The large sand-colored tom breathed a heavy sigh as his gaze slid over the medicine cat's den in the corner of the camp. Even from here, he could hear the sounds of coughing from within. Hawkstar had been ill the day before, though his symptoms had since ebbed. He felt far more himself this sunhigh, but his heart remained heavy with melancholy. Wolfclaw was one of the more severely ill cats among the lot. Not the worst by far, but enough that he was confined to a nest in the medicine cat's den. And then there was Eagletalon, Meadowkit and the rest of the nursery.
That is my fault. He thought solemnly. Before any of them had truly become aware of the severity of the sickness, Meadowkit had appeared in the entrance of his den. He'd done what he could to keep his distance, but both she and her father had gone to their nests that night coughing. His pale ears tipped back slightly. StoneClan had not yet lost anyone to the sickness, but the more cats fell ill, the more he worried. Clearing his throat and stepping up onto the Rock Pile, he began speaking to the Clan without the usual ceremony.
"Cats of StoneClan. Despite our prayers, it seems greencough has begun to spread amongst us. Dawnblossom and Sandpaw already have their paws full as more and more of our friends and family fall ill." He hesitated, dropping his gaze to his paws to steel himself for the message to come. "I have consulted with Dawnblossom, and we have come to a decision. It is with a heavy heart that I announce anyone showing symptoms of greencough, no matter the severity, is to be relocated to the Moss Meadow." He continued quickly, discouraging any comments or outbursts until he was finished his explanation.
"This will limit contact of the sick cats with those still healthy. It will be difficult for many of us, those who have friends and family affected by the sickness. But this is in StoneClan's best interests. Wolfclaw will be amongst those quarantined, though he is not well enough to lead. It is for this reason I am placing Eagletalon in charge of the quarantined zone. Herondive, Honeynose, Valerianleap and Ashflame will go on ahead and gather moss to begin preparations. Boulderheart, Windsong and Ravenshade will proceed on a hunting patrol to begin a fresh kill pile for the Sandy Plateau."
His gaze rested on each of them as he spoke, awaiting their acknowledgement before he regarded the whole Clan once more. "Following the initial preparations, upkeep of the nests and freshkill will be at the discretion of those least affected by greencough. Those who do not have greencough should steer clear of the Moss Meadow. Dawnblossom and Sandpaw shall decide where they choose to reside. I will take questions and concerns now." He announced, opening the discussion to others. His features were not pleased; his worry and pain was evident in his eyes and in the heavy cadence of his voice.
His only solace was his mate's reassurance that this was the right thing. As he observed the crowd, his pale gaze landed upon Fallenleaf seated by the entrance to the elder's den. She offered him a half smile, nodding her head. He could see it in his friend's posture, in her gaze. This was the right call. Then why does it feel so wrong?
leader of stoneclan
and may you have the courage to scale their summits
Meadowkit sat with her head poking out of the nursery. The stuffy confines of the area proving to much and she thought some fresh air would do the cough she had caught some good. The tiny kit's ears flicked as the familiar deep voice of Hawkstar summoned the older member's of the clan. Listening intently the young kit mewed softly for her father upon hearing a order was issued for sick cats to go to another place within the territory.
"Daddy"The she-kit managed to squeal before falling victim to a nasty coughing fit. " I..." another cough " I'm not sick, I don't want to go" the young female whined softly before she sunk to the ground, mewing softly. Her breathing hitching as she did so. Unknown to the young female, she was suffering from greencough, a potentially fatal illness but the kitten was only just starting to develop more severe symptoms. " Daddy, I'm so tired" the young kit whispered before her breath was cut short, her lungs burning as the darkness claimed the tiny female as she slipped out of consciousness,
"If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try."
Everything about the quarantine made sense. Hawkstar was making the right decision. Yet when Eagletalon heard his name called, and he was placed in charge of the sick cats in the sandy plateau, his chest felt right and his heart felt... weighted. As heavy as a boulder in a lake. Sinking straight down to the bottom.
He wanted to bury his muzzle in his sick mate's pelt, breathe in the sweet, floral scent he knew to be there under the sharp tang of illness, but now was not the time. Wolfclaw looked terrible. At least Hawkstar had recovered, though it seemed to be at the cost of transferring the illness to Meadowkit. Eagletalon curled his tail around his daughter, already preemptively comforting her from the strangeness of the situation.
She may not understand completely what was going on, but she would be able to sense the moods of the adults. The somber air, and the fear scent permeating cats both young and old. "Why can't we stay here?" Kestrelkit whined, the kit putting on a burst of speed to reach his father's side, ending in a messy skid and a wet sounding cough.
"We don't want to get the others sick, Kestrelkit. It's going to be a long walk to the sandy plateau for you and your sister," Eagletalon turned tired eyes to his offspring. "I need you two to look out for each other, do you understand? Stay close to Duskflower or me, do not wander off." The sandy warrior lowered his head, looking each kit in the eyes. "You're StoneClan cats. You're tough. You're very, very brave—even if you don't feel like it. And you know how to do as your told. Do you understand, Kestrelkit? Meadowkit?"
The young tom's fur had fluffed up, his eyes as wide as bird's eggs, but he nodded. "Yes, father."
"Good." Eagletalon gave each kit's ear a lick. "I want you to escort your mother to the sandy plateau, she's not feeling well."
When his two kits had scurried off, Eagletalon sent a prayer to StarClan that they would all return home before too long. StarClan, give us strength. It's too soon for any of us. Eagletalon raised his voice, ignoring the scratchy strain this put on his already raw throat. "Those of you that are feeling up for the task, help the sick elders make the journey to the sandy plateau. Apprentices, if Sandpaw and Dawnblossom ask for your help carrying herbs, do what you can to ease their burden."
Those two were going to run themselves ragged. Eagletalon looked at Sandpaw, and his heart panged for the young tom. This was going to be one of the hardest trials of the apprentice's life; at the same time, his defining moment. If the Clan didn't trust him after all this, then they were bird-brained. The lot of them.
Kestrelkit's shrill voice snapped Eagletalon's attention onto his son.
"Meadowkit fell down! She's n-not getting up!" Kestrelkit wailed, frightened of losing his sister.
Eagletalon's heart lurched, and he went to the small scrap of calico fur, gently nudging her, listening to the sounds of her breathing. "She's just tired," he mewed, forcing his voice not to shake. "I'll carry her. Look after your mother." Eagletalon picked Meadowkit up by the scruff, pain in his eyes as he passed by the rock pile.