraph"i'm not sure if you're actually asking that question," she said quietly, and hornetshade merely flicked his ear at that in answer. ferretwhisker hummed thoughtfully. "it's hard to find you alone otherwise. you tend to travel with a group," she said at last.
paragraphand it was true. hornetshade, though perhaps not without realizing it, hadn't been alone in a some moons. when he wasn't on patrol, then he was with warblercry, or tigergaze, or iguanaspots and lyrewhistle, or sunglow and smokemane, or all of them at once. there were only sparse pockets of time when he ventured out on his own - on a hunting patrol, when ferretwhisker was back at camp, or when he was asleep in his nest, with others surrounding him in the den. no, he was rarely alone, and ferretwhisker managed to catch the moment when they were the only ones left awake in the camp, and hornetshade couldn't duck away from her. for as hard as he tried, she caught up to him again, and he merely shrugged his shoulders. "i like to keep company, i suppose," he said, with such nonchalance that ferretwhisker felt her fur begin to prickle. she couldn't read his placid expression or the hollow tones in his voice, and it unsettled her. after the last time they had spoken, she was prepared for hornetshade to be angry, but now he seemed to be bordering on apathetic, and she felt lost. as if he was reading her mind, hornetshade finally shot her a glance out of the corner of his eye. "is there something i can do for you, ferretwhisker? or do you want to distract me all night?"
paragraph"i -" suddenly, it seemed far less important, and ferretwhisker's mouth snapped shut. she considered the knight for a moment before words forced themselves from her mouth. "there's something else on your mind, something that's bothering you," she said, not missing the way that hornetshade's nose twitched. "you have a lot resting on your shoulders, and you're struggling to keep it all together, aren't you?"
paragraphat last, she caught the way hornetshade flicked his tail and his facade began to crack. "why do you think i'd tell you of all cats what i'm thinking about?" he asked, the trace of a growl on the edges of his voice, and ferretwhisker finally felt as though she was getting closer to the root of the issue.
paragraph"i never said that i thought you would," ferretwhisker said, calm and collected. "but if there's anything that you don't want to tell your friends and that pretty tabby, then who better to tell than the one cat you don't care for? you don't care what i think of you, anyway. there's no losing there." she expected hornetshade to throw her words immediately back in her face, wrapped in venom. so she was suprised yet again when hornetshade didn't answer immediately, and instead he seemed to consider the statement.
paragraphat last, hornetshade shrugged his shoulders again. "right now, you're not the cat i dislike the least," he said curtly, and ferretwhisker's expression must have given away her thoughts, for hornetshade huffed. "i still don't trust you, and i would rather you were anywhere else in the world but... as much as i don't trust you, i trust erasmus even less." when ferretwhisker said nothing, hornetshade finally cast the camp entrance once last glance before he turned to face her. "he told a story last moon about why juniperstorm came here and... i think he's lying. he said that his past leader killed badgerstar's kit, and that he helped fight groveclan because he was scared and that he was worried that the leader might do something to spencer."
paragraph"spencer's his mate," ferretwhisker pointed out. their voices had lowered to whispers, mindful of the quiet night around them, and that anyone could be listening from the shadows. "of course he'd be worried about him."
paragraph"but when have you ever known a cat like him to be scared of anything?" hornetshade asked, and ferreywhisker froze. she thought of another cat that hadn't been much smaller than erasmus; of a cat who also towered over others and showed off his fierce strength. "you know just as much as i do that cats like them are capable of anything, and they fear nothing. they'll take what they want and they don't have any second thoughts." it was like the temperature had dropped even further, and a chill ran up ferretwhisker's spine like the rake of claws.
paragraph"montgomery," ferreywhisker said in a hush, an even softer whisper. the name was like a curse, and hornetshade's expression tightened. "you really think that he's lying?" she asked hornetshade, and he nodded once without hesitating.
paragraph"why would he ever be frightened like he said he was?" hornetshade shook his head then with a grimace. "but the others believe him. why wouldn't they?"
paragraph"they don't know like we do," ferretwhisker said, and her stomach roiled. then, her eyes grew wide when realization struck her. "you know what happens to cats who stick their noses too far beyond their reach," she said, and hornetshade merely sniffed, apathetic and uncaring again. he swung back, locking his eyes on the camp's entrance.
paragraph"i saw cats who pried too far be killed," he said, and there was a heat under his words, and a sadness there as well. but it was all masked, as if he was burying it all deep down, pushing down, down, down, until his tone was flat and cold again. "but my parents did nothing. my mother never stepped a paw out of her own boundaries, but that didn't save her either."
paragraph"you shouldn't," ferretwhisker said.
paragraph"but that's where you forgot," hornetshade drawled carelessly. "you forgot that whatever i do has nothing to do with you. my life doesn't concern you." with that, his tipped his head back towards the nursery, dismissing her, and ferretwhisker felt numb when she rose to her paws. "good night, ferretwhisker."

paragraphsoftglow felt especially warm in the nursery, and he was glad that the knights and roses had helped patch several of the smaller holes in the walls before winter had fully set in. hawthornkit's paw poked into his ribs, and softglow was sure that his tail had gone numb ever since bramblekit decided to settle there for a nap and hadn't moved since. lightkit, meanwhile, was surprisingly awake and alert, her eyes tracking back and forth between flickersky, ferretwhisker, and merlinsong as they spoke. the herbalist had come to check on the new kits that arcticblink ad wolverinesnap brought with them, and to check on flickersky. when he had finished, ferretwhisker had managed to convince him to stay a long longer and share a mouse with them. merlinsong had looked to softglow and smiled. "i suppose a little longer wouldn't hurt," he'd said, and settled in between ferretwhisker and softglow.
paragraphthe king listened to the chatter and watched the proceedings through half-lidded eyes as drowsiness settled in his core. the winter was always a particularly taxing season, and he was thankful for the moment to rest. in the other corner of the nursery, ferretwhisker's kits had taken to a small game, batting a moss ball between themselves, minding their mother's earlier warning not to disturb the younger kits. adenium, the tortoiseshell kitten, and snowykit, the albino tom, had taken to napping in ferretwhisker's long fur as well. it was only when lightkit stirred, turning in softglow's grasp, that the king raised his head in time to watch quillkit bound over towards the heir. respectfully, the little tom dipped his head to the king and the heir before he blinked his large eyes at lightkit. "hi," he said quietly, and lightkit's smile was soft.
paragraph"hi," she echoed back. even for a kit so young, her eyes were bright and sharp, and softglow couldn't help but smile to himself when quillkit hesitated, teetering on a question.
paragraph"i saw that you were awake, and i was wondering if you would like to play with us," he said, straightening up when he waved his tail back towards his siblings. dewkit and elkkit appeared to be the only ones still interested in the small game, whereas beechkit had taken to grooming her fur and harrierkit strayed from the group to walk over to her mother, letting out a low purr when adenium opened one bleary green eye. "my mom said we have to be gentle, and harrierkit and beechkit are already tired so... you don't have to if you don't want to play, but... it could be fun," he added. wordlessly, lightkit glanced from quillkit to her brothers, then to softglow.
paragraph"can i?" she asked after a moment, and the king nodded to quillkit.
paragraph"you'll be gentle?" he asked quillkit, who puffed up his chest and squared his shoulders. "you'll look after her?"
paragraph"i promise," quillkit answered without any hesitation. "of course i'll look out for you," he said to lightkit, and softglow nodded at last, giving lightkit a gentle nudge with his nose.
paragraph"go ahead then, and stretch your legs. it'll be good for you." without any further pretense, lightkit stood and shook out her fur before bounding after quillkit to the other end of the nursery. softglow watched them go, turning his head only when flickersky let out a gentle purr and rested her head on ferretwhisker's shoulder. "what?" softglow asked when ferretwhisker grinned at him and merlinsong muffled a laugh.
paragraph"do you know how much of a softie you are?" merlinsong asked, letting out another laugh when softglow rolled his eyes. "no, no, it's more than your name. you're already becoming a good dad," the herbalist said, and ferretwhisker nodded her agreement.
paragraph"they already adore you," she said, nodding to where hawthornkit and bramblekit slept on. "when i had my kits, they were such a pawful. i'm glad tulipstream was here too, otherwise i don't know what i would've done. tawnyrose is lucky that you're here to take care of them too." softglow caught the slightest glint in her eyes, as if ferretwhisker thought that tawnyrose should have been in his place instead - or, at the very least, not seeming to avoid the nursery at all costs once she found her paws again.
paragraph"they're my kits," softglow heard himself say, though the words were sour on his tongue. "of course i want to be here to watch over them." he looked from merlinsong to ferretwhisker, though neither said anything. it was flickersky who broke the silence, as she was often wont to do.
paragraph"well," she said. "i'm excited for my kits to finally be here. even if it means the nursery might feel kind of crowded," flickersky added, shrugging her shoulders. "and stars know that i'll need the help. which is why you can't just leave me when your kits are made into thorns." at that, she flicked ferretwhisker, who let out a twinkling laugh. at last, the air cleared, and softglow looked from merlinsong to where quillkit was sitting with lightkit, the pair passing the mossball back and forth. the king watched at how gently quillkit kicked it to lightkit, so she wouldn't have to struggle and chase it down, and how he made a show of scrambling for it each time lightkit sent it towards him, just to make her smile and feel as though she was doing a great job. around softglow, the nursery was warm, and when hawthornekit began to stir, softglow pulled him closer so he wouldn't be as cold upon waking up.

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highgarden ♕ twenty

Postby eagle, » Tue Feb 18, 2020 4:14 pm

      total 63
      servings 11 (+70)
      ________________ Image ________________

      gods n/a
      pebbles 80
      archive xx
      font credit x x

writing was too long. can be found here

[ cat trade ] flickersky gives kits 1 & 5 to stormshroud of the shadowed kingdom
[ consumption ] highgarden eats three finches and two mice
[ rank changes ] elkkit, beechkit, harrierkit, quillkit, and dewkit are old enough to become thorns
stagpaw is also ready to take his final assessment
[ patrol 1 ] bluetcrest, betonypetal, ayalla, smokemane, iguanaspots, and warblercry
[ hunt 1 ] bassflow, erasmus, dippernose, otterfur, sagecloud, and hornetshade
[ hunt 2 ] softglow, swiftheart, tulipstream, tigergaze, foxspark, lyrewhistle
[ hunt 3 ] clovershine, obsidianwing, wolfhowl, pythoneyes, direfang, and sandstrike
[ hunt 4 ] mapleshadow, maplelily, newtmask, riverfoam, kitechaser, and tanagercall
[ training ] seedpaw learns climbing
daisypaw learns fighting
rabbitpaw and briarpaw learn hunting
[ herbalists ] merlinsong and spencer practice medicine
[ herb hunt ] merlinsong and spencer
[ notes to mod ] i ask that no one die on patrols though injuries are fine xo

    tawnyrose, 38m, ♀
    the wayward queen
    - mate: birchflame
    - kits: lightkit, hawthornkit, bramblekit

    softglow, 40m, ♂
    the lost king

    lightkit, 2m, ♀

    bluetcrest, 42m, ♂
    the wayward's attendant

    merlinsong, 45m, ♂ - 5sp
    spencer, 40m, ♂ - 5sp

    roses & knights
    otterfur, 74m, ♂
    direfang, 70m, ♂
    sagecloud, 56m, ♀
    mapleshadow, 54m, ♀
    erasmus, 52m, ♂
    hurricanejaw, 50m, ♂
    maplelily, 48m, ♀
    bassflow, 48m, ♂
    newtmask, 47m, ♂
    dippernose, 47m, ♂
    arcticblink, 45m, ♂
    pythoneyes, 43m, ♂
    tulipstream, 39m, ♀
    birchflame, 39m, ♂
    yewbloom, 38m, ♂
    betonypetal, 37m, ♀
    clovershine, 36m, ♂
    smallheart, 36m, ♂
    wolverinesnap, 35m, ♂
    riverfoam, 34m, ♀
    swiftheart, 32m, ♀
    kitechaser, 30m, ♀
    obsidianwing, 29m, ♂
    ayalla, 27m, ♀
    jaytalon, 27m, ♂
    smokemane, 26m, ♀
    sunglow, 26m, ♂
    tigergaze, 25m, ♂
    sandstrike, 23m, ♀
    hornetshade, 22m, ♂
    privetears, 21m, ♀
    tanagercall, 20m, ♀
    cougarstrike, 19m, ♂
    racoonslip, 19m, ♂
    foxspark, 19m, ♂
    wolfhowl, 19m, ♀
    iguanaspots, 19m, ♀
    warblercry, 19m, ♀
    lyrewhistle, 18m, ♀
            stagpaw, 12m, ♂
            seedpaw, 12m, ♀
            rabbitpaw, 12m, ♀
            briarpaw, 10m, ♀
            daisypaw, 10m, ♀

            ferretwhisker, 43m, ♀
            - kits: elkkit, beechkit, harrierkit,
            quillkit, dewkit

            flickersky, 36m, ♀
            - mate: stormshroud, shadowed kingdom
            - kits: cirruskit, tsunamikit, tornadokit

            elkkit, 6m, ♂
            beechkit, 6m, ♀
            harrierkit, 6m, ♀
            quillkit, 6m, ♂
            dewkit, 6m, ♀
            adenium, 3m, ♀
            hawthornkit, 2m, ♂
            bramblekit, 2m, ♂
            snowykit, 2m, ♂
            cirruskit, 0m, ♂
            tsunamikit , 0m, ♀
            tornadokit, 0m, ♀

            name, age, gender
            name, age, gender

            allies & enemies & borders


            total x106
            mouse | x7 | 1 serving
            vole | x8 | 1 serving
            small fish | x3 | 2 servings
            squirrel | x13 | 2 servings
            rabbit | x14 | 2 servings
            big fish | x4 | 3 servings
            finch | x5 | 3 servings

            hurricanejaw, stagpaw, 4
            smallheart, seedpaw, 3
            birchflame, rabbitpaw, 2
            jaytalon, briarpaw, 1
            sunglow, daisypaw, 2
            mentor, thorn, 0


            family trees
credit goes to the cac staff & artists for all color-ins and lineart xoxo
Last edited by eagle, on Thu Feb 20, 2020 8:06 am, edited 1 time in total.
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highgarden ♕ 20.5

