Swiftbreeze padded quietly outside the camp, intent on a hunt and hoping to run into Lichenpaw. She hadn't seen her daughter all day, not since Shrewclaw had spoken to Sandpaw and her earlier. They had all three left camp together, but only Sandpaw and Shrewclaw had returned.
"She says she's fine and wants to hunt," Shrewclaw had said. But Swiftbreeze was having trouble believing that. Her daughter hadn't been herself lately, and she was worried. More worried than ever. Sandpaw seemed genuinely lifted from the father-daughter chit-chat and had been in a good mood for days, but Lichenpaw had seemed more sullen and had, afterward, simply vanished.
Stormstar was less than pleased. She had ranted and raved for a day, then afterward had muttered about how Lichenpaw would never get her name. But Swiftbreeze was convinced that something else was going on. Mother intuition, she guessed.
Intuition or not, she had to know for sure.
Walking out of the camp, she smelled something interesting. Lichenpaw. And blood.
Panic overwhelmed her instantly and she wondered in that moment why no one had smelled that before. Fernsniffer had gone out looking for her a short while ago, but said there was nothing there.
Running full speed, she came to the gorge and stared in shock. There, lying on the ground, was Lichenpaw.
Lichenpaw was dead.
They could hear her wail back at camp. Everyone could. There was no denying the instant that Daisyflower heard it that Swiftbreeze had found Lichenpaw. She knew the moment it reached her sensitive ears that something had gone wrong.
Everyone seemed to freeze. So did time.
"What was that?" asked Sandpaw, who had been pacing worriedly. Shrewclaw rose to his feet, no doubt in panic for his mate and lost kit.
"I don't know," Stormstar said thoughtfully. "But I don't like it. Tanglescar, take a patrol out NOW and find Swiftbreeze."
The third in command wasted no time. "Fireheart, Duskbreak and Pricklespots, Shrewclaw, and Lionpaw, come with me away!"
And off the cats went.
Swiftbreeze circled her kit despairingly. "Lichenpaw!" She screeched. "Come back! Come back!" Grief was something that couldn't be reached. Nothing could. She was numb of everything but panic. Make this work! Make this work! She remembered her mentor screaming it at her one day in training. You're gonna get dirty sometimes, but you have to make it work!
So that's what she'd do. Throwing herself on the ground, she scrambled to get to her kit's lifeline. Whatever that was.
She wasn't aware of anything. She didn't realize the warriors were behind her until she felt Shrewclaw brush her fur. "Swiftbreeze. Swiftbreeze. Swiftbreeze." He repeated and repeated it until he saw Lichenpaw.
Daisyflower remembered once when she was little, just a newborn, and Spruceleaf was out hunting to stretch her legs. She had paniced and kicked out at everything.
"It's okay, Daisykit," Bluefire had said. "Spruceleaf's just out for some air."
But when Spruceleaf returned, noticing her kit's panic, time had slowed down. Not really, but for Daisykit it had. She could remember looking up, opening her eyes for the first time and seeing her mother's shape in the entranceway, rushing toward her in slow motion before leaning down and licking her head.
"It's okay," she had said sweetly. "Mommy's back." But it had all been slowed down to near standstill. Now, even blind, Daisyflower could still see the look on Spruceleaf's face as a crying Daisykit had curled up to sleep with her. It was the one memory she kept closest and told no one.
That was how it felt when Lichenpaw was carried into camp. Body stiff as a board, but relaxing as rigor left. The stench of decaying rot filled the camp and the elder's den.
Everything was slow as Swiftbreeze came running in, screaming loudly for her dead daughter.
"Lichenpaw!" But it was deep and slow. Daisyflower put her head to her chest, remember the task Lichenpaw had set to do when Daisyflower had heard her last. "Let me clean that for you, Daisyflower. You'll get greencough and I don't want that." Surely with a cheery smile to go with it.
Sighing deeply, Daisyflower listened for Lichenpaw's voice, but heard nothing.
written by Edwin3 and Cara Lea. property of LeamanFamily.inc any and all use of this material without handwritten permission will be reported