His announcement had been made. It had been met with far less vocalized opposition than he had anticipated, but if nothing else, it solidified that NightClan was in a good place. He had high hopes for what his breeding regulations would amount to, and once a couple of litters were in the works, he was confident any of his Clanmates that clung to their doubts would choose to release them in favour of seeing NightClan flourish.
His den was eerily quiet as it always was when he was inside. Patrols had been organized, apprentice progress had been reviewed, and hunting overall had been passable for the day. There was always something for him to tend to, but a moment of peace every once in a while proved to do the mind of a leader some good. After all, his thoughts alone never failed to keep him busy. The NightClan leader's brain was one that didn't rest; his eyes seemed to shift aimlessly from each and every corner of his den as he stiffly sat in his nest.
Outside, he could've sworn he heard a noise, and he inclined his head in preparation to have company. "You may enter." A voice hadn't asked for permission, but he offered it nonetheless. There wasn't a second he intended to see wasted, and if someone intended to speak with him, he would sooner see it dealt with before the sun descended from its perch in the sky. One thing among many he didn't tolerate was idleness.
She had been so sure of herself when she'd approached the Leader's Den. She'd been so angry and confused and upset that it had been clear to her what she should do. Now though, with the echo of Dimstar's voice in her ears telling her to enter into his den, Squirrelpaw was at a loss for a moment. Then she remembered Hazeheart and her golden eyes went hard. She might not be as bold as Cardinalpaw, but she was capable of standing up for what she believed it, by StarClan. For a moment she held her place, terrified, then suddenly something else came over the young Apprentice and she pulled herself up to her full height, head held confidently aloft and tail down in a show of respectful calm before she moved on silent paws into the den to stand before her leader.
It was well known among the cats of NightClan that Squirrelpaw was a shy cat that often hid herself behind her tail or her sister when things became too much. This time though, there would be no hiding. She had more than a few misgivings about this entire thing and it was best to go directly to the source than to beat around the bush. Though her Mentor had agreed with this insane thing, Squirrelpaw once again found herself on the opposing side to Tinytail with either of them meaning to. Perhaps it was StarClan's way of trying to tell her something. Who knew, but she had to do what she'd come here to.
Taking a few steps into the den she came to stand directly before her leader and a cat so much more powerful than she was in so many ways she should be afraid, but strangely she wasn't. She could do this, and that confidence kept her where she was and kept her voice calm and even. "Dimstar, I wish to speak with you regarding that...meeting before. I have concerns and felt it best to bring them to you directly without speaking before the entire clan since that would be disrespectful." Not to mention too terrifying for the young she-cat to properly handle at this stage. It was a big deal that she was here in the first place; though likely few realized that.
Her every instinct screamed at her to run away and avoid this confrontation, but her heart told her to stay. Her heart said to fight for what she believed so strongly in and thus she would. She wasn't physically a strong cat, but she could still do this. Hopefully he would listen to her. Even if it didn't change anything, at least she'd come before a cat that frankly terrified her and said her peace. It would be enough, it had to be.
It was none other than Squirrelpaw—a quieter, shier apprentice—that entered his den upon his permission being given, and he watched her with sharp, snakelike eyes as she settled into a sit in front of him. Excluding her apprenticeship ceremony, the two of them had never spoken to one another directly. Dimstar liked to be involved in the tutelage of the younger members of NightClan, but overall he trusted the warriors to which he entrusted their care. Bonetail had kept him busy, and with the newest additions to the nursery slowly reaching their sixth moon, he found himself considering in greater detail whether or not he’d like to hold himself personally responsible for the training of one of the three sisters born to Hollowcry and Echobreeze. The three of them were certainly showing potential, almost unrivaled at their age, and he looked forward to seeing what they brought to the table; it would be an honour to mold it into NightClan’s favour.