Postby eagle, » Thu Feb 20, 2020 8:04 am

indentthe longer yewbloom walked, the stronger the pang in his chest reminded him of the last time he had seen his home. even after so many moons, the his paws fell easily into rhythm, as if he had never left. the night of the flood had never left yewbloom's memory: he recalled the sounds of the camp around him falling silent when a patrol came racing back through the entrance, carrying the news that the thaw had come early, and that the rivers and streams had already bushed beyond the banks. and yet, they'd been foolish and careless to think that they would be spared. the senior knights and roses had laughed, and the elders had balked at the slight flare of panic. there was no such thing as a mid-winter flood, they said, only to have their own words thrown back at that, as if by the gods themselves. the sound of cracking woke the clan, to find the waters pressing into camp, and there had been no time to escape before the walls gave way, letting the flood wash them away. yewbloom remembered the feeling of being carried off of his paws, and the sound of his sister's shout when berryjaw tried to grab at him, but it was too late. by the time he had been washed ashore and able to get his paws under him on solid ground, yewbloom knew that he had been washed impossibly far away from highgarden. he found russetpetal not too far away from him, but his other sister must have hit her head along their way, and she didn't wake when yewbloom nudged her.
indentit took time to get his bearings, and no cat he spoke to then had even heard of highgarden. he wandered, on and on until his pads bled, and then he pushed further, but it had been no use. he had been young, foolish, and lost. hope, he found, dwindled fast when there was nothing to hold fast to. the closest piece of home he had was his sister's grave when he buried russetpetal, but he had already put several moons of distance between himself and his sister's body. so he found the next best: he survived. and, along the way, he found that he enjoyed his travels, for all they were worth. for most of his life in highgarden, he had stared out across the borders and wished for the chance to venture elsewhere. more than once, yewbloom wondered if the gods had been mocking him by finally granting his wish.
indentbut he wasn't always alone. king tallstep had always told his youngest son that he was sociable, which paired well with the training yellowrose gave to all of her kits to teach them how to hold their heads high, how to walk with a purpose and speak in a way that made them likable. none of them had been as adept as lighteyes, but when compared to berryjaw's resting scowl and tawnystripe's apathy, yewbloom thought that he fared quite well. he liked smiling, he liked talking, and he found that others liked listening to him, even in places where the title "prince of highgarden" meant nothing. there was a tom named jet and his two kits, who yewbloom liked well-enough, an older molly named persephone who told him stories of her time as a member of a rogue group, and a bicolor tom named wolverine who constantly shied from his own shadow and whom, above the rest, yewbloom spent the most time with. together, they spent a rainy spring in the ruins of a twoleg barn, trading stories. wolverine told of his time with his siblings as a housecat, and yewbloom offered stories of highgarden in return. in exchange, yewbloom didn't ask about the yawning gaps in wolverine's stories, and wolverine never asked why yewbloom hadn't gone back to the clan he so clearly loved.
indenttruth be told, yewbloom wasn't sure either, not for a long time. not until he had wolverine spent more time together, that was, and yewbloom had the chance to recognize that he was beginning to care for the other tom. and yewbloom knew only too well what happened to everyone he once cared about, and he wasn't ready to see the ruins of his home, just as he wasn't ready to watch his time with wolverine turn sour. he couldn't say what he expected to happen, but he didn't need to lose anyone else, not even when rumors started to reach them that there was a new queen of highgarden. by the time the leaves started to brown and frost gathered across the grassy fields, yewbloom was considering ways that he could leave before wolverine was hurt. when he woke up one morning to find that his friend was gone, yewbloom thought that it was better this way, that it was better wolverine leave before yewbloom did, though there was no denying the way his chest ached in his absence.
indentas much as yewbloom thought that the rumors were fake and that there was no way that his sister could have survived, it was only a matter of time until his paws began to take him back towards highgarden only moons after wolverine left him. the closer he got to home, first catching sight of the mountains in the distance, then hearing the creak of the windmill and the bubble of the streams, the faster yewbloom's paws took him until he was nearly running through the rose pass, skidding to a halt only when he reached the entrance to the camp. for a moment, he could have sworn that his ears deceived him when he heard voices, but the clearing opened before him, and he was allowed a beat to gaze around in awe before he was spotted. eyes began to turn in his direction, but yewbloom didn't hesitate when he stepped forward. "my name is yewbloom, prince of highgarden. i would like to speak to queen lightrose." such were the words that he had prepared during his final stretch of running, easy on his tongue.
indentinstead of his sister, a handsome blue-eyed tom stepped forward, his head tipped elegantly in a way that yewbloom recognized from his own practice. "prince yewbloom," the tom said, and his tone was gentle. "my name is softglow, the current king of highgarden." and any other words yewbloom had prepared were thrown away immediately, and he blinked at the supposed king.
indent"you are not my sister's mate," yewbloom heard himself say. "lighteyes was mates with -"
indent"you misunderstand," softglow cut in, managing a tight smile. "i am not lighteyes' mate. tawnyrose is highgarden's queen."
indentrealization came slowly, and by the time yewbloom recovered, he realized that there was a new set of eyes boring into the side of his head, and he turned to face the current queen when his sister's familiar voice called out to him. "father always said that you were bad at directions, but i never thought that it was possible for a cat to be lost for as long as you were," she was saying on her approach, coming to a stop when she was a tail-length away. the last time yewbloom saw tawnystripe, it was when she returned from patrol. they had shared only a few words before he decided that he was tired and wanted to sleep before he was due on the dawn patrol the next morning. now, there was a new set to her shoulders that he recognized, but not on her. tawnystripe had always been graceful, but never poised in this way.
indentat last, yewbloom smiled and tawnyrose matched his expression. yewbloom purred and leaned forward, closing the distance between them when he leaned his forehead against his sister's. "don't take this the wrong way," he said quietly, just for her to hear. "but i never thought that i would see you as queen. mother would've had a fit."
indenttawnyrose's laugh when quiet, but not displeased, and she pulled away, shoving gently at yewbloom's shoulder. "i'm sure she's in the stars watching very carefully to see if i ever was paying attention to her lessons," tawnyrose allowed, and yewbloom let out another purr.
indent"you never paid attention to anything mother said, and even less during one of her lectures about tone and how to address others," he said, letting out a laugh of his own. however, movement from the corner of yewbloom's eye caught his attention, and he was already turning when wolverine's voice reached his ears.
indent"yewbloom?" the long-legged tom asked, and yewbloom blinked at him for a long moment before his paws carried him. yewbloom took a tentative step at first, and then wolverine smiled, small and careful, and it was all it took before the ginger tom bundled immediately into his friend. for a moment, it seemed as though they would tip over from yewbloom's greeting, but wolverine managed to stay upright. instead, yewbloom butted his head against wolverine's shoulder.
indent"what are you doing here, wolverine?" he asked through a purr. it wasn't wolverine who answered, but tawnyrose. she had settled where yewbloom left her, letting her brother reunite with his friend. together, the pair looked to the queen when she spoke, stilling long enough for yewbloom to lean against wolverine, and for wolverine to rest his chin on yewbloom's shoulder.
indent"his name's wolverinesnap now," tawnyrose said, and yewbloom immediately turned back on his friend, nudging him again with renewed vigor.
indent"it's true?" he asked, not missing the way wolverinesnap ducked his head bashfully under the attention. "you're a knight now? what happened when you said that you didn't think that you could ever join a clan, hm?" wolverinesnap's smile was shy, and his blue eyes flicked from yewbloom to tawnyrose. the queen had been joined by the same cat who had introduced himself as king, and another white and gray cat who sat at her opposite shoulder. at last, yewbloom gazed across the rest of the clearing, where many unfamiliar faces stared back at him, more than he could have ever thought to have settled in highgarden again. a long-furred queen gathered kits towards her with her tail by the nursery, but one of them broke free. the little torbie bounded forward until she gazed up at yewbloom, and it took the prince only a beat to place the gleam in the eyes that stared up at him. "tawnyrose... i never would have thought..." he trailed off for a moment, glancing from his sister to the little kit before he composed himself. "well, what's your name, then?" he asked, and kit didn't shy away from him.
indent"lightkit, daughter to queen tawnyrose and king softglow, heir to highgarden," she said, with a tone that spoke of having rehearsed the words to find the right cadence, and yewbloom blinked gently down at her.
indent"lightkit," yewbloom repeated quietly. his heart felt full in his chest, his mind whirling from everything that he found, most of which was unexpected. for a moment, his words felt choked in his throat. memories of lighteyes, russetpetal, and berryjaw rose to the forefront of his mind. he thought of his only brother, robinwing, and of yellowrose and tallstep, and all of the rest who had been lost to the flood. for so long he had feared that he lost everyone he could ever care about, but he felt wolverinesnap's presence near his shoulder, he knew tawnyrose stood behind him, and yewbloom looked down at lightkit until he found his words. "my little queen, it is an honor to meet you. my name is yewbloom," he managed at last.
indent"my mother mentioned that she had a brother named yewbloom," lightkit said after a moment of consideration. "we thought you were dead. you weren't here."
indent"lightkit -" softglow cautioned, but yewbloom shook his head slightly. he crouched down to be at-level with the heir to the clan.
indent"you're very smart, little queen," yewbloom said when he was sure that no one else would try to interrupt. he was aware of all of the other clan cats looking at him, watching the proceeding between the little kit and the prince they had never known, but yewbloom let the rest fade away for a moment. "your mother must have told you about the flood, i suppose?" when he received a nod, yewbloom shifted his weight, settling down. "when the flood came, i was taken very far away, further than the horizon. i spent a long time thinking that highgarden was gone, and i met so many cats, cats who didn't even know what a clan was. i saw valleys and mountains topped with snow. i saw twoleg buildings that touched the sky, and i saw moors that stretched as far as i could see, and then further still. i met strangers, i made friends, and finally my paws took me here. i think the gods decided that i had seen enough of the outside, and they decided that i should see my family and home again." again, he felt the weight of stares on him, and heard wolverinesnap take in a breath behind him, but yewbloom didn't look away from his niece. "my little queen, i can assure you that i'm very much alive, and i'd like to be here, if you'd allow me the chance."
indentthis time lightkit didn't leave him waiting, and he watched as she grinned, not hesitating before she moved forward, purring as she touched her nose to yewbloom's. "i'm glad you're alive," she said, and yewbloom felt a flash of warmth in his chest.
indent"so am i," yewbloom said quietly, just for her. when he straightened at last and cast a glance first towards wolverinesnap, and then tawnyrose and her court, he couldn't help but smile. "i'd like to come home now, tawnyrose, if i may."
indentbut tawnyrose laughed, shaking her head dismissively. "you think i should welcome you back?" she asked, and yewbloom found wolverinesnap's gaze again. when he leaned against his friend, he was surprisingly solid, present where he had been gone for moons, and yewbloom realized that he missed him; he had missed his sister, his friend, and his home for too long. his travels had been long and good, but he'd been away for too long.
indent"i think you'd have a hard time keeping me away."

