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Of Ravens and Hawks

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Chapter 1

Ravenkit

Ravenkit found the myriad of movement outside the WindClan nursery strangely fascinating.

There was always something going on in the clan, of course, but today seemed like a special day.

Sat at the den’s entrance, he watched as cats walked by, talked to each other, shared pieces of prey and groomed each other. A couple were sharing tongues in the shade, while others came in and out of camp. Despite the smiling faces, there was a clear uneasiness in the air, as if everyone was apparently expecting something to happen.

In the meantime, he focused on the smells. Every cat here had a particular one, but also a general scent that his mother and him had too. WindClan scent, he assumed. Each cat, each den, each piece of moss and prey here reeked of this scent. It made him feel at home, for reasons he didn’t fully understand yet. But it was a really comforting smell, almost like his mother’s.

His clanmates’ scent was odd today too. It wasn’t quite fear-scent, but it was almost that. There was something weird about it. They smelled anxious and uncomfortable, kind of like something was missing in the clan and they were desperate for that something to appear. It made him uncomfortable as well, so he tried to focus on something to distract himself.

Across the clearing, next to the entrance of another den, sat a small golden tabby cat. Bigger than himself, Ravenkit noted, but still relatively small. This cat’s stillness contrasted heavily with the rest of the camp’s residents. The cat in question obviously didn’t sleep in the nursery with them and was too small to be a warrior, so they were probably an apprentice.

He hadn’t seen that cat leave the camp before, though. At least, not as often as the warrior’s apprentices tended to do. He knew because he spent a lot of time looking outside the nursery. He didn’t know many names yet, but he could recognize pelts and scents. He had a good idea who was a warrior and who was being mentored.

This golden cat had only come close to the nursery once and he couldn’t really have a good sniff of his scent. However, he had perceived a faint aroma of flowers and herbs. It was quite similar to the one that the kind old tom that visited them from time to time had.

Was this cat his apprentice, then?

He hoped so! He liked that tom. The herbs he brought made his mother feel nice and also made her have more milk for himself and his brother. It tasted kind of funny afterwards, yes, but there was more of it! Having two cats bringing herbs for his mother could only mean good things, right?

Speaking of his mother and brother, he turned around to face them. The outside world had already fallen in repetition and a seemingly improvised routine, with all his clanmates still hanging around camp waiting and not doing much else new. The novelty of their morning activities was gone.

 His mother laid asleep in a bed of moss with his brother curled up against her. Whatever it was that had the other cats so nervous couldn’t really be such a big deal, he concluded, if his mother was unbothered by it. He decided to join them. There wasn’t anything else to do, anyways. He settled next to his brother and felt him instinctively snuggle closer to him.

Ravenkit and his mother were almost identical, both having pelts as dark as a starless night. The only difference was their eyes, amber for her, green for him. Otherwise, they would be indistinguishable. At least, if it weren’t for the current size difference, of course, but he would grow up.

On the other paw, his brother was quite a peculiar sight. His face, paws and tail were black like them, but the rest of his body was something between white and very light grey. He stood out a lot next to his family. And his eyes! Stars above, his eyes! Each a lake of the most purest blue! Ravenkit had never seen such a thing!

Literally, he had never seen another cat with eyes like those. Maybe in other clan some cat had them, but there wasn’t any other cat with blue eyes in WindClan.

Ravenkit found that odd.

A loud yowl rang across the camp, followed by the sound of many cats assembling and happy cheering. His bother jerked awake, his eyes darting back and forth across the nursery. His mother slowly opened her eyes and yawned, slowly turning her hear towards the exit of the nursery. From this angle, she couldn’t see anything, but she didn’t truly needed to.

“That sure sounds like Silentleap is now Silentstar, alright” she muttered warmly “A new leader rises in WindClan”

“She is way too young to be leader, Hollowstripe, and I’m not the only one that thinks that. I don’t know why StarClan would allow this” Another queen’s voice commented.

Ravenkit had forgotten about Kestrelstalker, if he was being honest. He often did. Mainly because her scent was so embedded into the nursery that it was hard to notice it some days.

He also disliked her name. Too many weird sounds.

The she-cat herself was a kind individual, though. The few interaction he’d had with her had been very positive. She didn’t have any kits yet, but if she was in the nursery then surely some were on their way. He was looking forward to having more denmates.

His mother turned towards Kestrelstalker.

“We cheered when she became deputy, but now we complain that she is leader?” Hollowstripe yawned again and gave her paw a lick “We knew this could happen. That’s the point of having a deputy. She earned this”

“Her becoming our leader isn’t the problem. Her becoming our leader now is”

“The clans are going through a period of unprecedented peace” Hollowstripe’s whiskers twitched, annoyance starting to show in her voice “Disputes are few and far between, borders are lax, prey is abundant. Even loners and kittypets seem more eager to collaborate with us than opposing our claims of territory. Thanks to them, we have complete access to the Twolegs gardens and all the herbs there. I’ve never seen our medicine den so overflowing with catnip and marigolds before!” Her eyes returned to the entrance, her ears trying to pick up words coming from outside “If there was any time to have a young leader, now it’s the time. She’ll chose a deputy and the senior warriors can help run things until she gets the hang of it. Spottedstar trusted her, StarClan trusts her, I will trust her too”

Kestrelstalker sighed.

“You… certainly have a lot of faith in her, huh?”

“Someone has to”

“I know” Kestrelstalker laid her head on her front paws, a pained expression flashing on her face “I just wish Spottedstar could’ve lived a little bit longer, you know? Just enough to see our kits…”

“We all do, I would imagine” His mother’s gaze turned more sympathetic in an instant. She stood up and slowly paddled towards the other queen. She licked her twice and then rested her head on top of hers “He’ll watch over them from StarClan… and your clan will watch over them here”

“Thank you…”

The queens didn’t say anything else after that, so Ravensight turned his attention to his brother. Amusingly, Lightkit had fallen asleep again at some point, sure that there was no threats present. Ravensight smiled and, as he heard his mother returning, he laid down and snuggled up against his brother again.  

He was eager to meet this Silentstar. Maybe that golden apprentice too. They seemed nice.

Only two moons more and he would be an apprentice.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2:

 Ravenpaw

So Ravenpaw was nine moons old now and had had the chance to meet both Silentstar and the peculiar golden tabby apprentice, along with a couple other cats.

True to the word of the queens, Silentstar was younger than most warriors. As a kit, he hadn’t thought about it very much, but as an apprentice he found it odd she’d be chosen as deputy to begin with, let alone leader. She was a grey and white cat of a somewhat meek demeanor and soft-spoken, very respectful of elders and medicine cats. She was nothing like what the elders’ stories had taught him what a leader was supposed to look like. Superficially, at least. In every other aspect, she unquestionably was.

Ravenpaw felt an otherworldly admiration towards her, an aura of holiness that emanated from her figure every time she stood above them and called a meeting. Tail held up high, fire in her eyes, words soft but that at the same time sharper than her claws.

She had opened the discussion to consider catching frogs in the territory, should more fresh-kill be needed in the harshest seasons. It was rejected by elders and senior warriors, true, but the fact that it was taken seriously by WindClan and actively discussed was astonishing. It was truly a testament to her oratory skills.

Ravenpaw suspected that was partially the reason why she was made deputy. Spottedstar wanted a diplomat as successor, not just a warrior. Maybe it was done in hopes of maintaining the peace forged in his time.

Silentstar’s deputy Yelloweyes, a pure white she-cat of pretty obvious eye color, towered next to her. Even the medicine cat was larger than her. That didn’t really matter to Ravenpaw. In time, everyone would learn to either respect her or fear her, as they did with any other leader. His mother believed in her and so did he.

Speaking about medicine cats, with each passing day Ravenpaw found himself growing closer and closer to Webpaw, the golden tabby apprentice. He had been correct in assuming this cat was the apprentice of Palestorm, the clan’s current medicine cat. Said cat was very old and many were worried that this was probably his last season with the clan. Ravenpaw had heard that these worries doubled when he announced he would be taking an apprentice. And then tripled when he announced that the trip to the Moonpool to get Silentstar her nine lives would be his last. He just didn’t have the strength to make the trip anymore.

One thing Ravenpaw couldn’t wrap his head around, no matter how hard he tried to, was Palestorm’s name. He was a dark brown tabby. Why would his mother call him Palekit? There HAD to be a story there, somewhere. Ravenpaw wanted to hear it so badly, but he would never ask for it. He knew it’d be disrespectful.

Now, Webpaw’s name, he understood. There WAS a kind of funny story behind it. Apparently, when he was born, he managed to snatch and entangle himself with all the cobwebs Palestorm had brought into the nursery. The story was of questionable veracity, but at least made sense. Also, it fitted the role he had chosen in the clan. So it was a good name and Ravenpaw liked it. He just couldn’t wait to hear what his friend’s full name would be.

He was hunting something for his friend right now. Well, not exactly. He was just in a hunting patrol with his brother Lightpaw and their mentors Shrewspring and Minkclaw respectively. Lightpaw and his mentor were on the moor, chasing rabbits. He and his mentor were looking for birds among the bushes and rocks. Not many cats in the clan liked birds very much, always preferring rabbit if available, but Webpaw did and that was reason enough for Ravenpaw to at least try catching one every time he was assigned to a hunting patrol.

He knew the scent of every single bird species in the territory. He memorized every chirp, every song, and every sound their feet made against the soil. He could smell them before hearing them and could hear them before seeing them. There was no use hiding from him. They could be buried in the darkest depth of the Dark Forrest, and to him they’d be like fireflies in a moonless night. He was shaping up to be the best tracker in the clan!

He fell into a hunting crouch a few paw steps away from a particular bush. There was a dove on the other side. He knew it. He had known for a while, but was waiting to get closer. From somewhere behind him, Shrewspring noticed and immediately did the same. His mentor remained motionless and silent, leaving the job to him.

Ravenpaw crept forwards methodically, taking each step just as his mentor had taught him. He twitched his ears and heard the bird unfurling its wings.

The world stopped for a second…

He adjusted his position…

The dove closed its wings again. It was just stretching.

The apprentice’s paws fell on the bird’s back, pinning it against the ground, and his fangs bit into its throat before a single sound could escape from it. The dove went limp in seconds.

“Nicely done!” His mentor cheered, catching up with him. He sat down and shook his head before continuing “Now, if only your rabbit hunting techniques were that good…”

Ravenpaw finished burying his catch, the joy of his accomplishment slightly faltering.

“I try, but I’m not fast enough to catch up with them in the open. It’s hard to ambush them in the moor too”

“We are WindClan. We run on the moor and we catch rabbits. That’s our thing” Shrewspring sighed “Your eagerness and talent in non-traditional prey hunting is commendable, but you must help provide the clan with its main source of food”

“Why do you bring me out here to catch birds and then berate me for catching birds?” Ravenpaw exclaimed, then started walking in a random direction, hoping to scent another prey. There was a crow nearby, but it seemed that it was on top of a tree.

Not worth it. I’ll find something else.

“Catching birds and forest prey is a nice supplement when rabbits are scarce, so it’s a skill all warriors must have” Shrewspring was following him “But it’s just that: a supplement. You can’t make a career out of hunting only birds. And you most certainly won’t become a warrior until you can consistently catch rabbits”

Ravenpaw wasn’t sure if that was meant to be a threat, a warning or just a statement. Either way, it probably didn’t have the result Shrewspring was going for.

“Fine! I’ll move into the medicine den with Webpaw as soon as Palestorm joins StarClan then! I’ll collect herbs and hunt for him” He lowered his voice, but made sure his mentor could still hear him “At least he’s grateful when I bring him birds, not like the rest of the clan”

Shrewspring abruptly stopped and remained silent. For some reason, that scared him more than any other possible reaction. Ravenpaw turned around and looked into his mentor’s eyes. He was eyeing him carefully, his face expressionless. After a couple of seconds that felt like moons, Shrewspring tilted his head slightly upwards and spoke again.

“You spend a lot of time with our medicine cat apprentice. More than with any other cat…” Ravenpaw still couldn’t identify any emotion on his mentor’s face. He was starting to get nervous.

“Me and my brother spend almost the same amount of time with Webpaw. And Kestrelstaker’s kits are too small to hang out with us yet”

“No, they are not” Frustration started to be perceivable in Shrewspring’s voice. It wasn’t ideal, but it was an emotion at last “They will be made apprentices in a matter of days. And your brother is only around Webpaw because you are”

That was true. Lightpaw wasn’t particularly fond of Webfur. He wasn’t mean to him or anything, but he tended to avoid him unless Ravenpaw was there too. Had his mentor talked about this with Lightspaw’s behind his back?

“I really don’t understand what the point you are trying to make is right now” His ears perked up and his head spun right. A small twig had been snapped a short distance from them. The sound came from the other side of a small tree.

He signaled his mentor with his tail and Shrewspring stood still in silence. Ravenpaw approached the tree as quietly as he could until he was sure he could cover the remaining distance with a couple of jumps. He fell into a hunting crouch again and focused his senses. His ears told him where his target was, his nose told him that it wasn’t a bird or rabbit, but it was still prey.

He took a deep breath and darted forward. With one jump he was next to the tree, with the second he fell on top of his target. He immediately leaned down and bit, applying pressure until whatever he had in his mouth stopped moving.

He let it fall on the ground and gave it a good look for the first time.

It was a mouse.

“How…fortunate” He said to no one in particular “Yelloweyes loves these, for some reason. It’ll be a nice treat for her before she joins the nursery. They’ll only get harder to find in the next moons”

He picked up his fresh-kill and turned back to his mentor, who was looking at him with shock in his eyes. Any other day, this would probably alarm him. But today, his mentor seemed to be in the mood of showcasing his whole range of face-making skills. He had to admit, they were pretty impressive.

Ravenpaw rolled his eyes and tried to walk around him, but Shrewspring stood in his way again. With a quick movement of his paw, the older tom snatched the mouse from the apprentice’s mouth. The lifeless body flopped in the ground with a wet sound. Ravenpaw just sighed.

“So mouse is also out of the menu, huh? I swear, we’ll all starve to death if you ever get to be deputy” He knew that was a ludicrous notion, but he found it amusing.

“Ravenpaw, who told you that?” Shrewspring snapped, taking a step forwards.

“It was just a joke. I meant nothing by it”

“No… about Yelloweyes. Who told you that?” The older tom took another step forwards, forcing Ravenpaw to sit on his haunches.

“Webpaw, who else? You were just complaining about how much time I spend in the medicine den. I thought it would be obvious”

The mentor started circling his apprentice but not exactly looking at him. Ravenpaw lifted a paw and started licking it as innocently as he could. He was starting to get worried. Shrewspring was really on edge today, for some reason.

“Our deputy’s pregnancy isn’t meant to be public knowledge yet” He finally said, sitting in front of the apprentice “Does your brother know? Does anyone else know? Did you or Webpaw talked with anybody about it?”

“No, just me. And no, we didn’t” Ravenpaw raised an eyebrow “She-cats getting pregnant and having kits isn’t something controversial, even if they are deputies or leaders. I don’t see why the secrecy”

“Because Yelloweyes wanted it to be kept private. It was an order and she is our deputy”

“I think you all are being a little bit overdramatic about all this. So Webpaw shared gossips with me, big deal!”

“Alright, listen! Stop contradicting me! I-I’m starting to worry about you, Ravenpaw” Shrewspring’s eyes conveyed as much, which straight up freaked out Ravenpaw. What was going on? All of this for just some gossip? It would probably be common knowledge before a moon anyways.

“Yeah, I’ve noticed. But I’m not sure I know exactly why. First it was rabbits, then Webpaw and now gossips. You are scaring me, Shrewspring. What’s going on?”

Instead of answering right away, his mentor softly put the tip of his tail on Ravenpaw’s shoulder and looked straight into his eyes.

“I know this is going to sound weird, but I need to know. Some of our clanmates have been worried about this… and to be honest, so have I. Even your mother asked me to find out. Initially, I thought they were just dumb rumors. But if you are so close as to share clan secrets with each other... I have to ask” He paused for a brief second, taking a deep breath “Ravenpaw, what are your intentions with our medicine cat apprentice?”

Ravenpaw paused for a second, taking a step back and blinking. His mentor’s tail hung in the air for a moment before being place on top of its owner’s paws.

“My intentions?” He repeated

“I swear, whatever you tell me stays between us if you want it that way. At least for now”

“I have no intentions with Webpaw. We are just best friends. I don’t get what the clan is so worried about”

“They are worried that, despite you being a loyal and considered cat, you would let your emotions drive you to break the Warrior Code”

Worried about breaking the Warrior Code? And his mother was involved too?

“Being friends with a medicine cat isn’t against the Warrior Code”

“Being mates with one is”

Ravenpaw recoiled at that, his eyes widening and his back arching slightly.

Now it made sense what the clan’s suspicions were.

“Webpaw and I are not-! We are just apprentices, for StarClan’s sake! How can you say something like that!?”

“That’s not an excuse! Webpaw has one or two moons left of apprenticeship, at most. You’re halfway through your training. You’re young but not kits! The cats in our camp are worried that you’ll ruin your lives so early on”

Was Webpaw being questioned too? Could this affect his chances of becoming a full medicine cat?

“Then the cats in our camp are mouse-brained and blind! Webpaw and I are just friends!”

The silence that followed stretched far beyond comfort. Shrewspring looked at him as if he were a criminal pledging his innocence before overwhelming amounts of evidence against him. The idea of asking his brother to speak in his favor flashed in his head for a second, but it dissolved immediately.

His mother suspected him of breaking the Code already.

Did his brother think that too? Was that the reason behind his behavior towards Webpaw?

He didn’t have time to reach a conclusion.

 “Good” His mentor sighed, his expression changing once again. It was doing that a lot today, huh? “That’s good. I believe you. I’ll make sure the clan knows”

“Whatever…” Ravenpaw was sick of this conversation. He started walking away, towards the moor. He wanted to chase rabbits now, even if he couldn’t catch them. It would help him let off some steam.

“Where are you going?” His mentor meowed.

“To practice our clan’s ancestral tradition on the moor…” he replied bitterly.

“Ah, Excellent! I’ll bring the prey back to camp. See you there?”

The apprentice’s irritation was fueled further by this, maybe even irrationally so. Why the questions? He was a pretty paws-off mentor compared to others, but he was still his mentor. He could order him to do stuff and he would have to.

Also, why ask when he could just assume things? The clan liked to do that a lot, it’d seem.

Shrewspring was a good cat, deep down Ravenpaw knew that, but he still didn’t answer.

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

Webpaw

“Well, would you look at that!” Webpaw meowed happily. He was resting on one of the medicine den’s moss beds. At the sight of his visitor, he stretched his muscles and stood up, walking towards Ravenpaw and blinking warmly as a sign of welcome “I was starting to get seriously worried about you! It’s been a couple of days since you last drop by. Are my charms not good enough anymore?”

“Shut up, Webpaw! I’m glad to see you too” His friend answered, nuzzling the side of his face and muttering “I’ve been a little busy with training lately. Our clanmates’ comments haven’t help me concentrate either”

“Ah, yes! What’s the newest piece of news concerning us? Have we had kits yet?” He smiled, turning and walking towards the herbs storage.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they were close to jumping to that conclusion when Shrewspring confronted me”

“Shame I couldn’t see your face when he did. I imagine it was quite a sight”

“Meh, I don’t know. Shrewspring was the one with the interesting faces that day. I assume you were aware of these rumors way before me, then?” Ravenpaw questioned as he sat down next to the golden tabby. The medicine cat apprentice had started looking over the herb stock, trying to figure out if they’d need more supplies.

“Hard not to be. So far, I’ve been questioned by Silentstar, Yelloweyes, Palestorm, my mother…” He paused briefly “Your brother and your mother too, now that I think about it, though she was subtle… and I’m pretty sure a couple more cats that I blocked from my mind. Also some dead medicine cats told me some stuff in dreams, but you know. Can’t speak with you about those, sorry”

Ravenpaw’s gaze fell on his paws. He felt bad for his friend. Rumors of this kind could at most taint his reputation, but for a medicine cat it could have meant exile if enough cats had believed them.

“I’m so, so sorry that I’ve caused you this”

“It’s whatever, honestly. I’m guiltier of giving out the wrong impression than you are anyways. Although, you’d expect they’d wait until I became a full medicine cat before questioning if I was being a good follower of the code. I can’t exactly break my vows before officially taking them!” He picked up some leafs with his paws, Ravenpaw couldn’t tell what it was, and gave it a sniff. At one, Webpaw scrunched up his face in disgust “Oh, these have gone bad. We’ll need to get rid of them and restock” He pulled the rest of those leaves to the side and continued with his task “By the way, how’s that warrior training you mentioned going?”

“It’s going alright, mostly focused on hunting. I still have issues catching rabbits, but I’m getting better. Shrewspring says that if I can bring at least one every two patrols, he’ll make me a warrior. I think he’s just tired of me, though. Looking forward to getting rid of me”

“You judge him too harshly” Webpaw commented, not looking away from his herbs “He cares about you and wants you to be proud to be a WindClan cat” He leaned down and grabbed some dry up flowers, tossing them to the side.

“WindClan could stand to be a little less proud of their rabbits. What’s wrong with eating more birds? They are significantly easier to catch in my opinion”

“Oh, nothing” Webpaw answered, casting his friend a side glance and smirking “In fact, seeing you walk in here with one just for me brightens up my day every time”

Ravenpaw found his cheeks growing hot with embarrassment. He twitched his whiskers and smiled back.

“Thank you…”

 “So!” The medicine cat apprentice suddenly exclaimed. He wrapped up all the herbs he had taken out of the storage in a big leaf, leaving the bundle on corner to be thrown out later “Up for some herb collecting?”

“Sure! Will we be leaving the territory? Should I tell Shrewspring?”

“We’ll try not to. Let’s just do a tour around the border. Need some catmint. Also coltsfoot, just in case. We have some tansy, but getting more would be cool. Leafbare is coming, we have kittens on the nursery… that’s a recipe for cough outbreaks!”

Ravenpaw couldn’t help but notice how excited Webpaw seemed to be about the prospect of illnesses taking hold of the clan.

“I don’t see how that’s something to be happy about…” The medicine cat apprentice looked at him, a slightly guilty expression taking hold of his face adorned with a faltering nervous smile.

“It’s not, actually. I just see this coming Leafbare as a warrior apprentice would see his first battle” His eyes glinted in the soft darkness of the medice den ”It’s what I was trained for and my opportunity to prove myself to the clan. To show that I’m worthy of the destiny I chose!”

“Speaking of destiny…” Ravenpaw interrupted, grimacing “How’s Palestorm doing? I haven’t seen him outside the medicine then lately”

At once, all the color in Webpaw’s face seemed to drain into nothingness. His eyes widened before looking over his shoulders towards the back chambers. Just then did Ravenpaw realized how odd it was that the medicine cat apprentice was sleeping on a patient’s bed.

“Bad” he answered, facing Ravenpaw again. Fear-scent emanated from him and his ears folded tightly against his head. The warrior apprentice’s heart broke a little seeing his usually confident and cheerful friend so distressed “Really bad. It’d be a miracle if he survives till Leafbare. And he’s most likely not living through it if he does. I-I don’t know what to do…”

“What does he have? Can’t you treat him?” Ravenpaw pressed “Can’t we ask for help to the medicine cats from other clans?” Webpaw sat down, looking at his paws.

“That’s the thing! I don’t think he has anything. I’ve asked him and he wouldn’t tell me. I’ve consulted the other medicine cats during our meetings and they don’t know. I… I’m starting to think he isn’t ill. Just old… and weak. I can’t treat that” He shook his head and looked back at his friend “He talks about his mother and littermates visiting in his dreams and he seems more eager to be asleep than to help me treat cats” Webpaw looked in the verge of tears.

Ravenpaw walked up to his friend, pressing their chest fur together and softly laying his head on top of the other apprentice’s. Webpaw nuzzled his friend’s neck, taking a deep breath and letting out a soft purr. He found himself purring too without realizing it. They stood still for a couple of seconds, perhaps a few more than they should have, deep in the other’s warmth and with their eyes closed.

Meanwhile, Ravenpaw’s mind started to connect the dots.

I see now how these rumors started. We do look like dumb apprentices awkwardly courting each other, huh?

It seemed so weird for him to think of how they care for each other through that viewpoint. They’d do things like this all the time and not think very much of them. Touches and nuzzles and kind words were just part of their friendship.

And the fox-hearted speculations of their clanmates weren’t going to stop that.

“It’s alright” Ravenpaw broke the silence “It’ll be tough, but I have faith in you. He’ll look after you from StarClan and you’ll look after us here. WindClan will be fortunate to have you as its medicine cat”

“He told me the exact same thing…” Webpaw answered as he broke the embrace and started walking towards the exit “Come on, let’s get moving. I need some fresh air and the clan needs some herbs”

As the golden tabby passed the threshold into the clearing, Ravenpaw rose to his paws and followed his friend in silence.

When he stepped outside the den, he greeted by the usual sights in WindClan camp. Silentstar and Yelloweyes were both lying close to the Tallrock, enjoying the morning sun. They both tended to wake up very early to organize the daily schedule and then hung around camp in case they were needed.

Yelloweyes had finally had her kits, to the surprise of most the clan. A tom, who she called Shortkit, and a she-cat, who she called Fallowkit. Both of them were white greyish like their mother, but their eyes were more brown than yellow. The she-cat was slightly smaller, but other than that it was easy to confuse one for the other.

Ravenpaw still couldn’t believe how WindClan hadn’t realized their deputy was pregnant until she was basically laying in the nursery feeding kits.

My clanmates can be really mouse-brained at times.

However, WindClan’s deputy returned to her clan duties barely two moons after her kits were born. Not even motherhood could pry her from her sense of duty and, to an extent, Ravenpaw admired that. She still loved her kits and visited them daily, but another queen was nursing them now.

Apparently their father was one of the loners that help the clan get some resources from Twolegplace. But when asked how her mate was called, Yelloweyes answered that she did not take a mate, she made an arrangement. Nobody dared ask any further questions about the topic.

Ravenpaw and his brother’s father was also from outside the clan. A kittypet, their mother had told them. Sweet and caring as any clan cat, but lazy as all the nursery tales said kittypets were. She invited him to join the clan, but he refused claiming that he couldn’t provide anything of value to the clan. Opinions in WindClan were divided between believing this to be an honorable and responsible admission, or seeing it as the excuses of a coward.

They’d parted ways in amicable terms, so Ravenpaw hoped he could see his father one day. It wasn’t likely, seen as neither wandered into the other’s territory, but still.

Maybe growing up with just their mother was something he could connect with the new kits.

Ravenpaw was looking forward to Shortkit and Fallowkit’s apprenticeship ceremony. With any luck, he would be a warrior by then and maybe even chosen to mentor one of them. Training a deputy’s kit would be a great honor!

A couple of warriors, a light ginger and white dots tom called Minkclaw and his similarly colored sister Smallflower, were chatting to with each other as they prepared to leave camp. Cloverpelt, a light brown tabby she-cat, joined them at the last second and all three bounded out of sight. Most likely a border patrol by their carefree demeanor. There hadn’t been a large conflict between the clans in over a generation. Checking and making borders were more of a tradition than an actual necessity now, but it was part of the Warrior Code and thus had to be done.

The fresh-kill pile looked kind of scarce, so Ravenpaw imagined that the first hunting patrol hadn’t returned yet. He was a little hungry, but decided he’d try to catch something on the way. He didn’t want to take anything from the clan when he wasn’t contributing as much as everyone thought he should.

A second group of cats emerged from the warriors den shortly after and marched up to Silentstar. One of them was Shrewspring, but Ravenpaw couldn’t distinguish the other two. As soon as she noticed them she jumped to her paws and joined the patrol. Then they all left in the opposite direction of the first one. Yelloweyes waved them goodbye with her tail but otherwise didn’t move from her spot.

“I guess our leader has to compensate for you by going on hunting patrols herself” Webpaw teased, bumping Ravenpaw’s shoulder with his own.

 “Oh, I see…”Ravenpaw quickly answered, catching on to the joke “So what you are saying is you’d rather SHE brings you birds and hang out with you in the medice den?”

“Never! You’re my number one provider of feathered beings! I’d never cheat on you!”

“Lies! You unfaithful fox-heart! I thought we had something special!” Ravenpaw threw his head backwards for dramatic effect as he pretended to hold back tears.

Both apprentices left the camp laughing like maniacs, occasionally tackling and playfully swiping at each other like young kits. A couple of clanmates eyed them curiously as they left, some of them chuckling but most just rolled their eyes, their antics being old news at this point.

“What a pair of mouse-brained dorks…” Commented Lightpaw, who was sharing tongues with his mother.

Hollowstreak just face-pawed.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4:

 Ravensight

“Let all cats old enough to catch their own prey gather here beneath the Tallrock for a clan meeting!” Silentstar yowled into the wind.

Immediately, cats started to crowd around their gathering place. Warriors and apprentices cluttered near the front, elders left their dens but didn’t move much further, queens stood at the nursery’s entrance with their kits poking their head from there.

Some were already under the Tallrock, even before the call. Namely Shortkit and Fallowkit. They knew very well what this meeting was going to be about, as did most of the clan.

Ravensight was no exception. Ever since he became a warrior, he had done everything he could to be seen as good mentor material. He had woken up early every single day, he had gone in every patrol suggested to him and even attached himself in some extra ones, he had hunted until his jaw couldn’t carry all his fresh-kill, he had taken every night watch he was allowed to, he had gone to three Gatherings and made a good name for himself among other clans’ cats. This last thing was unquestionably the hardest for Ravensight, who wasn’t a particularly talkative cat outside of his interactions with his brother or his best friend.

He raised from his spot near the medice den, arching his back to stretch quickly and checking his fur to make sure it was as presentable as possible. He licked his paw and drew it over one hear, then the other. He gave his chest a few licks too for good measure and finally joined his clanmates.

He glanced across the crowd until his eyes fell on the distinctive pair of a black she-cat and a grey tom with very particular markings. He silently walked up to his mother and brother, sitting in a space between them saved just for him. They noticed him as soon as he sat down and took turns rubbing their cheeks together in greetings, purring affectionately.

They sat close together on the outskirts of the gathered crowd. Away enough that they could hear the important bits, but also talk between each other without being disturbed.

Lightstep was the first to speak, a mischievous smile creeping on his face.

“Looking mighty fine today, dear Ravensight. What’s the joyous occasion?”

“You know perfectly well, brother”

“Of course, of course!” He tilted his head slightly upwards and pretended to be deep in thought “Although, for the life of me, I can’t imagine what made you hold off for so long to make things with Webfur official”

“You practically live with him already” Their mother chimed in, facing Ravensight and struggling to keep as serious of an expression as she could muster “Webfur comes from a very respectable bloodline. You’d better not have sullied that tom’s good name before you received StarClan’s approval”

Ravensight was slightly worried that if he rolled his eyes a little bit harder than how he was doing at the moment, they would pop out of his skull.

“Today, Yelloweyes’ kits are becoming apprentices” He responded simply.

“Or, better yet…” His brother lightly tapped him on the shoulder with his paw “One of them is becoming your apprentice!”

“I most certainly hope so”

“Listen, son” His mother spoke from the other side, placing the tip of her tail on his other shoulder. Her voice was kind and full of love, but also full of wariness “I know you’ve been working hard for this, but I’d lie if I told you every cat gets what they deserve. Be realistic about your chances and try not to get upset if you aren’t chosen. There will be more apprentices in the future”

“Thanks, mother…”

“Of course he’ll be chosen!” Lightstep challenged “He’s been bending over backwards for this clan the past moons!”

Hollowstreak fixed him with a stare.

“Yes, but there are cats who have seniority over him”

“Well, if those cats want to be around apprentices so much, they can go join the elders and see them when they change their beddings!”

That got a giggle out of Ravensight. His mother tried to stifle one of her own, but ultimately gave up and dropped her serious charade. Lightstep joined shortly after, the three cats leaning into each other and laughing as quietly as they could manage.

The moment was cut short by the clan’s enthusiastic chanting.

“Fallowpaw! Fallowpaw! Fallowpaw!”

“Fallowpaw!” The family straighten up and hurried to add to the praise.

“Who’s the mentor?” Immediately asked Lightstep.

“Give me a second…” Hollowstreak answered. She stood up only on her back legs and craned her neck towards the front for a moment, before sitting down again “Looks like Smallflower”

“Are you sure it’s her? It might be her brother” Ravensight asked curiously. He had never been able to tell them apart, but his mother consistently could.

“Absolutely. Minkclaw is in front of us, to the right”

Ravensight turned his head to that direction and his eyes fell on a light orange and white cat looking to the front with pride and admiration in his eyes. He must have felt the eyes on his back because he turned around with a confused expression.

Ravensight was trailing his body up and down with his eyes, trying to identify something that made distinguishing him from his sister easier. Their gazes met and suddenly Ravensight realized how weird that might have look for the other tom.

“I was…” He tried to explain, but was cut off.

“Stop looking at me! I’m not interested!” And with a flick of his tail, Minkclaw turned his attention to the front again.

Ravensight felt his shoulders fall and part of the cheerfulness he had that day died there.

“I hope I didn’t make the situation too uncomfortable for him”

“The bunch of dirtheads…”” His brother commented with the edge of a snarl appearing on his lips “Just because you like toms doesn’t mean you going to go around jumping on all toms. Who do these self-centered flea-bags think they are?”

“Shhh, no more insults to your clanmates…” Their mother interjected, sitting between the siblings and nuzzling Lightstep on the shoulder, before doing the same with Ravensight “And you, don’t let that get to you. They don’t do it out of malice, I promise. It’s just that…” She draped a paw around each of her sons and pulled them toward her in an embrace “It’s all my fault! I made my sons too handsome for this clan! Your clanmates don’t know how to react when you boys pay them any attention!” She finished with the goofiest grin the siblings had ever seen on her, which caused them to start laughing again. They did their best to keep it down, pressing their paws to their muzzles. Their mother joined them shortly after, but their laughter was interrupted by Silentstar’s voice.

“I am glad there is such a good spirit among my clan” She called from the front, her voice a mixture of amusement and exasperation “But I really need Ravensight up front right now”

Ravensight’s eyes shot open only to be met by essentially all the clan looking back at him. The cats in front of him had parted ways, making a corridor directly to the Tallrock, where a young cat bellow it and Silentstar on top of it were waiting for him.

His brother slid behind him and nudged him forwards with his head while his mother whispered some encouraging words that Ravensight couldn’t grasp at the moment. He started walking, and then trotting, towards the front, not fully understanding what was going on yet.

Only when he reached the spot next to the young cat and sat down, noticing how they were positively beaming at him, did he started to realize.

“Alright, good…” Silentstar cleared her throat “Ravensight, you are ready to take on your first apprentice. You have received excellent training from Shrewspring and, although it has taken you a little while longer than most, you have shown yourself to be a brilliant hunter and a loyal, hardworking clanmate” Silentstar paused for a moment, and Ravensight took the opportunity to breath. He was on the verge of passing out of pure joy. This was real! It was really happening! “I entrust Shortpaw to you. You will be his mentor and I expect you to pass all you know and more to him”

Ravensight slowly turned to face the appr… HIS apprentice. The smile on the younger cat face hadn’t faltered and Ravensight suspected he himself was sporting a similar one at the moment.

“A pleasure to finally get formally introduced, sir” Shortpaw then added whispering “I’m so glad it’s you!”

“Likewise…” Ravensight whispered back, before bending to touch noses with his apprentice.

“Shortpaw! Shortpaw! Shortpaw!”

The crowd erupted in cheers once again. Among the shouts, Yelloweyes’ stood out as the loudest, just as it had been with her daughter. Ravensight’s mother and brother came as a close second, shouting the apprentice’s name as it were part of their family.

It was over in a moment and cats began to disperse to fulfill their assigned tasks. It was some hours past sunhigh, Ravensight wasn’t sure how many, but there were still thing to be done.

Shortpaw was still there, sitting close to Ravensight, waiting for his first instructions.  It was customary that the first thing to do with a fresh apprentice is to take them on a tour around the territory, but there was no way he could show him even half of it before night. The mentor thought for a second about what to do before addressing him.

“Well, Shortpaw, I know you must be excited to start your training right away, but we have very few hours of sunlight left. So, let’s get out of the way all the boring stuff, shall we? I want you to take out your old nest from the nursery and make a new one in the Apprentices’ den” He was fairly sure Shortpaw would end up sleeping in the open like everyone else, but clearing and making nests would be a recurring task for the apprentice from now on, so it’d be better if he got some practice with his own “Afterwards, I’d like you to properly introduce yourself to the other apprentices” Socializing was important for a clan cat. Even if Ravensight didn’t care much for it himself, Shortpaw should “But be sure to go to sleep early. We will start you training tomorrow”

“Alright, Ravensight!” Shortpaw nodded. The black tom sort of expected him to object, knowing the usual eagerness of young cats to get out of camp, but was pleasantly surprised.

“Excellent! I’ll inform Yelloweyes so we can tag along the dawn patrol!”

“I can do that too, if you want” Lightpaw said, his smiled taking a cheekier undertone “Yelloweyes is my mother. I plan to speak to her today too”

“Ah, right! Yeah, she’s your mother… ok, do that” For a moment there, Ravensight had forgotten that fact “Please, do me another favor and ask Smallflower if she wants to come with us too”

“At once, sir!” Giving a small farewell nod, Shortpaw paddled up to his sister and her mentor. They exchanged a few words and shortly after both siblings made their way into the nursery.

Ravensight hoped that Smallflower didn’t take offense in his apprentice taking hers away, but those fears were dispersed when the she-cat approached him smiling

“See you tomorrow for the patrol, then” she said dipping her head and blinking, before quickly turning to the fresh-kill pile.

He just couldn’t stop smiling. He was finally a mentor! All his dedication to his clan had paid off and he now had an early start for making a name of himself in the clan.

If I do a good job, maybe they’ll consider me for another apprentice! If I dedicate myself, I could become the deputy’s right paw cat or even deputy myself! Who’s to say that Ravenstar isn’t in store for us in the far horizon?

He let his thoughts wander for a moment, imagining himself on top of the tall rock, his presence and voice commanding nothing but respect.

I’m getting way ahead of myself. I should probably concentrate in what I’m going to do tomorrow. I know nothing about instructing ‘paws.

With a hint of worry creeping into his mind, Ravensight realized that he probably should’ve asked how exactly a mentor is supposed to train his apprentice.

I guess they expect me to make him behave like I’ve been doing? Tons of patrols and helping around and that kind stuff?

He shook his head and walked up to the fresh-kill pile too. On the way, he received nuzzles and congratulations from his family again, which he accepted proudly. They invited him to share some fresh-kill but he declined. He wanted to see another cat first. His mother sighed, his brother just rolled his eyes while smiling.

“Alright, come look for us near the Warriors’ den. I have some pointers about mentorship, if you want them” His mother told him. Ravensight perked up at this and nodded enthusiastically. Receiving wisdom from older cats was never a bad thing.

He picked up the best bird he could find, a nice and fat blackbird, and set course straight to the medicine den.

Traversing the entrance, he was greeted with the sight of a very embarrassed Kestrelstaker laying in one of the moss beds. One of her back legs was stretched in front of her and Webfur sat next to it, applying some kind of poultice.

“What did we learn today?” he tauntingly asked the she-cat as he started wrapping up her poultice-covered leg with large leaves and cobwebs.

“I’m not young enough to be jumping off trees anymore…” She answered in a defeated tone, her ears dropping in shame.

“Good. Remember that from now on and try to get your thrills in some other way” He continued “You are lucky it isn’t broken. What I put on it will ease your pain and reduce inflammation. You now only need to rest two or three days and take it easy afterwards, ok?”

“Ok... thank you” She stood up and, with a tip of her head, she walked out of the den, balancing in only three legs.

 Webfur followed her with his gaze, only then noticing Ravensight was in the den too. He waited until the she-cat had let before addressing his warrior friend.

“Hello, mother! Is it feeding time already?” He flopped to the ground, widening on purpose his eyes and making the highest pitched kit voice he could

“Hilarious… I could take it back, if you don’t want it” He teased.

“No, no!” Webfur jumped to his paw and shook himself to get rid of the dust in his fur “Gimme that!” Ravensight did so and Webfur sat down next to him, slowly and methodically plucking the feathers out of the blackbird “So, how was the ceremony”

“Wonderful! I got an apprentice”

Webfur stopped his actions for a second to smile at his friend and give him a happy wag of his tail.

“Congratulation! Who did you get?”

“Shortpaw”

“Ah, yes. A good and healthy young tom. Very enthusiastic too, although inwardly. He doesn’t talk much from what I’ve observed” The medicine cat commented, before taking a bite out of his bird.

“I think we are going to get along just fine. If he is just a little like her mother, he’ll surpass me halfway through training!”

Webfur blinked at him, his face sporting an oddly serious expression.

“It’s not a good habit to judge a cat for his family’s accomplishments. Treat him as an individual, forget about him being Yelloweyes’ son. That’s what a good mentor would do”

“Of course! I know that! I’m just saying, he’ll be a great warrior for the clan in no time”

“I’m sure he will…” Warmth and friendliness returned to the medicine cat’s face “Want a bite of this? Your blackbird is really good!”

“No, thank you” Ravensight answered while standing up and giving his friend’s ear a quick lick “I’ll be sharing some fresh-kill with my family. They want to spend the rest of the day together”

“Alright, good on you” Webfur said. He dragged his right paw across his muzzle to clean up some of the blood, then gave it a few licks “You SHOULD probably hang around me less, to be honest, and mingle a little more with other cats. I’m your best friend and all, but you can’t spend all day here. Surely, the stench of herbs and blood are doing you no favors in finding a mate” He ended with a wink.

Ravensight snorted, his smile faltering completely. He really didn’t like this kind of conversations. Teasing about his relationship with Webfur was funny to him. Seriously speaking about relationships wasn’t.

“It’s not like I have a lot of options in that field anyways… and I’m in no particular hurry, either” And it was true. He had time. He could wait. It’d happen when it had to, right?

“Nonsense! You won’t be young forever! How about Mistwalker? As far as I know, he’s never had a mate before. Have you tried asking him?”

“Yeah…” It wasn’t really a painful memory or something like that. Closer to embarrassing than anything. But Ravensight preferred not to think about it. He and Mistwalker weren’t even friends at the time, and now were barely acquaintances, so he hadn’t lost anything in trying beyond some self-confidence.

It was kind of mouse-brained on his part to even try, knowing so little about the grey and brown warrior outside of his looks. He must have appeared desperate.

And really, he was glad Mistwalker said no. He wasn’t nearly as handsome as the clan thought.

Also, his breath smelled like crow-food. He didn’t want that anywhere near him.

“Oh… and… have you met Arthur, the cute kittypet from Twolegplace? I could introduce you, if you’d like” He offered.

Ravensight gritted his teeth and did his best to hide his annoyance. All of a sudden, he didn’t want to talk to Webfur anymore.

“I have. He has a mate. And has kits with her, for that matter” He made an attempt to leave the den, but Webfur got up and circled him, standing right in front of him.

“Yeah, but he’s a kittypet! Those are the kinds of cat that can handle more than one mate at the time, since they don’t have to feed them. It’s not ideal, but as a first relationship, I think it’s a good stepping stone to…”

“Listen, I’m fine!” He shoved Webfur to the side with his shoulder. He didn’t put much force into it, but the medicine cat stumbled out of the way regardless “I wish you guys would stop pestering about it! I’m fine alone!” Ravensight stomped the ground with his front paws, unknowingly unsheathing his claws and scraping the soil. His eyes narrowed and the faintest of growls escaped his throat “If you are SO interested in this kind of thing, then why did you become a medicine cat!?”

Webfur visibly flinched and took a step back, his fur bristling slightly. He wasn’t really scared that Ravensight would hurt him. He knew the warrior would never do such a thing. But he had been caught off guard by the sudden outburst.

It was over as fast as it began, however. Ravensight noticed Webfur reaction and immediately hid his claws, his gaze softening, his head hanging with regret.

“Sorry…”

Webfur twitched his whiskers and shifted on his paws, his tail lashing out behind him, a deep frown across his face.

“That last comment was a little uncalled for, you know? I was just offering to help”

“I know…” Ravensight sat down again “I’m sorry”

“You can get away with a lot with me. Not so much with other cats. Think before you speak” It was hard to make out an emotion out of Webfur’s voice. It made the warrior’s heart sank with worry.

“I do think a lot before speaking” He offered a small smile, trying to lighten up the situation. Not that he didn’t thought he deserved to be called out like that “I just consistently fail to put those thoughts into words”

For all that’s worth, Webfur smiled again. Not a brilliant grin, not a confident smirk, not a condescending sneer. Just a tiny smile of his own.

Everything was alright in the world again.

“I’ve noticed…” He sighed, but the smile was still there “Sorry about the kittypet comment, too. You just look so much like you mother, I tend to forget…”

“It doesn’t affect me”

“Listen, I’m your friend and medicine cat. I care about you, maybe more than my other clanmates… which I probably shouldn’t” He briefly gazed towards the entrance, as if expecting someone to be there “Looking after my cats’ mental and emotional health is as important to me as their physical health. But I can’t just chew up a bunch of plants, spit them in your face and done! You are happy again!” He paused “Well, I mean…” He tapped his muzzle with his paw a couple of times in mock consideration “Maybe a mixture of poppy seeds, thyme, catnip and goatweed would most certainly make you feel ´happy´ for a while, but when it wears off the aftereffects are going to be nasty

The absurdity of the concoction made Ravensight laugh, just imagining the effects on a cat.

“How do you even know that?”

“Secrets of the trade” He winked, sticking out the tip of his tongue “Become a medicine cat with me and they are yours!”

“No, thank you!”

“Your loss, then” He shrugged “But listen, being serious for a moment…” He shifted closer to his warrior friend and placed his tail on his shoulder “I’ll drop the subject, ok? I see now that it bothers you. But do try to interact with the clan beyond me and your family. Meaningful interactions, not just courteous pleasantries” He considered for a second, before adding “Hey! I have an idea. How about you start with your apprentice?”

“My apprentice? Shortpaw?” He cocked his head to the side in confusion. Webfur nodded.

“He’s been excited to become an apprentice for some time. There had been good talks about your services to the can. He has undoubtedly heard at least some, so he probably admires you to some extent” He dropped his voice to a whisper “His mother has put a lot of pressure in both of her kits. There is no need to stress him further. Be good to him. Try to be his friend, not just his teacher. He’s a good cat, you’ll see”

Ravensight slowly nodded in understanding.

“Alright, I see what you mean”

And, when he gets made into a warrior, try and keep that relationship, alright? Having more friends will do you only good”

“Alright…” Ravensight nodded more enthusiastically now “I understand and I will… try”

“That’s all I can ask of you. Now get out of my den! Your family is waiting!”

Ravensight quickly pressed his muzzle against his friend shoulder, feeling the action reciprocated shortly after. Then he stood up and hurriedly walked outside, setting course to the Warrior’s den.

Hollowstreak was waiting for him right outside with a rabbit laying on her paws. Upon noticing him, she meowed something inside the den and shortly after Lightstep came out yawning, sitting next to her.

As he shared the fresh-kill with his family and was taking in his mother’s advice on mentoring, he was almost trembling with excitement. The prospect of having to spend so much time with another cat was at first little bit intimidating, but after seeing Shortpaw today he was certain he was going to be alright.

And after hearing Webfur’s advice, he was looking forward to being a mentor and spending time with Shortpaw more than ever, if such a thing was even possible.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

Smallflower

Ravensight was caught awfully off guard.

“Behold, young apprentices! Take it all in!” Smallflower commanded, sitting on her haunches and signaling with both front paws spread out in a dramatic fashion “This territory in front of you, and this awful scent that you can smell right now, belongs to no other than the supreme prophesies’ connoisseurs and the nosiest clan in the history of cats, ThunderClan!”

He, Smallflower and their apprentices, Shortpaw and Fallowpaw, had been walking for a while towards the border. They passed the hills near the camp and crossed the northern part of the moor through the most covered path they could find, all the while pointing to good hunting spots, important strategic locations and different things in the distance that the apprentices could use as reference to find their way back to camp if their sense of smell failed them.

All basic things that his mother had told him were what mentors and apprentices normally did on their first day.

They were reaching the top of a particularly tall hill close to the border with ThunderClan when Smallflower went and did that…

Ravensight managed to contain his laughter, but only barely. He did soundlessly chuckle a couple of times, but he somehow kept a straight face.

The apprentices didn’t even bother and laughed wholeheartedly, but did as instructed. They opened their mouths to draw in the scents better. Their eyes panned across the whole border with ThunderClan, from the thorn thickets to the East, the Twoleg’s path in the middle, to where both territories ended at the lake to the West.

He noticed that adorable sparkle in their eyes that her mother had mentioned, that which appears when a young cat really sees how big the world is. Hearing elders’ stories about the territories doesn’t compare to actually standing in the open and seeing them with their own eyes.

“If you ever feel like your life needs unnecessary drama, world ending omens or unwanted pregnancies, you go pass this border!” Ravensight was ready this time and managed to dissimulate his amusement perfectly. He was mildly concerned by how unprofessional Smallflower was being, but he had promised to take it a bit easier with Shortpaw, so maybe her jokes wouldn’t be of any harm “Oh, and the Moonpool is technically in their territory too or whatever. But it’s considered neutral grounds, so if any of you little kittens end up needing to go there for whatever reason, they’ll have to let you”

“You don’t seem to think very highly of them” Fallowpaw commented, trying to catch her breath.

“Just because we are at peace doesn’t mean I have to like them. The bunch of squirrel-munchers…”

“Peace is a fickle thing” Ravensight decided to chime in with some wisdom, trying to steer the conversation into more serious waters “Treaties and alliances come and go. It’d take only a particularly bad Leafbare, or some freak accident, and the leaders of both WindClan and ThunderClan would have to carry out actions to preserve the wellbeing of their clans that they normally wouldn’t”

“Indeed” Smallflower continued “That is why all the clans still train warriors. We are at peace, but the longer it last, the more likely it is to end”

“Let’s pray to StarClan that it doesn’t” Said Shortpaw.

“Let’s pray to StarClan that it does!” Countered Fallowpaw, jumping excitedly.

Although Ravensight realized it was a bit cruel on his part, he sent a silent ‘thank you’ to his Ancestors for having given Shortpaw as his apprentice. He was certain Fallowpaw would be a much harder apprentice to befriend if the few interactions he’d had with her were a good representation of her behavior.

“Alright, we are done here” Concluded Smallflower and Ravensight nodded. The apprentices now knew where the border was, now they had to see the full extension. No point staying there.

“We’ll continue down the border till we reach the lake” He explained “Then we’ll follow the coast until we reach RiverClan’s border”

Everyone nodded in agreement and they started making their way towards the lake.

-----------------------------

By the time their small training patrol came back to camp, it was some hours past sunhigh.

Both warriors were unbothered by all the walking, being used to traveling long distances in the moor, but the apprentices were notably exhausted. The older cats had planned to do a little bit of hunting before going to camp, but Shortpaw and Fallowpaw could barely stand, let alone chase anything.

They decided to split up momentarily. Ravensight went back into the moor to try to catch a rabbit for the clan, while Smallflower stayed with the apprentices so they could eat something and rest.

He was successful in his endeavor. Too successful, in fact.

He walked into the camp dragging three fully adult rabbits by the ears. A couple of cats who where leaving camp congratulated him on his way in, even patting his back with their tail and brushing his shoulders. He couldn’t tell who it was.

He also couldn’t quite shake the feeling that they saw it as a big deal because it was him, the apprentice who for his first couple of moons of training could bring back nothing but birds from his hunting patrols. It was a feeling that followed him every time he came back from a hunting patrol.

A couple of kits were playing out of the nursery and caught sight of him, gasping in admiration. In reality, he knew that it was a pretty impressive thing for one cat alone to bring three rabbits in just one hunting trip. The circumstances of the catches, however, made them less impressive to him.

One of the rabbits he chased and took down, as StarClan intended WindClan cats to do. The other was distracted staring at something, so he just snuck up on it and pounced before it could react. And the third he didn’t even noticed. He was coming back to camp, stepped on a twig, the rabbit bolted from somewhere he didn’t even see and the stupid thing hit a rock and broke its leg. Catching it took less effort than what it would take to whoever wanted it to walk up to the fresh-kill pile and pick it up.

He caught sight of Smallflower sitting under the shadow of the Tallrock, beckoning him with her tail. He dropped two of the rabbits on the fresh-kill pile, grabbed the third by the neck and went up towards her. Out of the corner of his eyes, he could see Silentstar casting an approving smile towards him. Yelloweyes was sitting close to her, but Ravensight couldn’t see her very well. He guessed she was watching him too.

He hated all this.

All this attention was awful.

AND undeserved.

He just got lucky.

For a split second he thought that it would have been better to just leave one of the rabbits in the moor. Maybe the one that had broken its leg?

But immediately he went back on these thoughts. Him being uncomfortable didn’t matter. The clan had rabbit to share and that was what a WindClan warrior was supposed to provide. He was just doing his duty. His leader was proud and, when his apprentice found out he would be too.

“Well, well, well! Showing off today, aren’t we?” The teasing voice of Smallflower brought him out of his thoughts “Sit with me and share some of your delicious glory!”

Ravensight nodded. That was sort of the idea from the start, anyways. They would be working together a lot more in the followings moons, so it’d be impolite to not share a meal with her from time to time.

He gently placed the prey in front of the she-cat and sat down next to her.

“So, Ravensight, right?” She said before taking a bite out of the rabbit and chewing slowly, taking in all the flavors. He did the same and had to contain himself from moaning. This had been the rabbit he had run down and by StarClan was it good! He worried for a second that the others wouldn’t be as good since he hadn’t caught them traditionally, but he dismissed the thought. Superstition should hold no weight in a WindClan cat’s mind “I’ve seen you once or twice, but I don’t think we’ve talk before”

“We’ve been in patrols together, though” He politely retorted.

“Well, yeah… but I meant outside of work related stuff”

“Oh. No, I don’t think we have” And Ravensight couldn’t really think why. Maybe he truly spent too much time in the medicine den. Or perhaps he always kind of saw her as just a female version of Minkclaw, since they were littermates and looked rather similar. If he knew Minkclaw, he knew Smallflower.

He realized at that point that he had been unfair to her. He was a solid black cat, did that mean he was the same as any other black cat? They weren’t exactly a one in a million occurrence.

“However, I have heard about you a lot” She said as she licked some blood of her muzzle, before taking another bite.

“I hope… nothing bad?” He answered uncertainly.

If there was something that seemed universal throughout WindClan history, it was the overabundance of gossips. And, as much as Ravensight hated to admit it, he sort of understood why. There had been so many outlandish claims and statements that ended up being true, the clan was almost willing to believe anything provided that it was told in a logical manner.

Still, beyond the whole Webfur affair, which at this point was nothing but a clan in-joke, what could she possibly be referring to?

“I’d say between alright-ish to good” She turned to look at him through half narrowed eyes, a small curious smile on her face “I’ve heard you have the deputy position on your raven’s sights, eh?”

Ah, that.

That rumor was indeed logical. He’d been very participative in the clan affairs lately, perhaps too much for a warrior so young. They were bound to notice.

And he HAD thought about being deputy, but only in fantasies. He wasn’t actually thinking in pursuing that.

“I mean, sure? I guess it’d be nice” If he had learned anything in his life, it was the fact that straight up denying rumors was the surest way possible to have them spread even further “I’d be honored if it happens but I’m not particularly interested”

“Hey, I’m not accusing you or something” She quickly said, slightly confusing him. He’d never said that she was, as far as he knew “It’s good to be ambitious, so long as you are not a pile of dirt about it. I’m just trying to get to know the cat I might need to call ‘sir’ one day”

“But I’m ambitious! Or rather, I had an ambition” He admitted “I wanted an apprentice as soon as possible. I haven’t been a warrior for very long, so I felt I had to work harder for it”

“Seriously?” She tilted her head curiously “Just for that?”

“Yes, I swear I was just doing it for that. Especially after my less than stellar apprenticeship, I had to overperform in all my tasks… and lick a couple of paws, too…”

My stars!” She purred in amusement, almost chocking with the piece of food in her mouth. She tapped the rabbit with her paw a couple of times before adding “I’d believe it” She swallowed her half-chewed mouthful and coughed softly “However… you must admit, it’s kind of suspicious”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, we only have two new apprentices this time around and, while there are kits and an expecting queen in the nursery, there won’t be any new apprentices for a long time, so…”

The black tom frowned.

“I’m not following…”

“Most of the current warriors who have trained apprentices will be… let’s use some kind words here… not very young by the time Silentstar will have to choose a replacement for Yelloweyes” A cold shiver run down Ravensight’s back at the implications behind that “Obviously, Silentstar will want someone on the younger side” She paused again, taking a quick glance at the sitting figure of the WindClan leader next to her deputy, just a couple of fox-lengths away from them “Nobody is realistically expecting a Yellowstar, if you know what I mean. But that second deputy might have an actual chance of becoming leader” Realization started to dawn inside Ravensight “And you now have a head start over all cats of our generation. How many apprentices will you mentor? How many young cats will vouch for you when the time comes?”

“That’s preposterous!” He spat, now fully understanding how the clan had perceived his actions.

“Is it, though?” Smallflower casually challenged back.

“Yes, it is! And what about you!? You’re in the same position as I am, too!”

The she-cat just shrugged and rolled her eyes.

“Silentstar would never chose me as her potential successor. Not in a million moons” She shook her head “”First thing I’d do as a leader would be to invade ThunderClan, just because”

Ravensight stared at her in disbelief.

“You wouldn’t”

“Yes, I would. I’d make up a reason first, like some random ThunderClan tom fathering my kits then stealing them. That’s a classic! But, yes, I most certainly would”

“I don’t believe you… I think you come across as quite abrasive” He tried to reason “But I don’t see you as a violent cat”

“Oh, well…” She smiled at him sweetly and purred “If that is the case, then I’m amazed you haven’t tried flirting with me, yet. Because, in your mind, you are staring at Minkclaw right now, not Smallflower”

Ravensight didn’t know how to respond.

“You…”

Luckily for him, Smallflower didn’t seem interested in a response.

“Anyways…” She clicked her tongue and flicked an ear in his direction “Let’s change the subject. So, you got what you wanted. What do you think?”

“About the apprentices?” He answered automatically, his mind seemingly yanked from the previous conversation.

“Yours, specifically. But general opinions are cool too”

Ravensight wasn’t sure if he wanted to change the subject. His clanmate had just admitted some very damning things which brought forth very disturbing thoughts. Were those anti-peace ideas something common among WindClan cats? Would any other cat be willing to pull WindClan into a war just for personal reasons too? Would the clan actually be in safer paws if he himself became leader? Was it moral for him not to try to become deputy now that he knew what could potentially be at stake?

He decided to push all that to the back of his mind. He’d have time to reflect on that later, alone and with calm. For now, he welcomed the chance to speak about something more cheerful for him.

“I think they are great!” he wiped his muzzle with his paws, then started licking them, partially to have something to focus on. He was full already and there was still a lot of rabbit left. He decided to leave it for Smallflower. Maybe she could share with his brother? Surely the siblings would want to talk about today too “Shortpaw seems to have a similar way of thinking than mine, seems to be courteous and eager to learn and… of course, it’s too early to tell, but I think the whole experience is going to be wonderful!”

Smallflower nodded in understanding.

“Glad to hear. If you ever need help, don’t hesitate to give me a shout. I might lend you a paw when we get to mock battles and stuff”

“Oh?” He frowned and looked directly at her, confusion seeping from his eyes “I thought we were going to train together?”

“Yelloweyes’ orders” She shrugged “She wants us to be tough with her children. That includes separating them. Integrating them into the clan as individuals”

Ravensight glanced from side to side, making a point to check specifically towards the side of the Tallrock.

“Well, she doesn’t have to know, necessarily. Besides, I’ve heard they already have a lot of expectations pushed onto them. Shouldn’t we tried to alleviate that?”

“Conspiring behind our deputy’s back already? I’m starting to like you” Smallflower lips curved upwards slightly “Still, you do you, friend. That kind of initiative might bring good things for you someday. But I’ll stick to obeying orders” She finished with wink.

“Ok…” Ravensight sighed in defeat. He’d be training Shortpaw mostly alone, then “I’ll be taking my leave, now. I’d like to lay down a bit before taking Shortpaw out to start hunting training”

“Alright, cool…” Both warriors stood up and pressed their cheeks against each other “Can I have the rest of the rabbit? I want to let Minkclaw have some. He’s kind of sore he didn’t get an apprentice”

“Absolutely. Send him my regards” And with that, he turned around and started padding towards the Warriors’ den. He was quite tired, but above all he wanted to be alone. He wasn’t looking forwards to being on his own with his thoughts and the knowledge he had acquired today, but he knew he needed to think about it carefully.

Beyond the political intrigue and the unnerving truths hidden behind her face, he’d actually enjoyed talking to Smallflower. More than he cared to admit. He was looking forward to trying his paw at conversing with another clanmate. Maybe this ‘making friends’ thing was the way to go for him.

But that would have to wait. It had been enough socializing for the day, he concluded.

On his way, though, he noticed Shortpaw sitting by himself outside of the Apprentices’ den, a troubled expression upon his face.

Ravensight hesitated at first. Was he really in the mood for more potentially somber news? Ultimately, he decided to approach the apprentice. He remembered what Webfur had told him and he was determined to be this cat’s friend, no matter how much he had on his head right now.

Webfur wouldn’t just walk by if Ravensight was upset, so he figured he shouldn’t do that with Shortpaw.

“Is something bothering you, young ‘paw?” He gently said as he was reaching his apprentice.

Shortpaw immediately jumped to his paws, his fur bristling and eyes widening, turning to face the voice. He relaxed quickly once he realized who had talked to him.

“Oh… hello, huh, sir!” He answered, sitting down on his haunches. He kept his back straight and his gaze firmly placed on Ravensight’s eyes. He puffed his chest hair and pointed his ears slightly backwards. All in an attempt to look confident. The warrior didn’t buy the display at all “Nothing’s bothering me, sir!” He continued.

Ok, so… he seems tense. Let’s ease up the environment. Webfur would make a dumb joke here, right?

It was rather sad, he thought, how Webfur was basically all his frame of reference for interacting with other cats outside his family. Well, Webfur and Smallflower, but he wasn’t quite sure what to think of her yet.

“Shortpaw, there is no need to call me ‘sir’” He said as he sat down in front of the apprentice “I have a name. A pretty cool one, at that. My mom and our leader went through all the trouble to come up with it, it’d be a shame if nobody used it”

Shortpaw smiled at that and his ears flopped slightly to the side, relaxing.

“Alright, sir. I mean, Ravensight!”

“Much better! So, about what’s bothering you…”

“Nothing is bothering me. I’m fine” The apprentice responded, shifting on his paws and looking to the side.

 “I can tell that’s not the case, Shortpaw”

“It’s just a silly little thing. You shouldn’t concern yourself with it…”

“I am your mentor” The warrior gave a small stomp with one of his front paws, interrupting the apprentice and making his gaze snap back to Ravensight “We’ll be spending a lot of time together, from now on. Whatever bothers you, concerns me” He gently placed his tail on his shoulder, and the apprentice sort of just stared at it for a second, seemingly not knowing how to respond, before looking back again.

“It’s just…” He finally spoke, with some flashes of guilt on his eyes “Mother told us we would be running all over the moor today, like any WindClan cat worth their whiskers does. But I was already struggling to keep up with you halfway through the tour and by the end I could barely stand on my paws” He blinked and pressed his cheek a little bit against the tail still resting on his shoulder “I know you and Smallflower wanted us to try hunting immediately after seeing the borders. She told us on the way back to camp. I feel like I’ve disappointed everyone just on my first day…”

“RiverClan cats aren’t born knowing how to fish and swim perfectly. ShadowClan cats don’t learn their stealth and scouting tactics during kithood. Why would it be different for us?” He tipped his head slightly upwards and folded his ears. He wanted to sound stern, but also still friendly. He wanted to reassure Shortpaw, not scold him like the apprentice was expecting. He offered him a small smile “You’ll build resistance and run as fast and for as long as any other cat here, eventually. That’s what training is for”

“Y-you think so?” He smiled back, jumping to his paws and almost vibrating with anticipation. Ravensight’s tail fell unceremoniously to the ground on the side, but he paid it no mind. He just wrapped it around his paws again.

“I know so” He mockingly look to both sides before bending slightly. He didn’t need to, really. Shortpaw, despite his name, was maybe a head shorter than himself at most “I, myself, had a lot of troubles when I was younger. I couldn’t even catch up with rabbits, let alone killing them. I was very bummed about that, to the point where I didn’t want to try anymore. But my mentor didn’t gave up on me and I trained, and practiced and…”

“And today you brought three by yourself! Each the size of a cat! Even after all our walking!” Shortpaw whispered back, his eyes now sparkling with awe and admiration.

Ravensight, meanwhile, cringed internally.

“Y-yeah, exactly!” He managed to continue “You are only just starting. Literally, this is your first day. Don’t compare yourself with warriors. In fact, don’t compare yourself with anything. And ignore other cats who do. You’ll be fine, I promise”

Shortpaw response was the second thing that caught him off guard that day. He just shifted closer to his mentor and pressed his head against his chest, purring softly and mumbling something that sounded like a ‘thank you’.

Ravensight didn’t feel the need to stop him. He’d promised Webfur to be Shortpaw’s friend, not just his mentor, and this was something among the lines of the stuff he and Webfur would do. He hesitated at first, but quickly gave a lick between the apprentice’s ears and the rested his head on top of his. Shortpaw stiffened at the contact but relaxed immediately and pressed even more against Ravensight’s chest, purring loudly now.

“Hey…” The black tom broke the silence “If you are up for it, I was thinking we could do some hunting training now”

Very reluctantly, Shortpaw broke the embrace and got on his paws, shaking his fur to get rid of some dust that had caught on there.

“Alright, I’m ready!” He proclaimed with confidence.

“Follow me, then” Ravensight rose to his paws too and started walking towards the camp’s exit, Shortpaw following close behind.

