It is now Leaf-fall, Valley Year 8
The weather is now crisp and cool, with hints of frost forming overnight in the later moons. Prey is becoming scarce, leaves are changing colors. The valley feels busier somehow.
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Has anyone ever told you that you look just like him? Aspenpaw's head perked up at the wound of Whiteclaw's voice. He was confused for a moment and titled his head to indicate that. Whiteclaw flicked his tail to Aspenpaw's overall features. "You look like your father but you have your mother's eyes," He told Aspenpaw before Silverpaw left the apprentice den and he let to meet up with his mentor. Confusion still weighed on Aspenpaw's features as he watched Whiteclaw leave.
The older tom was born and raised in TreeClan, it would be strange for him to know his father, right? Rising up, Aspenpaw headed toward a small puddle that formed from a heavy rain near the edge of the camp. He was able to see his reflection and studied his features. Black and white fur covered his frame, which seemed to be filling out nicely. He was just happy not to be too small, his height would need to be an advantage. Focusing on his eyes, Aspenpaw realized they remind him a lot of fire. Their dark amber hues were striking but his mother had different colored eyes. Moonfeather's eyes were pretty green, like the leave of TreeClan.
Looking away from the puddle he turned his attention back to Whiteclaw. Had the older tom forgotten who he was? Did Whiteclaw confuse him for another apprenitce? Making a mental list of his denmates he knew there weren't any other apprentices that looked like him, in fact, his black and whtie coat was pretty special. Conflicted over Whiteclaw's statement Aspenpaw left the puddle in search of his mother.
He found her near one of the dens and trotted toward her. "Can you tell me about dad? Was he a Clan cat? Didn't we travel from really far away to make it here? How does Whiteclaw know him?" Aspenfire asked, his question coming off rapid fire. As he waited for her answers he stood before her, tail flicking back and forth.
She'd been sitting in the middle of camp, just watching the cats of the clan go about her day. She wasn't on any patrols today, and she'd already been hunting so she had a bit of time on her paws. She groomed her face, washing it meticioulously when Aspenpaw came up to her and started talking.
The she-cat blinked and tipped her head, trying to recall who Whiteclaw was then deciding it wasn't important and addressed the issue at paw. It was one she'd hoped would never come up. One that made her heart sink and fill with dread. "Whiteclaw needs to mind his own business." She hissed a little, though not at her son. "My mate was a loner named Bramblebrush. He died just after I gave birth, from a sickness I honestly hope never hits this valley."
Moonfeather sighed, looking the young tom in his beautiful eyes. "Aspenpaw, I want you to listen very carefully to me. I am your mother. I will always be your mother, and no force on this side of creation will ever change that fact. But..." Lionstar had told her about Aspenpaw's father, but she didn't remember him. She tended to avoid the toms that were outside her immediate circle. The greater population of toms in TreeClan still made her nervous, even all these moons later. She couldn't remember his name, and didn't really care to know him.
"I don't know anything about your father. You are mine in every way that matters, but I did not give birth to you." Her eyes glazed over a little, an old pain coming into them. "I had a litter of five kits when I was sixteen moons, three of them died in their first moon of life. So I gathered my remaining two kits; Amberwing and Fawnpaw, and made the trek here. You, Aspenpaw, were given to me shortly after I got here. They needed a nursing queen."
She shook her head. "I loved you the moment they showed you to me, newborn and without a mother. Then you were mine, and nothing else mattered." She sighed, leaning over to butt her head against Aspenpaw's. "Your birth father died in greencough, if I remember right."
"I had planned to take you and your sisters to the wildflower clearing in newleaf and tell you all at the same time. It seems some cats like to meddle in the affairs of others."
She felt like she was on the edge of a cliff, about to fall over. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you about this before. You are still my son, please believe that. Family comes from feelings of the heart, not from the ties of blood. You're my family, they are your sisters. Is it so important that you didn't come from my body? I still nursed you, I was still the first cat you saw when you opened your eyes the first time, I cared for you and have come this far protecting and cherishing all my children. I will never treat you any different than Fawnpaw and Amberwing."
Moonfeather stared at her son, praying he'd listen, praying he'd hear her.
