[/font] Light trickled through the fluttering leaves, splinters of warm sunlight seeping through, illuminating every vein within the leaf. Rays gently rested on the seal fur, the familiar pelt a shade akin to snow-peaked mountains. The soft whispers of the crisp summer breeze and morning calls of the prey sung like music in his ears and spanned ears flickered in recognition. The creature stirred, light beryl eyes softly blinking open, dull, the world a mere blur of colors and vague shapes.
Ripplestar yawned, his petite maw parting wide and light splintered onto pearl white teeth for a heartbeat. He slowly rose to his feet, nimbly licking his forepaw and swiping it over his face, eyes just half-open from fatigue. It seemed like much of the clan was just stirring as well and the tom figured his clanmates wouldn't accept their leader waking up late. Again. He parted ways from his comfy bed of moss against a large, enclosed root from a towering tree.
The lanky tom ambled through the camp, greeting his clanmates and commenting on the great weather or the abundant stock of prey. As they went on their duties, the seal-point tabby traipsed around, admiring the soft breeze and blinding sun rising just over the mountain peaks.[/blockquote][/blockquote]
Juniperpaw sat all alone in the camp, without any other apprentices around her. All she had was the little clam shell, the one that she called her friend, Eater. She was never that much of a bright apprentice, and she was always naively taken in by other cat's stories. One thing she believed more than anything was that Eater was alive, and could talk to her if she really listened closely. This only led the other cats in the Clan to think that she was insane.
"Eater, we are friends, yes?" she meowed to the clam shell. "Do you ever wonder why the other apprentices don't play with me, Juniperpaw? I play with Eater, and they don't like you." She looked around sadly. Her speech patterns were peculiar, and reminescent of a cat who had something not quite right with her head. She spied the leader of the Clan out of the corner of her eye.
"Should I speak with leader?" she asked Eater.
The shell sat there, doing nothing.
Juniperpaw bowed her head. "Alright. We'll keep silent," she said, as though it had spoke and only she'd heard it.
The seal-point tom sat on his haunches, delicately running a slightly damp paw over his ears before nudging them against his cheeks, fur rubbing against fur. He let out a content sigh, absentmindedly running his raspy tongue atop the stiff flesh of his paw when his ears swiveled at a quiet voice.
Soft cobalt eyes glanced over where he stopped a little she-cat just far ahead of him. Juniperpaw, the name reverberated in his head. He smoothly rose up and silently slunk over to her, peering over at what she was doing. Eyes narrowed in slight interest and confusion as a petite clam shell was before her. Ripplestar stifled a laugh at her little conversation. His paws ghosted over the earth as he moved a bit closer, hovering just above the apprentice when he heard her little soliloquy about being alone. Well, he would just have to do something about that, now wouldn't he?
"I don't mean to interrupt, but you seem to be doing something fun," Ripplestar spoke up, voice laced with amusement. "Mind if I join in?" The EastClan leader sunk back on his hind legs, leaving a bit of distance between him and Juniperpaw.
The silver tabby she-cat's pale blue eyes widened as she saw Ripplestar padding over towards her. She didn't know quite what to say, so she turned around shyly. She clumsily whisked Eater between her front paws, nearly tripping as she did so. When the leader began to speak to her, she could barely look up. It wasn't often that she had a cat of high rank speak to her, except for the medicine cat, who was always trying to find out if there was something wrong with her brain.
Juniperpaw couldn't help the way that she was. She was always under attack for being mousebrained, and bullied by the other apprentices. She was clumsy, and it was obvious that she wasn't going to make a very good warrior. She figured now that she couldn't ignore the leader, as that would be the wrong thing to do.
"Hello, Ripplestar," she meowed quietly. "I guess I don't mind if you join in." She looked at her clam shell and seemed to whisper something to it. She waited a moment, and looked up at Ripplestar through her bright blue eyes. "Eater doesn't mind either."
Royal blue eyes glinted in amusement as he watched the apprentice scramble around, shy. It almost reminded him when he was a kit. He let out a soft rumble, the purr portraying his rather content mood. Ripplestar blinked and he chuckled.
"Well, I'm pleased to be able to join you two." He shuffled down, lying down, his body curved inward so that he was facing Juniperpaw.
"So, tell me, where did you Eater meet?" The tom was sympathetic that the other apprentices didn't socialize with the she-cat that much; although she might have come off slightly peculiar, Ripplestar thought she was quite adorable in her own way. Plus, he deemed her to be quite imaginative. Surely, he would never be able to think of a talking clam shell or even have the will to engage in a conversation with it.