All the while, a warm feeling was spreading inside Ravensight’s chest that seemed to even out the mental and physical exhaustion he was feeling at the moment.

 The selfish part of him sort of regretted talking with Shortpaw, wishing he had at least rested first.

The rest of him firmly opposed that notion.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6

Shortpaw:

The white and grey apprentice stalked silently towards a small rabbit standing in the open fields.

Slowly and methodically, with every step thought out in advance, Shortpaw inched ever so slightly forward with each movement of his paws. His sight was set on his target but would flick to the ground occasionally to make sure he wouldn’t step on anything. The wind was blowing towards him, so his scent was well hidden while the rabbit’s assaulted his nostrils.

He got as close as he could get away with and, without a second wasted, sprinted into full speed towards the rabbit. The prey heard its predator and bolted in the opposite direction as soon as its muscles responded.

But it was too late at that point.

Ravensight was watching everything unfurl form a distance and though he couldn’t see the outcome, both the apprentice and the rabbit disappeared in a slope of the terrain, he trusted Shortpaw and knew he had executed everything perfectly. There was no way the rabbit could have escaped him.

And so he waited for the outcome. He walked into the open moor and opened his mouth, drinking in all scents in the wind.

First there were plants, rabbit and cat.

Then the scent of heathers was tainted by blood. And a smile appeared on his face.

Shortpaw appeared on the horizon, practically hopping with every step, carrying his recently caught piece of fresh-kill. Ravensight gazed upon his apprentice proudly and purred at him when he got close.

“Impeccable” He praised Shortpaw as he dropped the rabbit in front of him. The warrior picked it up and started walking towards some trees, back to the edge of the moor.

A rabbit and a bird, those were the  objectives every time they went hunting. The two most important prey for WindClan, even if unequally so.

“Thank you, Ravensight!” Shortpaw meowed back as he followed.

It was amazing how two moons of training had changed the young cat. He walked with confidence now having run through each paw-step of territory, having tasted many rabbits’ blood, having spent many night with only Silverpelt above him.

He was a cat of WindClan, through and through.

They reached the eastern tree line and quickly dug up the hole where another rabbit was stored. They added the new one and buried them again. Once done, Shortpaw fell into a hunting crouch and started making his way through the underbrush, with his mentor closely behind.

The usual scents of the forest hit him as soon as he opened his mouth. The musk of the soil, the dryness of the fallen leaves, the insects crawling around, the odd mix of sweet and bitter that the plants produced.

They walked silently, with even more care than before. The ground here was littered with things that could give their position away. And the forest hid creatures that could easily turn the cats from hunter to hunted.

The warrior followed his apprentice quietly, going through bushes and climbing up and down roots. The small patches of trees on the clan’s territory could hardly be considered a proper forest, but for the WindClan cats, being in such an environment was almost claustrophobic.

Arguably, the moor was a better place to catch some birds, like crows, doves and even a runaway Twoleg’s chicken if they were extremely lucky. But Ravensight liked the change of scenery, even if it unnerved him a little. It made the hunt more interesting, and Shortpaw seemed to agree.

Besides, if he ran into a fox, he knew what to do. They were dumb. They were predictable.

But a Twoleg? StarClan know how those things would react. They had no pattern, no rhyme or reason to do what they did. Or if they did, it was so far beyond his comprehension that he couldn’t even begin to process it.

Some kittypets claimed to be able to understand to an extent their Twolegs, which was fascinating to hear, but Ravensight couldn’t even fathom the stuff these cat told him. They themselves seemed to half-believe their words, even when they had been witness to the events being narrated.

It was better to just believe Twolegs were dumb too. Otherwise, he might have to learn things he shouldn’t.

Back to the present, Shortpaw raised his tail suddenly, only to immediately lay it flat on the ground. Ravensight understood the signal and stood still. He watched his apprentice take a few deliberate steps forward, trying to stay as close as the ground as possible. The smell of feathers reached him for the first time, but Ravensight already suspected that’s what they were stalking.

All of a sudden, Shortpaw made his move and pounced on the bird, but he botched the start and fell short. The prey immediately took off but Shortpaw was quick on his feet and jumped after it. By some miracle, he just managed to hook one of its legs with a claw. The prey flapped its wings hard, actually gaining a bit of height even with the apprentice dangling from it, but it was ultimately futile and the white furred tom managed to bring it down again. They both hit the ground hard, but Shortpaw wasted no time in going for the neck. And just like that, there would be dove in the fresh-kill pile that day.

Ravensight stood up and in a moment he was next to his apprentice.

“Are you alright?” He asked, nudging him on the shoulder with his nose.

“Yeah, I think…” Shortpaw tried to get on his paw, but as soon as he did, an excruciating pain shot up from his right front leg. He collapsed face first into the ground again “On second inspection, I might have sprained a leg”

“It was a harsh landing…” Ravensight commented, the clear traces of concern in his eyes didn’t go unnoticed by his apprentice. “We are done for today. You are going straight to Webfur”

“It really doesn’t hurt that much…” Shortpaw answered, but the black tom didn’t believe him. It didn’t help that when he tried to stand up again, he collapsed to the side almost immediately “Why am I so stupid?” He muttered against the ground.

“You are going and that’s an order”

“Whatever you say, dear mentor” His apprentice said while rolling his eyes, though a small smug smile appeared on his face “Authority abuse, much?”

“You bet! WindClan has no use for a legless apprentice”

Without saying anything else, Ravensight bowed down and gently nudged Shortpaw back to his paws with his head. Slowly, the apprentice stood up in his three undamaged legs. Then, Ravensight laid his apprentice’s injured leg around the back of his neck.

“There really is no need for this… I could walk fine with three legs” The white tom reasoned.

“Nonsense! I won’t risk you hurting yourself on the way” With his chest firmly pressed against Ravensight’s side for support and his injured leg floating in the air, the apprentice could barely see the comforting smile his mentor was trying to give him “Our honorable deputy would have me shredded if I let anything serious happen to you”

“…Thank you”

Ravensight could swear he felt Shortpaw’s fur grow warmer ever so slightly, but he dismissed the thought. It wasn’t important now.

He could hear him purring, though. Very faintly, but definitely perceptible from so close.

Shortpaw gestured towards the bird and Ravensight nodded. It’d be nice gift for Webfur, now that they were going to see him anyways. He could return for the rabbits later.

He picked up the fresh-kill and, after glancing to see that Shortpaw was fine, they started making their way back to camp.

Shortpaw was oddly quiet all the way back, but he never stopped smiling.

---------------------------------------------

As Webfur maneuvered Shortpaw’s leg with care, Ravensight was already almost trembling with anticipation. It turned out that his shoulder was dislocated, not sprained. The black tom had limited knowledge in the nature of injures and thus wasn’t sure if it was better or worse in the long run.

When all of a sudden Webfur pulled on the leg, only to jam it back again and be rewarded with a sickening sound and sight of bones popping back into place and a sharp anguish-filled yowl, he had to actively stop himself from gagging.

It was an odd thing, he considered, that he found giving and receiving wounds much less upsetting than watching them being treated. Seeing a reddened, swollen, pus-leaking wound on a cat struggling to keep conscious due to fever and medication was way much worse than just slashing with claws across a cat’s head or shoulder and seeing a couple droplets of blood fly into the wind. The wound seemed so small, like it would be insignificant.

Luckily a shoulder out of its socket was nowhere near that serious, but seeing Shortpaw writhing in pain, staring at his mentor’s eyes for support, with fear-scent emanating from him, seeming so vulnerable… even if it only lasted a few seconds, it made him think.

He really hoped that loner he had attacked near Twolegplace the other day was alright…

“Well, huh… that was cleaner that I thought!” Triumphantly declared the medicine cat as he stood up and walked towards his herb stashes.

“Is he going to be alright?” Ravensight asked, still with traces of worry in his voice.

“Apprentices get this types of injuries all the time. They aren’t dangerous, just a little bit painful” Webfur answered. He then picked up a leaf with some seeds lying on it and placed it in front of Shortpaw’s face.

“And embarrassing…” The apprentice muttered, before focusing on the medication “Poppy seeds?”

“Poppy seeds, indeed!” He sat down, giving a small flick of his golden tail and licking his chest twice “To ease up the pain and help you sleep” Shortpaw opened his mouth to ask something, but Webfur was faster “You are sleeping here tonight, just in case” Then he pointed at Ravensight with his tail “And so are you”

“Me?” The warrior blinked in surprise “Why?”

“To look after him”

“Shouldn’t you do that?”

“It’s quarter moon tonight. I’m travelling to the Moonpool” He explained “And I have secret medicine cat affairs afterwards, so I’ll probably be on the other side of the borders all night”

“Can you just… do that?” Shortpaw asked.

Webfur just shrugged.

“’I’ve yet to be stopped” Then he focused on the black warrior “You should go fetch your rabbits. I’ll leave when you return. Also, I’ll leave a bundle of leaves next to Shortpaw’s bed. I want you to check his shoulder from time to time. Press your nose against it and if you feel like it’s unusually warm or swollen, chew up those leaves and smear them on it. Do not give him more poppy seed unless the pain prevents him from sleeping. Ok?”

“Understood” He nodded at the medicine cat’s instruction before offering a reassuring smile to his apprentice “I’ll be right back”

With that, he turned around and darted out of camp and across the moor.

---------------------------------------------

It had never actually occurred to Ravensight how long a night actually was, seeing as he was used to sleeping through them and whatnot.

It had also never occurred to him how foreign the night felt without the stars above him. As any self-respecting WindClan warrior, he was used to sleeping in the open. There was a Warriors’ den in WindClan camp, of course, but that was more like a place to take middays naps or lay down to have some privacy and share tongues than to actually rest for the night, like in the other clans. Vulnerable cats like kits and elders did sleep in dens, and so did apprentices sometimes, although most would spend the night alongside warriors too.

He had never spent a single night in a den ever since he left the nursery. Even when it rained, there were parts of the camp that sheltered from the water while allowing him to feel the stars on his pelt.

For the first time in his entire life, he found himself truly despising the medicine den. This place held so many happy memories and warm feelings between himself and Webfur. So many jokes and games, so many conversations and gazes, so much support and caring.

But now? It was downright oppressive. The darkness felt insidious, the sight of herbs revolting, the stale scent of injury foreboding, the nest where he laid a prison. And he couldn’t really understand why.

Well, he could, but it was kind of silly.

Webfur wasn’t there and there were no stars.

He felt like a kit.

He grunted as he shifted position slightly, and his gaze fell on Shortpaw. The apprentice was awake, laying in a nest close to him and resting his head on his paws. He hadn’t been able to sleep much, but he had assured him it wasn’t due to pain. Just… not being tired. Or maybe, Ravensight suspected, being frustrated with himself.

In any way, Ravensight guiltily felt annoyed by this. He wanted to sleep so badly, but felt it was his obligation to stay awake as long as Shortpaw was. And he also felt so wrong being in this enclosed space!

He had a painfully overpowering desire to leave but he had an equally powerful desire to stay by Shortpaw’s side. He joked about Yelloweyes shredding him before, but he genuinely felt guilty that Shortpaw had been injured during his supervision. He understood that it wasn’t his fault and that he probably couldn’t have done anything to prevent it, but that didn’t really help. He also knew that the injury wasn’t serious, but that didn’t help either.

Their accommodations didn’t help at all. He felt so vulnerable in that den, his eyes round and wandering from corner to corner. He saw the walls moving and the ground writhing in pain. He saw eyes forming and unforming in the darkness, he saw ears full of teeth and paws coming out of mouths. He heard voices whispering and felt the wind coming from the back of the den, which was impossible.

He felt an unquenchable desire to bolt straight out of that StarClan forsaken place and find refuge in the calming sea of darkness of the open moor. He was faintly aware of his claws furiously sinking on the soil and of his progressively accelerating heart. He felt his ear touching the ceiling and his sides the walls, which he knew wasn’t possible, but couldn’t deny it.

Then Shortpaw’s tail gently brushed against his, just for a second, and that nightmare was gone. He was back in the medicine den, the walls were solid rock and at a good distance from them. The ground was still and made of compacted earth. Nothing could be heard but their breathing; and nothing was moving but their chests slowly rising and falling.

He blinked. Twice.

He slapped himself with a paw and blinked for a third time.

Then he sighed.

He was losing his mind over nothing. He was sleep deprived and apparently scared of walls.

He was in desperate need of a distraction.

Ravensight leaned over to Shortpaw, carefully pressing his muzzle and nose against his shoulder. The apprentice stiffened at the sudden touch but relaxed immediately. Noting nothing new, the warrior licked the disturbed fur back into place and settle down in his nest again.

Though the white pelt helped, he could barely see his apprentice. Still, the glint of his eyes were very clear in the darkness as the young tom cast a sideway glance towards him.

“Thank you for looking after me” He looked forwards again and his eyes disappeared “I’m sorry for being careless and causing this. I know there are probably a dozen cats who you’d rather be with right now”

“Not remotely true”

“Perhaps…” His tone deliberate, his words carefully chosen. He still felt cornered and was worried he would snap at Shortpaw for a silly reason “But there is no other cat who I feel I should be with right now” Ravensight blinked sympathetically, hoping his apprentice would catch the gesture in the darkness “It just feels right to be here, you know?”

He wasn’t quite sure if those words made sense or it they actually conveyed what he wanted to say. The apprentice shouldn’t feel guilty, it was an accident. And he shouldn’t feel sorry for Ravensight, he was responsible for it. He should be here, it was his duty.

When Shortpaw looked down to his paws for a moment, only to turn his head and look at him with what seemed like a smile and a heartfelt purr, Ravensight concluded that it didn’t truly matter. He must have said something good, at least.

“I didn’t tell you before, but mom came by when you went out for our fresh-kill” Shortpaw said, trying to start a conversation. Ravensight was extremely thankful for this as he wanted something to pass the time. He didn’t like how the young tom’s smile noticeably faltered, though.

“Was she angry with me?”

“No, just disappointed”

“Oh…” Did this mean that he was no longer a mentor, then?

“Not with you, I should clarify. With me…” Shortpaw continued, a sad sigh escaping his mouth “When she heard I had been injured, she expected me to show up with some kind of wound that would scar. You know, a fox scratch across my face or something like that. Maybe a piece of ear missing. The sort of stuff you can show off”

Ravensight was too tired to even attempt to stop his train of thought before voicing it.

“What kind of mother wishes for her children to be permanently scarred?” Disbelief and something akin to disgust sprouted from his voice.

“Mine, I guess” Shortpaw shrugged “She loves me and Fallowpaw, but it’s just… I don’t know how to describe it. She wants to make us cats to be looked up to. Her kits can’t be just another WindClan warrior. None of that” He shook his head and twitched his ears “We must be legends. Leaders if possible. Winning battles and getting scars and stories to tell is a good first step in the road to greatness in her mind, I’d assume”

“And you… don’t want that?”

“Not really. I just want to hunt rabbits” He twitched his whiskers and smiled again “And maybe fight some loner or two. Perhaps even another clan’s warrior too. Otherwise, your battle training would have been wasted”

Ravensight giggled at that.

“That’d be a shame, indeed”

“Indeed it would!” Shortpaw joined in the laughter.

“So that’s it? That’s all the almighty Shortpaw wants to do with his life?” Ravensight teased “You just want to do clan chores?”

“I’d like to have a simple life, yes. Although, well…” There were signs of hesitation on the young tom’s voice, but he continue nonetheless “There is something that I think I want, but… I’m not sure. I want to give it time. Think if I really want to try something with that cat-…THING” He quickly cut himself off “with that thing!

“Cat?”

Unfortunately, Ravensight had heard the first time and didn’t really have the mental capacity to stop himself at the moment. He searched through his memories and what little he knew about the apprentice’s personal life, trying to think what cat could he consider so important.

“Oh, do you mean your father?” He said the first solid hypothesis his mind could conjure up, without really putting too much thought into it. It just made sense in his tired head “You want to reconnect with your father?”

“MY FATHER!?” Shortpaw snarled, the sheer force of his outrage made Ravensight flinch. For once, he was grateful he couldn’t see very well the face that was spouting those words. The thought terrified him “ I have no father! How dare…! You don’t know anything!”

“I-I’m sorry!” He tried to apologize.

“Don’t bring him up ever again! You have no right!” Each word carried equal amounts of hatred and sorrow, the apprentice sounded on the verge of tears.

Ravensight was positively dumbfounded. He knew very well how it was to grow up with a parent outside of the clan, but he had never expected the white tom to hold such intense opinions on the matter. He rarely thought of his father and sort of assumed the other half-clan did the same. Granted, he hadn’t brought up the subject with anyone before, but still.

“I won’t! I promise!” He hastily answered “I’m tired and dumb. I didn’t know what I was saying”

“Then shut up and sleep!” With that, Shortpaw turned to the opposite direction, resting his head on his paws. The black tom tried calling out to him, but to no avail.

Ravensight considered reprimanding the apprentice to remind him he was still the mentor, but he thought better of it. What would that achieve? Salvaging some of his authority and ego? There was no point in prodding the hornet’s nest further that night.

He felt alone again but not even the walls seemed interested in manifesting anymore. Perhaps they knew better, he thought. Perhaps this was even worse. The silence was more deafening that any of his imaginary sounds had been. Ironically, he now wished for a distraction from his thoughts.

He ended up falling asleep at some point during the night, while he looked at the back of Shortpaw’s neck, whishing more than he would like to admit that the apprentice would turn around and speak to him once more.

Chapter Text

Chapter 7

Lightstep

By the time Ravensight woke up, Webfur was already back in the medicine den. He could make out his golden tabby pelt clearly even through the morning haziness.

He blinked a couple of times before yawing loudly, earning a small giggle from the medicine cat. He mumbled a ‘good morning’ as he stood up and stretched his limbs and back, then shook his entire body to get rid of any stuck moss. He circled Shortpaw and sat down next to the medicine, carefully starting to groom his fur.

“Morning” Answered Webfur “The stinging nettle is still here, so I presume no complications arose during the night?”

“That’s what’s in the bundle? Doesn’t that, like, make you sick and vomit and stuff?”

“If you eat it. When yarrow isn’t available, it can be used as an emergency replacement, but you should really be using yarrow for that. It’s easier to find” He pause for a second, staring straight ahead at nothing in particular “Well… I guess if you’re trying to make someone throw up on purpose, then it’s for an emergency to begin with, so it doesn’t matter what you use. Only that you use it soon. However, the ideal solution is still…” He shook his head, then tilted it in the direction of his friend and flicked one of his ears “That doesn’t matter. You weren’t supposed to feed him this, though. Turned into a poultice and smeared on muscles, it can help with swelling, as I told you. You remember that, right?”

“Yeah, don’t worry. Nothing happened anyways” Ravensight answered, rolling his eyes.

“Excellent, then! If that’s the case, you’ll be having your apprentice back by midday. Do go easy on him, though”

“No need! I feel fine! We can go back to normal trai-” Shortpaw interjected, but Webfur silenced him with his tail. Apparently the apprentice had awoken very shortly after his mentor had.

“This is not an invitation for discussion. This is an order. Now, please, out of my den. Go lay on the shade for a bit, the open air may do you some good”

Shortpaw sighed in resignation and quietly walked out of the medicine den.

“Get something from the fresh-kill pile too! I’ll be with you in a second” Ravensight called out to him before he was out of sight. Then he turned to his friend and rubbed his cheek against Webfur’s, purring happily. The medicine cat was confused at first, but quickly returned the gesture “Thank you so much for healing him!”

“I mean, that’s my job? And it’s not like it was some life threatening injury or something”

“I know, but it could have been! I would have never forgiven myself if he couldn’t be a warrior anymore because I was too careless in his training”

Webfur scoffed.

Please! I’m the best medicine cat WindClan has ever known” He puffed out his chest fur and raised a paw to it “Even if you brought him back with his leg missing, I would have found a way to make it grow back”

“Wow!” He threw back his head in false astonishment, lowering his ears and raising his tail “Such a modest, skillful and wise medicine cat! We are incredibly blessed to have you among us!”

“You truly are!” Both shared a good, heartfelt laugh before continuing. For a second, Ravensight wondered what the rest of the clan would think if they listened to their medicine cat laughing like a mad kit in his den “But honestly, you worry too much about Shortpaw. A freak accident with a bird is more like an odd anecdote than a serious cause for concern”

“Well, sorry for caring for my friends!” He retorted with an indignant flick of his tail “I would do the same for you too, you know! I…!”

 “Wait, hold on” Webfur silenced him, much like he had done with Shortpaw “Friends? You two are friends?” A touch of disbelief adorned his voice, while bubbling happiness threatened to burst out at any moment “Like actual friends?”

“Yes!” Ravensight confirmed and Webfur positively beamed at him. He smiled, purred, even jumped in place.

“I told you! I told you if you just opened up you’d find more cats that liked you!” He nuzzled his cheek, then his neck, followed by his shoulder and then his neck again. The medicine cat then jumped back, wagging his tail happily “I’m so proud of you!”

If he was being honest, Ravensight felt slightly embarrassed at his friend’s display. But speaking about Shortpaw always put him in a good mood, so he didn’t care.

“Having him around had been so much fun! I’m so glad you asked me to do this! I just…” Then he remembered last night and his smiled faltered. Webfur must have noticed as his expression quickly shifted to one of concern.

“Ok, what’s wrong now?”

“Last night…” He tried to explain “I think I screwed up”

“That is a very specific explanation of your predicament. The overabundance of detail will, undoubtedly, allow me to advice you perfectly now” Webfur flatly responded, with a slight hint of annoyance in his voice.

“Listen, I don’t know, ok? We were just talking about stuff, trying to pass time. None of us were sleepy. And then I brought up his father and he just exploded. He snapped at me and told me weird things, like that I had no right to speak of that. He wouldn’t even look at me for the rest of the night”

Webfur looked slightly downwards, a troubled expression taking hold of his face. He sat down, slowly tilting his head from side to side.

“Huh…” he finally spoke.

Ravensight wasn’t sure how he was supposed to feel about the nonchalant not-answer his friend provided him with, but ‘annoyed’ was the first thing that came to mind.

“That’s all?” He ventured, narrowing his eyes “Nothing more to say? Do you know anything about the matter?”

“Not a lot. More than I should, probably. And nothing that you should know” Ravensight just grunted in response. He was getting irritated very quickly with the sudden secrecy, but didn’t want to snap at his friend. Even if they didn’t want to admit it, part of a medicine cat’s job was to keep secrets “How, exactly, did the conversation go down?” He continued.

“We were talking about the future and he said he wanted to connect and be closer to a cat; but he wasn’t certain so he would wait and see if he actually wanted that. And for some reason, my stupid, feather-stuffed brain thought he was talking about his father”

“He’s sensitive about that topic” Webfur almost spat “Won’t even talk to his sister about it”

“I didn’t know!”

“Even so” The medicine cat spoke more calmly now “You, of all cats, should know to be mindful about these kind of things” Ravensight paused at this. He looked down at his paws briefly, then back at the medicine cat and shrugged.

“I suppose I should” He conceded, suddenly feeling uncomfortable “I just… don’t really see my father as a big deal, I guess? I forget others do” He often wondered why. Perhaps because he chose to occupy his mind mainly on his current or sometime future affairs, rather than past ones. Or it may be that other cat’s lost parents were cats.

To Ravensight, his father was little more than words. A concept.

He had no face, no body, no thoughts.

He existed only in a story told by his mother with a peculiar mixture of fondness and hidden contempt.

Maybe, just maybe, Ravensight needed to actually see his father in person to be able to come to terms with… whatever he felt about him. He wasn’t sure what that even was. He would have to figure that out on the spot when he saw him.

Well… if he saw him.

Ravensight wasn’t particularly sure in what his eyes had been focusing while his mind went down that small rabbit hole of thoughts, but when he came back he immediately noticed his friend eyeing him worriedly. He was worried about something too, he realized.

“Do you think he’d still want to be my apprentice?” He found himself speaking “I mean… I did offend his kin…”

Of all responses, smirking and teasingly narrowing his eyes wasn’t the one he was expecting out of Webfur. Then again, expecting a specific response out of Webfur was setting yourself up for failure.

“Oh, yes… I’m sure of it” The medicine cat answered with the slight hint of a purr “If anything, he’ll probably want to spend more time with you as time passes. Just give him some time to cool off first”

“Really?”

“Although…” For just a moment, Webfur looked… uncomfortable, which was the most unsettling thing Ravensight had ever witnessed “I must give you a warning here” He looked at him straight in the eyes, with a seriousness seldom seen in the golden tabby cat “Be mindful of what you do for now, ok? Do not let it get out of paws”

Ravensight was utterly confused.

“I-?”

“I’ll have to inform Silentstar about this” The black tom stiffened and was about to question this, but the medicine continued “She’ll keep an eye on you, but you don’t have anything to worry about. This sort of thing happens from time to time”

“What the…?” The more words Webfur said to him, the less he understood “What are you even saying right now?”

“If you don’t know, then it doesn’t matter” Webfur winked and his expression suddenly lightened up, his characteristic smile returning immediately “Now, get out of here. Like I said, it’d be better if you let Shortpaw be for today. Give him some space and whatnot. Yelloweyes isn’t going to take your mentorship away for not training one day”

“But-!”

Webfur silenced him with his tail.

“This is not an invitation for discussion. This is an order” He pointed to the entrance of the medicine den with his paw for emphasis “Out!”

---------------------------------------

Shortpaw had taken the news of his free day rather neutrally, even after being promised a return to his normal training the next day. Or at least, that’s what his demeanor seemed to convey. Ravensight wasn’t really sure anymore, he had already failed to read his friend once.

The black tom was sitting under the sun, enjoying a rabbit. Technically, he was out of camp, but he was clearly within eyesight. Literally anyone could stand in the clearing of the camp and look at him.

And so it was that his brother, Lightstep, noticed him immediately and came trotting up to where he was.

“So, tough day today, huh?” He spoke as he laid down right next to him.

“Hm” Ravensight was too busy chewing to word an answer, but he wanted to acknowledge the question anyways.

“Neither you boyfriend nor your apprentice is hanging out with you. And you’re eating here, in the open, where other cats can see you. That doesn’t bode well” Behind all the teasing, Ravensight could see genuine concern in his brother’s eyes.

“They…” He swallowed “They might be a bit upset with me at the moment, especially Shortpaw. I’m giving them space”

“That sounds like a sensible plan”

“Webfur suggested it”

Lightstep sighed.

“Of course he would”

Ravensight didn’t have anything else to do at the moment but thinking. The topics circling in his head, however, weren’t particularly clear nor pleasant.

And the opportunity to speak with his brother without their mother being present too was something of a rarity.

There were things to be discussed.

“You don’t like that I’m Webfur’s friend, do you?”

“The problem it’s not that you are his friend. It bothers me that you both clearly love each other, but neither does anything about it!” He paused “I don’t care he’s a medicine cat! It drives me nuts!”

Ravensight shrugged at the comment, tilting his head and blinking.

“We don’t love each other in the way you imagine” He nudged the rabbit closer to his brother, who eyed it hungrily.

“I guess not…” Lightstep answered, taking a bite out of the prey.

“How about you? Someone has to give mother some grandkits…”

“Not in a thousand moons!” The white and grey tom quickly answered “At least, not intentionally…”

“Oh?” Ravensight caught on “So there is something going on, then?”

“Nothing you’d want to know”

“Try me”

“So, the other night after a gathering, I might have taken a wrong turn somewhere and ended up in ShadowClan territory”

“That’s quite the wrong turn you took there” He blinked “Almost like you did it on purpose”

“Fancy that” His brother blinked too “So, one thing leads to another and I end up in their leader’s nest, right?”

“For StarClan’s sake, Lightstep!” Ravensight interrupted, his eyes widening in surprise “She’s the leader of another clan!”

“And she is so incredibly soft, too! So much fluff!”

“Stop! You know what, you were right! I don’t want to hear about this…”

“You shouldn’t ask questions which answers you aren’t ready to hear, dear Ravensight” Lightstep giggled at his brother’s discomfort.

“It’s been a constant flaw of mine throughout my life, I’ve been told”

“It’s just a little thing, don’t worry. She’s already getting bored of me. It’ll end before the seasons change” He reassured the black tom, resting his tail on his shoulders for a second “Going back to the topic of love, mother is considering having more kits”

“That’s wonderful! I’d love to be a big brother” He answered enthusiastically, already imagining the little things running around camp, calling him ‘brother’.

“She’s considering Minkclaw as the father”

“M-Minkclaw!?” Ravensight happy expressions was quickly replaced with one of confusion “Of all cats in this clan, why Minkclaw? He’s an alright cat and all, but why would mother want your mentor as mate?”

“Were you even listening?” His brother teased “Mother wants kits, Ravensight, not a mate”

“Oh… then its… fine, I guess” He didn’t like the idea. He really didn’t like the idea. But it was his mother and he had never questioned her decisions before. Well, he had, but not out loud. He wasn’t going to start now.

“Maybe she likes the idea of having a ginger kit. Possibly even a tortoiseshell, if she is lucky”

“It’s being a while since I’ve seen one of those” Ravensight thought for a second “It’d be cool if they were our kin”

“Perhaps… but if while she is in the nursery Minkclaw calls me ‘son’ even once, I’m snapping his neck” The siblings gazed into each other’s eyes for a split second before bursting into laughter. They leaned into each other and just laughed and laughed, until they were struggling for air.

He looked at his brother again and lost himself in his bright blue eyes. He thought about them. He thought about his paw and face markings. He thought of his general body shape, so foreign to the common WindClan cat.

“Have you ever wondered…” He started carefully “about our father?”

“No, I don’t need to. I know who and where he is” His brother answered casually. He had honestly expected a lot more resistance after Shortpaw’s reaction. Maybe he was forgetting who his brother was. Maybe he didn’t know anyone he thought he knew, after all.

“What’s his name? Where does he live?”

“I don’t care and with a Twolegs. Don’t know exactly which” He yawned, all his teeth bared in the wind. Then he shifted into a more comfortable sitting position. The rabbit was already gone, so pushed the scraps to a side to be buried later “If you want to see him, just ask for a place in the patrol that goes near Twolegplace. Pay attention to the fences and one day you’ll see him, eventually. He is the only thing in this entire area that looks like me”

Ravensight nodded.

“Have you ever talked to him?”

“No”

“Why?”

“There is nothing I want to hear from him”

“Not even if he loved our mom?”

“Mother thinks of him for time to time, but as I said, she cares way more about kits than keeping mates. His opinions on the matter don’t interest me”

“That’s a bit harsh” He looked down at the ground and for a moment thought of leaving the conversation there “And us? Wouldn’t you like to know if he cares for us?”

“Why would he? He’s never seen or spoken to us. He doesn’t know us. Whatever love he could feel is just a delusion” He blinked lazily, looking out into the horizon “Cats aren’t obligated to like each other just because they are kin, Ravensight”

“I guess that’s true…”

“I don’t hate him or anything, if that’s what you are wondering” Lightstep continued “I just don’t care about his existence”

Ravensight remained quiet for a couple of minutes. His brother was really open today. Normally he would dodge questions and just crack jokes. Maybe it was because he had seen his sibling so distressed, maybe he himself wasn’t feeling like messing around today, or maybe it was something else entirely.

Whatever the reason, Ravensight relished the opportunity to have this kind of conversation with his brother.

“You know a thing or two about cats outside the clans, right?” He ventured. Lightstep acknowledged the question with a flick of his ear, still looking straight ahead.

“I do a lot of patrols close to Twolegplace, on top of my personal expeditions. I’ve been around a lot of kittypets and loners, yes” He looked at his brother and winked “Why? Looking for some excitement?”

“I’ve received information from a very good source that claims crossing ThunderClan borders is a sure way technique to get me all the excitement I could ever want”

“Your sources are correct!” Lightstep snorted “However, keep away from their medicine cats in particular. They bring nothing but trouble”

“Duly noted”

“Being serious now, what do you need?”

“Do you know something about Shortpaw’s father? Anything at all?”

“He’s dead”

“Do you know how he died?”

“Bits and pieces. Nothing very clear, beyond the main things”

“I don’t need an overly detailed explanation. Tell me what you can”

“There was some sort of arrangement between himself and Yelloweyes” He closed his eyes and started narrating “Part of that arrangement was the kits. One for him, one for the clan. I suppose Yelloweyes is more of a sweetheart than we give her credit for, because she grew fond of both kits. So when the time came to give one up, she refused. Instead she invited the tom and his friends to… renegotiate”

“And what were the new terms?”

“They never showed up”

“Huh… why wouldn’t they?”

“They…” His brother started, then hesitated for a second “Might have suffered some kind of, let’s say, accident on the way”

“I see…” Ravensight surprised himself by how apathetic he felt about the information. He thought back how regretful he felt about injuring that random rogue, but he simply couldn’t bring himself to care about his apprentice’s father. Maybe the idea that, should he have lived, his apprentice might have been taken from him fueled him with cold, unadmitted hatred “Do you have any idea why Shortpaw hates him so much?”

“Nah…” Lightstep shrugged “As far as I know, they never interacted. Whatever his opinions on his father are, they’re probably based on whatever his mother has told him”

“I guess that makes sense” It sort of did, sort of didn’t, but Ravensight would lie if he were to say he wanted to know the truth. That would involve talking about it with either Yelloweyes or Shortpaw, and he really didn’t wanted to do it with neither, for different reasons. Fallowpaw was an option too, but he wasn’t even an acquaintance of hers, so it was unlikely he would get anything out of the young she-cat “Were you involved in the accident?”

“Would you truly like to know if I was?”

“No”

“Then you won’t” Lightstep twitched his whiskers and looked at his brother “Both mentor and apprentice are quite inquisitorial today”

“What do you mean?” He tilted his head “Did Shortpaw speak to you today?”

“Oh, yes!” His brother sat up with half closed eyes and one of the cheekiest grins Ravensight had ever seen “The sweet little thing was worried that he made you upset”

“He didn’t made me…” He started contradicting but stopped himself “Ok, so, what did you told him?”

“Only that you were, indeed, quite upset”

“You really shouldn’t have said that. I was the one who made him upset” He sighed. Two apologies were in order, then.

“Then he proposed trying to cheer you up with your favourite prey and asked what it was” His brother continued “That way he could surprise you with one tonight, hunted especially for you!”

“So, he’s out in the moor, hunting rabbits? That’s so sweet of him, using his free day like that” He looked back at the scraps of their shared prey “I wish you’d have told me sooner, though. I’d have eaten something lighter. I don’t think I can eat another rabbit today”

“Weeeeeeell…” He stretched out the word, as if savoring every second “It is a good thing, then, that I didn’t tell him to get you a rabbit. It hops too, but it’s not quite that”

Completely puzzled, he stared at his brother who was already starting to chuckle.

“But rabbit is my favourite prey? Stereotypical, I know, but still. Why would you lie?” Then it clicked “What did you t-?”

Those pure blue lakes that his brother had for eyes sparkled with a mischievous evilness he hadn’t seen since they were kids. The black tom shuddered at the implications.

“You’ll find out soon enough!”

“Lightstep, tell me what you said to my apprentice at once!”

“What did I told you about questions with answers you don’t want to hear?” His brother teased, barely containing his laughter, before getting up and flicking his tail against his ears.

Then he bolted straight run back to camp, with Ravensight giving chase close behind a few moments later, once his legs started responding again…

Chapter Text

Chapter 8

Yelloweyes

Ravensight stared at the… thing… lying in front of him.

Because it was a thing. Any other term wouldn’t make it justice. Calling it prey was almost inconceivable. There was no way in this world or any other the creature in front of him was a frog.

It was abnormally big, half the size of a young cat. It had a broad, seemingly muscular head, and Ravensight could swear its mouth could easily fit a cat’s head inside. He wasn’t keen on verifying that, however.

Its skin was of the most vivid green he had ever seen, with black and white patches here and there. It honestly could be confused with a Twolegs’ fake, were not for the blood dripping from its mouth. That and the smell of still water, mud and death.

How had Shortpaw caught this? WHERE had Shortpaw caught this?

This would be the sort of prey that would be talked about in legends by ShadowClan elders, told to the kits to show how everything in the old days was bigger and better.

But alas, here it was, laying in front of him instead.

The clan had noticed that the young apprentice had brought him the gift, too. It was hard not to when, again, the creature at his feet was bright green and half the size of its catcher. It contrasted heavily with the greys and browns of the usual fresh-kill.

Many cats just flinched and backed always as soon as they saw it. Others just eyed him curiously, waiting to see what he would do. Kits were almost afraid of the frog, looking at it suspiciously without traversing the threshold of the nursery.

Webfur, who was watching them with a sympathetic smile and half concealed by the shadow of the medicine den, had apparently realized what was going on and had discreetly made him know there would be herbs ready for him later.

Yelloweyes looked at him with an odd mix of realization and sympathy, of all things. But what mattered to him was that, with her watching, there was no way of turning down the prey. It would upset Shortpaw, which in turn would upset her.

Silentstar, comically, was so taken aback by his gift that she run head first into the Tallrock. She let out a tiny meow of pain, but otherwise did her best to dissimulate the accident.

Considering the fact that catching frogs for the clan had been discussed some moons ago, the black tom couldn’t imagine the kind of reaction something like this would have caused had those conversations not taken place.

Meanwhile, both his brother and mother were laughing their tails out, some distance away.

“I…” Shortpaw softly spoke next to him suddenly “I’d like to apologize for last night” Ravensight slowly turned his head to face his apprentice. The young white tom was sitting at his side, rubbing one front paw with the other and looking away.

“You really didn’t have to…” He smiled at him. He tried to, at least. He hoped he was smiling.

“I wanted to!” His apprentice faced him, his eyes widening and shining under the moonlight “I need to! You are such a wonderful mentor, always teaching and encouraging me. And you’ve always being nothing but nice to me. You took time out of your life to look after me in the medicine den, even after you had to drag me all the way back to camp when I foolishly injured myself. You even refused to sleep to keep me company and comfort me, to the point you couldn’t think due to exhaustion!” That wasn’t entirely true, Ravensight thought. He genuinely couldn’t sleep that night. There were more pressing matters, however “And all I did in return was get mad and snap at you like an adder for something you couldn’t possibly have known”

“Well, it was inconsiderate of me…” He tried to speak, but Shortpaw wasn’t done.

“Still, I overreacted and made you very upset. I noticed how you were acting afterwards. So, here…” He laid a paw on the frog and nudged it closer to Ravensight “I caught it myself, just for you! I’m fully aware that this can’t make up for the bad moment I put you through, but I wanted to do something nice for you” He smiled at the black tom and then pressed his head against his shoulder “I sincerely hope you like it…”

Ravensight felt pretty awful.

Looking at the frog made him feel ever worse.

But thinking about dashing his apprentice’s happiness by refusing his gift made him feel as if not even the Dark Forest would consider letting in such a monumental piece of dirt as he would be.

Maybe he could say that he had already eaten? But that would create the problem of having one-day-old frog for breakfast, because he wouldn’t be able to get rid of it without someone noticing. It wasn’t the most subtle thing to discard. And he couldn’t just drop it in the fresh-kill pile, for the same reason.

Also Yelloweyes, he noticed out of the corner of his eyes, was still looking at him strangely from the rock next to the Tallrock. Silentstar was too, though her gaze was more neutral. He couldn’t do anything but eat the thing with them there.

Maybe he could come up with something, but he needed to get out of camp.

He would have to improvise some sort of plan, but first he had to thank Shortpaw properly. It wasn’t the apprentice’s fault that he was in this position.

He wrapped his tail around the apprentice’s body, who in turn pressed ever so slightly harder against his shoulder. He lowered his muzzle and touched the smaller tom on the forehead. Then he parted his maw and slowly ran his tongue across it and up one ear. Finally, he rested his chin on top of Shortpaw’s head. The apprentice in response appeared to shift his body so he could sit as close to his mentor as possible. Ravensight could feel their fur touching all across his side. The white tom now was pressing and nuzzling against his neck, purring very softly, as if he wanted only Ravensight to hear. The black tom tried to match him with a purr of his own.

“Thank you so very much” Ravensight whispered “Not just for the frog, but the thought you put behind it” He paused “And the kind words too”

“I-It’s nothing, really!” For some reason, he could swear Shortpaw felt warmer.

He casted a quick glance around the clearing, noticing that most cats had already finished eating and were laying down to sleep. The remaining ones were apparently too enthralled with the situation to go to bed yet.

Now was his chance! If he could come up with some way to leave the camp, he could just ‘accidentally’ drop the frog on a ditch or something. He would act kind of disappointed but he would tell Shortpaw that the intention was what mattered to him the most. To compensate, he would catch something for the apprentice tomorrow for breakfast.

It was an excellent plan, Ravensight concluded. At least, it was excellent when compared with the rest of the plans he had, which were none.

“Hey, Shortpaw?” He began carefully. He had to be convincing while also vague.

“Hm?”

“Some cats are looking at us…” He noticed that Shortpaw was actively suppressing his purrs to make them softer. He was hoping that meant he was shy in front of many cats, just like him.

He felt as the white tom opened his eyes and subtly looked around. Apparently he had closed his eyes at some point? Ravensight hadn’t noticed.

“Oh, yeah… your mom and mine are staring at us…” He looked down at his paws and shifted uncomfortably “This is kind of awkward. I didn’t think they’d be watching still”

“Yeah, it is” Ravensight finally lifted his head and looked down on Shortpaw, who in turned raised his to meet his gaze “Why don’t we leave? Just for a while?”

“W-what…?” The apprentice’s eyes started to widen and his front paw were shaking a little bit.

Was that a good sign or a bad one?

“Let’s go into the moor, just the two of us. Let’s find somewhere more private, where we can eat this together and talk...”

Shortpaw was already pressed very close to him, so he felt everything before anything happened. Every single white hair in his fur prickled, his ears and tail shot straight up, so much blood flushed to his face that even Ravensight could feel the warmth emanating from it.

The apprentice suddenly jumped, several tail-lengths in distance and height. He landed clumsily in his paws and immediately tripped and staggered. He regained his balance quickly though, and took a couple of deep breaths, as if he was struggling to get air.

Ravensight didn’t have the slightest idea what had just happened.

“I-I… you… w-we… us…” The young tom tried to formulate a sentence but kept failing, again and again. After some very long seconds, he coughed and cleared his throat, then simply stated “No”

Not knowing what to do, Ravensight just repeated.

“No?”

“No” He said, more firmly this time

“Alright…” So going out of camp was no longer an option. The black tom sighed internally. Then, he urgently needed a new plan. Most of the clan was already asleep, so he couldn’t delay eating the disgusting frog much longer.

But before he even tried to think of anything, his apprentice spoke again.

“Listen, I want you to know, I feel the same way…” His apprentice had a strange expression. He seemed conflicted and at the same time determined, which threw off Ravensight even more “I promise you a ‘yes’ someday, but not now” He looked around quickly before lowering his voice “Please, wait for me. When I become a warrior, we’ll have plenty of opportunities!”

And once again, before Ravensight could say anything, or even process what he had just heard for the matter, Shortpaw gave him a little lick on the cheek and bolted straight to the Apprentices’ den.

Ravensight was so lost at this point that he honestly wouldn’t have been able to tell anyone with certainty if he was sitting in WindClan’s camp, the bottom of the lake or a crater in the moon.

The only thing going through his mind at the moment was, besides the fact that he still had a frog in front of him, were those last words from Shortpaw.

‘When I become a warrior, we’ll have plenty of opportunities’

Was… was catching frogs something Shortpaw planned to keep on doing?

Even after he became a warrior!? Was he that dedicated to making his mentor happy?

Ravensight’s head began to spin. He hadn’t even gotten out of this mess, now it’d be a lifelong occurrence?

He couldn’t just tell the white tom that he hated frogs now. He’d need some excuse. Maybe he could tell him that it was improper for WindClan cats to catch that kind of prey? Again, the fact that adding frogs to the normal fresh-kill targets had been discussed would complicate matter, but he was a bit confident he could convince his apprentice if he caught him in a good mood like tonight.

He was so preoccupied by his thoughts that he sound of approaching paws didn’t even registered. Only when he heard the sound of a cat loudly clearing their throat did he raised his head, just to meet a set of yellow eyes adorning a white fur looking back at him.

“Greeting, young Ravensight” Yelloweyes greeted evenly, no emotion apparent in her face.

“Good evening, Yelloweyes” He responded automatically despite the initial shock. He managed not to stammer, which was a good start “How do the stars find you tonight?”

“Fairly well, all things considered” She meowed in response as she sat down in front of him “May I ask how Shortpaw is doing in his training?”

“Well…” Ravensight gulped “I don’t have a report prepared right now. Could you give me until tomorrow?”

Yelloweyes softly purred in amusement and gave him a half-smile.

“Oh, I am not asking for formalities! Forget about me being your deputy. Right now, I am just a mother interested about her kit”

“Oh, well, he… he’s making good progress” He started, still nervous but less than before “He’s an adept hunter of many types of prey, he knows how to move in all terrains of our territory, he has significantly increased his endurance over the course of training and has shown promising results in battle training” Ravensight tried to be a bit formal, despite Yelloweyes words. The she-cat nodded at each point he mentioned with a pleased expression.

“Good, good… and your personal opinion of him?”

“My personal opinion?” Ravensight tilted his head in confusion.

“Yes. Your opinion of him. As a cat”

“I…” What was his opinion on him? What did he think of Shortpaw? He always enjoyed having him around and seeing him upset made him upset as well. This whole debacle with the frog was partially due to that. He was willing to do anything but break the apprentice’s heart. How to explain that to his mother, though? “He’s a wonderful cat that’ll be a loyal warrior to WindClan. He’s hardworking, sincere, caring for his peers and a lovely cat all around. I personally like to consider him a friend”

“A ‘friend’, you say? Caring and lovely?”

Yes, he saw him as a friend. But when he said ‘friend’, he was referring to something similar to his relationship with Webfur. That was the kind of friendship he was used to.

Shortpaw felt like Webfur, only slightly different.

“Yes. I can only hope he feels the same for me”

But what made it feel different? And why did he saw their friendship at the same level as Webfur’s, when he had known the golden tabby for much longer?

“Is that all?”

Ravensight fidgeted uncomfortable before Yelloweyes’ judging gaze.

“I don’t know what else I can tell you. That’s my opinion on him, ma’am” He had more to say about Shortpaw, but he hadn’t realized how complicated his thoughts about him were until he actively tried to explain them.

He suddenly remembered how nice the white tom’s fur felt against his own.

He’d have to think about that too.

“Huh…” She scoffed, almost in disbelief “I was expecting something more, I do not know, wordy? I was ready to listen to a speech that would try to make me believe things. Some made up poetry that would put you on my good side”

“I’d never try to deceive my deputy” He spoke as softly and sincerely as he could “I genuinely think your son is a wonderful cat and I really like spending time with him outside of training” He paused and gave her a small smile “I’m looking forward to him becoming a full warrior, so we can spend more time together. You know, without the mentor-apprentice thing”

Yelloweyes strangely looked into the distance and sighed, before closing her eyes and slowly nodding. The WindClan deputy got to her paws and gave a short, courteous nod, before starting to walk away. However, Ravensight immediately called her back. She eyed him with curious suspicion as she returned.

“Yes?”

“Can I ask you a favor?” He almost whispered.

All signs of friendliness disappeared from the she-cat’s face.

“What do you want?” She asked coldly.

“Could you please, perhaps, convince Shortpaw not to hunt more frogs for me?”

As fast as her irritation had come it went away, replaced with confusion.

“What? Why?” She tilted her head and flicked both ears “I thought you liked them? He spend the best part of the afternoon asking where he could find the best ones, just for you”

“No, I don’t!” He snapped, praying that he wasn’t pushing his luck too far “I hate them! They honestly make me physically ill!”

Yelloweyes shook her head, even more confused.

“Then why did you tell him that you did?”

“I didn’t! It was a prank from… other warriors!” He was careful not to name his brother. He’d get revenge on him someday, somehow, but not by snitching on him “He asked them for my favourite prey and they told him it was this to have a laugh at my expense!”

“And a moment ago? You had a chance to set things straight! Why did you accept the frog?”

“You were watching us, right? You saw the happiness in his face when he brought me this thing” He prodded the dead creature in front of him “He was so happy and proud. He told me so many nice things” Ravensight realized just now how he wished he would have told Shortpaw some things too “He was even purring! How could I refuse to accept his gift?”

Yelloweyes stared back at him, straight into his eyes, for what seemed like an eternity.

Then came the laughter. Soft, silky smooth laughter, cold and mysterious as moonlight. It was absent of malice, it was genuine, it was terrifying. It almost made Ravensight’s heart stop and his blood freeze nonetheless.

And when it stopped, it was replaced with a smile just as incomprehensible.

“You younglings and your silliness” She finally spoke “Alright, so be it. I am certain that I can device some sort of excuse”

“Thank you, Yelloweyes! Thank you so much!” Ravensight said back “I was dreading the idea of having to deal with frogs the rest of my life”

“The rest of your…?” She started but stopped herself, blinking a couple of times in quick succession and sighing once again “You are getting quite ahead of yourself, dear…”

“Sorry?” He wasn’t sure what Yelloweyes was referring to, but he felt he had to apologize.

“No matter. The important thing here is that you will not have to worry about this green fresh-kill in the future. However…” She looked at him, suddenly with an almost cruel smile and half close eyes “You will have to eat this one”

“But…!”

“The Warrior Code states that prey is killed only to be eaten” She interrupted “You did not kill this one, but it was killed in your name, thus making you responsible”

“Isn’t there any other way around this?” Some traces of fear found their way into his voice.

“Is the mentor of the son of a deputy seriously suggesting breaking the Warrior Code so openly?”

“I-I thought I was supposed to forget you were deputy?” He offered weakly.

“That was before. Now is now. Besides…” She then added in a tone as thick and sweet as honey, almost as she was singing “We would not want all of Shortpaw’s efforts to go to waste, now, would we~?”

Ravensight understood fairly well that he wasn’t supposed to answer.

So he looked down at the thing again and shuddered. He wasn’t even sure how to dig into it. The only time he had tried it was when another cats was eating them and they offered a piece. He opened and closed his mouth several times, trying to decide from which angle to approach it, painfully aware that Yelloweyes was still patiently observing him.

He decided that ‘quick and painless’ would have to be the way to go about it, so he practically lunged at the prey’s midsection as if it were an enemy’s throat. He was immediately assaulted by a horrifyingly strong flavor, like the smell of fish turned to crow-food but worse. Instead of being warm and slightly coppery tasting, the blood was cold and watery, with no flavor to disguise the meat’s.

He struggled to pull a chunk out of the fresh-kill, having to pull back with his neck while holding it with both paws. The skin of the frog felt on his tongue like licking an infected wound and was incredibly chewy. He even had difficulties pushing it down his throat. The aftertaste was just as bad as the initial taste.

He took another bite, this time catching some thin bones in the mouthful. What sometimes added a fun crunch to a mouse now just exacerbated the overall awfulness of the experience.

How could ShadowClan cats eat this?

Well, that part maybe he understood. Some seasons were harsher that others and sometimes desperate measures are the most reasonable. So this disgusting fresh-kill would be preferable to starving, obviously. Not to mention less dangerous to hunt than rats.

But how could ShadowClan cats LIKE this!?

How could they prefer this over other types of prey, even during Newleaf?

Ravensight didn’t understand that. And frankly, after forcing down a fourth mouthful of torture, he was very well past the point of wanting to understand. This was something ShadowClan could take to StarClan for all he cared. Every single particle of him was raising up in protest. Every organ within him twisted and contorted in pain, begging him to stop.

But he couldn’t, Yelloweyes was still there, watching him.

And thus, after a while that probably wasn’t as long as it felt, Ravensight managed to reduce his gift to mere scraps. Bones too hard to consume and much of the thing’s skin. He just couldn’t deal with that anymore. He wasn’t sure if he had the strength to even swallow water.

“Good job” Yelloweyes congratulated him while patting his head with one of her paws. Then she gave him a courteous lick on the shoulder and started padding away, calling back to him before disappearing into the leader’s den “Be sure to bury your scraps, dear!”

He did so to the best of his abilities and immediately after he rushed to the medice den. His head was starting to spin and he was barely capable of walking.

Webfur was actually waiting for him, laying near the entrance. He stood up as soon as he noticed his warrior friend approaching and gently guided him to one of the moss beds. Ravensight laid down on his side, feeling worse than ever, and blinked in confusion when Webfur presented him with a leaf holding a chewed up pulp.

“That’s not yarrow…” He stated. That was what he was expecting

“No, that’s mainly watermint” The medicine cat replied, now setting down a soaked up moss ball next to the warrior “Among with some other herbs. We’ll try to help your stomach digest your snack more smoothly before we go with the yarrow route”

“Why?”

At first Webfur didn’t answer. He circled his friend and laid down next to him, draping his tail over the black tom’s body reassuringly.

“It’s just standard procedure. We don’t want to waste prey if we can help it. Trust on you medicine cat, alright?” He whispered, as he started to groom his friend gently with his tongue “Take the mix and try to sleep. I have yarrow ready if it doesn’t work, don’t you worry” He started at the base of his neck, slowly going downwards.

“Alright…” Ravensight did as ordered and was pleasantly surprised at the medicine’s sweet taste. He was even more surprised with how quickly it seemed to take effect.

He still felt bad, but considerably less bad than before. He started to relax, half due to the medicine and half due to Webfur’s attentions. He gently leaned his head backwards, nuzzling his friend with his head and purring softly.

“Feeling better, I see” Webfur said as he stopped his grooming and nuzzled him back “Now try to sleep. I’ll be here in case anything happens” The medicine cat then stood up and walked outside of Ravensight’s current vision range. He was unbothered by this, he could feel his friend was still there.

Again, Ravensight grunted in agreement and got as comfortable as he could, trying his best to ignore the fact he was inside a den.

He closed his eyes and not long after he was walking in the realm of dreams.

Chapter Text

Chapter 9

Fallowpaw

So it turns out you are supposed to peel off the skin of frogs and toads before eating them. Aan it’s better to just eat their legs. Organs and bones aren’t nutritious enough to justify the effort it takes to consume them and their nasty aftertaste. Not to mention, they can make you very sick depending on what the prey had been eating before you ate it.

Ravensight would have been very grateful to the ShadowClan warrior in front of him, who was currently laughing his tail off at his expense by the way, if such information had been delivered to him before his foray in green prey degustation a quarter moon ago.

Right now, it just added to his generally sour mood. He wasn’t particularly fond of Gatherings.

It was an important part of clan life and a time-honored tradition. It was an excellent occasion for a cat like himself to gain notoriety by just being there and having his name spread around. It was a wonderful occasion to interact and get to know different influential cats in other clans. It was an invaluable date to have a glance at the politics of the different leaders and see what their demeanor were towards each other, so as to identify threats before they even manifested themselves.

He knew all that. He understood all that. But he still would rather be anywhere else.

Ravensight just couldn’t believe how quickly these Gatherings had grown monotonous and dull. Attending them back when he was an apprentice was exciting, but once he became a warrior he started looking forward to them less and less.

What was he even doing there in the first place? His brother wasn’t among the chosen to attend, neither was his mother nor even Shortpaw! Why HIM then? He couldn’t even spend time with Webfur, since he was at the front with the rest of the medicine cats!

This had to be a punishment of some sort. Or maybe Smallflower’s impression of him and his supposed plan to become deputy was something the clan shared, which might as well be a punishment from StarClan, for all he cared. He just couldn’t imagine Yelloweyes perceiving him as a cat waiting for her to die so he could succeed her as nothing short of disastrous.

How did it get to that point? Had he really pushed too far into clan affairs to get an apprentice? So much so that it was impossible for his WindClan compatriots to believe anything else but that he was after the deputyship?

He shuddered suddenly at a new train of thought that, surprisingly, hadn’t come to him until now.

What was Silentstar opinion in all of this? Surely she wouldn’t take too kindly to the news that one of her warriors was just waiting impatiently for her best friend to die.

If he was being honest, the prospect of being deputy sounded enticing when he first became a warrior. It just sounded like the natural progress of a successful career for a clan cat. However, the more he understood about clan politics and the ways of StarClan, the less inclined he was. The idea of potentially becoming Ravenstar was worrying now, not exciting.

He wasn’t a leader. He was like Shortpaw. He wanted a simple life in the moor.

Regardless, this was most certainly a ploy of Silentstar to put him on the spotlight. He convinced himself of that, at least.

And if that was the case, he was well on his way to becoming a ShadowClan ‘celebrity’, so that was a success. He wasn’t quite sure how to feel about it. He just hoped Shortpaw didn’t find out.

Speaking of him, Ravensight found himself wishing he was back with his apprentice rather than among this crowd. Or at least, that he was here with him. That would give him something nice to concentrate on.

With each day that went by, he got progressively more scared of just how much he yearned to spend time with his apprentice. A particular fondness gripped his heart every time they got to interact outside of training, just the two of them hunting or play-fighting or just talking. It really reminded him of how he felt about Webfur when they were apprentices.

The difference was that, with Webfur he was sure about the nature of their relationship.

But with Shortpaw?

Ravensight was completely aware that he was a rather naïve cat. However, even he had started to notice the way Shortpaw was behaving. Granted, a lot of it he hadn’t realized at the time, but looking back he was sure of what was going on. Webfur’s advice made a lot more sense now… as also did certain reactions he had gotten out of his apprentice.

The black warrior had never imagined that he would be the one being pursued by another cat one day. And he wasn’t feeling compelled to stop him in the slightest, but at the same time he was unsure of how far he wanted to let it continue. He was honestly looking forward to Shortpaw becoming a warrior even more, just to see where that would lead them.

Yelloweyes knew about it. She had to know. But she hadn’t done anything to stop it, so he had to assume she was alright with the idea.

And Silentstar had brought him here, so she mustn’t be opposed to it either.

On second thought, maybe bringing him to the Gathering was a punishment…

Oh, right! He was at a Gathering now and he was supposed to mingle with cats from other clans!

The ShadowClan tom he was just speaking with had had his fun and had returned with his clanmates. The leaders had delivered their news and there wasn’t anything interesting happening anywhere. Well, a Twoleg kit had fallen into the lake close to the RiverClan camp, but that was it. A couple of cats found that amusing, but not him. Kits being endangered wasn’t funny, no matter what kind of kits they were. Luckily, it had been rescued on time and Ravensight hoped it was alright.

He approached a nearby she-cat that was by herself. By the faint smells of mud and fish, he could tell she was a RiverClan cat before she told him so. She was there mainly to see her kits being introduced as apprentices to the rest of the clan and wasn’t in the mood for conversation, which Ravensight found fair. He must have missed their names during the announcements, the Twoleg’s kit incident sort of overshadowed everything else.

A nice tom from SkyClan provided him with some moments of internal amusement, mainly due to his name, although he did have some cool stories about the last moon in their territory. The idea of spending so much time in the treetops was fascinating for him. And the legends that their elders told about the Great Pilgrimage so many seasons ago, when SkyClan had come to the lake for the first time, was also something that he was deeply interested in.

But, in all seriousness, why in StarClan’s name would someone name their kit Rockykit? And why would a leader convert that into Rockypebble?

Most of WindClan warrior’s names were quite literal and frankly boring, with some like Smallflower and Hollowstreak leaning more into the symbolic side. But Holy Ancestors did he felt glad for their naming conventions!

He bumped into another she-cat, this time from ThunderClan. She was more talkative and lively than the previous cats, telling little stories from her side of the territory and cracking a few jokes. Ravensight started to genuinely enjoy this interaction. Until, that is, she subtly but not-really-that-subtly hinted at the offer of a forbidden relationship between them. He just rolled his eyes and didn’t bother answering, opting for just walking back to the WindClan group. She followed for a few paw steps, sort of insisting that it was necessary to fulfill a prophecy or whatever, but the black tom just kept walking.

Typical ThunderClan being ThunderClan.

Things were wrapping up by that point. News had been shared, pleasantries exchanged, acquaintances made and friendships reaffirmed. The moon was tired of sitting in the middle of the night sky. It was time for everyone to go back to their respective homes.

On the way back to camp, he was conscious that Yelloweyes and Silentstar were making him walk right behind them and in front of everyone else. This just had to be another deliberate action to make him more visible, but he couldn’t understand this sudden interest of showcasing him. He had been pretty adamant about not wanting to be deputy, and Yelloweyes was till perfectly healthy so there shouldn’t be a reason to have a replacement at paw already. At the same time, he wasn’t even sure if he’d have what it took to refuse the deputy position if offered.

It was a difficult situation. Every step he took to be more well-known among his clan and to participate more of its affairs, just like he promised Webfur, meant edging closer and closer to places he didn’t want to go.

The moment their group set a paw back in WindClan territory, he felt at home. The immensity of the moor greeted them with the breeze caressing their pelt, bringing with it the smells of heathers, ferns and wildflowers. An equally unending starry sky looked down upon them as they walked. Silentstar and Yelloweyes yowled their goodbyes to their RiverClan counterparts over the border, as each group separated and plunged deeper into their respective territories.

The group spread out a little bit, there was enough space for everyone to walk comfortably now. At Silentstar’s signal, they picked up the pace, briskly trotting through the flatland. Soon enough, the camp came into view, and meows of joy and relief resonated among the group. Most cats would be asleep by now, but Ravensight could see that some had stayed awake to welcome them back. They sat quietly near the entrance so as to not disturb the rest

The black tom wasn’t really up for talking. His eyes felt heavy and a faint headache had started manifesting, no doubt due to being awake for so long. And, truthfully, he didn’t expect his family to be among the awaiting cats. They knew him better than that, so they’d wait until tomorrow if they wished to hear news from him.

They entered the camp in as much of an orderly fashion as a group of half-asleep cats could muster. Immediately, both leader and deputy gave a polite nod to their clanmates and walked away from the main group. To discuss something that was learned at the gathering, Ravensight supposed, though what exactly he couldn’t imagine. It’s not like he was paying attention to what the leaders and deputies were doing after the announcements anyways.

A couple of cats came and began to strike up conversations around him, relaying news and stories from other clans to their peers, but the majority joined the rest of the clan in the clearing to rest for the night.

Ravensight carefully scanned the clearing, trying to spot his family, but stopped as soon as his eyes fell upon a white pelt slowly rising and falling among the sleeping cats. He grimaced, remembering how disappointed his apprentice had been when he found out he was staying in camp tonight. He knew very well that he was the odd one that didn’t like Gatherings. The rest of his clanmates eagerly looked forward to the occasion.

So, he decided, he would try to do something nice for Shortpaw. A small gesture, something to brighten up his night a little bit. Up until now, he had been mostly in the receiving end of Shortpaw’s displays of affection. He hadn’t really reciprocated much, or at least not in a particularly deliberate manner. This would make for a good start, he believed.

Mindful of not stepping on anyone’s tail, he slowly approached the sleeping white cat. With every step he took he felt a little bit more nervous, and his whisker felt ever so slightly warmer. He casted side glances from time to time, trying to see if any cay noticed him. Most didn’t, and those who did cared very little. He reached Shortpaw eventually and a small smile found its way to his face once he saw him sleeping so peacefully. He looked around again, just in case, and started settling down next to the white cat.

He realized that he probably didn’t need to be this secretive. Many of his clanmates already kind of suspected that something was going on between himself and his apprentice.

He curled up against Shortpaw, careful not to disturb him. Against his better judgment, he started to purr at the whole situation, as softly as he could force himself to. He drew a paw over the white tom, very gently dragging him against himself, and pressed his muzzle against his scruff.

He felt so unimaginably comfortable being this close to him, to the point he almost felt ashamed. He nuzzled softly the other tom’s neck, before pressing his muzzle against him again and taking a large sniff of Shortpaw’s scent, wanting to remember it forever.

Then his eyes shot up in alarm and he stopped all his movements.

He hadn’t realized before. A mixture of sleepiness and the congregation of so many WindClan cats’ scents in the open had prevented him from realizing it, but….

Shortpaw’s scent smelled really… Female tonight.

He immediately jumped to his paws, almost tripping with his own tail, as Fallowpaw slowly turned her head to face him. Her eyes flared with anger and her muzzle contorted into a snarl, displaying the edges of her fangs. Her fur stood on end and her tail angrily swayed from side to side.

Though, thankfully, her anger dissolved into something more akin to annoyance once she realized who had tried to sleep next to her.

“Oh, Stars, it you…” She spat “Have a thing for white cats, don’t you? Is one deputy’s kit not enough?” If Yelloweyes’ way of speaking could be described as honey laden with poison, Fallowpaw’s was closer to licking dry badger blood out of the Thunderpath. It somehow conveyed the same things, with none of the subtlety or self-restrain

“I’m sorry!” Ravensight apologized, desperately trying not to draw attention to them. Thankfully, Fallowpaw seemingly wanted the same, because she maintained her volume barely above whispering level “I didn’t realized it was you!” He cringed at how meek his voice sounded. He really needed to learn how to speak with more authority someday.

“You’d better be sorry!” Her gaze burned into his, to the point he was actually scared of her for a moment “And what do you mean you didn’t realize!? Do you not have a nose!?”

“I didn’t noticed! I was too tired!” With how wide awake this whole fiasco had made him, he found the concept of being tired inconceivable at the moment.

“Well, so am I! But I’m not going around waking up cats, you dirtpile!” She flexed out her claws, sinking them into the ground, making sure that the older tom noticed them “I swear, if I fall behind in training tomorrow, I’m reporting you to Yelloweyes!” He stared at her, not really knowing what else to say “He’s in front of the warriors’ den…” She grumbled suddenly, clearly wanting to minimize their interaction at the moment “Got tired of waiting for you…” She laid down again, but one of her ears was directly pointing at him, waiting to hear him go.

Ravensight didn’t want to upset her further so he immediately took his leave.

He made his way across the clearing as quickly as he could, once again mindful of his sleeping clanmates. He did manage to spot another white cat close to the warriors’ den, assumingly the actual Shortpaw, but he just didn’t have the will the try anything anymore.

He traversed the entrance to the den quickly and laid down on an already made bed on the far corner. It wasn’t his but he was too distressed at the moment to try and scent whose it was.