His ears quickly tucked backwards as he realized how quickly he asked the questions but something in his heart told him to stay standing. Kneading the ground with his paws, Aspenpaw waited with baited breath for the answers for his mother. He was going to finally learn about his father!
Listening to her talk about her mate had him nodding along in agreement. Bramblebrush? That was his father. Aspenpaw was content with such a name but then she mentioned a sickness. He remembered the greencough that kept him secluded from his mother for a good portion of his early apprenticehood. The fear of it trickled down his spine but he forced his attention to remain on Moonfeather. The longing for the answers kept him rooted.
When his mother sighed he felt a hint of longing. Did she still miss his father? He felt bad that he was asking her to relive it but he knew, in the end, he would be better for it. He'd know a little bit more about himself. But something didn't seem right. She looked upset and told him to listen very carefully. Unsure if he could listen any harder, Aspenpaw nodded. A physical sign he was hanging on every word. She went on to bring up that she was his mother and Aspenpaw's confusion shone in his eyes. Why was she going on about that? He knew her as his mother that wasn't his question, he wanted to know about Bramblebrush. Then came the dreaded word: but. Normally when 'but' was in a sentence it meant something bad was going to happen or he was about to get terrible news. Had Bramblebrush been a bad mate? Was he mean to Moonfeather and that was why she left wherever they came from and sought refugee in TreeClan.
For a split second Aspenpaw considered disowning his father if it turned out he was cruel and as he prepared for the truth of Bramblebrush, she said she didn't know him. His head instantly titled to the side like before and he flicked his ears. Did he miss hear her? But that didn't matter, it was the latter part that stole all his attention.
"I did not give birth to you,"
He felt his eyes grow wide and his heart start to pound. What was she talking about! She wasn't his mother! How could he come to be? He opened his mouth to question her further but stopped himself, he couldn't make a sound come out. Aspenpaw had barely enough mental capacity to listen further, in fact, he took a few step back from Moonfeather even as she spoke.
She went on to explain how he was handed off to her like some old piece of prey. Left in her care because his mother died. She took him in because she was the only one producing milk. Aspenpaw was no more her son than a random kit from another Clan. He could have easily been given to anyone else and she wouldn't have cared. She only cared because Lionstar asked her to. His heart kept pounding as she kept on talking. Moonfeather said his father died during greencough. Had he been in the same area? He could have been sitting next to his father and never knew!
Frustrated Aspenpaw took another series of steps back, distancing himself from Moonfeather. She tried to soften the news by saying she was going to tell them when he was older but Aspenpaw had a sinking feeling she wouldn't unless he had asked. She already kept up such a lie for this long.
Trying to calm himself, Aspenpaw struggled internally until he couldn't take it anymore. What pushed him over the age was her talk about family how he was still her son. His talk began to lash and everything within him began to boil. She was a liar! She lied to him, to her daughters. To everyone in the Clan. Why? Because he was a replacement for lost kits because he was alone and she thought herself some great mother to take him in.
"You are no more my mother then a fox is a hummingbird! You lied to me! You took me in and pretended that I was your son! You probably did it to get a place in TreeClan!" He growled, his fur bristling.
"Did you see me as your chance to get on Lionstar's good side? You would have done anything for them. All you ever care about is them and keeping them safe!:" He snapped, tail lashing as he moved back again, now a good three tail lengths from her. A crowd was slowly forming at such a public display of anger.
"I hate you! I hate that you lied to me and I hate that you used me! I never want to see you again ever! You are nothing but a kit-stealing loner!" He snarled, turning and stomping away from Moonfeather, dark growls heard in his wake.
He didn't care if she had been the one to take him in. She used him. She took advantage of a Clan without a nursing queen. She betrayed him and kept who he was a secret. Feeling as if his entire body on was fire and also painfully numb, Aspenpaw left the camp. He walked until his paws hurt from his stomping. He didn't stop until his heart stopped pounding and even then he didn't head back.
He found himself a place to sit and mourn. The loss of who he was at such a tender time of his life. He wasn't Aspenpaw son of Moonfeather anymore. He was just Aspenpaw, orphan of TreeClan.
"Is Aspenpaw even my real name?" He questioned the air around him. Who am I?"