An Overdue Visit [Ashpaw & Rushwhisker] Aug 17, 2016 23:18:30 GMT -5
Post by Zeneka on Aug 17, 2016 23:18:30 GMT -5
After Russethawk had gone, Ashpaw had prepared herself to remeet RainClan. She wondered just how much it might have changed, which cats may not be there any longer, and how many she might be meeting for the first time. Like Bitternwing. She was sure she had probably met Bitternwing as a kit, she just didn't remember, but either way it didn't much matter. It was like meeting her for the first time. She she was about to be overwhelmed with new faces, new scents, new names. And old ones too. Taking a deep breath, she had braced herself and followed Rushwhisker and Bitternwing into camp. The crowd had somehow been both smaller and larger than she had expected and she could not stop her fur from standing on end then entire time.
At last, Bluewave cleared the way for her to get away from everyone and Bitternwing and Rushwhisker helped her make a nest for herself at the edge of the warrior's den for the night while Russethawk helped keep curious Clanmates at bay. Rushwhisker had offered to move his own nest beside her, but she'd thought having so many cats around her would be hard enough without some cat right beside her, even if it was her brother. She had a restless sleep, waking often at the slight noises the warriors made in their sleep, or when they shifted in their nests. Finally she gave up and pushed out of the den, letting her paws wander as she so often had while she lived in the mountains.
She found herself downstream and after watching the water flow by for a long moment, she looked around for a sheltered place to sleep, settling down amongst a cluster of reeds. She was just beginning to drift off to sleep when the sound of pawsteps jolted her awake. Her hackles rose and claws unsheathed and she crouched in the reeds, ready to fight. “Ashpaw?” The soft call came from a familiar voice and after a moment she forced her fur to lie flat and sheathed her claws, stepping out to meet Rushwhisker. He seemed to let out a breath of relief when he saw her, “I was worried when I woke up and you were gone. Are you all right?”
“I'm fine. I just can't sleep with every cat making so much noise...,” she murmured, glancing back at her makeshift nest in the reeds.
“Oh... I'm sorry. Should we have put your nest outside the warriors' den instead? We could move it, if you want,” he suggested.
She shook her head, “No, don't worry about it. I don't know if it would help right now. It just feels too strange....” Looking at him, she saw the worry reflecting in his eyes in the moonlight and she stepped forward to rub her cheek against his, “Don't worry, I won't leave. I don't want to leave. I just... have to get used to things again. Give me a little time and I'll have a nest right beside you.”
He seemed to relax then, though he still looked worried, “I understand, but... it's not safe for you to be out here alone.”
She only look at him for a moment, “I think I can handle it, Rushwhisker.”
His ears twitched as he remembered she had been alone for seasons now, “I know you can take care of yourself, but there are things I didn't tell you today that... maybe I should have. I just didn't want to overwhelm you with everything that's happened. I was planning to tell you everything tomorrow but....” He glanced at his paws and back up at her, “You might have heard some cats talking about it already. RainClan isn't in a good place right now. We're split. Swanfeather took a bunch of cats away and they're living in the wooded cove because they wouldn't accept Timberstar as leader, because she wasn't born RainClan.” Ashpaw's eyes widened, but he didn't give her any time to say anything, “They won't have any idea you're back, and may not remember you or even know you to begin with. If one of their patrols finds you, they might hurt you....”
It was a lot to take in. And he'd just barely summarized the problem. She sat as she processed what he'd told her. RainClan was split into two camps? She had picked a great time to come back, hadn't she? It was going to be hard enough readjusting to Clan life without this extra foxdung going on. Rushwhisker moved closer and she looked back up at him, “How about I stay out here with you tonight, and tomorrow we can figure out a better place for your nest... one that gives you more space.”
She wondered about that for a moment, but ultimately decided it would be much better than going back to camp. She had spent nights with another cat before, after all, and it seem to bother her. She nodded, “All right. Thank you, Rushwhisker.” He purred, the worry gone from his eyes, and they curled up together in the reeds.
When Ashpaw woke, the sun had already risen. Raising her head in confusion at her surroundings, she saw eartips through the reeds and sat up, seeing her brother turn to look at her with bright green eyes, “Good morning. Did you sleep well?”
She yawned, remembering everything that had happened yesterday and taking a moment to let it all sink back in, “Yes. It was much better than in camp. Thanks for staying with me.”
He stood as she pushed her way from the reeds and flicked his tail, “Walk with me?”
He tilted his head at her and she purred, “Of course.”
They padded along in silence for a while, “Bluewave told me he could spare me on patrol until after sunhigh so I could spend some time with you today.” There was something somber about his tone, “There's a lot to talk about in such a short amount of time... but I guess you're back now, so it's not like we won't have more time together later. I'm just trying to figure out what's most important, what you should know first, and what can wait.”
She looked at him for a long moment, “I think you know what's most important... but you're hesitating.” Her gaze narrowed slightly, “Tell me, Rushwhisker.”