As odd as it was for him to spend a night away from the stars, his initial shock quickly gave way to shame and embarrassment. The prospect of someone having seen his aimless imprudence was too much to bear. His gaze fixated on the entrance, expecting Yelloweyes to burst in at any moment, looking for explanations that he either didn’t have or didn’t want to give, depending on the question.

He closed his eyes and steadied his breathing the best he could. He was still very uncomfortable between these walls, but he was tired enough that he managed to catch some sleep. Not much, as he found himself already waking up by the time the sun was halfway up the horizon, but it was something.

Immediately upon regaining consciousness, however, he was strangely aware of a foreign warmth.  Ravensight knew immediately that it didn’t belong to him, but yet felt it had always been with him too. It was an odd feeling for sure, partially brought upon by the haziness of waking up.

He slowly opened his eyes and raised his head, his gaze fell on a white cat precariously pressed against his side, with his head lying next to where Ravensight’s had been and his tail awkwardly wrapped over the black tom’s body.

He contained his excitement for a moment. He was pretty certain who it was, but he wanted to be sure. He pressed his muzzle right into the other cat’s shoulder and took a tentative sniff.

Indeed, there it was. This was the scent he had been looking for the previous night. He started purring softly as he moved his muzzle under the neck of his sleeping companion and buried it in his fur, a content sigh escaping his maws.

There was nothing necessarily different about Shortpaw’s scent. On the contrary, he smelled just the same as he had always done. But lately that scent, which once served only as identification, was making him feel different. Maybe it had always made him feel that way, but he was only now in the right mindset to notice.

Shortpaw began squirming slightly. Worry momentarily gripped Ravensight, as his mind reached the conclusion that he had overstepped some boundary, but relaxed again once he heard the soft chuckling coming from the white tom. Out of the corners of his eyes he caught Shortpaw looking down at him.

“Hey…” his apprentice meowed at last “Had a good night?”

“Average. The morning is certainly better…” The answer left his mouth before he could think too much about it, but he silently congratulated himself. That had been smoother than he ever thought he could be.

“Oh~?” Shortpaw cooed at him, placing a gentle lick between the black tom’s ears “What are you doing in here, by the way? I thought you weren’t very keen on enclosed spaces?”

“I’m… hiding, basically”

“Hiding?”

“From my shame”

“Care to elaborate?” Shortpaw pressed, a hint of worry appearing in his voice.

“I, unsuccessfully, tried to… tried to be, erhm…, nice to a cat last night” Shortpaw raised his head, and Ravensight did the same to match his gaze. The apprentice tilted his head in confusion “Specifically, with your sister” Outrage flashed for a second in Shortpaw’s face before his mentor could continue “It was an accident. I confused her with you” He felt so incredibly stupid now that he worded his incident.

Apparently Shortpaw found that highly comical because, after a short pause to process the information, his initial anger turned into amusement and he loudly laughed while pressing his forehead against Ravensight’s chest. The black tom didn’t say or do anything, besides also laughing softly.

It was a kind of funny situation, I guess

He thought better about it.

To witness, at least. Not to be in.

“I can just picture your face!” The white tom finally spoke after he calmed down.

“Please, don’t. It was a horrible experience”

“How so?” Shortpaw asked as he retreated his head “My sister is as pretty as I am, is she not? Surely it wasn’t that different?” He teased.

“Your sister has some… personality, let’s say” He anwered, blinking “I swear, I thought for a moment I was taking with Yelloweyes…”

“Oh my Stars, no! Not even close!” The apprentice smile widely, before teasingly whispering “You wouldn’t be alive if you’ve tried to flirt with mom”

Considering the track record of Yelloweyes previous companions, Ravensight very much believed that to be true. However…

“I wasn’t flirting!”

“Don’t lie! I’ll ask Fallowpaw later! Unless…” Then added with half-closed eyes “Well, we are all alone here. And you can be sure this is the real me. Want to take advantage of the situation and tell me something?”

“I do, in fact” His voice taking a more playful tone, Ravensight gave a firm swipe with his paw to one of Shortpaw’s ear, then quickly got up “You’ve been slacking too much and I’ve been too lenient. Your hunting needs more practice, so we’ll join all of today’s hunting patrols. Then, more combat practice in the afternoon. You’ve been having too many free days this moon” He spoke as he was heading to the exit, and couldn’t help but smugly smile at the dumbfounded expression of his apprentice.

“Wha…?” Shortpaw shook his head in confusion, as if he had been struck with a splash of water right in the face.

“Less words, more prey! OUT!” At once, Shortpaw bolted past him towards the gathering patrol.

Feeling satisfied and following his apprentice, Ravensight noticed that Shortpaw was very few paw steps away from becoming a warrior. He was almost the size of an adult cat, had been feeding well and seemed to get bolder and bolder with each conversation they had. The black tom realized that he was quickly losing authority, if he ever had any at all, in the odd relationship they were having.

But he also realized that perhaps, in reality, that wasn’t really such a bad thing.

Chapter Text

Chapter 10

Oliver

For a moment, just for a split second, Ravensight might have confused him for his brother.

A somewhat logical conclusion, all things considered. Lightstep was known to roam close to Twolegplace, and thus was the go-to cat for dealing peacefully with loners and kittypets.

So finding him out here, sitting on fallen tree so close to the border, staring almost expectantly into WindClan territory wouldn’t really be an unthinkable scenario by any stretch of the imagination.

Not even the collar would be that hard to explain. His brother wanting to pass as a kittypet in order to roam around undisturbed in Twolegplace would be a story he was very likely to buy, even if he couldn’t explain how he would put it on.

“H-hello there?” The intruder jumped down from his seat and slowly tried to approach the patrol, each step betraying his uncertainty. That was most certainly not his brother’s voice. It lacked confidence and it had too much politeness.

He should have expected this to happen sooner or later. This was the reason why he asked for a spot on these patrols from time to time in the first place, just like his brother had advised. He just wasn’t expecting to actually succeed. It had taken almost two moons for the encounter to take place and he still wasn’t ready.

“Who are you!?” Aspentail snarled next to Ravensight. The she-cat took a step towards the intruder, her back arched menacingly and her back legs ready to pounce.

“What are you doing in our territory!?” Shortpaw appeared at his other side.

The intruder flinched and staggered back, but otherwise kept his gaze fixated on Ravensight. The black tom was really glad that so far, besides the standard questioning, neither of his clanmates had try to escalate the situation. Shortpaw shot a quick glance in his direction and must have noticed how uncomfortable he was because he immediately took a subtle step to the side, trying to stand protectively close to his mentor.

Ravensight took a deep breath.

‘There is nothing I want to hear from him’

His brother’s words resonated in his head.

Was there something he wanted to hear?

“Aspentail, Shortpaw…” Ravensight spoke carefully, trying to hide any emotion “Could you… could you, please, continue the patrol?” He could feel the gaze of both cats focus on him now “This kittypet is no threat. He must be lost. I’ll escort him out of the territory.”

Aspentail held her gaze, but nodded shortly after and started padding away. Ravensight wondered for a moment when had the clan started to trust in him so much that his fellow warriors were willing to follow his orders without question.

Shortpaw didn’t move from his spot, though. And to be honest, Ravensight didn’t expect him to. Neither did Aspentail, considering she took off without even pretending to wait for him.

“Please, WindClan warrior” The intruder spoke again “I just want to talk. My name is…”

“Oliver” Ravensight interrupted. Both Shortpaw and the other cat blinked and stared in confusion “You are my father.”

Oliver’s mouth hung open in disbelief for a couple of seconds, before morphing into small smile. His face was full of emotions that the warrior found very hard to read. He approached Ravensight with quick but careful steps. The black tom was scared for a second that Shortpaw would misunderstand the situation and attack the kittypet, but he either decided to not interfere or was too stunned to do so.

His father reached him and paused, taking a moment to stare directly into his eyes, before gently pressing his forehead against his son’s.

“S-she told you about me…” He heard him whisper “She actually told you about me…”

“Not much…” Ravensight spoke softly “But yes, I was told about you”

Oliver straightened up, smiling widely now.

“I’m glad you even recognize me at all… I have no right to demand anything more from her”

“I thought you two separated in friendly terms?” Shortpaw chimed in, causing Oliver to glance at him curiously.

“Well, we didn’t try to slit each other’s throat or anything” He looked at his son again “Some harsh language was definitively exchanged that day. But we reached the conclusion that separating was the best for you.”

“It definitely was” Ravensight couldn’t really imagine a life as a kittypet. Oliver nodded, seemingly thinking the same thing.

“After I refused to join WindClan, I thought she would try to erase me from her memory” He sighed “To this day, I regret that decision…”

“You shouldn’t…”

“I still love her…”

“She probably never did”

Oliver winced, closing his eyes. Ravensight regretted his choice of words immediately. Even Shortpaw shot a look in his direction that let him know he should have been more tactful about the topic.

“I know…” His father finally breathed out, opening his eyes again “In some way or another, I always knew” He finished with a shrug, though his expressing showed he was in pain.

Ravensight stared at him, not knowing what to say next. Shortpaw shuffled uncomfortable on his paws, his gaze shifting back and forth between the older cats, clearly wanting to voice an opinion but not daring at the same time. The WindClan warrior noticed him out of the corner of his eye and wondered what was going through the young tom’s head. He had had such a strong reaction when he first mentioned his father.

With some hesitation, he close the distance with Oliver and sat down next to him.

“Enough of my mother. I’ve just met you! I want to hear about you!” He spoke softly, sporting the friendliest smile he could manage “How are you? How are things in Twolegplace?”

“I…” His father started with a smile again, though it faltered immediately “Do you actually care?”

“I do”

“You don’t have to lie to me. The fact that you recognize me at all is enough to make this trip worth it” He smiled again.

“Ravensight doesn’t lie!” Shortpaw interjected before his mentor could answer “He’s been always honest with everyone!”

Oliver flicked his gaze to the younger cat again, but Ravensight couldn’t see what expression was on his face. He was busy looking away in shame.

“Well, everything’s been fantastic as of late!” His father’s voice brought him out if his thoughts “A bunch of Twolegs have moved out of their nest and new ones have taken their place. They brought with them a lot of new cats into the territory. So many new faces to meet, with even more stories to share!” He looked at him and noticed how he sat straighter, with more confidence; his eyes shined with warmth again and his voice betrayed an odd eagerness to share his words with the strangers in front of him.

Because that’s what they were.

Strangers.

They shared blood and they knew each other’s names, but what else was there to form a connection?

“Twolegs are weird” Ravensight said “Why do they have the need to move so much? And why do they build so many dens, for that matter? Why not just make a large one? I’m sure they could”

“Yeah, could you image how insane our camp would be if every single cat had a den for themselves? Not that we use them, mind you, but still!” Shortpaw added “Twolegs are mad. Luckily for them, they are sort of scary too. Otherwise, something would have driven them out of their territories”

“Oh, they aren’t mad! They are just a little… quirky?” Oliver answered “They don’t just do things at random, like you think. I’m sure they must have a reason for doing what they do, we just can’t understand it.”

He felt strange, realizing that he partially agreed with his brother. His father knew nothing of him, so why did he apparently loved him? Why did he still loved his mother when she had hurt him so badly and basically abandoned him?

He pondered about that as he listened, but his father’s words didn’t give the impression of a delusional cat, as his brother believed he would have to be.

No.

Ravensight had another, perhaps also precipitated, opinion about his father.

Oliver was just a better cat.

“Speaking of Twolegs, do yours treat you kindly?” The black tom inquired “Do they feed you properly? Do you have a warm place to spend your nights?” It was a rather odd thing to ask, no amount of pellets would count as ‘properly’ for him; but he was aware that there were just as many abused kittypets as pampered ones.

“Oh, they do! Only one Twoleg in our nest, though, but she is very kind to me!” His father spoke excitedly “She evens sits down and talks to me when I’m feeling down! Oh, how I wish I could understand what she says!”

He was almost certain that he couldn’t have done it. He’d heard snippets of the story from his mother, who he assumed had twisted some words to make herself look better. And even knowing only that version of the story, he was still sure he wouldn’t have forgiven his mother.

It wasn’t the fact that she abandoned his father, although maybe abandoned wasn’t really the appropriate term. Many cats get together for a couple of moons to have kits and then go their separate ways. Kits are the lifeblood of a clan, and giving kits to the clan is an unstated but implied duty of a warrior.

“Hey, I kind of have a doubt about you kittypets” Shortpaw spoke, genuine curiosity gleaming in his eyes “Do you only eat what the Twolegs feed you or do you guys actually hunt prey?”

No, what Ravensight considered most damnable about his mother, he now realized, was the fact that she invited him to join the clan fully intending to break up with him shortly after their kits were born. She would willingly tear him from the world he knew and hurl him into the wilderness, only to leave him alone among clan cats.

Ravensight fully believed that a warrior’s way of life was unquestionably nobler and more fulfilling than any other, but it was a path that a cat needed to choose. Kittypets and loners could be taught how to walk down this path, and some clan cats decided that they couldn’t or didn’t want to. It ultimately always had to be a choice. Something to be promoted but not forced.

“Well, that’s a case by case thing. Some kittypets only eat Twoleg food, some others hunt and some indulge in a little bit of both”

His mother wasn’t a bad cat, or at least he didn’t think so. She could be considered selfish to an extent. Only she, her kits and StarClan mattered. This also, by extension, made her care about the clan’s leader and medicine cat. Not any individual cat in particular, but whoever occupied the positions were StarClan’s envoys and thus valuable in her eyes.

“Interesting… so where do you fall in those categories?”

He loved his mother.

Even if he wasn’t the nicest of cats, he loved his brother, too.

And now, looking at the kind face of his father…

“In the last one, of course! That’s how I met Hollowstreak!”

Just hearing him talk, noticing just how much he cared for his son, a cat he had never interacted before…

“So you went into a wild cats’ territory, trying to steal prey, and came out of it borrowing a she-cat?” Shortpaw joked "Talk about a nice catch..."

He thought the kittypet was just mad. Or at least naïve.

Kind of like Ravensight himself, really.

“Well, it’s more like… she borrowed me” Oliver half-jokingly answered, offering a somewhat awkward smile to the younger tom “I did manage to catch a bird, though! I’m super proud of that to this day! But I don’t remember what kind of bird it was”

“You thief!” Shortpaw quickly responded, adding a fake gasp of outrage “Filthy prey-stealer!”

The way he looked at him when he realized Ravensight knew who he was. How his eyes sparkled with forlorn nostalgia at the mention of Hollowstreak telling their kits about him. How he talked with Shortpaw as if he had known him since kithood.

“I swear I gave it back! I gifted it to Hollowstreak! Ask her if you don’t believe me!” Oliver hurriedly defended himself, though his playful smile made it clear he understood it was a joke.

“Well, I mean…” Shortpaw tapped his bottom lip with the tip of his tail, mockingly pondering the confessions “Your transgression did end up giving us Ravensight…” It happened in a fraction of a second, the apprentice’s eyes flicked towards his mentor then back to the kittypet, and in that small moment they showcased a kind of fondness Ravensight wasn’t sure he deserved “So I think we can let it slide”

He loved his father. He couldn’t explain why. He had given up in that enterprise.

As the thoughts of love entered his mind, he dared to take an almost apprehensive glance at his apprentice, and Ravensight became painfully aware of how much he cared for him.

Rather than giving him peace of mind, the realization bothered him somewhat.

“You’ve mentioned that name before” Oliver’s words brought him back to reality, noticing he was looking at him now “Is that how she named you?”

“She named me Ravenkit” The black tom replied “The -sight part was given to me by Silentstar, our leader”

“Oh, yeah, right! You clan cats and your customs” He shook his head “Any meaning behind it? Or it just sounded nice next to raven?”

“If I had to guess…” Shortpaw chimed in “It’s because of his amazing tracking skill. He is the best in WindClan, right Ravensight?”

“I used to be, at least” Said cat answered, a particular incident coming to his mind regarding another white cat “But I don’t track with my sight, though”

“Well, Ravennose sounds mouse-brained” The younger tom joked “So, you know, approximations”

“Close enough for me” his father nodded, turning to the white apprentice “And you? What’s your name?”

“I’m Shortpaw. Your son’s apprentice”

“Shortpaw?” He repeated, looking at him curiously “You are almost as big as us! Were you the runt of your litter or something?”

“Not really” Shortpaw shrugged “Sometimes a name is just a name. No meaning behind it” He flicked an ear in is direction while narrowing his eyes and tilting his head “Does ‘Oliver’ stands for anything?”

“Well, I wouldn’t know!” Oliver snorted “But fair enough”

Just then, Ravensight was suddenly betrayed by his mind, as it was usually the case. He looked to the sky, then back in the direction of the WindClan camp and sighed with disappointment. He remembered why he was out today and what he was supposed to be doing. Had Aspentail made it back to camp already? He could only hope it had been an uneventful patrol.

Shortpaw was also supposed to help with the elders todays. The apprentice was reaching the end of his training and his mentor wanted to drive home the importance of looking after the old and vulnerable members of the clan. Was there still time for that? Maybe for helping with ticks, if nothing else?

This had been a wasted morning of training, if he was being honest. He’d have to request another patrol after sunhigh, and that would invariably require him to confess that he’d ditched this one to Yelloweyes and that Shortpaw had followed him. At the very least the deputy seemed to know a lot about her son, despite the little time they spent together, so Ravensight was confident he wouldn’t be blamed for dragging Shortpaw into it that much.

It didn’t really matter, he concluded. The image of him, his father and Shortpaw sitting together under the sun and just talking amicably among each other was something he was going to treasure in his mind, regardless of the consequences.

“Father…” He interrupted the other two cats, who had apparently started another conversation while he was lost in his thoughts “It’s been a joy to finally see you, but I’m afraid you can’t stay here any longer. I’m leading a border patrol and you’re trespassing. I must ask you to leave”

“Of course” His father nodded, his shoulders dropping in resignation “Getting to spend time with you is wonderful, but I understand your clan duties must come first”

“We can meet another time, if you want. Just call out to me if you see me in a patrol” He offered

“My Twoleg isn’t as lenient with me as she used to be. She worries too much. Probably thinks I’m getting old” His gaze shifted to his paws, as if he was feeling ashamed “My little doors on her den are locked more often than not”

“We walk different paths and follow different rules. I won’t claim to know anything about Twolegs, but judging by what you said. She seems to genuinely care”

“She does, I’m sure. But I don’t know when I’ll be able to visit again as a result. Or if at all”

“Even if it not for a long time, seeing you once in a while would still be nice”

“I’ll do my best. Won’t you get into trouble for speaking to kittypets?”

Ravensight almost snorted at that. If anything, getting into that kind of trouble would be beneficial for him at this point.

“No, don’t worry”

“Then…” He pressed his cheek against Ravensight’s and softly purred into his ear “I’ll hopefully see you soon, son”

“Father?”

“Yes?”

“Thank you for letting me live among the clans”

Oliver smiled despite the tears already forming in his eyes

“If it made you happy, then it’s been my best mistake”

-----------------------------

As soon as their goodbyes were exchanged, Ravensight turned around and headed back home at a brisk pace. He intentionally walked down a slope and followed a longer path. Shortpaw dutifully followed his mentor closely, undoubtedly noticing they weren’t going straight to camp but choosing to remain silent.

Ravensight didn’t want to see his father walking away. The idea hurt too much. This way, he could pretend his father was still sitting next to that fallen tree. That he would still be there when he turned back or the next time he lead a patrol. The hills blocked his sight so his father hadn’t left, he was still there.

He knew better than that, however. He couldn’t fool his own mind.

His face morphed into a hateful scowl for a moment, his claws unsheathing and sinking into the ground, almost making him trip. For a moment, he wished his father had fallen into Hollowstreak’s trap all those seasons ago. Oliver would be unhappy, without question, but at least he would be living with them in WindClan camp.

He couldn’t hold on to that thought for long, though. He didn’t have the heart to wish for such a thing. Oliver deserved better.

Shortpaw had caught up to him. Or rather, he had stopped moving at some point and his apprentice was now sitting at his side, eyeing him warily with a worried expression.

“Are you alright?” He timidly meowed in a tone so uncharacteristic of him, Ravensight almost thought he was another cat. Maybe he had switched places with Fallowpaw when he wasn’t looking. It wouldn’t be the first time he had confused one for the other.

“I don’t know” He answered in the most sincere way he could.

“That’s alright…” Shortpaw shifted closer to him until their shoulders were touching “Do you want to talk about it?”

“No” The apprentice nodded, a long sigh escaping his lips, before pressing his head against his mentor’s neck and draping his tail over his back in a comforting manner. The familiar warmth that this would normally bring him felt so far away today.

He didn’t want it right now. He didn’t need it right now.

He needed Webfur. He would know what to do and what to say, as he always did. He would steer his thoughts where they needed to go, he would make him see what he couldn’t see. He so desperately wanted to run straight into the medicine den to spend the rest of the moon sitting in a corner and talking with his friend.

But he couldn’t keep relying on the medicine cat for everything. It wasn’t fair for neither of them. Webfur already had a whole clan to look after besides his spiritual duties, while repressing some emotional baggage of his own. He didn’t need this kind of thing thrown into his lap too.

Ravensight tried, failed and then tried again to keep a mildly positive outlook of the whole affair. He had met his father and he would meet him again. Not tomorrow, not this moon, probably not this season, but some day. That was enough for now. It had to be. There was nothing to be discussed, no need to talk with anybody else about the matter.

He casted a quick glance at his dear friend, still pressed against his shoulder, trying to provide as much silent comfort as he could. He felt revolted with himself, thinking of how quickly he was ready to cast aside this new cat in his life, who cared so much about him, to go running back and hide.

The image of his mother crossed his mind and he shuddered. He felt a knot forming on his stomach as he found himself thinking that perhaps his fur color wasn’t the only thing he inherited from Hollowstreak.

He was unbelievably grateful when the almost half-hearted purr of his apprentice brought him back to reality.

“Are we just going to include paternal drama into all our flirting sessions from now on, Ravensight?” Shortpaw softly whispered, the beginnings of a smile starting to appear in his face.

Ravensight couldn’t imagine a worse time to make that kind of joke. It was so far removed from the situation at paw that his heart fluttered with happiness.

It was exactly what he wanted. Exactly what he needed.

“We are not flirting” He retorted.

“Well…” He took a quick glance behind them, his eyes flashing with mischievousness “I know for a fact that I didn’t intertwined our tails. Is that a coping mechanism of yours, then?”

Ravensight didn’t need to look. He knew their tails curled around each other like embracing snakes. He knew he had reached for the others with his, almost instinctually, at some point. Probably as soon as he felt Shortpaw by his side.

“Perhaps it is”

“Ah… do help yourself, then. But what about our brushing flanks? And your purrs when I nuzzle your neck? It’s not the first time…”

“It’s cold”

“It’s not. We’re in Greenleaf”

“The last days of Greenleaf. It’s colder”

“You’ve slept in the open in the middle of a snowfall. I don’t think you can feel cold”

“The point still stands”

“Of course”

“Does it… bother you?”

“What kind of question is that?” Shortpaw snorted “By now, you should know the answer very well”

“I was just checking” Ravensight sighed “A lot of things I know tend to be challenged frequently”

“Maybe you don’t know them, in that case”

“Isn’t that more reason for asking?”

“I’m an exception. You do know me”

“Yes” He smiled “Thanks the Stars I do”

“Thank my mom. She’s the one that brought me here. Although, she’ll take offense to that. Somehow” That got a chuckle out of the black tom, which in turn caused his apprentice to softly purr at him.

“Thank you, Shortpaw”

“What for?”

“For being here. For the distraction. And… for everything” Ravensight looked into his eyes and blinked very slowly while purring loudly.

“Anytime…” Shortpaw returned the gesture. Closing his eyes, he stretched his neck a bit and gently brushed his nose against his mentor’s.

“But you are still on elder duties today, though”

Without opening his eyes, the apprentice murmured back.

“Foxdung…”

Chapter Text

Chapter 11:

Webfur

It was something that Ravensight had realized not long ago. A realization reached through experimentation and empiric observation. A fact that he considered a universal truth, akin to the sun rising at dawn and setting at dusk.

It didn’t matter how many times it happened, waking up snuggled up with Shortpaw would never make him feel less happy.

However, it made getting up considerably more challenging, both mentally and physically. It was a price worth paying, he supposed. A new challenge for a new part of his life, and not a particularly unpleasant one at that.

Not that it was an overly common occurrence, just something that happened once in a while. He was still a little wary of being affectionate with his apprentice in front of others. That was a qualm the younger tom most certainly didn’t share.

However, without even discussing it, his apprentice kept their interactions strictly within the mentor-apprentice dynamic during training. He was grateful for that and it showed how well Shortpaw understood him.

Outside of training, it was hard not to see them together. Not close enough that they couldn’t be confused by just a normal mentor hanging out with his apprentice; but close enough that, if you payed attention, you’d noticed their sides brushing and their tails holding each other.

By some miracle, he’d managed to leave camp without waking his apprentice. He was used to waking up early and decided to go hunting on his own to kill some time until Shortpaw woke up. Leaf-fall wasn’t in full swing yet, though it was starting to show itself. Thankfully, the moor prey wasn’t as affected by it as the forest’s may be, but that was offset by probably the harshest Leafbare of all territories, with only RiverClan’s coming in close.

So it was never a bad thing to help elders and queens put a little more meat on their bones before the snow came.

On that note, he was a little disappointed with his performance. Two mice and a lark was barely enough to feed a cat and couldn’t compare to catching even one scrawny rabbit. Alas, that was the downside of going hunting when even the prey hadn’t woken up yet.

The fact that this was some extra hunting for the clan, not a proper hunting patrol, provided him with some reassurance. The patrol would bring the rabbits the clan needed, he was sure. Maybe these mice could serve as some of the kits’ firsts solid meals instead? He didn’t quite remember at what moon kits were introduced to fresh-kill, but that would be really cute.

That brought on a curious train of thought.

He didn’t think about kits very often, chiefly because there was no point. He liked seeing them happy and safe, he supposed. He liked the fact that there were kits running around in the camp and he very much liked interacting with them, but he understood it was unlikely he’d have kits of his own. While he thought it’d be nice to have them, he didn’t necessarily want them either.

But that decision wasn’t his alone now, was it? There was another cat that he’d need to talk this with.

Would Shortpaw want kits? He didn’t seem like the family type, but Ravensight knew better than to judge blindly like that. He’d be down for raising kits with him. How could he give Shortpaw kits if he did want them, though?

He shook his head slowly as a warm feeling crept up his cheeks and whiskers.

Too early in the morning to be thinking about that.

The actual hunting patrol was preparing to leave when he arrived, silently exchanging blinks and nods in farewell with him. There were some more cats missing too, so he inferred the dawn patrol had already left. Shortpaw was still sleeping peacefully in the same spot he had left him. Not really surprising, though still disappointing. But it was a free morning for him, so he could sleep in if he wanted, that was fine. Ravensight was the one with the problem.

Well, that only meant he needed something else to do. An answer to that dilemma popped in his head when he heard movement coming from the medicine den. He hadn’t visited his friend in a while, he realized. He dropped the mice in the fresh-kill pile, but kept the lark.

He walked into the medicine den with a bird hanging from his mouth, just like he had done countless times before. Webfur was there, like he had always been, stretching his muscles before standing up. He was shivering slightly and Ravensight erroneously thought he had a cold night sleeping on his own.

He recoiled in surprise when the fear-scent hit him suddenly as if it was a paw striking his muzzle, clear as day even through all the feathers and blood. Not even the collection of herbs did anything to dampen the smell. Ravensight took a step forwards with worry gripping at his heart.

The medicine cat must have heard him, for he turned to face him almost immediately. The warrior gazed into widened eyes full of shock and terror; eyes that perhaps didn’t recognized him, or more unnerving still, recognized him instantly.

“W-well, would y-you look at that!” A smile appeared on his face as he approached, faker than the stone animals in Twolegs’ gardens. Ravensight gently laid the lark on the floor and tried to speak, but Webfur hurried to press their cheeks together. He couldn’t help but notice how tense his friend felt, how he pressed himself against him with much more conviction than normal, like was trying to find refuge in Ravensight.

“Are you alright?” He managed to say.

“Shh… just… give me a moment” The medicine cat took a very deep breath and let out an equally long sigh. Taking a few steps back, he shook his head and blinked repeatedly, before sitting on his haunches and looking back at Ravensight. Just like that, his eyes were back to normal.

“Better?”

“Yeah, thanks! Sorry you had to see me like that. StarClan’s timing is rather inconvenient as of late”

“Did you have a vision? Was it something bad?”

“Oh, absolutely nothing that a warrior should worry about…” Somehow, for the first time in a long while, Ravensight doubted his friend’s words.

“If you say so…”

“But that doesn’t matter now! What a lovely surprise, this is! It’s been some time since you last dropped by! Are my charms actually not good enough anymore?”

Ravensight decided to drop the subject for now, for Webfur’s sake, and pretended to think about the question. Or better said, their time honored joke.

“No”

“Foxdung!” He stomped with his front paws, still smiling “I’m not used to having competition! I’ve been outplayed by an apprentice of all things!”

“Hey, at least I keep bringing you birds, right?” He offered, pointing to his lark.

“Oh, wow, that? Not even a pigeon? I’ve been thoroughly outclassed here, haven’t I?”

“What can I say? You should’ve groomed yourself more. Maybe worked on your attitude a bit, too”

“Meh! Shoulda, woulda, coulda… whatever!” He licked a paw and dragged over his ears, then narrowed his eyes “Not worth the effort. You aren’t that handsome”

“Shut up!” He playfully shoved him on the shoulder, and Webfur pretended to stagger “I’m glad to see you again, too. How’ve you been? How’s the medicine thing being going? Besides… well…”

“To be honest?” He shrugged “Lately, I feel like I’ve been turned into Noclaw personal caretaker”

Noclaw? Is there a cat named like that in the clan? Did we take in a rogue or something?”

“Nah, it’s how I call Minkclaw now. He’s pulled like four of his claws in the span of a moon” He shook his head, the smallest hint of frustration showing on his voice “How can a cat pull so many? What is he even doing? Digging through solid rock?”

“Hey, maybe he’s doing it as an excuse to see you?”

“If that’s the case, he could at least have the decency to bring me something interesting to work with. Maybe climb a tree and dive head first into a rock. I’ve never tried my paws at putting a skull back together before…”

“Webfur, that’s horrible!” He laughed at his friend’s weird sense of humor “A medicine cat shouldn’t wish for harm to come upon his campmates!”

“I never said I wished it happened! Just that if he has to keep bothering me, he could bring me a real injury!” He groaned loudly, his frustration now clear as day “He doesn’t even wash his paws before coming here! And for some reason, the stupid thing never gets infected! I don’t understand! His left paw should’ve fallen off by now!”

“A normal medicine cat would consider that to be good luck for the clan”

“Ravensight, it almost offends me that you’d try to compare me with something normal” He let out a long, deep sigh, before smiling again “Anyways, that’s it for me. I’ve adopted Minkclaw, apparently! How about you? Shortpaw’s training going well?”

“I’m alright. Haven’t adopted anyone yet” He couldn’t stop a purr from leaving his throat when Webfur rolled his eyes “I’ve been too demanding of Shortpaw, I feel. It’s just feels so repetitive now, so monotonous. Like, how many times do I have to make him show me a hunting crouch or how many times do I have to impose a certain number of prey to catch, when I know he will get them in the end"

“That’s what training is, Ravensight. Being part of a clan is getting used to its routine. You were an apprentice once, weren’t you?”

“Yeah, but I don’t remember it being this dull!”

“Well, there were more apprentices during your time”

“I spent my days mostly with you, though”

“All the good that has done for you!”

“I like to think it contributed to my caring personality”

“No, you already had that. It made you soft! But, whatever. Battle training, then? Is that a little more exciting?”

“I guess?” He shifted awkwardly in his paws “The problem there is that there isn’t many cats to practice with. It’s just me and him, most of the time”

“And his sister? What about her?” Webfur frowned in confusion.

“Smallflower doesn’t let her train with us all that much. Just from time to time, a spar or two, maybe a hunting patrol. Yelloweyes orders”

“Huh... no wonder their training is taking longer than usual”

“Tell me about it. It’s becoming increasingly awkward calling a twelve moon old cat my ´apprentice´”

“I don’t see it that way, but then again, I’m a medicine cat. Being twelve or more moons old and still an apprentice is pretty much the norm. I was sixteen when I got my name and I only got it then because… because…” His voice trailed off at the end, his eyes focusing in a particular spot of the den, where some time ago there had been a second bed for medicine cats.

Ravensight could almost feel the mood of his friend ebbing away.

“So anyways!” He decided to interject before the situation deteriorated further. Webfur turned to face him again, with an expression that almost seemed grateful “I’m thinking of changing the final assessment. The battle part, at least”

“Changing it?” The medicine cat’s eyes widened and his ears perked up “What for?”

“To make it more dynamic, I don’t know. At least more interesting”

“How would you do that?” Was that… worry in his voice?

“I don’t know yet. Maybe involve more cats than just the apprentices? Something like what ShadowClan does”

“ShadowClan is ShadowClan, Ravensight. We are WindClan”

“Still, it can’t hurt to learn from other clans, right?”

“I…” He seemed ready to argue something, but decided against it, shaking his head to get rid of the thought “Just make sure Silentstar is informed of this. She hates secrets”

Ravensight nodded at him, though he didn’t really have any intentions of talking with his leader if he could help it. He had been entrusted with Shortpaw’s mentoring and he truly believed that this was for the best, so Silentstar would surely understand, right?

Besides, he didn’t mean to keep the final assessment a secret, as Webfur had eluded. It’d be very hard to, considering he’d need help from his fellow warriors.

“Anyways, that’s all I guess” He reassumed “I went to do some hunting on my own today, to enjoy the moor alone and all that. I let Shortpaw rest for the morning, I think he deserved it. Sorry I couldn’t find anything bigger for you, by the way” Then he added with a small hint of shame “I really tried”

“Even the greatest hunter can’t make prey just appear. I’m sure the clan appreciates your efforts”

“I couldn’t find any rabbits, so I’m not so sure about that…” The warrior interrupted, but his friend ignored him.

“And for the bird, I mean, nobody else bothers with them too much, so I appreciate it anyways” He sat down and began to carefully pluck the feathers out of his fresh-kill “You know, it feels surreal somedays. It almost seems that I was asking about your own training last night. But here we are, talking about your apprentice’s, who’s like a couple of pawsteps of becoming a warrior himself”

“Yeah, I know what you mean” He let out as sigh, long and drawn out, filled with all sort of emotions, contentment being chief among them “But time passes, I guess”

“Bold theory. Do you have any evidence to back it up?”

“No, I’m sorry. You’ll have to blindly trust me on this one”

“I’ll have to consult with StarClan to see if that’s a wise course of action”

“Oh, it’s not. I can tell you that front the get go”

“Then it’s more likely that they’ll approve of it” His friend snorted and then blinked warmly at him. He wasted no time to reciprocate.

Ravensight truly relished the moments he got to just be silly with Webfur. He wished he could share them with Shortpaw too, but he had to maintain some semblance of authority while he was a mentor. Or at least, he felt he should.

It was hard to know how to behave when not training. Shrewspring had been a rather serious cat all the time, while Smallflower was quite the opposite. Ravensight tried to be somewhere in the middle, but it felt forced to him. Neither of them were being courted by their apprentices, though. That complicated things.

He was looking forward to fully sharing his oddness with Shortpaw. If he wanted, of course. At least he hoped they could hang out with Webfur. As much as he tried to not rely too much on the medicine cat, the golden tabby was engrained too much in his life to just let him go.

“So, speaking of time passing… Shortpaw is quite the tom, isn’t he?”

“You can say that, I guess”

“Aren’t you worried he’ll feel led on if you don’t ask the big question?”

“I don’t think there is any need to ask anything, honestly. We both enjoy each other’s company very much”

“Well, as a lover of formalities, I’d assume you would anyways”

“I’ll propose we become mates, but not while he’s still officially an apprentice. I’ll do it after his vigil. Does that make you happy?”

“Very. Do let me know who of you will be carrying the kits, though. I’d like to have everything ready. Trying to find borage in the middle of Leaf-bare, while possible, is a real pain”

“Both, of course. The more, the merrier”

“We’ll see if you think the same when you have eight little fur balls running around and squeaking all the time. Or when you have to keep them all still in order to give them a bath!”

Ravensight frowned and went silent for a moment. Webfur used the time to take a big bite out of his meal.

“Joking aside… do you think that I’d make for a good queen?” He asked, feeling embarrassed.

“Probably not?” The medicine cat answered while chewing “Need milk to be a queen”

“Yeah, I know, but… I meant, the parenting part of being a queen? Like, looking after kits and stuff”

“There isn’t exactly a list of requisites for that. Based on the fact that you are worrying about it, maybe? You’d be surprised how many cats only ponder if they should be parents once the kits are already born”

“I see”

“Why do you ask? Do you want to be a queen?”

“I don’t know”

“What do you mean you don’t know? You are asking very specific questions here”

“I’ve thought about it. As an option, I guess. I just want to feel less useless”

Webfur eyes him with concern, his meal totally forgotten. He wiped out the blood from his mouth with a paw and sat up straight.

“Elaborate” It was a command. Ravensight didn’t have the will to challenge it.

“I feel like I don’t do enough for the clan. Not like I used to, at least, and even then I only did it because I wanted an apprentice. I hunt, but it’s never enough. I train Shortpaw, but it’s so repetitive and dull, I think the only reason why I keep doing it it’s him. I won’t be able to repeat it with any other ‘paw. The clans aren’t fighting, so I can’t contribute in battles either. I just don’t know what I’ll do when Shortpaw becomes a warrior and I have to go back to being just that again, not a mentor”

“How about enjoying life with him a little bit?”

“Yes, of course I will. But that only makes me feel guiltier”

“Everyone struggles with a lack of purpose at some point. That’s normal”

“I just feel like I could look after kits”

“Those kits have fathers, Ravensight” Webfur sighed, covering his face with a paw

“Of course, but most of them are never present. I could be like a kind of… not replacement in the sentiment, but in function? Help feed their mothers and clean up and tell them stories? So apprentices don’t have to?”

“That’s quite the thing you are proposing…”

“I know it’s ludicrous and I’m just being mouse-brained and wasting your time. Just tell me that to my face already”

“No, I didn’t mean… look, I… suppose… I could, like, talk with Silentstar if you want me to. We could make you like a nursery guard or something. An honorary queen, if you want to call it that. It’s not unheard of, ThunderClan has had at least one tom in that position at some point, although he did have kits of his own in the nursery”

“What has ThunderClan not done before, I wonder? Also, it’s alright to learn from them, but not ShadowClan?”

“The situation is different. And I mean, they serve perfectly as a frame of reference, so I’m glad they are that adventurous”

“I suppose we should be grateful for that to an extent. Anyways, back to topic. My only problem is that I don’t think I could live in the nursery den. I love the moor too much. And walls are scary”

“Queens are not stuck there, they are allowed to leave. And you would be too, but… ok, wait. That is all well and good, and I am glad you are sharing all of this with me, but shouldn’t you be talking about these topics with someone more appropriate first? Someone who’s going to see himself affected by these decisions? Like, let’s say, Shortpaw?”

“I…” He shifted his paws in discomfort, his eyes focusing on the ground “I’m ashamed to bring it up to him”

Webfur moved closer to his friend, sitting next to him. He pressed their shoulders together and laid his tail over his back.

“Listen, Shortpaw is going to be your mate, right?”

“If… he wants to…”

“Right, sure. So he’s probably the cat you should be ashamed the least to bring these kind of things up. It concerns him too, in a way”

“I know, it’s just that… That’s yet another thing wrong with me. I guess it hasn’t clicked yet? That I’m no longer alone. I mean, in the sense that I need to think about Shortpaw when taking decisions and stuff”

“He doesn’t have to influence your every decision, by the way. That’s kind of creepy. Just the ones that involve you two as a unit”

Ravensight closed his eyes and let out an exasperated sigh.

“This whole mates thing is overly complicated…”

“Oh, just you wait. Everything is new and exciting now, while you are chasing and courting each other. The absolute greatest challenge of a couple is normal, everyday co-existence once the thrill of it all has worn off”

“It makes you wonder why cats even bother with long term relationships at all…”

“Next time you are lying next to Shortpaw, I want you to embrace him, look at him in the eyes and ask yourself that again. I’m sure you’ll reach an answer” He ended with a wink. Ravensight could feel his whisker starting to heat up and his heart swelling with happiness just imagining it.

“When did you became so wise?” He meowed with admiration.

“I’d have to say between my tenth and thirteenth visit to StarClan’s hunting grounds. It was most certainly not the twelfth, though. That one was just weird. A very odd elder with an accent appeared before me and told me my mother might as well have been a hamster and my father smelt of elderberries”

“…what?”

“Yeah, I don’t know either. Some cats think that just because they are dead, they can be rude just because”

“I... suppose some of them don’t change a lot from when they were alive”

“I guess, but coming back to Shortpaw: I want you enjoy yourselves more. Take him out for walks, go hunting together outside of patrols, go play and be silly together, that kind of stuff. He doesn’t need more training, you said it yourself. Also, tell him you love him. I know he’s aware, but he’ll appreciate hearing it from you”

Ravensight looked at his friend, blinking in confusion.

“Where is all of this coming from?”

Webfur looked away, his eyes unfocused.

“Just… what you said. Time passes. I just want you two to enjoy each other”

The warrior had a suspicion that something ominous was implied in that sentence, but Webfur said no more.

-----------------------------

Ravensight walked out of the medicine den feeling both reinvigorated and unnerved, the combination of which made him not want to dwell into either feeling too much. He just wanted to see Shortpaw.

He found him, finally awake, sitting near the entrance. Immediately upon noticing his mentor, he got on his paws and bee-lined towards him.

“Good morning, Ravensight! How’s Webfur?” He purred when he got next to him.

“Hey, Shortpaw…” He started.

“Yes?”

“I-I love you” His apprentice’s eyes widened in surprise and confusion.

“Hey, if this is because of Webfur, I’m fine with…”

“No, this isn’t... I just… wanted you to know”

“I… wow…” Shortpaw laughed awkwardly and shook his head “I mean, I knew, but… hearing you say it…” A smile from ear to ear adorned now his face “Thank you… I love you too”

Ravensight leaned forward and Shortpaw met him halfway, their noses touching gently.

“So, would you like to… I don’t know what cats do for fun… go for a walk around the lake?” The older tom offered “Go play in the sand? I’m not offering something boring, am I?”

“I’m tempted…” Shortpaw hesitated “You aren’t just setting me up for more chores, right?”

“No chores today. We’ll take the day for ourselves, how about it?”

“Well, if that’s the case…” The apprentice smiled again “I don’t mind what we do. Lead the way”

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 12:

Silentstar

“Alright, it’s your turn. Good luck!” Smallflower called, beckoning with her head towards the entrance of the burrow next to the Tallrock. Ravensight stood up at once and quickly padded inside, the she-cat winking at him and brushing her tail against his flank as he passed her.

Her support was appreciated, but it wasn’t really needed. He wasn’t worried in the slightest that Shortpaw wouldn’t be made a warrior together with his sister. However, he managed to catch that Smallflower seemed a little off. She hurried away from the entrance with her ears twitching constantly and her fur slightly bristled. He couldn’t think fast enough to ask her before she disappeared into the warriors’ den, which was even stranger.

Making a mental note to ask her later, he walked into the Leader’s den and respectfully bowed his head at Yelloweyes and Silentstar. The former was laying on one side of the small burrow, nonchalantly licking at one of her paws; the latter sat in the middle of the den, waiting for him. Both returned the gesture and the leader signaled with her tail to the small circle of moss in front of her. Ravensight understood the message and sat in front of his leader.

Immediately, he could feel as if ants were running all up and down his pelt, his tail swaying as subtly as he could to keep himself distracted. Once again, he was within walls and it took all of his self-control to not look at them. He was terrified of what he’d see in the earth. He reassured himself that it’d be just a short while before he could leave this awful hole again.

Calling the place the Leader’s “Den” was a bit of a stretch, as the place was less of a den than the Warriors’ was. It was barren inside, with no permanent bedding, and the place didn’t even have a lot of traces of Silentstar’s scent. The WindClan leader slept in the open, next to her deputy and warriors. Nobody had it as a permanent home, but rather it was occasionally used for meetings or during bad weather. Even the moss where they currently sat had been hastily brought in that very same day and would likely be discarded before the moon was fully on the night sky.

But, Ravensight concluded, naming it the ‘Burrow that Sometimes is Used by the Leader as a Meeting Place but Most of the Time is Just a Useless Hole’ didn’t sound very serious or appropriate. So Leader’s Den it was.

A random, furtive thought went through his mind and Ravensight found himself wondering if that could technically qualify as a valid Tribe cat name. How would their friends call them? ‘Burrow’? ´Place´? ´Hole´?

A smirk found its way to his face and he had to consciously suppress the purr that threatened to escape his throat. He amazed himself with the silly things he could conjure up sometimes.

“In a good mood today, I see” Silentstar meowed suddenly “That’s good. I like happy mentors. It usually foretells good news about their apprentices”

“As if anything but the best could be expected from my kits!” Yelloweyes commented, not even diverting her attention from her paw. Although, Ravensight managed to catch the humorous tone in her voice. Silentstar rolled her eyes and subtly shook her head.

“Of course, my deputy” The leader then sat straighter, paying full attention to the black tom “So, Ravensight, has Shortpaw gone through his final assessments?”

“He has” He stated firmly.

“Very well. How did he perform in his hunting assessment?”

“Five pieces caught. A rabbit, a mouse, a squirrel and two birds. He applied the appropriate techniques for each catch and the hunt was performed relatively quicker than standard”

“Quick enough to make a special mention?”

Ravensight paused, noticing Yelloweyes had looked up with interest.

“No, I wouldn’t say that” He shifted on his paws uncomfortably while Silentstar nodded.

“Honesty is good, young warrior” The deputy reassured him, switching her attention to her other paw. The next words were barely perceptible “Especially when it comes to your superiors…”

“Anything else to add?”

“Nothing, Silentstar”

“Alright. Let’s talk about his battle training then. That is, in fact, the main subject I want to discuss here. It’s come to my attention that the final assessment was… unorthodox”

“I did some changes, yes”

“May I know what made you do it?”

He blinked.

“…Excuse me?”

“What made you think you had the authority to decide that?”

“I just… thought it would be more beneficial for them” He defended himself, self-consciously licking his chest “I didn’t see the point of just pitting them against each other, over and over again. Facing warriors meant new opponents with fighting styles they’d be unaccustomed to and a better way to test their ability to think on the spot”

“Dear, that sort of initiative is commendable, but would you like to know what else you did not see that is vitally important in these matters?” Yelloweyes sat up on her haunches, narrowing her eyes at him “The need to inform us”

“You took some of my warriors away from camp without permission” Silentstar added “I was just about to send a patrol to look for them when I was informed by one of their mates where they were”

Ravensight considered mentioning that neither of the she-cats were present in the camp at that moment and he didn’t want to waste time, but thought better of it.

“But… it was just for a morning?”

“It did not cross your mind that, perhaps, I would have tasks for those warriors?” The deputy continued, taking a step towards the warrior and fixing him with a stare “That they were idle in the camp for a reason?”

“…I don’t know what to say…” His gaze went back and forth between the two she-cats, trying desperately to come up with something. Were his actions really that severe? “I’m deeply sorry… I didn’t think things through” Ravensight could feel their gazes burying into his pelt and suddenly his paws were the most interesting thing in the world.

“Was this your idea?” Silentstar questioned him.

He forced himself to look back into his leader’s eyes.

“Yes, mine alone. I came up with it”

 “Yet another lie, then” The leader’s eyes narrowed at him, her voice taking a more threatening tone all of a sudden “Smallflower claimed the same. That she, on her own, devised everything. So who’s lying? You, her or both?”

“This generation of warriors is undoubtedly very loyal to each other, it would seem” Yelloweyes commented.

Despite how distressed he was by the whole situation, Ravensight subconsciously agreed with his deputy. His clanmates had basically jumped at the idea of helping him out with the assessment. He couldn’t help but wonder if that was due to having so few apprentices this season, so WindClan was specially attached to these two.

The more cynical part of him, however, thought that they just might have wanted to escape whatever task Yelloweyes had for them. He just happened to show up with a noble excuse.

 “Yes, that would seem to be the case. Which, if you ask me, is even worse” Silentstar smiled, but no friendliness showed in her eyes. They were hostile and predatory “You used their loyalty to get what you wanted”

“No, I‘d never do that!” He defended himself “I just asked for help! I would’ve done the spars myself if I was a better fighter!”

“An older warrior approaches some junior ones with a request for help. They cannot in good faith refuse because, as far as they are concerned, the leader must have given her blessing. It involves the only apprentices the clan has, after all. They are unaware that is all just an invention of their clanmate” Yelloweyes explained “If you were to ask me, that seems quite manipulative”

“But it wasn’t my intention! I know it might look bad, but…!”

“I don’t care about intentions! I care about actions!” Silentstar spat, taking by surprise both the warrior and the deputy present there “And you two acted behind my back and dragged my warriors into it!”

“I…”

“I don’t believe for a second that Smallflower had anything to do in the planning of this” She continued “Oh, no! She’s a good warrior and good warriors don’t make plans like that, they do what they’re told. That it’s what makes it worse. The other cats you involved? They’re excused here. They’re young and don’t know better. Smallflower’s actions, on the other paw, are treason”

“Treason!?” Ravensight’s eyes widened in fear, his ears suddenly flattening against his skull.

“She does know better and she still went through with this!” He wasn’t sure he had ever seen Silentstar this angry before. Or rather, he wasn’t sure he had ever seen anyone this angry before “I knew that it was you the one behind this! She should’ve stopped you the moment you suggested the idea, but instead chose to follow you! Not her leader, YOU! That’s treason!” He was too transfixed in her burning eyes to look anywhere else, but he could swear he was able to hear her claws unsheathing and sinking into the ground “Are you not going to defend yourself? Do you accept your charges, traitor!?”

“Alright, that’s quite enough, dear” Yelloweyes approached the enraged leader, with a soothing tone in her voice that Ravensight honestly couldn’t believe had come out of her “This is not what we discussed. These warriors were rather… irreverent, yes, but I do not consider it fair to call it treason” She sat down next to her, gently placing the top of her tail on the leader’s shoulders.

Silentstar’s gaze snapped to her deputy and the older she-cat visibly flinched when their eyes met. For a few intense moments, the world turned upside down and nothing made sense. A world where Yelloweyes felt even the slightest bit of fear couldn’t possibly be real. Ravensight briefly considered clawing his own ears until he could force himself to wake up, because he was clearly dreaming. Nothing else could explain all the irrational accusations and personality shifts that he had witnessed.

But, perhaps Shortpaw was right once again, as he often was. Maybe he didn’t actually know these cats.

“They went against the Code!” Silentstar growled.

“There is not a thing in the Code that states…”

“There is if I say so!” The leader interrupted, but this time Yelloweyes didn’t react. She defiantly took a step forward instead “My word is the Warrior Code!”

Yelloweyes closed her eyes and let out a long sigh, filled with feelings he couldn’t understand. He wondered, how many leaders she had seen? How many mistakes had she witness? She was a senior warrior by the time Spottedstar was an apprentice, if he recalled correctly.

She had so many moons under her eyes and so many stories that she was unwilling to tell. Ravensight prayed that he still had time to get to know the WindClan deputy a little bit better. He was, after all, hoping to enter her family. It was of great comfort that she seemed at least open to that idea, if reluctantly so.

“Are we truly enforcing that one, now?” Was that disbelief? Or maybe disappointment? “Is that the sort of leader you wish to be seen as?”

Silentstar held her gaze for a moment, seconds that felt like seasons, before her eyes looked down with uncertainty. She slowly sat on her haunches again and remained silent once more, her breathing slowing down and her hair lying flat again.

“No” She finally conceded “No, we aren’t. Sorry for even mentioning it”

“Nevertheless, a proper leader should not apologize in that manner in front of one of their warriors, my dear” Yelloweyes teased, the previous mood apparently tossed to a side. The other she-cat shook her head and looked back at their deputy with half-closed eyes.

“Training with you has been nothing but mixed messages, you know?” The tone wasn’t quite friendly yet, but it was slowly getting there.

“Then I must conclude you have learned nothing, as you would be accustomed to that if you had” Both she-cats softly purred in amusement at what Ravensight guessed must have been a joke between them.

“If it means anything…” He felt like the mood was good enough now to speak again, though he realized the situation was still tense and in need of defusing “I’ll deny it ever happened if I’m asked”

“Ah, what a fine warrior!” Yelloweyes said in that characteristic tone of hers, while almost mockingly pointing at him with her tail “He is already learning!”

“Good for him” Silentstar added “He could stand to learn faster, though”

“Oh, he does his best!” The deputy purred and, for a moment, Ravensight found himself offering a small smile to her. However, that was short lived “Regardless, punishments are still in order, yes?

“Most definitely”

“But I thought…!”

“Relax, you aren’t a traitor. I might have gotten a bit carried away with that” Silentstar shook her head, while Yellowstar nodded approvingly from the side “But you still went behind my back and that can’t just be ignored. The proper procedure would be to take away your apprentice, but that’d be pointless now. I’ll be making them warriors in the coming days, after all. So, what then?” She rose a paw to her lips in contemplation, though Ravensight couldn’t tell if it was genuine or not.

“Apprentice duties are a good start. We cannot make the elders wait moons until we have new apprentices, and it is always useful to have extra paws around camp”

“That sounds acceptable to me. Ravensight will take care of that until the kits in the nursery reach six moons of age. Smallflower will contribute when she has no other duties to perform”

The black warrior was still not convinced that he’d done anything worth punishing, but if his punishment was just to look after elders, fixing dens and feeding queens, he was willing to accept defeat. He wasn’t eager to make an enemy out of Silentstar, especially not now.

Besides, although he wasn’t quite sure of the kits age, they couldn’t be younger than four moons. It wouldn’t be a long ordeal. And he had entertained the idea of looking after the clan kits after all, so this could serve as a trial run of sorts.

It still didn’t sit right with him. It should have been his decision and he’d been robbed of that.

“I would imagine, since he will be essentially demoted back to apprentice temporarily, he will need new restrictions?”

“Naturally. Ravensight can’t leave camp without notifying another warrior and he’s strictly forbidden from approaching any border. Only the camp itself and the center of the moor is allowed”

Ravensight didn’t find that particularly surprising and also didn’t see it as a very negative thing. It wasn’t like being mostly confined to the camp bothered him or anything, though it may limit how much time he’d be able to spend with Shortpaw. He’d miss the open moor and the peaceful solitude it provided, though.

But he’d wait. They were young, and Shortpaw deserved to enjoy his first moons as a warrior without Ravensight pestering him. There was no need to rush anything. There would be time to figure it out.

He imagined that the grey and white tom would enjoy teasing him while he cleaned up the queens’ bedding or took care of ticks, but it would be alright. That made him smile on the inside, actually.

“And lastly, both you and Smallflower are forbidden from attending Gatherings for the next three…” she paused “No, that too few. You are forbidden from attending gatherings for the next six moons!”

Honestly, that sounded more like a boon than any kind of punishment in Ravensight’s mind. If he’d known he could get banned from gathering from doing these kind of things, he might have done it sooner.

Or perhaps not, he reconsidered. Breaking the rules still felt bad, even if he was unsure which exactly he had broken. Still, the option would be there.

“Actually…” Yelloweyes approached the leader, whispering something in her ear. They twitched suddenly, as Silentstar’s eyes widened in realization.

“Oh, is that so? Then it won’t do, no…” She focused her eyes on him again and loudly cleared her throat, a foreboding smile appearing in Yelloweyes’ face as she returned to her spot “In light of some new information, I’ll have to change that last part. Smallflower is banned from Gatherings; but for you, attendance will be mandatory” The black tom stiffened at the news, his ears and tail shooting up in alarm. That most definitively sounded more like a punishment “Additionally, you are to remain at Yelloweyes’ side at all times.  When she joins the other deputies, you will sit in the spot right in front of her, so she can keep an eye on you”

Ravensight knew that every single hair in his body was starting to bristle. He was faintly aware that his ears were pointing backwards and pressed against his skull again, though this time not out of fear. There was something caught in his throat that he couldn’t quite decide if it was a growl or a yowl, but he kept it there nonetheless. Was he gritting his teeth too? He probably was.  Although, to his credit, he managed to be subtle about it.

He looked like a mess and he knew it. Yelloweyes eyed him with curiosity, no doubt waiting for a reaction.

He just nodded.

“Very well, Silentstar”

He felt angry about the whole situation. But most of all, he was unbearably frustrated.

He was fine with rules. He was fine with the Warrior Code. He was all for implementing punishments in order to maintain it.

But all of this felt so unfair to him. Why was he even been punished for? For thinking about his clan above all else? Because that was what he was doing when he changed the assessments. Wasn’t it his duty as a mentor to guarantee the best training possible for the apprentices? He was under the impression that was the point. His mother had claimed so and she wouldn’t lie to him like that.

“You must understand that everything that happens in this clan, from the most trivial to the most pertinent, must be informed to me. I can’t be caught unaware of anything!” Silentstar insisted.

“And she, indeed, means everything” The deputy confirmed

He took a deep breath to calm himself and nodded again. So that was the problem? The secrecy?

“I understand. It won’t happen again”

“I sincerely hope that it won’t. Next time your initiative gets out of control, remember this conversation, and make sure you get my approval first”

It wasn’t like he’d meant to keep it hidden. Like, it could hardly be considered a secret, considering he publicly asked for volunteers. And he had tried to consult Silentstar about it, but she couldn’t be found anywhere near camp, so what was he supposed to do?

Well, he could’ve waited, he supposed. But at the time, with how lenient Silentstar was on a lot of subjects, he’d assumed that it wouldn’t have been such a big deal. Clearly, he must have consumed catmint instead of prey that morning, because he had missed the mark on his prediction by a lot.

He’d heard rumors about the controlling nature of Silentstar, but being a victim of fake rumors himself, he was reluctant to give them any credit. Though, controlling wasn’t the correct definition. According to the whispers, the WindClan leaders just... liked to know things. She liked cats approaching her and telling her stuff. She would even let minor transgressions to the Code slide, so long as she’d been informed in advance. She was just obsessed with knowing.

It’d sounded so bizarre, Ravensight wouldn’t have believed it even if he was another cat. Needless to say, it didn’t seem so farfetched now…

“I suppose we are done here, no?” Yelloweyes spoke and the warrior couldn’t believe how glad he was to hear her.

“I believe so… unless…” She had the audacity to blink at him like that! The growing feeling of frustration that gnawed at the back of his mind was slowly morphing into anger “My dear warrior, do you anything else you would like to share?” He kept it under control, already making a mental note of which specific tree he would use to let out all this pent up aggression. This was his leader, whether he like it or not. It was amazing how his opinion of her had shifted so quickly today.

But then all of that turned into dread. Before he knew what he was doing, his eyes turned to Yelloweyes and a cold shiver went down his spine. She gave him an odd look in return, tilting her head in confusion, as if trying to decipher what his eyes were trying to say.

Shortpaw wasn’t… a secret, was he? That young cat had made absolutely no efforts in concealing his infatuation with his mentor. And Ravensight considered he reciprocated the best he could, always within what was appropriate for their positions.

Ravensight didn’t think it was a secret. But then again, neither was what caused this whole debacle so he wasn’t sure anymore.

Silentstar narrowed her eyes, followed his gaze and apparently guessed what was going on in his mind once she and Yelloweyes looked at each other. She turned back to him, purring and waving one in her paws dismissively.

“Oh, you’re adorable! But no, that doesn’t count. That’s not a secret!” She flicked both of her ears and puffed out her chest, tilting her chin slightly upwards as if she was proud “I’ve known since before Yelloweyes… or even you, probably!” Realization dawned on Yelloweyes and she rolled her eyes, grumbling to herself something that he didn’t understand, but Silentstar’s apparently did.

Ravensight pondered briefly about the leader’s words. Now that he thought about it, he had some vague recollection of Webfur telling him he’d inform Silentstar something about Shortpaw early on in his apprenticeship. He always assumed it’d been the episode about his father, but now he reconsidered. He felt an odd mix of relief and further frustration.

So, Webfur was in on this whole controlling charade too, huh…

When he came back to the conversation, Silentstar had once again shifted her attention towards her deputy, who in turn was scowling intensively back at her.

“Oh, is that a challenge?” He managed to catch the tail end of their exchange, just as the younger she-cat turned to him again, smiling mischievously “So, dear Ravensight, as you heard previously, I’ll be making Shortpaw a warrior soon”

“Yes. He deserves it” The only good thing to come out of this whole mess, Ravensight thought.

“Have you discussed what that’ll mean for the both of you?” He did a double take on that, but she just leaned a bit towards him, oblivious or most likely uncaring.

“I don’t think that’s the sort of a thing a leader should…” He started, his accumulated frustration giving him the valor to challenge his leader, but he was stopped in his tracks with just a tail flick from Yelloweyes

“Just answer her. Satisfy her curiosity and then we can forget we even conversed” The deputy seemed as comfortable hearing the exchange as Ravensight was in participating in it. WindClan’s leader remained, looking at him expectantly.

Somehow, he felt that curiosity wasn’t the motivating factor behind the questions anymore.

“We have, somewhat” He answered carefully “But training always took priority before any personal stuff” They were young and they had time. If Shortpaw didn’t become a warrior, then any plan or hope they could have would be pointless. That was his logic.

“Good, as it should. Regardless, have you two decided then?”

He wasn’t sure he wanted to ask.

“Decided what?”

He braced himself for whatever was to come. Yelloweyes seemed to already know.

“Who’s going to be the tom?”

A deeply troubled and confused expression took hold of his face.

“What…?” Whatever part of his consciousness handled coherent thought was sent reeling to the back of his mind.

“You heard me”

“Silentstar, please!” Yelloweyes interjected suddenly, approaching her leader and looking even more uncomfortable than before “You have proven your point and you have no shame. Stop torturing him already”

“Don’t tell me you aren’t curious” She meowed back.

“No!”

“Hush!” She silenced her, almost slapping her on the lips with her tail.

Yelloweyes hung her head in defeat while covering her face with one of her paws. 

Ravensight stared at his leader, not really sure what to say. Mainly because he wasn’t even sure what was being asked. The situation wasn’t foreign to him; he’d heard his fair share of questions about his life choices. He infinitively preferred them over the odd stares, no doubts about it. But this one was absolutely the most outlandish.

“Both?” He chose to take the question at face value, halfway through realizing that he was probably being too naïve again, but answering something was still better than just staring like a startled rabbit “That’s sort of the point of relationships like ours?” He hoped he didn’t sound condescending, just in case it was an actual, genuine question.

Silentstar stared at him in… well, silence. The moment stretched a bit too much for Ravensight’s taste. He was sure the concept wasn’t that hard to wrap your head around. But just when it was becoming even more awkward than what it already was, she stood up.

“As good of an answer as any, I suppose” She clicked her tongue, seemingly satisfied by the answer “Wouldn’t you agree?” She added, casting a glance towards her deputy, who only grunted in response. Then she left the den, passing quietly next to Ravensight. She stopped suddenly to press her nose against his shoulder in farewell, but continued her way before he could reciprocate the gesture.

Thus, he was left alone in that burrow, in a state of complete bewilderment, together with a very flustered Yelloweyes.

Not knowing what to do, if Silentstar was coming back and he was supposed to wait or if he was allowed to leave already, he just stared at his deputy. The she-cat, for her part, finally removed her paw from her face. She lifted her gaze but didn’t look at Ravensight, her eyes drifted towards the burrow’s exit instead. She opened and closed her mouth several times, as if the next sentence was physically painful to speak.

“I am awfully sorry you had to witness her like that…” She finally said “I swear, she is not usually that… intense?”

“I’m still not sure what I did to make her that angry” He admitted, shrugging and shaking his head.

“You do know. She was very clear”

“Is not informing of a training session really severe enough to be branded a traitor?”

“In my opinion? No. It is barely worth a warning to not do that again. For Silentstar? Yes”

“I can’t believe this… why didn’t you said something? You’re the deputy!”

“Do you think I did not?” She countered, taking a step forward, finally looking at him “She wanted you exiled, I persuaded her to just have you scolded!”

“She would exile me over this?”

“If I am completely honest, I must admit I am not sure. At the same time, I would not tempt my luck with her” She shook her head and flicked her ears, briefly looking in the direction of the entrance before continuing “Truthfully, the warriors you borrowed had nothing to do at that time. And it was the fact that you withheld information, not the information in particular, what angered her. Or more accurately, as you youngling may phrase it, what drove her over the edge”

“What do you mean?” He asked, frowning and tilting his head.

Yelloweyes sighed.

“Silentstar despises secrets she is not a part of”

“I gathered as much”

“Hearing from second paw accounts upsets her. And if she has to ask for information, she becomes furious”

Ravensight thought about his activities, the ones he could remember at least, ever since that morning with Webfur. An unnerving conclusion dawned in his mind.

“So I assume I’ve been on thin ice for a while”

“Precisely. The absolute last straw was Aspentail informing her that you met a kittypet near the border and requested privacy”

“That was my father!” He argued.

“She did not know. That was the problem”

“That sounds like madness to me”

“And maybe she is mad, but she is also our leader. I must support her”

Emboldened by this admittance, he pushed on.

“How can you support someone so tyrannical!?”

“She is not that! If she is informed, she tends to turn a blind eye to whatever it is you are planning to do. She is one of the most lenient leaders WindClan has ever had!”

“She sounds like a cat crazier than a fox in a fit!”

“ENOUGH!” Yelloweyes screeched and all that bravado that Ravensight felt a few seconds ago evaporated “You will not disrespect a clan leader like that! This conversation is over!”

They were left panting, almost right in each other’s face, their wild eyes piercing into the one in front. Ravensight wondered how close they had come to actually unsheathing their claws and, should that have happened, if he could even hold his own against his deputy. Now that he could think clearly, he was extremely glad the deputy has stopped them before everything escalated out of control.