He half-expected Squirrelpaw to come to him about her mentor, for it was no secret that their personalities differed from one another greatly. If she wanted to be reassigned, Dimstar would hear her out, but he’d have no choice but to politely refuse. He intended for Tinytail to strengthen Squirrelpaw’s state of being. There was nothing wrong with being quiet, or shy, but there was a certain light in which NightClan was going to be painted. The ginger and white apprentice didn’t have to be an unrivaled wordsmith in order to improve her Clan with her service. However, just as his thoughts began to reach their peak, she confided that her being here had to do with the meeting he held. His unnaturally pale eyes latched onto her with exceptional focus, analyzing every detail of her expression and body language. “Concerns.” He repeated, inclining his head in invitation for her to continue when she was ready.
It was strangely out of character for Squirrelpaw of all cats to come to him first. He would’ve expected one of his senior warriors to share their thoughts, but not an apprentice. He had unshakable faith in the results his new regulations would bring about, but he’d made it clear to his Clanmates that they were free to discuss the details with him, and he hadn’t excluded the youngest members of his Clan from that offering. He had a feeling that it had been difficult for Squirrelpaw to find the nerve to seek him out for this conversation, and even if she couldn’t dissuade him (which was likely to be so), it showed great promise for her future that she had broken out of her shell to take this step.
A lean, golden body vibrated as she stood there before her leader even after he'd given his go-ahead for her to continue with what she was saying. She could feel his regard of her and every muscle in her body had locked up. Then she remembered the meeting; she remembered speaking to Hazeheart afterwards and she remembered just how terribly sad he had been over the entire thing. He thought he'd deserved not to have kits with whomever he loved, and that was just so wrong! Her tail lashed around in a flick of true aggravation, but it was all that changed with her stance at first. It went against her nature to defy those that were so much more than she was, but by StarClan this was her clan too and she should have a say in it!
Suddenly she turned burnt amber eyes back up to lock with the cool pale eyes of her leader. He was wrong for doing this in so many ways. The look she gave him was honest defiance and it shifted her stance at last to something stronger than the nearly quivering stance she'd held before. She should have done this during the meeting, but then again who would have taken her seriously? At this point, it didn't matter if he did or not because it wasn't right! Hazeheart's pain and calm acceptance floated through her mind but that only served to make her more upset. The words she spoke next came before she could even think to stop them or temper them with her normal shy calm. "During the meeting...I couldn't bring myself to step forward in front of so many, but..." Her gaze went troubled before determination lit in it once more as she made herself hold her leader's gaze. She would not be backed away by her shyness again, gosh darn it!
"Dimstar I wanted to tell you then that I think this entire thing is wrong. I know I'm only an Apprentice and that therefore my opinions may not matter to Warriors who have been with the clan for more moons than I've been alive, but I had to come here and say something. I thought about it after....I tried to understand where you were coming from with your choice, but all I can see are the people your decision is going to hurt. Your words...your choice...make it sound like...do we need your approval to fall in love? To be with that cat that takes our heart in life and would walk our path with us; is that something you really need to monitor. I know you want the clan to be strong, and some of the things you said made sense. Yes it's fine to not let the queens try with their mates to have kits if it would mean those kits would be born into dangerous times like leaf-bare. Yes I agree that if a pregnancy would endanger the life of the queen that she shouldn't have them no matter what her heart may want."
She took a deep breath, knowing that her emotional outburst would likely go over the head of her overly intellectual leader. She didn't care, now that she'd started she didn't want to stop. She never told anyone how she felt, they didn't care to know anyway. But since becoming Tinytail's Apprentice she had learned that sometimes it was necessary to stand up for yourself and just say what your heart was telling you. Tinytail had learned to listen to her when she'd done that, so it couldn't hurt to speak to Dimstar now. She took a deep breath, forcing herself into calm once again, and tried to act like a mature cat instead of an emotional kit throwing a fit because she wasn't getting her way. That wasn't what she was trying to convey in her rare show of honest emotion.
