A lot had happened lately. Barleytuft struggled to process it all sometimes; he remembered being an apprentice when the most pressing thing he had to think about was the next fighting move he'd learn. It had been four seasons now, for long seasons since he was born. In one way he had experienced it all - greenleaf, newleaf, leaf-bare, and leaf-fall - but in so many others he was still so young, so small, so unlearned. His mother Amberheart had died in the leaf-bare of illness. That was something new he had experienced. During the flood his father Pheasantwing had also perished, having drowned and washed up on the shore. That was different even from the first death. He thought often of Flamewish in StarClan and wondered how she died even though it made his heart heavy. Four seasons - one year - and he had already experienced so much death.
Those who fell in battle were held in high regard by all Clan cats, for they died fulfilling their oath and defending their Clan. Those who passed quietly in restful sleep often slipped quickly from memory. Barleytuft couldn't think of when he had heard of it, anyways. Yet those who were crushed outside battle... What became of them? How long were they remembered? Were they respected, missed dearly?
Brookclover had deserved a better death, if cats who perished to the elements weren't held in as high of a regard as those who died in battle. She had the true WindClan spirit of resilience and grace, the spirit which made her untouchable yet unyielding, constant and gentle as the breeze, a force to be reckoned with when she was roused to a storm. The russet she-cat had been a pillar of Clan life for Barleytuft: his first apprentice. He had felt a bond with her that he was unlikely to feel with any other cat. She hadn't been a sister to him, nor a daughter or merely a student. There were no words to describe the relationship between a mentor and their apprentice, but even so Barleytuft knew that it had been special. Irreplacable. Unrepeatable. She drank in his lessons and the lessons of every wise, strong cat around her, and she absorbed and reflected all her lessons like a shining beacon.
She was a true warrior, and she was dead.
The rain had ceased for the moment, but dark clouds still hung overhead, casting a melancholy shadow over the drenched moor. Barleytuft loped along over the grasses, yet as he ran he didn't feel joy nor exhileration as the damp air passed over his coat and hummed in his ears. His heart felt loss, and his eyes couldn't help but watch warily for some patch of grass to yawn open and swallow him up like it had done to Brookclover and Finchstar. He didn't feel at ease on the moor the way he used to - he doubted that any of his Clanmates who had been on the patrol felt at peace, but how could he know? So much had changed when Brookclover died: Finchstar had pulled away into himself, grieving his mate's death; Ravenpaw had been absent as well, his mother-figure and mentor gone; Grousefrost had received his warrior name but was still the same stoic tom everyone knew. Life moved on, yet the memories remained, and so Barleytuft picked his way carefully, nervously, across his territory.
The movement of a large brown creature by a sprawling heather bush caught Barleytuft's eyes. A hare was picking at some leaf shoots a few fox-lengths away, and Barleytuft thought immediately of his mate, Graybriar, with their kits due in the next quarter moon or so. Prey was still a bit scarce as they repopulated from the flood, and this would keep her strong. It could even feed two or three cats if they had to. Barleytuft adjusted his form, immediately shifting into a stalking gait and slinking over the grasses in its direction.
Skilled paws carried the warrior seamlessly towards his prey, and with a skilled leap he landed on the hare. For a moment they wrestled, but Barleytuft's hungry teeth found its neck and with a bite it dropped to the ground motionless. He stayed still for several long moments, heart beating in his head and ears, listening to the moor. No distant rumbling. The moor was still solid beneath his paws. The dark sky still loomed above. He was still alive.
Barleytuft attempted to catch a hare. His catch was a success, and he spent 3 SP.
277/280 SP (-3)
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