He had absolutely no idea how he would face Shortpaw if he had to explain he had clawed his mother.

If he survived the experience, that is.

 Slowly, their fur settled down again and their eyed returned to normal. They sat down in front of one another as their breathing normalized too. Yelloweyes licked one of her front paws and dragged it over her ear. Ravensight gave a couple of slow and deliberate licks to his chest.

They were stalling and they both knew it. Why was he even there anymore? He could barely remember what the purpose of this whole meeting had been at this point.

He wanted to leave, but he didn’t dare to ask for permission. He also subconsciously fought back the desire to just bolt straight out of there. Why did he have to respect WindClan’s figures of authority so much? He repressed a groan as he silently cursed his mother’s education.

“If anything…” Yelloweyes started, her voice carrying an odd warmth that Ravensight wasn’t expecting, like an elder talking to a kit. He realized just how old and frail she looked of all a sudden, now that she wasn’t screaming at him “I am glad you got to witness this in a controlled environment. It will most certainly help you in your future duties”

The warrior very deliberately chose to ignore the implications behind that. He didn’t want to argue anymore. Seeing the old she-cat like this almost awoke a sense of pity within him, like he had to protect her. She was, technically, an elder after all. If she were to ask him to take her place, so she could retire and be happy with his kits during her last moons, he would do it in half a heartbeat. He would hate every second of it, but by StarClan he would give that to her.

But Yelloweyes wouldn’t take kindly to that kind of considerations. She would die a deputy, like many other had before, that was clear to everyone. WindClan deputies didn’t retire.

“If this was a controlled environment, I don’t want to know what happens when it gets out of control”

“Oh, that is truly a sight to behold, I assure you!” She giggled softly at her own joke, and the warrior joined in too.

“So… what now?”

“Well, you are a warrior that has just received orders from his leader. Follow your orders”

“Shortpaw is still becoming a warrior, right?”

“Yes, dear. He is. You heard Silentstar”

“Good. That’s what matters here”

“Were you worried? You trained him well”

“You raised him well, too”

“Of course I did. It could have been better, if I had the time. But I was the deputy and Silentstar needed guidance. A second apprenticeship, if you will” She flicked one of her ears, sporting a small smile now “It is a work in progress”

“He loves you so very much” Unexpectedly, Ravensight felt almost giddy at the situation. He had wanted to talk with Yelloweyes for a while and… well, they were talking about Shortpaw.

The deputy must have noticed his mood, he wasn’t the best at hiding emotions most of the time. When she answered, her tone betrayed apprehension.

“And you too. We can hardly have a conversation without you being mentioned” Her eyes glinted with something Ravensight couldn’t quite place but made him feel unease. A doubt he often ignored, mostly because he convinced himself it wasn’t important, reared its head in his mind. They were alone here, it was his opportunity to ask.

“I’ve noticed…” He started with some uncertainty “You hardly speak to us. When we’re together, that is”

“I would have thought you would see that as a positive”

“You turn your head to the other side whenever you see us sitting next to each other or sharing prey. You’ve sometimes refused to acknowledge my greetings or Shortpaw’s. You seem to pretend like… we aren’t there”

“Ask your question already”

“You don’t approve of us, do you?” He issued the question he had wanted to ask for quite some time now. He wasn’t overwhelmed with sadness or anything when the answer came, but his heart did ache a bit when Yelloweyes didn’t even need a heartbeat to consider.

“I do not approve of you

“Oh… I-I see” He blinked at her. He words stung more than he anticipated. Or maybe the almost monotone way she voiced it was what hurt him the most? Like it was an obvious thing. Why wouldn’t she disapprove of him? “I understand. Thank you for… your sincerity”

She scoffed at him.

“Do not be harsh on yourself. I am fully aware that I am the issue” He stared at her in confusion, as she shifted closed to him “Shortpaw could walk in here with Firestar himself as his mate, and I would still find that not good enough for him”

He knew vaguely of the legendary ThunderClan leader, a cat of honor and loyalty beyond compare. Extremely handsome too, he had to assume, seeing as every physical description of the cat he’d ever heard started with ‘a handsome ginger tom’. You don’t get that attached so firmly to your name for nothing.

“You are…” She continued “Tolerable, I suppose. And at the end of the day, it is not me who has to like you, is it?” She offered him a small, tender smile, with the warmth that only a mother could convey. He returned a bright one of his own.

“Thank you, Yelloweyes. Coming from you, that means a lot to me” He leaned forward and pressed his nose against her shoulder, feeling his gesture returned shortly after.

“Listen, I do not imagine why you would want to, with how I treat you and all; but should you ever need to talk or need help, just approach me. I would promise I do not bite, but as you know, it is part of the job and I have a reputation to maintain”

“Of course. It’d be a disaster if WindClan’s deputy came out as a softie” Laughing softly, he stood up and padded towards the entrance “May StarClan light your path, Yelloweyes” He told her as he left.

As soon as he was outside, her reply reached his ears

“Yours too, dear”

Chapter Text

Chapter 13:

Hollowstreak

His prediction turned out to be somewhat correct, but a little shortsighted.

Being relegated to apprentice duties wasn’t all that bad, at least at first. Exhaustion had started to settle in half a moon into it, and with how little time he got to eat and rest, it just kept getting worse with the passing of time. It was a lot of work, mainly because it wasn’t meant to be carried out by just one cat. Smallflower helped sometimes, but she was constantly in some patrol or another. She was overworked too, in a sense, though the black warrior didn’t think it was on par with him.

Ravensight was slightly bitter at the unequal repartition of work they’d been given, but said nothing about it to her. It wasn’t really her fault, and he was technically the responsible for what happened, so he supposed it was ´fair´.

It wasn’t all horrible, though. From time to time, he did find himself kind of enjoying his time in camp.

He had become reacquainted with the clan’s elders, who took the whole situation very amicably. It was rather hilarious in their eyes having this twenty-something moons old cat changing their bedding and picking ticks, but they were very polite with him and didn’t give him a hard time as they did with apprentices nor did they make any jokes at his expense. At least while he was working, which he appreciated. He was pretty sure they made fun of him when he wasn’t around.

He met with Shrewspring again. His mentor was an elder now, which struck him as odd at first since he didn’t know he was that old. He still made funny faces when talking and spent a good portion of his first visits apologizing for stuff the young warrior wasn’t even aware was said about him during his apprenticehood. His campmate had too much time on his paws back then, apparently.

Ravensight had forgotten just how much he liked stories. He couldn’t linger to hear them as much as he wanted, with all the responsibilities he now had, but he would listen in chunks across several days. The elders were delighted to have someone who could appreciate their tales again, since apparently the last two apprentices weren’t very keen on them. They even had new ones that he’d never even heard before, not even when he was an actual apprentice. He suspected that they’d gotten them from other clans’ elders.

He was glad he lived in WindClan and not in any other, otherwise the task of camp maintenance might have been an overwhelming amount of work. As it was, there was no need to build and maintain dens; he only had to make sure there was enough moss and large fern leaves stored in the medicine den and the rest of his campmates could do the rest. Most of them slept on the open and didn’t use bedding anyways, so the moss was only for queen, kits and elders.

On the topic of plants, herb collecting wasn’t quite as fun as it had been in his youth. He attributed that to the fact that it was an imposed tasks now, rather than an excuse to spend time with Webfur. The medicine cat did his best to cheer him up, succeeding about half of the time. Some days he was just too tired to partake in their friendly teasing.

He knew dirt about herbs and couldn’t really help a lot except for carrying stuff, but it served as an excuse to get out of camp when he really needed to. He even got to visit small portions of the other territories during Webfur’s expeditions, which technically he shouldn’t have been allowed to, but Webfur somehow managed to obtain permission.

 ThunderClan’s and RiverClan’s were kind of whatever for him, though actually witnessing how RiverClan cats fished was cool. He still had a strange fascination with SkyClan’s lifestyle and walking bellow their great trees, seeing cats leaping from one to the other across treetops that seemed to caress the very sky, had done nothing to subdue it. Walking through ShadowClan land and watching apprentices proudly carrying a bunch of frogs in their mouths made him want to jump off a cliff.

The last Gathering had sucked, just as he had expected. He usually didn’t have a good time on Gatherings, but the last one was on an entirely new level. It wasn’t just because of the renewed attention he was receiving now that he had to basically be Yelloweyes’ shadow and hang out among deputies and senior warriors from other clans; that was something he had somewhat prepared mentally to face. He even got to talk a little with Dawnstar, from SkyClan, which was really neat.

Sitting in the front row was even worse than he anticipated, aggravated by the fact that Yelloweyes’ spot among the deputies was in front of where RiverClan cats congregated. So he was forced to sit with them. They weren’t rude per se, but they watched him with confusion and wariness all throughout the night, which didn’t help his anxiety. Also, he didn’t mind too much the smell of mud and fish that RiverClan’s members usually carry with them, but with so many close together it was almost unbearable. His greatest achievement that night was not throwing up.

No, the absolute worst happened at some point near the end when he wasn’t paying that much attention. He was trying really hard to detach himself from reality and just endure the closing moments. He didn’t really know what exactly happened, only that someone, somewhere, said something. And whatever they said, it was the right thing at the right time. Just like a pebble thrown down a snowy hill, it snowballed wildly out of proportion. Comments evolved into sneers, and those into insults, which in turn morphed into threats. Leaders were screeching at one another for no apparent reason, deputies snarled and verbally assaulted one another, queens and mentors herded the younger apprentices away from the thick of it, medicine cats shifted slowly away from the commotion too; their self-preservation being more important at the time than whatever was going on.

Ravensight was mostly untouched by everything. WindClan had collectively decided to focus on feuding with ThunderClan, because of course they did. Meanwhile, RiverClan was mostly focused on reminding ShadowClan of their less than illustrious history. He was apparently invisible to the cats next to him and too far away to know what aspect of ThunderClan was he supposed to insult tonight. So he just sat there, relatively safe in the eye of the storm, desperately waiting for StarClan to intervene.

They did, eventually, and the Gathering was called off, but at that point he wasn’t sure their usual display of disapproval had accomplished anything.

He probably shouldn’t have been that surprised. Just as Smallflower had said, the longer a peace last, the more likely it is to end. And the Long Peace had lasted… well, a long time. Honestly, it was never a matter of if, but when would it happen. It also stood to reason that its end wouldn’t be a gentle one, though he still wished there had been more signs foretelling it.

It was still jarring, though. How everyone had turned against each other so quickly, as if they had waiting an opportunity to do so.

The only thing Ravensight hoped for now was that it only meant that the clans would go back to their more isolationist and distrustful behavior. He dreaded to think the consequences of a war so close to the beginnings of Leaf-bare

The last point of his punishment was the nursery duties and Ravensight found comfort doing them, with the exception of having to spend time in a den so crowded. The queens were lovely she-cats and the kits were old enough to not be that much of a nuisance. They got in the way sometimes, stealing portions of the moss he’d bring to change the queens’ bedding, but that was alright. He learnt to compensate by bringing more than he needed in the first place.

It was the most involved of his tasks, for sure. He had to feed the queens and the kits old enough to eat solid prey, hunt down specific prey if the queens had any cravings, change bedding, replace the fern leaves that served as a door of sort every few days, look after the kits if their mothers wished to leave for whatever reason, ensure they wouldn’t leave the nursery when the queens slept and a myriad of other small things. All the while tending to the rest of his punishments.

Ah, also gossip, of course. Yes, it was mandatory, according to the queens. If he lived among them, he had to gossip like them. He had little to offer in that regard, but he would sit helping them groom their fur and listen diligently. He was very good at listening to cats, he had found out, with all his interactions with the elders and queens. He felt a weird sense of vindication, hearing gossips about his clan mates instead of being the protagonist of them.

Speaking of gossips…

Shorthawk.

His apprentice had finally had his warrior ceremony.

It was a rather bittersweet situation. On one paw, he was incredibly happy for his now ex-apprentice; he had worked hard and deserved his warrior name. On the other paw, Ravensight couldn’t be with him now. He was often somewhere else or completely exhausted to interact with him.

There was always something keeping them apart. Shorthawk was a young warrior and thus eager to prove himself, so he too worked hard for his clan. The few moment he was free in camp, mostly to eat some fresh-kill, he had tried to share with Ravensight, but the older tom was often out of camp or doing something or looking after the smaller kits. He had tried to sneak into the nursery to spend time with his ex-mentor, only to be chased out by a queen. Apparently, they weren’t as accepting with any other tom just walking in the nursery whenever he wanted as they were with Ravensight.

They technically shared a nest, but that was only in the most literal sense of the term. Ravensight would seek out the sleeping form of the younger tom whenever he finished his duties and collapse next to him, only to wake up and leave way before the other opened his eyes. He would feel Shorthawk cuddling up against him some nights, but that was it. Ravensight suspected Shorthawk understood just how tired he was and didn’t try to talk at night, opting for letting him rest. And some nights, Ravensight was so exhausted that he just slept on the nursery or wherever his paws gave up.

Needless to say, they weren’t mates yet. He didn’t even think they’d had a meaningful conversation during the whole moon, beyond exchanging pleasantries when they met entering or leaving the camp. He’d spotted him chatting up with other cats here and there, of which he was sort of glad. At least he was being a better clanmate than Ravensight had been the following moons after he received his name. And before that too, if he was being honest with himself.

It was just like his father all over again. He knew where he was and could see him from time to time, but couldn’t have him by his side. His mind seethed with rage, a feeling he very seldom had, every time he imagined this separation was also what Silentstar had in mind when she punished him. But the Gatherings thing was personal enough, she wouldn’t also attack his private life, right?

He convinced himself that she wouldn’t, for his own health. The one time the thought had slipped into his mind he had clenched his jaw so hard to prevent himself from yowling in rage, he had accidentally shattered one of his own lower fangs. Webfur had a laugh at that, claiming that once he became an elder he could claim a cooler name like Brokenfang now. Once it stopped hurting, Ravensight found it funny too.

A recent addition to the queens in the nursery was his own mother, Hollowstreak. He was mildly aware that Lightstep had told him she was planning to have more kids, but he had blocked that information from his mind. His opinion of his mother was complicated at the moment and hadn’t exactly improved since then.

Regardless of that, she was part of the clan and thus he saw to her care in the same fashion he did for the others. With her swollen belly and older age when compared with the other queens, she was the one who needed him the most. She was due to give birth at some point in the next half moon.

‘Just before the beginning of Leaf-bare… please, StarClan, let us have enough for this…’ Webfur had bitterly commented under his breath one day, most likely meant just for himself, but Ravensight had caught it and it only fueled his ill-will towards her.

It was just so typical of his mother to be that selfish and complicate everything for everyone. Perhaps they would all be better off if…

No…

He shouldn’t…

He stopped before entering the nursery again to shake his head and hopefully get rid of those thoughts.

She was still his mother. She had done nothing but treat him with unyielding love and support him in every step of his life. There was just too much going on right now and his mind wandered in excess. He couldn’t let himself be consumed by this unbecoming bitterness.

His mother raised a better cat.

Shrewspring trained a better cat.

Shorthawk loved a better cat.

He padded inside the nursery, careful of not making too much noise. He gently laid the soaked ball of moss he was carrying next to the sleeping form of Raincloud, the youngest of the queens. She sniffed and opened her eyes briefly before eagerly lapping at it, blinking in thanks at Ravensight and resuming her sleep. Robinkit and Cherrykit snuggled against their mother’s belly for warmth. Their father, a pale ginger tom named Copperleaf, had visited them earlier and played around with his kits, so they were understandably tired.

Then Ravensight quickly went out to the prey-pile for the largest rabbit available and went back in. Rustsong sat on a corner of the nursery, talking to her kits in hushed voices and sharing gentle laughts. He went up to them and she welcomed him with a wave of her tail, while her kits rubbed themselves against his legs, purring with affection. Shellkit and Ashkit were almost five moons old and they’d be the cats that would replace him in these kind of duties when they became apprentices. They’d grown attached to the black tom, for some reason, and he enjoyed relaying shortened versions of the stories he heard from the elders when they ate. He left the rabbit for them and tipped his head in goodbye.

Lastly, his mother. She was on the back of the nursery, out of the way of playful kittens for safety. He brought in the water vole that his mother had requested and left it in front of her paws. Then he circled her and sat beside her, carefully beginning to groom her fur. His mother would make these kind of requests as an excuse to give her son some much need time running in the moor. Like, she would ask for feathers, but specifically chicken feathers, so Ravensight would have to run across the Twoleg farms to gather them. Or a vole, but not a forest one since those allegedly make her feel ill; a water one, the kind that could only be found near RiverClan’s border. Again, he wasn’t technically allowed to approach the borders, but he also was supposed to provide whatever the queens requested, so Silentstar couldn’t really refuse.

Most of the time he would return with empty paws and get berated by Silentstar, because of course he had to keep her informed of basically everything he did now, but that was alright. The items were never really the point. It was just another way his mother had to look after the cats she cared about.

If only she cared about more cats…

Funny thing about his mother, she wasn’t actually that big of a fan of voles, water or otherwise, showcased perfectly by the grimace that appeared in her face when Ravensight brought her one.

“Oh, by the Ancestors, you actually caught one…” She said, poking it with her paw “Don’t you want it, perhaps?”

“No, it’s for you. I was impressed with myself when I got it, to be honest. I had to track it through some reeds” He was beaming with pride on the inside, confident that once again no one in WindClan could match him in the tracking department “I had an audience, too. A Riverclanner was sunning himself on a rock while I hunted. He kept quiet and all. Even cheered when I got it”

“An acquaintance of yours? Maybe from a Gathering?”

“No idea, didn’t see him very well. And trying to scent him didn’t help, with the smell of fish guts and all”

“Yeah, that… tends to be their downside”

“They almost seem proud of smelling like that…”

“Maybe they are! I would. It’s certainly unique”

“I’ll never understand being proud of something you had no control over. Like, you were born and it was there, how can you be proud of it?” He shook his head and his mother purred at him.

“Ah, that’s because you think too much and feel too little. It’s about the sense of community, you see. We feel happiness and pride for what those before us achieved. Aren’t you proud of being WindClan?”

“No” He mewed matter-of-factly “I feel happy I’m WindClan. I feel fortunate to be WindClan. But proud to be born in WindClan? No. I can’t. I had no influence over that”

Hollowstreak sighed

“You’re a bit complicated to talk to sometimes, my dear son”

Ravensight sighed too.

“I know”

“Let’s switch to more interesting topics then!” She smiled “The RiverClanner. Was he handsome?”

“He was alright, I suppose. I told you I couldn’t see him very well” He blinked at her and twitched both ears “Lightstep would find these kind of conversations interesting, mother. Not me”

“That may be so, but you can understand them better! We have similar tastes, after all”

“I… suppose?”

“But I’ve got no idea where you got your prudishness, though. Oliver wasn’t like that…”

“I’m not prudish, I just like to keep to myself. And I like privacy, too”

“Sure, honey”

“Ok, then tell me, in your opinion, when have I bee…?”

“I would’ve mated with Webfur” She interrupted, and Ravensight immediately felt a rush of heat on his face “Like, being a young tom like you, alone in a den with an older, handsome and gentle apprentice? Together most of the day? I’m honestly baffled why you didn’t”

“For StarClan’s sake, Hollowstreak, he’s a medicine cat!”

“Meh, he was an apprentice back then. Besides, being forbidden makes it more romantic~”

“I can’t believe you…”

“Well, it’s your own fault, dear. I do believe your brother has given you the talk about the questions and the uncomfortable answers, hasn’t he?”

“He has…” He groaned, rolling his eyes with frustration.

“I’m just kidding, you feather-brain!” She purred in amusement and playfully shoved his shoulder with a paw “But that just proves my point” Her eyes shone with a more sympathetic glint “Come on, son. You’re an adult, I’m an adult, we’re all adults here. We can talk about this, surely? If you don’t talk with good old me about it, with who will you then?”

“Nobody”

“Ah, I see” She meowed evenly, then remained silent for a bit, eyeing him with curiosity “So, tell me, how’s everything going with Shorthawk”

He shrugged.

“It’s going nowhere for now” He spat with so much bitterness that Hollowstreak couldn’t stop herself from flinching.

“Yeah, that’s probably not fun... on the other paw…” She spoke cheerily “I’ve heard Shorthawk is adapting well to his new duties”

“That’s good to hear” He nodded.

“He’s been very active in clan activities”

“As he should”

“Talking to a lot of cats, making friends…”

“I’ve heard that too. I’m happy for him”

“I’ve heard he and Aspentail are particularly good friends…” His mother’s tone shifted to one the black tom didn’t like at all.

“…”

“They’re almost always going on the same patrol…”

“…”

“A coincidence, I’m sure”

“…” He narrowed his eyes.

“Though he does seem like he favors older cats, wouldn’t you say?”

“Stop” He answered sharply.

“Stop what?”

“Doing that. I know what you are trying to do. You won’t make me doubt him. He loves me”

“How do you know?” She blinked, smiling innocently.

“He told me so”

“I told Oliver I loved him”

“Shorthawk is a better cat than you, mother” His mother chuckled darkly at the comment.

“Harsh, but yeah, he probably is. That’s kind of a low branch, however. Just be mindful, son. I don’t want to see you hurt”

“And you are the one to talk?”

“If you want to know about flying, you ask a bird” She craned her neck up to nuzzle her son’s cheek with his own. He grunted and leaned into the touch.

“I’m sorry, my comment was uncalled for…”

“But it’s the truth. If my son didn’t feel comfortable telling me what he truly thinks, then I would consider myself a failure”

 “Oh, there so much I can’t tell you. Like, I won’t say anything about Silentstar here, out of respect for you since you admire her, but…”

“Right now, if she fell into a hole full of hungry foxes, you wouldn’t exactly be heartbroken?”

“Yeah, that…”

“I know it’s hard, but it’s only temporary. Besides, there might be a reason behind it. Silentstar is our leader and you must see the wisdom in her actions”

“What wisdom is there to see?” He felt his frustration flaring up again “She practically demoted me to apprentice and parades me like a novelty at Gatherings for what? A technicality, at worst?”

“I’ll give you that the punishment itself is a little harsher that it should, but… well…” She trailed off, huffing with indignation.

“If you say so, mother…”

“One thing’s for sure, you’ve left quite the impression on the clan”

“Yeah, right!” He scoffed “I imagine everyone must be making fun of me. Lightstep especially”

“Your brother is furious!” She meowed sharply “I’ve never seen him like this. He hasn’t clawed anyone yet because he, somehow, understood that it’d only complicate things further”

A small smile crept its way into his face, knowing that his brother still had his back.

“Where is he now, by the way?”

“ThunderClan’s border”

“Ah, another one of his escapades?” He tried to joke, but his mother just smiled grimly.

“How I wish it was that…”

“Then what is he doing there?”

“He wouldn’t tell. That’s what’s worrying me. He always tells me of his adventures, he’s more open than you. But this time? Not a word”

“Do you…” He began, his voice trembling slightly “Do you think it might be something serious?”

“I know it is. Yelloweyes knows too” Her voice took a more accusatory tone “And she refuses to tell me where she’s sending my kit. That snake!

“Mother…”

“One day she’ll bring him back to camp in pieces, and I’ll have to bury him like that… and I bet, even then, she’ll refuse to give me any explanations!”

“Mother, you are bristling your fur. I just groomed you…” He meowed with concern “Besides, this isn’t good for the kits”

She took a deep, long breath, then let out a sigh equally as long. Ravensight rasped his tongue along her shoulders, beginning his task anew.

“You’re right. I’m sorry. Let’s get back to you”

“What’s the running joke about me, now?”

“No jokes. You’re the next deputy”

He stiffened.

“Mother, I’m the laughing stock of the clan right now. There is no was in Silverpelt I’m getting picked as deputy. That is probably the best part about all this”

“Laughing stock, you say?” She purred “Ever since you were an apprentice, up until now, you’ve been a part of everyone’s life here. More than every other cat can claim to be. You’ve fed and cared for every kit, more than their own parents. You’ve looked after every elders, giving them comfort and even keeping their stories alive. You’ve patrolled and hunted alongside every single cat of this clan, and every time you’ve impressed them. You’ve even got some opportunities to show your battle prowess against some loners. Though still lacking in that regard, it’s still something”

“But I didn’t do that for the clan. I did it for myself, to get an apprentice”

“Intentions won’t change how your actions helped the clan. And now, you’ve proven your unwavering loyalty to WindClan, by enduring what many considered an unfair treatment in silence. Just following what your leader tells you without question”

“I have complained and questioned this plenty, though”

“Of course, but not publicly. That’s what counts” She purred with satisfaction “A lot of cats owe you a lot. And as much as I trust the Stars and the leaders they blessed as with, if Silentstar doesn’t make you her next deputy, there’s going to be a riot. I’ll be among the leading figures, you can be sure of that”

“You don’t understand! Nobody understands!” He growled “I don’t want to be deputy! I don’t have what it takes and I’d be an awful leader too! What have I done to deserve the position? Change beddings? Is that really how low the bar is?”

“Son, please…” She sighed.

“Besides, being deputy would mean I’d be forced to be at Silentstar’s beck and call. Even worse, I’d have to validate her! I can’t mother, I just can’t. I’ll end up clawing her one day and get thrown out of the clan!”

“Clawing her? You?” Hollowstreak purred with amusement “I don’t believe that for a moment!”

Ravensight wasn’t so sure himself, but there was no point telling his mother that if she didn’t see him capable. Yet another cat that doubted him.

“W-well, maybe I wouldn’t attack her, ok… but I’d think about it! Very vividly and often! That’d distract me from my duties and make an ineffective deputy! More reasons”

“Shorthawk will get even madder at Silentstar if you suddenly start getting distracted by her”

“Shut up”

“Anyways, you’re being, ironically, too shortsighted about this. Think a bit about your position”

“What is there to think about, mother?”

“You’ll have something you don’t want, but many other cats do want”

“So?”

“Undoubtedly, if you chose not to accept, but endorse someone else, that cat would be the next favorite”

“Smallflower is next in line by right”

“Smallflower is less of a leader than you” She sneered.

“Whatever. What’s your point?”

“That, if you so desired, you could exchange your endorsement for something you actually wanted”

“Nonsense!” He snapped at her, his eyes widening in shock “No one would take such a thing seriously!”

“Yes, they would. Cats trust you, my little Raven. They’d never believe that you’d anything out of self-interest or malice. You can use that!”

“No!” He stood up, raising his volume ever so slightly, but still trying not to disturb the other queens. His mother quickly turned around to face him “I’ve already abused my clanmates’ trust and I’ll never do that again!”

“Shh, it’s ok…” She silenced him with a gentle paw to his lips, and beckoned for him to sit again “It was just an idea to think about, no need to get your tail in a twist about it”

He complied and sat down next to her, looking away.

“Sorry”

“It was just a little bit of political intrigue” She shrugged “Nothing new to the clans. Just harmless speculation”

“It’s not harmless when you’ve already been accused of treason, Hollowstreak”

“O-oh, of course” Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw his mother’s ears dropping and her eyes flashing with regret “It was insensitive of me. I’m sorry, little Raven. I just want you to be happy”

Ravensight blinked in acknowledgement, though not quite sure of his mother’s words.

Eager to change the topic, the black tom gently ran one of his paws across his mother’s belly.

“So… are these from someone in WindClan, at least?”

“Oh, these?” Hollowstreak perked up again “Absolutely! One hundred percent WindClan blood.  Do you want to know the father?”

“I… don’t particularly care”

“Neither do I. But you do know him and he's my age, rest assured” 

He briefly pressed his nose against her side, feeling the slight bit of movement.

“Do you know how many are you expecting?”

“Webfur wasn’t sure. We think two, which would be nice. It’d keep the motif we have going on in the nursery. You know, two kits per queen”

“Two is fine. I’m looking forwards to my two new brothers”

“Well, what if they are she-cats?”

“That’s fine, too”

“You could even give them tips on how to impress cute toms!”

“I’m sure you’ve noticed, mother, but I’m not exactly skillful in that regard. I was the one swept off my paws, not the other way around”

“True. Maybe Shorthawk could, then…”

“…”

“…”

“Ma?”

“Oh, its ‘ma’ now, not mother?” She purred “I sense a request coming up”

“Can’t you, maybe, just talk with the other queens so they’d let Shorthawk in? Just for a while”

Hollowstreak smirked at him with a mischievous gaze through narrowed eyes.

“You two have been mooning after each other for so long and so hard that I don’t trust you to keep it appropriate for kitten eyes when you finally get to be together with him for more than a minute again”

“…”

“Son?”

“…”

“Son, that was a joke”

“…”

“You are supposed to laugh, then contradict me”

“…”

“Wait, you actually were thinking…”

“I do miss him a lot…”

Hollowstreak stared at him.

Then chuckled.

Then laughed.

By the time Ravensight reacted, his mother had been reduced to nothing but a writhing mass of hysterical laughter. He attempted desperately to make her shut up by trying to close her mouth with his paws, but she just kept swatting them away and laughing.

An annoyed grunt came from Raincloud’s direction, while Rustsong and her kits turned their gazes to them with curiosity. He was quick to shoot apologetic looks at them and mouth voiceless apologies.

Eventually his mother run out of air and started coughing, all the while still chuckling. When she finally stopped, she had tears running down her cheeks as if she had been crying for days. He just closed his eyes and waited for her to talk again.

“Sorry about that…” She finally spoke, still struggling for air a bit.

“You are worse that Lightstep, did you know that?”

“Where do you think he got it from, my dear? Thin air?”

“You two will be the death of me, I swear”

“Hey, chin up!” She gently hit him in the chest with a paw “No need to be ashamed of thinking like that. It’s what mates do”

“We aren’t…”

“Oh, yes dear. You and him aren’t mates in the same sense that I never took a mate: purely technical” She giggled again “Ah, the irony of it all must be drilling into Yelloweyes’ skull to this very day!”

“What... do you mean?” He tilted his head in confusion.

“You don’t know? Oh ho ho! Come closer and listen…”

“Do I smell gossips being shared and I’m not invited?” The voice of Rustsong suddenly reached them and they both noticed she had approached silently and sat in front of them. He was honestly surprised it’d taken her this long to butt in their conversation.

“Just why my Raven was chosen to be Shorthawk’s mentor” Hollowstreak quickly answered.

The other queen blinked at her and nodded enthusiastically, apparently interested in the topic.

“What’s there to tell? I got him because I busted my tail for the clan and I deserved an apprentice” He interjected but his mother waved a paw dismissively at him.

“That got you an apprentice. But why Shortpaw, you might ask? Why not Fallowpaw?” His mother began “Well, you see, apparently, and I quote here, Yelloweyes said ´My son is too dreamy and more prone to gawk at the first pretty she-cat he sees than to train. Thus, I have decided to assign him to the tom we have selected´”

“Well, then… that backfired spectacularly!” Rustsong purred at his mother.

“Talk about not knowing you kit!” Hollowstreak purred back

“Hey, wait a moment!” Ravensight interjected again, this time with indignation flaring in his voice “Shorthawk trained hard and earned his warrior name like any other! Our feelings never influenced anything!”

“Of course, son. We know” His mother reassured him.

“Still, I imagine he was mighty interested in your hunting crouch, eh?” Rustsong joked, prompting more laughter from Hollowstreak “Maybe in your stretching lessons too! That most certainly got his full attention!” He could even catch a faint giggle coming from Raincloud’s direction now.

He was too respectful to voice what was in his mind right now, so he just decided that he’d had enough for the day and walked out of the nursery, not bothering to say goodbye. The queens were too busy to notice if he did, anyways.

He wasn’t mad at them or anything, he had spent enough time there to know they spoke like that about everyone and didn’t really mean much of what they said. It was just a way to pass the time. A very fox-hearted way to pass the time, he had to admit, but whatever. Sitting in there was incredibly boring even when he had stuff to do. He couldn’t imagine just lying there all day.

As soon as he was outside, a white pelt caught the corner of his vision. He turned to see Shorthawk sitting next to the entrance. The younger tom stood up and quickly closed the gap between them, pressing their noses together.

“Are you done? Good, I need you” Shorthawk finally spoke “We have a mission”

“We… have?” Ravensight repeated with confusion.

“Yes! Yelloweyes is going to a meeting in RiverClan on Silentstar’s behalf. She asked me to set up a patrol”

“Shouldn’t you bring better fighters then?” He couldn’t believe what he was saying. This was a golden opportunity to finally spend time with Shorthawk, and he was squandering out of loyalty to the clan “In case something goes wrong, I mean. I haven’t practiced fighting moves in a while. I fear I might have gone soft”

“If mom was expecting trouble, she would’ve set up the patrol herself. You are fine, I promise!”

“But…” He tried to argue, even though he didn’t want to.

“Raven, please!” He pleaded, pressing his chests together and nuzzling the side of his neck “What she’s making you do it’s not fair! It’s like we live in different clans! We haven’t talked in half a moon!” He felt an exhilarating tingling sensation as Shorthawk’s warm breath touched his neck, juxtaposed by the dread the desperation in his former apprentice’s voice made him feel “Please, come with me! It’ll just be a little while”

“You’d be going against Silentstar. It might look bad…”

“I. Don’t. Care!”

He look into those brown eyes, and they pleadingly looked back. Warmth and giddiness started spreading inside of him. He knew his answer.

 “Then, I’ll be happy to come with you” He planted a lick on Shorthawk’s cheek and pressed their bodies even closer together. The younger tom looked as if he had being gifted his own personal star “Let’s visit RiverClan”

Chapter Text

Chapter 14:

Aspentail

It was baffling, at first, the complete lack of resistance that Yelloweyes showed when Ravensight joined the small patrol. Just a tip of her head in acknowledgement and, although he was certain he wasn’t supposed to see it, a wink in Shorthawk’s direction.

Now, Ravensight would never outright accuse his deputy of conspiring with her son, but…

Since they were escorting a deputy into another clan’s territory, he was sort of expecting the patrol to be a bit on the larger side. But by the time they were padding away from camp and it became clear that the patrol would be just himself, Shorthawk and Aspentail, the words of his former apprentice became that much clear.

Yelloweyes must have had a lot of trust in RiverClan’s hospitality, because by no stretch of the imagination was this a battle-ready patrol. He supposed that was the point, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that he had compromised the integrity of the mission by accepting to come if the patrol had to be this small. Maybe one other cat that could hold their own in a fight should’ve come...

At the same time, he had been given a chance to meaningfully interact with Shorthawk for the first time in a moon, so the selfish part of his mind didn’t care. The non-selfish parts of his mind also didn’t care, but pretended to.

Aspentail wasn’t much of a fighter, from what he’d heard. Although she had participated in the siblings’ final assignment, so she was at least confident in her ability to fight if she needed to. Or to help a fellow warrior, he supposed. He himself hadn’t really interacted a lot with the she-cat outside of that or when they were assigned to the same patrol.

She was one of the oddest looking cats Ravensight knew, being all brown with the exception of her lower back and her tail, which were a quite vivid yellow color that reminded him of the aspen trees in leaf-fall. So she was very aptly named. She would often hold that tail up during conversations, twitching its tip at random intervals, as if trying to distract the other cat from her words.

With how literal most of WindClan names were, he was amazed her parents and leader didn’t just call her Yellowtail. But he was glad they didn’t. He liked her name, and he kind of liked her too. She was pretty, for a she-cat, and she had a nice soothing voice that made her really pleasant to talk to. She’d been nothing but helpful towards them during his romp with mentorship, way more than Smallflower had been, and he’d been surprised she hadn’t had an apprentice of her own yet.

The patrol set their course towards the South-Western part of their territory, walking close to the coast at a somewhat hasty pace. The trip to the border was mostly uneventful, though Ravensight was kind of busy pressing himself against Shorthawk, nuzzling his cheek and purring at him to notice much anyways. From time to time, they would push and shove playfully against each other with their shoulders.

At some point, Shorthawk shoved him hard, making him stagger, and shot a challenging smirk at the older tom. Ravensight was quick to respond by immediately tackling him, sending them both rolling down a small hill while laughing maniacally. Yelloweyes did a magnificent job of just continuing walking and pretending neither of them existed, while Aspentail only reacted by rolling her eyes and flicking once her namesake.

The Twolegs’ farm came into view soon enough and the cats shifted their path slightly to travel alongside its fences, thus avoiding the pseudo-marshlands that formed on their frontier. The place was bursting with activity, with many animals coming back and forth going about their business. Ravensight recognized the sheep, since sometimes WindClan cats would come here to collect wool for nests, but the name of the rest escaped him.

He expected to stop right at the border and wait to be escorted, but Yelloweyes kept going.

“A RiverClan patrol is waiting for us across the stream nearby” She explained, as if she was reading his mind “We are to meet them there”

The stream in question was a bit further into RiverClan territory, though the territory between it and the border wasn’t really used for much. There wasn’t a lot of prey, both in the water and on land, and its proximity to the farm made it nor very frequented by neither WindClan, rogues nor kittypets. If they wanted to take prey, they would have exponentially more luck trying in the farm itself.

Ravensight wasn’t sure why the border between their two clans hadn’t been set on that stream, being such a nice natural divider; at the same time, the territory WindClan would gain wouldn’t really contribute much, so it didn’t matter in the end.

They finally arrived at the water line and Aspentail left the two toms staring in amazement as she cleared it with one precise leap. Even Yelloweyes seemed mildly impressed. Not being as adept in the art of jumping, the rest of the patrol had to jump, cling to the edge with their front paws and climb to the other side.

The lack of RiverClan cats was noticed immediately.

“Weren’t they supposed to be waiting for us here?” Shorthawk asked.

“We are slightly early” Yelloweyes meowed calmly.

“Any particular reason? Or just clan etiquette?”

“So you two have time to disentangle from each other and make yourselves look presentable. We are in an official mission at the behest of out leader, after all”

Shorthawk scoffed in her direction but didn’t try to argue. He let go of his tail and the absence hit him immediately. However, Ravensight also didn’t said anything and both toms started to groom themselves, smoothing out their fur and getting rid of blades of grass that had clung to their pelts, taking turns to groom each other’s back. Yelloweyes also took the time to fix some spots that had become disheveled from her jump. Aspentail tucked her tail neatly around her paws and waited patiently, her fur as pristine as when they left shining under the sunlight.

Left to think about his current situation, Ravensight found no suitable words in his mind to properly express how grateful he felt towards his deputy. He couldn’t prove that she’d put her son in charge of forming the patrols in hopes he’d join, but still. This whole trip was exactly what he needed and the following moon would be that much easier now that he was reassured Shorthawk was still waiting for him. He appreciated a lot the silent, sort of reluctant support that the older she-cat provided them. He made a solemn silent vow that he would repay her kindness in some way. He wasn’t sure how yet, but he would.

An odd yet familiar smell hit his nose, masked by mud and vegetation. They had barely finished grooming when the RiverClan patrol emerged from some bushes nearby. Four cats in total, two of them apprentices judging by their size. Also not a particularly battle-ready patrol, he realized. They dipped their head in greetings and beckoned them to follow without uttering a word. They disappeared back from where they’d come and Yelloweyes followed without hesitation, the rest of the Windclan patrol falling in line behind her.

If he had to describe the walk to their camp in a few words, he’d have to say it was silent and wet. Not quite marshy, but not that far off either. No wonder these cats always smelled like mud! He wondered for a moment if ShadowClan’s oldest members felt somewhat nostalgic when they walked through here to reach the Gathering Island. According to the old legends, the original ShadowClan had their camp in a swamp. Then again, he couldn’t exactly know how old those legends were, so it might just be that there was no one left that remembered the old clans. Maybe the new generations only knew of the pine forest.

He couldn’t relate to that kind of stories of change. As far as he knew, WindClan had always lived on a moor and had always hunted rabbits, even when they were just a bunch of tribals following the commands of their collective mother figure.

“They’re taking us through the scenic view” Aspentail murmured suddenly “Distrustful, much?”

“Wasting our time, honestly” Shorthawk meowed back “We know already the quickest way to their camp. What’s the point of not taking us through there?”

“Have you seen the path?” Yelloweyes asked.

“Well, no, but…?”

“Being told something and knowing something are different things, son. Besides... the main path to RiverClan may involve swimming. I do not fancy such an activity at the moment”

Shorthawk chuckled at his mother’s joke, but said nothing more.

Ravensight was starting to pick up the scent of many cats when they arrived at another stream, far wider that the one close to the border. The warriors among their escort didn’t even stop to think and plunged into the water, reaching the other side almost effortlessly. They seemed more comfortable paddling across water that they seemed walking on land. Though he had seen RiverClan cats swimming before, he couldn’t help wincing as a gut reaction when he watched them just leaping into the river. He imagined that was how cats from other clans felt when he told them Windclanner lived in the open, away from trees.

Thankfully, the apprentices guided them to a line of stepping stones not far from there. They crossed first to show them how they were supposed to jump, then Yelloweyes move to a side to allow the younger warriors to go first. Ravensight’s heart jumped to his throat every time he skipped over to the next rock, looking down as the river gently flowed beneath him, until he was on the other side. Shorthawk didn’t have any mayor inconvenient after the first couple of jumps, and Aspentail cleared two or three stones at a time with each jump. With hind legs as powerful as those, Ravensight wondered if she didn’t have SkyClan blood somewhere in her ancestry.

Yelloweyes needed some time to do the crossing, which explained why she chose to go last. The apprentices watched her with worry in their eyes, one of them ready to jump into the water should anything happen, but thankfully the deputy made it across safely. Maybe some other cat would’ve been worried that their deputy had shown weakness in front of cats from another clan, but the black tom couldn’t care less about that even if he tried. He was just glad Yelloweyes was back on solid ground. After that, it didn’t took long to reach their destination.

Riverclan camp looked exactly like he had been told it looked. A vaguely triangular patch of land, tucked away between two streams and surrounded by lush trees, many of which had parts of their roots exposed. A collections of dens built among brambles and thickets were scattered here and there. The sturdiest and most reinforced of them all seemed to be the most secluded too, so he guessed that was the nursery. The one in particular that stood out the most for him, though, was a strange den built bellow what appeared to be a thorn bush overhanging a small pond. Judging by the herbal scent, noticeable even though the water, mud and cats, that had to be the medicine den. He wondered with fascination how they had built it there.

Once again, he found himself thanking the Stars for being born in WindClan. The amount of effort it’d take for a single cat to maintain all of these dens and nests was just utterly mind boggling.

Most Riverclanners didn’t pay them too much attention, each obviously having something better to do. Some eyed them with curiosity, especially the kits that timidly poke their head from what proved to indeed be the nursery, but none of them questioned them. Some even flicked their tail or tipped their head in greeting.

So their visit was an expected one. Not just by their leader, but by the whole clan.

Ravensight didn’t like that.

“Minnowstar is waiting for you inside” One of their escorts spoke to Yelloweyes suddenly, once they came close to a particular den on the back of the camp.

He found the name of their leader somewhat funny at first, but then he remembered that being named after a specific prey wasn’t really that unheard of. Provided that his memory wasn’t failing him, he could recall hearing about a Harestar and a Squirrelstar in the old tales.

The deputy nodded and padded towards the meeting place, but when the rest of the WindClan cats tried to follow her, the other warrior in their escort stood on their way.

“I’m afraid it’s a private affair” He meowed, trying to sound sympathetic “You can wait for her… erhm… wherever, really. Just don’t get in the way”

The two patrols stood in a line there, in the middle of the lively camp, looking at each other for a short but uncomfortable amount of time. One of the apprentices cleared her throat barely loud enough to be heard and shifted awkwardly on her paws. The RiverClan warriors’ gaze traveled back and forth across the three of them waiting for a reply.

Ravensight was getting increasingly uncomfortable too, staring down in silence to his counterparts. He wondered, not without mild annoyance, why Shorthawk was taking so long in responding. It was only when he felt Shorthawk nudging his flank and turned to see him and Aspentail giving him a look that he understood they were expecting him to give a reply.

“Ah, yes!” He hurried to say and quickly started scanning his surrounding “We’ll be waiting… over there?” He offered, pointing with his tail at a spot next to what seemed to be the warrior’s den. Away from the main path, private enough for them to talk, visible enough for RiverClan to keep an eye on them if they wished to and away from sensitive places like the nursery or the fresh-kill pile.

At least he hoped their host would see it like that. He was put under pressure too suddenly to think of a better alternative.

Thankfully, the cat in front of him blinked and nodded approvingly.

“I’d invite you for a piece of fresh-kill but… you know… it’s all fish. Nothing with fur left today”

“You’re kind” Aspentail meowed “But there’s no need. The moor feeds us plenty enough”

“Of course” With that, and rather abruptly, their escort took their leave. Ravensight supposed they had other things to do too. Border marks don’t refresh themselves just because there are visits in the camp.

Left to their own devices, relatively speaking, the WindClan group padded silently to their waiting spot. They huddled closely together to conserve warmth and watched as RiverClan went about their routine, unsurprisingly similar to WindClan’s, all things considered. Fish instead of rabbit, reed instead of bracken. Warriors coming and going, apprentices changing bedding and feeding queens and elders.

They were sat near the river, hearing the sound of the currents, which Ravensight found kind of soothing. He could just imagine how pleasant must be to take a nap under the sun while listening to the water. It’d have to be on a rock or something, though. The ground itself was too muddy for napping.

The winds here, he noticed, weren’t as strong as in the moor. He supposed it was thanks to the trees and rocks blocking its path. However, with how wet everything was, he certainly felt it more than in their own territory. It wasn’t unbearable but it was an unpleasant kind of cold, nothing like the breezes that swept across WindClan territory during leaf-bare, and he was looking forward to get out of it.

“So, what do you think this is all about anyways?” Shorthawk finally spoke.

“I’d guess we’re here to get ourselves some allies” Aspentail answered, her sweet voice betraying no particular feeling about the topic “Provided that everything goes smoothly with Minnowstar, of course”

“So it’s true then… a battle is coming”

“If what was thrown around at the last Gathering is anything to go by, then it’ll be a war, most likely. Not just one battle”

“Well… I’ll get to use some of my battle training after all…” He gave a sad smile while shaking his head “What happened…? There were tensions and all, but it’s always been like that close to Leaf-bare, I’ve been told. Everything was just fine a moon ago…”

“We can’t truly know. The leaders said everything was going fine, but saying something doesn’t make it real” She shivered, fluffing up her fur a bit and shifting closer to her clanmates “I told that Riverclanner that the moor was feeding us. I don’t know you, but I haven’t felt my belly full in days!”

The younger tom didn’t answer her, instead turning his attention to Ravensight.

“Raven? You’ve had it worse than us, right? I felt you when we were playing. You feel so thin…”

Truthfully, Ravensight hadn’t paid too much attention to himself until it was pointed out. He took a look at his body and… yes, he supposed, he had lost some weight recently.

“I’ve always been thin. We are WindClan, remember?” It was sort of a lie. Both Shorthawk and he were half kittypet, and neither had the stereotypical WindClan appearance. Thinner than other clans? Sure. But wiry and delicate looking? No.

It wasn’t really a surprise when Shorthawk took no time in retorting it.

“No, not like this. I’ve slept next to you enough times to know. This isn’t normal”

“Is she depriving you of fresh-kill too?” Aspentail interjected, a hint of curiosity on her voice.

“No, it’s just… too much to do. There’s not enough time…” He paused “Nor prey…” He felt tired all of a sudden, though he couldn’t explain why. Maybe he’d been for a while, just hadn’t noticed. He didn’t want to dwell on it too much, but…

Foxdung! It’s not Leafbare yet! We can still find prey!”

“It’s for the elders and the queens, Shorthawk” He said matter-of-factly.

“But you are taking care of them!” He pointed out “If you collapse due to starvation, who’s going to do it?”

“Probably another warrior. We have many”

“Nobody but you would put up with this kind of abuse!”

“I’m fine…”

“You are not” His gaze softened “I could help you, if you’d let me”

“I don’t need help. Besides, Smallflower is doing it too”

“Sometimes, maybe. But I know Yelloweyes is constantly putting her in patrols, so it’s almost always just you doing everything”

“That’s… because I was at fault, she just got dragged into it”

“Nobody was at fault! This is all so unfair…”

“It’s not unfair. It’s just duty” Ravensight almost hissed his words.

“If anything, me and Fallowpelt should be helping you out. You got into trouble for us, it’d be our duty to help”

“No, just…” He sighed, forcing himself to calm down “Let’s not argue about his anymore. It’s pointless. We’re wasting time on something we can’t change”

“Just… recognize that it’s unfair treatment” He pleaded “Give me that, at least”

“Sure, maybe it is” The black tom conceded “But that doesn’t matter. She’s the leader, I’m a warrior. What she says is law”

Shorthawk stared at him, triumph and concern in equal amounts flashing in his eyes. He shifted closer to him, letting their shoulders and flanks press against each other. Ravensight felt his grey tail draping over his body, and he could feel the other tom’s tongue beginning to trail across the back of his neck and the top of his head, offering quiet reassurance. He lowered his head, leaning into the touch, letting it rest on his paws.

“You know, sometime ago, a handsome warrior told me something” Shorthawk whispered.

“Oh, yeah…?” Ravensight purred “What did he tell you?”

“That he and I would be spending a lot of time together… and that whatever bothered me, concerned him too”

“Did he, now?”

“Yes… I’d just like to let that warrior know that it goes both ways, ok? I also get concerned when something bothers him”

“I’m sure that warrior appreciates the sentiment, but he doesn’t need a kitsitter. He’ll be fine”

“...I’m not sure if you’re aware, but you’re technically an apprentice now. Therefore, I can tell you what to do if you won’t do it for yourself”

“You wouldn’t…”

“Oh, wouldn’t I? Ravenpaw, I command you to eat something and to let Webfur give you a checkup as soon as we return, you hear me?”

He thought of answering something, but decided against it. The attentions were too nice to spoil them. He welcomed the silence that followed, only the distant noises of Riverclanners and Shorthawk’s breathing reaching his ears. He didn’t know how long he stayed like that. Probably a couple of minutes, at most. It wasn’t enough, however long it was.

He straighten up, his eyes not quite focusing in neither cat there with him

Ah, right. Aspentail was there by his side too. Almost as close as Shorthawk, though not touching him. She looked mildly concerned about him too, which made him feel sort of guilty. Were his campmates, on top of everything that was going on, worrying about him too?

“Fine, I’ll admit that I… might be a little overwhelmed by all this”

“To say the least” The other tom replied “And you have to eat more! With Leaf-bare coming soon, skipping meals isn’t virtuous or helpful to the clan. It’s mouse-brained!”

“I’m inclined to agree” The she-cat offered “I’m kind of regretting not accepting that fish now”

The mention of prey made his mouth water and his stomach writhe in pain. How could he be this hungry? How had he not noticed? Was he too concentrated in his tasks that he totally neglected his own needs?

Well, yes. Apparently.

“Do you think they’ll still give us one if we ask?” Shorthawk inquired.

“I wouldn’t count on it” Aspentail said, shaking her head “If you ask me, they probably never intended to. They were just being polite, expecting us to say no”

“Then do you think I could sneak one out?”

“Let me see…” She craned her neck to look past the two toms “No, I don’t think so. Not with that pelt color. You’ll be spotted immediately”

“Foxdung…”

“Hey!” Ravensight interrupted “We’re in a diplomatic mission! You can’t talk about stealing prey so openly!” His two clanmates held his gaze for a moment before grumbling in agreement.

He was going to continue, to lie to them, to tell them that he wasn’t really that hungry. He’d assure them that he’d eaten something today, and yesterday, and the day before that. He hadn’t, of course. Or maybe he had? Like a scrap of something? Or perhaps he had gnawed on a bone someone left? That hardly mattered to him at the moment.

He didn’t get the chance, for a new voice joined the conversation, one he didn’t recognize at all.

“Hey, Windclanner!” A rather young looking dark grey tom with gingers spots, quite likely a recently named warrior, approached them bearing a friendly expression “Remember me? We saw each other this morning!”

“This morning??” He blinked as realization dawned on him, then nodded politely at the new face “The cat on the rocks! Yeah, I remember you” He looked darker and less glossy than he remembered, but that might have been an effect of the sunlight shining down on him.

His pelt was still really easy on the eyes, though. Maybe his new siblings would look something like it? But black, instead of dark gray… was there even a difference? Then again, if the father was who he suspected, some white fur was to be expected too.

“That’s me alright! Name’s Nightwave. What are yours?” He tipped his head to the side in curiosity and sat down in front of them, his tail curling neatly around his paws.

Ravensight smiled at him and was about to respond, but Aspentail suddenly took a step towards the newcomer. Her eyes glinted with conviction and malice, before widening and turning into a distressed look.

“A-are you a friend of his?” Her voice trembled as she spoke. She took another step forward, pushing her face almost right up against the tom’s face, causing him to stand up and take a step back in response “Can you help us?”

“I… no? I just saw him, like, once?” He blinked in confusion as his gaze shifted back and forth between Aspentail and Ravensight “And help you? With what?”

“Look…” She took yet another step forwards and, before Nightwave could react, she hooked his head from the back with a paw and essentially shoved him nose first into Ravensight’s side.

Embarrassment and heat flared in the older tom’s cheeks almost immediately upon feeling the touch, and it took a massive amount of self-control not to squeak too. He tried to move away but Shorthawk had sat on his haunches and pressed himself against his other side, locking him in place. He shot him a look of distress and betrayal, but the warm eyes that looked back at his calmed him somewhat.

The RiverClan tom trailed up his body, across his belly and chest, taking a couple of sniffs along the way before pulling away.

“Oh, wow, t-that… that’s scrawny, even for a rabbit-chaser. Your ribs feel like… like they’re outside of your body!” He looked around for a moment, before reassuming speaking in a hushed voice, his eyes betraying his concern. It wasn’t that bad in Ravensight’s opinion, but maybe for someone not used to the WindClan look it might seem like it “What happened!? Is Leaf-fall that bad in the moor this cycle?”

“No, the moor offers us prey, but… you see... I’m Aspentail and this is Ravensight. He’s my mate” He could feel Shorthawk stiffening and bristling next to him, but the grey and white tom didn’t say anything “And also… half kittypet. Our leader doesn’t like that. She doesn’t approve of our union”

“WindClan’s leader not liking kittypets?” Nightwave questioned, confusion seeping through his expression “But I thought…”

“Yes, I know. He and his father thought so as well” Her voice turned into a more sorrowful tone, even her lower lip quivered slightly “You’ve met his father, no doubt. A big light grey tom, floating down this river some moons ago”

Outrage exploded in Ravensight’s mind. He’d be the first to admit, albeit with extreme guilt, that he was glad Shorthawk’s father had been dealt with before he became an issue, but tarnishing the memory of a cat like that was despicable. He was about to voice his protest, but a soft whisper of ‘shh, don’t’ stopped him in his track. He didn’t need to turn around to know who had spoken, and who more than likely was looking at him with pleading eyes.

“That’s who that was!?” The RiverClan tom’s eyes widened and his tail shot up in alarm “I was a new apprentice back then, but I heard the reports about that. We thought…” He focused on Ravensight again “Was that really your father?” The older tom let his shoulders drop and hung his head in shame, though Nightwave interpreted that as sorrow “I’m so, so sorry”

It was such an awful coincidence, Ravensight mused, that he looked nothing like either his actual father or this fake one. His brother was the only blatant link to that side of their family.

“And now, look! Our leader is starving him!” Aspentail continued “Could you spare a piece of prey? When we came, your clanmates offered, but I rejected the offer out of pride. Now I realized that… I don’t know if he has the strength to make the walk back home…”

“Spare some prey?” He repeated “I… I-I don’t know. But…! He caught a water vole this morning! I saw it with my own eyes! Surely he got to eat that, no? Even if in secret?”

“No…” Aspentail shook her head “Surely you noticed that milky scent on him, right?”

“Yeah, he kind of smells… like a nursery”

“Anything he catches, he gives to the queens” She explained while placing her tail over her belly “He’s terrified the clan will refuse to provide for me when…”

“Oh, no…” He breathed out “You are expecting kits, too?”

“A grossly irresponsible decision in retrospect, I realize, but…” She shifted on her paws and leaned her head forwards “Please, our situation is bad as is, and it’s bound to get worse with everything that’s going on right now. I can’t lose him!” She pleaded “I don’t know what I’d do alone! Please!

“I-I…ye-yeah! Yes, I’ll help! Of course!” He looked back again “Anything is good? We only have fish at this time, but I can try…”

“We’d appreciate even frog if that’s what you can offer us”

Ravensight grimaced internally.

“No, don’t worry” He nodded with determination “I’ll get something better. Give me a moment…” With that, he swiftly scampered away. However, he didn’t stop at the fresh-kill pile, he left the camp entirely instead.

Ravensight slowly, almost hesitantly, turned his head in Aspentail’s direction. His green eyes desperately seeking to make contract with hers, but she was looking straight ahead. Nonchalantly, she licked a paw and started washing her face.

He felt Shorthawk’s tongue behind his ear again, then his neck and on his shoulder after that. Grooming and smoothing out patches of fur that still stood on end, surely, but this provided him with little comfort this time.

“Why?” He finally asked, sitting straight up. Shorthawk sighed and laid down next to him.

“Why what?” Was her answer.

“Why did you deceive him like that? He was just being friendly to us! He looked like a nice cat, too!”

“Yes, he was. I could tell from his face when he arrived” She shrugged “But you’re WindClan and you’re hungry. WindClan cats take priority over all others. What am I supposed to do when a little bunny just comes waltzing into our midst? Let it go?”

“But we’re allies! That’s why we’re here! Shouldn’t that make you care, like, a bit about them?”

“Nah, not really. And we’re allies only by circumstance, honestly. Who knows what next season will bring? We might find ourselves on ThunderClan’s side, or even ShadowClan’s”

“Raven, I know you don’t want to think about this” Shorthawk chimed in “But the Long Peace is over. Even if there isn’t a fight this time, things aren’t going back to what they were. Each clan needs to start worrying only on themselves again”

“But it’s only been a couple of days!”

“As I said before, cats have been tense and restless for a while” Shorthawk countered “I noticed immediately when I joined the warrior’s den. And I saw something similar in the other clans when I went to my first Gathering”

“But I never noticed anything unusual when I went to the Gatherings”

“Were you paying attention to the cats around you or were you just trying to pretend you weren’t there?”

“…you know, that’s a fair point”

“Before I forget…” Aspentail chimed in, clearing her throat loudly “I do want to apologize for bringing up you father. I might have gone too far with that”

“Meh, it’s alright. It was high time that bag of fleas served for something worthwhile for once in his existence… or after it”

A spark of mischievousness ignited in Ravensight’s mind, spurred on by his eagerness to change the topic from the upcoming conflict. Without missing a beat, his tail tip rose to caress Shorthawk’s chin, while leaning down and laying his head on top of the younger tom’s.

“I’ll have to disagree” He purred into his ears “He’s created some wonderful things before”

“Oh, don’t you start!” Shorthawk purred back, shifting his whole body even closer “I’ve missed you so much! And I’ve been starved for compliments lately too. I don’t know what I’ll do to you if you keep this up”

“Well…” He gulped with uncertainty. He didn’t know what he was doing, or what he aimed to accomplish. He wasn’t used to this kind of displays, but he’d already started so he couldn’t exactly go back... “W-what if I told you…” His tongue slowly trailed up one of the grey ears in front of him, before dragging part of it inside his mouth. He let his teeth brush against the soft flesh, feeling an incredible exhilaration when he felt Shorthawk’s breath get caught on his throat, before nibbling on it in the gentlest way he could manage, successfully getting a small gasp out of him ”That I wouldn’t really mind f-finding out?”

“Ok, that’s quite enough!” Aspentail meowed suddenly before plopping down between them, barely containing her laughter. Apparently, she had circled them and approached them from behind, while both of them were too enraptured to notice.

Coming back to the real world, and realizing that they were still in RiverClan’s camp, Ravensight shifted slightly away from her in embarrassment. Shorthawk stood his ground and glared into the she-cat’s eyes.

“What’s your problem, you fox-heart!? We were having a moment here!”

“It’s not the time for that”

“It’s never the time!” He let out a frustrated growl in response.

“Oh, shut up! You sound like an apprentice”

“Well, I was one just a moon ago, so…”

“And I have essentially been demoted to one, so…” Ravensight chimed in trying to lighten up the mood again, which seemed to work.

“Yeah, so we have excuses!” The other tom purred.

“By the Ancestors…” She groaned, laying her head between her paws “Why was I asked to come with you again?

“Mother wanted a patrol to come with her, more out of tradition than out of caution, but also didn’t want to take warriors away from our territory in case ThunderClan tried anything, so…”

“So you gathered a patrol of yourself and the clan’s biggest wimps? The ones that wouldn’t really be missed in a fight?”

“Precisely”

“Why, I’ve never been so flattered in my life!” She huffed while rolling her eyes.

They were interrupted once again, but by a more than welcome sight this time. A fish landed suddenly in front of them, splashing some water in their faces and making them recoil is surprise. It was of an odd color that Ravensight couldn’t quite put his paw on, like a greyish greenish tone with black speckles all over its body. Clear bite marks letting out droplets of blood from where the head connected with the spine.

Nightwave watched them, smiling half submerged from the shore.

“There you have, rabbit-chaser!” He whispered loudly “Real food, fresh from the source!”

“Thank you so much!” Aspentail whispered back “Please don’t tell your leader about this! We don’t want more trouble with ours!”

“My lips are sealed!” He answered as he started paddling away “Just name one of your kids after me!” He joked and laughed before disappearing from view.

“Such a grand and intoxicating innocence…” she muttered “Mouse-brained fool”

“Well, now…” Shorthawk clicked his tongue as soon as he was sure the RivenClan tom was gone “You’ll have to get some kits from somewhere and name one after him”

“Or, better yet, I’ll just tell him I suffered a miscarriage and then dumped Ravensight out of fear of it happening again” She countered.

“Wow, you really have no moral code, huh?”

“I have a moral suggestion list, with the caveat that it’s rendered null when dealing with non-WindClan cats. Hence my attempt of apologizing to you earlier”

“Touché”

“With that established, come closer and help me block this fish from the rest of the clan’s view. Ravensight?” She shifted her attention to him as Shorthawk did as instructed “No use in feeling shy or guilty now. This prey has been killed in your name and, as a staunch follower of the Warrior Code, you know what that means”

“The… the Warrior Code also forbids taking prey form other clans, though”

“One in favor, one against: ruled null, in my opinion, and open to interpretation” She retorted “Eat this thing, or Shorthawk will snap you in half next time he tries to show some physical affection”

“Death by nuzzling doesn’t really sounds like a very prestigious way to conclude your story” The grey and white warrior commented, his whiskers twitching with amusement.

“But it does sound like a memorable one” Ravensight pointed out “Kits are going to love it”

“Oh, they’ll absolutely laugh their tail off!” He purred “But some may find it a bit anticlimactic, you know? After so much buildup to his deputyship, suddenly the protagonist just dies out of nowhere?”

“It’ll be a nice lesson, I suppose. Of how a cat doesn’t always lives up to what other expect of him. Or maybe he doesn’t want to”

“Why don’t we make it a full-on comedy and have someone hold him down by his scruff and drag him to become a deputy before he dies? You have a lesson and a funny ending”

“But what if the protagonist likes being held down by the scruff?”

“Well…” He smiled “Then this is no longer a kits’ story”

“Ah~!”

“Okay, enough story building for now! Eat the fish already” Aspentail groaned, rubbing her face with a paw.

“You’re just mad that we won’t include you in our story” Shorthawk replied, sticking out his tongue.

“Not at all. I’ll just retell it with me and... some other cat as protagonists. I’ll say it’s the real one”

“No one will believe that”

“I just talked a warrior out of his own prey in his own camp. Would you like to bet?”

“You know what? On second thought, I think we can fit you somewhere”

“Wise choice. Do make sure to mention me by name” She purred, then turned to Ravensight “So are you expecting the fish to just flop into your mouth? Eat this stupid thing before some cat here notice we have it”

With a lot of hesitation, he bent down to look closely at his fresh-kill, taking a tentatively sniff. It smelled kind of like the scent of a RiverClan cat, actually, but less muddy and more watery. That unnerved him immensely for a moment.

He opened his mouth, trying to decide where to even start biting. He had a flash in his memory of his gifted frog from some time ago, but the fish looked considerably more appealing. Perhaps due to the more natural looking colors. He paused, remembering something.

“Don’t you want a bite first?” He asked the she-cat “You said you were hungry, after all… and you technically got us the fish too”

“Ah, such a dear clanmate all of a sudden!” She purred at him “But no. I may go to sleep at night feeling a little peckish but you, on the other paw, are starving. And besides, if I ever join the queens in the nursery, I’m sure you’ll have the chance to repay me”

“You having kits? Doubt it” Shorthawk mumbled, but Aspentail just flicked her tail and ignored him.

Ravensight nodded, feeling more comfortable accepting the fish now that he could consider it an exchange of favors. He opened up his mouth again and bit down on his meal. It tasted odd, but not in a bad way. It wasn’t nearly as flavorful as a freshly caught rabbit, but he hadn’t eaten one of those in a long time so he wasn’t sure anymore. It was tree-lengths above what was usually left for him, that was for sure. And the least he thought about the frog, the better.

He had devoured half his prey before he knew it and only slowed down once he heard his clanmates giggling at him. He had forgotten what fresh, warm meat tasted like, but by the Stars was he enjoying being reminded of it right now!

Webfur, his brother and even Shorthawk had offered to share some of their prey with him, but at the time he hadn’t considered it fair that they’d have to wait until late to eat. They had their own duties and should eat when the time better suited them. He wondered now, however, if that sentiment wasn’t born from something more akin to a misplaced sense of pride than actual consideration.

And now he had been coaxed into taking prey from another clan by cats who feared for his life, due to him being in a quite pitiful state and Leaf-bare fast approaching. A thing to be proud of, indeed…

“Are you two sure you don’t want a bite?” He asked “It’s surprisingly tasty”

“No” Shorthawk meowed simply.

“As I said, you’ll repay my kindness some other occasion” Aspentail answered.

He shrugged and finished his food.