"I...I want to understand all of this, I really do. I know I'm probably not taking everything into consideration to make an informed decision, and I'm sorry about that. But Dimstar, I love this clan and all the cats in it. Regardless of where they come from or who they might become, I care about each and every one of them and never want for them to be hurt or sad. But that's life, and I do understand that. We get stronger through our struggles and become better because of it, I've never doubted this. But being around Tinytail and learning from her, I also learned that sometimes it's okay to disagree with something; even if everyone around you seems okay with it."
Her expression then said she was thinking about someone in particular as she spoke; and it was that someone that had brought about this courage she was showing to Dimstar now. She was an emotional cat, Squirrelpaw knew this, but it was who she was and she wasn't going to change herself for anyone else's benefit. Couldn't it be enough that she wanted to protect her clan? Couldn't her thoughts and opinions matter even though she was just an Apprentice that wasn't as highly thought of as her bolder sister? She had to be, because she had the feeling that no one else was going to stand in defiance of this thing Dimstar would do to them. For Hazeheart....for his kind eyes and sad smile...she would do this. For whatever future Tinytail chose for herself; even though she seemed to agree with Dimstar's choice. For her beloved sister that had as much right to chose as she herself did. For those people that she loved and cherished, Squirrelpaw would fight with everything she was even if she was only heard for a small fraction of a second. Because it would mean at least Dimstar had seen her and acknowledged that she wasn't going to mindlessly agree with him because he was their leader.
Her heart was pounding in her ears and she knew she was terrified to be so openly doing anything that would cause trouble for another, but she just...she needed to understand. She took another deep breath and tried again, wanting to be seen as something other than some whiny Apprentice for even a second. She knew her own mind, and she knew she wanted the same as Dimstar in the well-being of her clan. "I just...I want to understand. I can't see how all that you said can possibly be a good thing. NightClan is strong, our Leader and our Warriors have made it so. Kits are being born and growing up well and becoming strong Apprentices to guide the clan into the future so...tell me what is so wrong with who we are that it was necessary for you to make such a choice. I am not trying to judge the choice Dimstar, I really just need to understand. It effects all of us, and I have just as much right as everyone else - you even said so - to know the why of it."
She let out a low huff and her tail flicked again, annoyed with herself for being unable to hold her ground steadily before this tom that was her leader. Her gaze dropped from his at last as her courage failed her for a moment. Her expression was distant as she looked at the ground in silence for a long moment before turning her gaze skywards as she gathered her thoughts again. Her words were quiet and tired as she finally found an end to her turbulent feelings. "I know I'm being too emotional over this, and I'm honestly trying not to be. I just...if I am ever to be a strong Warrior for this clan in any way, I want to know I am doing everything I can for it. So just tell me why you would bring restrictions to such a thing as this. It's something that has the potential to do as much harm as it would good. Making suggestions for mates, having to have approval to have kits, outright banning some from even having them no matter how they may want them. How is this a good thing? How does it make us stronger without tearing us apart." Burnt amber eyes at last rose to meet with the pale eyes of her leader. She had finally wound herself up enough to be honest and now she would have to face the repercussions of speaking out in such a way to her leader. He could...do her so much harm.
On and on she went. Every time he opened his mouth, believed he’d be able to squeeze a word in, she fired again and forced him into contemplative silence. It was interesting to see how much passion could affect his Clanmates. He was seemingly immune to experiencing it for himself, but under the right circumstances he could appreciate it in others. There were some who undoubtedly thought he went into his decision blindly, but on the contrary, he knew the repercussions. Cats like Squirrelpaw, with hearts too large for their chests, would argue until their lungs bled for love to have the chance it deserved. When it finally seemed like she had said everything she wanted to say, some of the uncertainty and fear she was known for seeping back into her expression, as if she was already admitting defeat before he’d mustered as much as a word in response, Dimstar stood from his seat. Suddenly, the conversation felt like it weighed too much to be properly held while sitting in front of one another as comfortably as they were.
