Cream and white paws paced a metaphorical trench into the stone beneath the Rock Pile. Anxiety coursed through the warrior's veins, her heart beating a thousand foxlengths a minute; she was certain it would leap into her throat at a moment's notice if something didn't give. It had been four days since the confrontation with LightningClan. Four days since she'd stumbled across the attack patrol after staying out just a little too long. Four days since her father had died in battle. Four days since the fire ripped through LightningClan and TreeClan territory, a looming wall of heat threatening to spread at any moment.
Four days in which she felt she was going insane.
She hadn't seen Falconstorm or her father in four days, and it was wearing away at her frayed nerves. Frozenrain and Mistpetal had reassured the Clan of Hawkstar's recovery, but to Herondive, the image was burned into her skull. Apprentices and kits had been ushered into the safety of their dens as the StoneClan leader was guided back to camp on unsteady paws, flanked by Mistpetal and Eagletalon, both of whom had been part of the secondary patrol. She could still see the blood, dark crimson and staining her fathers chest, spattering along the ground wherever he stepped.
As Dawnblossom hurried into the leader's den where Hawkstar would be treated, several warriors and elders alike set to work cleaning up the signs of a bloodied battle. Young Sandpaw saw to the well-being of the other patrol members, though Herodive barely recalled them returning. She'd been far too busy stifling the bile rising in her throat as her haunches collapsed beneath her. It was as though the world were opening underneath her paws, and she couldn't find the strength to move.
Four days had passed before StarClan graced her with a familiar sand-colored frame stepping out from the den entrance high above.
Herondive found herself holding her breath, blue eyes stretched wide as she watched her father. Despite his best efforts to mask it, she could pick up on his stiffness in the shortness of his step when he moved his right foreleg. Dawnblossom and StarClan both had helped him heal, yet it was apparent he still had a lot more to do. Blood no longer stained his coat, but an aggravated line parted his fur along his shoulder and up his neck. The skin there was raised and red, and only time would tell if the StoneClan leader would bare yet another scar.
His lumbering path carried him to the edge of the Rock Pile, and despite the pain she knew he must still be in, he held his head high. He's doing this for the Clan. She thought suddenly. Her father always put StoneClan first, and she knew discomfort levels were rising with every day their leader passed unseen. They needed him to be strong, and he would show them whatever strength he could muster, no matter how exhausted it might leave him.
"Let all cats old enough to catch their own prey gather here beneath the Rock Pile for a Clan meeting!"
A little hoarse. He thought to himself, pale eyes gliding over the quiet camp. But not too bad. It had taken him some time, within the safety of his den and under the careful scrutiny of his mate, the ensure his voice did not betray the exhaustion that had riddled him since the battle with LightningClan. Before this morning, the pale brown tom had succeeded in little more than remaining in his den, holding brief conversations with a select few visitors. Mistpetal had come and gone several times, reporting on the status of the Clan as she struggled to adjust to her new role beneath such stressful circumstances.
He regretted this was her introduction to deputy-ship, yet... It gave him hope too. If she could persevere through this, she could persevere through anything. As though beckoned by his thoughts alone, the StoneClan deputy emerged from the warrior's den, a trickle of other cats following closely behind. It wasn't long before the camp filled with life, though he could practically feel the tension in the air. Every now and a again, a curious glance would track his, as though the members of StoneClan were trying to discern his current state, or the reason behind this meeting.
Before long, he signaled for silence, inhaling to steady his voice and beginning. "Cats of StoneClan! Although most of you have likely already discerned from conversations with friends and family alike over the last few days, the Sun Stones belong to StoneClan once more." A ripple of uncertain excitement ghosted over the Clan, as though no one was sure whether they should celebrate considering all that had happened. He dipped his head slightly, inviting the cheering that hovered just beneath the surface.
As it died away, the StoneClan figurehead continued. "Though the victory was not without its hardships, we are no strangers to challenges and in turn, perseverance. Your Clanmates who fought at my side showed both the skill and pride behind all StoneClan warriors. No one, especially I, wishes for battles to be fought. However, I am honored to have fought at their side. I am honored to be a part of StoneClan. And remember, even those who did not set paw onto the battle field played an important role in this victory."