“I hope you plan to make that ‘occasion’ soon” The younger tom narrowed his eyes at her “His punishment is for only one moon more, then he’s free”

“Ah, but this is a special case. We’re breaking the warrior code here. Surely more punishment is in order?” She purred jokingly.

“Aspentail, please!” He purred back “Both him and me are living, breathing violations of the code. Plus, my mother is the deputy. I don’t think that idea of your is going to fly”

“I see. Hadn’t realized I was facing down nepotism too” She mockingly bowed her head “My mistake”

“Aw, don’t be ashamed. The game was rigged from the start!”

“Speaking of which… Yelloweyes’s taking her time…” She yawned, then licked her chest once “Besides bullying lesser ranking clanmates, anything interesting going on with your lives?”

“Er... not really?” Shorthawk shrugged “Hunting, patrolling, insulting thundercats across the border… basic warrior stuff, I guess”

“Huh” She shifted her attention to Ravensight “How about you?”

“Basic apprentice stuff on my end!” He purred in response “I was just finishing my nursery duties when Shorthawk invited me to this”

“How’s Raincloud doing? And the kits?”

“She sleeps a lot and has a permanently sour humor. The kits are some lovely little things, though. Your dad is enamored with them!”

“Ah, then everything’s fine. I’m glad” She shoved Shorthawk’s shoulder playfully with a paw without looking at him “Put in a good word for me with your mom, will you? I’d like the chance to mentor one of my siblings. You owe me, after all”

“But they’re only your hal…” The grey and white warrior tried to argue.

“We. Are. Siblings

“Oh… I’ll see what I can do…” He meowed, looking away.

“Speaking of kittens, isn’t Hollowstreak in the nursery too?”

“Yes, she is” Ravensight answered with disinterest.

“Minkclaw’s, I’ve heard”

“I suspect so, yes”

“You seem not particularly thrilled”

“I’ll be when the kits arrive, I’m sure. I’m just not in the right mindset to process the situation right now”

“You know, Minkclaw was asking about you recently”

“He probably wants to formally adopt me” He scoffed “He’s wasting his time. It’s not like mother is going to keep him around much longer”

“Still, he seems to genuinely care for the kits… for you and Lightstep too. And he’s been a friend to your mother since they were apprentices. Even if he doesn’t stick around, you could like…. I don’t know, say hello to him?”

“Why…” He slowly turned to face her, eyes narrowing with cold suspicion “…are you telling me this? Did he asked you to talk to me?”

“Smallflower did”

He blinked in confusion.

“Why would Smallflower be interested in my relationship with Minkclaw?”

“Maybe because he is her brother? And she cares about him?” She offered flatly “They’re very close and look after each other. Even though they are littermates, she practically raised him when their mother died”

“I… sometimes forget they even had a mother…” He admitted.

“Many do, surprisingly. Most are focused on sneering at Smallflower, calling her a rabid dog for wanting to fight the thundercats so badly” She scoffed with indignation “Well, now she gets to laugh at all of them. Those peace-loving softies!”

“She was kind of too intense with her ’I want to kill all Thunderclanner’ policies, though”

“Sure, maybe. But was she wrong?”

“Time will tell, I suppose” He shrugged.

“Right, so… try to talk to him a bit? He’s been feeling rather blue as of late and… I don’t know, maybe talking to you can help?”

“Not sure about that…”

“I’m not asking you to go hug him and call him ‘father’, just… say hello from time to time? Tell him how your mother is doing? Tell him that you’ll give the prey he brought to Hollowstreak?” She paused “Besides, he is one of our best fighters. He shares that with his sister. We could need him in the coming moons, and it’d be best if he had a tranquil mind by them”

“Why do I suspect that’s the main reason for us bonding?”

“Who cares? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. It doesn’t make it untrue”

“I…” he sighed “Alright, I’ll try to be nicer to him”

“Thank you” She purred touching his shoulder with her nose “Don’t do it for him or Smallflower or even me if you don’t want to. Do it for your mother. For your siblings. For you mate, even”

“F-for me, what?” Shorthawk sputtered. He’d sat up on his haunches again and was washing his back paws, clearly not paying attention. Aspentail quickly nudged him hard with her shoulder “Ouch! Y-yes, do that! The thing, yes! For me, er… because I love you! Of course…!”

“Mouse-brain!” He purred “We aren’t mates!”

“We.. are not?” The grey and white tom tilted his head in confusion, a small hint of hurt in his voice.

“Well, no. You haven’t asked”

“Oh… no, I guess I haven’t. Neither have you, for the matter”

“That’s true” He flicked his ears “Want to be mates?”

“Yes, of course”

“With me?”

“That’d be ideal”

“It’s settled then. We’re mates now”

“T-that… that’s been the least affectionate exchange of words you two have had since I know you… and it’s the one in where you become mates?” Aspentail commented, shaking her head.

“Meh, it’s more of a formality at this point. I’m just indulging his traditional side” Shorthawk countered “Though I would absolutely love to be more affectionate with him, if it wasn’t for the fact that there’s an undersized log being a real fox-heart and blocking the way!”

“Well sorry, but you’ll have to keep your paws to yourself for the time being. As you made it abundantly clear a moment ago, he’s now an apprentice and you’re a warrior”

“You becoming a mentor is looking more and more far-fetched every time you open your mouth”

“Ah, I see. The tides have turned… slightly” She smirked “Alright I’ll move, provided that you keep your promise of getting me an apprentice”

“I promised to try, I can’t guarantee it”

“Then you will also have to try and wait for another moon!” She hissed mockingly, leaning against Ravensight’s side “You know, this fur’s rather warm for how short it is. I’m not so sure I want to move anymore…”

“Ok, fine! I’ll get you your dumb apprentice! Can I please groom my mate, at least?”

“All yours!” Aspentail purred, getting on her paws and going back to her original spot “Keep it appropriate, though”

“I’m sad to say it, but I’m kind of already groomed?” Ravensight meowed to the younger tom, but he smiled and shook his head.

“Then I’ll just have to un-groom you and groom you back again!”

The black tom chuckled at all the silliness going on. He couldn’t tell how much of his clanmates’ banter had been for real, but as he felt Shorthawk’s muzzle brush against his cheek, he realized he didn’t really cared.

Chapter Text

Chapter 15:

WindClan

The negotiations with RiverClan were successful, for better or worse.

If nothing else, the union offered them numbers and that was a very important factor when dealing with the largest clans of the lake. Of which, Thunderclan was supposedly the largest. Their policy of taking in outsiders had most certainly bore fruits that no clan anticipated, but that they absolutely should have. After generations, the supposedly weak kittypet blood had been diluted to the point of irrelevancy, leaving the nosey clan with many extra paws over the other clans every season cycle.

Ravensight didn’t buy the whole ´weak´ blood thing at all. Kittypets had helped found the clans, a kittypet had saved them from collapse and other kittypets almost brought about their destruction. They had been a part of clan life since the beginning, whether anyone liked it or not. Most clan cats had kittypets roots in some way or another. He himself was half kittypet and everyone and their mother wanted him as the next leader, so the whole discrimination thing was baffling.

Regardless, Thunderclan was a large clan, and large clans have proportionally large needs. Food, herbs, space, recognition… he wondered which of those had pushed them into aggressiveness. Or if was a reason at all.

The other consequence of the union, one that he felt should have been considered more than it was, was their new enemy. By allying themselves with RiverClan, they now were once again at the brink of war with ShadowClan too.

ShadowClan’s history with WindClan was long, bittersweet and full of violence. Their interaction dated back to the very founding of their society, and once they could be considered sister clans, but too many wars and tragedies had damaged their relationship irreparably. They had collaborated in recent times, sure; but necessity sometimes demands a blind eye.

The thought of fighting against ShadowClan unnerved Ravensight. As great of a threat as ThunderClan was, at the very least those cats would just claw you in the face. ShadowClan, if the stories about them held even a modicum of truth, would sneak into their camp and fall upon them before while they were still sleeping.

Ravensight had made a point of start practicing battle moves again, but none of that would make a difference if his throat was slit before he could fight back.

Their Northern border wasn’t safe anymore. Some minor scuffles had already taken place, but no one had been injured besides a couple of scratch marks and Smallflower now sporting a brand new nick in her ear. She was over the moon about it, unsurprisingly. Ravensight suspected that she herself had instigated the incident, but to her credit, the white and ginger she-cat was taking the current situation much more seriously than Ravensight would have expected of her.

There hadn’t been any proper battles yet, but Webfur had told him they were probably waiting for the Gathering to make some sort of formal announcement. It’d be the first war in a long time and the leaders probably wanted to make a spectacle out of it.

It sounded so incredibly petty that Ravensight was inclined to believe that was exactly what the leaders were planning.

And the one thing this next gathering would also reveal is SkyClan’s stance.

Their territory was located between ShadowClan and Thunderclan, and they were arguably the second largest clan at the moment. Their involvement in support of the RiverClan-WindClan coalition would mean that their enemies would be forced to fight a two fronts war. Their involvement in opposition to their coalition, or even a declaration of neutrality, would mean the backs of their enemies would be safe.

More problematic than that were SkyClan’s Daylight Warriors. An old practice of theirs, recently revived, refined and streamlined. The terrifying truth was that there wasn’t a sure way of knowing just how many warriors SkyClan had at their disposal. And there was also no way of knowing which kittypets and rogues that lived around the Clans’ territories were actually just kittypets and rogues.

That was even more concerning than Shadowclan’s underhanded tactics.

Ravensight tried really hard not to think too much about those things, considering he had no influence over any of it. So he found solace in his routine of elders, queens and herbs. He worked diligently, trained when he could and counted the days until Shellkit and Ashkit became Shellpaw and Ashpaw.

Maybe this was a blessing of sorts? He had been feeling purposeless for quite some time, and while his punishment had provided him with one, now that was over. He wasn’t exactly looking forward to the moment when this war finally broke out, but he would be there for his clan to give it what he could.

With his second apprenticeship concluded, he marched into the medicine den and collapsed in one of the nests there. He slept for almost two whole days, with Shorthawk and Webfur occasionally checking if he was alright. Both of them brought prey for him and, uncharacteristically, he accepted all that was offered, sharing it with the two cats he was closest in the clan, of course.

He felt better after some much needed rest, though it was hard to resist the urge to get on his tasks again. He kind of missed the nursery already, especially the kits. And his last visit to the elders had concluded with a story left halfway.

It didn’t matter for now, he supposed. He was allowed to be lazy a couple of days after two moons of non-stop work, right?

He laid comfortably under the sun, with his legs tucked neatly underneath him and his eyes closed, surrounded by his clanmates. He rested his head against Shorthawk’s shoulder, who was sitting to his left. Lightstep was in camp, surprisingly, and had chosen to fall asleep next to them. Rustsong and Copperleaf were sharing tongues nearby; he could feel one of them resting their head on his back, in fact. His nose told him that Fallowpelt and Yelloweyes were part of the pile too.

He did felt kind of guilty, enjoying the cold air and the warm sun in the middle of the clearing while the apprentices were working around them. At the same time, he wasn’t their mentor, so he couldn’t exactly do anything about that. And it wasn’t that they’d be lazing around all day, they had taken part in patrols during the morning and were resting to go out later again.

“… which was pretty strange, you know? I didn’t think they’d go that far. Then mother started snarling at them and they shrunk in their own pelts like kits! Almost made me feel bad for them… almost!” Shorthawk was chatting with another cat, he wasn’t sure with who, about recent happenings and clan activities. Ravensight made an effort to listen to some of the stuff he was saying, but mostly just felt content with hearing his voice at all. It was honestly nothing interesting, just what was to be expected when the news of the alliance reached the other Clans.

His throat softly rumbled with purrs as he nuzzled further into Shorthawk. Despite all the tension going on, it was nice to know that the clan could come together and just enjoy an unusually warm Leaf-bare day with each other. A sense of community and belonging that he’d never felt in his youth settled in his heart, feeding even more the determination to see these hard time through. He wondered if his clanmates were feeling the same. Or perhaps it had always been like that for them and it was Ravensight who was feeling a part of the Clan again?

Was that the wisdom he was supposed to see on his punishment? The fact that he was obligated to spend so much time with his Clan? And thus formed deeper connections with them?

Ravensight was convinced there must have had to be a nicer way to show him that.

He yawned, his eyes fluttering open, and immediately a part of his tranquility ebbed away. 

Through the entrance of the medicine den, Ravensight saw a golden pelt appearing and disappearing, letting him know that Webfur was pacing back and forth in there. The black tom could even smell his distress from the middle of the clearing.

He gently nudged the cat resting on his back and got on his paws as soon as he felt they’ve lifted their head. Shorthawk looked at him with confusion and Ravensight offered a small smile in return.

“I'll be right back. I want to check on something”

“Want me to…?”

“No, no” He shook his head “I think I’ll be fine alone” Giving him a slow blink for good measure, and getting one in return, he padded towards the medicine den.

Entering this space so familiar, the troubled expression of his friend was evident to him immediately. Webfur flicked an ear in acknowledgement, letting the warrior know that his presence had been noticed, but made no attempt to communicate anything else. His eyes constantly pointing straight ahead but not quite looking at anything as he paced around restlessly in his den.

Ravensight sat down out of his friend’s path, following his eyes with his own gaze, waiting for him to speak when ready. Or if he didn’t wished to speak, then to tell him to leave.

His attention was briefly drawn to a moss bed nearby, his mind becoming worried. It had been changed and cleaned recently, but a few scrap of old moss still remained. Maybe a few hairs of its former occupant too. Something or other from which this smell reached his nose. He couldn’t tell from where he sat so he wasn’t sure what exactly it was, but there were two things he was convinced of:

He had the best sense of smell of all Windclan. And that spot, discernable to him even through all the sensorial distractions in the medicine den, had the faint scent of the WindClan deputy.

Webfur stopped in his tracks, letting out a long sigh filled with tiredness and frustration. He whipped around suddenly, making his way to the spot next to his friend and unceremoniously plopping down.

“Wanna know something?” He meowed, letting his head rest against the floor, and continued without waiting for an answer “Sometimes, I hate our warrior ancestors so much”

“Did they send you a vision?”

“Yeah” He answered, his tail lashing against the ground “A very simple yet frustratingly obtuse one. Just how they like it!”

“I see” He run his tail up and down his friend’s back in what he hoped was a reassuring manner “I’d ask what it was about, but I know you aren’t allowed to…”

“I guess there is no harm in telling you this time” The medicine cat shrugged “I’ll have to report to you soon enough anyways…”

“What do you…?”

“I dreamt of a full moon” He began, interrupting him “At first it was white and, like, shiny, right? Like a normal moon. Then it’s started to look a bit dimmer. Still shiny, but not as much. You follow me so far?”

“You saw the moon” The black tom stated flatly “My mind is enlightened enough to comprehend that concept, Webfur”

“Right. So then I blinked and the moon had something like small patches on it. At first they were just there, not doing anything, but then they started to expand. Kinda like when a drop of water hits the ground, right? It forms a circle at first, and then it expands as more soil gets wet too”

“Ok, that’s…” He shifted on his paws, suddenly feeling uneasy “… starting to sound concerning”

“At first they didn’t have any color. Or at least, I couldn’t understand its color. It’s hard to explain with words. Maybe they were brown-ish? Regardless, after a couple of heartbeats they started looking more maroon and like if they were liquid. Like little ponds on the surface on the moon”

“Maroon ponds on a dim lit moon…” He whispered to himself, a shiver running down his spine.

“Not for long, though. I blinked again and they were red. Like blood red” He paused for a moment before continuing “The moon was covered completely by that point. I could barely see it through the liquid, which by now had started dripping off it, falling to the ground below, showering the landscape on the sickening stench of freshly drawn cat blood. Its light was a pitiful parody of what it normally is, and it grew dimmer and dimmer the more blood fell from it until it just… went away. Then I woke up”

“So… you dreamt that the moon had patches” The warriors repeated, trying to wrap his head around what was told to him “Then those became wounds, essentially, and it bled to death?”

“That’s the less poetic way of describing it, yes”

“Huh…” He blinked and tilted his head to a side “Have you informed Silentstar?”

“I have, yes. She wants me to make sure I have an accurate interpretation and advise her what to do”

“And you don’t know what it means?”

“I do, actually. Kinda…” The medicine cat shrugged again “Honestly, it can mean a bunch of things. The short version is that something related to blood is going to happen during the full moon. Pretty self-explanatory”

“Buuuut…?”

“Perhaps you’d not believe it, but ‘blood’ is such a broad concept when it comes to signs. It can mean conflict, but we know for a fact that a war is going to be declared this Gathering, so I don’t believe they’d warn me about that. It could symbolize a murder, but again, it’s the night of the Gathering! No one, no matter how utterly mouse-brained they are, would dare kill somebody at a Gathering. It’d be political and religious suicide for their clan”

“Maybe a natural death, then? Maybe Starclan is telling you to be ready?”

“Nah” Webfur shook his head “Starclan wouldn’t send a sign for something like that. But ‘blood’ can also mean kin and… well, and also be literally blood. So maybe it’s a birth what I’m looking for here? Like, a she-cat is going to go into labor during the Gathering?”

“It sounds… plausible, I suppose” He conceded, then he remembered something “Or maybe it’s something more allegorical? Sort of like the ’Fire alone…’ prophesy?”

“I thought about that. Maybe I should pay attention for a blood-red cat, not look for actual blood. Or maybe a cat that’s known to be violent? But I’d expect a spoken sign if that was the intention, not showing a bleeding moon” He groaned, rolling his eyes “Urgh! See what I mean? Silentstar expects me to tell her what to do and the only thing I’m certain of is that something is going to happen. I might as well tell her to make a formal announcement saying that if you touch water, your fur gets wet!”

Ravensight leaned forwards, touching his friend’s shoulder with his muzzle before gently licking it.

“Calm down, you can do this”

Webfur eyed him with something that seemed almost like disbelief.

“I sure am glad somebody has faith in me… cause I don’t” He meowed “Anyways, what would you like me to tell her?”

The black tom pulled away, his ears flattening against his head.

“Me? H-how would I know? I’m not a medicine cat!”

“You know as much about it as I do now, and I just need something. A different viewpoint, some sort of input. Some conclusion of any kind, something to contrast”

“Wouldn’t it better if you asked other medicine cats? Wasn’t your meeting last night?”

“Oh yeah, I’d much rather done that! Problem is… Silentstar forbade it. She wants to keep it under wraps”

“But you are a medicine cat! She can’t do that”

“No, but she has anyways. And I wasn’t supposed to tell any clanmates, either. But if she’s not playing by the rules, well then neither am I” He scoffed “So, what do you think I should do?”

“I… don’t know. We can’t just not show up to a Gathering. And there are too many red or red-ish cats to keep track of”

“Uh huh” He nodded “All medicine cats will be present too, so I think we can handle whatever eventuality, be that a wound or kitting”

“You’ll have to sneak in some herbs, though”

“That’s not an issue. I’ll hide some earlier that day, after sunhigh”

“Then I guess there’s nothing to warn her about” The black tom reasoned “We’ll continue as normal”

“Nothing?” Webfur replied, giving his chest a quick lick “I guess, but that makes me uncomfortable. I wouldn’t have received this vision just for funsies, there must be something that StarClan wants of me”

“They didn’t come to you last night?”

“They did, but they didn’t mentioned my dream. I didn’t get the opportunity to ask either”

“What did they tell you, then?”

“Ravensight…” He sighed.

“Ah, right. Of course…”

“Sorry”

“I don’t know how I keep forgetting” He smiled “Well, maybe it was just a dream, not actually an omen? Otherwise they’d have mentioned it, I believe”

Webfur looked at him in silence for a moment, his eyes troubled and tired.

“I…” He leaned forwards, bumping the black tom’s chest with forehead “Look, I love having you around, my friend. But… I think I need to be alone right now. I agree I should tell Silentstar to disregard my dream for now, but I want to meditate about it a bit more. Just in case”

“If that’s what you want…” He got on his paws and nuzzled his friend’s cheek with his own, before turning around and padding out of the den.

“Tell everyone that unless they have organs, bones or kits poking out of their bodies, I’m not available!”

------------------------------

Ravensight chuckled quietly as he walked back into the clearing, shaking his head at the antics of his dear friend. Even stressed out as he was, he still just couldn’t help but make jokes.

He was going to go lay with the other warriors again, but something else caught his attention. Raincloud was standing outside of the nursery, which was uncharacteristic of her to begin with, and was signaling with her tail for him to come closer. Brimming with curiosity, he approached her, dipping his head in greetings.

“Hello, Raincloud! What can I do for you?”

“Hello, dear!” She purred “I know you don’t have to do us favors anymore, but are you busy?”

“Right now?” He glanced back at Yelloweyes, who was still happily sharing tongues with their clanmates “No, not really”

“Could I trouble you with a trip to the Twolegs farm, then? I’d like some wool to line up our nest”

“Sure, I can do that!” He replied, flicking an ear at the queen as she went back into the nursery.

The black tom decided to get this new task done before the afternoon patrols were set up, so he immediately whipped around and headed for the camp’s entrance.

A voice called out to him when he was barely a pawstep away from it.

“Hey, where are you going?”

He turned around, finding Smallflower fast approaching. He raised his tail in greeting before answering.

“The Twolegs farm”

“Sweet! Mind if I tag along? I need to go kill something” Ravensight did a double take at that, but Smallflower added quickly before he could say anything “Prey, you mouse-brain! I want to go hunting!”

“Oh, just hunting…!” He sighed with relief “You worded that very weirdly. Sure, I don’t mind”

------------------------------

They were now in the moor, the place where Ravensight felt at home the most, and there were no more restrictions on where he could or couldn’t go. There was a thin layer of snow, dyeing all the landscape in white. He raised his muzzle to the sky and took a deep breath, taking in the remnant of flower scent that still stubbornly clung to the frozen ground. He felt the cold wind bite into his stretched neck and he shivered in something that could be called pleasure.

He loved Windclan’s territory.

“Enjoying yourself?” Smallflower bumped his shoulder and started padding forwards.

“I’ve missed the cold so much” He whispered wistfully as he began following the white and ginger she-cat “It makes me feel a bit bad admitting it, though”

“Why would it? You like what you like” She purred “There are way worse vices going around in our clan”

“Yeah, but, like… Leaf-bare is such a bad time for a lot of things. Like kits, herbs and finding food. Saying that you look forwards to it is kind of fox-hearted. I mean, at least other cats might see it that way”

“Oh, cats say a lot of things. They don’t need you to give them motives, they just do” She retorted “But it’s not like you are just running around and rolling in the snow, doing nothing of worth, while they break their backs. You’re out here, helping out”

“So are you”

“I’m not ashamed of my vices, though”

“Yeah, I bet!” He spat playfully at her “You must be enjoying all the ‘I told you so’ that you get to say now, don’t you?”

She stopped dead on her tracks, so suddenly that he ran face first into her flank. It was like crashing into a tree, his body bouncing off her muscles.

“You’d think that…” She meowed, softer that he had ever heard her before “But… I don’t know…”

“Smallflower…” He blinked at her, offering a gentle smile “Are you telling me that being a mentor has mellowed you out?”

“Oh, no! Don’t get me wrong, I still want to rip those dumb thundercats’ guts out of their throats! But it’s not just me who’s going to fight, and I… I kind of worry about our campmates too, you know?” She licked a paw then rubbed her injured ear with it “If something happened to Minkclaw or Fallowpelt, or any of you guys, really, I… don’t know what I’d do…”

“So mentorship did changed you” He insisted “Old Smallflower wouldn’t think about her campmates so much”

“Weren’t you changed too?” She retorted, narrowing her eyes “Old Ravensight would’ve never joined our little cat pile under the sun, nor would he accept company or help out just because”

He flicked her ear with his tail and padded forward without answering. He heard a soft purr and the faint crunching of snow that told him the white and ginger she-cat was following.

As they approached the barn of the Twolegs farm, Ravensight felt the familiar scents of hay, cow and sheep drifting into his nostrils. They kept low to the ground and went around it, squeezing under the fence and hurrying to the entrance of the barn. At some distance, he could see a Twolegs getting out of a monster and hurriedly making their way back to their den. It had an unusually thick and fluffy pelt, but it was still shivering as it walked. The black tom felt a bit of sympathy towards it, but didn’t stop to think much about it.

“Alright, here we are. Meet you back at the fence?”

Smallflower flicked one of her ears and nodded at him, then swiftly slipped into the barn through the half open door.

Ravensight started padding towards the pen where he knew the sheep would be. He was aware that some warrior liked to collect wool sometimes as a novelty, and he’d been told how to do it, but he himself had never done it. He liked the cold and almost never slept on a nest, so why would he collect something warm to line up a nest?

He approached the fluffy creatures, slowly and carefully. He knew they wouldn’t purposely harm a cat, but they were big and had hooves, so they could hurt him without meaning it. They were all huddled up together, surrounded by a second fence made from those strange shiny thorn-vines. Twolegs really didn’t want them getting out, it’d seem.

Ravensight wondered if Twolegs made their fake pelts with the wool from the sheep they kept. He could see the logic of having them around and not just eating them if that was the case. The words of his father came back to him and he smiled.

His father was right! Twolegs weren’t that mad after all!

He padded up to one, who turned its head to stare at him with those odd eyes of theirs.

“Good day” He meowed politely and dipped his head at it “I’d like to collect some of your wool for our young. Would that be ok?”

The creature didn’t answer, it just looked ahead again and bleated.

“Alright, I’ll take that as ´yes´…”

He extended a paw at the sheep’s side, claws fully out, and very carefully dragged it over their fluffy pelt. He brought back his paw closer to his face and purred happily at the white strand he now held. But then he frowned and sighed when he noticed how little there actually was.

To get a decent amount, it’d… take a while.

------------------------------

After a frankly embarrassing amount of time, Ravensight was the proud owner of a decently sized wad of wool, carefully held between his chest and chin. He’d thought of getting enough for the elders too, but he wasn’t sure if he could carry it alone, so he made a mental note to come back at a later date. He padded back to the barn to meet with his fellow warrior, his tail tip happily swinging from side to side behind him.

Smallflower sat outside the fence with two dead rats next to her. He jumped the fence and wordlessly bumped her shoulder with his forehead, then beckoned her to follow him. They padded in silence back to camp, which was more than welcome in Ravensight’s opinion. As much as he respected the white and ginger she-cat, he didn’t really have a lot to talk about with her.

When they were close to the camp again, the black warrior spotted a large patrol leaving towards the direction of the Thunderclan’s border, a grim reminder that the peace and happiness he was experiencing these last days weren’t sentiments the whole of Windclan could wholeheartedly indulge in right now.

“I think my brother was in that patrol…” He heard Smalflower meow through the rat tails.

“If you are worried, why don’t you go and join the patrol? I’m sure you can catch up if you run” He offered.

“No, I…” She sighed “I think, if they meet a Thunderclan patrol, they’ll be safer without me with them. My presence would make everything worse”

Though it pained him to admit it, he nodded in agreement.

Entering the camp, Smallflower made a beeline to the fresh-kill pile and dropped her catches, then immediately headed inside the warriors’ den without saying a word.

Ravensight meanwhile padded to the nursery, where a very happy looking Raincloud was waiting for him.

“Yes, that’s perfect!” She purred at him, giving him a quick lick on the cheek and taking the wool from him “Thank you so very much, Ravensight!”

“My pleasure” He responded, but the queen was already back inside by that time.

He turned around and tried to head for the fresh-kill pile, but he spotted Yelloweyes assigning tasks and patrols. He realized that, technically, all that he’d done was off the records and he still hadn’t done anything official for the afternoon. He groaned, and for a second considered just ignoring his deputy and go eat something, but his sense of duty didn’t allowed him to do that

So, growling at himself, he padded up to her.

“Greeting, Yelloweyes” He meowed when he was close “Anything for me?”

She turned her head in his direction and blinked warmly at him.

“As a matter of fact, I do have need of another hunter right about now, if it is not a bother to you”

He groaned again, this time internally.

“Not at all! Anywhere in particular?”

“Make use of that nose of yours and try your luck along the RiverClan border. There must be some water voles burying around there”

“Understood” He nodded at her and whipped around, trying to quickly leave camp before someone else asked something of him.

He failed miserably as Aspentail called out to him and padded up together with her apprentice.

“Hey, Ravensight! I heard you were going vole digging?” She asked before he could say anything.

“That’s right” He sighed, smiling.

“Ok, cool! Listen, could you take Shellpaw with you? He needs to practice using his nose more” She requested while pointing with her tail at the silver tabby apprentice next to her.

“I mean… sure?” He shrugged, then leaned forward, bringing their faces closer “But shouldn’t you take him hunting then? You extorted Shorthawk so much for this?” He half whispered, half hissed at her, but with no malice in his voice

“Yeah, well, you know…” She meowed dismissively, her eyes briefly shifting their attention to the entrance of the warrior’s den, a glint of something Ravensight didn’t manage to catch on them “Something came up. Can’t let rabbits get away and all that”

With that, she padded away at a brisk pace. First to the fresh-kill pile, where she picked up something he couldn’t distinguish, then into the warrior’s den.

Ravensight looked down at the apprentice next to him. Shellpaw was shifting on his paws, awkwardly smiling at the warrior.

“So, huh… have you ever scented a water vole?”

“Alive?”

“Yes”

“…no”

The warrior sighed, a tinge of nostalgia entering his mind.

It’d be a long hunting patrol, then.

------------------------------

Ravensight’s chest swelled with pride as Shellpaw walked back into the camp in front of him, head and tail held high, and a vole dangling from his mouth.

He was carrying one too and, although it was quite a meager haul for how long they spent at the border, he sort of took it more as a learning exercise for the apprentice rather than anything else. A bet for the future, in a sense. Shellpaw now knew a bit more about hunting prey burying through the snow, so next time he’d bring more back to camp.

He closed his eyes and purred. He felt like a mentor again!

The black warrior dropped his catch with the rest of the prey, but the apprentice went straight to his parents, who were sharing tongues near the Tallrock.

“Mom! Dad! Look!” He shouted excitedly, dropping his catch at their paws “I caught a vole!”

“Oh, wow! That’s great, my little warrior!” Rustsong purred at him, nuzzling their cheeks together.

“Right!? Second Dad took me to the RiverClan border and he taught me how to sniff them out and then I jumped on it and I caught it thought the snow! It was awesome!” The apprentice recounted.

Ravensight’s eyes widened in shock at the public use of the nickname Shellpaw and his sister had given him during the warrior’s time in the nursery. He wasn’t aware they were still using it! And in front of their actual father no less!

Mistwalker’s gaze snapped to meet the black warrior’s eyes. He flinched at first, but soon relaxed when he realized there was no hostility in the eyes of Shellpaw’s father.

“Thanks, pal!” He purred at Ravensight “Seems he had fun”

“D-don’t mention it” He nodded at the older warrior, then looked away from the family.

His stomach was rumbling softly after so much walking and his paws ache a little, so he decided he’d take something from the fresh-kill pile and lay down for a bit. There were no rabbits, which wasn’t particularly surprising. They were considerably harder to find and catch at this time. But there was one of Smallflower’s decently sized rats still.

So he decided to pick that. It smelled of hay and was sort of cold, but he was certain it would still be somewhat warm and tasty on the inside. There was a bird there too, he didn’t pay too much attention what kind it was, that smelled just recently caught. That might have been a more fulfilling meal, but he wasn’t in the mood to pluck out feathers.

“Er… Hi! Oh, s-sorry Ravensight” A soft voice reached him from his left, making him pause. He lifted his head and turned it to face its owner “I didn’t mean to interrupt, I…” A white and ginger cat spoke to him again. If it wasn’t for his scent being clearly male, he would’ve confused him for Smallflower.

Ravensight blinked at him, then flicked one ear.

“Hello, Minkclaw” He meowed warmly at him “What can I do for you?”

“I just wanted to say hello, b-but you’re busy. Maybe another time?”

The black warrior was about to answer when an interesting smell coming from bellow distracted him. His eyes followed what his nose told them, and found a brown ball of fur resting between Minkclaw’s front paws.

“A rabbit? You caught a rabbit in this weather?” He meowed, not without the smallest hint of disbelief “Hey, congrats! That’s the nicest catch we’ve had all day!”

“Hm? Oh, yeah! This little thing I… er… I barely managed to get it. I was in a border patrol and we kind of just stumbled into it. I-I wanted to give it to Hollowstreak, actually. I’m waiting for an apprentice to send it with. I just hopes she likes it”

Ravensight blinked at him with confusion.

“Why don’t you deliver it, then?”

“She… doesn’t want me near our kits anymore, not even as a friend. T-the other queens don’t help me too. I think they don’t like me either” He confessed.

“Well, they seem to like me well enough” He meowed, recounting his interactions with them in his mind “Would you like me to take it to her?”

“W-would you do that?” Minkclaw asked, a small smile appearing on his face. Ravensight nodded, so the white and ginger tom picked up the rabbit and passed it to him. He grabbed the rabbit with his mouth and padded up to the nursery.

The queens didn’t even react to his presence beyond some tails raising in greetings. Raincloud purred at him, joking about having just enough wool to line up one more nest if he was interested in staying there a couple of days. He purred back at her, but didn’t answer.

His mother was sleeping already, two smaller cats curled up against her belly. He gazed down upon the black, ginger and white shapes with an indescribable mix of love, happiness and bitterness.

He knew Shorthawk thought about kits a lot, that he wanted a family, even if would never say it out loud. He’d noticed how he stared longingly at them when they were outside the nursery. It was so early to think about those things, but at the same time they’ve known each other for quite some time even if they hadn’t been mates that long.

It didn’t matter tight now. There would be time to talk about it. First the war, then Leafbare, then they’ll worry about kits.

He left the rabbit next to his mother head and softly nuzzled each of the three cats before leaving. Minkclaw was still waiting for him near the fresh-kill pile.

“Done” He meowed to him.

“Thank you! Y-you don’t understand how much this means to me” The white and ginger tom purred “Are you in the dawn patrol tomorrow?”

“Yes, I’m in that” He answered, tilting his head “Why?”

“Then forget it! You can sleep in tomorrow! I’ll take your spot there”

“But aren’t you also on the night patrol?”

“Don’t you worry about me” He reassured him “I… don’t sleep a lot anyways” He twitched his ears and smiled at him “W-would it bother you… I mean… could I lick you on the head?” Ravensight narrowed his eyes, but leaned forwards and allowed him to do so “Thank you, son… no, wait! Sorry! I mean…! I’m not overstepping, am I? W-would s-step-son be better? I don’t…”

“You’re pushing it” The black tom growled “Don’t you have a patrol to go back to?”

“Right, sorry again. Maybe we could talk again? Like, during a patrol? Sometime? If it isn’t…”

“Yes, whatever you want” He meowed impatiently, rolling his eyes “I’m really hungry right now, though; so could you just go?” Minkclaw nodded at that and quickly raced out of camp.

The rat was, miraculously, still on the pile, even colder than before. Having finally picked up his meal, he scanned the clearing quickly for Shorthawk, but he couldn’t see him anywhere. He peaked his into the warrior’s den and purred in delight when he saw the white and grey cat curled up on their nest. He padded up to him and sat down, putting the rat in front of them. He tucked his paws beneath him and his tail went up in search of Shorthawk’s, finding it and intertwining with it.

“Hey, sleepyhead!” He meowed “Wake up! I brought us something to share before someone give me more chores!”

He bent down to give his mate a lick between the ears, but as he got closer he noticed one of the sleeping cat’s eyes had opened and was looking at him. Funnily enough, it didn’t look like…

“Oh”

He buried his nose in this cat’s fur for a moment and took a good sniff of their scent, just to confirm his suspicion. Then, having indeed confirmed them, he straightened up and sighed.

“I was wondering when you’d realize” A very female voice meowed to him as the now awake white and grey cat sat up.

“Hello, Fallowpelt…” He answered flatly “Why are you sleeping in our nest?”

“It was warm, already made and not occupied” She stated matter-of-factly before yawning and licking her chest once “I can’t believe you got us confused again! I’ll wake up pregnant one day with how little attention you pay!”

It was honestly embarrassing how many times he had confused the two. He just couldn’t believe how similar their scents were!

“Do you know where your brother is?”

“On patrol with mom. You just missed them”

“Fantastic…” He spat, rolling his eyes “Well, do you want to share?” He added, prodding the rat with his paw.

“What? As an apology?” She narrowed her eyes at him.

“If you want to see it like that”

Her response was to take a big bite out of the prey and chew it loudly. Despite everything, Ravensight’s whiskers twitched with amusement at her messy eating and he too bit into their meal. It wasn’t quite as flavorful as he’d hoped, but it was alright nonetheless, especially for Leaf-bare.

They ate in silence, his mind drifting off into miscellaneous trains of thought. He wondered what cow tasted like, and why he’d never asked his father about it. He hadn’t seen him in a while, and he would probably not see him again until Newleaf. He found himself being glad that Oliver was a kittypet, for he was certainly being cared for by his Twolegs and would be safe inside their dens.

He was looking forward to asking about cow meat. Also, if the fake Twolegs’ pelts were actually made out of wool. He just needed to know that.

The rat was gone, only some scraps and bones remaining. He tried to pick them up and go bury them, but Fallowpelt pushed them away with a swipe of her paw. He twitched his ears in annoyance and narrowed his eyes at her.

“You can do that later. Now, I want to talk about something very important with you”

His eyes met hers, and he found them cold, almost uncaring, but not quite. It was a complicated gaze to decipher, of the kinds he’d seen only in Yelloweyes.

“I was under the impression that you’d rather avoid any kind of interaction with me”

“Oh, you’re definitely right. But since you so rudely intruded into my personal space, we might as well”

“Alright…” He sat more comfortably, licking a paw and washing his face with it “Go ahead”

“So, first, can I ask a sort of personal question?”

He blinked and paused for a moment.

“I suppose? Within reason”

“Why are you so opposed to becoming our deputy?”

“Again with that…” he scoffed “I don’t think I’m cut out for the job, that’s all. Somebody more worthy should be the deputy. Smallflower, maybe?” He offered “They weren’t considering her because we were at peace, but now she’d be perfect”

“Oh, I see…” She nodded, an edge of sarcasm in her voice “So how many times have you told yourself that lie?”

“A couple”

“Are you believing it yet?”

“From time to time”

“Cool! Look, I hate you. This isn’t a secret, so I hope you at least have noticed that. But even I have made peace with what the clan wants. You’re not a stellar candidate, but you are the only real one. The rest are either too old, hadn’t apprenticed anyone or are proud residents of the ‘I-want-to-take-orders-from-Ravensight’ camp”

“But Yelloweyes was old when she became deputy” He argued.

“Nobody expected my mother to live long enough to become leader!” She spat, her eyes suddenly filling with anger “The fact that she’s still alive no doubt frustrates everyone! They’re all just waiting for her to drop dead at any moment. They might talk all respectful-like when she’s around, but I’ve seen what’s in their eyes! That’s why they’re obsessed with you accepting the idea of becoming a deputy!” Fallowpelt shuddered noticeably when she finished ranting, so Ravensight tried to rub her back with his tail to comfort her, but she swat it away with a paw “I’m fine, it’s… it’s just the cold air”

He decided it’d be best not to mention that they were inside a den and quite a distance away from the entrance. He also decided not to ask who exactly ‘they’ were. Instead, he focused on digesting her words.

“I…”

“You know what the worst part is?” She continued, cutting him off “The fact that, despite everything, mom is still loyal to Silentstar to a fault. She never openly contradicts her. She always… just… enables her!”

“Yelloweyes convinced Silentstar of not exiling me, though” The black tom argued “She doesn’t always blindly follows”

“Yeah, but obeying nineteen out of twenty times might as well be always”

“Well, a deputy should support their leader’s decisions, after all. That’s what they do”

“Meh…” She rolled his eyes “A deputy should support their clan, not just the leader”

“A leader represents the clan”

“According to mom, Silentstar is young, impulsive and absolutely convinced all her ideas are StarClan’s gift to us mortals. To me, that doesn’t represent WindClan”

“But she was accepted by StarClan for a reason. You’re too young to understand. Give her time, she’ll become wiser” Ravensight wasn’t truly convinced if he himself believed his own words, mostly repeating what he’d been told by others. He wasn’t sure how much he’d have to wait to see that change, now that he thought about it, considering he’d heard those words when he was a kit.

“Ok… look, listen” She sighed, her tail lashing out behind her “You want me to accept that she’ll turn into a great and wise leader in the future, and that I currently have too many feathers in my brain to see it? Fine. I’ll trust you on that, if nothing else because my brother trusts you. But until then, we need someone to counteract her… and preferably keep my mother alive while we are at it”

“And the Clan decided it has to be me?”

“You’re our best option, yes. It pains me to unmeasurable degrees to admit that is the case”

“Yelloweyes will never accept retirement, though”

“Don’t…” She paused, looking away “Don’t you worry about those little things”

“It’s not fair to her”

“It is, but she won’t see it that way, true”

“I… give up” He shook his head, his shoulders falling in defeat, his ears fattening against his head “If I’m offered the deputyship, I’ll accept it. But I won’t conspire against Yelloweyes”

“Again, don’t you worry” Her eyes finally showed an emotion he could read for a moment, and was surprised to find pain and regret on them. He started to feel a sliver of sympathy for the she-cat “It’s for the best. Almost nobody gets what they want, but what they deserve”

“I suppose…” He meowed quietly, then added “You know, I was considering becoming a queen before all this mess with ThunderClan started”

Her eyes sheltered her real emotions again, but a small smile found itself forming in her face.

What?” She purred with amusement.

“And before you say anything” He cut her off, smiling nervously “Webfur already made the milk joke. I’m referring to the looking-after-kits part of being a queen”

“Ah… I should’ve figured my brother was bothering you about kits”

“No, It was just something that I enjoyed doing and… I still do, but… I don’t know, I just wanted to feel more useful to the clan. Though now I’ll just be useful through the deputyship and, well, the war. I guess”

“But wouldn’t you like kits of you own?”

“Yes, eventually. We’ll see” He shrugged “Why the interest? It wasn’t the point of my…”

“I could get you some kits to look after”

“Where would you even get a kit?” Her smile widened and her eyes narrowed, shining with a predatory intent, like a hunter watching a prey “…oh”

“Think about it. It’ll be just like if they were from you two. They’d have your blood and his… in a sense”

“I-I don’t know… I-It’d be weird” He stammered “They’d be siblings and cousins at the same time. I don’t think the clan would approve of that…”

“Oh, but they don’t need to know…” She shifted her body closer, so their shoulders were touching.

“W-what do you mean?”

“Shorthawk doesn’t have to know they’re yours either~” She purred, resting her head against his neck “We could ask for a patrol together tomorrow, go off the beaten path for a little while. They’ll be born just at the start of New-Leaf. I’ll just abandon them as soon as I can wean them, then you can swoop in and save them. Form a proper family with my brother. He’s talked about raising kits since he was an apprentice, did you know? He’ll love you even more. What do you say?”

It was tempting, honestly. The prospect of kits to call his own was something he was sure Shorthawk would absolutely adore. And he would be lying to himself if he said that the notion of little cats calling him ‘dad’ didn’t make his heart flutter with love. But…

“N-no. If Shorthawk isn’t aware, t-then it’s… it’s cheating”

“Maybe~” She tried to wrap her tail around his, but he moved it out of her reach. He tried to move away but she had placed a paw between his shoulders without him realizing, keeping him in place “He won’t mind, I’m sure. Once he sees some beautiful white, grey and black kits, he’ll forgive you. Besides, you don’t even like she-cats! He probably won’t see it as cheating to begin with!” She blinked slowly at him “Last chance. I’m not offering again. Will you let me have your kits?”

“It’s not fair to him”

“Are you insinuating that my brother doesn’t deserve kits?”

“But I promised to be loyal! T-to be… I…”

“You also promised to make him happy”

“I…”

“You know he wants kits”

“…he does”

“You can’t give him that. You can’t make him happy. Not alone. Not without help”

“I can’t… but… I love him…”

“That’s not enough”

“It’s… not?”

“And it’s not as if it’d be the first time you lie to him anyways, would it?”

“…”

“It’s me or nothing. No one else would do this for you”

“…”

“So~? Afternoon or evening patrol~?”

Ravensight closed his eyes, then swallowed hard, feeling his throat dry all of a sudden.

And… pondered.

------------------------------

The sun had almost sunken into the horizon when he came out of the warrior’s den, carrying the scraps of his last meal. He hurried to bury them near the dirtplace, his paws moving their own as his mind wasn’t sure it could handle commanding his body right now.

His nose picked up Shorthawk’s scent as soon as he set a paw back into the clearing. Suddenly, he felt very self-conscious and very scared of being seen by anyone. His whole pelt felt itchy and uncomfortable. His eyes scanned the camp, eager to find his mate and hide in his presence.

He found him quietly grooming an extremely unamused Yelloweyes, both of them sitting some distance away from the rest of the cats in the clearing. He padded up to them, a smile finding its way to his face out of reflex.

“What are you doing over here?” He purred at them when he got close, trying hard to think only on what was in front of him right now.

“Well, you see: mother is embarrassed that she has a son who cares about her” Shorthawk explained.

“I am deeply embarrassed by the fact that my son treats me like a senile elder, incapable of taking care of her own hygiene!” The deputy added growling.

“Is the deputy of our noble Clan disrespecting our elders?” Ravensight teased.

“Thing is, they’re kits compared to her, Raven!” The white and grey tom added.

“Be quiet, you insolent children!” She snarled “Back in my day, they would have made us clean the dirtplace with our tongues if we talked to the deputy in such a manner!”

“Yeah, yeah. Sure”

Ravensight sat down at Yelloweyes other side, across Shorthawk, trying to avoid his gaze. The younger tom blinked at him in confusion, but didn’t question him. He just continued working on his mother’s back fur.

“Tell me about your days” He meowed gently to his deputy.

Her head turned quickly to meet his eyes, indignation emanating from her features.

“If it is stories you crave, then go talk to the actual elders! I am not here to entertain you!”

“Nah, nothing of the sort” He purred at her, incredibly amused at seeing her so flustered “It’s just that… you’re not talking Shorthawk out of this” He heard said cat grunt in agreement “So why not do something to pass the time? Take your mind out of it and all that”

She stared at him with a blank expression for a moment, before licking her chest once and clearing her throat.

“I would not even know what to tell…”

“Well, how about what you just said? Did mentors actually made apprentices clean up the dirtplace with their tongues?”

“Of course” Her whiskers twitched “I myself did it once during my apprenticeship. It was such an awful experience that I personally lead a campaign to outlaw such punishment”

“Was you mentor too strict with you?”

“Truthfully, no. Not at all. I was just a pawfull. As insufferable as I am today, but without the accomplishments to be deserving of my attitude. My mentor… er… his name… I do not…” She furrowed her brow “It would seem I have misplaced his name among my memories. Well, regardless, my mentor was just strict enough and a great cat. He was a kittypet, actually. Not half-blood like yourself, but an actual, full-on kittypet”

“Was he now?” He meowed with interest.

“Yes. The circumstances of his recruitment are unknown to me, for it happened before I was born and there were about four different versions as to why he had come to us. I do recall him saying that he came from a ‘high society’ family, whatever that may mean. I always supposed it referred to wise Twolegs, since my mentor was very wise himself and had an oddly refined way of speaking”

“Wait…” Shorthawk interrupted this time “Is that why you talk like that? Because he taught you?”

“Well, not quite” She purred, a hint of amusement in her eyes “I sort of started copying him, as a mockery at first. Foolish apprentice shenanigans, you understand. In hindsight, I am not quite sure why; I cannot imagine me and the other apprentices finding it that entertaining. Oh, but the jest was on me the whole time, I suppose, because the stupid custom stuck to me. Nevertheless, I assure you, mine is but a sad imitation of what my mentor could do. He had such… poetry in his voice” She sighed wistfully “I just dislike abbreviations and like long words”

“Do you miss him?” Ravensight asked, gently stroking her side with his tail. Yelloweyes didn’t seem happy about talking about all this, but she didn’t seem sad either. It was a mix of nostalgia and relief, as if each word she spoke opened up new memories that she thought lost.

“I miss and do not miss a lot of things at the same time” She answered, slowly shaking her head “Being old is odd like that”

“I’ll get back to you on that one. Ask me again in, like… sixty moons?” Ravensight joked, getting a chuckle out of the other two cats.

“Oh, something to tell has come to my mind! I do have a story!” Yelloweyes meowed excitedly “I do not remember what season it was, but it was me and two other apprentices. Spottedstar’s father, er… Cinnamonpaw back then, I believe, and Starlingpaw. We three were walking through the moor, when all of a sudden we heard strange, almost otherworldly noises coming from a hole in the ground. We ventured down there, thinking of finding maybe a fox cub, but we discovered it was an entrance to a cave! And then….”

------------------------------

Ravensight and Shorthawk silently padded away from the sleeping form of Yelloweyes. The black warrior had expressed his concerns with leaving her in the cold of night, but his mate assured him that his mother’s thick coat would keep her warm. Besides, she would be livid if she woke up with them at her side. Needing help to groom was a blow to her pride, it’d be better for everyone if they didn’t make her feel patronized.

Begrudgingly, Ravensight agreed.

“Did something happen while I was out? You seem… distracted?” Shorthawk whispered to him halfway across the clearing.

“How so?” He answered, flicking both of his ears.

“You didn’t flinched or bristled even once at anything mother told you. That’s unusual for you”

“Maybe I’ve grow resistant to her presence?” He joked.

“Or maybe something else is bothering you…” His eyes, round with worry, looked straight at his “You’d tell me if something was wrong, right? You promised…”

Ravensight draped his tail across his mate back, dragging him closer, making them walk with all their side touching.

“I did, and I’m telling you, everything is alright” He purred.

He realized nothing was alright at all when they were only a couple of pawsteps from the warrior’s den. There weren’t enough distractions, he couldn’t forget.

He stopped dead on his track, his head spinning. His legs felt like they had locked up, refusing to move forwards. His eyes widened, for he could see it from there and he didn’t want to be near it. Their nest reeked of her and he didn’t want to smell her. Not now, not ever. Yet…

Worse still, what would happen if Shorthawk scented her there? What explanations could there be? Would he believe that she was there sleeping by herself before Ravensight found her?

“Yes, he would. Because he trusts me…”

Did… did his black pelt smelled like her too?

He could feel his heart quickening, his breathing becoming heavier. He staggered backwards, putting distance between himself and that place. He padded, or crawled, or waddled, or stumbled, or something. He didn’t know, he didn’t care. His paws took him away from there, to somewhere that wasn’t there.

He crossed the clearing, he crossed the entrance, he ignored the guard’s greeting, he moved through the snow until he didn’t know where he was. There were some bushes, so somewhere to the South of the camp. He collapsed, unbothered by the cold, and waited there.

Waited for what? He wasn’t sure. He expected and didn’t expect Shorthawk to follow. He wanted and didn’t want him to do it. He’d have to say something, but what could he say, really? How could he justify such an episode? He realized, quite a bit too late, that he was being irrational. Too many scents in that den, hers would be drowned. Shorthawk wouldn’t know.

“That isn’t the problem”

“R-Raven?” The voiced of his mate sounded from behind, cracking with worry and uncertainty. So with dread in his heart he scrambled to his paws and turned to face him.

A paw struck him directly on the side of his head, disorienting momentarily and sending him sprawling back to the whitened ground. That’d be a good outcome, he realized as he laid there on his side. Direct violence would spare him of trying to explain anything, and he very well deserved it, but he knew the white and grey tom wouldn’t see it that way.

He raised his head, rubbing the impacted zone with a paw, wincing at the sensation. Shorthawk stood there, ears pointing backwards, fur bristled, eyes widened and glinting with both fear and anger.

“Short…” He tried to speak, but was cut off.

“Is this your idea of ´alright´?” Shorthawk meowed, his voice dangerously low for how distressed he looked.

Ravensight met his eyes, unsure of what to say.

“I’m sorry…” It’s what he could answer “I couldn’t tell you… I didn’t…”

“You couldn’t tell me” He spat “I’m not… I’m never going to be like Webfur… I know that, ok? I’m not that wise… and you’re never going to trust me that much” The white and grey tom continued, his fur slowly going flat again “B-but… at least… I-I… you can, talk to me, you know!? Once in a while!”

“I’m sorry!” He repeated.

“Tell me what happened back there. Why did you run?”

Ravensight picked himself up to a sitting position, facing away from him.

“I’m sorry…”

“Stop apologizing, please! Just tell me why you run!” His voice grew softer, as he took a couple of slow pawsteps closer “Something happened while I was gone, didn’t it?”

“…yes”

“What happened, then? I can help you… or try to help at least, but please! I need to know”

“Fallowpelt happened” The words left his mouth before he could think to say anything else, his mind was still trying to catch up.

“My sister?” Shorthawk settled next to him, tilting his head in confusion “What did she do?”

“It’s more of a matter of…” He paused “What was I going to do…”

“Alright…” The white and grey warrior nodded slowly “Then what were you going to do?”

“I’m sorry, Shorthawk” He breathed out, turning to face his mate. The younger tom flinched when he saw him, his eyes growing even more worried “I mean it. I truly am” He felt something below his eyes. Was he crying?

“H-hey, wait, don’t…” He leaned forwards, gently licking behind his ear “It’s ok, I don’t need to know. If it bothers you this much, then you don’t have to tell me anything. Not now, at least. Let’s go back to camp and forget all this…”

“No” He declared “You need to know”

“Alright…” Shorthawk whispered.

“I think I might have gotten involved…” He swallowed hard “I was planning to betray…” ‘Your trust’ is what he intended to say, but found that he couldn’t. He wanted to, so much, but he wasn’t brave enough. He wasn’t ready. He hadn’t done anything, not yet.

“Yes…?”

Luckily he had more than one secret to confess

“I’ve agreed to conspire against Yelloweyes. To depose her and supplant her. I… am a traitor to the Clan. Silentstar was right” He let his head hung in shame, not because of what he said, but because of what he didn’t “I’m sorry” Why was he even apologizing still? It wouldn’t make a difference, it wasn’t what he should be asking forgiveness for.

Shorthawk remained silent, his ears flattened and his eyes unreadable, for an excruciating amount of time, that to anyone else watching might have seem like mere heartbeats.

“That wretched, idiotic fox-heart!” He snarled “I told her to keep her mouth shut and she can’t do even that!” He threw his head back, letting out a yowl of frustration “We were so close, too! Why can’t she listen?”

“Wait…” It was Ravensight’s time to stare in disbelief “You knew?”

“It’s my mother, of course I knew!” The white and grey tom answered “The plan didn’t involve letting you know, though. I knew you wouldn’t like it. You’re too nice”

“I don’t like it. At all” He conceded “But… I agreed to take the position if I’m asked, despite my personal opinions”

“Yeah, thank the Stars! Otherwise moons of planning would’ve gone straight into a ditch!” He blinked at him, a small glint of amusement in his eyes “I can’t freaking believe that she managed to convinced you. I feel kind of offended, to be honest”

It didn’t take a lot of effort on her part to convince him. His position on the matter had change many times, but his clanmates had managed to slowly sway him in this direction quite recently. Once he got to know them. She was just the last straw.

“If I can ask, why are you doing this to your mother?” The black tom inquired carefully “This is going to kill her, Shorthawk”

“No, you know what’s going to kill her? This stupid war!” He countered “She deserves rest and I’m going to get it for her. Otherwise, Silentstar is going to get her killed. I’m not letting her! My mother has served enough!”

“Yelloweyes wants to die a deputy…”

“She thinks she wants to, because that’s what she’s been fed. There is no shame in becoming an elder, that’s what you taught me; and I wholeheartedly believe that’s the case!”

“I don’t think she’ll be happy”

“No, of course not…” Shorthawk shook his head “She might get mad at first, possibly hate us, but… it’s for the best. She’ll understand, she’ll forgive us. She’ll be happier as an elder, when she doesn’t have to deal with Silentstar”

A couple of those words got stuck in Ravensight’s mind, swirling around his brain.

“Mad at first… for the best… understand… forgive… happier”

“So, what you are saying is…” He ventured “That you condone going behind someone’s back… provided that you believe it’d make them happier?”

“I… guess?” He gave his chest a lick and shuffled slightly in place “I’m not enjoying this, you know? I wouldn’t do it again, mom is a special case”

“Would you do it to me?”

“No, never”

Conflicting arguments. Subtleties. Further complications on his thoughts. Things he didn’t need.

“But you did, though”

“I swear to all my Ancestors that it wasn’t my intention to keep all this secret from you, it just happened. I was just scared that you’d tell mom, I didn’t want to tell you until everything was in place. You don’t have to be deputy if you don’t want to, just… I hope you understand why we’d like you to be?”

“So there are more cats involved?”

“You can probably guess that”

“Webfur is in it too, isn’t he?”

“He’s not very into the idea… but he’s helping”

That cat was involved in a lot of secrecy, it seemed. Fitting for a medicine cat, he supposed.

“I hate you. Each and every single one of you” He meowed flatly.

“Those lovely words make me feel all tingly inside” Shorthawk purred “Well, I think that’s enough emotions for one day. How about we get back to camp? I’m not as big of a fan of the cold as you are!”

But Ravensight didn’t want to go back. Not yet. He needed time, she was still there.

On the other paw, Shorthawk was here, and he wanted to apologize to him; in advance, so to speak. But he couldn’t do so with words, not that they’d be enough anyways. He’d tried and failed. It’d have to be something else, but what else could he offer that Shorthawk may appreciate?

Well…

There was the correct thing.

He deserved to be the first.

Ravensight took a deep breath before speaking. This time he knew what he wanted to achieve.

“Actually, let’s not…”

“Hey, listen. If you’re still uncomfortable about all this, we could always…”

“Why don’t we spend the night at the barn instead?” He interrupted, offering a smile.

“The… barn?” Shorthawk blinked with confusion “Why there?”

“It’s closer. It’s also dark, warm and… private”

“Why would we need pri…” Ravensight blinked very slowly at him, leaning down and licking him on the neck “…vacy… oh…” His eyes widened and his fur bristled as realization dawned on him “But a-aren’t you, l-like, tired? I-I mean, you’ve been… d-doing stuff… and…”

“Well, I wasn’t planning to be the one moving a lot” He purred sweetly, a hint of playfulness on his eyes.

“… by the Stars, I-I wouldn’t know what… to do…”

“It’s just an idea. You can chose not to follow me. I’d understand” He stood up and padded away, making sure the whole length of his tail caressed Shorthawk’s chin as he passed in front of him.

Almost immediately, soft crunching sounds told him Shorthawk was following. Looking over his shoulder, he saw the half excited and half terrified expression on his face. On his eyes, he saw so much fondness and trust that he had to look away.

Ravensight didn’t see himself being like his mother, but he certainly felt worse.

Chapter Text

Chapter 16:

The WindClan Deputy

“Hey, Lightstep?”

“Hm?”

“I’d like to voice an opinion”

“Be my guest, brother”

Ravensight wasn’t quite sure what particular chain of events or decisions during the last half moon had conspired to put him here, walking on this weird flat stone path through Twolegplace in the middle of Leaf-bare, with his brother by his side. He was, however, very sure about one thing.

“I kind of hate all of this”

“I figured” He answered, his whiskers twitching with amusement “I mean, if it makes you feel any better, I wasn’t thrilled when I was told I had to bring you along either, but what can we do? Orders are orders”

“Well, telling me why I'm here would be a nice start. I feel like I'm only slowing you down”

“As I said, I was told to bring you with me. I know nothing more and you don’t need to know more. Also, taking our time and enjoying the trip isn’t so bad!”

“How can any cat enjoy this?” He felt so incredibly uncomfortable in this environment, like if hundreds of eyes were silently watching and judging him from every corner. His slender frame and, thanks to this environment, constantly prickled fur surely made him stood out from the fat and well groomed kittypets, so that didn’t help either. He was probably attracting the unwanted attention of so many beings he couldn’t see.

His brother had told him he was being irrational, but his brother was a featherbrain, so what did he know?

“Don’t know” He shrugged “Ask our father”

Turning a corner, the pair of WindClan cats passed in front of a larger than average Twolegs’ nest, with an equally inordinate transparent opening. Many Twolegs of all sizes and, he supposed, ages sat inside, holding what seemed to be hollowed rocks from where a thin line of smoke rose. Some of them held brown things that looked like chunks of bark, but they were sinking their teeth and tearing pieces out of them effortlessly. Either Twolegs had incredibly strong jaws, or those were some kind of prey he hadn’t seen before. There was a new, faintly sweet scent in the air, so maybe that was one of those places where Twolegs went specifically to eat? He wondered briefly what kind of meat could smell this sweet.

One of the younger looking ones, he supposed it was a kit, noticed him and lifted one of its paws, then it swung it enthusiastically from side to side. Ravensight stared at it, trying to decipher what it was trying to do. After some heartbeats, he lifted his tail and twitched its tip from side to side, trying to match its gesture. The Twoleg kit looked stunned for a moment, before opening its teeth-less mouth and… smiling, he guessed, clapping its front paws together. Its eyes were hard to read, but it seemed to be amused? The two bothers walked past the scene before he could analyze it further.

He didn’t know why, but the interaction made him feel slightly more at ease.

“It seems your ability with kits transcends species” His brother laughed in front of him “You could’ve been a good kittypet, despite your pelt”

Ravensight blinked with confusion, taking a moment to stop and look down at his fur.

“Ok, first: no. Second: what’s wrong with my pelt?” He questioned, catching up with Lightstep again.

“Some Twolegs react very badly to black cats”

“Why?”

“Kittypets say some of them are superstitious or something. They see it as a bad omen”

“Do… do all Twolegs have the ability to interpret omens?” He asked, eyes round with amazement.

A monster passed on the Thunderpath next to them, slower than Ravensight had seen them move before. Still, the noise made the black tom flinch and jump sideways in the opposite direction, while Lightstep didn’t even acknowledge it

“Calm down, mouse-heart! Many of them have gone by so far, and many more will pass before we return. They’re not going to hurt you”

“You don’t know that!”

“As a matter of fact, I do. Not my first trip here, remember?”

“Whatever…”

They’ve been walking for a while, twisting and turning within this completely alien environment, for him at least. Lightstep seemed at ease, jumping fences and following Twolegs paths. He didn’t even know very well what they were doing, only that his brother had to meet up with some cats here and there and exchange information.

Who were these cats? What did they had to say to Lightstep? What did Lightstep had to say to them?

Starclan knows.

At this point in his life, with everything that had happened around him, he was very well accustomed to secrecy. It did stung a bit that it was coming from his brother, but then again he kept secrets from Lightstep too, so was he really in condition to judge?

“We’re close to our last stop” His brother meowed “Then we can go back”

“Oh, thank the Stars! I feel so exposed out here!”

“Exposed? We live in a moor! How can this make you feel more exposed than that?”

“I don’t know!” His eyes moved from side to side, trying to take in all the unnatural shapes and colors everywhere; his ears strained trying to make sense of the cacophony of sounds bombarding them, ranging from the yowls of many animals and Twolegs, to the screeches and roars of monsters and Starclan knows what else “It… just does”

He had tried to open his mouth and let his sense of smell guide him, but it was impossible. It wasn’t just the fact that the horrible smell of Twolegs and the acrid smell that always accompanied monsters covered everything, but there were just so, so many scents under those. Even without the distractions, it’d be like standing at the edge of a forest and looking up, then being told to find a specific leaf among all trees while the wind made them sway constantly. It wasn’t even worth a try.

So he relied completely in his brother’s sense of direction, which sometimes wasn’t very trustworthy, but for the most part had gotten them to where they needed to go.

“I think it’s here” Lightstep meowed suddenly, then leaped up a fence without further warning.

Ravensight groaned and quickly scrambled up the fence to follow him, landing in an unfortunately now familiar sight. He had been unnerved the first time he saw this kind of unnaturally short grass or those bushes cut in odd shapes, but he’d seen enough Twolegs’ gardens up close today to not bat an eye anymore.

Both cats padded up to one of the opening of the Twolegs’ den, of the kind that are covered with that weird, solid and almost invisible material. Lightstep sat down under it and started licking his back paws, with Ravensight deciding to do the same shortly after. Even though he liked the cold, the kind of cold that emanated from the flat stones that Twolegs used for their paths crept up through his pads and chilled him almost to the bone. He could swear not even sleeping under the snow would feel this cold!

“So… now what?” Asked the black tom after they were both done.

“Now we wait” His brother answered, stretching his back then settling down as comfortably as he could.

“What if a Twolegs comes and tries to grab us?” He asked, glancing over his shoulders “We are too close to their dens and have nowhere to hide”

“I hate to break this to you, but in terms of Twolegs’ standards of beauty for cats, you look atrocious” He chuckled “No sane Twolegs would want a grown-up, dirty and, in their eyes, malnourished wild cat inside their dens. At most, they’ll toss something at us and yell to get us out. Just be ready to dodge if you hear one approaching… and don’t hiss at them or anything. I’d rather not give them motives to try and be accurate”

“I hope you’re right” He answered, still looking over his shoulder “I’d hate to be taken away and turned into a kittypet. No shame to the cats themselves, but being cooped up in a stone den and being fed pellets sounds dreadful”

He expected some kind of joke from Lightstep’s part, or at least a jab at their father, but nothing came. Becoming slightly worried, he turned his head to face him, only to find him with his eyes examining the floor with disinterest.

“Yeah… well… at least their lives make sense…”

Ravensight blinked in confusion at the almost regretful tone of his brother’s voice.

“Lightstep…?”

“Let’s talk about something more cheerful!” Lightstep purred all of a sudden, raising his head and smiling “How have you been doing these past days? Everyone’s been so busy lately, no one has the time for pleasantries anymore. And I don’t mean just in our clan…”

“Are… are we really just going to chit-chat here? Why didn’t we do it on the journey? I thought we…”

“Listen, I’m just trying to distract you a bit. Or would you rather listen to the monsters?”

He found himself offering a small smile at his brother’s subtle display of concern.

“Well, I’ve been busy, like everyone else” Ravensight was keenly aware that Lightstep was purposively changing topics, though decided to let it pass. He wouldn’t get anything from him if he questioned directly “I’ve been in one hunting patrol after the other. And training for battle, when I have the time”

“Oh, yeah. I’ve heard of that. You still suck?”

