The thin rays of sunlight warmed Duskrunner's pelt as she stretched luxuriously in the clearing of the camp. Too quickly she remembered that this is the leaf-bare of her Clan's short life; as a matter of fact cats were sparse throughout all the Clans. Her belly rumbled. I'm as empty as the nursery! Duskrunner thought to herself. She glanced at the freshkill pile, which currently consisted of what must have been the scrawniest shrew in the forest. And I must not be the only one.
Giving her fur a few more licks to pat down some unruly patches, she began to circle the clearing.
"Any cat want to go on a hunting patrol? I could eat a fox!" she called out, wondering who would respond to her call. At this point, with the number of SmokeClan cats actually available, she'd even take a medicine cat apprentice with her.
Rowanfall had been resting, no, sleeping. With greenleaf drawing to a close and leaf fall getting closer and closer, that meant cooler days; and cooler days meant less sun. One of Rowanfall's joys in this life was to sun bathe, and seeing as it was one of those few days was the sun was actually still strong enough to be warm he was going to take full advantage.
So there he was, rolled onto his back and dozing so the sun would warm his white underbelly and paws that were folded lightly on his chest. The tom was having a wonderful dream; he was in a clearing with colorful feathers dropping from the trees as if they were leaves, and he was chasing them as if he hadn't a care in the world---then it started to slip away.
the colors faded...
he became aware of the sunlight, and was even momentarily blinded when he first opened his eyes
And then there was the voice.
"Oh Moonclan..." he grumbled, rolling over to his side to see the calico she-cat calling out about a hunting patrol. He narrowed his eyes, knowing he should offer especially seeing as the most he was doing was sleeping...he didn't have the best excuse to say no. "Duskrunner dear, it seems you might scare all the prey away with that kind of yelling," he purred, tail swishing lazily against his sunning stone.
Watching the medicine cat roll lazily on his back, Duskrunner fought the urge to pounce right on his exposed white belly. Instead, she tried to content herself with the hope that he would slide right off the warm sunning stone. It seemed as though there was enough space for another cat to curl up and soak up the light. But the rock seemed so warm and inviting, and there weren't many cats around that would need a whole lot of freshkill, and it's not like there was a real rush to get anything done...
Grrrrrwwwl! Duskrunner almost winced at the empty sensation as her belly grumbled for food. No, sunning herself would have to wait. Even if there weren't a lot of cats that needed feeding, she was a cat that needed feeding. And that mouse-brained medicine cat... She glanced back at Rowanfall, still stretched out on the rock like a dead rabbit.
The temptation was too strong and the clearing was too empty. No cat, least of all apprentices, needed to see their serious deputy playing like a kit. Gathering up her muscles beneath her and waving her tail in the air, she leaped up and landed right on top of Rowanfall's belly. Claws sheathed, of course, but the force of her jump and the weight of her body would be painful enough. "I've got one piece of freshkill right here!" she yowled in triumph.
Rowanfall was caught completely by surprise at the sudden weight propelled into his stomach. "HHHUUUGhhhhh" The most undignified sound erupted from the medicine cat, loud and guttural. If any other cat had made the sound the tom would have laughed, in fact he wanted to. If only because he was so proud of the usually serious deputy letting herself relax.
With a half hearted push, Rowanfall meowed "Get off me you great lump." And though the words themselves seemed commanding, they lost all power by the faint purr that rumbled in his voice. "I know I didn't train as a warrior with you, but that's no reason to take advantage of me," he almost whined, putting a lit onto his voice so it sounded pitiful.
He flicked the calico with his tail tip, offering up a truce. "Have the warriors had much luck hunting or around the boarders?" he asked.
Duskrunner sat down carefully, wrapping her tail around her paws and rounding her eyes. "You gotta stay on your paws, Rowanfall. You never know what could hit you," she teased. She watched with some amusement as Rowanfall struggled to recover from her attack. It had been a while since she felt comfortable enough to relax, especially with the expectations of a deputy piled high. But then again, no cat had seen their exchange, and she can safely continue to maintain her facade.
Rising to her paws, Duskrunner thought about the recent patrols. While not much freshkill had come back to the camp, not many cats had been out hunting.
"Can't say for certain; by the looks of it, it seems sparse but that's because only a few cats went out to hunt at all. We'll have to send out another patrol. Maybe Shadestar will be able to join in," she added.
Lostflame slipped from the Medicine Den, roused by the sound of a skirmish outside. At first, it had alarmed the apprentice Medicine Cat, but she was relieved to see that it was only her mentor, Rowanfall, and the deputy Duskrunner squabbling like kits. The sight warmed the young she-cats heart, for despite the weather still being warm and the times being peaceful, Lostflame was consistently on edge at every waking moment. Taking a moment to release the stress from her muscles in a long stretch, Lostflame padded over to her clanmates, a warm glint in her eyes.
"Looks like you two have been busy," The she-cat teased, falling back onto her haunches with a sigh. The sun was warm on her long, fluffy pelt, and if it weren't for the shade of the trees around her, Lostflame would be miserable in the heat.
Duskrunner flinched at the sound of the medicine cat apprentice's voice as she walked out from the medicine den. But then she relaxed; despite the current peace and quiet, the small number of cats in SmokeClan had kept her on her paws making enough border and hunting patrols but also giving enough time to rest. It has been good to forget about the stress from time to time.
"It's always important to relax every once in a while," Duskrunner replied. "If you're too high strung every day you'll join MoonClan before Rowanfall." She gave her chest fur a few licks to smooth it down and added, "On your next herb gathering trip, try to bring back a mouse or two if you find one. We need to send out more patrols but I can't leave the camp in the paws of one or two cats. Every piece of freshkill counts."