The tom held back a grin, watching the little empty husk between the apprentice's paws. Huh. Maybe he should try getting one. Perhaps as a little thing to rant on, express his feelings. Plus, they were quite entertaining if tossed around but he doubted Juniperpaw's shell would want that.[/blockquote][/blockquote][/size]
Juniperpaw was pleased with the acceptance the leader was granting her. Her ears flickered back and forth as he asked her where she and Eater had met. He was the first cat that acknowledged Eater's sentience, other than herself. With a pleased purr, she was more than happy to answer his question. "We met down by a small creek," she responded. "Eater was sitting by the bank and we became fast friends. We've never been apart since!"
She slowly nosed the clam shell towards the leader. "I'm glad you want to talk to us, Ripplestar," she meowed. "Most of the time, the other apprentices think that I'm just playing a silly game. It's not a silly game... You don't think it is, do you?" She looked at him hopefully.
A small winding brook with bubbling clear water painted itself into his mind, the soft rush of the creek whispering, water erratically nudging and flowing against pebbles and rocks. He imagine a little feline on the bank, a familiar murky gray clam shell beside her. A smile graced his maw as he thought of her animatedly talking to the inanimate object. He laughed lightly.
"I'm sure Eater's quite happy to have found you." Ripplestar couldn't help but purr at her little invitation, pleased that the apprentice enjoyed his company; he rather enjoyed hers as well. The question itself startled him, not at all expected. Quite taken aback, he stared into her hopeful eyes.
"No...no, it's not a game," he managed to reply after a pause. "You know, I think that it's okay to be different. Other cats might not understand but as long as you know your true self, you'll be fine. Being unique is good. Eater's probably happy to have a great friend like you," Ripplestar replied. "Besides, I happen to like you very much, Juniperpaw and I'm very glad to be able to talk to you."
Juniperpaw had never been more happy that someone had taken an interest in her, and her little clam shell friend. She could see some kind of hesitance in Ripplestar's eyes, though, when she asked him if what she was doing was just a silly game. For a moment she almost expected him to be just like all the others, and let her down.
His reply was unexpected to her, but it filled her with delight. Here was a cat who understood her, and he was the leader of the entire Clan, no less. He went on to give her words of encouragement. He was the first cat to tell her that it was alright that she wasn't like everyone else. He was a cat who didn't chide her for befriending the shell of a clam, or bumbling around the camp, or confusing scents for other scents.
"You're the nicest cat I've ever known, Ripplestar!" she blurted out. She shrunk back shyly, a little bit embarrassed by her outburst. She looked down at Eater, and murmured something about apologies to her inanimate friend. She then looked back up at the leader. "I'm sorry for my being so loud... I just got happy for once..." She spoke quietly.
The silver-point tom watched, clear blue eyes not even studying, narrowed, nor scrutinizing. It was simply just...watching. He saw the flashes of hope, happiness, the little joys surfacing from what he could see in her eyes and something stirred in him. Something sweet...and serene. Yet anxious? Apprehension? Could his little words, simply noises echoed into the air, make her so happy? Ripplestar felt something twist in him and quite frankly, he had no idea why.
Perhaps it was her innocence, her purity. Her timid actions that made him want to protect her. Cherish her. And yet, he wouldn't be there every time. It was just this chaste memory, fleeting; just a heartbeat. He smiled. Maybe it was a feeling that fathers shared. He wasn't sure of that either, but it was a warm yet slightly empty expression. Juniperpaw's rather loud exclaim startled him out of his unconscious thoughts as Ripplestar blinked. His mind backtracked for a moment, gears cranking in his head to remember what she said. And then the tom heard her apology and he couldn't help but laugh.
"Well, that was the first time I've heard you speaking so loudly," Ripplestar said with a grin. "Nothing to be sorry about; I enjoyed the little exclaim." The ending part of Juniperpaw's mumble dawned on him and the EastClan leader exhaled softly. "You know...you are far more important than you think you are. I know it may seem like you don't belong but you do. You have a role in this clan, as do each and every one of us."
"I want to tell you a little secret," he whispered, leaning in slightly, shoulders slightly hunched in. "I've never told this to anyone but when I was a kit, I was much more different than I am now. I was always shy, really quiet. Awkward even. My mother constantly fussed about me and how introverted I was. But you know...somehow, someway I got up the courage and moved forward. Took the first step." He smiled. "Sometimes I still feel like I'm shy and other cats judge me, but everyone faces that, now don't they?"
The dying summer breeze whispered across, murmuring through the rustling trees. He breathed in the fresh, crisp air. "I hope that from now on you can laugh, have fun...talk to Eater without wondering about what others think of you. As long as you have fun, then that's all that matters." Ripplestar grinned widely. "I hope that you can think of me as your friend, Juniperpaw. I know I do."
((Uwah...I feel that I made him ramble on a bit xDD))[/blockquote][/blockquote][/size]
Ashcloud could see his leader speaking with young Juniperpaw, a very quirky apprentice. It was a strange sight to him, to see an apprentice interacting with a leader like that, but he shook it off. He had more important things to think about right now. With Lilysong behind him, he walked up to Ripplestar.