“I’d like to think I’m good enough to come back from a fight. Not necessarily covered in glory, but alive. I still have some improvement to do”

“Minkclaw’s too soft with you” He shook his head slowly “Get some other tutor”

“That’s hardly a valid critique, though. He’s too soft with everyone”

“I mean, that’s not untrue, but my point still stands”

“Speaking of him, have you visited our siblings?”

“Nah. Haven’t talked with mom in a while, either. She’s asking too many questions”

“You know, she wouldn’t question you so much if you were around camp a bit more often. It’d seem you spend the night with us, what, twice per quarter moon?”

“Hey! What can I say?” He shrugged “I’m dedicated to my duties. Sometime coming back during a mission isn’t possible”

“Uh huh…”

“So… what about Shorthawk?” He twitched whiskers and blinked teasingly “Everything alright there? Does he treat you well?”

“Yes, it is. And yes, he does” He answered simply, though the fur in his neck stood up slightly.

“Care to elaborate a little more? Are there any interesting details to share, perhaps?”

“Not for you”

“Aw, come on! I was always open about my relationships!”

“Yeah, even when I told you not to be!”

“Oh, wow, ok. Be that way. It’s alright. I’ve seen how happy you two look when you are together. That’s quite enough, I suppose” His eyes glinted mischievously “And others may miss it, but I can see the subtle bite marks on your scruff. I think I can infer the rest for myself” He teased “Haven’t seen them on him, though. Are you being too gentle with him? Need some tips? Our family has a reputation to maintain, Ravensight”

The black tom rolled his eyes.

“We were having such a wholesome conversation, but you saw an opportunity to make it awkward and you just had to take it, didn't you?” Ravensight retorted, a slight edge of irritation in his voice.

“Why, yes! Of course I had to!” He purred, blinking warmly at him “You’ve got other cats for those kind of talks. I’m here to offer variety”

“To annoy me, you mean”

“That too.”

As slowly and subtly as he could, Ravensight leaned his head backwards and ran the tip of his tail along the back of his neck, trying to… that’s when he noticed Lightstep smile widening.

“There… aren’t any marks, are there?”

“Marks? I don’t know what you’re talking about. Why would you have marks on your neck, dear brother? It's because your battle training is too rough aftel all, hm?” Lightstep meowed with faux innocence and barely contained laughter.

“Fox-hearted piece of mousedung!” He snarled, though the smile of his own appearing on his face betrayed he wasn’t really mad. His brother’s teasing offered some normalcy to the situation they found themselves in.

A monster roared from the other side of the Twolegs’ den, reminding them of where they were, followed by a fading screeching sound that indicated it was going away.

“Bonding time is over. Back to work!” His brother exclaimed and sat straighter, with Ravensight coping him.

He heard the sounds of paws swiftly hitting a hard surface coming from the interior of the den, then a piece of the wood plank that covered the entrance swirled up and a cat walked out.

“Good day” The new cat meowed politely “I’m deeply sorry for the delay. I thought they’d never leave!”

“It’s alright. Can’t exactly expect you to tell the Housefolk what to do” Lightstep dipped his head in greetings, then flicked it in Ravensight’s direction “I’ve brought you this wildcat. Whatever you have to say, it’s for him”

The black tom blinked in confusion.

Housefolk? Wasn’t that a kittypet term? Why was Lightstep using it? And what did he mean with ‘this wildcat’? Lightstep was a clan cat too! And he was his brother! Was he ashamed to introduce him as such to his friends?

Also, why did this cat had stuff to say to Ravensight? Weren’t these Lightstep’s duties? Why should he get involved?

What was going on?

Ravensight took a closer look at the kittypet. A light brown tabby… tom? He sounded male, but he couldn’t confirm it just by smell, which wasn’t really unheard of. Many kittypets lost part of their distinctive scent after living in Twolegplace for a while. A typical green collar wrapped itself around his neck, with a shiny thing dangling from it.

“Hello” He tipped his head in greetings too “I’m Ra…”

“No!” The kittypet hissed “No names! In our profession, we work on a need-to-know basis! I don’t need your name and you don’t need mine” He explained, then turned to Lightstep and flicked his tail in his direction “Speaking of which, you can wait outside the fence”

The WindClan warrior nodded and hurried to the fence, leaving the other two cats alone.

There was something odd about this kittypet. He wasn’t as plump as he’d expect, and his pelt didn’t look like the pelt of someone who hadn’t been exposed to the elements ever in their life. Better groomed than any clan cat he knew, yes; but it looked damaged in some parts, in a way that suggested this cat had spent at least some time in the wilderness.

“How do you know that I’m the one you have to talk to, then?” The black tom questioned “You haven’t scented me before”

He noticed well-defined muscles under this cat’s fur and very strong looking hind legs. One of his claws on his back paw was damaged, likely from climbing something.

He wondered…

“I don’t, because I don’t need to. That’s the point”

“That doesn’t…” He sighed “Ok, fine. Let’s hear whatever I need to hear”

“Alright, pay attention” He looked around suspiciously, beckoning him to come closer, before continuing “ThunderClan’s deputy is called Alderclaw. A very prideful cat and very good friend to his leader. He has a daughter of apprentice age, who he loves very much. After his other two kits died, he became extremely protective of her. He’s very easily offended when it comes to comments about her, to the point even her mentor has to watch out when he corrects her. I don’t know her name, but I know it’s a prey”

The kittypet fell silent.

Ravensight stared at him, waiting for him to continue, but he just stared back with expectant eyes.

“…what?” The back tom finally meowed.

“That’s what I got”

“So you mean to tell me that I was dragged out of my nest against my will and then ran across the whole of Twolegplace, putting up with my brother, monsters and Twolegs, getting uncountable awful scents on my fur that will take me moons to get rid of, and neglecting my duties to my Clan… only to gossip about a cat I barely recognize?”

The kittypet shrugged and flicked one ear, then stood up and hurried back into the Twolegs’ den without so much as a ‘goodbye’.

The WindClan warrior sat alone for a moment, utterly dumbfounded and quite a bit upset, his tail twitching irritably from side to side and his fur slowly bristling. But he decided that if he had to be mad, he’d rather be mad back in the comfort of his camp. So he took a deep breath, whipped around and jumped over the fence Lightstep had gone over before.

He found him close by, lounging casually on top of some square things that stank of crowfood. His ears perked up when he noticed the black tom and he swiftly jumped down to meet him.

“Ready to go back?” He meowed.

“Yes, please…” He pressed against his brother for comfort and bumped his shoulder with his forehead “Take me out of here, Lightstep”

“Then let’s go”

They padded away in silence for a little while, until they were a good distance away from that den, almost at the outskirts of WindClan’s territory, before he voiced his suspicions.

“Why are we getting involved with SkyClan, brother?”

“Who says that we are?” Lightstep replied, casting him a curious side glance.

“I might be oblivious to many things, but some stuff is clear even to me. That wasn’t just a kittypet”

“Well, fear not! This was a personal favor. Unofficial and off the records”

“So SkyClan doesn’t know?”

His brother smirked at him.

“They don’t need to know”

“Alright… but why do I need all this useless information about ThunderClan’s deputy?”

“That’s something even I don’t know, because…”

“You don’t need to. Yeah, I got that…” He interrupted, frustrated with the roundabout manner everyone was talking today.

“Hey, relax! I’m sure it’ll be useful to you… er… somehow” Lightstep gave him a quick reassuring lick behind his ear “Now hurry up. I have a feeling things are about to get interesting”

Ravensight narrowed his eyes, but said nothing more.

------------------------------

The following day was the full moon. That alone would’ve been interesting enough.

There was always a lot of unusual activity in all clan camps the day of a Gathering. But a leader barging into the warrior’s den before even the dawn patrol was sent out was definitely odd, even by those standards.

“Everyone out!” Silentstar screeched into the den “There are some very important news today!”

Ravensight’s eyes flew open and he found himself on his paws immediately, completely forgetting that Shorthawk was sleeping snuggled up to him and resting his head on his back. The dull thud sound and the pained groan that came from bellow him were quick to remind him, however.

“Watch it!” Shorthawk hissed “I almost bit off my tongue!”

“Sorry!”

All around them, the cats that had moved into the warrior’s den for Leaf-bare began to stir up and awake. After stretching a bit and a quick grooming, everyone began slipping off into the clearing, where the rest of the clan was waiting.

Yelloweyes sat in front of the Tallrock with an eerily blank stare. She seemed almost hollow, with nothing of the authority she often carried in her eyes. Ravensight’s blood run cold at the visage and worry clawed its way into his mind.

Shorthawk must have noticed too, the smile that was adorning his face when they walked out of the den evaporating instantly. He closed his eyes and pressed against the black tom even more. Ravensight didn’t really know what to say. He draped his tail over his mate’s back and walked up to a spot near the front in silence, sitting down next to each other.

He knew what was coming. He was sure of it, yet the only thing in his mind was finding out if their current deputy was alright.

“Hey, if it isn’t my favorite cat!” Webfur meowed, sitting next to them “Don’t tell anyone I said that, by the way. I’m not supposed…”

“What happened to Yelloweyes?” Ravensight whispered, interrupting him.

“Yes, good morning too. A little cold, but otherwise fine. How about you?”

“Webfur, I’m serious! Please!

“Ok, keep it down!” He whispered back “She’s fine, you tom-kit. Nothing’s wrong with her!”

“Then why is she…?”

“You’ll see, you’ll see”

“Cats of WindClan!” Silentstar voice boomed once every cat had gathered “I’ve gathered today here for a very important announcement!”

“Why wasn’t a traditional summoning used, though?” He heard a voice comment nearby.

“Does it really need to be this early?” Another one complained.

“If it is just the cats for the gathering, I swear…!” That one sounded like his mother.

“I assure you, this topic is of the outmost importance! One that affects each present cat and also the future of the clan!” Silentstar continued, though he wasn’t sure if she was responding to the comments or just following a rehearsed speech “But for that, I must cede the word to my most trusted warrior. Yelloweyes, if you please”

“Cats of WindClan! My dear clanmates!” Yelloweyes yowled, her voice raspy and not quite as elegant as usual “I announce the following with such sadness in my heart that I find myself incapable of describing the feeling with mere words!” She continued. The deputy of WindClan spared one quick, warm and troubled glance at each of her kits before continuing “I am retiring!”

A poignant silence fell upon Windclan camp, like a thick mist of uncertainty. Ravensight felt his heart stop and he could swear there were hedgehogs flying somewhere in the horizon. All around them, he could see tails shooting up in alarm, pelts bristling and eyes widening in shock. Cats looking at each other, trying to make sense of the situation.

He was under the impression that more cats were aware that this was going to happen, but now he wasn’t so sure.

Someone managed to break through the spell.

What!?” They half hissed, half whispered.

And like that, emotions and words came flooding in muffled murmurs, barely loud enough to be heard at first, then increasing in volume.

“What do you mean ´retire´?”

“WindClan deputies don’t retire!”

“Is this a joke?”

“This is a disgrace to our ancestors!”

“How can Silentstar allow this?”

“SILENCE!” Silentstar screeched so loudly it almost hurt his ears. WindClan fell silent once more, each cat eyeing each other with uncertainty “Our dear friend and former deputy hasn’t finished yet!”

Former deputy?

The term felt so foreign in Ravensight’s mind. He wondered if those things were more common in other clans.

“I understand your concerns” Yelloweyes continued, her voice strained and tired now “But the truth is that WindClan will soon find itself at war with ThunderClan. They have offended us, our ancestors and our way of life, and that cannot be left unanswered”

She paused, letting the words sink in. It really wasn’t anything particularly new, Ravensight thought. Only the apprentices and kits seemed to genuinely be surprised by the news.

“In light of this reality, I cannot in good faith be you deputy any longer” She was fighting back tears now, he could feel it even from where he sat “The seasons have softened up my bones and muscles too much. It would bring great joy to this old soul to meet her end trading blows with an enemy of ours, but I am also aware that in my state I would be little more than an embarrassment to our clan when that moment came”

Ravensight attention immediately snapped to the medicine cat, and he found himself hissing under his breath before he could stop himself.

“You told me she was alright, Webfur!”

“She is” His friend whispered back “She’s just… old, Ravensight.” His eyes darkened all of a sudden, in a way Ravensight hadn’t seen since… “She doesn’t belong in a battlefield”

“I cannot help run this clan no more. I cannot lead you all to battle. And I cannot, if the worst were to happen, take over the role of leader. I simply cannot do most of what a deputy is supposed to… and, as such, I do not deserve to be Windclan’s”

“To retire is a privilege all warriors have!” Silentstar meowed “And not a single cat here present has the right to question the moons of service Yelloweyes has given to this clan. If she wants to retire, then I’ll allow her to”

“Privilege…” The old she-cat spat, barely audible.

“Yelloweyes…” Silentstar continued “Is it your wish to give up the name of a warrior and your position as deputy to join the elders?”

“No, Silentstar, but it is for the betterment of the clan, so I will”

“Then… your clan honors you, my old friend. May Starclan give you many moons of rest” This was the part where the clan was meant to shout the name of the new elder, Ravensight realized. But everybody remained silent, the weight of the news sapping away the will to cheer “Since today is the Gathering, I won’t delay in announcing Yelloweyes’ replacement. We must look our strongest when we meet the other clans tonight. I say these words before Starclan, so that the spirits of our warrior ancestors may hear and approve of my choice…” He didn’t need to hear what was coming next. He’d made peace with the idea. His paws tingled with anxiety, but it was too late now “The new deputy of Windclan is Ravensight”

“I accept” He replied, almost purely by reflex, so quick and full of certainty that even Shorthawk eyed him with surprise.

Silentstar jumped down from the Tallrock and went to salute him, but he barely registered her. He felt her muzzle pressing against his shoulder, and he returned the gesture out of reflex. His leader stood before him, waiting for something. A speech from his part, perhaps? But he didn’t care about those things right now. He brushed past her, leaving her bewildered and quite surely annoyed, and came to stand before Yelloweyes.

The former deputy raised her gaze and eyed him with wary curiosity.

“That was the clan leader you just left stood up back there” She purred, her whiskers twitching “Not a particularly good first impression, hm?”

“I’ll never be as good of a deputy as you were…” He blurted out, the words almost getting caught in his throat. He knew a day like this would come, but he wasn’t ready yet. Then again, would he ever?

“I do not think anyone here has deluded themselves into thinking that” She simply answered, flicking one of his ear with her tail, a hint of humor in her voice.

“And I’ll never be half the leader you could’ve been”

“Oh, you! Stop that!” She snickered, waving a paw dismissively “Are you not aware that Silentstar is still right there? Stop blabbering about successions already”

“I’m sorry…”

“Besides, should that be true, it would not be due to your lack of leadership skill, but due to me having just plenty more”

She winked at him with tired but now hopeful eyes, and he smiled at her.

“I feel like you are just sparing my feelings”

“Maybe I am, maybe I am not. Allow them to be spared either way”

“Of course”

“You will be what Windclan needs you to be, eventually. I am sure”

“I’ll try” He fell something dripping across his cheeks, something salty. Was he crying now? He probably was “To the best of my abilities”

“No one can reasonably ask for more, dear. Now stop being so sentimental!” She stomped one of her front paws against the ground and held her head high “Go back there and accept your congratulations! We will converse later”

He nodded at her, then turned to face the rest of WindClan. Cheers and congratulations reached him from all sides. Some cats shouted his name at last, some hurried to offer him nuzzled, licks and words of encouragement.

Some, like Webfur, with mild enthusiasm, for they knew this was coming. Some, like his mother, almost made him trip for how hard they pressed their muzzles against him.

Even though he understood this was partially arranged, even though he still couldn’t fully grasp the gravity of his new situation yet, he couldn’t help but being caught up in emotions. The words got stuck in his throat as he purred and nodded and nuzzled back.

He didn’t deserve these cats, but by StarClan, someday he would.

This was his clan, now more than ever.

------------------------------

“Quite the stunt you pulled back there. You endeared yourself even more to the Clan on your first day. Well done!”

“I didn’t do it for that, Silentstar!” He snapped at her.

The meeting had been dismissed, with most warriors being sent out to hunt. There wouldn’t be many border patrols that day, for there was no need. The Gathering was upon them once again, and the Windclan leader wanted to make a statement by showing up with all her warriors well fed and well groomed.

She and Ravensight had retreated behind the Tallrock to discuss urgent ‘clan matters’, as she had called them. Yelloweyes had retreated to the elders den, with Shorthawk and Fallowpelt coming with her to make her a nest and help the old she-cat adjust to her new reality. They needed some time alone.

“Why you did it doesn’t matter. The clan liked your public display of respect for your predecessor, and that’s that”

“What are we doing back here, Silentstar? I need to hunt and make myself presentable too, as you ordered”

“Well, a straight-to-the-point kind of tom, aren’t you?”

“Only on occasions”

“Ravensight, you’ve always shown a lot of initiative, coming up with new stuff, offering advice and acting independently. Also, you’ve been very involved in clan affairs since I can remember” She narrowed her eyes “You act like a leader, not a warrior. I don’t like that. I don’t like you. Like, at all. I didn’t want you as deputy either. You follow me?”

“I’ve done nothing but trying to be a good warrior for the clan!” He defended himself.

“Well yeah, but too much of a good thing is a bad thing as far as I’m concerned. You aren’t the second coming of Firestar or anything remotely like that, but you are good enough to be a problem”

“So you made me deputy to keep an eye on me?”

“Pfft, you wish! No, I wanted to grant your request of becoming a nursery warrior. That would’ve solved a lot”

“You… what? How do you know of that?”

“I know everything, my deputy” She winked “It would’ve gotten you out of the way, and let you have something you seemed to want, so hopefully you would’ve settled down with that” Her eyes took a kinder glint for a heartbeat, shining genuinely “You seemed to like being around kits, and they liked you too. It would’ve been an ideal arrangement. Besides, you do look more like a she-cat than a tom at first glance. You’d fit right in among queens, maybe even smelled like one after a while”

“Er… thanks? I guess?”

“However, our medicine cat and our former deputy insisted that the clan would absolutely not take it kindly if I gave the position to anyone else. So here you are”

“I don’t really want to be here either, Silentstar”

“Good”

“If you are so concerned about the clan’s opinions…” He ventured “Why retire Yelloweyes?”

She didn’t answer right away, instead eyeing him with an odd wariness, as if debating if she should speak about it with him or not.

“Because I can’t lose her. Not now. I still need her” She finally spoke, softer than ever before “She’s my mentor. She’s my guide. I can’t afford to get her hurt, I have too much left to learn”

“And… you think she might die if she fights? Don’t you trust StarClan to watch over her?”

He wondered what had inspired this protective side of his leader. What had Webfur told her? What had the siblings told Webfur to begin with?

“Cats often pray to StarClan to watch over their loved ones, but what those cats tend to forget is that our Ancestors watch over all five clans at the end of the day. Not just us, or ThunderClan or RiverClan or whatever. So maybe they’ll smile upon us and allow her a safe return today, but what happens tomorrow when they randomly decide this one ThunderClan cat is coming home after the battle, no matter what, and guide his claw towards his opponent’s throat? What happens if that opponent happens to be Yelloweyes?”

“With all due respect, that sounds like an overly specific situation. And kind of a stretch, too”

“Well, it’s not. I won’t risk that”

“So now someone more disposable has the position”

“Don’t you ever say something like that again!” She hissed at him, eyes blazing if she had been gravely insulted by the comment “No one is disposable in my clan! Besides, I just appointed your ungrateful tail, so you owe me seasons of service! I swear to StarClan, if you die and leave me without a planned replacement, I…”

“I’ll make sure to let you know in advance when I plan on dying, then, Silentstar” He meowed back, struggling not to flinch at the intensity of his leader’s reaction.

“Good, a moon in advance at least if possible. I don’t have a clear replacement in mind. But again, make sure to last me a couple of seasons cycles first” Her toned of voice didn’t make it clear if that was a joke or not.

“I’ll do my best”

“Look, I’m a bit of a fox-hearted and a snake-tongued cat, Ravensight, ok? I know the clan thinks that, I know you think that” She snickered all of a sudden, her whiskers twitching with amusement “I bet you think more colorful things about me. We have to share a rabbit some time so you can tell me. I’ll even hunt it myself”

“Quite the opposite, Silentstar” He argued. The cats he knew did have many complains about her, but they didn’t see her as cruel or anything of the sort “The clan seems to think you’re very lenient in your policies, actually”

“They may say that, but do they actually believe it?”

“I wouldn’t know”

“Well, you yourself even called me ‘crazier than a fox on a fit’ that one time”

“Ah, you… y-you heard that?”

Of course I did”

“I’m sorry”

“Don’t be. I appreciate sincerity. But next time, say it to my face” She sighed, shaking her head “I see WindClan as my kit, Ravensight. I care deeply for it, but I can’t raise it alone. I’m young and inexperienced, especially to go through something like war. I was chosen as leader to keep us out of situations like these, but circumstances will eventually force the clans’ paws. I need help. I’m not prideful enough to not realize that. Still following me?”

“I think?”

“Yelloweyes was that to me, for as long as she could. I need to know if you will take that spot now. If you are ready to”

“Shouldn’t you have asked this before naming me deputy?”

“I don’t know. Should I have?” She fixed him with a hard stare “Are you backing down now?”

“No, of course not!”

“Your question has been answered. Can I count on you, then?”

“I…” He took a deep breath, the weight of his words suddenly clear in his mind “I gave my word to my friends, I gave my word to Yelloweyes and I now give my word to you, Silentstar. Come what may, whatever WindClan needs, I’m here for it in whatever way possible”

 “Good” She fell silent for a moment, before offering him a genuine smile “I believe you. And I sure do hope you believe those words too, because I’ll be putting that promise to the test very soon”

“I guess we’ll have to see” Despite all, he returned her smile and blinked warmly at her. It was an alright arrangement, he realized. He’d never like Silentstar like he used to do when he was younger, when admittedly he didn’t know her. But that was fine, so long as both focused on working for the benefit of the clan. It wasn’t like she was intolerable or anything, and now he had some tangible authority to maybe stand up to her if it was necessary.

“So, anyways! Before we move on to actual work discussions, is there anything that you’d like to confess?”

“What do you mean?” He tilted his head in confusion.

“Well, cats from your generation can be little rascals sometimes. Have you done anything that I might have to cover up for you? Today’s Gathering is too important to allow some petty thing derail it.”

“I see” He thought about it for a moment and found out he did, in fact, had something that could be considered against the code “I… well, it’s complicated, but I might have… taken prey from RiverClan”

Silentstar stared at him, eyed widening with surprise and fur bristling.

“Oh…” Her voice still sounded calm, however “Ok, that’s… er… a little bit more of a problem than what I expected”

“Yeah…”

“I’m not going to ask how you managed to take fish from them, but don’t do that again” She warned him seriously “We really don’t need to aggravate them right now”

“Understood. Although, for the record, it was like… a moon and a half ago”

“Ugh… old news!” She mockingly gagged, sticking her tongue out and hitting her chest softly with a paw “It’s like getting fed crowfood!”

“Sorry, I’ll try to get something more recent”

“Good deputy” She blinked at him, then sat straighter, her expression suddenly turning serious “Alright, with that out of the way. We need to discuss very delicate matter now”

“I’m ready” Ravensight nodded with conviction, ready for his first real steps as deputy.

“Today is the Gathering, as you obviously already know. A war is going to be declared tonight, you’re also aware of that”

“I am”

“Any proud leader would, of course, lead their clan to achieve victory on their own and gain glory and prove how great their clan is compared to everyone else and blah blah…” She snorted all of a sudden “Well, I don’t care for pride, nor glory, nor proving anything to any other clan. What I do care about is what my clan needs, and what my clan needs is for the bigger clans of this lake to be taken down a few notches, so they can’t push their weight around anymore”

“You don’t… you don’t mean murdering their cats, do you?”

“Stars above, no! We don’t have the numbers for that kind of campaign! Not even close!”

“And it’s again the warrior code, right?”

“Oh… yeah, that too, I guess”

“I mean, it should be the most…”

“Moving on! Here is the thing: Having RiverClan as an ally is a great boon to us… in theory. How much will they support us with paws on the ground, and not words and promises, is debatable. Not to mention their leader will, as he understandably should, prioritize ShadowClan first, since they are the most immediate threat to them. We, however, need more cats that will openly engage ThunderClan from the get go”

“And that’d be SkyClan, correct?” He asked, though the answer was rather obvious.

“Precisely. Both in public and in private conversations, the tree-hoppers have shown themselves very eager to restore peace, even before war has been declared. I suppose the hero complex has rubbed off on them due to being next to ThunderClan” She purred subtly and flicked both of her ears “For the most part, they seem to have no interest in any side, just the restoration of peace itself. Yelloweyes and I reached the conclusion that, unless something is done, they’re likely to take the path of less resistance”

Ravensight took a moment to digest the implications behind those words. When realization dawned on him, he could hardly believe it. It made sense for them, he realized, but still. It sounded so pragmatic, so cold-blooded. 

“They’ll attack the enemy that they can defeat the fastest? But that would probably be RivenClan or us! We must do something, then!”

“Yelloweyes was right about you after all. You do learn fast, though again, still not fast enough in my opinion”

“Now it’s not the time for back-pawed compliments, Silentstar!”

“Watch you tone with me, you kit!” She hissed “But you’re right, so now listen closely, because a lot will depend on you actions tonight” She waited for him to nod in confirmation before continuing “If WindClan is to go to war, it needs to be declared tonight. More importantly, we need ThunderClan to be the one to declare war on us. SkyClan needs to see them as the aggressor”

“But... aren’t they?”

“Honestly, this whole mess probably started with RiverClan and ShadowClan. That doesn’t matter, it is our mess now. And we’re going to sort it out by exploiting that tree-hoppers’ hero complex and the good relationship our two clans have had these last seasons. Do you know Alderclaw, ThunderClan’s current deputy? Red tabby, weird blue eyes, kind of short and with a smaller frame for a thundercat, missing an ear?”

Alderclaw? He’d heard that name before, from Lightstep’s friend. And he believed he’d seen a cat that matched that description too, though he’d never paid too much attention to him.

“I’ve seen him, yes” He admitted, then narrowed his eyes remembering another detail “Hard not to, you forced me to sit in front of the deputies”

“Well, I deserve an extra pat on my back for my unforeseen foresight, wouldn’t you agree? Anyways, he’s a nasty piece of work, but with a bark much worse that his bite. Luckily for us, he’s also very quick to bite. I guess to compensate for his appearance”

Ravensight could imagine from where all this intel was coming from and was already connecting some of the dots in his mind. It made sense how they knew so much now, considering that both ThunderClan and SkyClan frequently had dealings with kittypets. He supposed some thundercats weren’t as familiar with them as they thought; conveniently, they also seemed to be quite chatty.

“So what do we do with him?” The black tom was fairly sure that harming him wasn’t what Silentstar had in mind. Otherwise, she wouldn’t be tasking him with it.

“Tonight, at the gathering, I want you to sit next to him, and then talk dirt to him until he snaps!” She declared “Make him seethe with rage! Make fun of him, of his clan, of his ancestors, of his family, of his territory, of his prey. I do not care what you tell him, or how mature or immature you are about it, just that he gets so enraged he loses his composure”

“And… why am I doing all of this, exactly?”

“Because you are to goad him into doing something stupid. Ideally, you get him to attack you, right there in the middle of the Gathering” She explained calmly “I’ll throw some nonsensical request of compensation to ThunderClan, which of course they’ll never agree to, and they’ll have to declare war or be seen as incompetent in front of all clans. SkyClan will see this and intervene in our side. How more nobler of a cause could they find than jumping to the aid of a recently appointed deputy, who a lot of cats from all clans already like to begin with, and a clan that has so egregiously been attacked during a StarClan-mandated truce?”

“Oh… that’s sounds…”

“Dangerous and a gamble, all things considered. But it’s what we have to do. I wish we could just claw them up and not rely on these kind of tactics, but our clan is in no condition of doing that”

“This sounds too well thought out to be a new plan…” He questioned “Has this been a thing for a while?”

“We’ve had it in our paws since the beginnings of Leaf-fall, but I realized Yelloweyes could never put it into action. She’s grumpy sometimes, but too calm, too proper. If she starts just dirt-talking her fellow deputy, he’ll know something is up” She shook her head, her eyes darkening slightly again “That’s why we needed someone new. That’s… please, don’t mess this up. We need this to happen tonight, next Gathering may be too late, and proving Thunderclan is in the ´wrong´ would be too difficult outside of these meetings. Their word would be worth the same as ours in that case, so we must coerce them to say what we want them to, through actions in public”

Ravensight wondered if the angle of ‘someone new’ was something Shorthawk and Fallowpelt had used to convince Silentstar to retire Yelloweyes. He also wondered if that was also a factor in not considering the other candidates. It’d be a challenge to make the other clans feel sympathy for someone like Smallflower, or at least for how she presented herself. Minkclaw was too nice to just insult a cat unprovoked. Aspentail might, but then what? She wasn’t going to stick around in the position afterwards. Lightstep was too visible, too unreliable, and had apprenticed no one. That last point applied to Shorthawk and Fallowpelt, as well as Rustsong. He wasn’t aware in what situation Kestrelstalker or Mistwalker were, he didn’t know them very well. And then there was…

A troubling thought made it way to the back of his mind. From any outside perspective, this could easily be interpreted as some sort of scheme on his part to get this position. He silently thanked the Stars for making him just an idiot instead of malicious.

“Alright, Silentstar. I’d like to point out that I find this dishonorable… and a bit denigrating, to be honest… but if this is what the clan needs, then I’ll be the most rage inducing furball the clans have ever known. You have my word”

She eyed him in silence for a moment, before nodding approvingly.

“Very well. Yelloweyes believed in you, from what I’ve gathered, so I’ll put all my trust in you too”

“Thank you” Then something occurred to him “Wait, cats know me as a… not particularly combative warrior. Won’t my change in behavior be weird too?”

“Yes, but in your case, it’ll be an advantage. You’ll be seen as a weak warrior who is now all over his head because he now has authority over others! That is sure to annoy him, considering he is a senior warrior after all”

“I… still don’t think…”

“Listen, I know you don’t like fighting, and that’s fine by me. I don’t need you to actually fight. I have other cats that’ll fight, way better that you could. You just focus on getting a public offence out of them and getting me a defensive war. Also, although I don’t thinks this bears repeating, be safe too” She added “You’re not a one-use deputy, you hear me? I still want you around after tonight. Do not get yourself killed or seriously injured, whatever you do”

“Right!” He scoffed at her “Because I was planning on doing that to begin with”

“You never know. While we’re on the topic, I’d like to... test, if you will, one of our warriors’ loyalty”

 “Test their loyalty?” He repeated with concern, his enthusiasm for tonight slightly faltering “Do you suspect that we have a traitor among us?”

“Oh, no! Nothing of the sort! I…” She cleared her throat, ears flattening in embarrassment “I’m more wary of throwing that term around. I’ve learnt from when we last met! No, it’s just to see how committed to the clan he is. I need to see if he’ll fight when I ask him to, because while he is a good warrior, he also lacks self-confidence”

“So it’s both like a test of loyalty and a moral boost for him?”

“Something like that. He’s being… honestly, he’s behaving straight up weird, as of late. He’s  unusually distant, and I don’t know why. I don’t want to take unnecessary risks when we’re taking so many necessary ones already. I think a good responsibility like this could maybe do him some good”

“Are we telling him he’ll be tested?”

“No”

“I… suppose that’s for the best” Somewhat reluctantly, he realized, but he did anyways “Who are we testing?”

“One moment, he just strolled into camp” She cleared her throat before calling out “Minkclaw, could you come here, please? I would like to have a word with you!”

The white and ginger warrior in question was just arriving back to camp, carrying what seemed to be a small mouse. He shot them a dumbfounded expression, looking briefly to the side to check if it was him that was being called, before dropping his prey on the fresh-kill pile and approaching his deputy and leader.

“Hello Silentstar. Good morning, Ravensight” He dipped his head respectfully at each cat. “What can I do for you?”

“Hello, young warrior! How do the Stars find you this morning? Have you eaten something yet?”

“No, of course not” His ears flattened against his head and his posture became slightly deflated “The queens haven’t been fed yet and the apprentices are still changing the elders’ bedding. I’d never eat before my clan!”

The black tom mused internally that if improving Minkclaw’s confident was one of the objectives of this, then subtly accusing him of breaking the code was most certainly a poor way of going about it.

“Oh, right…! You’ll have to excuse me, it’s a little bit early for me. These last days have been tiring!” Silentstar meowed with feigned innocence… or was it maybe genuine? Ravensight found that he couldn’t tell, but Minkclaw seemed to relax a bit.

“Of course, Silentstar. I-If I’m being honest, I’m a bit out of it myself. The news about Yelloweyes were honestly…” He trailed off, but the Windclan leader chimed in before he could continue.

“I understand. It’s certainly a bittersweet day for all of us, but we must be strong and persevere, just as we always have done”

“I know we will, Silentstar”

“Which is partially why I called you here. You see, we have a new deputy: Ravensight. Are you familiar?”

Ravensight was taken aback by Silentstar’s inquiry. What kind of question was that? Minkclaw obviously knew him! He’d been a friend of his family since Hollowstreak and him were apprentices, probably before that even.

“Oh yes, we’re… acquaintances” He spared a quick look in the black tom’s direction. His eyes flashed with pride when they momentarily met the black tom’s. He felt flattered and annoyed in equal measure at how much this cat cared for him “My sister knows him better, though”

“Well, he and I have a special mission that involve the wellbeing of the clan. After careful consideration, you’ve been selected to carry it out”

“A special mission?” His eyes widened in shock “M-me?”

“Yes, a special mission. And yes, for you” Silentstar meowed patiently, as if she was explaining something to an apprentice.

“I’m honored by your trust, but… I don’t know if… sorry, what’s the mission about?

“The truth is, and I hope I can trust you to keep quiet about this affair…” She paused, gazing at him seriously until he nodded “ThunderClan has issued a threat against our deputy”

Minkclaw blinked in confusion.

Ravensight did too, glancing sideways at his leader.

“What…!? But he was just appointed! How could they have…?”

“I know what you’re thinking” But did she, though? “It’d be better if our deputy explains it himself. Ravensight?”

Minkclaw shifted his attention solely onto him, and Ravensight turned to face his leader, miraculously biting back a retort. She looked at him with the same innocence that she’d shown with Minkclaw, and suddenly the black tom understood that this was also some sort of a test for him too.

Silentstar had just failed to mention it.

Conveniently.

“Y-yes, well, you see…” He began, then cleared his throat and sat straighter, trying to display at least a little bit of confidence “The… er… threat was issued originally against Yelloweyes, but... we… it’s likely they might try something anyways”

“Against you?”

“Against me”

“But that’s… how would they…? For what reason?”

“We don’t know, but it hardly matters. We can’t ignore this! If they’re planning something, we must be ready”

“H-how… how dare them!?” His eyes blazed with anger, if even for a moment, and Ravensight knew he was making progress.

“We have reasons to believe that their deputy, Alderclaw, might try something tonight. He knows that WindClan considers itself the clan closest to StarClan, and wants to prove that StarClan will not favor us, but them!”

“But why not kill Silentstar if that’s the case?” Minkclaw questioned, but the black tom had anticipated that question.

“Because they are cowards. They wouldn’t dare face Silentstar”

“Of course…” Minkclaw growled, something Ravensight didn’t remember ever hearing “So what do you need of me?”

“I need a strong and trustworthy warrior to watch my back tonight” He lifted his tail and very gently placed the tip of it on the other tom’s shoulder “We don’t want to tell the clan as a whole just yet, so as to avoid unnecessary animosity if nothing actually happens. But it would put Silentstar’s mind at ease if you could keep an eye out for trouble”

Minkclaw blinked with confusion, taking a step back. He looked at Silentstar, who silently nodded at him, then back at Ravensight.

“You’d… you’d trust me to protect you?” The white and ginger tom asked with hopeful disbelief.

“Of course I would!” His smile softened, his eyes shining more sympathetically “I know that you’ve been feeling a bit down as of late, but I assure you. You’re a great warrior and friend, and there’s no one else I’d want by my side tonight”

“I-I see… then I promise I’ll be there tonight for you and the clan!” He declared with conviction, a fire in his voice that reminded Ravensight of some great warriors of old.

This cat could’ve gone places, he realized, if only he’d tried… or better said, if he’d wanted to try. Ravensight was very much aware that he was where he was due to special circumstances; but Minkclaw? No such thing, just raw talent and loyalty. He deserved so much more and yet destiny hadn’t given it to him. Maybe because he wasn’t meant to attain more? Or maybe because he had no one to help him, like Ravensight had? Or perhaps he simply didn’t long for much more, regardless of his potential? He seemed just content with serving the clan and looking after the sister that had once looked after him. A sister that, admittedly, didn’t really need that much help to begin with.

“Let us pray this is nothing but an unnecessary precaution” He reassured him, and himself too, to be honest “Go back to what you were doing, but be sure to rest for tonight”

“Actually, Ravensight, since we are here, could we…” He cleared his throat, suddenly looking embarrassed “Could we have a word? Er… alone?”

“Of course! Follow me to…” The black tom started to reply, before being cut off by his leader.

“No, I’m afraid not” Silentstar meowed firmly “There is a lot for me and my deputy to discuss right now. You can ask him later”

“But it’s rather important… for me, at least… I…”

“So important that it can’t wait and must be heard by a clan deputy…” She countered, narrowing her eyes and taking a step forwards “… yet not important enough to be informed to the clan leader?”

“I-I suppose it’s not that important, I’m sorry” Minkclaw conceded, glancing at Ravensight with a pleading eyes “Later, maybe?”

Ravensight barely had time to nod at the white and ginger tom before Silentstar dismissed him with an annoyed flicked of her tail. Hastily, Minkclaw padded away and hurried to leave camp.

“You know, I’m kind of curious about what is going on with him…” Silentstar meowed softly, licking a paw and dragging it across her ears “Make sure to find out later, when you talk with him. For the time being, I just want to find out if he’ll be an issue for us or not”

“And what if he will?” Ravensight questioned, eyeing his leader cautiously.

“I’ll leave it up to you” The she-cat stood and arched her back upwards, stretching her muscled body, before settling down again “You’ve got to learn to act on my behalf sooner or later. Fix it, if you can. Make it clear to him that there will be consequences, if you can’t. Of course, inform me of whatever you do regardless”

“I’ll… see to it”

“That’s it for now, you’re dismissed. Go hunt, if you feel like it. Eat something. Take a nap” Then she purred with amusement “Prepare you face to be slapped around and your alright-looks to be spoiled, just in case!”

“Didn’t you say we had more to discuss?” The black tom asked, tilting his head in confusion.

“I lied to him. You did too” Her cheery mood died “Just like you lie to your friends, and to me, and to your mate” She flicked one of her ears, then the other “It gets easier every time, doesn’t it? Smoother words, bigger lies. Just… how much have you gotten away with, I wonder?”

He steadied himself and met her gaze challengingly.

“I wonder the very same thing about you, Silentstar” He accused her, not particularly sure of what. That prompted her to smile.

“Maybe you and I will lead this clan alright after all”

------------------------------

After his conversation with the WindClan’s leader, Ravensight thought it’d be appropriate for him to drop by the elders’ den and see how Yelloweyes was adjusting to her new den. Secretly, he also hoped to asked for advice on organizing patrols; specifically, on which cats were better suited for which patrol. Today he was spared of that task, but starting tomorrow he’d have to do it every day. He’d been giving it some thought, he’d listened and observed his clanmates, and had some idea of who excelled in what, but asking for tips wouldn’t hurt.

He was hoping, perhaps too optimistically, to find her alone with the other elders, but that hope was dashed the moment he saw Shorthawk coming out of the elders’ den. However, his mate was smiling as he padded back into the clearing, which was definitively a good sign.

The white and grey tom’s ears perked up and his smile widened when he noticed him approaching. He hurried to meet him, pressing their bodies together and covering his face with affectionate licks.

“Shorthawk, stop it!” He purred at his mate, trying to reciprocate somewhat nonetheless “We’re in the middle of camp! Cats can see us!”

“Let them! My mate is WindClan’s deputy, like he deserves, and I want everyone to know it!” His whiskers and tail tip were twitching excitedly, and Ravensight was reminded of when this cat had been a shy and self-conscious apprentice, who grew bolder and more confident with every praise his mentor gave him.

Ravensight almost burst out laughing when the thought that perhaps he had overdone it crossed his mind.

“Stop gloating, you featherbrained furball! You knew this would happen!”

“Well, yeah, kind of. I did give you the choice of not going through with it if you really didn’t wanted the position, though” He blinked slowly at him, brushing their noses together “I’d support whatever you chose to do. But you accepted! So I’m going to gloat about it to everyone!” He gave his shoulder a friendly nudge “Now… how about we start planning for Silentstar’s ‘retirement’?”

“Don’t even joke about that!” He glanced to the entrance of the elders’ den again, then asked in a whisper “How’s Yelloweyes doing?”

“Well… better than I expected, worse than I’d like. Your words sort of softened the blow a lot”

“I see…”

“She’ll be alright, don’t worry! My mother is an elder now, but only in name. She’s stronger than the both of us combined”

Ravensight nodded, then asked cautiously.

“Is she receiving visitors?”

Shorthawk hesitated for a heartbeat before answering.

“I mean… I wouldn’t recommend it, but I won’t stop you either if you really need to. She’s inside with Fallowpelt”

That destroyed any desire to go inside that den.

“N-no, I’d better not. Let her rest”

“What did you want to talk about with her anyways?” The white and grey tom asked, eyes gleaming with mild curiosity.

“Oh, just patrol assigning stuff. Nothing too exciting, I’m afraid” He stood up, beckoning towards the camp entrance with his head “Care for some hunting? We could take a nap together afterwards!”

“That sounds like a lovely plan!”

They’ve barely taken a few pawsteps towards the entrance when Webfur bursted through it, fur bristled and eyes wild, fear scent clear as day coming from him. Before Ravensight could even begin to process what was going on, the medicine cat had run up to them and had his face right in front of his.

“I saw it again!” He hissed at his warrior friend, making him recoil backwards.

“What…?”

“The bleeding two-colored moon! I saw it again!” He explain hastily “Not in a dream this time! I went to the Gathering Island to prepare… what we’d discussed, and when I looked up in the sky I saw it! This is an omen, Ravensight, now I’m sure of it! We must inform Silentstar!”

“Wasn’t it white, then patched in the first vision?” He asked, realizing a heartbeat later that wasn’t exactly the most important part.

“You… are right… this one had red from the beginning…” Webfur paused, his eyes widening even more with concern. Perhaps it was important after all “The moon… felt different too... gentler… like it wasn’t the same moon… h-how can it not be the same moon!?” A hint of desperation was starting to appear in his voice “It’s… it’s not meant to be the time, then? Does it not stand for the night of the Gathering!?”

“Stop wasting time here! Go talk with Silentstar immediately!” Ravensight urged him. His medicine cat friend nodded, expression as in deep thought, barely registering his surroundings.

The black tom followed him with his gaze as he quickly made his way straight to the WindClan leader, who was just exiting the nursery. Ravensight supposed that she was checking on the queens. He couldn’t imagine her planning to have a family with everything going on, mostly orchestrated by her, and in the middle of Leaf-bare.

“Well, look at you! Not even a day on the job and already involved with StarClan’s affairs!” Shorthawk almost gushed, drawing his attention back to him.

“Well, I’ve known of that for a while now” He explained, looking sheepishly “Sorry for keeping it a secret. We simply thought it was nothing important”

Well, in reality, Ravensight thought that. Though he had never seen or heard a StarClan omen before, let alone tried to interpret it, so maybe his opinion shouldn’t have been taken seriously to being with.

He went through the entrance, with Shorthawk following close behind

“Oh, no no no! Whatever happens between you, Webfur and our ancestors, you can keep to yourself! The less I know, the better”

“Aren’t you curious about the ways of StarClan?”

“Nah. I know they’re real and that’s enough for me, to be honest. I’m not interested in the details. I trust that Webfur, Silentstar and you will know what to do about them”

“Your trust is us is a little naïve, though heartwarming. South or North, by the way”

“Let’s go South, I bet most of our clanmates already went to the farm and the RiverClan border” He narrowed his eyes and smiled teasingly “ And like you’re the one to talk about being naïve, mister ‘thanks for the frog dear apprentice, why don’t we go out together into the moor. Alone. Away from everyone. In the middle of the night. To talk’”

“That… that was a pretty awful misunderstanding. I swear for my Ancestors, I didn’t mean to imply anything with that!”

“Oh, I know you didn’t! That makes it funnier!”

“It does not! I could’ve gotten into trouble for that!”

“Pff! As if I would’ve reported you!”

“Well, maybe you should have!” Ravensight retorted, suddenly feeling an irrational concern for Shorthawk’s past self “I was older than you and your mentor. What if I’d been a different, more evil cat? What then?”

“I’d like to think I would have noticed and we wouldn’t have gotten as close as we did. I was a bit insecure when I was younger, Ravensight, not a helpless idiot”

“I never said you were”

“You thought about it”

“I think about a lot of stuff. Very little of it is worth paying attention”

“I’d rather you bore me with what you consider to be nonsense than letting things gets as bad as… that night”

“I suppose you’re right… though that night turned out quite nice in the end”

“Oh… w-well, sure, but… nothing would make seeing you so distressed again worth it. You looked so… lost” He shook his head, trying to get rid of the memory.

“That slap was totally unnecessary, by the way”

“I didn’t know what to do and I was panicking too, alright? I thought it would help! I’m sorry!”

“Ah, it’s alright. Thankfully, you hit like a kittypet. Otherwise, you might’ve hurt me”

“Like a…!? Oh, I’ll show you who’s a kittypet!” He fell into a pouncing position and quickly lunged at him. Ravensight couldn’t help but notice the sloppiness in his form, but he guessed that was intentional.

His battle training kicked in and he immediately crouched as close to the snow as he could. Shorthawk had put too much strength behind his hind legs, apparently, and sailed past over him, crashing and rolling into the snow just as sloppily as he had leaped.

His mate ended up laying belly up some tail-lengths away. Purrs of amusement rumbled loudly in his throat as he approached him, sitting down next to him and wrapping his tail neatly around his paws.

“So, any preference in color for your collar?”

“…orange, please!” They shared a heartfelt chuckle before the white and grey tom sprang back to his paws and shook himself to get rid of the snow clinging to his pelt “Well, I’ve embarrassed myself enough for today” He meowed, bumping Ravensight’s chest with his forehead “Let’s get back to doing something useful”

“Wait!” He stopped him with his tail and gently nudged him to sit in front of him “I’d like to tell you something”

“Can’t it wait until we get back? We’ll get some sort of Cough out here!”

“No, it can’t be in camp. It’s something that I think I’m not supposed to tell you, but… I’d like you to know”

“Ooooh! A secret? For me? Before it becomes a problem? That’s a new one!” Despite the implications, his eyes shone with interest.

Ravensight took a deep breath. He had pushed this out of his mind until now, but he had to consider the possibilities of Silentstar’s scheme going awry.

“If something happens to me tonight, I just want you to know that I love you, alright?” He paused “I don’t say it enough, but I truly do”

The black tom cringed internally as his mate recoiled, his fur slowly bristling and the curiosity in his eyes replaced with concern.

“Wh-what do you mean if something happens to you tonight? Like, in the Gathering? What could happen to you there? There’s a truce!”

Ravensight suspected the WindClan leader wanted to keep this plan as private as possible, so he would be breaking the Warrior Code if he told everything to Shorthawk. However, he reckoned he didn’t need to. He just had to tell him the main parts, mixed in with some pieces of half-truth. Something similar to the story Minkclaw now knew, just in case it spread.

“Silentstar thinks ThunderClan may break it. They apparently threatened Yelloweyes before, she thinks they might attack me instead”

“They threatened my mother!?” He screeched with indignation “Why!? When!?

“I don’t know, Shorthawk” He admitted “I wish I could tell you more, but I was just appointed. Silentstar doesn’t trust me that much yet. I just needed you to know, in case I…”

“No!” Shorthawk declared, quickly moving to press their bodies together, wrapping himself around the black tom. Whether to comfort Ravensight or himself, he didn’t know “Nothing is going to happen to you! StarClan watches over the Gatherings. They won’t allow it!”

Ravensight planted soft, comforting licks on his mate’s head, drinking in his scent. Faint traces of fear scent clung to him, despite his words. The black tom also started to doubt his own safety, remembering Silentstar’s comments about StarClan supporting all clans. Who was he to declare that he was more worth protecting than ThunderClan’s deputy? Or any other cat, for that matter.

What if they were wrong?

But the faces, names and scents of all cats that lived in WindClan flashed through his mind, and he realized he didn’t much cared about being in the right. The Warrior Code dictated that he had to look after his clan, and Silentstar seemed to genuinely believe this was the only way for WindClan to come up on top of this conflict. ThunderClan and SkyClan could burn together for all he cared.

Maybe he wasn’t a good cat, after all. But he’d be a good mate and a good deputy.

He couldn’t worry about himself. It was too late for that now. He had to trust in Silentstar’s judgment… and in Minkclaw, should he need help.

“Everything will be alright, you’ll see. Just look after Yelloweyes tonight, we’re not letting her come for her safety. Tomorrow morning I’ll bring prey for the three of us to share and we can talk about tonight with her. I’m sure she’ll be interested in knowing what happens”

What!?” He hissed “I’m not staying in camp! If there’s a chance they’ll attack, then I’m going too! Especially if they’re targeting you, I must be there!”

“I can fight my own battles! I don’t need you to protect me!” He meowed, pretending to be offended, the irony of the fact he was actually going with a bodyguard embedded itself in his mind.

“I never said you did! I just want to fight by your side!”

He wasn’t so sure if Shorthawk being in the Gathering would comfort him or make him worry even more.

“You don’t understand! There will be no fighting! Please, don’t let it get to you. It’s probably just them trying to push us around with big words” He stated, his voice firm but soft at the same time.

Shorthawk locked gazes with him, and Ravensight noticed how the worry in his eyes slowly melted away.

“But you said…”

“It was just me being irrational again. Everything will be alright, ok?”

His mate hesitated, then nodded.

“Ok… Yeah! You’re right! We can’t let them scare us! Those mouse-hearted, goody clean-paws aren’t going to do anything! R-right?”

Ravensight grunted in agreement, though for the sake of WindClan, he very much hoped one specific cat of theirs would.

“Right”

Chapter Text

Chapter 17:

Minkclaw

Night had fallen and Windclan was silently marching towards the Gathering Island, under a cold but thankfully clear sky. StarClan apparently hadn’t caught up what was about to transpire, or perhaps they simply considered fair. Part of going to war for your clan and all that.

Ravensight had a knot on his stomach from the moment he woke up from his nap. Not even Shorthawk’s presence next to him throughout the day was able to provide him with any comfort. Moreover, his mate had stayed behind with his mother, but Fallowpelt had come with them. He was doing his best efforts to avoid even looking at her. He could scent her, though. He always could, if he wasn’t careful. Out here, without the shelter of the dens, he noticed her scent even clearer.

He seldom turn an ear in her direction, yet when he saw her as they were leaving camp, he didn’t see her larger than before.

He was very thankful when he received a distraction

“You should speak to him now” Silentstar, who was walking very closely next to him, whispered suddenly “We’re about halfway. Indulge him for a bit, but don’t fall behind”

Ravensight nodded and stood to a side, letting the line of cats pass him. He offered casual smiles and respectful nods to his clanmates until Minkclaw finally came into view. He beckoned him with his head and, after some hesitation from part of the white and ginger tom, they both stepped aside to converse. They still walked with the group towards the Gathering Island, but a bit behind and to the side of the rest, so they could talk in peace.

“Hello, step-dad! We can talk now, if you still want to?” Ravensight greeted him warmly. The word felt odd… he wasn’t as opposed to Minkclaw being in his family as he was before, but the truth of the matter was that he’d never truly be. His mother would never allow him to, so saying things like that felt wrong. Like he was purposelessly deceiving his clanmate.

Oliver, at least, was his actual father. His blood was on him too. That was something that Hollowstreak could never take away. Maybe his little siblings could connect with Minkclaw like he had done with Oliver when they grew up? That did make him feel slightly jealous. They’d have their father next to them every day and from kithood, while he had to seek him out when he was a warrior and barely saw him every so often. He banished that thought, however. It wasn’t a healthy one.

“Hi, Ravensight” The white and ginger tom answered, his eyes glinting with subtle joy at Ravensight’s words “It’s… well, it’s sort of a personal thing. For both of us, I mean. Is t-that ok?”

“That’s ok”

“Are you sure? I mean, it’s not that important, I guess. For you, at least. If I’m bothering…”

“It’s fine” He tried to soothe him, speaking with patience “I’m already here and if I can give an answer, within reason, I will”

“Oh… thanks, that’d be nice, yes!”

“So?”

“Ok, so… when did you know that you were... er… what you are?”

“I…” He blinked in confusion. The question was too vague and too broad for his taste. A cat was many things, and Ravensight wasn’t sure how to even define himself. But he understood that Minkclaw was looking was something specific, and now the black tom was curious as to what and why “You mean black and with green eyes? Well, I saw my reflection on the lake’s water. Like, at some point in my apprenticeship, I believe?” He joked, trying to get him to be more specific, while also hopefully making him feel more comfortable with the conversation.

“Oh… yeah, but… no, I meant on the inside”

“I’ve had the fortune of not having to find out how I look on the inside” He chuckled softly “But red-ish, I’d wager”

Minkclaw stared at him for a couple of heartbeats as if the he had suddenly transformed into a flying hedgehog, then his eyes widened in realization and his lips curled upwards into a small smile.

“Ah, you’re pulling my leg” He purred “I see. I’m being mouse-brained, am I not?”

“Yep! You either rephrase that question, or if that was indeed what you wanted to ask, then ask me again tomorrow. Not in the mood to talk philosophy right now”

“Neither am I! I assure you” He shook his head, then cleared his throat “It’s just that Hollowstreak advised me not to be too direct, because you’re not comfortable talking about these things”

Ravensight blinked and raised an eyebrow at that. It wasn’t like his mother to be an advocate of discreetness.

“I appreciate the sentiment, but I already said I was ok with personal questions, so you can be direct this time”

“Fair enough. W-when did you realize that… you disliked she-cats?” He asked, looking away, then hurried to clarify “As partners, I mean”

“Oh… that”

“Yeah… maybe too personal? It’s ok if…”

“No, I mean it’s not like it’s a secret, but… is there a meaning behind the question?”

“Well, I just… please? I kind of need to know”

Ravensight’s eyes glinted with a newfound sympathy for the other tom. Perhaps he was doing some self-questioning of him own? He wasn’t sure he’d be able to help too much if that was the case.

“I don’t really know, honestly. I supposed I’ve always been like this”

“Always?”

“Yeah, there wasn’t a great moment of epiphany or anything. I guess that around the same moons when she-cats started to smell a bit sweeter than usual for you guys, I started to notice my ears getting a tad bit warmer every time Mistwalker talked to me”

“Mistwalker?” He asked, tilting his head in confusion “Not Webfur?” Then quickly tried to correct himself “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that. I know we were being noisy and dumb and…”

“My relationship with Webfur is… complicated to explain. And very different than with Mistwalker” He didn’t know why he felt compelled to talk about it, seeing as he hadn’t even spoken with his actual father about it. But… talking with Minkclaw was different than with Oliver. He loved his father, but he would never understand. Minkclaw could, he’d been there, he understood how fulfilling and at the same time how limiting living in a clan could be.

“How so?”

“Webfur was always ‘the medicine cat’ for me. I never saw him as a tom. I remember, even as a kit, I always saw him as this revered, sacred thing, you know? Mother was very into StarClan. She’d tell us stories that her mother had told her, and her mother’s mother before. Those odd, outlandish tales, you know?”

“I do know, yes” He flicked an ear in his direction “I changed the elder’s bedding with your mother, once upon a time”

“Right. And she would tell us, and made sure we understood, how vital for a clan a medicine cat was. She did tease me about mating with him, as she does with everything, but she was never serious. So… I don’t know. It was hard for me to look past… just how holy he was. I still find him a bit intimidating, when he’s not being a goof.  But he’s my friend, and we’ve done stuff together than friends probably don’t do, but that’s all we are. Friends. I’ve never wished for anything else from him”

“And Mistwalker?”

“I’d rather not talk about him. We were nothing, and we were never going to be more than that” His tail lashed behind him in frustration “It was my fault, really. Webfur was my only frame of reference, and I didn’t know how far a friendship went. Like an actual, normal friendship” He sighed “He found a mate, had kits, and by the random claw of fate, I ended up helping in raising them. Rustsong is a lovely she-cat, and Ashpaw and Shellpaw are wonderful apprentices. There is nothing more to talk about”

“He used to always talk about having kits” Minkclaw mused.

“Yeah, and that was part of the problem. I’d never be able to give him kits. And… I just wasn’t enough”

“… I know the feeling…”

“I just told myself he wasn’t actually ever open to the idea of taking a tom as his mate. Made it easier. But like I said, I moved on. He’s happy, and I’m happy that he’s happy”

They remained in silence for a couple of heartbeats. Ravensight guessed the white and ginger tom needed some moments to process what he heard.

“That’s…so… you just knew…” He meowed, almost sounding in disbelief “It can’t be just like that…”

“Just…” He frowned, noticing the troubled expression on Minkclaw’s face “Were you expecting another answer?”

“Yeah, like, I-I mean… there weren’t like changes or stuff?”

“Changes? Well, as you can imagine, Mistwalker started getting nervous when we were in patrols together. And… er… you sort of started avoiding me”

Minkclaw visibly flinched.

“Stars above, you’re right. I was such a fox-heart… I-I don’t even know why… I’m sorry?”

“I mean, I wasn’t exactly friendly with many of our clanmates either. I barely cared about you guys existing, and never even tried to pretend that I did. So it’s not that I blame you for avoiding me, especially with the whole breaking-the-code-with-a-medicine-cat fiasco” He felt the impulse to lick his chest in embarrassment, but he resisted it “I’ve only recently had a change of heart, so to speak. Being a mentor... changes you, you know?” Shorthawk had changed him more than being a mentor, he realized.

“Oh, yes! I do know” He purred “Though, to this day, I still think I was a bad choice for your brother. He should’ve been trained by Yelloweyes, to be honest. I can’t think of anyone else who could’ve… you know, reign him in? I feel he doesn’t like the clan because of me”

“I don’t think even her would’ve been able to. My brother was born a lost cause” And he wouldn’t have it any other way, despite the constant teasing “So was that what you wanted to know?”

“Eh, no? Not really. I just got caught up in memories” His whiskers twitched in amusement, then his troubled expression return “I was asking about changes in yourself, not in other cats. Like in your scent? Did you smell different after that or something? Or maybe a mark somewhere? Or, like, did you walk different? Or talk? Or maybe a change in your eyes? Or something? Some symptom?”

“Wh-What? Slow down there, why would it have symptoms!?” He hissed with not a small amount of indignation “It’s not an illness!”

“But how do you know is someone is…  is like you? There must be a way! How would you find mates otherwise?”

“You can try asking. Works wonders” He stated matter-of-factly. He could already see the island coming closer, the ground turning into something more akin to frozen mud than snow. They passed the RiverClan scent markers and started to make their way towards the bridge.

“I can’t just ask!”

“Why not? Who’s the tom? I’ll ask them myself”

“It’s not a tom”

“Then I don’t understand where this conversation is supposed…”

Minkclaw took a deep breath, then sighed and let his ears press against his head

“Smallflower is seen a she-cat”

Ravensight almost tripped.

“…oh” He blinked, then repeated a bit louder “Oh!”

“Y-yeah”

“I see… Smallflower, huh?” He meowed with curiosity “Are you sure?” Ravensight wasn’t normally one to gossip, but this was something specially interesting.

“I know they are together. I’ve seen them sneaking off, holding tails. She’s with her every moment of free time she has, so much so that she almost smells like her. Haven’t you noticed?”

That was an exaggeration, he was pretty sure about it. He would’ve noticed if Smallflower scent had changed in any way, for he was very familiar with it.

He cringed internally at how creepy that sounded.

“I don’t pay that much attention to what my clanmates do on their nests, Minkclaw. It’s not my business”

“B-but it should be! You’re our deputy…”

“I mean, I’ve been deputy for not even a day, Minkclaw, so…” He tried to interrupt, but the other tom ignored him.

“You should care for the safety of the clan!”

“Why would Smallflower’s preference in mates be of any interest for the safety of the clan?”

“Well… m-maybe not for the clan, but for her safety!”

“Her safety?” He meowed with concern “Has… has anyone threatened her or something?”

“What? No! I don’t think so. She would’ve told me”

“Is the other she-cat from another clan?” A shiver went down his spine as an idea popped in his head “Please, for all of our Ancestors, tell me she’s not a ThunderClanner!”

“No, no. Nothing like that” He shook his head “She’s from WindClan”

“So, does she have another mate?”

“I don’t know, but I wouldn’t put it past her”

“That was rude and uncalled for, Minkclaw”

“But…”

“No, listen! I’m not following you. At all. What is the problem then?” The black tom could feel his patience slowly ebbing away.

“Who she is IS the problem”

“And are you telling me who she is tonight or do I keep talking like an idiot? My time is limited, Minkclaw. We’ll reach the island eventually”

The white and ginger cat swallowed hard and seemed to be physically bracing himself to answer. At that point, for how much theatrics were involved in the reveal, Ravensight was sort of expecting this mysterious she-cat to be Silentstar.

Or his mother. That wouldn’t be that much of a surprise.

He’d understand someone being worried about their sister seeing any of those she-cats, honestly.

He wasn’t ready for the actual answer.

“It’s Aspentail”

Ravensight tripped for real this time, barely able to get his paws in position not to fall completely on his face.

Aspentail?

“Yeah, her”

“With Smallflower!?

“Yes” The white and ginger tom meowed slowly “With my sister”

“Huh…” He stared ahead in disbelief, not focusing on nothing in particular “And you think you know a cat…”

The sweet, delicate smooth-talker with the cat that the Dark Forest was too scared to claim…

“You can’t know Aspentail! That’s the issue!” Minkclaw’s voice turned into a growl, which took Ravensight by surprise “She’s a fox-heart of the worst kinds!”

He snapped his gaze back to the other tom, fixing him with a hard stare. The kind that his mother would give him every time she scolded him

“Ok, Minkclaw, look: you can’t just talk like that about you clanmates just because you don’t like them”

“B-but Aspentail lies, Ravensight!”

“Er… yes? We all do, sometimes” Guilt gnawed at the back of his mind. Everybody in WindClan kept secrets, he was very well aware of that. He was a part of them.

“Yes, but she lies, like, a lot!”

“Uh huh…”

“About everything! All the time!”

“I…”

“And she loves it! She enjoys deceiving cats, just for fun! She claims that she was able to talk cats from other clans into giving her their prey across the borders. And you know what? I believe she did! I’m sure she didn’t even eat the prey she took from them. I bet she left it to rot somewhere! She just wanted to see if she could make them give it to her!”

Ravensight wasn’t so sure about those last points, but talking a cat from another clan out of their prey? Yeah, he believed that. He had witnessed that. He wasn’t aware that she’d done it more than once, however.

“That isn’t very honorable of her and I’ll be sure to mention it to Silentstar tomorrow, but still. You shouldn’t speak so ill about your clanmates”

“A cat can cry ´fox´ so many times before it’s clear they can’t be trusted, no matter who or what they are”

“I still don’t see…” Then something clicked inside his mind, something that might make sense in the mind of an overprotective brother, but right now didn’t in his. He blinked and his eyes widened slowly with realization “You don’t believe she actually likes you sister, do you?”

“No” He flicked his ears, tail dropping to the ground, his eyes glowing with pain “Not at all”

“And you wanted to know if there were sym.. I mean, signs of liking the same gender as your own to see if she actually was…”

“Yeah… exactly”

“But why would she lie about that, of all thing? Why go through the trouble of becoming mates with someone you don’t like? It’s not like she can get kits out of it or something… I think?” How would two she-cats even mate anyways?

“Because my sister… look, I love my sister, but she isn’t the kindest cat. You know her”

“I do, but not as much as you, I’m sure”

“Well, I know what cats thinks of her. I’ve heard cats at Gatherings talk about her. They call her so many names, Ravensight, and StarClan knows how they speak of her in their camps! They call her a violent, thorny and pretty plaything, like a ball of roses. I think Aspentail heard that, and…”

“Took it as a challenge?”

“I hate that they see my sister like that! Like a contest! A game!”

“That’s a not a particularly tasteful way to describe a cat, no” He conceded. At least, he thought, his mother had never pretended to be interested in any cat for fun. She just didn’t stay interested for very long “Do you know who…?”

“And Aspentail!” He hissed, his tail lashing out violently behind him “Aspentail is the worst! She knows Smallflower feels alone since our mother died. She knows my sister has never had a mate before” He paused, trying to calm himself “They’re toying with her, Ravensight. Like kits with a mouse! I can’t… I can’t just let that happen!”

“Hey, slow down a bit! You don’t know that!” Ravensight argued “You’re just speculating based on reputation! What if she genuinely cares for your sister?”

Foxdung! She has no integrity! I won’t believe that a cat capable of stealing prey straight from queens and elders’ mouths just for fun, and I don’t care if they are from other clans, is capable of genuinely caring about anyone!”

“Minkclaw!” He stepped in front of him, blocking his path and staring down at him with the most threatening gaze he could manage “You’re making too many baseless accusations against your clanmate!”

“They are not baseless!”

“Yes, they are! So stop it at once!” He snarled back “Smallflower is an grown cat and can look after herself! And Aspentail, she’s…” A small shadow of doubt passed through his mind, but he pushed it aside “She’s loyal to Windclan and would never purposefully hurt a clanmate!”