Lostflame purred in amusement, tickled by her deputy's comment despite knowing the truth behind her words. Sniffing the breeze that swept through the clan, the young medicine cat could taste the faintest hint of prey on the air, her belly rumbling in response.
"Perhaps you're right," Lostflame mumbled in reference to her need for relaxation, "But this isn't the time for that. I'll go out today, we've been running low on marigold anyway." Flopping down onto her side, the long furred she-cat sighed in pleasure, admitting to herself that this sort of relaxation was much needed. Though the clan was small, it seemed that each day brought new challenges for the small group of cats, leaving Lostflame running around constantly, or at least that's how it seemed.
Leaves rustled as Wrenfeather limped through the camp entrance. Resisting the urge to sneeze as the bushy pelt of a freshly caught squirrel tickled his nose, he let out a muffled greeting when he saw Duskrunner, Rowanfall, and Lostflame in the clearing. Hopping towards them on three legs and holding the fourth aloft, he set down the squirrel on the sparse fresh kill pile, his tail curled over his back in relief. "Rowanfall! You're just the cat I wanted to see!" he meowed. Glancing guiltily at Duskrunner, he added "Sorry I didn't wait for you to organize patrols. I couldn't sleep, so I went out into the forest, and then I ran a little long." He gestured at the squirrel "I did bring back some prey, though! And I'd be happy to go out again, if Lostflame and Rowanfall can pry this thorn out of my pad. It's in there pretty good, I think." He winced, holding out his injured forepaw, "I'll have to be more careful where I step."
Rowanfall's eyes zoned in as soon as he saw the golden tabby tom limping through the entrance. His ears pricking forward while the tom casually mentioned the thorn in his pad, and though his friend was making light of it Rowanfall was sure it didn't feel the most comfortable. "One healing remedy coming right up," he chirped, hauling himself to his paws. The siamese tabby trotted into his den, and looked over his stores. "We'll definitely need to collect more soon..." he murmured to himself.
Finally settling on the small green leaves, he carried the dock back out into the clearing and settle himself in front of Wrenfeather. "Now, I don't know if you'll necessarily need any of these. It'll mostly depend on how big this thorn is and the damage it's done. All I know is the last thing we need is one of our prized warriors laid up with an infected paw."
"Once you're quite done," Duskrunner remarked, watching Rowanfall switch into caretaker mode, "we can send out an actual patrol. Wrenfeather, if your paw won't fall off in the next few heartbeats, we can head out together for a quick hunt. I don't want to leave the camp with too few cats watching it." She got on her paws and started to head for the camp entrance. "And Lostflame, I won't get too much in your fur about your medicine cat duties, but make sure you check with Rowanfall before you leave as well."
Feeling satisfied with her orders, she sat down by the entrance and began giving herself a quick groom.
Wrenfeather wrinkled his nose at the small stack of dock leaves that his medicine cat had laid before him. "I don't think it's all that bad. I gave it a thorough cleaning before I headed back, but it's a very stubborn thorn. I couldn't seem to grasp it properly." The tabby tom sat back on his haunches and tried again to dislodge the thorn, gingerly attempting to fit his teeth around it. He pulled at the sharp object, which, though fairly small, was too smooth at the base to easily grip. "OW ow ow ow!" He exclaimed, managing to budge the thorn a little ways out of his paw. He flattened his ears and widened his eyes in distress "This is very unpleasant." he huffed, wishing he could get on with his day. Especially now that Duskrunner was waiting for him at the entrance of the camp, he was eager to dispense with this inconvenience and return to the forest.
Rowanfall couldn't help it as a kind hearted chuckled rumbled in his chest. "Don't worry, this won't be a thorn in your side--er, paw, much longer" he mewed. "Now, this will probably hurt a bit, so my apologies in advance." Rowanfall settled in front of Wrenfeather, gently lifting the tom's paw to get a better look. He was right, it was small and smooth, not exactly the easiest thing to get out. The tom unsheathed his claws from his other paw and carefully hooked one claw under the thorn, trying to draw it up towards the surface.
During this process, Rowanfall always did his best to drown out any sudden hisses of pain from his patients. When he'd first started as a medicine cat apprentice all those years ago, it had spooked him and made him lose confidence in his treatment every time it happened. His former mentor, Moonclan rest their soul, had always relentlessly praised his work. Eventually he realized they were right and he needed to trust his paws. Just because cat's showed pain rarely meant he had done something wrong, just that they were reacting.
Now that the thorn was easier to grab, Rowanfall grasped it in his teeth and gave a sudden yank. A bead of blood welled on the paw pad, bright red like the berries on the boarder. "There you go! Like you said, it was small but those things can be a real pain. You should be all set to go hunting, but if you notice your paw pad feeling warm or inflamed, come see me and we'll put dock on it."
Wrenfeather licked at his paw vigorously, now that the thorn was gone the throbbing pain had ceased. It still stung a little, but he could put weight on it just fine. "Thanks, Rowanfall!" he said, breathing a sigh of relief "That feels so much better already. I'll be sure to let you know if it causes any more trouble!"
He dipped his head gratefully to the medicine cat before dashing after Duskrunner, who had been waiting so patiently. "Where should we hunt today?" He asked cheerily, ears perked, thorn fiasco all but forgotten.
Giving her chest fur a few final licks, Duskrunner stood up as Wrenfeather bounded up towards her, clearly recovered. "Let's head down towards the river, and work our way along the SunClan border," she replied. "It wouldn't hurt to patrol that border for a couple of heartbeats. Though I don't imagine we'll see much there either; they're as small as we are."