indentwhen merlinsong heard another cat enter the herbalists' den, he had been so focused on his own task of prepping herbs for flickersky's upcoming kitting that he merely assumed that spencer had returned from fetching moss and cobwebs. so, when he called out for spencer to bring him some of the moss and received no answer, he let out a frustrated huff and turned quickly around. "spencer -" he began, only for his mouth to clamp shut when he looked down to where adenium was standing, her wide green eyes gazing up at him. "oh."
indent"i saw spencer talking to bluetcrest outside," the little tortoiseshell supplied with a casual shrug. "it didn't look like he had any moss, though, so i'm not sure he'd be able to give it to you even if he was here." for a long moment, merlinsong gazed at her before he let out a sigh before he turned back to his bundles of herbs.
indent"it's going to snow soon, you shouldn't have left ferretwhisker and the nursery," he said, but he nodded her towards a pile of sticks that he had collected earlier that day. "but since you're here, and i doubt i can get you to go back, you can help me and go through those. sort out the broken or rotting ones." he wasn't sure if he actually expected adenium to help, but she settled at his side without hesitation and pawed through the pile.
indent"i got bored," she said after a long moment of working in silence. at merlinsong's gentle hum, adenium's whiskers twitched. "elkkit only comes up with games that he thinks are fun, beechkit, harrierkit and dewkit chatter too much about nothing, and quillkit spends almost all of his time watching over lightkit like a hawk," she said, absently, as if it was of no consequence to her, and merlinsong supposed it wasn't. "hawthornkit and bramblekit go out to be with softglow a lot, and snowykit prefers to stay inside."
indent"it is cold out for kits," merlinsong commented, but adenium shrugged.
indent"his name's snowykit, he should be able to manage it," she said, and it took merlinsong a moment to realize that she was joking, and he finally sat back on his haunches to look at her properly. though adenium was young and had only been in the clan for a moon, when arcticblink and wolverinesnap brought her and snowykit, there was a sharp intelligence there that he easily recognized, and he considered her again. "and anyway, ferretwhisker said that we have to be quiet for a while, since flickersky will be having her kits soon. and even then, we'll have to be quiet and not do too much, since they'll be little."
indent"i've found that it's usually a good idea to listen to ferretwhisker, she usually knows what she's talking about," merlinsong said when adenium had gone quiet. after a beat, he reached out to took a stick from between her paws and tested its sturdiness, pleased when it didn't crack. "and you were bored, so you came here, then. why not see if one of the thorns would entertain you? stagpaw usually likes a chance to show off, and daisypaw is very kind, so pythoneyes says, unless you wake her in the middle of a nap."
indentat last, adenium stood and walked around merlinsong. she glanced over the piles of herbs that he had set aside, and when he didn't move to stop her, she leaned forward to sniff at a pile of leaves. when she recoiled, wrinkling her nose at the bitter scent, merlinsong let out a resounding laugh. "i guess i was curious with what you do in here. i've watched stagpaw and rabbitpaw spar in the camp. and they're good but..."
indentwhen she trailed off, merlinsong tipped his head to one side. "but?" he prompted.
indent"i just don't get why. ferretwhisker said that highgarden has been very safe, and she's been here a long time. what's the point of practicing to fight when there's no fight to be fought? what you do seems more practical. ferretwhisker said that you're going to help keep flickersky and her kits safe." and merlinsong, for his part, felt taken aback by the way adenium spoke. she was eloquent in a way that he hadn't expected from a kit, let alone one as young as she was, and he regarded her in a renewed light, and the gentle smile wavered on his face the longer her words set in.
indent"do you want to know the truth?" he asked, and adenium didn't hesitate to nod, eager. "highgarden has been safe for many moons, it's true. but that doesn't mean that it'll always be safe. we make sure thorns can swim since the flood wiped out highgarden before tawnyrose became queen. we patrol borders to check for any animals that might have crossed boundaries, and we make sure to interrogate cats that come this way so that we know that they won't come to harm us. just because there hasn't been a battle or any fights recently doesn't mean that there will never be one. so stagpaw and daisypaw and the others are being trained not for what hasn't happened, but for what might happen." adenium listened intently, and when merlinsong finished, she nodded thoughtfully. before she could say anything else, however, merlinsong straightened when he heard pawsteps at the entrance of the den, and he leaned forward to lick between adenium's ears. "everything we do here is practical. we never know what's going to come around the next corner." at that, he stood to meet spencer when the lithe tom padded forward, holding a bundle of moss. "finally, i've been waiting for this. we have company."
indentspencer shot adenium a small but kind smile when merlinsong took the moss from him. "i thought we were trying to keep you all in the nursery," he said after greeting adenium, but the other herbalist shrugged one shoulder.
indent"adenium decided that she was an exception, and i agree this time. she's been a great help. she was curious what we do in here, so i'd watch out, or she might be sniffing around to take your position next," merlinsong teased spencer, who balked, turning his wide blue eyes from merlinsong to adenium.
indent"so soon?" he asked, and this time adenium shrugged and went back to sorting through the sticks while merlinsong checked through the moss to make sure that it was dry.
indent"merlinsong said you were taking too long. you snooze, you lose." at that, merlinsong couldn't contain his booming laugh, and spencer joined in. when he had calmed, merlinsong winked at adenium, who smiled down at the sticks, though there was no forgetting what she had been told.

indenterasmus felt the restlessness stir deep in his bones, making him feel trapped, just like he already knew he was. eyes followed each and every move he made, making his skin crawl like he was covered in fire ants, and it seemed that bluetcrest and sagecloud weren't even trying to pretend otherwise any longer. in the beginning, it seemed, they had tried to keep their actions inconspicuous, like it just so happened that sagecloud was constantly on the same patrols as him, or that bluetcrest also wanted to go to the stream to get a drink of water. at first it had been almost amusing, it see the way they squirmed and tried to find a way into his head, but the longer it dragged on over the moons, and when it became clear that erasmus knew what they were doing, it quickly lost its pleasure and erasmus needed to find a way out.
indentso he waited until nighttime, when sagecloud had been shipped off to strikersclan for the evening and bluetcrest was tucked away in his den. erasmus supposed that they thought that, surely, he wouldn't risk leaving the camp with the coming storm that was just on the horizon, but it seemed that they underestimated just how desperate he was beginning to feel since juniperstorm came to highgarden and made a scene. it was never supposed to be that way, and he had braced himself for the immediate fallout. when nothing came, he eased into damage control. he kept an ear out and listened as the knights and roses began to take his side. indeed, why would this groveclan cat have the nerve to come into their clan to insult one of their own? if anything, they thought, it showed that groveclan was disillusioned and didn't understand their place. leave it to the softhearts to think they were morally better than highgarden, who had never gone out of their way to cross clear border markings. for a little while erasmus thought that silence on his part would be better, that it would be easier for the others to fill in the blanks if he didn't start an argument when there didn't need to be one. but then when the opportunity presented itself, he took the leap, and found that it was all the better for it.
indentsome cats still granted him slanted looks, but erasmus didn't concern himself with the queen or daydreaming knight. ferretwhisker didn't know anything beyond the nursery walls, and hornetshade was young and foolish. even if the highly-ranked knights and roses like hurricanejaw or mapleshadow didn't instantly believe him, that was fine. even before he was asked to tell his story, erasmus had formulated a plan that would clear everything up for good. no one would be asking him any more questions, and no one would believe groveclan ever again. even if his plan hadn't work the first time he met badgerstar and his clan, erasmus knew that he would succeed. tawnyrose and her court needed to be unseated, and erasmus could think of several groveclan cats who would be better off in the stars.
indentso he bided his time and waited for his opening. thankfully he knew that merlinsong was spending more time in the nursery under the guise of keeping an eye on flickersky, and the shadows afforded him easy passage to the herbalists' den where spencer was curled up in his nest. for a moment, erasmus considered his mate's sleeping form, and he almost felt bad for waking him, but he had no other choice.
indent"spencer," he mumbled quietly, mindful of the silence that had settled over the camp for the night. spencer stirred, and erasmus went to his side. "i'm sorry, but this is important. i need you to wake up now."
indent"i'm awake," spencer murmured, but his eyes were still half-lidded, his voice groggy, and erasmus wanted nothing more in that moment than to pull him close and let him rest. but there were important matters that needed to be tended to first so that he could keep the smaller tom safe. at last, spencer righted himself and sat up in his nest. he blinked the sleep from his eyes slowly. "it's the middle of the night, what's going on?"
indent"i'm being watched. have been for a while," erasmus said. when spencer's eyes went wide, erasmus shook his head dismissively. "the groveclan cat... she's making this into trouble. more trouble than we need right now."
indent"are we leaving?" spencer asked, but erasmus shook him off again.
indent"no, we can't. not in this weather. it won't be safe for you." spencer's mouth drew into a tight line, knowing, and erasmus breathed out a sigh. "and i fear that the queen would go to badgerstar instead. they'd hunt us down. we're staying, and i have a plan but... there's something i'm going to need you to do." spencer's ears pricked and he nodded without hesitation. erasmus hated that he would have to get involved, but his mate only needed to know his task - not the full plan. "it won't be for a little while, but when i give you the signal, you'll know what to do, okay?"
indentby the time he had finished telling spencer his task and what he should be waiting for, the sky was already beginning to brighten with the first taste of dawn. he stuck to the shadows, the same way he came, but the first rays of light caught on his dark fur. in his rush back to his nest before the dawn patrol would begin to wake and gather, he didn't notice the daydreaming knight watching him from the other side of camp from where he had been guarding the camp, checking for any signs that something was amiss. pale eyes narrowed and he ducked back the way he had came, making sure that he hadn't been seen by the dark shadow.