He pointedly kept his gaze straight ahead, remaining silent for a short while, “First... Whitewater joined Swanfeather's group.” That would be easier news to take.
Ashpaw's steps faltered briefly, but she kept up with her brother, “I was wondering why I didn't see him yesterday. You told me they were both here.... So, where was Eelpebble? Did she go as well?”
Rushwhisker shook his head, finally looking at her, “She isn't doing well. She lost four of her kits....”
A flicker of pain and guilt passed over Ashpaw's features before it was gone again, “Is she dying?”
Rushwhisker sighed, “I don't know. I don't think so? She's not sick... not... not physically.” Ashpaw gave him a hard stare and he shook his head, “Something is wrong with her. And being separated from Whitewater made it worse. But maybe... maybe having you back will help her.”
Ashpaw stopped, “Rushwhisker, I don't understand. What is wrong with her?”
Rushwhisker came to a stop a few pawsteps ahead and turned back toward her, “She hallucinates, Ashpaw. She keeps seeing Icepaw and Creamtail and Peachflower and... you. She keeps acting like all of you are still here, like you never left, like life went on normally. That's on her good days. On her bad days... on those days she remembers what really happened and she... she just....” He stared at his paws, his voice soft, “She goes completely mad, Ashpaw. Ottersplash has to give her medicine so she'll stop screeching and wailing and throwing a fit about how her kits are gone....”
Ashpaw's heart twisted painfully. The guilt just kept piling on. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. It was her burden to bear, her punishment. She would not shy away from it. She deserved it. Opening her eyes, she looked into her brother's with conviction, “I want to see her.”
He hesitated, but finally nodded, turning back toward camp. They padded beside each other in silence the entire way there, their fur brushing every now and then in silent support. There were murmurs as they entered camp and a few cats noticed Ashpaw, but most cats were out fishing or patrolling. Without looking at anyone, Rushwhisker headed straight for the elders' den. So Eelpebble had retired. She supposed that made sense, if she was as unstable as Rushwhisker described. Her brother turned to look at her at the entrance, “Wait here a moment.” She nodded. She could use the moment to brace herself.
As Rushwhisker ducked inside, he called out to his mother softly and she raised her head, her eyes soft when the focused on him, “Oh, Rushwhisker! Come, visit with me!”
He purred and rasped his tongue over his mother's ear a few times, “I will, but... I've brought someone else to visit you too.”
“Oh? Have you brought Whitewater with you? Why hasn't he come to see me?” there was a hint of desperation in her voice and Rushwhisker gave her a few long, soothing licks, hoping to calm her down before bringing Ashpaw in.
“You know he's been very busy with his warrior duties. The drought has made things very hard for everyone,” he mewed. It wasn't really a lie. He was sure his father was incredibly busy in Swanfeather's camp, and the drought HAD made things hard. Harder than they already were. He still felt guilty for it, however. “I'll be right back, okay?” He nuzzled her and turned to fetch Ashpaw, poking his head from the den and nodding for her to come inside.
With slow steps, Ashpaw followed him in and over to where Eelpebble lay in her nest, looking so small and fragile. She wasn't at all like Ashpaw remembered. She looked... broken. Her throat tightened with emotion as she looked down at her mother's matted fur clinging to her scrawny frame. The older she-cat's eyes grew wide as she looked up at her daughter and she pushed unsteadily to her paws, her voice breathless with wonder, “Ashpaw... Ashpaw....”
Ashpaw stepped closer so her mother would not have to move any more. She looked so weak. Slowly, her mother reached out to touch her nose to her cheek, as if afraid touching her would make her disappear like mist. Then she pulled back, looking suddenly, somehow, both ecstatic and furious at the same time, “Ashpaw! It has been so long! How could you not have come to visit me in all this time? I've been wondering about your warrior training, you know. Your brother is already a warrior for StarClan's sake and here you are, still a 'paw! You must really be slacking!”
Ashpaw's vision blurred with suppressed emotion and she took the final step forward to press her face into her mother's fur, “I'm sorry... I'm sorry... I'm so sorry....”
Eelpebble went stiff for a moment, then, slowly, relaxed again. She settled back down into her nest, flicking her tail for Ashpaw to join her, “Yes, well... come and tell me what you've been up to now. You can explain to me just why you're not a warrior yet and why you've been too busy to come visit your mother!” Her tone was scolding, but had lost its fury.
Ashpaw's purr was half a sob as she curled up beside her mother, grooming her matted fur, “I'll visit you every day from now on... I promise.”
Rushwhisker backed out, leaving them alone. Eelpebble seemed to only have eyes for Ashpaw right now. She had been lucid for a moment, when she had first seen Ashpaw. He had seen the clarity in her eyes, a clarity that was so very rare these days. Maybe if they spent more time together, Eelpebble could start returning to normal. It might just be wishful thinking, but until it proved to be a false hope, he was going to keep on hoping.