Nice work everybody!
"Icepaw, wake up." Thornstar nudged his silvery apprentice with a large paw. "It's time for training."
The young tom stirred in his nest and yawned. Cracking an eye open and realizing who was rousing him, he quickly snapped to attention. "Ready, Thornstar."
"I'll be waiting in the clearing for you. Be quick about coming out."
Icepaw nodded vigorously and began to groom as soon as the leader's back was turned. Thornstar padded out into the snowy clearing where a half eaten squirrel he had caught himself that morning lay. Even as apprentice, he had always been better at fishing than hunting on land, but with the lake and river frozen over he had no choice but to do the latter. He always tried to hunt alone during this time of year to avoid his clan seeing their leader stumble his way through catching even mice. That was also why he had decided that instead of doing hunting practice that day he and Icepaw would work on fighting techniques.
As he finished his meal, he nodded in greeting to Eagleheart, Jadetail, and Lightningstrike who were headed out to patrol. Licking his chops. he contemplated what his deputy had said to him not long before.
"They are weak."
In consequence to these words, he had begun to think about a small pond on the border of the woods and the moors, called Osprey Pond. It had been fought over by the two clans since before any living cat's memory. MoorClan was now in possession of it, having taken it while Thornstar was still an apprentice. In the ensuing battle, although ShellClan had lost, he had shown enough bravery in combat to be named a warrior. Thornsky.
Even just remembering the glee he had felt at being conferred the title by his predecessor, Cedarstar, gave him chills. That battle had also been where he had garnered the frightful scar that ran over his right eye. As young cat, he hadn't cared much about some things, but as time went by he wondered if such a violent wound would make impossible to ever find a mate... But he distracted himself from thoughts like those by concerning himself with his clan.
Maybe it's time for ShellClan to take back what is rightfully ours, he thought. After all, the mousebrains in MoorClan hardly fish. They only claim it because it is on the more. What ever paucity of prey they can find on its banks are nothing compared to the prey that I could reap for my clan with its possession... The image of his mother, a starving queen, flashed through his mind. His starving siblings, two she-cats flashed in his mind... And what great good I could do to make sure that my clan never goes hungry again eith that territory. To make sure every queen, elder, apprentice, warrior, or medicine cat never feels those pangs....To make sure no kits are ever malnourished again.
Salmonkit. Darkkit. Maybe I was meant to be the one who survived so I could make things right...
He was snapped out of his reverie by Icepaw emerging from the apprentice's den. Idly, he wondered how his apprentice fit in with the other cats. When he was younger, he had always tended towards being a lone wolf himself. He hoped Icepaw would be different.
The two padded out into the snow headed for the clearing used for training. It was a fairly large clearing, right next to the riverbank as well, making it an ideal location for both combat and fishing practice. The two walked for the most part in silence. Icepaw had been from the beginning rather serious for a young cat. Sometimes Thornstar wondered why he had chosen to mentor the tom himself. Perhaps you saw something of yourself in him, and wanted to provide him guidance... But then, how will you teach him to overcome your own shortcomings? You can't even seem to have a normal conversation with a clanmate outside of Lightningstrike, you intimidate them all too much.
Soon enough they reached the clearing, and Thornstar shook off the thoughts. To his surprise, he saw Emberstrike, a young ember she-cat training there with her new apprentice Mousepaw. He pleased to see how well the six-moon old she-cat was coming along as he saw her perform a perfect hunting crouch. He and Emberstrike exchanged formalites, but Thornstar noted how Icepaw kept his gaze firmly glued on him rather than chatting with Mousepaw, though he did glance over from time to time. It confirmed his fears of his apprentice being as unsociable as he.
The two pairs quickly split off to take care of their own training. Thornstar faced Icepaw with a rare mischievous glint in his eye. "Today, we'll be working on our defensive positions. Knock me over," he ordered, planting his paws firmly.
Icepaw blinked. "What?"
"Knock me over. I won't even fight back, as long as you keep those claws sheathed."
Icepaw nodded, a bit bewildered, but threw himself full-force at his leader. Even as Thornstar grunted while the weight of his apprentice slammed into his side, he didn't budge.
"You see, that there illustrates the importance of keeping a good center of balance when you're fighting," Thornstar explained while straightening up. "Today, we'll be working on developing your stance."
Training with Icepaw always seemed to fly by. The young silver tom was a quick learner and eager to be corrected. Before Thornstar knew it, it was sun-high and the snow in the clearing was melting under his paws.
He whirled around at the desperate cry. Emberstrike was gaping horrified at the river at the edge of the clearing. The thin layer of ice coating the river was broken in one place and he saw a franctic, brown bundle slip under the water, being washed downstream. Under the ice.
Thornstar raced forward desperately, diving straight into the frozen river to the others cries of shock. The ice cracked under his weight and he swam desperately, trying to remember the training he had received as an apprentice. He dove under the ice, chasing the apprentice. He not only allowed himself to be carried by the current, he actively propelled himself forward with kicks of his back paws. The water rushed wildly around him, deafening everything except for the crashing of blood in his ears. Even as he felt the need to breathe begin to set in, he kept on.
Bubbles streamed all aroung him and he blinked wildly underwater, lungs burning, as he felt himself bump into something. Mousepaw!
He bit desperately at the small she-cat, grabbing the scruff of her neck. His lungs burned and he scrabbled at the ice above them. Come on, come on!
His haunches searched below him for purchase on the bottom of the river, but it was too deep. Finally, they hit a rock and he used the leverage to break through the ice. He gasped for air when he surfaced, blindly paddling for shore, Mousepaw in tow.
Finally, the hit the earth, and he dragged the both of them up. His vision dimmed, but he could vaguely make out the sound of cats crying out in the distance. I wonder what for, he thought. He felt like he was floating, untethered to anything.
"Thornstar!" His apprentice's voice rang out around him. It broke the dream, and suddenly he was falling, plummeting, breathe breathe breathe-
He gasped and opened his frozen blue eyes.
"Thornstar!" Icepaw was panting wildly, nudging at him. "Oh, thank StarClan!"
The chesnut-brown leader groaned, his chest painfully constricted. What had happened? His gaze searched desperately, looking for something to remind him, when it landed on a bedraggled lump lying next to him. Mousepaw...Mousepaw!
He rose, teetering on his paws, and nudged the apprentice lying next to him. "Mousepaw! Wake up, Mousepaw!"
A tail-tip was placed on his shoulder and he was faced with a trembling Emberstrike.
"Emberstrike, Emberstrike, get Forestheart," he wheezed.
The orange she-cat shook her head brokenly. "It's no use, Thornstar, she's already-"
"GET FORESTHEART NOW!" he roared. "DO NOT MAKE ME TELL YOU AGAIN!"
Icepaw and Emberstrike exchanged wary glances, but Thornstar didn't care. He stooped over the apprentice, shaking her, StarClan why? He was vaguely aware of Emberstrike leaving, but curling his shivering form around Mousepaw he paid no mind.
You've failed. You've failed. You've failed.