indentjust as they had been preparing for and as merlinsong had cautioned for moons, the blizzard finally came to highgarden hit with a vengeance, blanketing the territory in a thick layer of snow and sending the clan into their dens to wait it out. when the storm had finally passed and the cats were able to venture out into the open again, tawnyrose immediately tasked her knights and roses to begin clearing out the camp of snow while others sought out on hunting patrols to try and keep the clan stocked with prey.
indent"tigergaze!" the shout rang across the camp, interrupting the cats at work as sunglow streaked through their progress, kicking up even more snow as he went, chasing after his friend. betonypetal called after him, indignant from the way he had messed up her work packing a mound of snow away from the nursery, but her eyes were bright with amusement when sunglow shouted again after tigergaze, who ducked down behind dippernose, who opted to step out of the way when sunglow shot forward, skidding to a halt with just enough room to send slow flying to splatter tigergaze. laughter followed as smokemane and obsidianwing poked their heads out of the den, watching the proceedings unfold, and iguanaspots squeezed past them with lyrewhistle at her side. it was only at betonypetal's searching glance that lyrewhistle grinned.
indent"tigergaze dumped snow on sunglow's head to wake him up from his nap," she said, and smokemane stepped out of the den just in time to watch her brother drag tigergaze down into the snow while thet wrestled one another.
indent"turns out that he didn't appreciate it very much," she said, turning to obsidianwing to grin at him. at that same moment, bluetcrest walked back, and his gaze tracked over sunglow's path and the snow that he had kicked up in his charge to catch tigergaze. just as betonypetal began to gather the scattered snow back together to remake her pile, bluetcrest raised to tail, calling her to still.
indent"let it rest for a little bit," he said, glancing from the snow to the sun that shone overhead. "with any luck some of it'll melt. if not, we've already made a lot of progress together by making sure the dens were clear of it. take a rest, all of you," he said, looking around the rest of the camp. immediately, pythoneyes stopped where he was helping otterfur and maplelily with one pile, and instead he bounded over to bluetcrest.
indent"you're done working us to death here?" he teased, and bluetcrest rolled his eyes, nudging his shoulder against pythoneyes'.
indent"as if you even lifted a paw," bluetcrest shot back. however, before he could even react to the way pythoneyes grinned wickedly, the knight reared back on his hind legs, bringing his front paws down into a pile of snow so that it flew up into bluetcrest's face. the attendant spluttered, shaking the flakes out of his face just in time to see pythoneyes grin again at him.
indent"i think i just lifted two paws," he said, and bluetcrest shook his head quickly.
indent"you think you're very funny, don't you?"
indentwith his tail pythoneyes led bluetcrest out of the middle of the clearing, towards a spot with less frost, and he diligently flicked snow from his shoulder. "actually, yes, i do." they were silent for a moment, with bluetcrest ridding himself of the snow with pythoneyes' help, before the knight spoke again. "that blizzard last night... i know it's silly, but i just kept thinking of when we met in that storm."
indent"oh as if i could forget," bluetcrest said, matching his friend's smile. without hesitation, he shoulder'checked pythoneyes to send him down to the ground, and bluetcrest jumped on top of him, pinning him down. "when you all but threatened my life if i didn't tell you what happened to daisypaw and briarpaw." but pythoneyes merely laughed, his grin too big for his face, so full of joy.
indent"i was scared! i didn't know what happened to them." he looked up at bluetcrest, but didn't fight him off, and it took the attendant a long moment before he stepped off of him, letting pythoneyes up. "besides, if we hadn't met, then i wouldn't have found them. i wouldn't be here now. and then where would you be?"
indent"warmer," bluetcrest said, ducking his head to smooth down his wet chest fur. "less annoyed."
indent"also a lot more bored." at that moment, a clump of snow flew through the air, followed by tigergaze's shout, but it was too late, and pythoneyes recoiled when he was struck. he turned to face the younger tom, who was covered with snow from nose to tail, and who grinned apologetically.
indent"sorry! turns out i have bad aim!" tigergaze shouted. pythoneyes turned to look at bluetcrest, who was shaking with laughter. with that, pythoneyes stood and pushed at bluetcrest again, and with that they joined the fray of the snow fight. pythoneyes streaked past, and maplelily had to sidestep out of the way, bumping into newtmask at the same time. the long-furred gray tom looked at his former-mate with wide eyes before he cleared his throat.
indent"hey," maplelily greeted him politely, and newtmask managed a tight smile.
indent"i - uh - was actually coming to find you. i was wondering if we could talk," he said, glancing towards where their kits had joined their younger siblings. racoonslip let out a war cry when he charged at smokemane, and sunglow barely dodged a well-aimed shot from wolfhowl.
indent"sure," maplelily said, and with a nod of her head they began to walk together, keeping towards the edge of the camp as they went, hopefully out of range of another snowball. "what is it you want to talk about?" she asked.
indent"you, me, us... them," newtmask said after a beat, letting out a breathless laugh. "a lot of things, i suppose. i've just... been thinking a lot lately about the past and what used to be. and i realized that, for so long... i was so angry at you, and at hurricanejaw. no matter how much i told myself that it didn't matter, or that i didn't want it to matter... it did matter. but for a long time hurricanejaw was faceless in my mind. he was just the tom that you liked more -"
indent"newtmask, -" maplelily began, but newtmask shot her a tight smile.
indent"please, let me say this, okay? i need to say this." when maplelily nodded, newtmask ducked his head and continued: "and when he found us at the old tower, i felt even angrier. because he came in ready to save us all, like he was some hero, who came right when we needed him the most. and suddenly i thought that it all made sense. but then i met him more, we spoke and... as much as i want to be mad at him, i can't be. he didn't know, and i know that if he had... it probably wouldn't have played out the way it had. but i realized that i wasn't mad at you, either." at that, maplelily looked at newtmask, surprise clear in her eyes, but he didn't meet her gaze. "i think we were too young. i know that i didn't know what i wanted, and maybe you didn't either. i love our kits, and i'm so glad that we had them, because i can't imagine live without them in it but... i just wish i knew then everything i know now."
indentfinally, maplelily saw her opening and her stopped walking. when newtmask turned to face her, her smile was gentle. "i feel the same way. and i tried so many times to think of how i could apologize to you. because i loved you, and i loved hurricanejaw. and maybe i never stopped caring for him but... newtmask i chose you without even knowing anything about the world, or about love. and i hurt you, and i could never forgive myself for that. and you should know that i never stopped caring for you."
indentthere was a long pause before newtmask gathered his composure. "i fell in love with you moons ago, and i never fell out of love with you, maplelily," he admitted. he took a tentative step towards her, and maplelily swallowed thickly before meeting him halfway.
indent"i can't tell you what you want to hear," she said when their noses were nearly touching. her voice was quiet, soft as a snowflake, and newtmask felt the tension that had been weighing his shoulders for so long melt away. "i just... need time to think. i'm still figuring out who i am, and i think i need to figure that out first."
indent"you need to forgive yourself," newtmask whispered, and maplelily nodded. "when you're ready to say anything, even if you don't think i want to hear it... you'll know where to find me." they stood like that for a brief moment before a shout came from nearby, and rabbitpaw strode past, leaping nimbly over a pile of slush, stagpaw hot on her heels.
indent"coming through!" stagpaw shouted, followed quickly by rabbitpaw's voice:
indent"sorry aunt maplelily!" and the older highgarden cats watched the thorns give chase, seedpaw racing after them both. the trio nearly knocked into otterfur, but he quickly backed out of the way just in time, his eyes blown wide with surprise, and seedpaw shouted another apology in their wake. the brown tom watched them go for a moment before he ducked into the wilted's den to get out of the fray.
indentit was dark inside the den, the snow blocking most of the passages to let light through, and otterfur was surprised to hear a pair of voices going back and forth from the far corner of the den. it was only when his eyes adjusted that he made out the outline of two cats sitting together, their heads low to speak, but their voices still carried in the quiet space.
indent"- you said yourself that we can't trust him and that you don't know what she was saying -" one voice said, but the second one was a lower tone.
indent"- that doesn't mean going all the way to groveclan!" the second voice said. for a moment, otterfur knew that he should leave before the cats noticed his presence, but he instantl recognized hornetshade and warblercry, and interest stayed his paws. "we don't know what they know."
indent"they must know more than us." that was warblercry. "you said that juniperstorm won't let you get close to groveclan, but she doesn't know who i am. i can go, and maybe she'll hear me out long enough to say something."
indenthornetshade was quiet, and otterfur held his breath. then: "i don't know what i saw. but it was him. he's planning something, he must be." already, thoughts were swirling in otterfur's mind, pressing insistently, and cold fear piercing him like icicles. before hornetshade could say anything else, otterfur cleared his throat, and the two young cats jumped, whirling around to face him. it was warblercry who recovered first.
indent"were you eavesdropping?" she asked. "how much did you hear?"
indentbut it was hornetshade who stepped in front of warblercry, his eyes narrowed. "you didn't hear anything."
indentat that, otterfur tipped his head. "you're worried about the clan. if you think we're in danger, tell me." when two pairs of eyes merely stared at him, otterfur took a step forward. "listen, i've seen one clan fall because of a leader who let power go to his head, and he didn't know what enough meant. don't make me see highgarden go through this too. are we in danger?"
indentat last, hornetshade and warblercry exchanged a quick glance, and it was all the answer otterfur needed.

indentdespite the piles of snow lying outside of the nursery, inside it was incredibly warm and peacefully still. where there was once was great action as flickersky had her kits, it lapsed into easy quiet as merlinsong sat back on his haunches and let the young queen gaze down at her kits. when softglow caught merlinsong's eye, he silently beckoned the herbalist over to the corner, where he settled among the moss. exhaustion from a day of making sure that flickersky and her kits were healthy had clearly taken its toll, but when softglow looked back to flickersky, there was only joy and love in her eyes.
indent"congratulations flickersky," he murmured at last, breaking the silence that had settled, and flickersky shot him a brilliant smile, warmer than any of the others he had ever seen from her before. "they're lovely."
indentbefore flickersky could say anything, however, hawthornkit raised his head from against his father's flank, where he and bramblekit had been resting for most of the evening. tawnyrose had taken it upon herself to take lightkit for the day and the night, softglow supposed to tell her more stories of the past and teach her more about what tawnyrose would called "how to be a queen." the very thought made softglow's stomach churn, that lightkit was only a few moons old, and yet she was already had such high expectations resting on her shoulders, but tawnyrose said that it wasn't common - that she had known even more than her daughter at that age, and she hadn't even been her mother's heir. and as much as softglow wished that he could argue, he found that tawnyrose had been more grating that usual, particularly when it came to lightkit, so he folded and turned his attention to hawthornkit and bramblekit, who basked in his attention that he gave while their mother favored their sister.
indent"can i see them?" hawthornkit asked, already finding his paws. softglow immediately reached out a paw to pull him back, but flickersky grinned at the little tom and nodded.
indent"you just have to be gentle and quiet, okay?" she said, leaning against ferretwhisker who had joined her friend and offered support the whole time. flickersky blinked gently at softglow, who watched as hawthornkit and bramblekit approached the pretty queen and her the kits nestled closely to her side.
indent"they're very cute," bramblekit said, his voice breathy, as if trying to keep his voice hushed, and softglow and merlinsong shared an amused smile.
indent"did you think of any names for them?" ferretwhisker asked, and flickersky hummed thoughtfully.
indent"i did think of a few... since two of them will be going with stormshroud, i still want to have a part of him here, if that makes sense?" flickersky said, and there was a twinge of longing in her voice. without a doubt, she had wished that her mate could have been in highgarden for a visit, but it was understandable that the recent blizzard hadn't made it possible. even flickersky had commented that it was better to know that he was safe with his clan than wandering in the storm. "so i talked to yewbloom, tanagercall, and bluetcrest. i figured that they might know different types of storms. so even if stormshroud isn't here with us, they'll still have a little reminder of their father." flickersky swallowed thickly, and ferretwhisker pressed her nose to her friend's shoulder to comfort her.
indent"she's going to be tsunamikit, and she'll be tornadokit," flickersky said when she had regained her voice, touching her nose gently first to the white molly, and then to one of the calico kittens. "and i quite like the name cirruskit for him," she said when her glance flicked to one of her sons. the smile on her face was easy, warm, and it turned on hawthornkit when the little tabby tom leaned closer for a better look at his new denmates.
indent"what's a cirrus?" he asked.
indent"bluetcrest said it was a type of cloud," flickersky supplied, and hawthornkit's brow furrowed as he considered this, but bramblekit beat him to it.
indent"but you said storms -" bramblekit began, but hawthornkit brightened in that moment and grinned.
indent"it's both of you," hawthornkit concluded, looking back to softglow and merlinsong who watched the little tom wave his tail excitedly. "storms come with clouds, right? and clouds are also in the sky. it's flickersky and stormshroud." with that, he bounded back over to softglow, bramblekit hot on his heels, and they bundled easily into the moss of their nest.
indent"you're both very clever," softglow said to them, nuzzling them gently before wrapping his tail around them. to flickersky, he smiled warmly. "i think those are great names. beautiful names for your beautiful kits."
indent"thank you," flickersky said with a soft smile of her own. for a moment, he considered her kits before glancing around to softglow, merlinsong, and ferretwhisker. "i just wish that he could have been here to meet them immediately," she said, and the same tone of longing seeped into her words. "i wish that he could be with us all, always."
indent"he'll always be with you," ferretwhisker promised, coaxing flickersky. "he loves you, and you love him. and you both love your kits. and for when he can't be physically present, we'll be here to help you the rest of the way."
indent"for anything you need," softglow added, and merlinsong nodded his agreement. "all of us, we're all here for one another. we're a family." and flickersky let one of his paws stretch out in softglow's direction, and the king did the same. neither of them could move to meet, but ferretwhisker leaned her cheek against flickersky's, and merlinsong grinned. and it was enough for the moment to be together, in the warmth, with the kits around them, safe and sound.

indent"i want out," sagecloud told him when she caught the queen's attendant alone after he finished organizing the patrols for the afternoon. for a long moment, bluetcrest blinked at sagecloud, his yellow eyes widened, before he sniffed and turned away.
indent"that's not how this works," he said simply, but she rounded him, stepping into his path to make him pull up short, unable to avoid her. bluetcrest sighed, his shoulders sagging, before he shook his head again. "sagecloud -" he began, his tone empathetic, but she merely leveled him with a sharp gaze.
indent"i said i want out," she interrupted him, not letting bluetcrest have the chance to finish. "i didn't ask for this, and i'm not going to tell anyone, but i can't keep living like this. i just want to go on patrols and be able to see brindlepelt. i'm not your spy anymore -"
indentthis time bluetcrest quieted her with a pointed hiss. "not here," he said, hushing sagecloud, but she went with him without any further fight. together, they ducked into the unused wilted's den, and bluetcrest shook his head when it was clear that they were alone. sagecloud let him pace to compose himself, while she settled, sitting on the ground with his tail arranged neatly over her paws. at last, he looked back to sagecloud, who tipped her chin at him. "you can't just say things like that out loud," he said, and sagecloud balked at him.
indent"you're acting as if he doesn't already know," she shot back. bluetcrest, however, didn't flinch, but instead padded forward to meet her. sagecloud squared her shoulders, ready for another argument, but bluetcrest's tone was softer when he spoke next.
indent"i know you didn't ask for this but... we need you right now. it's a tough balance, but we're figuring out what to do with him."
indent"he's lying to the whole clan," sagecloud said. "he told all of the knights and roses that he's a victim, and that he had no part in killing that kit, and they're believing him. i mean, why shouldn't they? they're being fed lies from every angle. you're lying to them too, keeping them in the dark when there's a murderer walking among them, like he's one of them. and i think it's a question of who's worse - him for lying about who he is, or you for never telling of the truth of who exactly we're sharing a den with?" these were the thoughts that had been running through sagecloud's head for moons, and since erasmus caught her eye in the den that night, she felt tired, restless, like she had to run until her muscles gave out. "and you say that you're figuring it out. why is he still here?"
indent"because tawnyrose won't exile him," bluetcrest admitted, blowing out a long breath that he hadn't realized he had been holding. "softglow and i want him out, but tawnyrose thinks she has him on a leash. so, please, sagecloud, just carry on. let us talk to her, we want him gone just as much as you do. do it so you can know our friends are safe." though sagecloud's expression was pinched, bluetcrest caught the hesitation, the wavering in her self-assurance, and he knew that she would agree with him. sure enough, sagecloud stood and began towards the entrance of the den.
indent"i wish i had come at any other time," she said over her shoulder to him. "because that would have meant that i never heard the truth of what he really was. and i think we're all fools to think we can keep a monster tied down."

