We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.
It was cold outside, and a slight breeze slipped beneath the boughs of Nightclan's pines. The territory smelled fresh: a sappy, crisp scent of evergreen mixed with promise of snow in the coming times. The skies were clear and the stars twinkled a silvery light, but it was only time before leafbare's true form took the clans by storm: perhaps it would be a warm, dry winter, though Pinewhisker doubted it. Fate seemed to curse Nightclan every chance it got.
What am I thinking? Pinewhisker grumbled to herself. What happened to miss optimism? Starclan I used to be so happy and cheerful.
The ginger she-cat had come to the Branch Trail for hunting, though prey seemed scarce tonight. Pinewhisker fluffed up her fur in a futile attempt to keep warm, the wind's icy fingers gripping her body relentlessly. She had hoped to find something out, or even someone out, today, though all scents of quarry were stale, and the patrols had already long since passed. It seemed like it was going to be another lonely night, though she didn't mind. Over time, she got used to being alone. Most of her friends were many moons older than herself, and she found more pleasure in leisure nowadays. Her ambitions had long since faded into distant memories, and she cursed herself sometimes. Most she-cats her age would have already had at least one litter of kittens, starting a family and fostering an undying bond with their kits, with a mate that loved them.
Pinewhisker led an empty life. She had never had a mate, nor considered the possibility, and all of her friends she once had before her role as Nightclan leader long since distanced themselves from her. There was nothing for her in Nightclan anymore.
Most days, she wish Lionstar had sent her straight to Starclan where her father waited patiently for his precious kit. Many days Pinewhisker would look out into the unexplored territory and just ponder whether or not the clan would even notice if she left. Life seemed so meaningless and repetitive day to day, but no matter how hard she tried to stay like her normal lively and positive self, the spark of life and focus she once had in her green gaze had long since went out. Nightclan to her now was not what it used to be, and whatever loyalty lingered in the ginger she-cat was fading, flickering like a firefly in the night.
So Blackwolf and his gang of misfits took back the Branch Trail. Pinewhisker mused. How I let this clan down.
Pinewhisker knew Foxstar hadn't been ready for leadership, and frankly, Pinewhisker wasn't ready to step down either. There was so much more she desired to gain for her clan, so many moons she had hoped to pull her clanmates through with Nightclan's prosperity and longevity of utmost importance to her. Though Lionstar ripped that away from her, leaving her broken and her clan in distress from yet another fallen leader. Pinewhisker flicked a broken stick with her paw, treading aimlessly along territory that was now Nightclan's. It felt like meandering, wandering to and fro, though her legs carried her the usual way.
Thanks to Blackwolf, Nightclan actually has the Branch Trail. She thought uncomfortably.
How could she have failed so incredibly in choosing a successor?
Pinewhisker felt like she had walked for ages, purging her mind of all the negative and guilty thoughts that gouged her soul when she slept at night. Her paws had carried her on a path she traveled often in Nightclan. She paused at the far corner of clan territory and sat with her tail wrapped peacefully around her paws, listening to the sounds of wildlife and smelling the freshness of night. The ginger she-cat glared at the woods beyond, heart and mind numb from the questions she always asked herself whenever she approached the mysterious forest.
Would they miss her?
Would they even care if she left?
Pinewhisker closed her eyes and sighed. It was quiet, though ever so softly the wind and trees seemed to whisper,
You didn't need to be a genius to associate the sunlight with warmth. Already the days were overcast or a washed out shade of gray, but at least the cold wasn't as biting as it was at night. Nettleheart's pelt was fluffed up to its full potential, but this was laughable next to the likes of Brindlejay, who had so much fluff even the squirrels were jealous.
It was getting harder and harder for Nettleheart to will herself out of her nest; the only thing that put her paws on the cool stone floor and out under the twinkling stars of Silverpelt was the promise of warm food. Warm food, feathers and pelts to line her nest with. The Clan demanded to be fed first; Nettleheart understood that on the surface, but those first few moons of her life, dedicated to survival - to thinking only of herself - were hard to shake off.