He allowed the words to remain suspended in the air a moment before continuing. "Your participation in the aftermath, in assuring the fresh-kill pile was stocked, in assuring our borders are clearly marked solidified this victory. Not to mention Mistpetal has yet to announce her desire to step down. Thank you for not giving her a hard time so soon in her role." His voice had picked up a teasing tone, a grin picking at the edges of his muzzle as his gaze slid to focus on the silver she-cat. Beneath the teasing air lay gratitude toward the she-cat; it shone in his amber gaze, and was reflected in the inclination of his head toward her.
"A victory speech is not the reason I have summoned you, however. There is another pressing matter, something long overdue that simply cannot wait another moment." The joking lightness had melted away to stern seriousness. ..Until his eyes met the amber ones of his brother, seated next to Duskflower at the nursery's entrance. "Kestrelkit, Meadowkit, please step forward."
He waited patiently as the parents fussed momentarily over their kits, the surprise ceremony likely catching them off-guard. A sandy-brown tail flicked in amusement behind him as he followed the two kits' excited, bounding paths toward the base of the Rock Pile. They'd both grown since their birth six moons ago, and no doubt they were eager to move on to the next part of their journey.
"Kestrelkit and Meadowkit, you have both reached the age of six moons, and it is time for you to be apprenticed. From this day on, until you receive your warrior name, you will be known as Kestrelpaw and Meadowpaw." His attention shifted first to Kestrelpaw as he continued. "Kestrelpaw, your mentor will be Mistpetal. May she pass all she knows on to you."
He shifted his attention to the silver she-cat whom he'd just surprised for the second time in less than a week. "Mistpetal, you have stepped into your role as StoneClan deputy with little hesitation, during a time that demonstrates both your sharp mind and your unquestionable dedication to your Clan. I expect you to work towards passing on all you know to Kestrelpaw in the coming moons." Waving his tail to hold the cheering for a while longer, the StoneClan leader turned next to Kestrelpaw's eagerly awaiting sister.
"Meadowpaw, your mentor will be Herondive. I pray she passes all she knows on to you." His gaze alighted next on his daughter, who's blue eyes clearly gawked at him in disbelief. Hawkstar had struggled a while to think of a mentor best suited to teaching Meadowpaw. Frozenrain had been the one to suggest their daughter, indicating it would provide both she-cats with the room to learn and grow. Herondive had been distant lately, consumed by her own thoughts. An apprentice to train might prove to be the perfect remedy for a troubled mind. Not to mention, Herondive had been trained by Meadowkit's father; he figured Eagletalon and Duskflower would be approving of both mentor choices.
"Herondive, it is time you take on an apprentice. You received excellent training from Eagletalon, and have demonstrated your determination and your prowess at leaping to great heights. As you take on this next challenge, I expect you to pass on all you have learnt to Meadowpaw." With a step back, Hawkstar indicated the conclusion of the ceremony. The Clan's voices quickly filled the quiet morning air, and Hawkstar noted with amusement that it took a nudge from Herondive's friends before his cream and white daughter staggered to her paws to properly greet her new apprentice.
Descending a pawful of steps in case any member of the Clan wished to speak to him, the StoneClan leader lowered himself stiffly to a seat. Normally, he'd have climbed the entire way down to mingle with his Clan. This time, however, he was uncertain whether he'd succeed in climbing the Rock Pile as the Clan resumed its daily routine. And so he contented himself on his perch, clearing his throat to lend his own voice to the rising cheer.
leader of stoneclan
and may you have the courage to scale their summits
Kestrelkit didn't like seeing his Clanmates injured. Hawkstar's initial absence from Clan life had frightened him - and he'd peppered his parents with questions about the indomitable tom's health. Eagletalon had always reassured him Hawkstar was fine (or getting there), but Kestrelkit couldn't shake the image of the bloody, battered Clan leader out of his head.