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highgarden ♕ twenty-one

Postby eagle, » Sun Mar 01, 2020 9:58 am

      total 65
      servings 11 (+70)
      ________________ Image ________________

      gods n/a
      pebbles 85
      archive xx
      font credit x x

indentwriting was too long, can be found here

[ added cats + herbs ] daystrike (x) and leopardsun (x); highgarden is given x1 honey, x2 tansy, and x1 coltsfoot from groveclan (x)
[ consumption ] highgarden eats x1 big fish (worth 2 servings), x1 small fish (worth 1 serving), and x4 rabbits
[ rank changes ] stagpaw is ready to take his final assessment
[ patrol 1 ] bluetcrest, wolverinesnap, betonypetal, ayalla, iguanaspots, and warblercry
↪ wolverinesnap has applicable powers
[ hunt 1 ] bassflow, erasmus, leopardsun, otterfur, sagecloud, and hornetshade
[ hunt 2 ] softglow, swiftheart, tulipstream, foxspark, lyrewhistle, daystrike
[ hunt 3 ] clovershine, obsidianwing, wolfhowl, direfang, sandstrike, ferretwhisker
[ hunt 4 ] mapleshadow, maplelily, newtmask, riverfoam, kitechaser, and tanagercall
[ training ] seedpaw learns climbing
daisypaw learns fighting
rabbitpaw and briarpaw learn hunting
elkpaw, beechpaw, harrierpaw, quillpaw, and dewpaw learn agility
[ herbalists ] merlinsong gives smokemane x1 honey and x1 juniper berries. smokemane rests 1/3. merlinsong gives himself x1 feverfew. cirruskit, tsunamikit, and tornadokit are each given x1 honey and x1 tansy, and tornadokit and tsunamikit are given x1 coltsfoot
[ herb hunt ] spencer (priority for coltsfoot)
[ notes to mod ] i ask that no one die on patrols though injuries are fine xo

    tawnyrose, 39m, ♀
    the wayward queen
    - mate: birchflame
    - kits: lightkit, hawthornkit, bramblekit

    softglow, 41m, ♂
    the lost king

    lightkit, 3m, ♀

    bluetcrest, 43m, ♂
    the wayward's attendant

    merlinsong, 46m, ♂ - 5sp
    spencer, 41m, ♂ - 5sp

    roses & knights
    otterfur, 75m, ♂
    direfang, 71m, ♂
    sagecloud, 57m, ♀
    mapleshadow, 55m, ♀
    erasmus, 53m, ♂
    hurricanejaw, 51m, ♂
    maplelily, 49m, ♀
    bassflow, 49m, ♂
    newtmask, 48m, ♂
    dippernose, 48m, ♂
    arcticblink, 46m, ♂
    ferretwhisker, 44m, ♀
    pythoneyes, 44m, ♂
    tulipstream, 40m, ♀
    birchflame, 40m, ♂
    yewbloom, 39m, ♂
    betonypetal, 38m, ♀
    clovershine, 37m, ♂
    smallheart, 37m, ♂
    wolverinesnap, 36m, ♂
    riverfoam, 35m, ♀
    swiftheart, 33m, ♀
    kitechaser, 31m, ♀
    obsidianwing, 30m, ♂
    ayalla, 28m, ♀
    jaytalon, 28m, ♂
    smokemane, 27m, ♀
    sunglow, 27m, ♂
    tigergaze, 26m, ♂
    sandstrike, 24m, ♀
    hornetshade, 23m, ♂
    privetears, 22m, ♀
    tanagercall, 21m, ♀
    cougarstrike, 20m, ♂
    racoonslip, 20m, ♂
    foxspark, 20m, ♂
    wolfhowl, 20m, ♀
    iguanaspots, 20m, ♀
    warblercry, 20m, ♀
    lyrewhistle, 19m, ♀
    leopardsun, 19m, ♂
    daystrike, 17m, ♂
            stagpaw, 13m, ♂
            seedpaw, 13m, ♀
            rabbitpaw, 13m, ♀
            briarpaw, 11m, ♀
            daisypaw, 11m, ♀
            elkpaw, 7m, ♂
            beechpaw, 7m, ♀
            harrierpaw, 7m, ♀
            quillpaw, 7m, ♂
            dewpaw, 7m, ♀

            flickersky, 37m, ♀
            - mate: stormshroud, shadowed kingdom
            - kits: cirruskit, tsunamikit, tornadokit

            adenium, 4m, ♀
            hawthornkit, 3m, ♂
            bramblekit, 3m, ♂
            snowykit, 3m, ♂
            cirruskit, 1m, ♂
            tsunamikit , 1m, ♀
            tornadokit, 1m, ♀

            name, age, gender
            name, age, gender

            allies & enemies & borders


            total x95
            mouse | x5 | 1 serving
            vole | x8 | 1 serving
            small fish | x3 | 2 servings
            ↪ skinny small fish | x1 | 1 serving
            squirrel | x13 | 2 servings
            rabbit | x14 | 2 servings
            big fish | x4 | 3 servings
            ↪ skinny big fish | x1 | 2 servings
            finch | x2 | 3 servings

            hurricanejaw, stagpaw, 4
            smallheart, seedpaw, 3
            birchflame, rabbitpaw, 2
            jaytalon, briarpaw, 1
            sunglow, daisypaw, 2
            pythoneyes, elkpaw, 0
            obsidianwing, beechpaw, 0
            dippernose, harrierpaw, 0
            tigergaze, quillpaw, 0
            arcticblink, dewpaw, 0


            family trees
credit goes to the cac staff & artists for all color-ins and lineart xoxo
Last edited by eagle, on Fri Mar 27, 2020 6:05 am, edited 1 time in total.
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highgarden ♕ 21.5

Postby eagle, » Fri Mar 27, 2020 6:05 am

indenthighgarden, for all it was worth, was no stranger to more extreme weather. floods and storms battered the valley time and time again, from extreme rainfall, to mountains of snow. it wasn't the first time there was a blizzard, and it wasn't the first time that a patrol was caught in a storm. it wasn't the first time that many members of the clan remained gathered, huddled together in their dens, waiting for the last patrol to make their way back to camp so that all could be accounted for. while tawnyrose and softglow waited in the queen's den, merlinsong's pale green eyes flashed from across the way, where he was standing in the shadows of the herbalists' den. there was a pit in softglow's stomach, the sinking feeling that something was wrong, but it surprised him when tawnyrose spoke first, breaking the silence that had settled between them.
indent"i shouldn't have let him go on patrol without me," she said, and softglow shot her a sideways glance.
indent"the kits still need you here, and it's not like bluetcrest is alone this time," softglow said, attempting to soothe the queen's nerves. but the pit in settled in his chest told softglow that the weather was worse than it had been in seasons, and he knew that the patrol should have returned already. they had been gone too long, and he swallowed thickly. "they'll be back soon," he heard himself say, though it seemed that the winds were only picking up further. as the storm progressed, flakes falling thicker across the camp, softglow kept his eyes trained on the camp entrance, aware of tawnyrose at his shoulder and merlinsong watching from across the camp. in that moment, time seemed to slow, the clearing grew infinitely wider, and softglow wished, for once, that they might be allowed a moment of solace.
indentthere was no telling exactly how much time passed, but softglow finally heard a shout from outside of the camp, carried faintly on the wind. he reacted quickly, but merlinsong was faster, a dark shadow flying from his den just as softglow spotted ayalla racing into the clearing. there was no missing the distinct intake of breath from tawnyrose when bluetcrest and the others weren't immediately behind the slight molly.
indentby the time softglow and tawnyrose reached merlinsong, the herbalist's expression had turned taunt, and ayalla was babbling frantically: "i didn't - i didn't see it happen, but there was blood, and, and -" she cut off long enough to let out a choked noise. her eyes were blown wide, and she turned to tawnyrose when the queen shouldered past softglow to reach the rose.
indent"who?" she asked, curt and sharp. ayalla shuddered, and softglow braced himself to cut tawnyrose off before she could say anything further, but the queen could not be stopped so easily. "ayalla, what happened? who's hurt?" tawnyrose demanded, and this time ayalla found her voice.
indent"smokemane," she said, letting out another choked squeak as realization set in. "we came across two loners in the blizzard and that's why we were out so long, and we must have gotten turned around on the way back. i think she fell, or slipped, or something hit her head but - but then -"
indent"inside the den," merlinsong ordered at last, slipping between ayalla and tawnyrose, effectively ending the interrogation. he shouted for spencer, and another shout echoed back, preceding when spencer's angled face poked out of the den. quickly, the small tom ushered ayalla into the den from the cold, and merlinsong's eyes cut sharply back to tawnyrose. "she's in shock, this isn't the time to be harsh with her," he said, but tawnyrose's attention was drawn to where the entrance shook again, and this time it was iguanaspots and warblercry who came through, a pair of strangers with them. at last, bluetcrest and betonypetal made their way into the camp, smokemane's body drawn over their shoulders as they carried her. one of the strangers, a golden tom, pressed against betonypetal when she wavered, steadying her. merlinsong rushed forward to meet the patrol, exchanging a few brief words with bluetcrest before leading them past tawnyrose and softglow to follow ayalla. only the two strangers lingered, and tawnyrose tipped her head at them.
indent"do you know where you are?" tawnyrose asked them, and the golden tom managed a grimace.
indent"we didn't have much time for introductions out there, i'm afraid," he said, and tawnyrose sniffed absently.
indent"you're in highgarden. if bluetcrest brought you here, you must have heard of our clan a little bit."
indent"you're the leader here," that was the second, darker tom with sharp green eyes. his expression was somber, but he didn't look anywhere near as upset the golden tom was. if anything, softglow thought, he looked rather unbothered by everything around him, as if the blizzard and smokemane's absence was of no consequence. "leopardsun here is convinced that we could use a clan as our home."
indent"and you?" tawnyrose asked stiffly.
indentthe dark tom shrugged. "we stay together. it'd be nice to not be so cold." before either of them could say anything further, pale green eyes flashed at the edge of softglow's peripherals, and merlinsong emerged from his den again. he looked to softglow, and the king didn't miss the worry on his features.
indent"i think it'd be a good idea to get maplelily, newtmask, and sunglow," he murmured quietly, and softglow, by some grace of the gods, felt surprisingly steady on his paws. he swung his gaze towards the two strangers.
indent"i'll show you a den where you can meet other members of the clan. you must be cold and tired. please, follow me." without waiting for their reply, or for tawnyrose to say anything, softglow padded away. it was only when the golden tom, leopardsun, padded at his shoulder, that softglow was sure that he was being followed.
indent"daystrike - he's just a little bristly, but he's not bad," leopardsun said, and softglow merely flicked his ear, noncommittal. "that molly... is she going to be okay?"
indentfinally, softglow looked to the stranger. "merlinsong and spencer are gifted at what they do. smokemane is in the best paws we can get right now." leopardsun seemed to take this is stride, understanding the lack of a promise. his expression tightened, and softglow nodded them towards the den saved for the knights and roses. he ducked his head inside, where several pairs of eyes turned towards him, all worried and searching for their missing clanmates. he could feel the curiosity rise even further when they spotted leopardsun and daystrike, and softglow nodded towards hurricanejaw.
indent"the patrol found these two. can you make sure they can settle somewhere?" he asked, and the senior knight didn't hesitate, gesturing the pair forward. leopardsun went easily, though his friend appeared to assess the rest of the den first before following suit. to the searching glances, softglow managed to swallow around the lump in his throat. "the patrol came back," he said, though he knew that it was not the message they wanted. their friends weren't yet in their spaces in the den, and anxiety hit him like a wall. riverfoam exchanged quick words were tanagercall and kitechaser, and hornetshade shifted uncomfortably in his nest. but it was maplelily who met his gaze without flinching, and when softglow tipped his chin to her, she merely leaned towards newtmask. softglow ducked out the way he came, and didn't wait for them to follow him, but instead he decided to give them a moment. outside, the clearing was empty, and a path of pawsteps traced tawnyrose's route back to her den. for a moment, softglow considered going directly to merlinsong, or to follow tawnyrose, but his paws took him instead to the nursery.
indentit was warm inside, but not without the same touch of worry. even the kits didn't appear immune to the effects, and softglow breathed out in surprise when his sons jumped at his side, and softglow looked from hawthornkit and bramblekit to ferretwhisker and flickersky, who let out warm purrs. "they were asking if you were going to visit them," ferretwhisker said as the king greeted the kits. lightkit padded forward to greet him as well, lifting her nose to touch his, and softglow nuzzled her gently. then he looked back to ferretwhisker, who gazed at him quizzically, the question hanging unspoken above their heads.
indent"the patrol's back," he said, but his words did not visibly soothe either queen. taking another moment to gather himself, softglow pressed his nose to hawthornkit's cheek. "smokemane... she's with merlinsong now. the others are in shock, it seems." flickersky let out a gentle gasp, but ferretwhisker's presence was steadying, oddly calm though pain lit her eyes as well.
indent"she's strong, and merlinsong... he'll take care of her," the queen said, resting her chin atop elkkit's flank while her son slept. only quillkit was awake, and the tabby tom helped lightkit back into her nest.
indent"like i've been taking care of lightkit," quillkit said, curling around his friend. lightkit reclined comfortably in the nest, letting out a quiet yawn, while quillkit met softglow's gaze. "i'm keeping my promise."
indent"there's no one who could do more than you, quillkit. thank you," softglow said, and the little tom seemed to take pride in this. to hawthornkit and bramblekit, softglow lowered his voice. "i need you to stay with ferretwhisker and flickersky, okay? i'll come back when i can, but i need you to help them make sure everyone stays safe here, alright?" he asked, and the pair nodded quickly.
indent"i'll fight the snow if i have to," hawthornkit stated, and bramblekit puffed out his chest.
indent"good, i'll be back soon," softglow promised. with that, he left the nursery and made his way back to the herbalists' den. already, it seemed that merlinsong had cleared most of the patrol, though bluetcrest remained, sitting ad staring at the floor while ayalla and iguanaspots leaned on one another. spencer was putting herbs back in the stores, and merlinsong was speaking quietly to newtmask and maplelily. sunglow dared to approach his sister, though he hung back, as if afraid to touch. when softglow padded closer, he saw that blood had dried in smokemane's long fur, and her eyes were closed. the only signs of life came from the shallow movement of her flank. merlinsong touched his nose to maplelily's after a final word, then left them the family to round to softglow. there was a long moment of silence before softglow glanced once more to smokemane. "how is she?" he asked quietly, and merlinsong drew his tail over his paws.
indent"hard to tell until she wakes up." the if hung between them, unspoken but present nonetheless, and softglow felt his chest tighten again. "we're doing what we can," he added, and softglow leaned his head on merlinsong's shoulder.
indent"if there's anything you need, let me know."
indent"if i knew what we needed, then i'd tell you," merlinsong replied, and together they sat and watched smokemane's family wait and mourn and hope for the gods to spare their own.