Her stomach hugged her ribs, and Nettleheart considered supplementing her diet with a couple of moths fluttering around in the moonlight. She snorted. She wasn't a bat. Splotched ears pricked forward with a sudden idea. Nettleheart maneuvered to the denser parts of the forest, meandering to the branch trail.
Cat scents were everywhere here. She couldn't so much as sneeze without getting a whiff of one of her Clanmates, still celebrating Blackwolf's victory over TreeClan. Nettleheart's eyes rolled. As if the cold wasn't bad enough, contending with NightClan's collective bloated ego was enough to make her want to claw her ears off.
More hunting territory was good.
Everyone talking about the same fleabrained thing for the past six sunrises? Not so good.
And yet here she was, in the same hunting place as all her other Clanmates, hoping to try her luck with either fresh-caught prey or a few glimpses of a TreeClan cat looking for revenge. Nettleheart threw a few hopeful glances across the scentline, but the sunset patrol had already come by and left their marks. The Branch Trail was almost peaceful.
Returning to her original plan, Nettleheart concentrated her efforts in the farthest corner of NightClan's territory. There was the faint scent of the mountains on the breeze, and far fewer Clanmate stench to make this an impossible hunting spot. Nettleheart stalked near the base of an elm tree, crouching as the flutter of pale wings filled up her vision. The trick was not to kill it immediately. She needed it alive in order for her plan to work.
The moth's fluttering stilled as it alighted upon the last of leaf-fall's flowers. Nettleheart's haunches wriggled. The she-cat pounced, landing square upon the flower stalk, swatting the moth from the air and diving in to bite it. The fluttered wings tickled her nose, but they quickly stopped. Foxdung, she'd killed it.
Nettleheart spat out a chunk of moth wing, irritated over that messy catch. She was used to prey that could take more of a beating. Her plan to injure the moth and use it as bat-bait was a good one - just one she didn't have the delicacy to execute.
Leaving the death moth where it had fallen, Nettleheart turned, weighing her chances of catching another one and not messing that up too. In the midst of her indecision, a soft sigh rode the cool wind straight into Nettleheart's ears. Fur fluffing against the chill, Nettleheart narrowed her eyes through the darkness, spotting a dense red coat washed with moonlight.
Fox? No. Foxstar? No. It was Pinewhisker.
Nettleheart padded closer, intrigued by the older she-cat's desire to be out here by herself - sitting there like a toadstool, and twice as useless. It was a far cry from when she'd first met Pinewhisker, then Pinestar, who had been snarling and circling her like an infuriated wolf. Memory of that experience nearly had Nettleheart stopping in her tracks.
But Pinewhisker wasn't much of a threat anymore. She wasn't much of a warrior, either.
"Bet you're happy we got the Branch Trail back." said Nettleheart, tone as blunt and callous as ever. The sound of her own voice felt disruptive after she'd gotten used to the quiet of a leafbare night. Nettleheart walked until they were a foxlength apart, but moved no closer. "Briarthroat isn't, but he'll get over it."
What am I even talking about? Nettleheart's tail lashed, hating how difficult it was to talk to Pinewhisker. They weren't friends. They were Clanmates in the loosest sense. So why was she even trying? Because Briarthroat would want her to try... Because Snakestep would want her to try.
Ugh. This is what she got for having such soft-hearted family members.
We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.
One of Pinewhisker's ears flicked back disdainfully as a she-cat's voice cut coldly through the gelid night air. She didn't need to turn around to recognize Nettleheart's voice: Pinewhisker had been following kit's progress from a useless, meowing kit to a full-fledged warrior. Needless to say, the cat earned her keep, but her voice dripped with distaste.