“You don’t know that!” He argued back “Smallflower is the only family I have left, Ravensight. The only good thing left in my life! Please, help me with this! I can’t let…”

“That’s not true. You also have kits back in camp. My siblings!” He countered “Minkclaw, as your deputy…” The words tasted vile in his mouth, but he was running out of ideas on how to deescalate the situation “I order you to drop the subject!”

The white and ginger cat blinked at him, staggering backwards.

“N-no” He stammered “I can’t. I-I won’t” He was almost crying, Ravensight noticed. The whole situation had quickly overwhelmed the newly appointed deputy, and seemed to inch ever so slightly more away from his control by the second “I won’t allow her to keep doing this”

There was something odd in his eyes, a sadness and resignation that seemed so genuine it almost felt contagious. The black tom felt a shiver travel down his spine. He let his fur bristle and his back ach slightly upwards, and he managed to stop himself before his claws instinctively unsheathed.

“What are you saying…?” He whispered.

“Not tonight, of course” Ravensight thought that the other tom tried to offer a small smile there, but there was too much pain in his face to be able to do it “I’m sticking to my word, because mine actually means something. I swore to protect you and that’s exactly what I’ll do”

“What will you do after tonight, Minkclaw?” He questioned, taking a step forwards. The other tom took a step backwards in response.

“I don’t know yet. I’ll find proof. Someone’s got to know something and I’ll find them. And when I do, I’ll… kill Aspentail…”

“Listen to yourself!” He shook his head in disbelief “You are spouting madness!”

“I know! But what else can I do? No one will listen! Not Smallflower, not Webfur, not even you! I don’t know what else to do! But I must protect her somehow!”

“Minkclaw, you’ll be going against the warrior code! You’ll rot in the Place of no Stars and bring shame to your clan!”

“…maybe that’s for the best? That I end up in the Dark Forest, I mean…”

“Wh-… think of what you are saying! That doesn’t make any sense!”

“B-but it does! Starclan wants us to be loyal and help our clan, r-right? Removing Aspentail would do that! She’s a disgrace to the clan, even if she’s innocent of this, which I know she isn’t!” He reasoned “And Ravensight, you think I’m crazy, right? You think I’m dangerous, don’t you? After I deal with Aspentail, I’ll.. I-I’ll probably have to be removed too. Silentstar will see to that. She’ll brand me a traitor. But that’ll be good for the clan, I think… I’m just a nuisance… and a dangerous one, it seems… I don’t belong…”

“A nuisance? No, Minkclaw, you…” He grimaced and swallowed hard “Listen, you…” Why had his clanmate chosen him to talk about this, of all cats? Why wouldn’t he go to someone wiser, like… “Please, have a talk with Webfur, ok? He can talk with Starclan! He can tell you this isn’t right!”

“I’ve already tried. Many times. He dismissed my worries, again and again. He doesn’t understand the problem! He just gives me poppy seeds and tells me to rest. I don’t need rest! I need help!” He closed his eyes and shook his head again “I’ve chosen the hill I’ll die on, Ravensight. I’m sorry, but… I won’t be talked out of it”

“And what if I don’t let you?” He unsheathed his claws and showed the tips of his fangs, but he was terrified on the inside. Minkclaw looked at the display and hesitated, but he too unsheathed his claws and got into a fighting stance

“I-I’d honestly understand it. It’s your duty look after all of our clanmates now, even the ones who deserve to die. G-go ahead, stop me if you must. I-I won’t surrender if you attack me, though. Make sure you can do w-what you need to do if you decide to fight m-me”

Ravensight stared at him. He just stared. There was nothing else he could think of saying. And barely anything he could think of doing.

Would he have to fight him, then? But he couldn’t! Not there and then. They had to catch up with the rest of the clan and attend a Gathering. There was a plan, he had a mission! Windclan was counting on him. Could he even realistically put up fight even if there wasn’t a gathering, though? Silentstar had said Minkclaw was one of their better fighter.

Would Minkclaw kill him too if he tried to stop him more directly? Or was his willingness to kill only directed at Aspentail? Could he take that chance? If he died, what would happen to Windclan? Would they still have a chance? And Yelloweyes would’ve shamed herself for nothing? Would the cats that were counting on him to reign in Silentstar be disappointed of him? And would happen to Shorthawk?

He couldn’t fight and risk losing.

So he just stared.

Minkclaw finally relaxed and smiled sadly at the black tom. He retracted his claws and slowly, almost fearfully, brushed past him.

“It’s not your fault, son. It’s hers” He meowed softly as he passed him “It’s out of your control”

A lot of things were. He was painfully reminded of that.

It would seem StarClan had decreed that it was never up to him, again.

Ravensight just stood there some minutes more, wanting to scream, or cry, or just fall unconscious. He did nothing, in more ways than others. He couldn’t.

So he whipped around and ran to catch up with the clan and Silentstar.

------------------------------

The brand new WindClan deputy had so many thing running through his head that he barely registered when he crossed the tree bridge to the Gathering Island.

As the murmurs of conversations and mingling reached his ears, he forced his mind to concentrate on what was before him, and caused him to almost yelp in surprise. He was pretty sure that the amount of cats there present wasn’t larger than usual, but seeing them all of a sudden and knowing that he’d have to sit in front of them all, was certainly more intimidating than usual.

And, judging by the scents, ShadowClan and ThunderClan weren’t even present yet, so it was bound to get worse.

“Alright, WindClan, go have fun! Especially Ashpaw and Shellpaw. This is your first Gathering, after all” Silentstar called out to them, then added quieter “Mind the thundercats, though”

Leader and deputy hung back together in silence as their clan joined in the rest, cats nodding and waving their tails in greeting to their friends and acquaintances from other clans. Ravensight looked at them pass nervously until only Silentstar and himself remained next to the bridge. He turned his head abruptly in her direction, desperate to relay the news.

“Silentstar, you’ve got to do something! I think Minkclaw might try to harm Aspentail!”

Silentstar’s tail shot up in alarm and her eyes went wild.

“Windstar’s holy cheeks! Is he doing it tonight!?”

“No, not tonight, but he’s determined to kill her!”

The WindClan leader, strangely, seemed to relax at that.

“Oh, thank goodness! As long as it isn’t tonight, then we have time” She breathed out a sigh of relief “May I know why, exactly, does he want to kill a clanmate?”

“Aspentail is seeing Smallflower, but Minkclaw suspects the she’s not doing it because she likes her. He thinks she’s doing it as a kind of cruel joke and that she’ll hurt her”

“Urgh, fantastic!” Silentstar groaned in frustration. She didn’t seemed all that worried about the news, much to the black tom’s surprise “Two less she-cats for the nursery! How am I supposed to fight against these big clans if none of you younglings wants to give me new blood? Do I have to do everything myself!?” She paused “But they do look cute together, though…”

“That’s not important right now, Silentstar!” He hissed at her, making sure nobody else was listening first “One of our clanmates could be hurt! Die, even!”

“The way I see it, it’s likely one our clanmates will be lost either way, through death or exile” She shrugged “I much rather we lost Aspentail but… I don’t know… what do you think? Is she manipulating Smallflower? Or do you vouch for her innocence?”

“I…” Ravensight was suddenly taken aback by the gravity of the implications behind the question, and equally so by Silentstar’s cold and neutral expression “Y-you can’t possibly be asking me to…”

“Well, we are at an impasse, and you know them personally better than I do. So, if we can only save one, who do you think is innocent?”

“But the warrior code…”

“Says we have to see to the clan safety above all else. One of them is a threat to it and actively harmful towards a clanmate; the other is caught in a situation neither of us understand. So for the last time, as WindClan’s leader I ask you, WindClan’s deputy, to do a judgment call here. What do we do?”

Despair settled in Ravensight’s heart. Would he really have to choose who was truly guilty, then? Minkclaw, who he knew for a fact was potentially dangerous, but at the same time was the father of his new siblings and had started to earn his position as step-father. Or Aspentail, who he knew was disingenuous with a lot of things and actively manipulating to cats outside of WindClan, but was also his mate’s good friend and had helped him in the past.

“I… can’t do this, Silentstar…”

“This very morning you swore to do what WindClan needed of you, but now that the clan needs a decision, you are refusing to make it. Was that a lie, then? Did you lie to Yelloweyes’ face?”

“No, but…”

“So?”

“Summon a trial, then! That’s my decision!” He stated, stomping the ground with one of his front paws.

Silentstar stared at him with hard, uncaring eyes for a couple of heartbeats, making him shrink in his own pelt. It was utterly amazing how much authority the she-cat could just exude whenever she chose to.

“So you’ve decided you’d rather have others decide for you…” She slowly moved her head from side to side, disappointment dripping from her voice “Very well. But where’s that initiative that you’ve always had? Where’s the conviction that you show when you challenge me? You might be less of a leader than I initially thought…”

“I don’t care about that, Silentstar. I don’t aim to be leader!”

“Well, the only things that decide that are me and the random claw of fate. I made you deputy and I could die whenever” Her lips curled into a dangerous smile, her eyes growing accusatory “But that’s probably comforting for you, isn’t it? To know that your future is in another cat’s paws?”

“If that’s all, I’d like to join our clanmates” He narrowed his eyes at her, at the same time that the night breezed drifted in their direction, bringing with it a particular scent “ThunderClan is almost here”

“Fine, but from now on, remember: worry defeats, hesitation defeats, and if you don’t influence your future directly, then your future resolves itself. There is no use in crying about what that resolution might be at that point” She jerked her head towards the crowd and gave a dismissive flick of her tail “Now go be useful and get your leg broken or something…”

------------------------------

Ravensight weaved through the multitude of cats, taking special care to greet warmly and nod respectfully to each and every single one of them. He stroke up conversations with more cats that he had ever seen in his life, he tossed as many compliments as he had in his vocabulary at least twice over, and took special care that the ones directed to SkyClan and RiverClan cats were the warmest and most sincere possible.

The news of his appointment had apparently spread like wildfire thanks to the otherworldly powers of gossiping elders, and he found himself receiving congratulations from several cats from other clans. A good variety of them; some genuine, some forced, some with a noticeable amount of sarcasm. He was burning under his pelt, but he managed to accept them all with his head held high. It was, after all, a good thing for the plan that so many cats would speak about him, especially ThunderClanners.

He also paid attention to the general opinions the other clans held about him. Not that he was particularly interested in that, but it was hard not to. It was certainly a hot topic, though more for Yelloweyes deciding to retire than anything else. From what he gathered, he was seen as a poor option for wartime politics, which… he kind of agreed, honestly. But so was, by her own admission, Silentstar, so at least they matched.

He grew increasingly worried for WindClan’s future if their little plan didn’t work out.

Brightspots, RiverClan’s deputy, was very quick in greeting him when he approached the deputies. The tortoiseshell she-cat’s words were charming but utterly empty, just a cat trying to be polite to someone she might have to potentially work with and nothing more. Ravensight was reminded that they were allies only by circumstance, and not necessarily because they liked each other.

By contrast, Shadowclan’s deputy Marshsong offered much more genuine words of greeting. The brown tabby seemed to be actually happy to see a new face among them, though Ravensight wondered if that was only because he had a bad relationship with Yelloweyes or something. That thought got squashed by the realization that the entirety of the ShadowClan’s group had arrived at the Gathering and Ravensight didn’t even noticed them approaching.

Mapleroot, SkyClan’s deputy, just nodded her head politely at him, so he returned the gesture with a gentle smile. He supposed she was a reserved she-cat and respected that. He did noticed she had a warm and milky scent clinging to her fur, though.

“Congratulations” He meowed quietly “If they’re anything like you, then the kits must be beautiful”

“Withhold your flattery, rabbit-chaser” She hissed back, though she flashed him a small smile too “But… thank you. They are”

With the greetings and congratulations out of the way, Ravensight sat right next to Mapleroot at the roots of the Great Tree, making sure the only space left was next to him, and casted a quick across the clearing.

Hollowstreak was absolutely beaming at him, her eyes sparkling with a light to rival the moon at the sheer happiness of seeing his son as the clan’s deputy. He’d expected her to be confused about him accepting the position after his continuous denials, but she didn’t question him at all. He appreciated that, the explanations as to why he accepted were rather complicated even for him.

Minkclaw sat next to his mother, which wasn’t surprising. They were from roughly the same generation and had a litter together. No cat would suspect what Minkclaw was actually doing so close to the front.

From his spot, he could see Aspentail and Lightstep not far from there too, mingling with a bunch of different cats. He realized, with a bit of shame, that he didn’t remember if Smallflower was invited or not, but if she was then she wasn’t spending her time here with her supposed mate. Ashpaw and Shellpaw joined in a circle of apprentices that were playing games and talking with each other. He purred with amusement when he noticed that the elders were basically doing the same thing, barring playfully jumping on each other, in a group of their own. Faint whispers, curt but not hostile, were hear from the branches where the leaders sat.

It seemed like such a peaceful night. It was hard to imagine there were plans to start a war tonight, regardless of his actions.

ThunderClan arrived last, which was certainly unusual for them, but that was hardly a concern in the black tom’s mind. Sure enough a one-eared, blue-eyed red tabby marched next to what he assumed was ThunderClan’s leader. Another three cats, all white with black spots, walked closely to him, one of them of apprentice size. That one was obviously his daughter, but…

“Who’s his mate?” He wondered aloud.

“Alderclaw’s?” Marshsong meowed softly, without looking away from the crowd “The one on the left, closest to him, her name’s Black-… er… -spots? The other one’s her brother”

“-Specks” Brightspots corrected, also not looking at her fellow deputies “I’m the one with –spots. She’s Blackspecks”

“Right, right. Daughter’s Rabbitpaw though, yeah?”

“Last time I heard of her, she was Rabbitkit, so I guess so. She should be six moons now”

Ravensight made a mental note about all that. Sometimes it paid to be social, it seemed, even with rivals.

“Do you have a mate, young…?” Mapleroot inquired.

“Ravensight. And yes, I do”

“Is she here?”

“No, he’s back at camp”

Mapleroot blinked, then nodded.

“Why isn’t he here, then?” Brightspots glanced sideways at him “He sounds like a lousy mate if he can’t be bothered to come and see the first gathering of his tom as deputy”

Ravensight was about to retort something obscene, but then realized what was going on. It seemed that they were testing his patience on purpose.

“Oh, Shorthawk is a wonderful mate. It’s just that Yelloweyes…” He managed to catch himself before reveling sensitive topics. He couldn’t divulge that Yelloweyes had retired today, nor that she wasn’t doing so well lately “… is still getting used to being an elder and, well, she’s still full of energy, you know? He stayed behind to keep an eye on her, otherwise she might stroll into Twolegplace and start lecturing kittypets”

“Sounds like Yelloweyes, alright!” Marshsong purred.

“Shorthawk” Mapleroot blinked again, then flick one of her ears “Yelloweyes’ son. Decent catch”

“Withhold your flattery, tree-hopper” He retorted goodheartedly, causing Mapleroot to smile and the other two deputies to giggle casually.

“Well, he’s certainly nicer to be around than his sister at least” Brightspot mused. Ravensight swallowed hard and did his best to hide his discomfort. Why must everything tonight remind him of her?

“Gonna miss the old badger, though. She was the only one who could put Alderclaw in his place” Marshsong sighed.

Ravensight’s tail twitched with interest. It’d seem ShadowClan’s deputy wasn’t so fond of ThunderClan’s either.

“Dark times ahead” Mapleroot meowed.

ThunderClan’s leader hurried to climb up the tree and take his place on his branch. Ravensight honestly couldn’t for the life of his remember what their name was, but he also didn’t care at the moment.

Alderclaw approached them calmly, as if he wasn’t at all concerned with having arrived late. He offered a nod as greeting, which the other deputies returned, except for Ravensight. The black tom just raised an eyebrow at the newly arrived tom and scoffed. Immediately he noticed the fur on Alderclaw’s neck starting to rise, but the ThunderClanner said nothing and sat next to the WindClan deputy.

And thus his mission started.

------------------------------

It really wasn’t hard to get under Alderclaw’s skin, like at all. He was amazed someone with this short a temper was allowed to become deputy, but maybe Thunderclan favored more aggressive cats in general nowadays? And they still were a peace, so maybe a deputy so exploitable wasn’t a weakness?

Until tonight, that is.

“Her name is Rabbitpaw?” He purred softly, his eyes glinting maliciously under the moon “Do you think that if I sink my teeth on her tiny little neck, she’ll squeal like one?”

He found out very quickly that his daughter was indeed a particularly sensitive subject to him, but Ravensight felt horrible speaking like that about an apprentice.

“Then again, she’s so small and pitiful, I might just confuse her with an actual scrawny rabbit during a battle”

Ravensight was careful to make sure only Alderclaw heard him. He could almost feel him absolutely fuming with rage to his left. The others glanced at their ThunderClan counterpart with confusion and worry.

“It’s a good thing you’re a bunch of cowards. Otherwise, your little sunshine could’ve ended up in our fresh-kill pile by accident” He licked his lips, in a manner so exaggerated that it’d be comical in any other context “Maybe not so much by accident, but…”

Silentstar had requested to make WindClan’s announcements first, making special emphasis in their brand new deputy. Ravensight puffed out his chest and looked with confidence as cats from all clans chanted his name, doing a monumental effort to resist the increasing impulse of jumping off the island and paddling back home.

Mainly because he didn’t know how to swim, but his sense of duty also helped.

“Now that I see her better, that Rabbitpaw looks nothing like you. She looks more like a combination of your mate and… your mate’s brother…” He snickered, covering his mouth with a paw “Well, it doesn’t come as a surprise. That sort of thing happens a lot in Thunderclan, doesn’t it?”

He felt kind of awful for admitting it, but he hoped the Thunderclan deputy didn’t survive the upcoming conflict. He wasn’t sure how he was supposed to look him in the eyes after that night.

“Why that face? Oh, you didn’t know? That’s a surprise! I thought it was common knowledge that ThunderClan considers loyalty just an optional requirement in all of life’s aspects”

The gathering was reaching its conclusion and Ravensight still hadn’t gotten the reaction he needed. Alderclaw was beyond livid, but still remained on his spot, gritting his teeth.

ShadowClan was about to finish their report, and then would be SkyClan to close the night. He’d frankly not heard a thing during the whole affair from the leaders after WindClan’s turn, his attention focused elsewhere.

“Honestly, Firestar should’ve stayed in SkyClan. I hope he’s faded by now, instead of watching the travesty his beloved ThunderClan has become. A big and lawless family of rogues, joined by the hip, if you get m…”

Ravensight was sure Alderclaw reached his breaking point the very moment he couldn’t hear him growling anymore. He tried to turn his head to see him, and was greeted by a hard upwards swing of a red tabby paw.

His head was whipped violently upwards and to a side, a searing pain slowly spreading below his lower jaw and warm liquid going down his throat. The force of the hit made him stand on only his back legs and, before he could anything to defend himself, Alderclaw lunged at him. Both of the Thunderclanner’s powerful front paws crashed against his chest, knocking him into the ground and pinning him down.

Alderclaw drove his front claws as deep as he could into the black tom’s chest. He opened his mouth and left out a roar right into the Winclanner’s face, his eyes blazing with rage. He seemed ready to use his teeth were his claws had failed, and this time he wasn’t going to miss.

Ravensight’s training instinctually took over as he kicked upwards with both back legs directly into Alderclaw’s belly, sending him flying several tail lengths away, clumps of black fur now stuck on his claws. He scrambled back to his paws immediately and put his fangs and claw in full display. Alderclaw did the same with a hiss, which Ravensight returned.

All of that happened in the blink of an eye, and immediately after the cats of all clans erupted in yowls of either encouragement or protest. He glanced over his shoulder briefly to see his mother, along with several other cats from both WindClan and ThunderClan, trying to join the fray but being held back by other clanmates or cats from the other three clans.

He caught Minkclaw’s eyes and subtly signaled with his tail that he was fine. The white and ginger tom nodded, though he seemed unconvinced.

And that might’ve been very well justified, considering Ravensight was doing his best to not let his back legs tremble, in an extremely concerning mix of terror and joy. This was what he needed to happen after all, what he had signed up for.

“What is the meaning of this, Halfstar!?”

“Alderclaw, stand down immediately!” He guessed that was the ThunderClan leader, then.

Alderclaw answered that plead by charging at Ravensight again. He made it seem like if he was going to attack to the right, but Ravensight recognized the position of the tail and back legs. Smallflower was surprisingly knowledgeable about ThunderClan’s basic fighting techniques and thanks to her he knew for a fact this was a faint. He dodged in the opposite direction from where the hit appeared to come from, and predictably Alderclaw changed direction shortly before throwing his swipe. The black tom batted away the attacking paw with one of his own and without giving his opponent time to his, his other paw shot forward, sunking its claws deeply into Alderclaw’s other front leg and pulling hard on it. He managed to dislodge it from the ground and, with both front legs suddenly in the air, Alderclaw fell face first into the ground.

Ravensight used the impulse to essentially throw his upper body on top of Alderclaw’s head, then twisted his neck and sunk his fangs into the red tabby’s only remaining ear. His opponent yowled in pain and violently jerked his whole body upwards, throwing off his attacker with frightening ease.

Ravensight hit the ground awkwardly, but recovered fast, then realized with disgust he still had pieces of ear inside his mouth. He spat them out quickly, the combination of their warm metallic taste and cat scent almost making him gag.

Alderclaw ran his paw across his face, wiping away the blood so it didn’t get into his eyes. The black tom wasn’t oblivious to the fact that blood was also running down his neck fur, but he was also pretty sure the wound from where it was coming out of wasn’t actually on his neck. He would’ve been dead twice already if that was the case. His shoulders hurt too, so he might have minor injuries there.

“Control you warriors, Halfstar!”

“For StarClan’s sake Alderclaw, get a hold of yourself!”

“Does ThunderClan believes itself above the sacred truce!?”

“I swear, this is not…!”

Another cat, a Thunderclanner by his scent, tried to step front of Alderclaw, but the red tabby pushed them aside and charged Ravensight again. He couldn’t react in time as his opponent crashed into him sending them both tumbling in a ball of claws and hisses. The ThunderClan deputy’s back claws raked the sides of his WindClan counterpart, an intense wave of pain spread across his body as the black tom could almost hear his pelt being ripped by those powerful claws. Ravensight meanwhile bit into his shoulder and his maws closed and pressed with all the strength he had, sinking his fang until he could feel them scraping bone. He swiped with one free paw at his opponent’s head and by miracle his claws managed to score a hit right below Alderclaw’s eye.

Alderclaw disengaged from the attack momentarily, yowling in pain, but only for a heartbeat. Ravensight staggered backwards trying to gain some distance to react, but the red tabby slammed into his chest with his unwounded shoulder before he could retreat a couple of steps. He was almost sent flying backwards, but his body crashed into what he assumed was the Great Tree. The impact made his head whip sideways and crash even harder against the bark.

All of a sudden, all his wound didn’t hurt so much.

Immediately, Ravensight knew something was wrong.

“…help…” He all but whimpered, so low he doubted very much anyone heard.

“MINKCLAW, GET HIM OUT OF THERE!”

“Blackwing! Grasswhistle! Stop gawking and INTERVENE NOW!

Ravensight was feeling oddly… distant, like if he wasn’t actually there but watching from the other side of the lake.

He tried to take a step forwards but he just collapsed on the ground. Darkness started to cloud his vision and he blinked rapidly trying to dispel it but to no avail. He was finding very hard to keep them open, actually.

He didn’t noticed the ThunderClan deputy until he was on top of him already. His jaws surrounded the Windclanner’s neck and started to apply pressure against it. Ravensight choked and panicked as his body felt the lack of air almost immediately.

Minkclaw jumped on the red tabby’s back and violently dragged him away by the scruff. But Alderclaw freed himself with a powelful jerk of his body that send red fur flying everywhere, then lunged at Minkclaw and tumbled into the ground locked in combat. One Thunderclanner, maybe one of the two that Halfstar had called, also jumped on his deputy and tried to pull him away from the WindClan warrior. The other one, perhaps misunderstanding the orders of his, jumped on Minkclaw instead.

In the very moment that happened, the entire clearing exploded into myriad of skirmishes. Ravensight could sort of hear a lot of cats fighting, but he couldn’t understand very well anything anymore. He felt his heart slowing down from the quickened pace it had adopted during the fight. His breathing became slower, more spaced out, and he finally couldn’t muster the strength to keep his eyes open.

He breathed out one long breath and then everything went silent.

------------------------------

The moment consciousness started to very slowly flow back into him he understood he alive in some capacity. He was pretty sure he wouldn’t be suffering the throbbing headache he had right about now otherwise.

Vague recollections and images that his brain latched on to from when he apparently was drifting in and out of consciousness swirled around his mind.

He remembered Silentstar screeching at the top of her lung in outrage, flinging accusations at her ThunderClan counterpart. Maybe the other leaders had yowled stuff too? That part was a little murky, still.

He remembered what he could only describe as a sea of bodies thrashing around in combat. Maybe cats from both clans, or even from others too, had jumped in to assist their sides?

He remembered seeing Webfur out of the corner of his vision, pushing and shoving cats out of the way. He remembered feeling him sniff his body up and down, then grabbing him by the scruff and dragging him away from the commotion.

Several cats aided in bringing him back to Windclan camp. He didn’t want to open his eyes just yet, or maybe he didn’t have the strength to, but the smell of herbs was very present in the air. There was a lot of Webfur’s scent everywhere too, so if he had to guess, he wasn’t laying on a patient’s moss bed, but on Webfur’s personal one on the back of the medicine den.

Something stirred next to him, so he slowly turned his head in that direction and took a tentative sniff. Every single other scent ceased to be relevant on his mind as Shorthawk’s entered his nostrils. He forced his eyes open, feeling thankful for the relative darkness of the den, and for once not bothered about being in a den at all. He saw him there, curled up against him protectively in a nest too small for even one of them, sharing their warmth yet not quite touching.

“Shorthawk?”

“Y-you are awake…” The grey and white tom meowed softly, his voice strained and tired, cracking with barely contained tears “StarClan, thank you! You are awake!” He looked absolutely exhausted, like if he hadn’t slept in moons.

“I… think I am, yes” He blinked slowly at him and then leaned down to touch noses. He started coughing right after, managing to barely cover his mouth with a paw. His throat felt incredibly dry all of a sudden.

“Oh, yeah, right! Sorry! Water?” Shorthawk picked up a wet moss ball and drop ot closer to his mate. The black tom hummed gratefully and ducked his head to lap eagerly at the offering, while the younger tom nuzzled his cheek very carefully. The water on the moss was very cold, almost frozen, but Ravensight didn’t mind. It felt wonderful and soothing, actually “How do you feel? I know it hurts, but besides that?”

“Besides feeling like a Twolegs’ den has been dropped on my head? Quite alright, actually” He tried shifting closer, but Shorthawk swiftly put both front paws on him and gently pushed him away. 

“Sorry, medicine cat’s orders” He explained, his eyes looking at him with sympathy “You were in a very rough shape, Raven. When I saw you with s-so much blood, I-I thought… I thought you were…” He paused for a moment, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath before continuing “Webfur spent the entire rest of the night cleaning you and then chewing herbs and scrambling all around the territory for cobwebs. I offered to help, but he wouldn’t let anyone close to you. Now you kind of have... stuff all around you. If I ruin your treatment, Webfur is going to skin me alive”

“I see…” He blinked, glancing over his bandaged shoulder and noticing a similar situation his right side, his flanks and his back “We’re in his nest?”

“Yes, he thought it’d be better if the clan didn’t see you all hurt” He scoffed “Well, that’s the excuse he gave to the clan, at least. He actually just wanted to have you all alone with just him”

“Oh…” He blinked “I don’t think that’s why…”

“I asked him to have you in his nest, Raven. It’s fine” His ears flattened against his head, shoulders slouching slightly “I knew you’d be comfortable and that he’d look after you”

“And… he let you in, too?”

“Oh, no! A medicine cat sharing a nest with not one, but two toms? The scandal!” He rolled his eyes “I made him let me in, after I knew you were fine. I would’ve fought him if he didn’t, and both you and him know I meant it”

“Please, don’t fight Webfur…”

“I… I won’t. Sorry, it’s just… it upsets me a lot that I was so… so useless. I couldn’t do anything for you, but he could help you…”

“But you’re here. That makes me feel better already, you know?”

“Yeah, right…” Ravensight tried to smile and blink at him, but winced a little while doing it “Are you alright?”

“I don’t know, my face feels like… tingly? It kind of bothers me to talk and blink, too” He muttered.

“Well, you smashed it against a tree and… the thundercat got you under the chin. The wound was so close to your neck, Raven. Y-you could have died so easily there, I…” He shuddered “What were you thinking facing down another deputy on you first day, you mouse-brain!? You haven’t fought anyone for real in, what, eight moons? And even then, it was a weak rogue!”

“I had to, Shorthawk. I’m the deputy now. It’s part of my duties” He tried to shrug, but his shoulders hurt too much.

“Your duties…” He grimaced “It’s my fault, all of this. I talked you into accepting the deputyship during a time of war and… look what happened...” Shorthawk sniffed, and Ravensight’s heart shattered when he noticed the first tear slowly rolling down his eyes “I put you in apposition you didn’t want to be, I gloat about it as if you were just a bunch of feather I got for my nest, and then I get you hurt. I almost get you killed. How could I do this to you?” His voiced cracked as he turned to look directly into Ravensight’s eyes with so much pain in his gaze the black tom was a heartbeat away from crying too “I-I’m so, so sorry… I’m the worst mate to ever exist”

“No!” Ravensight hissed “No, no, no! Not remotely true” He leaned towards him again and starting planting soft, comforting licks on his cheeks. At the same time, his tail stroked slowly the grey and white tom’s back “You’re not responsible for this. No one is, ok? Other than Alderclaw and… me”

“But…”

“No buts. I knew the dangers and still chose to go through with it. You offered to come with me and I refused you, because I’m a stupid idiot who underestimates every single thing when I’m clearly out of my depth and gets bitten on the tail for it. But you?” He moved his muzzle upwards a bit, planting lick behind his mate’s ear “You’re the most wonderful cat in the world, and I love you so much, and I don’t really have a clue why you’d waste your time on someone like me” He nuzzled his cheek. It was a kind of awkward maneuver, as he had to twist his head and usedhis other cheek, but he just needed to show his affection towards him, even if through a little gesture. He felt that Shorthawk needed to feel it “But I find myself thanking the Stars every day that you chose to approach this mess of a cat, and for some reason decided that you wanted him as a mate”

Shorthwark’s ears twitched and a very small smile appeared on his face.

“Well, I mean, it’s not like I chose to approach you” The teasing tone in his voice slowly replaced the hurt, and Ravensight found himself smiling back “Silentstar kind of told me to spend time with you, back when my name was said with –paw at the end”

“You decided to stick around, though”

“What can I say?” He shrugged “You have some nice flanks”

“Had” He twitched his whiskers in amusement and gently jerked is head behind him, towards the patches of yellowish-green herbal poultices and cobwebs that covered him “Sort of dropped them around the Island. Do let me know if you see them, though. It’d be a shame to lose them after spending my life feeding them with the best rabbits this moor can offer”

Shorthawk laughed. Whether he found it funny, or he just reacted at the sheer stupidity of what he had said, it didn’t really mattered. It wasn’t a loud or long laugh; it was timid and short and soft, but it was genuine. Slowly, thought small gestures, everything was becoming fine again.

“I don’t deserve you…” The white and grey tome purred, blinking slowly at his mate.

Ravensight found himself agreeing internally, an indescribable feeling sparked within him, directed at his very own self. Shorthawk did not deserved to be deceived so much as he was. He did not deserved half the stuff his mate had done behind his back. And he absolutely, under no circumstance, deserved to feel lesser or insufficient due to what Ravensight caused himself.

Ravensight reached the conclusion that if he wanted to be a good mate, what he honestly should do is break up with Shorthawk. Free him from the lies and half-truths, of the heartaches brought about by his stupidity. To give him a chance to find some other cat who wouldn’t make him feel less wanted.

But Ravensight wasn’t a good cat. And he did, genuinely, with all his heart, loved this cat.

If Shorthawk wanted to leave, then he’d let him go, of course. He wasn’t insane, he wouldn’t retain him against his will.

But… him? Pushing his beloved away, even if it was for his own good?

No, he couldn’t. He just couldn’t.

“You deserve the world and much more, Shorthawk” He meowed back softly “So, so much more than what I can give you”

“So what?” He asked quickly, licking a paw and dragging it across his face “I don’t want nor do I care about what others can give me. I want you, and nothing else”

Why did this cat love him so much? Why did he love this cat so much?

“Even with my pelt all torn up like this?”

“You’d be perfect in my eyes even if all your fur fell off. Besides, Webfur said it’ll eventually grow back and cover most of the scars, so nobody will notice in some moons. Though, you’ll look fiercer if some nice scars remain, I suppose”

“Then, I guess the important question is: are you into fierce toms?” He raised an eyebrow and smirked.

“No, but I’m really into you, as you can see. I can learn to cope with the rest” The white and grey tom narrowed his eyes, a lighthearted mischievousness flashing in them “And besides, the barn is kind of dark anyways, so…”

“Darn, haven’t gotten out of this nest yet and you already want me in another. I guess my personality has really been the thing carrying me so far”

“You are a really great converser when you get going”

“Hardly”

“You are, I swear”

“You’re weird”

“We all are, in our own little ways”

Their tails had found each other and intertwined, he realized. Neither had noticed, or they hadn’t feel the need to acknowledge it, for it was second nature for them. And it was also the only meaningful physical contact they could have at the moment. Silently, he relished in his scent and in his presence, from afar, but that was alright for now. It was just a silly temporary situation. Shorthawk was there and would stay with him, for better or worse.

Inexplicably, an eerie sensation began to set in at the back of his mind. Now that they weren’t talking anymore, he perked up his ears and angled them to the entrance.

Everything was quiet.

Why?

The plan had worked, right? War must have been declared, right? Shouldn’t there be more activity in the clan?

As a deputy, Ravensight would normally be expected to be in charge of most of that, but surely Silentstar could organize something on her own, right? The situation wasn’t exactly standard and Ravensight could barely organize a hunting patrol, let anole a battle patrol.

He opened up his mouth and let the scents of the camp drifting on the wind come to him. Something stood out immediately to him. There were a lot of cats out and about in the clearing.

“Hey, Shorthawk, what are our clanmates doing out there? Are we missing a clan meeting or something?” He twitched his whiskers in amusement “Am I getting replaced already? Or are any of the kits becoming ‘paws? I don’t quite remember their moons”

“Why don’t you go back to sleep?” His mate meowed, shifting uncomfortably “You must still be dizzy, it was a nasty hit…”

“I’m fine. I just want to know what is happening out there”

“Later, please? You just rest for now, ok?”

Ravensight couldn’t wait for ‘later’. His curiosity had already been sparked and he couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t quite right.

He opened his mouth again and breathed in deeply the cold air, letting it caress the roof of his mouth. There was cat scent, of course. There was the cold wetness of snow and mud.  There was the scent of blood too, but that wasn’t really strange, the prey in the fresh-kill pile always left a faint scent of blood in the clearing. And there was one scent more, a rather peculiar one. He could only describe it as ‘nice’. It was sort of sweet, but weird, like a flower or something.

He knew this scent. He had perceived it before, out in the moors and somewhere around Twolegplace. He tried to taste the air better, trying to place it, but he couldn’t despite being so much of fit drifting around.

“Hey, is everything alright?” Shorthawk asked with concern “Is something hurting again? Do you need more water? Or maybe a piece of fresh-kill? I-I can get it for you, if you want? I’m here for whatever you need”

Ravensight blinked affectionately at him, but didn’t answer. He was fully dead set on figuring out what this scent was. He sniffed inside the den now, towards where he knew Webfur kept his herbs and indeed, one of the scents that was usually there was stale. Like if it was from a dried plant that wasn’t there anymore.

He was now more than sure that he knew this scent. What’s more, he was fairly certain that he’d seen this herb before. His brain was probably still recovering from the hit, because he just could place the name of it, and yet felt it was very familiar.

It wasn’t heather, because a lot of cats were called Heather-something, and this was a flower very few cats were named after, perhaps because its color was so odd. It for sure wasn’t rose or thistle. It had a longer name, but it wasn’t dandelion because that wasn’t the right color.

What was this stupid thing’s name?

“Shorthawk, what’s the name of this stupid thing?”

The white and grey tom blinked, utterly confused.

“Er… well, if it’s stupid, then it’s probably ThunderClan”

“No, I mean, it’s a flower and it smells nice”

“I don’t know many flowers, Raven. Lilies, maybe?”

“No, it’s blue-ish or purple-ish, kind of small, but it grows in sort of clusters?”

“Lilacs?”

“No, medicine cats collect them sometimes and they grow near Twolegplace”

“The… only thing that really comes to mind are lavenders. But those aren’t blue nor purple, they are… well, lavender. The color is called that because of them”

“Oh, yeah! That’s what this scent is!” Now he recognized the scent, and he had absolutely heard that name before “Do you know what it’s used for?”

“I haven’t got the slightest clue”

Lavender was a curious flower, Ravensight recalled from talks with Webfur. Many herbs could be dangerous depending on the dose, but lavender was sporadically toxic to cats, and the amount considered dangerous varied wildly from cat to cat. Medicine cats still collected them, though, albeit carefully and also took special care not to let kits near it. The flowers were useful enough to be worth the effort, somehow.

He was sure he scented this much of it, a couple of times before. The one occasion that stood out the most was while Webfur was still an apprentice. That’d mean that it was Palestorm who used it, but for wh…

No, that wasn’t right, Ravensight realized. Lavender wasn’t used by Palestorm, but used on him! Webfur had to weave it on his fur to… hide the scent of…

Ravensight gasped, panic spreading across his being. His back legs sprang up, propelling out of the nest; his front legs weren’t quite up to scratch, and his shoulder screamed in protest at the sudden effort, but though he stumbled, he managed to not fall.

“Wait, stop! You’re not supposed to get up!” Shorthawk called behind him, but Ravensight had a head start and was already walking thought the entrance of the den by the time the white and grey tom reacted.

Minkclaw laid in the middle of the clearing with dry lavender flowers woven all over his pelt. He looked truly at peace for the first time since Ravensight had known him. Not the nervous and unsure tom he’d been know as, nor the scared and angry one he’d been before the gathering. If the black tom didn’t know better, he could swear Minkclaw was just enjoying the warm rays of sun with his clanmates. He even seemed to be smiling.

But Ravensight did know better, and it was hard to look at him in the state he was. Signs of blood and mud covered most of his body, to the point it was difficult to remember that part of him was white once. There were signs that cats had tried to clean him up, but it wasn’t enough. Had he been dragged through the wet lands of Riverclan to come home?

Someone had unsuccessfully tried to groom his fur to hide the horrific gash that run across his neck, and Ravensight was suddenly very aware of his own wound. Minkclaw had almost the exact same kind, only a tiny bit lower.

Cats gathered around him in traditional vigil. Smallflower laid to his side, muzzle buried in his scruff, sobbing quietly. Aspentail was next to next, her tail rested over the other she-cat’s back. Lightstep and Hollowtreak, who had cobwebs and some chew-up herbs around their shoulders and chest too, sat huddled next to each other close by. Yelloweyes sat some pawsteps away in respectful silence with the rest of the elders. Silentstar was watching them from the Tallrock. The queens, kits and apprentices sat next to the nursery entrance, all huddled up together.

Webfur looked like he… wasn’t quite there. That’d be a good way to put it. His eyes were angled in the direction of Minkclaws’s body, but he didn’t seem to be looking at anything at the same time. He must have scented him, however, because Ravensight had only taken a couple of steps towards Minkclaw when the medicine cat whipped his head in his direction.

“What in the name of StarClan are you doing!?” He jumped to his paw and move to intercept him “You need to be resting! Go back inside, immediately!

“Minkclaw is dead?” He asked pathetically. He already knew the answer “Minkclaw is dead…”

Webfur winced, but shook his head and started carefully nudging Ravensight back towards the medicine den, like a queen herding his kits back to the nursery.

“Yes, he is! And you almost joined him, so don’t you dare get out of there again until I say so, you hear?”

“Raven?” His mother voice reached him, hoarse from crying, judging by her eyes “Oh, my Raven! You’re alive! You‘re alive!” She tried to reach him, but Webfur stood in her way.

“No, later!” He hissed.

“But my son…!”

“Later, please. He needs to rest!”

“He’s dead” Ravensight muttered “He… Minkclaw… is dead…”

Hollowstreak let out a low yowl of grief and nodded, starting to tear up again. Lightstep approached her and offered his shoulder for her to hide her face, dapping his tail around his mother’s back for good measure.

“We’ll… drop by. Later. Ok?” He nodded at Webfur, leading his mother back to the center of the clearing.

He was returned to the back of the medicine den before he realized, Shorthawk laying close by his side

“I’m sorry I’m being so hard on you, but… I just don’t have more” Webfur explained as he sat on his haunches in front of them “I couldn’t find enough cobwebs for everyone, I ran out of marigold, I have like a two dozen of poppy seeds and that’s it, and…”

“For everyone?” Ravensight repeated.

“We have… more than a couple of injuries at paw. You’re a mess, Hollowstreak, Mistwalker, Lightstep and Ashpaw got clawed up, two of the elders went into shock, Rustsong…” He paused “She… got hit on the right eye pretty badly. It was improbable that I could save it and it looked like it was going to become infected. I didn’t have enough herbs for an infection of that magnitude, so I talked with her and we decided to… remove it” He chuckled bitterly “An empty eye socket is easier to treat, ironically enough. I had to dress the wound with freaking prayers and sorrel leaves. Sorrel. Leaves” He scoffed, sitting down and resting letting his head rest on his paws “I hope no one was planning on travelling anywhere”

“StarClan, that… that sounds horrifying”

“Oh, you can bet your tail it was!” He sighed, flicking his ears “I already sent a couple of warriors to fetch more herbs. We obviously need more. I can’t keep them here because Leaf-bare would just ruin them, so I learnt a trick from ThunderClan and just planted them in secluded spaces. I just hope they can find them… and that some stupid spider starts working making webs, because I would really like some of those, too!”

“You should really rest for a bit, Webfur. You haven’t slept in a couple of days, have you?” Shorthawk chimed in “All the herbs in the world would be useless if our medicine cat cannot keep his eyes open to apply them”

“I… yeah… probably should…” The medicine cat conceded, rather easily noted Ravensight. He must really be exhausted “Please, can you wake me up when the herbs arrive or if anyone needs me?”

“Of course” Then he turned to his mate “You too. Things will get messy, I’m sure, and you’ll need a clear and well-rested head to face Silentstar”

Ravensight concurred. 

------------------------------

The first cat to visit him after he woke up was his mother. She didn’t so much came to check on him, more like she came to ramble and reminisce. To console herself.

This didn’t bothered Ravensight. He was surprised at how badly Minkclaw’s death had affected Hollowstreak, and he knew she really needed someone to talk that wouldn’t necessarily say anything back. Now it wasn't the time.

 “We were never conventionally close. Minkclaw and I, that is. We’d known each other since we were apprentices. You could call us friends, but it was mostly doing the other favors when they needed it. Someone reliable to go to. He was a landmark to me, someone who was always there. Like, ´Hey Minkclaw, could you hunt me a rabbit today? It’s too hot for my black pelt – Sure thing, pal!´ or ´Hey, Hollowstrike, I got assigned the dawn patrol but I’m feeling kind of lazy today. Could you go in my place? – Absolutely! Have sweet dreams´. Stuff like that”

“That sounds like a friend, ma”

“You know, when… when Oliver happened, he volunteered to say he was the father. I suppose so cats wouldn’t think less of you and your brother for being half kittypets? Which was a preposterous notion, honestly. My kits are perfect and beautiful and loyal” She chuckled, tears slowly falling from her eyes “It was kind of sweet of him, though. I told him that if I ever had a second litter, I’d have him father them. He probably thought I was joking, but I was most certainly not. My Stars, was he surprised when I told him we wouldn’t be doing any patrolling that afternoon, some moons ago! I thought he’d just combust from embarrassment”

“He was always kind of self-conscious” Ravensight joined in the remembrance “And easily flustered, too. I remember he used to get really uncomfortable when I was around, thinking that I’d try to flirt with him”

“Wouldn’t that be awkward for the kits?” She purred half-heartily “Their big brother dating their father?”

“Almost sounds like a ThunderClan family, eh?”

Hollowstreak grimaced.

“Don’t talk about them. Do not pronounce that name in my presence!” She hissed “A bunch of glorified rogues, that’s what they are. Nothing but ill-bred vermin, each and every single one of them!” She sighed, trying to calm down a bit “I’ll miss him so much. He was part of the Windclan I knew since I stepped outside the nursery, and now he’s… gone. That part of WindClan is gone too. It’s as if the Gathering Island suddenly sunk. The lake wouldn’t feel the same. WindClan doesn’t feel the same already…”

“I’m sorry, ma… I’m so sorry”

“Want to know what the last thing I told him was? That he got in the way. That I wanted him away from the nursery” She closed her eyes, letting out a long sigh, full of pain and regrets “After you returned to your warrior duties and the kits were born, he tried to be around and… I suppose be more father-like, visiting and trying to help and stuff. I hated that. He knew who I was! I’d raised two kits on my own and I could do it again. I didn’t need a tom! They didn’t need a father! So I-I told him that. T-that’s how he’ll remember m-me in Starclan…”

“I don’t think he’d held that against you, mother. Not here, and certainly not in Starclan…”

“And he’d been so sad lately! So worried too. I don’t know why, but something was always eating him up. And then I drop that on him… so, you know, maybe this is for the best? In a twisted way? WindClan was never a good host for him. We didn’t deserve him. I didn’t deserve him. I’m sure he sees the fact that he won’t have to interact with me anymore as a blessing…”

He wasn’t sure how to respond to that, so he didn’t.

------------------------------

His brother came the very same day, and what he said shook him to the very core.

“What do you mean you are LEAVING!?” Ravensight hissed at him.

“It’s pretty self-explanatory, really” Lightstep shrugged “I’m deserting WindClan. I’m going to Twolegplace. I’ve been talking to father, like you suggested, and thinking a lot and… after what happened, I know I don’t belong here. He’ll help me find a nice Twoleg willing to take me. And… well, that’s it I guess” He flicked his ears with a tiny smirk “Tonight is the last time I’ll be Lightstep”

“H-how can you do this to your clan? How can you do this to me?

“I’m not doing anything to anyone. I just… want to be happy” He answered “And I can’t be that here. I barely spend time here as is and barely collaborate. My great contribution was all the intel gathered and fake intel delivered leading up to last Gathering. Now that the fires of war have been lit and my web of cats has gone silent, I’m not useful anymore. I’m not sticking around and risking suffering some kind of… accident”

“But the Twolegs! They’ll make you wear a collar! And eat slop! And they’ll take you to the cutter, Lightstep! You’ll never be able to…!”

“I’ve worn a collar before and it doesn’t bother me. Slop’s alright, honestly. And if the price to pay to have the life I want is to not being able to create new ones, then fine. I find that fair”

“Lightstep…” His voiced cracked “…no…”

“Sorry, little brother. The decision’s been made. I’m going to miss you lots, though” He paused, sitting down in front of the black tom “I’ll send word with father when I’m able. Let you know where I end up, if you ever want to talk or be teased again. But… if the clans are going back to what they were in the stories, then I can no longer walk with you. Farewell and take care, Ravensight”

He leaned down to press their foreheads together in a very poignant farewell. Ravensight drank in his scent, knowing this would be the last time he would get to before it was tainted and ruined, or if at all, hoping to the Stars he’d remember it forever.

------------------------------

Smallflower came to visit a couple of day later. He had spent almost half a moon on the medicine den and was almost ready to go back to the clan.

Ravensight was dreading the moment he had to see her face to face. He was responsible for her brother’s death, in a way, and he was very worried about what she had to say. He didn’t considered himself especially close to her, but she was a dear friend nonetheless.

But she didn’t mention anything of the sort. She came to talk about clan affairs, as she had taken over as temporary deputy while he was in the medicine den. She’d been organizing patrols the best she could, apparently having as much trouble with them as Ravensight was expecting to have himself.

Of course, she was managing and life in the clan went on.

“There’re more stuff, mainly regarding the squirrel-munchers, but that’s something that Silentstar wants to discuss with her actual deputy. So I can’t tell you much about them”

“Smallflower…?” He ventured “Would you like me to… step down?”

She blinked at him in bewilderment, as if she had just heard the most insane proposal of her life.

“My brother gave his life so our deputy, you, could keep his own” She spoke softly, but her eyes hardened as they stared down at the black tom.

“But you seem so comfortable with the position now, and maybe you are what the clan need at this time? I thought…”

“You thought of disrespecting his memory not even a moon after his passing. I can see that”

“No, I’d never do that! I just…”

“You are co-leading this StarClan forsaken clan, even if I have to break your legs and tie you down to the Tallrock” She declared. By the fury in her eyes and her bristled fur, Ravensight didn’t doubt for a second that she would. He blinked at her and nodded in understanding, smiling gently despite the threat.

“Alright, I will. I’m sorry for what I said” He let his ears fall slightly “I miss him too”

Smallflower’s gaze softened. She didn’t relax outright, but she didn’t seemed so threatening anymore.

“He… he died happy, I think…” She muttered “That day, he was ecstatic because you’d entrusted something to him, though he didn’t tell me what. And that one time you called him step-dad, he told the entire camp, and even some cats across the borders”  She shook her head slowly “He was such an idiot, and he loved your mother way too much for his own good”

“I’m sorry”

“What for, now?”

“My mother. She hurt him”

“It’s… ok. We all told him she would. Heck, your mother told him she would. But I don’t think he cared”

“She regrets it. Greatly. For what it’s worth”

“Nothing. That’s how much it’s worth” Her tail lashed in anger behind her “But her precious StarClan will judge her. I have a much greater fox-heart to hunt”

Ravensight had a very good idea who it was.

“Smallflower, as your deputy, I cannot condone that kind of behavior. However…” He raised his tail to interrupt the retort that was undoubtedly coming “I only ask that you don’t get hurt when it comes to it. I might need you around”

She looked at him, almost startled, for what seemed like an eternity. Then she huffed and blinked slowly at him.

“Will do, dear nephew

“Don’t call me that. It’s weird”

Smallflower stood up and walked out of the den, purring loudly all the way.

------------------------------

 “I’d really prefer it if we could have this conversation in private” Silentstar meowed calmly as she walked in and laid down across the den.

Ravensight had just finished eating and was cleaning his face, while Shorthawk was waking up from napping. Webfur had removed most of the dressings, deciding that they’d healed good enough, but the areas that had been damaged felt a bit sensitive now without the fur or cobwebs. The white and grey tom had made it his personal mission to be pressed against his mate and keep him warm at all time.

A bit unnecessary, considering Ravensight liked the cold, but he liked Shorthawk more, so whatever.

“Well, sucks to be you, then” The grey and white tom’s response, not moving a single pawstep.

“Shorthawk, maybe it’d be best if…” Ravensight offered. He didn’t want him to leave either, but…

“No. I’m not leaving you alone with her!” He spat the last word in Silentstar’s direction “She’ll have to drag me by force if she wants me out!”

“Fine, whatever!” She groaned with frustration, but made no further efforts to convince him. Then she focused on Ravensight “Remember when I appointed you? I told you that I considered too much of a good thing a bad thing. Last gathering was a perfect example of that”

Shorthawk bristled next to him, but the black tom stroked his tail against his back and planted a tender lick behind his ear in an effort to calm him down, which seemed to work. Maybe calling the attack a ‘good thing’ in front of Shorthawk hadn’t exactly been the wisest choice of words.

“I remember” The black tom nodded “I assume that ThunderClan has declared war on us?”

“They didn’t exactly had many options, since they attacked a deputy and killed a cat at a Gathering, and I did ask for quite a few outlandish compensations. SkyClan is outraged but, quite annoyingly, hasn’t declared anything official yet” She paused, raising her right back paw and giving it a lick “Though we’ve heard that apparently some… ‘rogues’ launched a small raid a couple of days ago. So, good stuff”

“Relatively speaking” Ravensight conceded “And the other clans?”

“Well, ShadowClan isn’t so sure if it want to ally with the thundercats anymore. I don’t really give a mouse tail about RiverClan. If ShadowClan isn’t going to fight for our enemies, then we have no use for the fish-faces anymore” She stoped licking her back paw and instead used it to scratch behind her ear “The loss of Minkclaw has shaken our fellow WindClan cats, but also ignited a fire within them, one that will only be quenched by retribution. That’s a double edged boon, but I suppose I can use that. Still, a regrettable outcome”

“Why are you talking like all of this was planned?” Shorthawk inquired, rightfully growing suspicious of the Windclan leader “You knew it was going to happen!” Shorthawk hissed.

“Yes” She replied calmly “I did warm him”

“But you wanted it to happen, didn’t you!? You wanted him dead!” The black tom nudged him with his shoulder to catch his attention “No, don’t do this right now! This fox-heart almost got you killed! She…”

“Please, just let me and Silentstar talk, ok? Please?” For a brief moment, his mate hesitated and opened his mouth to retort, but closed it and nodded.

“Control your mate a bit, please? This is a seri…” Silentstar started, but Ravensight wasn’t going to let her finish.

“My mate is his own cat and no one is going to tell him when he can talk!” He snarled at her, his ears drawing backward, surprising the white and grey tom with the intensity of his voice. Even the she-cat seemed taken aback.

He realized with shame that he’d kind of tried to do just that, but he felt it was very different when someone told him to do it. Asking him to order Shorthawk around, as if he owned the younger cat. As if Shorthawk didn’t have agency in the relationship and only did what Ravensight told him to.

Perhaps that wasn’t what the leader meant. It was most likely not what she meant. He might have been reading too much into Silentstar’s words, but he didn’t care.

“Particularly insolent today, aren’t we?” She meowed after a while, with something that bordered amusement “But I get it. You’re sensitive. You aren’t used to this” She purred “This is how victory actually feels like in times of war, but the elders leave that tiny little detail out of their stories, of course” Ravensight resisted to urge to comment she wasn’t exactly a veteran of a thousand battles either “WindClan is in an amazing spot for the coming war, but that’s something the clan will see later. Right now, what’s on your mind it’s that we’ve lost one of our warrior and almost lose our deputy too” She shrugged “But what do you want me to do?  Apologize? Nah, I won’t do that, for it wouldn’t change a thing. I could spend all the lives I have left apologizing and Minkclaw would still be dead, Ravensight would still look like he had a mild case of scabies, and you’d still resent me for all of that”

“It’s just so easy for you, isn’t it? Sitting in that rock, al tough and mighty and holy?” Shorthawk spat with disdain “Screw the common cat, he doesn’t matter! Always sacrifice for this nebulous idea of the ‘good of the Clan’”

“I’m grieving for our loss, too. It was tragic that it happened. It literally was the worst of the good outcomes. Minkclaw was our best fighter! I was going to rely on him to lead our first assault”

“A set of paws, that’s what he was for you! That’s what we all! You don’t care for any of us!”

“I don’t care!? You want to talk about caring!? Let’s do that!” She jumped to her paws and closed the distance in a heartbeat, shoving her face right into Shorthawk’s “Let’s talk about your sister!”

“What does my…?”

“She was pregnant, did you know that?”

Ravensight stiffened, his tail wrapping tighter around Shorthawk, his breath stuck in his throat.

“She…” The white and grey tom started, his face going from upset, to shock, and finally to deeply concerned “…was?”

“That’s right! Was!” She declared, almost with a jeering tone “She suffered a complication and popped them kits way too early, when they were barely chunks of flesh. They weren’t alive, of course. She almost dies too”

“Dear StarClan…” Ravensight didn’t need to try and sniff the air, he could physically feel his mate’s fear at the sheer notion of losing his sister. “…oh, Fallowpelt, no…”

“Ah, but you didn’t know because you care about your clanmate soooo much, don’t you?” Silentstar mocked mercilessly “Nah, you don’t’! You wouldn’t be here being useless otherwise!”

“Silen…” Ravensight tried to interrupt, but she whipped around and stormed out of the medicine den.

“I want you both on patrol tomorrow. I don’t care which, just that you get out of here!” She called out over her shoulder “At least Minkclaw was useful, even in death! He’ll be the hero of the story!”

The toms remained in silence, not quite sure what to say. After a while, Shorthawk got on his paws and walked silently out of the den. To go check on her sister, no doubt.

Ravensight was left alone to his thoughts, a very dangerous thing at the moment. But his mind didn’t drift towards Fallowpelt, for there was no need and a lot of danger there. He didn’t want to think about her, now more than ever.

He hated her so much. And for his life, he couldn’t understand why. He was the traitor, not her. She proposed, he accepted, and now she was to blame?

He didn’t trust himself when it came to her. Maybe it was her scent, maybe her pelt, both so similar to his mate. Maybe it was her way of speaking, or her mannerism. Maybe it was the way she had, by pure chance, known exactly what to tell him to make him do things he really didn’t want to do. She made him feel hurt with words, he made her feel she had the right to.

No, Ravensight never thought about Fallowpelt if he could help it. He blocked her face, her scent, her voice, her… her cold touch, her meaningless praise, her pointless flaunting, her contempt and disgust, the violence in her eyes. She didn’t exist, she wasn’t there. And if she wasn’t there, there was no problem. She couldn’t hurt him. He couldn’t hurt her. That was important.

But he didn’t have to pretend anymore. Now there was no, and would never be, problems with her. He was free. She could tell Shorthawk now, if she wanted. That was ok. It’d could be a lie or the truth. Shorthawk would hate him either way, but that was what he should be doing in the first place. The mistake had been washed away. That moment of weakness in which he let himself be manipulated would bear no consequences, at least not permanent.

He just couldn’t wrap his head around the idea. How could he be that naïve? Perhaps she wasn’t to blame, after all. As Aspentail would put it, he was a rabbit that just happened to waltz into the den of a predator. What was she supposed to do? Just let him walk away? Why wouldn’t she take advantage of him, when it was just so easy? When he was so scared of having and also not having what she dangled in front of his eyes, blinding him to the implications?

Did he really thought he could say no, once they were on the patrol? That she’d just let him go, once they were alone, when she had already sunk her fangs so deeply into his throat without him realizing it? They were on their own, and he was older, bigger, close to her family, and soon to be of higher ranking.

Who would ever believe he was the victim?

But still, he didn’t want to think about her at the moment, because he was absolutely terrified that if he did, his mind would let him know just how disappointed he was on the inside that she had survived. He wanted her dead and rotting under the sun, but Shorthawk loved her. She was his sister. And Shorthawk love was important to Ravensight, even the love not directed at him. So he… wanted her alive, too. At least when he could prevent his thoughts from wandering too much.

It was done, it was over. He needed to move on. He needed to be better.

He needed to not be trapped again.

Instead, he turned to something more important than what had caused the tears falling from his eyes.

Silentstar thought that Minkclaw was a hero.

He did too. He wouldn’t be alive without him. He wouldn’t have had the opportunity to see Shorthawk once again, to console his mother, to say goodbye to his brother…

A hero.

That’s how the clan wanted to remember him. That how Silentstar would want him referred to in stories. That was how Ravensight honestly wanted, with all his heart, to remember this one tom that had looked at him with the love and pride of a father without sharing blood with him. Warriors would grow old hearing about his loyalty and sacrifice, kits would grow up among those tales wanting to be like him.

Cats could rally behind those tales. Minkclaw could be a symbol, like the very name of the clan was, like the –star at the end of every leader’s name, like the full moon and the sacred truce. Like the name Firestar, so deeply ingrained in their collective culture that even cats who didn’t know the stories shuddered in awe at the name alone and queens found it taboo to use the name Firekit for their kits.

But Minkclaw wasn’t a hero, not quite. He was honorable and loyal, undoubtedly. He was important for many cats and an asset to the clan. But underneath that he was unstable and dangerous too. By his own admission, he was a villain in the making, a traitor cut short by chance before he could be realized as such.

But, though dangerous as he might’ve been, ‘evil’ wasn’t really the way to describe him. Maybe he was just scared? Terrified, even, of harm coming to others but not himself. Of fragmented loyalties, greater than the one towards the clan.

Would Ravensight have killed for his brother? He didn’t know. But Lightstep would have killed for him, without second thought. Was his brother a monster, then?

Would their ancestors allow Minkclaw to enter StarClan? He technically hadn’t done anything yet, but he was vehemently determined to. Would he be held accountable for things yet to come at the moment of his death? Would he be considered too dangerous to be let in? Yet again, his desire to harm had sprouted from a noble cause. Cats that had actually killed were now among the Stars, so why not one that had wanted to but didn’t?

Ravensight realized then that he was probably the only one who knew about that. He was the only one who knew the reason behind his change of attitude. The one who knew about his plans and intentions. How Minkclaw would be remembered depended on the story he chose to pass down.

He pondered on Silentstar’s words. On his mother’s memories of a better time. On Smallflower, heartbroken and soaked in tears for her beloved brother. On Aspentail, oblivious to the fate she’d dodged. On his own feelings towards Minkclaw.

Who was he to destroy the sweet memories that cats wanted to keep so very near to their hearts? Was spreading the truth really worth it? He supposed that, if Aspentail was doing something wrong, then she’d face consequences when fate decided it was appropriate.

The clan expected Minkclaw to be loyal and… he was, truly. To his last day and to the last consequences.

To pass judgment for what he could have done should he had lived one day more was something he wasn’t sure he had the authority to do. No one among mortals did, really.

So Ravensight decided, for the good of the clan, that Minkclaw would be a hero.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 18:

A rabbit at war

Ravensight wasn’t quite sure what victory was supposed to feel like.

As he and his patrol pushed into Thunderclan territory, almost two tree-lengths deep, and took a good look around, he was most certainly not feeling anything resembling what he’d heard about being victorious. And for that matter, neithew was he feeling particularly happy or proud.

There had been a battle here, he could smell it very well, almost as if he had been right there. The scents of blood and fur, of cats from both ThunderClan and WindClan, even the stale scent of fear and hatred. It was all still in the cold Leafbare air. There even were some patches of snow here and there dyed with an unnatural red color.

He suspected his clanmates could perceive it too, but not as vividly as he could. He was the best tracker of the clan, and he could pick out each and every single cat that had been injured here just by the faint traces that lingered

“We’ll draw a line here. Mark each and every tree!” He commanded, his voice struggling to stay firm and betraying a fake air of authority. He’d rehearsed, he’d learned how to yowl with purpose. He wondered if his clanmates could sense how nervous he was every time he issued an order.

WindClan had won the battle that had just taken place, and the last two battles before that too. Ravensight couldn’t help but feel sort of hollow towards the victories. He didn’t like fighting in a war, and a battle to him meant injuries for his clanmates, not glory.

He was also bitterly aware that this war was no longer between WindClan and ThunderClan. Not that he cared too much about it, but sill.

SkyClan was the one doing the heaviest of fighting against their neighbors, though the black tom couldn’t fathom why they would commit so many resources and cats to a conflict that technically wasn’t even theirs.

Daylight Warriors carried lighting fast raids from outside clan territory, SkyClan launched attack after attack from their territory and WindClan launched their own little attacks from the Southern border.

He thought of the queens, kits and elders beyond the border, a reflection of the ones safely tucked away in his own camp in the moor. Would they be scared of the attacks coming from every direction? Were they worried every morning, thinking if their loved ones would return or if that would be their last patrol? Did their clan have enough food and medicine to provide to them?

Ravensight thought about that sometimes, but he tried not to think too much. He and Shorthawk lived in WindClan, and ThunderClan was a threat. They were all part of a game, organized by their leaders, and everyone had to play their part now. He didn’t hate them, but he wouldn’t entertain thoughts of sympathy either. Maybe once they had surrendered WindClan would offer them a paw in friendship, to start to rebuild their relationship once more.

He found it sort of funny, but not really, how little the two catalyzers of the whole conflict had directly contributed to it in the grand scheme of things. He hadn’t participated directly in many important fights, though he had been present in some skirmishes. But most of his contributions were done on the organizational level, picking cats and organizing the patrols, making sure each individual got some rest before they were sent out again, sending hunting expeditions near the places where medicinal herbs could be found so they could knock two birds with one single blow.

Alderclaw, though? The main culprit, albeit innocent too all things considered? He fell in the first big battle Ravensight had participated. He wasn’t exactly sure what the result of that particular battle was. Though he suspected not even the Thunderclanners cared very much.

What would be ingrained in the memory of cats from both sides is seeing Smallflower take hit after hit from the ThunderClan deputy and shrug it off as if they were specks of dust hitting her fur. They would remember how she overpowered him with strength beyond understanding and pinned him down to the ground. Every time they see the orange and yellow rays of the setting sun reflected on the lake surface, her vivid eyes blazing with fury would come to their mind. When they bite into a piece of fresh-kill to take out a chunk of meat, they’ll feel unease as they relived the scene of her biting down on his neck and tearing half of it off almost completely in one movement.

She had stood there, no glee nor anger, as he chocked in his own blood and died, right in front of his clanmates who were powerless to do anything. Just like Minkclaw had died.

She wanted him to rot, and had challenged them to try and come for his body, but no one step forward. Ravensight noticed their hesitation back then. Their sense of duty commanded them to face her, their sense of self-preservation begging them not to. In the end, she dragged the body away from the border and dropped it in the open, half way between the border and the camp for the carrion-eaters to feast.

Ravensight allowed this, for he believed she needed closure of some kind, and this was the best path to it. But as he laid in his nest that night, his conscious didn’t let him sleep knowing that a cat was being used as food in WindClan territory. He thought of his mate and daughter, never able to hold a vigil for their beloved tom, living with the uncertainty if he had arrived to StarClan or not. So he snuck out of camp and very carefully dragged the body of his former counterpart back to the border. He deserved to be buried, and the cats who knew him deserved to say a last goodbye.

He envied him, in a way. He wished he was as strong and confident as he was. He wished he could carry himself with the pride and presence that this cat had. He wished he could make Shorthawk as happy as this tom seemed to have made his mate. He wished he could think about kits of his own with the ferocious love and protectiveness that this cat had felt for his, and not with fear and pain that surrounded...