indentwolverinesnap didn't remember much more than the searing pain that ran through his veins, pounding loudly in his ears to the tune of his rapid heartbeat. he felt the slice of anger, of the taste of blood on his tongue, and of pain, of pain, of pain. there was the pulse of red haze behind his eyelids, which slowly faded to dark, leaving wolverinesnap with the ache of exhaustion that settled deep in his bones. by the time he finally came back to himself, when he could feel the chill on the air and the brush of ground underneath his body, there was no telling how much time had passed.
indenthe was used to the dizziness that came after a spell, when the curse had finally run itself through his body and he was able to take in the world around him. slowly, slowly, with a sluggish slowness, he blinked his eyes open to take in the long shadows and gray walls of the space around him. then he saw the clump of what he easily recognized as his own fur, and he felt the chill hit his chin, where his skin was exposed. the ground was hard, but there was no mistaking the claw marks in stone, and the way moss from a nest had been overturned, as if during a struggle. and it was only then that wolverinesnap noticed the form staring at him from the corner of the space, green eyes reflecting the sparse moonlight that was afforded through the slightest gaps in the walls. they were the eyes that had drawn wolverinesnap in moons earlier the first time they met, the eyes that had been so warm and friendly as two wayward travelers who didn't know where there paws were going to lead them. the pang settled low in wolverinesnap's chest, with the constant fear as the seasons changed and the wind shifted from warm to cold, the yewbloom's eyes would change to become cold as well. but, even now, yewbloom didn't appear angry, or upset. he looked tired, but his eyes retained the same warmth that wolverinesnap needed, and a shiver ran through his body from the cold sinking into his skin where his fur had fallen away.
indenthe tried to sit up, but his muscles ached, and he slumped back among the scraped together moss. yewbloom's eyes didn't leave him for a moment, and it was only when wolverinesnap spoke that yewbloom straightened up. "i'm sorry," he choked out, and the words wobbled on the edge of a sob that broke as soon as he heard the exhaustion that lined yewbloom's voice.
indent"oh, honey," yewbloom cooed, and wolverinesnap reveled in the brush of warm fur against his own. wolverinesnap sobbed into his friend's shoulder, and yewbloom held him close, his nose tucked into the crook of wolverinesnap's neck. "you're back, it's you," he said, and wolverinesnap sobbed again. it took time, but it was when the sobs softened into gentle cries, then minute sniffles, that yewbloom pulled back long enough to look at wolverinesnap, and the bicolor drowned in the soft warmth of his eyes. "you're back," yewbloom said again. "i didn't - i was worried that you -"
indent"i'm here," wolverinesnap sniffed with a slight shake of his head. "i... it's a long story but... leafbare does that to me. every season cycle i... i got lost. i'm sorry, but i'm back now if the weather has changed." there was too much to explain in that moment, and yewbloom seemed to accept it for the moment. still, the prince seemed to wait for wolverinesnap to say something further, so he cleared his throat. "i... i don't know how long i was gone for." he didn't recognize where they were, but no other scents caught in the air. it seemed that he and yewbloom were completely alone, and wolverinesnap wasn't yet sure if it was a good sign - he couldn't tell if he had been taken before he had hurt someone, or if he had been taken before he hurt someone.
indentall the same, yewbloom took it in stride, finding his cue. "you were on patrol with riversnap, who came back when she said that you were acting a little strange. she said that you lost focus a lot, and you weren't responding by the time you got back to camp. tulipstream said that you had lost fur, that she saw clumps of it in your nest." yewbloom paused for a moment, and wolverinesnap looked back onto himself, where the pink of his skin showed plainly where he had lost so much of his fur. at that, he sighed, and yewbloom's jaw rested against the top of his head. "merlinsong started to check to see if you were sick but then you... there was this look in your eyes, and i knew... it wasn't you, wolverinesnap. there was something else, but it wasn't you." wolverinesnap felt yewbloom shudder against him, and he offered only a quiet hum as assurance that he was still there. "you looked like a wild animal and... adenium was helping merlinsong and spencer, and you..." at that, at last, yewbloom stopped short. there was a long beat of silence before yewbloom spoke again, his voice thicker. "hurricanejaw and i managed to get you here. when the seasons change and spring comes, this is where highgarden comes to get away from the spots that flood. i knew it would be secure, and at least no one would be here for a while. that was a few days ago."
indentwolverinesnap shut his eyes tightly and shook his head slightly, as if he could shake off the time spent clearly struggling against yewbloom, almost attacking an innocent kit. all of it made his shoulders feel heavy, but he managed to look up at yewbloom again. "is tawnyrose going to send me away?" he asked, blunt and to the point. it took a moment for the question to process, but yewbloom's eyes widened comically and his jaw fell open.
indent"of course not," he said, swishing his tail against the smooth ground. "even if she wanted to - and she doesn't - i wouldn't let her. you didn't do anything wrong."
indent"not this time," wolverinesnap pointed out, feeling more lucid than he had in a long time. with each moment, the world came into sharper focus and the red fog was pushed further to the edges of his peripherals. "but next time i could. next time i could hurt adenium, or one of the other kits. i could have hurt lightkit," wolverinesnap said, but yewbloom's expression remained unmoved, set into a practiced reserve. "i could have hurt you."
indent"no, you wouldn't," yewbloom said. wolverinesnap furrowed his brow, his argument on the tip of his tongue, but yewbloom shushed him. "you said it yourself. it's not you. you wouldn't hurt lightkit, or adenium, or me. i know you, and i trust you. you wouldn't hurt me. i wouldn't let tawnyrose exile you for something that you didn't do."
indentfor a moment, wolverinesnap could only stare at yewbloom, his heart in his throat and his tongue tied. "it is me, and it isn't me. you don't know what i'm capable of," he said at last, but yewbloom didn't answer that. instead, the ginger prince rolled onto his back, staring up at the blank ceiling.
indent"when i was younger, i thought i knew everything. i thought i knew who i was, and i thought i knew my place in the world. i was yewbloom, youngest prince of highgarden, brother to the queen's heir, youngest kit of queen lightrose and king tallstep. i thought i knew what those words meant," yewbloom said, and wolverinesnap settled at his side, resting his chin on his paws while he watched yewbloom. "i thought i knew exactly how my life was going to play out. i was going to lead a few hunting patrols, maybe mentor a thorn or two. i was going to be there at my mother's side when she died, and i was going to cheer for lighteyes when she became queen. i thought that everything worth knowing could be found in highgarden, even if i liked the idea of venturing out. but you know what i learned?"
indent"knowing you, you're about to say something extremely heartfelt," wolverinesnap answered, managing the slightest slip of humor in the moment, which earned a smile from yewbloom.
indent"i learned that my titles, my position, all of the mantras and sayings, my name.... i learned that all of it was just smoke. it means nothing when it stands on nothing. i don't know the future, and i don't know anywhere near as much as i think i do. no, i don't know what you're capable of, and i don't know what's hiding in the shadows or what will happen tomorrow. but i think i know who i am, and i think i know who you are. and i know that you wouldn't hurt me, not you."
indentwolverinesnap's breath was lodged in his throat, trapped. but he finally managed a tight smile. "by gods, i hope you're right."

