As an elder, Featherstorm could not go to fight in the battle against NorthClan. The brown tabby she-cat stayed in her den, in the camp with the rest of the cats who couldn't go out to fight for territory with the Clan. On one paw, she was glad that she didn't have to go because her joints were aching. On the other, she still did long for her warrior days. She could have been there with them, bringing glory to her Clan.
She sighed and put her head down on her paws. There weren't really many others around to talk to. They were all worried about their family members or friends who were out there. "It's such a shame we can't be there for them," she rasped.
Gingerpaw sullenly wandered through the camp. Because of her deafness, she was no use in battle, and she had been told to stay behind. She had been feeling upset ever since her mother had abandoned her and her brother, Acaciapaw, and left the clan entirely. She had to fight her sorrow sometimes. She didn't understand why her mother would leave. She looked inside the elder's den and saw Featherstorm. She seemed to be sighing to herself, but Gingerpaw couldn't hear what she was saying. //"Ello, Feat'ersorm,"// she meowed, slurring her words. Speaking had come as a challenge to her, but she had learned to read the body language and the mouths of other cats.
Featherstorm lifted her head when young Gingerpaw walked into the den. She smiled. She knew that the poor young apprentice had been born deaf and because of it she was not allowed to combat. What will she do as a warrior? the elder thought. She knew that they would most likely keep Gingerpaw away from the battlefield for the rest of her life.
At least she could still hunt for the Clan, so she wasn't useless. Featherstorm was the one who could truly feel useless. She did like to share stories with the younger cats, but at the same time she felt like she wasn't contributing anything to her Clan. She didn't want to be just another mouth to feed. She turned her head to face Gingerpaw so that she could read her mouth. "Hello, Gingerpaw. How are you?"
Gingerpaw watched Featherstorm's mouth carefully, ready to take cues. How are... you? she processed in her mind. She dipped her head. //"M'good,"// she replied quietly. //"How 're you?"// Not being able to hear herself talk was a hindrance to the way she could pronounce her words. She hoped quietly that Featherstorm would still be able to understand what she was saying. Why did I have to be born deaf? she thought sadly.
Featherstorm stared in sympathy at Gingerpaw. She licked one of her paws and used it to straighten out some of the stray fur on Gingerpaw's head. "I'm fine, thank you," she meowed. "What have you been doing today?" She spoke slowly and carefully, making sure that Gingerpaw could pick up every word that she was saying. She was sensitive to the needs of the poor young deaf cat.
In her time, Featherstorm had seen several deaf cats. Unfortunately, not many of them had survived for long. A few had been taken by hawks, and others had unfortunate accidents. She could only pray to StarClan that the same fate would not befall poor Gingerpaw.
She nodded. Featherstorm was fine. That meant that Gingerpaw wouldn't have to do any chores for elders. She didn't mind them, but she would rather be out hunting. She had become good at hunting despite her inability to hear. She could sense her prey and her sense of smell was very good. //"Nothing,"// replied the apprentice sadly. //"Couldyoo gif me somefing to do?"// She wanted to get out of the camp at least, or do something for her clan and not feel useless.
Featherstorm nodded. What can I give her to do that's safe? she wondered. She didn't want to send Gingerpaw out on a mission that could get her killed. She wasn't like the leader of the clan, Scatterstar, who would send even apprentices out to do his dirty work. "Why don't you go a little bit outside the camp and catch us both something to eat?" she asked.
It was an easy task, likely not one where any injuries would occur. She hoped that the deaf apprentice would stay safe anyway. The elder did not want to be responsible for any accidents or death.
Gingerpaw nodded. Hunting was one of her favorite things to do, and it made her feel useful. She padded out into the camp, looking around for the direction she was going into. She headed out towards where there were shrubs and bushes that prey liked to curl up in to keep warm. She dug at the bottoms of the branches, trying to find their burrows. She scented them, and she could almost feel their heartbeats. She finally pulled at one with her paw, snagging it with her claws and pulling it out to give a killing blow. She held it proudly before taking it back to Featherstorm and putting it down in front of her with a satisfied look.
Featherstorm watched as Gingerpaw came back successful. "Thank you, Gingerpaw," she meowed, purring with delight. It was wonderful to see how loyal the apprentice was to her Clan, and how willing she was to serve her elders or to do anything to help them out. Even though she wasn't able to fight in this battle, she showed signs of one day becoming a loyal warrior.
"Would you like a bite?" Featherstorm asked, prodding the piece of prey with her front paw. She hoped to reward Gingerpaw for what she had done. It was only fair, considering that she had caught it.
Gingerpaw was hesitant to take food from the elder at first, but she complied. She bent down and took a bite. It was delicious, especially since she'd caught it herself. She looked happily at Featherstorm. She sometimes wondered what the other cats sounded like. What were the sounds that they made? She wondered with the sounds of other creatures were as well. It was hard not to be able to hear anything.
Featherstorm smiled at Gingerpaw. She hoped that this one would survive unlike so many of the others. Her mother Silencefall had survived but at least she could hear and sense, she just couldn't speak. Though none of them had seen Silencefall and assumed she was either taken by raiders or had been killed in some way. She wouldn't have just left and abandoned her kits, at least Featherstorm prayed to StarClan that it wasn't the case.
Cats had been known to go crazy and seek the mountains, but Silencefall couldn't be one of those cats. Could she?
Gingerpaw also sometimes wondered where Silencefall had gone. One day her mother was there, the next she wasn't and she hadn't been seen since. There were so many rumors, that she was dead or that she had run away from the Clans to join the cats in the mountains. She wanted to ask Featherstorm about it and see if she knew. "W...where es Silencefawl?" she asked. She needed to know if the elder knew if her mother was even still alive.
Featherstorm looked downcast by Gingerpaw's question. She couldn't answer it. She didn't know where the young apprentice's mother was or if she was even still alive. She didn't know whether to lie about it and tell her everything was going to be all right. "I don't know where she is," she began. She didn't like to leave it so open like that.
"I'm sure wherever she is, it's a good place. Silencefall was a brave warrior and tough too. She wouldn't let any cat take her down," said the elder. She knew in her heart that there was a chance that Silencefall could have been captured by the Raiders though, the ones who had silenced her to begin with.
Gingerpaw knew somewhere deep inside her that she may never see her mother again. Even if she wasn't dead, she had gone away. Far away. She didn't care about her or Acaciapaw to stay around. And she'd heard what the warriors said, that they were just halfbreeds. The illegitimate offspring of Silencefall and a raider, one who didn't love her but used her. She sadly stared at her paws. //"Tanks, Fetersorm."//
Featherstorm dipped her head. She felt so badly for the little apprentice. If she were younger she would have liked to mentor Gingerpaw. As it was her bones creaked too much and she didn't have the strength and energy to keep going like a young cat would. She'd have to be responsible if something bad happened to Gingerpaw as well. She couldn't live with that kind of guilt.
"Any plans for the rest of today?" she meowed. She licked one of her paws and patted down some loose fur on Gingerpaw's head with it.