Squirrelpaw spoke with so much raw, unfiltered emotion, but Dimstar hardly blinked throughout the duration of her speech. There was no outward indication that she had reached him. “Individual thought has been muddied time and time again throughout the history of our Clans. There is a reason that the Code discourages friendships between differing Clans, hm? For most, it becomes too difficult to choose between friendships and allegiance. When compared to love, the choice between friendships and allegiance becomes almost… laughable.” And yet he didn’t laugh. “I know what the right choice is to make, as I’m sure you do as well, Squirrelpaw, but the same doesn’t go for everyone else. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with my Clanmates—” Dimstar almost narrowed his eyes at mention of the suggestion she’d made earlier. “—frankly, there’s a reason I think we’re the best, but that can change in the blink of an eye. You do recall what happened at the last Gathering, don’t you? RainClan scarcely survived the turmoil inside their borders, and I won’t have NightClan ever face the same fate.”
He’d supplied more than enough proof for why he made the decision he did, but it didn’t answer her question. “I’m aware it can do more harm than good, and if that ends up being the case, you can rest easy knowing I’ll remove the restrictions—but they will remain in place until I do see them doing more harm than good. You, Squirrelpaw, will make an excellent mother when the time comes for it. The restrictions have little to no effect on you, and yet you speak with the passion of someone who has been prohibited from breeding—I certainly hope you don’t speak on the behalf of someone other than yourself, but that’s not a concern of mine right now.” Dimstar wasn’t aware that her conversation with Hazeheart had pushed her to seek him out, but that was likely for the best. If Hazeheart himself wasn’t bothered enough by the changes to talk to him, he wouldn’t be impressed with Squirrelpaw for doing it on his behalf. “I have prevented certain cats from taking that step in their lives for the best interest of their kittens. It might be a risk they’re willing to take, but frankly, I am not willing—NightClan needs strong, capable warriors only.” He wasn’t going to go out his way to make an example out of someone, but if Squirrelpaw pressed, he would be more than happy to oblige. Hazheart, for instance, had an especially… odd condition. Would he genuinely want to pass those genetics onto his young? If faced with that question alone, Dimstar was confident to bet on the answer being no—but that question was never asked alone. Love was always in the picture, and it always made a mess of things. Poisonleaf didn’t have any defects deserving of being prohibited from breeding, but he had his own reasons for that. She had proved disloyal to their Clan in the past, and what would become of her young if she repeated past mistakes? He didn’t intend for any NightClan-born kits to start their lives that way, and he would prevent it at all costs if possible.
“I’ve no doubt you love our Clan as much as you say you do, but there’s a fine, almost indiscernible difference between loving the Clan, and loving your Clanmates. A cat that loves their Clanmates will come into my den, just as you have, to fight for freedom of choice in regards to love. A cat that loves their Clan, however, will watch what becomes of my restrictions until there’s solid proof of negative impact to bring to my attention. I permit the strong and healthy to breed, but prohibit the sickly and weak—which, as you said, makes sense for the sake of their kittens and their own lives. However, if you think about it, Squirrelpaw, I have scarcely taken away their ability to choose. I’m confident that anyone who wants to breed will come to me with a pairing I have no qualms with, because again, only the sickly,weak and in specific cases untrustworthy aren’t allowed to participate.” He inclined his head, satisfied. She was brave to come to him about her concerns, especially at her age, but he was going to treat her as he would one of his senior warriors. “Now, with that said, I have a few concerns of my own.”
He waited until she looked him in the eyes. “You do not have to apologize when you enter my den to talk about something that weighs heavily on your mind. If these are you feelings in regards to the decisions I have made, and you stand by them one hundred percent, then you will not apologize so long as you speak to me in a calm, dignified manner as you did. Secondly,” Dimstar paused to gauge her expression. “You’re staring at the ground beneath your paws as if you have something to be ashamed of, and that’s far from the case here. It was bold of you to come forward with your opinions—you did so before any of my warriors which is impressive on its own—and you should be proud of yourself for that. Tinytail has influenced you for the better, it would seem.” He tipped his head approvingly. She likely hadn’t expected to be praised for voicing aloud defiance, but he didn’t view it as defiance unless she went out of her way to disregard the new restrictions. “Is there anything else you’d like to say, Squirrelpaw?” Perhaps she still didn’t agree with some of the points he’d brought to her attention, and if that was true, he wouldn’t be opposed to her staying a while longer to continue addressing it with him. He was aware he wouldn’t have the full, unquestionable support of some of his Clanmates in its entirety, but he would be content as long as there were no questions about where he stood and why he did it. NightClan’s best interest was the focal point of his cold, detached heart.