indent"i don't think this is a good idea," hornetshade said as they stood on the groveclan border. his eyes flicked back and forth between groveclan's territory and warblercry. there was a determined flicker in her eyes that he had never seen in his friend before. "you shouldn't be going alone. what if juniperstorm told badgerstar that erasmus is here? you really think that groveclan will let you go?"
indentwarblercry sighed and shook her head. "and you think it'd be better if you went with me? when juniperstorm threatened what she'd do if she saw you on groveclan territory?" at that, hornetshade ducked his head and scuffed his forepaw against the ground. warblercry felt a flash of sympathy for her best friend, but it was too late. her mind had been made up. "besides, i need someone to know where i am. if anything happens, you know groveclan better than anyone else in highgarden. i need you to have my back from here."
indent"otterfur knows, too," hornetshade tried to argue, though it was clear he was losing steam. they had gone back and forth on the issue for days. while they both agreed that they couldn't trust erasmus, and that they wanted to know what he could possibly be planning in highgarden, they differed on how to go about the next action. where warblercry thought it would be best to go directly to the source to speak to juniperstorm, hornetshade was clearly still upset by the last time he had seen the groveclan warrior. when warblercry suggested going in his stead, he was quick to object, but the longer she thought about it, the more sense it made. juniperstorm said that hornetshade couldn't go to groveclan, but juniperstorm didn't know who warblercy was; warblercry hadn't been barred from groveclan in the way hornetshade had been. if they were to ever get answers, this was what they had to do.
indent"otterfur's busy, and i need to do this. after smokemane... i can't get the image of her bleeding on the ground out of my mind. if he's up to something, i don't want to think of who could be hurt next, and next time we might not be so lucky. i need to do this..." warblercry said, looking down at her paws for a moment before she had regained her composure and could look to hornetshade again. "better we keep this as small as possible, right now, so he doesn't start to pick up on anything. we have to play this right." again, hornetshade gazed off into the distance, over the border, and warblercry knew she had won. "best case scenario, juniperstorm hasn't told anyone, she'll be hunting alone, and she'll be willing to talk."
indent"worst case scenario, she's told everyone and will be on a full patrol with warriors ready to attack highgarden this moment," hornetshade mused. when warblercry rolled her eyes, hornetshade leaned forward to touch his nose to her cheek. "just... please be careful, for me. i don't know what i'll do if anything happens to you."
indent"i'll be okay," warblercry promised, reveling in the warmth of her friend's fur before backing away from hornetshade. "i'll be back."
indent"i'll be waiting for you," hornetshade said, staying at the edge of the border while warblercry struck out. highgarden was known to stay primarily to their own. few cats had relationships beyond the border, and even fewer crossed the borders often. they were a clan who stuck mainly to their own, and the first step out of highgarden territory felt like wading across an endless river. but the second step was easier, as was the third, and on and on. within a matter of moments, warblercry left the familiar highgarden border behind and hornetshade was out of sight. instead, she took in the lush growth of groveclan. in comparison to highgarden, groveclan's territory was densely packed with trees where highgarden's land saw dotting of trees to break up the fields and slopes. when warblercry reached a river, she walked along the steep riverbank, following its path, stopping over every so often to take in scents to hope to find the one warrior she was looking for.
indentby chance, warblercry finally found a calico pelt through the trees, and she opened her mouth to take in the scent that had lingered in the air of highgarden's camp the day juniperstorm visited.
indentsoft grass rustled under warblercry's paws, and just as the little tabby went to make her presence known, the groveclan warrior turned to face her through the trees. but, in that moment, another voice sounded out as well, and warblercry felt her blood run cold. "juniperstorm," the voice said, distinctly male and decidedly not juniperstorm. "do you smell that? what's highgarden scent doing this far over the border?" through the foliage, warblercry's eyes locked with juniperstorm's, and there was a beat of silence before warblercry knew that she had been wrong. she made a grave mistake. she turned, whipping around on her heels to run back the way she had come, and she sprinted, well-aware of the tom's surprised shout, as ell as juniperstorm's answer. warblercry was quick on her paws, agile, but she was in unfamiliar territory, and she wasn't used to the trees choked around her. it was only too easy for the groveclan warriors to catch up to her, and warblercy was cut-off by juniperstorm when the other molly blocked her path, and a black and white tom came up behind warblercry.
indent"i -" warblercry started, but her words failed her. her muscles were bunched and her breath caught in her throat, but juniperstorm looked past warbercry to her clanmate.
indent"it's fine, archie," juniperstorm was saying, sounding breathless as well, her words uncertain and shaky. it took warblercry a long moment to understand what she was saying. "she's a friend of mine, i just didn't want anyone to know. i -"
indent"i though highgarden cats didn't leave their territory," the tom, archie, said in response, clearly skeptical of juniperstorm's words. but it wasn't his questioning, or juniperstorm's excuses, that made warblercry freeze. when archie spoke, he took a step closer, and his scent caught the air, wafting closer to warblercry's nose and instantly knew what it was.
indent"you smell like him," warblercry said quietly, but it was enough to silence the conversation between the groveclan warriors. when neither of them said anything, warblercry cleared her throat and looked towards archie. "you have the same scent as him. it's... changed a bit. but i recognize it, you smell like -"
indent"don't say his name here," juniperstorm said, cutting warblercry off. the highgarden molly flicked her ear in acknowledgement. "who are you? what do you want?"
indentwarblercry drew in a breath and squared her shoulders. "i'm warblercry, and i'm one of hornetshade's friends. ever since you came to highgarden, he's been trying to understand what you were saying and... well, we're concerned that he's planning something."
indent"he..." archie echoed, taking a step back from warblercry, while juniperstorm frowned. "he's in highgarden." when warblercry nodded, archie's eyes closed tightly and he took another step back, away from her, as if it would make the situation any less real.
indent"he's highgarden's problem, then," juniperstorm said, but there was no mistaking the anger in her voice and the spark that lit her eyes. warblercry swished her tail.
indent"you don't understand," she said. "ever since you came to us, he's been turning highgarden against groveclan. he said that you were out of line for blaming him for crimes he didn't commit, he said that groveclan is selfish and believes that you can control us. he said that he never did anything wrong and... and some cats believe him. they don't have any reason to think otherwise. they don't know better." her eyes flicked between juniperstorm, who bristled, and archie, who kept shaking his head. "please... i need to know about him, about what he's capable of. you were at the battle, and you... you smell like him... he's going to ruin the peace between our clans, and i need to know what he's capable of."
indent"and you think you can stop him?" archie asked, his voice wobbling as he bordered on hysterical.
indentwarblercry steeled herself, planting her paws firmly on the ground. "i need to try. someone needs to try. he can't destroy highgarden. he can't hurt groveclan. he can't." she looked to juniperstorm first. "why did you hiss at him?"
indent"he killed my sister," juniperstorm said after a moment. "when we were just kits, we were taken from our mother. when our father came with a patrol to rescue us, she was killed, for no reason. dante killed her but... erasmus planned for it to happen. it was always erasmus who wanted to kill us all."
indent"he drove my sister out," archie said. "and he told the rest of us that groveclan stole her, and that was why we stole badgerstar's kits. because we needed to get revenge on groveclan. but it was all a lie. groveclan never stole anyone, erasmus just wanted to start a war. he's always been manipulating us all." archie sounded exhausted, but warblercry forced herself to nod along as juniperstorm and archie told their stories. they were tales of monsters and dark shadows, stories of blood and pain, stories of the past and stories of what could come in the future.
indentby the time warblercry left the groveclan warriors and found hornetshade waiting where she had left him, she felt dull. the sun was sinking low in the sky, and she leaned heavily against her best friend's shoulder. "are you okay? did you find juniperstorm?" he asked, and warblercry nodded. slowly, she turned her head to rest her nose against hornetshade's neck, and she breathed in his familiar scent.
indent"we need to get back to camp," she murmured. "we... we're in a lot of trouble."

indentwhen softglow found merlinsong, his friend was hunched over a pile of herbs, and he didn't react when the king called his name. without a doubt, the past moon had been busy, and highgarden saw its fair share of troubles. maplelily and sunglow barely left the herbalists' den, not wanting to leave smokemane's side, and merlinsong moved flickersky from the nursery when she said that her kits had started coughing. the young root nodded politely to softglow when he caught her eye, before she went back to grooming tornadokit's fur. cirruskit turned over in his sleep, restless while he let out a coughing fit, and flickersky was quick to hush him, gentle and soothing. from the other side of the den, maplelily was resting, though sunglow was talking quietly to smokemane. the injured rose had taken some time to wake up after bluetcrest brought her back to camp, and it was clear that she was still finding some difficulty in moving and following conversations, though merlinsong and spencer had agreed that it was a good sign that she was awake at all. when sunglow murmured something quietly to her, smokemane let out a quiet laugh. though it was delayed, softglow was happy to take it as a good sign, for the time being.
indent"merlinsong," softglow said again, turning his attention back to merlinsong, who still faced away from him. it was only when he reached forward, touching his nose to merlinsong's shoulder, that the herbalist turned on his heels, whipping around to meet softglow's surprised gaze.
indentin the moment, softglow searched merlinsong's eyes and was immediately taken aback by how tired his friend appeared. his normally-pale green eyes were dull, lacking their usual luster. even his voice was tired when he leaned forward to look at softglow better. "you're not hurt or sick, are you?" merlinsong asked, and softglow shook his head. "the kits?" he asked, with a little less urgency, and softglow shook his head again.
indent"no, no, we're all fine," he answered, and the tension bled from merlinsong's shoulders.
indent"is there something i can help you with, then?" merlinsong asked. his tone wasn't unkind, but it was clear how tired he was in the moment. he sniffled once and let out a cough, and softglow's shoulders sagged at the sound.
indent"when's the last time you slept?" he asked instead, and merlisong managed a tight, strained smile.
indent"i have a feeling you wouldn't like the answer to that," the herbalist said. merlinsong shot a glance towards smokemane and sunglow, then to flickersky. "i've had adenium and spencer waking me up from naps every now and then. i need to make sure that smokemane is alright, and to make sure that the cats on patrols aren't being overworked, and that the cold from flickersky's kits didn't spread, and -"
indent"i get it," softglow cut him off with a shake of his head. "but this isn't healthy for you. what'll we do if you wind up with a cough? that won't stop the patrols from pushing too far, or help the kits or smokemane. you need to take a rest. my den is quieter than here," softglow said. when merlinsong opened his mouth to argue, softglow waved his tail. "no, no, that's not me telling you to sleep. it's an order from your king, so you have to pay heed." then, softglow leaned forward to touch his nose to merlinsong's shoulder. "you can go to my den, and i'll find spencer to look after the others." he stepped back and raised his voice so that the others in the den would be able to hear him. "and i'm sure that, if anything comes up, sunglow will come running to wake you up." the lithe knight raised his head at the sound of his name, and his whiskers twitched in amusement.
indent"don't worry, i have no quarrel with waking you up for something important," sunglow added, earning a quiet purr from smokemane. with that, softglow turned back to merlinsong.
indent"see? and spencer can handle the rest while you take a nap. go on, then," softglow urged, nudging merlinsong's shoulder until the bigger tom finally relented, shooting his patients one last look before he went. at the entrance of the den, softglow gave merlinsong one more push in the direction of his own den. "i'll go find spencer, you go get comfortable," he urged, not waiting for a response before he bounded away to find the other herbalist.
indentit didn't come as a surprise that spencer was with erasmus, the pair talking with their heads close together, whispering back and forth. upon softglow's approach, they broke apart, and erasmus put the majority of his bulk between spencer and softglow. the king didn't offer the dark knight much more than a cursory glance, and spencer peered around erasmus. "merlinsong needs to go get some rest," softglow said, aiming the words towards spencer, who straightened up and slowly detached himself from erasmus' side. the skinny herbalist had a wide-eyed, shocked look, but softglow allowed it to slip past, focused on merlinsong instead. "i told sunglow to come running to get merlinsong if anything changes, but you should be with them, just in case. i think merlinsong might have already caught a cold, and it doesn't need to get any worse by pushing himself this hard for so long." softglow glanced up at erasmus for just a moment, before spencer nodded eagerly and began to pad in the direction of the herbalists' den.
indent"of course. i'll check on everything, and have adenium bring feverfew to him later, just in case." there was a strange sense of urgency in spencer's step as he left softglow and erasmus in the dust. when erasmus didn't immediately go after spencer, softglow sniffed.
indent"not like you to not be his shadow," he commented, and erasmus finally shifted. his lip curled as he sneered down at softglow.
indent"speak for yourself. merlinsong is in your den and you're lingering here. not like you to keep him waiting, little king." with that, erasmus huffed a laugh as he rose and followed spencer. softglow watched him leave until he went into the den, out of sight. his blood felt chilled in his veins, but he shook his pelt out and turned to his own den to check on merlinsong.