Despite her tone, Pinewhisker liked Nettleheart's mind and manner, which is why the calico she-cat was still Nightclan. To think I could have thrown you to the foxes. She mused with a grimace. Pinewhisker glanced over at the ginger, black, and white patched youth, listening as she forced conversation. It was obvious the warrior still had hard feelings over Pinewhisker's first impression. Nettleheart had always avoided her, but it didn't stop the ginger she-cat from monitoring her progress carefully.
Scrap was a loner after all, and Pinewhisker still had her concerns. "The way we achieve our successes matter." Pinewhisker muttered, annoyed at the she-cat's tone. Her tail twitched, a small insight into the ginger she-cat's irritation. Perhaps she did want to talk with someone, but not her. The youth nowadays were so immature and selfish: Pinewhisker would have preferred complete solitude. At least she's making an effort. Pinewhisker's conscience offered. Hardly. The ginger she-cat bit back.
"But you're right." She loosened her tongue. "What's done is done."
Pinewhisker wasn't going to waste her breath with this moth-chaser if she didn't really want to talk. Part of the ginger she-cat thought Nettleheart was sparking short talk as a facade to mask the calico's own annoyance that she had found company with the cat she liked the least in the clan.
It wouldn't have been a surprise to Pinewhisker if Nettleheart disliked her the most of all her clanmates.
Pinewhisker smirked inside. Was there still fear? Or had her feelings for Pinewhisker just rotted to aversion since the ginger she-cat stepped down from leadership? Probably the latter. Pinewhisker thought, staring off into the forest beyond. She knew she wasn't the warrior she used to be. All the piteous stares had turned sour, and the respect she once had was gone.
What a shame.
It was so peaceful until she came around.
"What do you want, Nettleheart? If you're not ready to talk with me, then you might as well run off, back to chasing your bugs." She growled, turning to glare at the calico. She wanted to see if Nettleheart would falter or stomp off in a fit of rage. No. She knew her better than perhaps most of the clan.
But who did she think she was, talking to Pinewhisker like that?
She's the same as she's always been. The ginger she-cat mused, gaze boring into Nettleheart like green fire.
Post by Fawntastic on Dec 31, 2018 23:27:42 GMT -5
One for the money two for the freakshow
"What do you want, Nettleheart? If you're not ready to talk with me, then you might as well run off, back to chasing your bugs."
Nettleheart's short pelt prickled from her ears to the tip of her calico tail. "I wasn't chasing bugs, I was--" Nettleheart cut herself off with a frustrated noise, her temper not allowing her the patience needed to explain her plan. Besides, Pinewhisker would just end up criticizing that too. "If you got a problem with me, come on then - spit it out!"
It took every ounce of self control Nettleheart had not to drop into a battle stance. Her claws ached to unsheathe, and the dull yellow light in her eyes was stoked to a low, roaring fire - threatening to spill over at the slightest provocation. "I'm not scared of you, fleabag," Nettleheart growled. Nettleheart had never pretended to be something she was not. Her manners were almost nonexistant; her empathy was in short supply, and she tended to have a hard time relating to others.
But Nettleheart, for all her faults, was no coward. Why was Pinewhisker still giving her attitude? I have my warrior name, you stupid mangepelt. What more do you want from me? If Pinewhisker hadn't stepped down, would she have withheld Nettleheart's warrior ceremony? Would she have even listened, like Foxstar had, to Nettleheart's request to discard the name her mother had given her?
Nettleheart could picture Briarthroat's disapproving expression square in the center of her mind, but she swept it aside like old cobwebs. She didn't want to fight an injured cat - but she wasn't going to let herself be treated like nothing more than moss to be stepped on. She was alive. She was a survivor. No cat could take that away from her - and if Pinewhisker wanted a lesson in just how fiercely Nettleheart held on to life, she was happy to give it to her.
We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.
"I irritated you?" Pinewhisker meowed, voice mildly annoyed. The ginger she-cat shot to her paws, glaring intensely at Nettleheart. The old she-cat had snapped, spilling over like a waterfall.