Squirrelpaw found herself violently fighting off the urge to let her ears fall flat to her head, so great was her discomfort with the continued conversation. Not that she felt she shouldn't have come, because really it had to be done, but it was more that her natural inclination to not cause waves in life was hitting her hard and it was becoming difficult to maintain her calm in the situation because of it. She was determined not to act like a terrified kit, but it was costing her dearly. Instead of letting it get to her though, she took a deep breath and then another few followed it in order to calm herself again. She could do this, she'd gotten this far and it was almost done. Taking a final deep breath to fortify her resolve, the pale ginger she-cat took in what was being said to her about loving her clan versus loving her clanmates and shook her head quietly.
"For what it's worth...at first I was just angry and upset. I thought 'it's so unfair what he's doing to us' but then...then I had the time to really think about it; especially when the thought got into my head to speak to you about it. Those thoughts, they were ones of a kit, and if I wanted to be taken seriously I had to consider more than just my feelings. So I stopped and I thought about it, I'm hardly a reckless cat after all. I couldn't talk to Tinytail, I felt, because her feelings about this were very clear and I really want to get along with her. So I instead took the time to think carefully about everything. What was it that was really upsetting me? It wasn't that you'd done it at all, that would be stupid and too much like how a kit would react. I thought 'surely he wouldn't do this sort of thing for no reason' because I've always believed you lead us well. I just...couldn't figure it out. Everything was just buzzing around in my head. So when I came here and you took me seriously...I guess I wasn't expecting it. I'm not used to it."
Her tone said more clearly than her words did that she didn't think the way she was being treated was a bad thing, merely that she honestly hadn't expected it. Even now her thoughts buzzed through her mind faster than she could really keep up with them, but at least the worst of her concerns had been addressed. Her entire body jerked in shock when Dimstar then turned the tables on her to address concerns he had of his own regarding her behavior. Her tail jerked once and her ears perked forwards in surprise to hear him actually praising her for coming before him to speak. She hadn't...been expected that. Something like embarrassment went through her and her tail twitched close to her face before she could stop it and make herself not make the protective gesture in front of her leader. A pleased sort of expression lit her gaze and she couldn't help the glow of pride that lit inside her heart, making her stand straighter before her leader like a proper Warrior should.
All thoughts of being embarrassed or uncertain disappeared in the face of such praise that she'd never before gotten in such a manner from one that wasn't family. Maybe she could make a difference for her clan after all. Did she have other concerns? Well yes she did but for now they could wait. "I...thank you for that. My lack of confidence and shyness are things Tinytail is working on with me. I'm glad she's my Mentor even though we're so different from each other." Her gaze held his now, her confidence restored under the smallest amount of praise that was so unexpected. Eventually she wouldn't need to praise to be confident, but for now she reveled in it. Taking another steadying breath, she finished with what she'd been saying before. "I do still have concerns, but nothing that really makes any sense for me to say to you so I won't waist your time at this point. Though...I'm glad to know I could come back when I'm ready to discuss this further with you. It's a relief, honestly. And...I guess that's all I really have to say just now."
Anything else that came to mind she'd just have to discuss with him another time regarding this topic between them. For now...well for now Squirrelpaw felt that she'd try it his way. She would wait and watch to see what happened. And in the meantime, she would trust that Dimstar had the well-being of NightClan in mind with everything he did.
Words | 801 Tags | Insidious Notes | Done here or on your next post I think?
StoneClan |Silverglade - Sandblaze LightningClan |Mousekit NightClan |Squirrelheart Loners |Whiskey Tribe |Fallen Moon in Black Sky [WIP]