indenttawnyrose watched through half-lidded eyes as the highgarden cats emerged from their dens. it had been a long moon for the whole clan, and the queen's heart felt heavy when she looked down at them all. there was no explaining the anxiety that rose from deep in her chest, settling in her paws like the heaviest of stones. they had been fortunate not to lose any of their clanmates, though smokemane's absence was felt. obsidianwing and sunglow leaned on one another, and maplelily's younger kits sent several glances towards the herbalists' den. merlinsong said that they had had done all they could, and now it was a matter of letting the young molly rest and heal as much as possible. tawnyrose watched bluetcrest weave through the crowd, lingering a little longer at pythoneyes' side before he disengaged and joined tawnyrose. from her side, lightkit bounded forward to greet her mother's best friend, and the queen's attendant purred when their noses touched.
indenthowever, it was a voice from tawnyrose's other side that stole lightkit's attention. "how fares the little queen, then?" at the sound of yewbloom's voice, lightkit pulled away from bluetcrest and bounded over to her uncle. yewbloom's shoulders shook from the strength of his laughter, and tawnyrose caught wolverinesnap's eye from over yewbloom's back. the lithe knight flashed a small, tentative smile, and tawnyrose nodded her greeting towards him.
indent"i didn't think you were coming back today," lightkit said, mirroring yewbloom's lopsided grin.
indent"did you really think i'd miss this big day? no way," yewbloom said. he rested his chin on top of lightkit's head for a moment before tawnyrose stepped forward to meet him. "today's the big day, after all, i wouldn't have missed it for the world."
indenttawnyrose rolled her eyes and flicked her tail absently. "you were almost late."
indentat that, yewbloom let out a warm laugh and glanced towards wolverinesnap. "key word, sister: almost. i'm here, right on time." he brushed his nose against tawnyrose's cheek before pulling back and directing his attention to lightkit just as bluetcrest came up behind tawnyrose. "good luck, little queen, and have fun. later, if it's not too late and your mother let's you, i can tell you another story." at last, yewbloom waved his tail dismissively, brushing past wolverinesnap. the pair walked off, and tawnyrose tipped her chin expectantly to bluetcrest.
indent"now that the prince has arrived, we're all ready to go." as if on cue, softglow appeared while bluetcrest was speaking, dipping his head politely to tawnyrose and lightkit. bluetcrest flashed a smile. "we should get this started, before the sun sets completely and we're holding a ceremony in the dark."
indent"and what a shame that would be," tawnyrose said. bluetcrest flicked his ear before he went with softglow to the middle of the hollow. at the same time, tawnyrose gestured to lightkit. together, the padded up the slope of the queen's den, where they could look down at the rest of the clan. for a moment, tawnyrose allowed for silence as her daughter, the heir to the clan, looked down at the clan, who beheld her in turn. lightkit's eyes were bright, and she gripped the stone under her paws, as if to ground herself. her jaw dropped for just a moment before she remembered the lessons tawnyrose had been passing down onto her, and her expression was quick to settle back into a gentle smile.
indentin turn, several cheers went up from the clan at the sight of their heir. from the moment it had been revealed that tawnyrose had been expecting kits, the clan had been waiting to meet their future queen. it would be moons until tawnyrose died or had to step down, but already it was like the future was playing out before them. the day lightkit would be named queen would be bittersweet, just as it was for every rising queen; it was a day that meant the death of a mother, when a leader had passed on. it was a day that had been stolen from lighteyes, but lightkit would be a great queen, she could see it already. it was in the way she held herself, the way her eyes lit up at the sight of the clan. it was her birthright, through and through, and already tawnyrose could see the security of highgarden for generations to come.
indent"today marks a special day for highgarden," tawnyrose began at last, stepping forward to address her cats. "as a clan, we survived one of the worst winters the gods could have thrown at us. we continue to prosper, we are still growing strong each and every day. as evidence, i urge you to look no further than my kits. hawthornkit, bramblekit, and the heir to highgarden, lightkit. these are the moments that define our clan, just as the naming of new thorns also marks the prosperity for the next generation." from the front of the hollow, an excited shout went up followed quickly by ferretwhisker pointed hiss to silence her kits. at tawnyrose's side, lightkit let out a muffled laugh, and tawnyrose nodded in the direction of the cluster of young cats. "indeed, the day has come when elkkit, beechkit, harrierkit, quillkit, and dewkit are ready to be given their new names, and to begin their training as thorns. therefore, from this moment on, until you have finished your training and have earned your full names, you shall be known as elkpaw, beechpaw, harrierpaw, quillpaw, and dewpaw." at that, the group of new thorns bunched together, and the clan shouted praises for them. dewpaw and beechpaw touched their noses together, harrierpaw ducked away from ferretwhisker's incessant grooming, earning a booming laugh from elkpaw, and quillpaw grinned up at lightkit, who nodded back at him with a wave of her tail.
indentwhen the cheers had quieted, tawnyrose cleared her throat. "elkpaw, your mentor will be pythoneyes. he is a knight with experience in highgarden, as well as from his former clan. his stories have enchanted so many of us, and i urge you to pay attention to everything that he had to say, as well as everything he shows you." from the middle of the crowd, pythoneyes appeared surprised, but daisypaw and briarpaw were quick to pick up the cheer for their adoptive father as he rose to meet elkpaw. then, tawnyrose looked to beechpaw. "your mentor will be obsidianwing. though he is not the biggest or fastest knight, he has a sharp mind. he mentored warblercry, who is a very talented and promising rose after his tutelage, so i have no doubts that he will pass on even more knowledge to you as well." though the knight had been absent for most of the moon, spending time with smokemane and her family, he earned a loud roar of praise. at his side, sunglow jostled his shoulder encouragingly. after the mentor and his new thorn had touched noses, tawnyrose continued: "dippernose, you will be harrierpaw's mentor. as hornetshade's mentor, you proved time and time again that you are a very proficient teacher, with a wide range of knowledge ready to be passed on to the next generation. no one can question hornetshade's abilities, nor can anyone question your loyalty to the clan, and i trust that you will teach harrierpaw everything you know." dippernose appeared more confident than pythoneyes and obsidianwing, and he wore a large grin when he greeted the young tabby. "quillpaw, your mentor for will be tigergaze. though he is still young, no one could deny that he is one of our swiftest, strongest knights. when he was a newly named knight, he participated in the spring tournament and proved himself as one of our knights. he will be a great mentor, who will match your enthusiasm, and energy." just as tawnyrose had expected, tigergaze was shocked, moving only when hornetshade and iguanaspots nudged him to his paws. even from where tawnyrose was standing, she could see the quiver in the young tom's whiskers, appearing even more nervous than quillpaw. when tigergaze looked to tawnyrose, the queen managed an encouraging smile, and tigergaze squared his shoulders at last before leading quillpaw to sit with the other thorns and their mentors so that only dewpaw remained. "last but certainly not least, dewpaw, your mentor will be arcticblink. he's still quite new to the clan, but he's learned his position quickly. his speed is one of many assets he brings to the clan, so i suggest that you keep your eyes open and follow his lead. you'll find your bearings together, i'm sure of it." at last, tawnyrose stepped back to allow the clan to erupt into cheers for the new thorns and their mentors. ferretwhisker pushed forward to nuzzle each of her kits, while sunglow pushed his way between tigergaze and obsidianwing to congratulate his friends.
indentthrough all of the excitement, lightkit looked up at tawnyrose, her eyes wide with wonder. "mom?" she asked, and tawnyrose smiled gently at her daughter. "i didn't... think it would be like this. smokemane is still hurt, and cirruskit, tornadokit, and tsunamikit are still sick, but everyone can still be happy like this... i didn't think it was possible." tawnyrose felt a pang in her chest, and she took the moment to sit and pull lightkit closer to her.
indent"that's the thing about tragedy in a clan, my dear. bad things happen sometimes, and sometimes there are stretches of time when nothing bad happens. other times a lot of bad things will happen at once, but we can't let it destroy us," she said. lightkit's brow furrowed thoughtfully, and tawnyrose dipped her head to lick between her daughter's ears. "what are our words?"
indent"growing strong," lightkit said, not missing a beat.
indent"and what do our words mean?"
indent"highgarden is always becoming stronger. like the roses and the trees and all of the other plants, we're always growing and bettering ourselves," lightkit said, and tawnyrose grinned, pleased.
indent"our words are part of what make us strong. they remind us that we can be battered, we can be bruised and hurt, but we won't break. we're strong, and we need to weather the storms, my dear. smokemane was hurt, but she'll gt up again. flickersky's kits got sick, but they'll feel better soon enough. we need to grow strong so that nothing will knock us down. and, if we do, we need to be strong so we can get back to our paws," tawnyrose said. "the snows came, the snows are melting. the waters will come to overflow the banks. cats will get sick, and, at some point, cats will die. but we need to keep our eyes on the horizon and remember the words. as long as we remember the words, then highgarden will prosper. the storms are gone, and the flowers will grow again."
indentfor a long moment, the queen and her heir sat above their clan and considered tragedies and their words. then, from the middle of the hollow, quillpaw stood on his hind legs and called up to lightkit, who then looked to tawnyrose. "can i?" she asked, and tawnyrose nodded.
indent"go, celebrate with them. but stay with quillpaw, don't get lost in the crowd," she said, watching lightkit climb down from their perch to join her friend. she wasn't alone for long, for bluetcrest came to join her a moment later, resting his head against her shoulder.
indent"thank the gods winter is over," bluetcrest said, and tawnyrose hummed her agreement.
indent"we'll need to move soon. with all of the snow, the rivers and rose lake are going to flood quickly. we have a lot of preparation to do," tawnyrose said, and bluetcrest nodded minutely. then, tawnyrose let out a breezy laugh. "we'll also need to arrange a tournament when we get to the old tower. to celebrate the new heir and the princes."
indentat that, bluetcrest let out a purr. "the clan'll be excited for that," he said. "not even softglow can say no to that."
indenttawnyrose flicked her tail as she glanced from bluetcrest and down into the crowd. "we have a lot of reasons to celebrate lately. it's time we did."
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highgarden ♕ twenty-two

Postby eagle, » Sat Mar 28, 2020 9:06 am

      total 65
      servings 11 (+70)
      ________________ Image ________________

      gods n/a
      pebbles 91
      archive xx
      font credit x x

indenterasmus & spencer and spencer is conflicted but. he agrees

dippernose & harrierpaw on patrol and running into groveclan who is then snubbed because. hrmph. and sagecloud is. uneasy.

hornetwarbler conference with otterfur about what they can do next

bluetcrest has a meeting with tawnyrose and softglow about what to do about all of the problems but tawnyrose just wants to party and softglow is trying to take care of the kits

checking up on smokemane and obsidianwing admits his feelings

otterfur and tanagercall sent out to check the flooding and he's reminded again of juniperstorm and he's ouch conflicted

highgarden has to move camps
- flickersky and ferretwhisker and ferretwhisker has a crush on nightfur
- kits playing and quillpaw is the best friend ever
- bluetcrest and sagecloud are on-edge because the clan is complaining about having to live closer to groveclan
- pythoneyes telling a story
- :)

[ consumption ] highgarden eats x5 squirrels and x1 vole
[ rank changes ] stagpaw holds off on receiving his full name until seedpaw and rabbitpaw have passed their assessments
seedpaw takes her final assessment
[ patrol 1 ] softglow, yewbloom, betonypetal, ayalla, iguanaspots, and warblercry
[ hunt 1 ] bassflow, erasmus, leopardsun, otterfur, charredbreeze, and hornetshade
[ hunt 2 ] swiftheart, tulipstream, foxspark, lyrewhistle, wolverinesnap, daystrike
↪ wolverinesnap has applicable powers
[ hunt 3 ] clovershine, obsidianwing, wolfhowl, direfang, sandstrike, ferretwhisker
[ hunt 4 ] mapleshadow, maplelily, newtmask, riverfoam, kitechaser, and tanagercall
[ mates ] ayalla tries for kits with axel from the crossroad demons (acting as a surrogate)
[ training ] daisypaw and rabbitpaw learn swimming
briarpaw learns fighting
elkpaw, beechpaw, harrierpaw, quillpaw, and dewpaw learn hunting
[ herbalists ] merlinsong gives cirruskit x1 coltsfoot. smokemane rests 2/3
[ herb hunt ] merlinsong and spencer
[ death & injuries ] erasmus kills lightkit & erasmus injures bluetcrest and sagecloud (please roll for injury/not death on bluetcrest and sagecloud)
[ notes to mod ] i ask that no one die on patrols though injuries are fine xo

    tawnyrose, 40m, ♀
    the wayward queen
    - mate: birchflame
    - kits: lightkit, hawthornkit, bramblekit

    softglow, 42m, ♂
    the lost king

    name, age, gender

    bluetcrest, 44m, ♂
    the wayward's attendant

    merlinsong, 47m, ♂ - 5sp
    spencer, 42m, ♂ - 5sp

    roses & knights
    otterfur, 76m, ♂
    direfang, 72m, ♂
    charredbreeze, 64m, ♀
    sagecloud, 58m, ♀
    mapleshadow, 56m, ♀
    erasmus, 54m, ♂
    hurricanejaw, 52m, ♂
    maplelily, 50m, ♀
    bassflow, 50m, ♂
    newtmask, 49m, ♂
    dippernose, 49m, ♂
    arcticblink, 47m, ♂
    ferretwhisker, 45m, ♀
    pythoneyes, 45m, ♂
    tulipstream, 41m, ♀
    birchflame, 41m, ♂
    yewbloom, 40m, ♂
    betonypetal, 39m, ♀
    clovershine, 38m, ♂
    smallheart, 38m, ♂
    wolverinesnap, 37m, ♂
    riverfoam, 36m, ♀
    swiftheart, 34m, ♀
    kitechaser, 32m, ♀
    obsidianwing, 31m, ♂
    ayalla, 29m, ♀
    jaytalon, 29m, ♂
    smokemane, 28m, ♀
    sunglow, 28m, ♂
    tigergaze, 27m, ♂
    sandstrike, 25m, ♀
    hornetshade, 24m, ♂
    privetears, 23m, ♀
    tanagercall, 22m, ♀
    cougarstrike, 21m, ♂
    racoonslip, 21m, ♂
    foxspark, 21m, ♂
    wolfhowl, 21m, ♀
    iguanaspots, 21m, ♀
    warblercry, 21m, ♀
    lyrewhistle, 20m, ♀
    leopardsun, 20m, ♂
    daystrike, 18m, ♂
            stagpaw, 14m, ♂
            seedpaw, 14m, ♀
            rabbitpaw, 14m, ♀
            briarpaw, 12m, ♀
            daisypaw, 12m, ♀
            elkpaw, 8m, ♂
            beechpaw, 8m, ♀
            harrierpaw, 8m, ♀
            quillpaw, 8m, ♂
            dewpaw, 8m, ♀

            flickersky, 38m, ♀
            - mate: stormshroud, shadowed kingdom
            - kits: cirruskit, tsunamikit, tornadokit

            adenium, 5m, ♀
            hawthornkit, 4m, ♂
            bramblekit, 4m, ♂
            snowykit, 4m, ♂
            cirruskit, 2m, ♂
            tsunamikit , 2m, ♀
            tornadokit, 2m, ♀

            name, age, gender
            name, age, gender

            allies & enemies & borders


            total x104
            mouse | x9 | 1 serving
            vole | x10 | 1 serving
            small fish | x6 | 2 servings
            squirrel | x15 | 2 servings
            rabbit | x11 | 2 servings
            big fish | x5 | 3 servings
            finch | x2 | 3 servings

            hurricanejaw, stagpaw, 4
            smallheart, seedpaw, 4
            birchflame, rabbitpaw, 3
            jaytalon, briarpaw, 2
            sunglow, daisypaw, 3
            pythoneyes, elkpaw, 1
            obsidianwing, beechpaw, 1
            dippernose, harrierpaw, 1
            tigergaze, quillpaw, 1
            arcticblink, dewpaw, 1


            family trees
credit goes to the cac staff & artists for all color-ins and lineart xoxo
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