But, in the end, it didn’t matter. Alderclaw ended up a victim too, his fate controlled by others. From the moment he became a deputy, he didn’t actually have a say anymore. Much like himself, actually. Both of them were rabbits at the end of the day, and they both walked into the midst of a predator.

Ravensight had the opportunity of not allowing it to happen again.

Alderclaw would not.

When the marking was done, he rallied his cats back to his side and silently began the walk back home. It was nothing more than an inconvenience for ThunderClan, he knew. There was no way that WindClan could move the border northwards and keep it there once the conflict was over. But it was something that their neighbors had to deal with now. That took time and effort, and kept some of their cats away from their more dangerous adversary.

His patrol chattered with excitement behind him, though he wasn’t particularly sure why. They hadn’t won anything important yet. They’ve put ThunderClan on the defensive, but that was it for now. He couldn’t bring himself to say that, though, as he glanced around his cats. From young apprentice Ashpaw, carrying with pride her scared face, to senior Kestrelstaker, happy that she had been given the opportunity to contribute in the war efforts before she retired to the elder’s den. All of them found a reason to proud of their clan and their clanmates. He supposed that could be seen as a victory.

But, then again, Ravensight wasn’t quite sure what victory was supposed to feel like.

----------------------------------

He didn’t feel safe anywhere.

The camp was a safe haven for everyone but him. He’d made the mistake, more than once. Of relaxing, of feeling protected and cared for. He’d let down his guard and enjoyed the presence of his clanmates. He’d let their scent drift into his mouth and he had relished in the knowledge that everyone was still there, alive.

Then he’d found that one scent, the one he was so fond of. He’d allowed Shorthawk’s scent to soothe him, to let him feel safe and loved. He’d closed his eyes and enjoyed it. He’d followed with a warm smile and a desire to see how his mate was doing, to compliment him in something, to offer his help if he needed it or to let him tease him, for he enjoyed it more than he cared to admit.

Then his blood would freeze inside his veins as she came into view, walking by, or speaking to some other cat. Sometimes, even to him, with the same dangerous eyes. She would blink in his direction, or flick an ear, or raise her tail in greeting. Casual gestures, common courtesy, what would be expected from clanmates.

And he? He would feel suffocated, unable to respond.

She smelled so similar to his mate and it unnerved him to incomprehensible levels, because he had started to fear Shorthawk too. He smelled almost like her, and he liked to sneak up on him sometimes. Bring him prey to his nest as a surprise or just approach to greet him with a nuzzle on the cheek. So far, he’d been able to control his reactions, but he hated feeling scared of him. He hadn’t done anything to him, he deserved to be showered in love and welcomed with warmth, not with caution and nervousness.

He was scared of being found alone, so he spent most of his time with his mate, or in a patrol. He didn’t go on walks on his own anymore, and neither did he went on solo hunting expeditions. The moor was scary to him, too vast, too isolated; nobody would find him if she was to found him there. So he was always with some cat. He would not be caught alone again, he would not be prey again.

He felt so weak, he felt so pathetic. It was so shameful how he, a deputy, had to rely so much on his fellow Windclanners to feel safe. His clanmates were facing claws and teeth, his clanmates had lost a friend and had suffered injuries, and here he was jumping at shadows. How could he tell them he was scared, when Kestrelstarker now walked with a limp? When Rustsong greeted him every morning with a blink of her only remaining eye? When his mother looked at him with indescribable sadness, having lost one of her sons and the father of her new kits so close next to each other?

Could he really look at them in the eyes and tell them that he felt hurt too?

Now he was convinced that StarClan would call him way before he had to lead WindClan.

How could a rabbit lead a clan?

His clanmates could take refuge in camp.

But he didn’t feel safe.

----------------------------------

“Have you talked with him?” He meowed cautiously “Or… with anyone, really? Is he in StarClan?”

Webfur frowned, momentarily looking away from Rustsong.

“Of course he’s there. Why wouldn’t he? I’m not wasting our ancestors’ time asking stuff I already know”

Ravensight knew why, but Webfur couldn’t know. He just wanted reassurance…

“Our ancestors’ time is infinite, though”

“Yet they are quite stingy with it nonetheless. Now, if you don’t mind…”

“Of course”

The medicine cat scoffed, turning back to his work.

“So, honey, this looks like it’s healing alright. Are you sure it doesn’t hurt anymore”

“Absolutely” She twitched an ear and blinked with her good eye.

“Noticed any smell?”

“No”

“Have you ever woken up with a bit of blood on your nest or have you noticed it staining the fur in your face?”

“Never”

 “Any odd feeling of warm or cold in your face? Maybe some swelling?”

“None”

“Well, if that’s the case, then I think you’re ready to go back to your full warrior duties. But if you notice any of the stuff I mentioned, come back immediately, alright?”

“Will do, Webfur” She nodded and blinked gratefully “Will it ever… look nicer?”

“No” He meowed, then quickly laid the tip of her tail on her shoulder “But I assure you, it’s not as bad as you think. This will influence very little in your hunting, and absolutely nothing on your looks”

He also knew Webfur wasn’t lying, not this time. Rustsong was a really good warrior, missing an eye wouldn’t stop her. Maybe some other cat, maybe even himself, but not her.

Looks, though? He didn’t really paid a lot of attention to even his own beyond making sure he was presentable in public, so he couldn’t really say. But he understood that small gestures were just as important as grandiose ones, and he knew from experience how a small, sincere compliment could help a cat improve. This was his duty too, to make his clanmates happy, to give them a chance at self-improvement, to make them feel the clan wanted them.

“He’s right, you know? You’re still really, really pretty” Ravensight offered his praise, then added with a wink “For a she-cat”

“Aw, boys, thank you!” She purred “You make this old furball feel all fuzzy inside!”

 “Old, she says!” Ravensight scoffed.

“Unbelievable, right?” Webfur agreed “Could easily pass for a new warrior and she calls herself old!

“Now, now! You’ll make Mistwalker jealous!” She teased “But, if you really want to make me feel better…” Her eye stared hopefully at her deputy “I could really use a patrol right now. I’m tired of staying in camp!”

Ravensight glanced at the medicine cat, who met his eyes and hesitated for a heartbeat before nodding slowly.

“Of course. A hunting patrol is about to leave, you can join them”

She blinked warmly at him, then got to her paws and pressed her muzzle into Webfur’s shoulder in gratitude. She padded up to Ravensight and did the same, her gesture being returned shortly after.

She reached the entrance, but before she set a paw outside, she stopped and turned to her deputy, a certain trepidation in her demeanor.

“If I may be disrespectful… could I ask another favor?” She meowed softly “From a former queen to another?”

Ravensight was taken aback by that, but quickly recovered and nodded.

“Within reason”

“Could you… could you make sure Silentstar doesn’t change my name? Please?”

It’d never occurred to him, not even remotely so, that losing one’s name could be a genuine repercussion from receiving injuries.

“No matter what name you’re given, it won’t change who you are” Webfur meowed encouragingly while he cleaned his paws.

“Yeah, but…” She shook her head, her tail flicking nervously behind her “Not many cats know what ‘rust’ even is. I, myself, don’t actually know, only that it’s sort of red” She stretched a bit, showcasing her ginger fur “But my mother knew what it was and named me after it. Any other name would be… not me, you know?”

Ravensight understood the importance of meaning behind a name like hers, especially among so many mundane ones. ‘Rustsong’ was a reflection of her family, of their story, of stuff only they knew. Though technically the same idea, ‘Redsong’ would not convey the same, it had to be ‘rust’. Whatever that may be.

His name, in contrast, didn’t carry the same weight. He was called Ravenkit because he was black, and for nothing else. Hollowstreak could’ve named him Darkkit, Blackkit, Nightkit, Crowkit or any number of names like those. All of them would be the same, really. One black cat among dozen, and many black things to name them after.

But in WindClan, only Rustsong’s mother knew what ‘rust’ was, and she had named her daughter after it. That meant something, it implied a story, not only just a color.

“I promise you, as long as I draw breath, you’ll be known as Rustsong” Ravensight declared.

The she-cat beamed at him and touched his cheek with her muzzle, then left the den with an oddly juvenile cheerfulness in her step.

Webfur waited some moments before speaking again.

“That was really sweet of you, you know? I was worried you were going to say that Silentstar knows best or something”

“I understand not wanting to be called something you aren’t” He replied, shrugging “Cats call me ‘deputy’, after all”

The medicine cat snorted goodheartedly and his whiskers twitched with amusement.

 “So anyways, what can I do for you? I mean, you didn’t bring me a bird, so I know it’s not to ask me out on a date as usual”

“I… need two things”

“Name them”

“A poppy seed… and that you don’t ask what for”

“Ravensight…” The medicine cat meowed slowly, shifting uncomfortably on his paws “We’re kind of short on pretty much everything right now…”

“I know, but I’m…” He paused “I’m having issues sleeping…” He dreamed a lot. About her, about her fur, about her smell. He had a lot of nightmares “…and I’m constantly nervous and worried…” and scared “… when I’m awake. I need a clear mind to deal with Silentstar and the war and stuff. And I just… please?”

Webfur stared at him, no doubt considering his words very carefully, before standing up and walking into the back of the den. Ravensight waited in silence as he heard his friend carefully rummaging through his herbs out of sight. Eventually, the golden tabby came back, holding a leaf from the stem on his mouth.

“Anyone else, any other cat, and I’d kick them out of my den for even suggesting I give them herbs without a diagnosis” He meowed through his teeth as he laid the leaf in front of his friend. In it, the black tom could see small black seeds, though way more than one “But you’re my best friend and I know you. You’re a mouse brain, and you never ask for help until it’s too late, so I know this must really be something bothersome”

“Those are a lot, Webfur” The black tom muttered.

“Around thirty. Half my current stock, actually” He gazed into his eyes, his features betraying reluctance “But, if you need them, you need them. I’ll get more soon enough, I think. You’re right, our deputy needs rest and a clear mind. We’re at war, after all” His expression turned more serious “Take one before going to your nest, and one during the day if your anxiety gets too much to bear, but no more than that, you hear? And the moment you can get a good sleep routine going, return the leftovers. Medicine is scarce, as everything is in leaf-bare, but I trust you’ll not waste them”

More trust put onto him. More undeserved votes of confidence.

He blinked nervously and looked down at the black seeds being offered to him. So few and precious, according to his friend. They could ease the pain in the body, caused by injuries; or the pain in the mind, caused by wounds of other kind. Taken for granted, most of the time, as they were a common sight on every medicine den.

He’d wanted them before, but now seeing them…

Smallflower, with everything that she’d been through, may need them. Or perhaps Yelloweyes may need them too. His mother, still grieving for two cats while nursing kits, might need them to sleep more than him. Ashpaw and Shellpaw were young, they’d been participating in battles too. It’d be just a matter of time before they’d be overwhelmed by everything and they might need these seeds.

He was being silly. He didn’t need them. Nor did he deserve them. It’d be a waste on him.

He could cope with his little fears. The clan needed this stuff more. He wasn’t important.

Carefully, the offered leaf was pushed back towards Webfur, who blinked in confusion.

“What are you doing?” He questioned.

“I reconsidered. It’s not that bad, I’ll just suck it up until it’s better. I don’t need the seeds”

“Oh, no! I won’t have any warrior charging into battle half awake. Especially not the one meant to lead the rest. You are taking them with you”

“I’m just a figure head, Webfur. I’m not that important. I’ll try to take more naps and stuff. I’ll be fine”

“If the issue is that you’re too worried to sleep, than just trying to sleep isn’t going to solve anything, Ravensight”

“It’s not important” He repeated.

“I wasn’t going to ask, but now that you are refusing you own prescribed treatment, I must know” He took a step forward, his eyes narrowing “What has you so anxious that you’d ask for poppy seeds?”

“Nothing. A trifling matter. Hardly worth thinking about”

“Ravensight…”

“Webfur”

“Is it ThunderClan?” He asked “Are you worried they might counterattack us?”

“As much as everyone, I’d guess”

“So it’s another thing” The medicine cat eye’s softened “Is it Lightstep? I’d understand if it is. We all miss him, but you’ll get to see him again, I’m sure!

The fact that Lightstep had left the clan had been probably more traumatizing for Ravensight, and especially for Hollowstreak, than Minkclaw’s death. It shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise, really; Lightstep spend half of the days of a moon outside the clan already. And he had never been especially committed to the idea of a clan, helping out more because his brother and mother were part of it than any sort of loyalty towards it. He found entertainment gathering information and chatting with cute she-cats, not hunting or patrolling.

Of course, he realized that now. He was so preoccupied with his own personal affairs, he never noticed his brother growing disillusioned with WindClan until there was no reason left for him to stay. The clan had a new deputy, Hollowstreak had new kits, and Shorthawk would look after Ravensight now. There was really nothing for him in the clan.

But becoming a kittypet, like their father? After everything he’d said about him?

“I’m not going to see him again” Ravensight declared, sadness and determination gripping his heart with equal strength “Lightstep is dead. Whatever name that cat chooses to call himself, that’s who he is now, and that cat won’t be my brother”

“Of course he will! He’ll always be kin to you, no matter if from now on he wears a collar in each leg and goes by the name Waffles”

“What in Silverpelt is a ‘Waffles’?”

“No idea, but SkyClan’s medicine cat apprentice used to be called that before joining. I think it sound funny. Cute, even”

 “For a kitten, maybe. I can’t imagine a full grown cat being called that”

“Well, for Twolegs, all cats might as well be kits. I guess the way some kittypets behave may have given them that impression!”

Webfur laughed at his own joke and, after staring at him for some heartbeats pretending to be above this kind of humor, Ravensight chuckled with him too. It felt nice to hear their laughter together again, it brought back good memories of when the clan didn’t need them as much as nowadays.

“Stars, what a crappy moon this has been…” Webfur sighed as his laugher subsided. He looked so tired all of a sudden, his shoulders slouching and his tail dragging on the ground “Cold as dirt, bad hunting, a broken truce, like a dozen injured and five cats lost… and we still have a quarter before…”

“Five?” He tilted his head in confusion “We’ve only lost Minkclaw and Lightstep. Who are the other three?”

“Fallowpelt’s kits”

And icy cold shiver travelled down Ravensight’s spine, making him shudder involuntarily.

“Oh…”

“Yeah… I don’t wanna talk about it too much because she doesn’t do it either, but… you know…” He sighed, the slightest hint of frustration on his tone.

“Hm…” The black tom hummed, swallowing hard, not really knowing what to say “Y-yeah, perhaps…”

“Some queens have like four litters, one after the other, and never have a single issue with a single kit. Others just have complications with the first and just die. Something could’ve been wrong for quite some time, for all I know. Maybe from the beginning. Maybe it was treatable”

“Maybe…”

“Yes, exactly! Maybe! That’s the thing! That’s the only answer I can give myself. Maybe!” His friend hissed to no one in particular, before lashing his tail again the bed where Rustsong had sat, sending moss flying across the floor of the medicine den “We’ll never know if I could’ve help because apparently the new queens don’t trust me”

“I don’t thinks it’s a matter of trust, Webfur. A queen…”

“I understand and respect that a queen has the right to keep the sire of her kits a secret if she so wishes, but keeping the entire pregnancy secret from your medicine cat is just… urgh!”

“But…”

“Especially her! Yelloweyes had a myriad of issues having kits, so maybe it’s a passed down condition! Maybe it’s dangerous for her to try and have kits! Maybe she shouldn’t attempt to!”

“More ‘maybes’”

“More StarClan forsaken ‘maybes’”

Webfur sat down abruptly near the mess that once was a moss bed, breathing heavily and with his fur bristled. Ravensight approached him slowly, sitting next to him and pressing their bodies together as comfortingly as he could.

It clicked in his head, perhaps a bit late, that the clan had a different picture of this situation. Losing their… hers kits. They were her kits. Hers alone. She made them. He hadn’t done anything. They weren’t his… they couldn’t be. He was just a rabbit.

Ravensight saw it as both a liberation and a sentence. The fox didn’t have a cub now to tie them, but it’ll be on the hunt. He knew. He just knew.

The clan saw it as a tragedy. Webfur especially so. Why wouldn’t they? Three clanmates had been lost without a chance at life. A life they shouldn’t have had, but they did, so a chance should’ve been given to them.

They didn’t know, and now, they couldn’t know. She had their sympathy. The rabbit would be seen as the fox, even if the fox had its teeth around the rabbit’s neck. Even if the rabbit could feel the fox breathing down on it every time it walked into camp.

“It’s ok, Webfur” He whispered, running his tail slowly up and down his friend’s back.

“It’s not like I blame them for no trusting me, you know? I’m just mad at myself. I spent half my life talking how I wanted serious stuff to happen so I could prove myself to the clan, and… when it happens, I just can’t do anything!”

“Don’t be mouse-brained! How could you have…?”

“The moons in my vision. I’m convinced it was about what ultimately happened in the Gathering. My first vision told me that Yelloweyes was going to be attacked, but Fallowpelt and Shorthawk convinced me of supporting the idea of her retirement. I-I… almost didn’t do it”

“Then the moon changed in the second vision, because Yelloweyes wasn’t going” He frowned “But I survived”

“Because it wasn’t about you. You’re younger and, apparently, more resilient than Yelloweyes. She wouldn’t have survived what you did. It was a about Minkclaw. A white and ginger moon, bleeding to death”

Ravensight didn’t say it, but he pondered about if the omen was about Minkclaw being in danger or if it was about Minkclaw putting someone in danger. It didn’t matter in the end, he supposed.

“But why him? If the omen was about a deputy dying, then why take Minkclaw?”

“I have no answers for you, not really. Perhaps he was the one destined to be our deputy in StarClan’s eyes, and now they’re mad that I interfered?” He sniffed “It’s pointless now. I needed to realize this before it happened, but I didn’t. I never imagined a battle, I thought we would have a cute little moment with new kittens under the moonlight” He chuckled bitterly, his ear dropping slightly “I went into a battlefield carrying borage, Ravensight. Borage. I’m such an embarrassment for medicine cats”

Ravensight’s heart ached with the knowledge that he had caused this. Even if Webfur had foreseen the danger, there would be very little he could’ve done. Ravensight would’ve still gone through with the plan and Alderclaw would invariably kill someone. The only thing that they would’ve been able to change, maybe, is who.

The shadow of a thought went through his mind, and he banished it as quickly as it appeared.

“I couldn’t save Palestorm…” It had been so long since Webfur had pronounced his mentor’s name, Ravensight had almost forgotten there had been another medicine cat in the clan when he was kit “I couldn’t save Minkclaw. I couldn’t save Lightstep…”

“He chose to leave”

“But maybe I could’ve talked to him. Convinced him to stay, maybe. Tried something at least”

“It would’ve been futile”

“Still” He grimaced “And I didn’t even get the chance to try and save those kits…”

“You saved Rustsong, though”

He rolled his eyes.

“She saved herself by not getting infected. Otherwise, we’d… probably have lost her too”

“And me? You saved me” Ravensight purred as he planted soft little licks behind his friend ears and on his head “I would be dead without you”

The fact that he would also be lost without him also crossed his mind, as well as the bitter realization that he probably wouldn’t be having the sort of problem he was having if he just hadn’t met or hadn’t listened to the medicine cat.

Webfur had stirred him into the path that eventually led him to Shorthawk, though. And not only him, but Yelloweyes, Smallflower, Aspentail, Rustsong and, for a brief moment, Minkclaw. He had dear friends in the clan; that was something he would never have had without Webfur.

He had saved him in more ways than he imagined.

He had also condemned him. He led him to her.

But..

No, that wasn’t true. Webfur didn’t. He found her himself, he walked into her den by his own naivety.

“I guess…” He shrugged, leaning a bit more into Ravensight for the first time in their conversation “One out of six is an atrocious record, though”

“Well, it’s not cero, so that’s good. Otherwise we wouldn’t be having this conversation”

“Jokes on you, I’m a medicine cat! So we would nonetheless, and in a more comfortable environment even!”

“Hilarious”

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Claws raked his right shoulder for the seventh time since the whole mess with ThunderClan had started, sending tiny droplets of blood rolling down his front left leg. Every time previous to this, it had healed and his fur had covered most of the mark. He knew it wouldn’t be different this time, he wasn’t scared of this kind of injury, barely felt it anymore, though he wished they’d target something else for a change, apart from his shoulders and ears.

Ravensight side-stepped his enemy as he got greedy with his attacks, no doubt confident after the last couple of blows had landed correctly, then took the chance to jump on his back and cling to it like a tick. His kittypet heritage gave his body a bit of extra bulk when compared with most of his clanmates, something that Thunderclanners didn’t usually expect.

His opponent yelped in surprise and stumbled below him. The black tom jerked around his body until the Thunderclanner’s legs gave away and he collapsed. He stomped on his opponent’s head with one of his forepaws, pinning it to the ground, then he bit down as hard as he could into the grey tabby’s shoulder.

It was something he had sort of grew fond of, as sickening as it was for him to admit he had a preferred way of drawing cat blood. Maybe saying it was a maneuver he’d grew reliant on would be more precise. Even after experiencing real battles, he still couldn’t match up with ThunderClan cats. Not directly, at least. Every time he had tried, he had been overpowered, though luckily his clanmates knew not to take on Thunderclanner senior warriors on their own, thus there was always someone around to help him.

So he usually tried to face the younger warriors, closer to his experience level, and tried to finish fights as quickly as he could. Smallflower had told him he’d start liking it after his third battle or so, but here he was on his eighth and he still hated it just as much as when it all began. Silentstar had told him that he didn’t need to fight, but he couldn’t find it in his heart to send these cats to get hurt and not come with them. It also helped morale to have their deputy with them, so that was nice too, he supposed.

The way he fought was almost like catching prey: wait for an opportunity, jump on them, bite down quickly and hard where leg and body connect instead of the spine, don’t let up until they stop moving. It was a very painful injury and not many cats could continue fighting after receiving it, at least not optimally. He had even managed to cause a dislocation once.

Was it honorable? No, not really. Then again, he wasn’t there to be honorable. He was there to win, to make sure everyone was safe.

Out here, he could pretend to be a hunter, among the yowls and claws and blood. He could convince himself he was dangerous, that he was the predator, that they were the rabbits. He felt safer here than in camp... sometimes. Just sometimes.

The cat bellow him managed to free his head and promptly head-butted the black tom. Ravensight lost his balance for a heartbeat and involuntarily relaxed his bite, and at the very same moment his opponents surged upwards, tossing him away.

He found his footing quickly and hissed at his opponent, but the Thunderclanner had jumped back on his paws and was swiping at him before Ravensight could react. His claws raked through his cheek and his muzzle, an intense stinging pain quickly spreading across his face from where he was certain he had lost one or two whiskers.

His opponent didn’t relent on his attack, swiping at him again and again as he was reeling from the previous hit. Ravensight jumped backwards to put some distance between them, taking a moment to shake his head rapidly to clear up his mind a bit.

The Thunderclanner crashed into him and tried to push him into the ground, presumably in an effort to use his powerful muscles to pin him down. Ravensight couldn’t counter the charge properly, so when he realized that he was going to fall, he threw his forelegs around his assailant’s body and hooked his claws to his back, dragging him to the ground too.

They thrashed and flailed against each other, with snow flying everywhere, making everything more confusing than what a fight this close to one another usually is. He couldn’t track exactly where his opponent was with his eyes so obscured, but he could feel every time he delivered a good blow or kick. Likewise, he got hit on the same shoulder again, the wound no doubt staining the snow red at that point. His opponent back legs scored a couple of good hits on his chest and his back legs, though miraculously they missed his belly entirely.

Then the fight took a turn when his opponent flopped belly up, his back embedded into the snow. Ravensight realized that he was getting extremely tired and his body was starting to ache severely, so he couldn’t really keep this up much longer if he wanted to avoid serious injuries. He caught and pinned one of his opponent’s forepaws with his own, held down his chest with the other, and dived downward with his maw open, ready to break this cat’s shoulder if he had to. Or attempt to, at least. He couldn’t envision another way of ending this in WindClan’s favor.

Something went wrong.

Perhaps his vision was too impaired at that moment and he missed. Perhaps the Thunderclanner had attempted to dodge or wiggle free. Or perhaps he got too caught up in his hunting mindset that his body fell into pure muscle memory.

It was with a startling realization that Ravensight found out his jaws had wrapped neatly around his opponent’s neck. The grey tabby instinctually threw his head back with a chocked gasp in an attempt to get air, but all that achieved was that Ravensight’s grip on him became more severe.

The WindClan deputy was about to release the other tom, when he felt something brushing against his fur and a stinging sensation on his belly. Horror set in quickly as he realized it was one of the grey tabby’s back legs pressing against his soft skin, claws ready to spill its contents on the snowy ground. His green eyes met a pair of amber ones, both pairs filled with fear and fury.

He relaxed his bite just a bit, enough to make sure he wasn’t choking him completely. In his tongue danced the disgusting taste of fresh cat blood, making him want to gag.

One of them would have to give in, then. And there really was no guarantee that one wouldn’t kill the other the moment they were out of danger.

For some horrifyingly slow heartbeats, they looked into each other’s eyes, seeking a sign of what their opponent was going to do next. He realized that the claws against his belly were an unspoken threat. That was good. If this other cat wanted him dead, then he would be laying on a nest made with his own organs already. He didn’t want to kill Ravensight, he’d honor the warrior code.

The WindClan deputy narrowed his eyes defiantly and tightened his grip, growling straight into the grey tabby’s throat. Ravensight didn’t hate ThunderClan, nor did he hate any Thunderclanner in specific. He didn’t have anything against this particular cat, either; he didn’t know who it was to begin with. He had absolutely no qualms in letting him go. What’s more, he wanted to let him go. He was silently begging this cat to let him spare him.

But Ravensight had comrades in the battlefield that he was fighting for; he had little siblings that he wanted to see grow up; he had a mate back in camp, and he was going back to share tongues with him today. This cat wasn’t going to stop him. He was coming back to his camp alive, that was a fact, and whether this cat did too was entirely on this cat’s paws. It might be brought about by Ravensight’s teeth, yes; but this cat’s will would be the thing that decided what happened.

He saw uncertainty flashing in is opponent eyes as he began choking again, letting out soft gasps. He held on a bit more, trying to growl back but failing due to lack of air.

Finally, the Thunderclanner sheathed his claws and moved his leg out of the black tom’s belly, tapping softly at Ravensight’s side with his paw instead.

Ravensight freed his opponent and stepped away immediately. The grey tabby got onto his unsteady paws quickly, hacking and coughing, desperate to fill his lungs with air again. He snapped to the black tom to spat at him one last time, before whipping around and bolting away, deeper into ThunderClan territory.

He blinked at his retreating form gratefully, and felt very tired all of a sudden. He took a moment to take a look around and assess the situation.

His clanmates were engaging ThunderClan among the trees all around him still. They weren’t exactly losing, but they had been unable to break the enemy line quickly, so this endeavor was pretty much a bust. Moreover, they had probably overstayed their welcome. More enemy cats would be arriving soon, he could taste their scent in the air. He decided it’d be best to call a retreat, it’d been enough fighting today. The thundercats could have the day, the battle wasn’t that important anyways.

But first, he bent down and hurled his breakfast onto the snow.

It apparently didn’t want to stick around him anymore all of a sudden. He didn’t blame it.

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“We are not raiding their mallow plants” Ravensight argued back immediately, though in all honesty he didn’t really know what mallow even was, only that Webfur used it.

“Why not? It’s an ideal time for it! Right before new-leaf, so we’ll deny them their medicine”

“… do you even know what mallow does?”

“Not really, but I know it’s medicinal and that we have other places to obtain it… er, maybe” She didn’t sound so convinced of that “We’ll destroy their source without compromising ours. It’s perfect!”

“Herbs are medicine cat’s business, Silentstar. We can’t…”

“Nonsense. Send a patrol there or I’ll take it myself. This isn’t a discussion, deputy. It’s an order!” She declared, lashing her tail with irritation, then padding away.

Ravensight groaned in frustration as he rolled his eyes, then started making his way to the medicine den.

He understood that, sometimes in the past, the clans launched the odd raid on a medicine cat’s den in order to capture or destroy the enemy’s medical supplies. But those were desperate measures, and absolutely not well seen by anyone, especially the medicine cats themselves. Both from the attacking and the attacked clan.

But to launch an attack for a plant that hadn’t sprouted its leaves yet was… something else, to say the least.

“Hey, Webfur, got a moment?” He meowed as he walked into the medicine den.

“Depends” The golden tabby rose from the nest he was resting on and stretched quickly “How many injuries do you have, exactly?”

“No, no. Nothing like that!” He purred at him, sitting down on his haunches “How important is mallow?”

“Mallow?” The medicine cat tilted his head with curiosity “Well, the leaves are good for stomach pains of many kinds, from indigestions to nursing pains” He twitched his whiskers and blinked. Ravensight supposed one of his mini-ramblings about herbs was about to come “It’s not, like, a lifesaving herb or anything, but it’s a great convenience thing. Kinda like honey… and goes well with it too. You mix mallow leaves with other herbs that you’re making the patient swallow, so you prevent upsetting their bellies too much. And you can add honey to give it a more pleasant texture and make it easier to swallow. It’s a really cool herb to have, especially when dealing with kits, ‘cause sometimes their little stomachs can’t stand the medication and you make them throw up, which is a waste of resources, honestly, and…” Webfur suddenly caught the amused expression in his friend’s face and paused “Oh… sorry, I must be boring you”

“Nah. It’s kind of cure how much you like plants”

“Moot point. I am always cute”

“You sure are” He purred, rolling his eyes.

“Anyways, yeah. Mallow, alone, has limited uses. Combining it with other stuff, in secret, is common practice and greatly convenient. Kits and elders need it badly sometimes to stand other medication”

“How much would it hurt you to not have access to it?”

Webfur blinked rapidly several times, as if trying to understand what he had just heard.

“That would suck on a level you cannot comprehend”

Ravensight’s shoulder fell as his expression turned sour.

“Foxdung!” He hissed at the ground.

“Why the sudden interest in mallow?”

“Silentstar has ordered me to go and destroy the mallow plants near the lake on Thunderclan territory before they have a chance to bloom”

What!?” Webfur almost screamed at him, his eyes widening in alarm and his fur standing on end “Is she insane? That’s an awful order!”

“I know…” Ravensight sighed “But that’s what she wants. My heart goes out to the thundercats, but orders are…”

“No, no, no… you don’t understand!” The golden tabby interrupted him “I get my mallow from ThunderClan’s plants!”

“Wha-why-what do you mean!?”

“It’s medicine, Ravensight. And if a medicine cat needs it, he can get it from any territory. ThunderClan medicine cats have shared the sources of a bunch of useful stuff with WindClan since… cats started living in this lake, frankly”

“So… what you’re trying to say is that we’re launching an attack against ourselves”

“Basically”

“Great. No, fantastic. Awesome! Just what we needed!” The black tom groaned in response “By Windstar’s holy cheeks, what are we…?”

“Don’t disrespect the Founder’s name like that. You can get away with it, but I can commune with her and I’d rather not be thinking about her cheeks when I do”

“Right, sorry” He dipped his head “What do we do, then?”

“Can’t you call it off?”

“No, I tried before I even knew they were our plants too. Silentstar isn’t backing down”

“Well, then I… don’t know”

“Don’t you have another place to get it?” He questioned hopefully.

“It grows close to the lake’s shore, in the places where it’s not sandy. There aren’t many of those, but I assume somewhere in RiverClan territory there must be another patch of it. Our coastline is mostly cliffs and rocks, so there’s barely anything there. Anywhere else is too long of a journey, and quite dangerous, even for medicine cats”

Ravensight closed his eyes and took a deep breath, faintly annoyed at the scent of herbs contaminating the air, then let out a long sigh.

“Alright…” He whipped around and headed for the exit “I’ll see what I can do…”

Webfur called out something to him, but he wasn’t listening anymore. His mind was running rampant, trying to come up with something. The orders by themselves were mouse-brained to start with, but now they seemed utterly non-sensical.

Did Silentstar not know this? But she was the leader! She was supposed to know what her medicine cat did. So she just didn’t care? Or did she considered it worth it anyway? It was true that the clan had few kits at the moment, but New-leaf would bring more like always, and Webfur would need mallow if anything happened to them.

Another gamble.

That was what this was, he realized. If everything went their way, they wouldn’t need mallow, but ThunderClan would, thus growing weaker. But, on the other paw…

A knot began forming in Ravensight’s stomach, being very well aware what happened the last time they’d tried their luck like this.

He scanned the camp to see how everyone was doing in an effort to calm himself and think, but his eyes found themselves stopping at the entrance of the elders’ den. Immediately, the image of Yelloweyes came to his mind. Maybe she would know what to do? She had convinced Silentstar not to exile him, so he knew she at least could talk her out of some decisions… sometimes. But, did he actually wanted to bother the old she-cat with clan matters again? The whole point of her retirement was for her to not have to deal with them.

He must have been very caught up in his own thoughts because he didn’t hear or scent the approaching cat until they were literally pressing their muzzle against his shoulder. He turned around at the touch to find the warm eyes of his mate waiting for him, well groomed and smiling brightly.

“Well, hello there! Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes today” He meowed.

“Are you implying I’m a mess normally?” Shorthawk countered.

“More or less” He purred back “What can I do for you?”

“I just came back from border patrol, so I’m here to give you my report”

“Ah, right. Go ahead”

“All quiet on the RiverClan border… honestly, I’m not sure why we even patrol it at this point, but yeah. We refreshed the markers and that was it”

“Alright, thank you” Ravensight dipped his head at him.

“Hey, want to share something with me? I think I saw a nice sparrow on the fresh-kill pile. I can pluck the feathers for you!”

“Thank you, but I’m a bit busy rig…” He paused as his nosed picked up something odd about Shorthawk’s scent. He stepped closer, sniffing along the younger tom’s side. He knew this scent, but it was mixed with the usual WindClan scent and the mix felt very odd “You have RiverClan’s scent on your fur” He meowed, his tone betraying a bit of concern “They didn’t attack you, did they?”

“You’re always sticking your nose everywhere, aren’t you? Literally, I mean! Ha ha!” Shorthawk joked, giggling, but then his expression turned sour “No, I wish it was from fighting some fish-face”

“Then what is it?”

“Don’t laugh, ok?” He waited for Ravensight to nod before continuing “I slipped and fell on their stupid scent-marks”

“Oh… you aren’t hurt, are you?”

“Come on, Raven! I’m tougher than that!” He flicked his tail in mock annoyance “The only thing hurt is my pride. I tried to clean myself, but I still smell as if I slept in RiverClan’s camp!”

“Yeah, you… do… huh…” His eyes grew big as the moon as an incredibly stupid idea wormed itself into his mind “Get Smallflower”

“Hm?”

“Smallflower. She’s… around. She should be returning from hunting. Find her and tell her to hurry!” Shorthawk looked at him startled by the urgency in his voice, but didn’t argued and bolted out of camp as fast as he could.

There was absolutely no way he was getting away with this, yet he had to try. But first, cats. More cats.

He needed cats to sell this. Trustworthy ones, that wouldn’t ask too much; that cared about WindClan as a whole, not just was immediately in front of them. Or at least, willing to go slightly against the Warrior Code for the greater good.

In a sense, at least. Silentstar ordered him to send a patrol there. She said nothing about succeeding.

He heard some rustling from behind him and turned to see Shellpaw coming out of the elders’ den, a ball of old bedding hanging from his mouth.

Perfect.

“Shellpaw!” He bounded over to him, raising his tail in greeting.

“Mh?” The apprentice mumbled in response through the moss.

“I have a special mission and I’m gathering cats for it. Go find your mentor and bring her here as fast as you can” He paused “And your father, too!”

Shellpaw’s eyes sparkled at the prospect of having something else to do but apprentice duties and nodded eagerly. He quickly rushed to drop the used moss at the dirtplace and hurried out of camp.

Four warriors and an apprentice. A bit on the smaller side for a battle patrol, but if luck was on their side, they weren’t going to fight anyone. It’ll be enough, he considered, for this kind of ‘attack’. Again, fighting wasn’t the original objective, it wasn’t what Silentstar had asked. They technically wouldn’t be disobeying their leader

Shorthawk and Smallflower were the first to return, the she-cat clearly annoyed with having to return to camp early.

“This better be good!” She hissed “I was looking forward to a nice, long nap!”

“Well… it depends on your definition of ‘good’” He answered carefully “But it’s important, I assure you” Then he turned to the grey and white tom “Can I count on you too?”

“I don’t know” He answered without missing a beat “Is the sky blue?” Ravensight purred at him and nodded.

Shellpaw, Aspentail and Mistwalker arrived shortly after and the WindClan deputy brought them inside the Leader’s den, which was ironically the best place to talk without their leader hearing about it. It was admittedly a bit cramped, with all their pelts brushing against each other and Shellpaw sort of smothered in-between all the warriors.

“What I’m going to ask you to do now…” He began “… may sound silly, or nonsensical, but I give you my word: it’s very important for the clan” Shellpaw and Shorthawk gazed at him with their full attention, Mistwalker and Aspentail eyed him with curiosity. Smallflower was licking a paw and washing her face, trying to hide her annoyance “Right, so, Mistwalker? You’ll lead a patrol, ok? It’ll be just the five of you”

“Understood” Mistwalker agreed, subtly bumping paws with his son.

“Oh, we’re picking a fight?” Smallflower chimed in, oddly cheering up at the prospect.

“You’ll all go to the ThunderClan border, to the part of our territories that is closest to the lake. There you’ll…” He braced himself for his clanmates reactions “Flop around in the sand for a bit, then roll around in the ThunderClan scent markers” He continued before they could voice their opinion, though he did notice the confused expressions his clanmates were giving him “Once you return, inform Silentstar that you couldn’t find the mallow plants, ThunderClan probably moved them, but you did manage to fight off a small patrol. Also, this conversation never took place, alright?”

“So… it’s like a… secret mission?” Shellpaw asked, tilting his head.

“Yes, exactly”

Aspentail and Smallflower looked at each other.

“Why, exactly, are we doing this? Like, is there a point to it or you just wanna see us roll in the bushes?” The younger she-cat questioned.

“I… can’t tell you. But it’s important that you do. It’s for the good of the clan”

“What we are doing…?” Mistwalker questioned, eyeing him suspiciously “… is it legal? Does Silentstar knows?”

“Technically? Yes. Actually? No”

“Raven, I… you understand how utterly mouse-brained this sounds, right?” Shorthawk meowed, shuffling on his paws and glancing to the rest of the present cats.

“Yes, I’m very aware of that” He admitted “But trust me, the originals orders were worse”

“How bad are we talking about?”

Ravensight hesitated. On one paw, the less these cats knew, the better. It’d be easier for them to have deniability that way, to claim that they didn’t know they were going against the clan leader. On the other paw… though everyone was looking at him and expecting an answer at the moment, it was Shorthawk the one asking. He had promised not to lie to him, and he had lied to him again and again. So, this? This was a truth he could let out. With any luck, the blame would be put solely on him should anything go wrong.

“Silentstar ordered an attack on some ThunderClan medicine’s sources. Which, according to Webfur, would imply destroying one of our sources of medicinal herbs, since we also get stuff from there”

“…ok, yeah, that sounds pretty bad” It was Mistwalker that meowed this time.

Ravensight glanced at him with a bit of apprehension. Though he himself had a lot of doubts towards their leader, he didn’t necessarily wanted to diminish her authority before his clanmates. She was their leader after all, and the clan needed to trust her to function properly. Besides, it’s not that mallow was an essential thing, but he wasn’t going to waste time explaining that.

“I’m sure she has valid reasons for considering the trade-off worth it…” He countered “But whatever they are, I don’t think it’s honorable. I’m sure it’s great for our current situation, but we must think past the war. Hindering medicine cats is never a good policy” This was why he was put in this position, right? Going against Silentstar when he thought she was wrong was exactly what his clanmates wanted him to do. He hoped they’d see it that way.

“Alright, I’ll go tell Rustsong I’ll be out of camp for a while. Meet you all at the entrance” The oldest of the toms meowed, then got on his paws and left the den.

“Yeah, me too! I’ll… oh, wait… foxdung!” Shellpaw Hissed to himself “I forgot! I was changing the elders bedding and I’m not done yet!”

“Don’t worry about that. You already took out the old moss, I can bring fresh one for them while you’re gone”

Shellpaw brightened up at having successfully dodged his duties and immediately followed his father outside.

“Thistles and thorns, we’re actually doing this…” Smallflower complained “Can’t we go tomorrow? I’m tired from hunting right now”

“As I recall, you were brimming with energy at the prospect of picking up a fight just now” Aspentail argued.

“Well, yeah, but…”

The brown she-cat got to her paws and pressed the tip of her tail against the other she-cat’s muzzle.

“No excuses! Come on, our deputy gave us orders!” She marched outside and Smallflower, after groaning and rolling her eyes, quickly followed her… mate?

Ravensight had forgotten that small part of their dynamic already. It’s not that he actively tried to peruse through the inner working of his clanmate’s relationships, but… Smallflower was a different case. He had grown sort of attach to the she-cat during the war, to the point he considered her a friend. Not quite on the level of Webfur or his brot… on the level of Webfur, but still very dear to him. It’d bother him tremendously to know she was begin toyed with, but what could he do? He just hoped Aspentail was being genuine this time.

“You know, this kind of sucks” Shorthawk voice brought him back to reality. The white and grey tom had come closer and was now pressing against him “I barely got the scent of another clan’s marks off my pelt and now you’re asking me to go and roll in urinated bushes again. It’s not exactly how I thought my day would go”

“I know…” Ravensight sighed, touching his shoulder with his tail “I really liked the idea of that featherless sparrow treat earlier”

“Yeah, well, maybe tomorrow we can try again? If someone manages to catch another, that is. I’m going to be so tired tonight after all this walking and washing, I’m just going straight to sleep as soon as I come back and I’m not getting up until sunhigh tomorrow”

“Well, you can do that, that’s fair” Ravensight twitched his whiskers at him with amusement “But what you can’t do is to go to bed smelling of ThunderClan”

“I’ll wash in the morning”

“You will not”

“And what are you going to do about it?” He challenged.

“I’ll have to give you a bath myself” He declared, smirking cheekily and blinking slowly.

“Oh, yeah?”

“Very thoroughly”

“I’m going to roll in so many bushes, you don’t even know!”

“There is a limit for everything, though. Don’t me make me toss you into the lake instead”

“Bummer. But, hey, are you going to sing nursery rhymes to me too?”

“Or course I will!” Ravensight hissed playfully and lunged at his mate, wrapping his forelegs around his neck and pinning him down with his chest, then lapping sloppily at his face and ears.

“No, wait! Stop!” Shorthawk purred giggling, while batting and pushing the black tom with his back paws, but not really doing much of an effort in pushing him off “Get off!”

Ravensight complied begrudgingly, earning a scuff over his head in the process as the grey and white tom rose to his paws again and shook his pelt to get rid of the newly acquired dust.

“What?” The black tom asked with fake innocence “Didn’t you want me to do that?”

“I was expecting a proper wash!” He turned to leave, flicking his mate’s nose with his tail and calling out over his shoulder before disappearing through the entrance “Get us a kit if you want to smother someone like that!”  

It was a joke. The tone of voice betrayed the fact that it was obviously meant to be a joke. Still, Ravensight hoped his mate hadn’t noticed how his body went rigid still, how his ears flattened against his skull, or how the fur on his back started rising in fear. Or, at least, that he thought it was due to feeling his tail briefly against his face.

He stood alone in that den for a moment, considering if he shouldt just lay down for a while there to calm down a bit, but he remembered he had to take some moss to the elders. He inched forward towards the outside, slower that he probably intended, with as much caution as if he was stalking through enemy territory. In a sense, he was, for it was hers too.

His eyes caught the unmistakable tail of Aspentail as it disappeared through the camp’s entrance and he sighed in relief. The patrol was out and, with some luck, they’d be back with the news of their ‘failure’, satisfying Silentstar for now.

He marched to the medicine den, for the second time that day, but found it unoccupied when he entered. Webfur had likely left in search of medicine again, it seemed there was never enough these days. On the other paw, there weren’t any injured cat resting there either. Though they’d lost the last engagement, nobody had been seriously hurt, which was a very good thing.

He walked into the back of the den, then bee-lined to the storage area. He’d been here hundreds of times, spend many night back there even, so he needed no directions to find where the moss was kept. There wasn’t a lot, which wasn’t that surprising, but at least it seemed to be dry.

His tail involuntarily lashed in annoyance behind him as he frowned. There should really be more of the stuff, or at least some other thing to compensate like wool or hay, even in Leaf-bare. He didn’t want to assume outright negligence on part of the two mentors currently active on the clan, but the apprentices clearly weren’t doing enough collecting. He’d have to make some mention of it to Aspentail and….

He paused… who was Ashpaw’s mentor again? He tried to find their name in his memory, but for some reason he was just blanking hard on it. By StarClan, he should know this! There were literally only two apprentices in the clan right now! He mentally berated himself for his lack of attention, and decided he’d have to…

“It’s a shame that your blood turned out to be so weak…” A cold shiver ran down his spine as his voice got stuck on his own throat, his trembling maw opened in a silent yelp, as a sulky and horrifyingly familiar voice reached his ears “Ah, but no matter! There’s always next time, right?”

Not ready to confront her in the slightest, he whipped around quickly but found no one there. His nose, betrayer as it was, couldn’t pick up any scent that wasn’t supposed to be there. It had made him afraid of his own mate with not always been able to tell the scents apart, but now that he heard her, that he knew she was here, it wouldn’t tell him where!

He backpedaled until he felt the wall and then he crouched pressing against it, trying to make himself as small as possible, eyes never looking even a whisker away from the entrance.

And he… waited…

He waited, feeling alone, frail and irrationally afraid. Because he remembered her eyes, her smell, her teeth, her fur, her touch, her claws, her voice, her purrs, his blood against her pelt.

He waited, like the rabbit he was; curled up and trapped in his own burrow, with the predator sniffing about outside and powerless to do anything, waiting for the moment it tired of stalking him and finally went in to get him.

He waited with his claws unsheathed, the confounded and useless things that they were, for they could not defend him. Hurting her would mean hurting dear Shorthawk and that was something he would never do again.

So, he sat still and waited…

Even when he heard pawsteps in the den and scented a smell he wasn’t sure it was hers, he waited…

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Silentstar died during the next battle.

It was something he knew could happen, of course. He had practically lived with the clan’s medicine cat for a good part of his life, so he was no stranger to the things StarClan was supposed to be able to do. It is, however, very different to hear about how a leader got up and walked nonchalantly back home after having their throat ripped open, and another thing entirely to witness it.

Well, in truth, he didn’t actually see it very well, on account of him being pinned to the ground and being in the receiving end of a beating, but he certainly heard it. The unmistakable sound of a hiss cut short and the gurgling sounds of a cat chocking on their own blood.

He found out for sure when they were walking back to camp. She approached him bounding almost giddily and, when he saw her, his eyes went round with shock. She was almost completely drenched in blood, staining most of her white fur to unrecognizable levels, but only her own smell clung to her pelt, which told him everything he needed to know.

“Six” She sneered into his ear, almost as if mocking him, before taking the lead of the patrol and picking up the pace.

He nodded, though at whom or why, he wasn’t quite sure. His head was still ringing and his legs ached horribly. He did have enough awareness to hope that no one had heard their leader say that.

When his mind caught up with him, it struck him as odd that a thundercat would kill her. So far the ThunderClan cats had behaved pretty much how they stereotypically were thought to be: a bunch of kind-of-code-abiding goody cleanpaws. Which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, it meant that casualties and serious wounds had been kept to a minimum on their side of the conflict, but it made it harder to justify fighting them.

Well, for him anyways. His clanmates didn’t have so many reservations.

It was likely an accident, though he couldn’t stop himself from thinking that it might have been some sort of revenge for Alderclaw’s death.

Ravensight would feel very responsible if that was indeed the case. He had seen it happen and had had the time to yell something at Smallflower, to make her stop. He was fairly certain that the she-cat wouldn’t have complied if he had asked her to let his former ThunderClan counterpart go, but he didn’t even tried. He let it happen unchallenged because, deep down, he would most certainly not miss Alderclaw. Not many cats in the five clans would, from what he gathered, besides perhaps his family. He tried not to think about their existence, though. It made it easier.

He padded up to her and leaned in her direction to whisper.

“I’m sorry for what happened?” He didn’t exactly know why he voiced it as a question, but he did. Just in case.

“What?” She snapped at him “Did you come behind me and killed me while I was busy fighting? Because I seem to recall that being a Thunderclanner”

“Wh-… no! I was just…”

“Would you like to, then?” She asked, tilting her head with an innocent smile “Kill me, that is? I can let you, though only once, if that would make you stop blaming me for everything and get you to follow orders without complaining. I’d give a life to get that, even if it is just for a while!”

“Silentstar…” He sighed “I don’t think it’s appropriate to make those kind of jokes in our current situation”

“Jokes? Ravensight, I just bled to death twice. I’m not in the mood for jokes”

“You should go see Webfur as soon as we arrive, then” He countered “And then go lie down for a bit, Silentstar. You aren’t exactly thinking straight”

To his surprise, Silentstar twitched one of her ears dismissively, but nodded and didn’t argued back. Ravensight realized she actually must be in a lot of pain after the battle, and he felt even worse for her. She was… complicated to work with, but she was his leader and she genuinely seemed to care for the good of the clan, even if it was hard to see that sometimes.

“Would you like to lean on me for the march back?” He offered in a whisper, then quickly added “We can pretend it’s me that needs the support”

She opened her mouth, but didn’t replied right away, nor did she look at his direction. He assumed that he had crossed a line and wouldn’t be getting a response, so he just kept walking.

He was mildly surprise when he felt a body almost resting itself against his shoulder. She was a bit heavier than he expected for a she-cat of her size, though he’d never voice that observation.

“Keep looking ahead, keep your mouth shut…” She hissed, then paused “…and thank you. My shoulder is killing me. I’d know the feeling”

Ravensight smiled despite everything and complied.

----------------------------------

He was in camp when it happened, the news of the dawn patrol being ambushed caught him by surprise. He supposed they did to everyone, it was the first time ThunderClan attacked an exclusively border-marking patrol out of nowhere.

He didn’t quite understood the details, but to be fair, the moment he saw Kestrelstaker basically dragging herself into the camp screeching about a dozen Thundenclanners waiting for them behind the rocks along the stream, he wasn’t in a very good state of mind to receive details anymore. He did manage to maintain enough composure to not send every single available cat to reinforce their patrol, but he did send quite a few. Frustratingly, Silentstar kept him in camp, for his own safety according to her.

He heard the group returning before he scented them, which was a really good sign. Chatty patrols often didn’t carry with them tragic news. They came through the entrance and stood in the clearing, battered but victorious, and worry turned to excitement as his cats yowled and cheered and recounted their victory, an almost overwhelming feeling of pride washing over him.

His cats.

What an odd concept. They were his, yet they didn’t belong to him, but he to them.

Was this how victory felt like? Was this how a leader was supposed to feel? Because, by StarClan, gazing at his clanmate’s eyes right in that moment was making him feel just like that!

But he stopped before he deluded himself further. He was a rabbit and he was not meant to lead cats.

Kestrelstarker had ran, yes ran, from the border to the camp and back leading the reinforcements before the thundercats had time to notice one of the cats of the WindClan patrol wasn’t in the battlefield anymore. An old, limping, WindClan queen had traversed almost a third of the surface of the lake territories in the time it would take an apprentice to change the elders’ bedding. And she had jumped straight into the fight when she arrived, because of course she did. Why wouldn’t she?

She had busted her leg beyond repair in the process, though, so this would be her last sprint through the moor. If she was younger, it wouldn’t really be that much of an issue, just a matter of slight re-training to run in three legs. But she was old enough to be an elder and honestly she hadn’t led the healthiest of lives after Spottedstar had died, but that was alright. She genuinely didn’t seemed to care when Webfur informed her later that day.

Ravensight could see why. She was adamant in participating in the war because she wanted one last excitement, just one last hurrah before retiring, and this was quite the worthy one. She had potentially saved that patrol’s lives and was the single deciding factor in handing a defeat to ThunderClan today.

Silentstar was very pleased with how the morning had turned out. Like, absolutely ecstatic. To the point that when Ravensight told her not to make Kestrelstalker an elder until the queen explicitly asked for it, as a bit of a symbolic gesture, she didn’t argued at all. The whole clan knew she’d retire, that was her own plan, but she was a hero. A true hero. She deserved to retire on her own terms.

The black tom suspected his leader was planning to use these events for their advantage somehow, but frankly the clan was feeling revitalized and happy with the victory, so she could do all the plotting she wanted. Nobody died in either side and ThunderClan had started it, so he could see how that might be used.

His attention was immediately focused on his mate the moment he saw him well.

Shorthawk was a mess, he had no other word to describe him. He was covered head to paws in mud and sand, which wasn’t surprising considering they were ambushed along the stream’s coast, and barely walking on his own paws. He stunk of blood too, both his and others’. He had to restrain himself from rushing to his side when he was escorted into the medicine den until Silentstar dismissed the emergency clan meeting, and he succeeded barely.

When he came in, Shorthawk was trying to clean himself while Webfur prepared herbs and hissed that he should try to move less. Ravensight didn’t wait to be asked not did he offered, he just settled next to him and nudged him to stay still, taking over the task of cleaning his pelt enough for treatment.

If someone were to tell him that one day he’d find grooming his mate repulsive, he would’ve told them that they were insane and that such a thing would never happen. But the combination of cat blood, mud, sand and who-knows-what-else had gotten caught in Shorthawk’s fur did not feel nice against his tongue at all.

The rest of the patrol came in little by little, after personally reporting to Silentstar if he had to guess, and Webfur treated them first while the grey and white tom was being cleaned. Some had deep cuts and bite marks, some had just light wounds, all of them were dirty to some degree. He didn’t really paid much attention to any of them, mainly because he knew they were all out of danger now. Some were allowed to go rest at the warrior’s den, but Kestrelstaker and someone else had to stay in the medicine den.

In the end, once he was done with the other cats, Webfur had to assist in getting all the… stuff out of Shorthawk too. He showed no reaction while he did so, and Ravensight supposed he was already numb to awful flavors on his tongue from his moons as a medicine cats. Once he was clean enough, they found out the white and grey tom wasn’t as injured as Ravensight thought he was, but still had a quite a few scratches on him.

Webfur ended up not having enough herbs to fully treat him, so he applied poultices and cobwebs to the biggest wounds, and gave him something to delay infections while he went out and got more herbs. He was kind enough to spare a mint leaf for Ravensight to chew on, just to get the fouls taste out of his mouth.

Shorthawk was told to keep still and rest, but that wasn’t what he did. He was too excited about being part of such an important fight and couldn’t stop recounting the events to him, again and again. Each time he’d remember and add different details that he’d forgotten in is eagerness the previous time he told the story.

He didn’t mind the repetition. After the initial scare, he was just glad that Shorthawk was alright. He curled up next to him, resting his head on his paws, and just letting him talk to his heart content.

“And then that big she-cat leaped at me, right? But I did that move, the one you taught me right before my assessment!”

“Oh, that one?”

“Yeah! I remembered it and executed it perfectly! She never saw it coming! Well…” He smirked cheekily “…she saw very little aside from the puddle of mud where I slammed her face into!”

“Ha! I bet she’ll think twice before messing with you again!”

“She sure will! It’s a shame that you couldn’t see me today, you’d be so proud of me!”

“I can hardly imagine not beeing be proud of you. You were my best apprentice”

“I was your only apprentice”

“So? I could still have another. You’d still be my favorite”

“That’s favoritism”

“I’m aware”

“Mouse-brain!” Shorthawk hissed playfully and shoved him on the shoulder.

“That I am”

The grey and white tom apparently had talked enough. He rested his head on the black tom’s shoulders, both of them purring softly. They fell into a comfortable silent, just relishing in each other’s company, and Ravensight thought about how good everything had gone for the clan that morning. He dared to hope how much better everything was going to be, now that New-leaf was due anytime soon.

He felt his mate shifting closer, and he did the same in turn, still being careful not to touch any of the cobwebs-covered parts. Medicine was too precious to waste, even if it meant maintaining some distance with the cat he wanted closest.

Their silence was interrupted momentarily by Shorthawk.

“You know, I’m kind of getting really sick of this…” He half whispered, half grumbled, an unusual coldness in his voice.

“Of what?”

“Of us… being like this”

Suddenly there was no one else in that den but them and the warmth in his chest was a stabbing chill through his heart, which didn’t really matter because Ravensight was fairly sure it had stopped beating. He tried to raise his head, to meet his, to see in them if it was true, but a paw on his back kept him in place.

“So… w-we aren’t… you d-don’t want to… be mates… a-anymore?” He almost choked on his own words.

Shorthawk recoiled as if he had been truck right in the muzzle, and Ravensight could finally raise his gaze to meet his. A mixture of shock and confusion was plastered across his face.

“What!? Wow, where did you get that from? Yes, of course I do! How could you even say that?”

“You said…” He fell silent, then he repeated softer “You said…”

Realization dawned on the younger warrior, his previous expression slowly melting into one of sympathy and perhaps a bit of guilt.

“Oh, sorry! I was pointing at stuff with my tail and you of course couldn’t see it. I’m so sorry, I expressed myself like dog-dung!” He explained, then leaned to press their cheeks together “I meant like, being in the medicine den together. Like, most of the time we hang out outside of work is here, because one of us in injured and stuff. It’s getting kind of old”

“But I like this place…”

“Pff! Of course being locked up with your mate and your boyfriend is pleasant to you!” Ravensight couldn’t see it, but he felt his mate’s whiskers brushing against his ears as they twitched with amusement “But I, for one, would rather spent time someplace less… I don’t know… morbid”

“Oh…” He sighed, full of relief, and leaned down further against the white and grey warrior, resting his head against his chest “I know, but... it’ll be better once the war is over, you’ll see”

“Oooor… we could just sneak away for a little while… like, right now! I bet no one’s watching”

“No, you need to rest and heal. Besides, I’m needed in camp. I’m not so sure how Silentstar is even allowing me to be here right now, but I can’t just leave camp”

“Aw, come on!”

“When did you get so impatient?” He purred “You weren’t like this before”

“Yeah, well, maybe I didn’t have anything to be impatient for”

“How about becoming a warrior? You wanted that a lot”

“I wanted what came with it, not it in and of itself”

“Hm…”

“Besides, I knew my lovely mentor wouldn’t let me stay an apprentice forever”

“You know, I probably should have. That would’ve taught you a bit of respect… and to not scare your seniors!”

“Nah, only thing it would’ve achieved is me ramping up the flirting as I got older. Think you could’ve handled that?”

“I don’t know what you are talking about. We never flirted” He shrugged nonchalantly, his lips timidly curving upwards.

“Ah, yes, of course. I forgot. I never did such a thing, right”

“Hey, once this is all over, would you like to go out of the territory with me?” Ravensight offered, and idea already forming in his mind.

“What? You mean, like… running away?” Shorthawk asked with a hint of trepidation “I don’t know if I’m that adventurous…”

“Well, no. Webfur can come and go across the territories, because he’s a medicine cat. I could, you know, talk with him. He could suddenly realize he needs to restock something and we could tag along. As escorts, of course. Purely for his protection”

“I see. So abusing yours and his authority to get us some quality free time for us”

“I mean, we would still be collecting useful stuff... just… we wouldn’t be doing only that”

“Still sounds like abuse of power to me” The white and grey tom purred, his tail waggling with excitement “Luckily for you, I’m all for that! Sure, I’m in”

“I can take you to see SkyClan’s territory! There are parts where the trees block out the sun completely, so it looks like it’s night all day long! It’s wonderful!” Ravensight was starting to get really excited with the idea. He knew Shorthawk would probably not like it as much as he did, but he still wanted him to see it.

“For now, I’ll take your word for it, but I do look forward to taking a stroll through there with you”

“It’ll be fun, I promise”

“We could even try our luck with a squirrel” Shorthawk meowed with curiosity “I wonder if they taste like rabbit?”

“Shorthawk, that’s against the code”

“It’ll be New-leaf, they won’t mind!”

“Uh-huh”

“You can always look away if you don’t want to be complicit. I’ll just feed you on the mouth~”

“I’m seriously reconsidering this invitation”

“Too late now”

“Thistles and thorns…”

“Now the only thing we need to do before we go on our date is finish this war” He grumbled “It was fun at the start; now it’s getting tiresome. But, hey! At least we’re winning, right?”

Ravensight deflated a bit. He… wasn’t really sure. They were winning most battles, sure, but only because ThunderClan was being tied up by SkyClan and couldn’t field as many warrior to fight WindClan. Still, they hadn’t exactly done anything with their victories, though; not that he knew, at least. So it was really hard to say if they were ‘winning’, or what would be needed to make that happen.

“I guess so…”

“Er… our deputy being unsure about stuff like this is not really reassuring”

“Silentstar is the one organizing all the war related stuff. I just try my best to see it done”

“And to go behind her back when you disagree”

“No, I… look, that incident was under special circumstances, ok? I do try to be loyal to her, I truly do”

“You didn’t even gave me the bath you promised”

“What are you talking about? I just did”

“This one doesn’t count. Webfur helped, so I expect another soon”

Ravensight twitched his ears and met his mate’s gaze, narrowing his eyes.

“You suck, did you know that?”

“Yeah, sometimes, when I’m in the mood”

“Shorthawk!”

“What?” The white and grey tom purred, barely containing his laughter.

“Don’t start ruining our wholesome moments like…” He paused and hesitated, not really sure if that was a name that could be spoken anymore “…like…” His blue eyes would never be seen again in WindClan “…l-like…” His voice trembled and broke.

He’d never talk with him, nor hear his teasing and inappropriate jokes.

“Raven?” Shorthawk asked, concern clear in his voice “Is everything alright?”

He was dead, for all intents and purposes.

“…” He shifted away slightly, his eyes looking at the floor.

He never realized until now how much he missed him.

“Did… did I make you uncomfortable?” He asked, and the most painful thing of all was that he was keeping the distance Ravensight had put between them “I’m sorry… I forgot… I didn’t mean…”

Dear StarClan, he’d never see him again… and out of his own volition, no less!

“No, I just…”

But that was the correct decision. He was dead to the clans, and as WindClan’s deputy, he had to be dead to him too.

“I promise I’ll never say something like that again. I didn’t realize…”

He abandoned them.

“I’m not a kit and I’m not made of sand, Shorthawk!” He hissed at his mate and immediately regretted it when he looked at him and saw his ears dropping and his eyes going wide “Sorry. It’s just that… I remembered someone…”

“Oh… was it…?”

“It doesn’t matter” He grumbled and curled up, suddenly feeling really tired.

Shorthawk was eyeing him with concern, his eyes...

He was hurting him. How could he do this? How dare he do this!? And just because of a stupid, little thing that was of his own fabrication! A problem he himself created!

How dare a rabbit hurt the only cat that’d welcome him like this? That would never see him as prey?

Was he even a rabbit? Was he insulting the prey by comparing himself to it?

And his heart swelled with both love and pain when Shorthawk laid on his side and lifted his front leg, inviting him.

“If you don’t feel like talking… would you accept a hug?”

With barely more than instincts guiding him, he went to him and buried his face in his mate’s white chest, wrapping his foreleg around his back and curling his body around him. Shorthawk did the same, his chin resting right between the pair of black, scared ears, gently pressing their bodies further into each other. Their tails, naturally, knew where to find one another.

He felt warm and safe and loved in a way he knew he didn’t deserved, but he just… was.

He might have started to sob quietly at some point, caused by the combination of tiredness and the grief of losing kin. Shorthawk whispered soft, comforting words into his ear, but he couldn’t understand them.

At some point, he felt asleep.

----------------------------------

“Urg… what is he doing here?” Someone sneered closed to them.

His eyes flew open, but the only thing he could he was white fur, so he closed them again and tried not to move.

“My mate has the right to be worried about me, dear sister” Shorthawk retorted.

Oh.

Oh, Stars… her…

“Yeah, he worries about you so much, I bet! Especially when it’s convenient for him”

“What would you know about it?”

“Where was he when mother was all distraught, huh? Gloating about this new position?”

It… was… her…

“I sent him away. I didn’t think it’d do any good to anyone. Mother needed to be alone”

“Pff! Yeah, and he must’ve found that very convenient, eh? He doesn’t care about our family, Shorthawk! He never has!”

“He does! He’s helped us so much! How can you say that?”

“Oh, yeah? Where was him when we were grieving the loss of our kin, huh!? When all of us needed all the support we could get?”

“Recovering in the medicine den from being almost killed, remember? Because we made him the deputy? Because we put him in harm’s ways?”

“He’d already had almost half a moon to do so!”

“If you wanted company so badly, then why didn’t you call the father of your kits, huh!? Where was he?” Shorthawk demanded, and Ravensight could just… feel the smile appearing on her face.

“Yeah, I wonder the same thing. But don’t worry though, I’ll see him again soon enough. I’ll ask where he was”

“Also, why would Ravensight even have to comfort you? You do nothing but snap at him. You’ve hated him since I told you I liked him!”

“I mean… I could be nicer to him, if only he was more cooperative” He… felt her tail slowly brushing against his back.

Again.

“He’s already taken the deputyship so our mother could retire, got almost killed because of it and has kept it secret from everyone. What more could you want?”

“Hm!” She scoffed.

He felt his mate’s chest push against him and then recede as the white and grey tom let out a long sigh.

“Ok Fallowpelt, please, listen. I love you, and I’ll always make time for you, regardless of what you think of us” Ravensight knew this. That’s what made it so… complicated “But I just got beaten up by thundercats today, and Raven’s been under a lot of stress lately, so are you here for something important? Otherwise, I’d rather you just go. Whatever it is, it can wait”

“Fine. I’ll talk with… Raven later”

“Do. Not. Call. Him. That” Shorthawk’s voice suddenly sounded so… dangerous. Dripping with venom, a warning hidden in every word.

There was no answer, just the sound of pawsteps fading away.

This couldn’t go on. He couldn’t make his mate defend him like this.

He was a rabbit, yes, but he had friends now. Friends that were cats!

Something would have to be done.