When Hawkstar finally made an appearance, Kestrelkit had been lazily batting a mossball while his parents groomed each other's fur in the sunshine. I'm so bored. When is something interesting gonna happen? Then the call came. Kestrelkit's ears shot up as if someone had shouted 'fire', and the deep amber tones of his eyes seemed brighter with excitement. Is it today? Is it really today?
He knew from the surprised looks on his parents' faces that they hadn't been anticipating a Clan meeting - or a ceremony, not with Hawkstar still recovering. Kestrelkit quivered with excitement, but that excitement was short-lived when Hawkstar began to speak of StoneClan's victories. Oh. It wasn't an apprentice ceremony at all. Kestrelkit's rump landed heavily on the rocky ground, and he grumbled sulkily under his breath, listening to every other word as disappointment took root.
Maybe Hawkstar forgot about them?
"A victory speech is not the reason I have summoned you, however. There is another pressing matter, something long overdue that simply cannot wait another moment."
Kestrelkit's heart perched on the edge of his chest, beating so hard he felt it even in his ears. Eagletalon chuckled behind him, and before he could scoot away, Duskflower's tongue was rasping over his fur, tidying him up while Eagletalon saw to Meadowkit. He shared a joyful look with his sister. Hawkstar hasn't forgotten us after all!
In his eagerness to be a part of the ceremony (and ultimately, Clan life), Kestrelkit bounded for the rock pile with his parents in tow. He nearly tripped, long legs and too-wide paws making it difficult to keep his coordination, but he arrived before Hawkstar without any real disaster. He almost couldn't believe it. He'd been dreaming of this day since - since forever.
"Kestrelpaw, your mentor will be Mistpetal. May she pass all she knows on to you."
The newly named apprentice's eyes grew round as twin suns. His mentor was StoneClan's deputy? "Wow! Thank you!" He blurted, much to the amusement of the gathered cats. Kestrelpaw dipped his head, embarrassed by the outburst, and hoped his uncle didn't mind it too much. For the duration of the ceremony, he was able to keep quiet (keeping still was another matter entirely), and then threw his voice to the sky to cheer for Meadowpaw as she was named an apprentice alongside him.
The sandy-furred tom looked to his new mentor, and craned his neck to touch noses with StoneClan's deputy. He felt breathless, like he was standing on the edge of a great precipice. It was exilerating. And scary. But a swift glance to each member of his family renewed the tom's confidence. I can be a good apprentice. I'll make StoneClan proud.
Meadowkit had just been minding her own business when the clan meeting was called and the young she cat sighed internally when the inital call seemed to only focus on the recent battle against Lightningclan, that really did not hold a great deal of interest in the now half grown kitten. Hawkstar's next words however caught her attention and she immediately shifted her gaze to her uncle with yellow green orbs shining brightly as he started the ceremony that her and Kestrelkit had been speaking about since they learned to speak.
The rough tongue of her father was met with fur standing on edge, the young cat buzzed with excitement and she purred softly as her daddy groomed her fur while Duskflower attended to her brother. " I cannot wait to see who mentors me daddy, I am so excited" she whispered to her father before following her brother, with much more coordinated steps than the young tom had shown.
The young calico female watched as her brother was named Kestrelpaw and then given the the recently named Stoneclan deputy as a mentor and she cheered loudly for her sibling but feel silent when her uncle announced her own mentor, Her 'cousin;' Herondive, Hawkstar's own daughter and her father's former apprentice. Her heart sank like the stone her clan was named after, why couldn't it be Eagletalon or even Hawkstar himself, she would have much preferred a tom over her cream and white toned cousin.
However, Meadowkit was a polite cat and as her clan and sibling announced her new name, Meadowpaw, she did moved to briefly touch noses with her new mentor with a soft smile on her face "Thank you uncle Hawkstar, I look forward to learning from Herondive" she spoke politely and quietly,a far cry from her usual bubbly self as she met her father's gaze, quickly pulling away before the tom could recognise the disappointment on his daughter's face. The very last thing she needed was a lecture after all the excitement of a ceremony only to be given a mentor that she did not want.
"If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try."