"Do you know what I hate?" She hissed. "No matter how skilled you are, how competent you are as a Nightclan warrior, you act like there's an end to the training, the learning. That maybe if you get your warrior name, you'll be accepted and respected." Pinewhisker paused, before continuing in a voice as sharp as daggers. "If you want to be treated with respect, you need to act accordingly, but don't rely on it. Your reputation fluctuates like the weather: it always will, so don't bother with others' opinions." Pinewhisker hesitated for a moment. "Go ahead, claw my ears off. You're so paranoid about what others think of you that you forget it doesn't matter." Pinewhisker slowed, and more softly she continued. "It doesn't matter what others think of you. It doesn't matter what I think of you, but for whatever counts, I think with a little more tact, you have the spirit and skill to be what I could not."
Pinewhisker dropped her eyes for a moment, looking despondently at the forest floor. She had failed NightClan. She never was a skilled fighter or exemplary hunter: her skills weren't what got her a position of power, her tact had. Nettleheart was everything she had striven to be, more of a NightClan cat than she had ever been, and perhaps that was why the ginger she-cat was so harsh on the she-cat. Perhaps it was envy that pushed her to the limits. Though the deeper Pinewhisker delved in why, the more she saw a lot of herself in Nettleheart as well. There was an intense yearning to make Nettleheart the best version of herself: she didn't want the calico to succumb to death or mutilation because of Nightclan's feuds. She wanted Nettleheart alive, because she had been the closest thing to a kit Pinewhisker had ever had.
To say the ginger she-cat was a good mother would have been a lie, though she had never wanted to hurt Nettleheart.
Pinewhisker wanted the young warrior to be stronger than she herself ever could be.
"I can see how you thought it was hate that drove my criticisms." Pinewhisker breathed. "And I'm sorry."
69 Moons - Senior Warrior - NightClan
Tags: Fawntastic Word Count: 415 Notes: sorry its kinda bad xD little rusty with ol pinewhisker lol
"You're squirrelbrained," Nettleheart hissed, anger dispersed by confusion and irritation over the conversation's turn. Here was Pinewhisker, ranting and raving about reputation and how training never ended, and then she turned right around to -- apologize? And say that reputation didn't matter?
Nettleheart aggressively shook her color-splotched head as though trying to dislodge a pesky insect. "You're sorry? For which part, trying to rip me into pieces when we first met? For rambling like a crazy old fleabag just now?" Yellow eyes narrowed, full of fire and gasoline. "I don't get you at all. I'm the one out here hunting to feed this stupid Clan, while you're sitting there as useless as a wart on a toad!"
It was a harsh thing to say, but the young warrioress couldn't stop now. These words had been building up, as slow and steady as a volcano, and black ash had begun to spew forth at last. She avoided Pinewhisker like the angry cripple Nettleheart thought she was; in fact, most days she didn't think much about her at all. But when she did, Nettleheart thought of how strange this she-cat had become.
She'd gone from a leader to a ghost. She still did more work for the Clan than Bonetail, but so did the toads they caught that morning. Nettleheart's tail lashed, rippling like a freshly cut rope, ready to strike anything too close to it. "I don't know what you want from me," Nettleheart growled, locking her gaze with the piercing green of the former Clan leader. "I'm part of NightClan now, and you can't change that."
At the end of the day, the only cat whose opinion truly mattered to her was Briarthroat's. He was the father figure she'd never had; she craved his praise and his pride, though she could never put that into words. She had her warrior name, but staying in Briarthroat's good graces hadn't ended there. She still had to get out in freezing cold weather to hunt and fight like everyone else.
For him. For Snakestep. And even for Graywolf, the she-cat who had somehow become her friend. But Pinewhisker? Ha. The old cat could sit there and rot for all Nettleheart cared. Say whatever you want, said the young warrior's defiant eyes. You can't do anything to me any more.