"There's a matter of importance I need you to attend to," he meowed, dipping his head. "I found a loner out in the fields. She wishes to join our Clan." He didn't know how Ripplestar was going to take this kind of news, or if he had interrupted something important. He sat there patiently, his tail flicking back and forth.
Lilysong padded silently behind Ashcloud as they entered the camp, her eyes widening in surprise. They had left the open rolling landscape that made up most of Eastclan's territory and entered a small copse of trees. It was all quite beautiful and Lilysong couldn't have giving a little gasp of awe.
She turned her attention to the two cats in the clearing, a small she-cat and a tom. Lilysong watched as Ashcloud addressed the tom and told him about how she wanted to join the clan. "He must be the leader." she thought, intrigued. She stood behind Ashcloud, waiting for the toms answer.
Ripplestar grinned fondly at the little she-cat next to him until he heard several rustlings behind him. He turned, surprised to find a familiar warrior, Ashcloud. He smiled.
"Ah, Ashcloud, what brings you-" He paused, equally surprised at the feline trailing behind him. The seal-point tabby slowly rose to his feet, cobalt eyes shifting in confusion until he heard the EastClan warrior. A loner? In EastClan?
It was difficult to say in the least that the tom stood there, gears turning in his head about what to do. It was his decision. His reply. Whatever he chose would affect the whole of EastClan. He spared a quick glance over at Juniperpaw before giving a short nod to Ashcloud, a silent thanks and acknowledgment to the warrior.
"Thank you Ashcloud." He padded up to the loner, taking in her form. "Greetings. I am Ripplestar, the leader of EastClan. Ashcloud tells me you wish to join our clan." His eyes softened slightly. "You must have come a long way." He turned to the slate-furred warrior. "Ashcloud, please find some comfortable bedding for our friend and a plump mouse would do good too. Thank you." He turned around, after a quick dip of his head to the loner before heading back to his reclusive nest when he looked over his shoulder. "And once you're done, please come see me."[/blockquote][/blockquote][/size]
Juniperpaw was about to reply when Ashcloud walked into the camp, with a strange cat following behind him. Her ears went back, and her eyes filled with mistrust. Quick as she could, she scooped Eater towards her with her tail, and hid him between her paws. She looked down at the ground, scared to face the foreign cat. Lilysong didn't look so horribly threatening, but as a Clan cat she couldn't help but not trust outsiders.
She watched as the matter was presented to Ripplestar. This loner wants to join the Clan? she thought, miserably. What if something terrible happens? She looked down at her little clam shell. "What if she's really mean?" she whispered to Eater. "What if she doesn't like you, and she doesn't like me either?" She looked up to stare at Lilysong again. She didn't acknowledge that doing so was rude.
This was going to show how Ripplestar felt about loners, one way or the other. He listened as his leader spoke. He sensed some kind of apprehension, but eventually it seemed like Ripplestar just might accept Lilysong into the Clan. He dipped his head when requested to prepare a nest for Lilysong. "Alright," he meowed.
He pulled out some fresh moss that the apprentices had gathered earlier. He dragged it over to the dip in the ground where the warriors slept. He looked around, for a place to set it. He and his mate, Icebriar, usually slept next to each other, but there was another place on his other side. He took the moss down there, and made Lilysong a place to sleep.
He then went over to the prey pile and pulled the juiciest mouse he could find, freshly killed, and set it in front of Lilysong. He turned, and could see Juniperpaw cowering. The timid apprentice needn't be afraid of someone like Lilysong. The loner was quite harmless, as far as Ashcloud could tell. But Juniperpaw was known for being peculiar, so he didn't want to say anything to her.
Lilysong watched from a distance as Ashcloud talked with Ripplestar, they're words to quiet for her to hear. Her tail swished nervously behind her. Lilysong stole a glance at the tiny she-cat glaring at her. It looked as if she was whispering to a tiny clam. Lilysong smiled in curiosity, which calmed her nerves a bit. Suddenly Ripplestar was addressing her, telling her his name. Lilysong nodded respectfully, and watched him pad away telling her to meet him when she was done eating.
She turned to Ashcloud who was already busy gathering moss for her bed. "Just like Greyfoot and I used to collect." she thought, a unexpected pang of sadness in her heart. She pushed away the sad thoughts and turned back to Ashcloud, who dropped a mouse in front of her. "Food!" she mewed happily, and started devouring the prey. It had be a long time since Lilysong had eaten such a substantial meal, and when she was done Lilysong felt sick. She smiled at Ashcloud and thanked him, then got to her feet and padded over to wear Ripplestar was waiting.
"Thank you for the meal Ripplestar," she mewed, nodding her head, "and the bed." She sat down a little ways away for the leader and waited to hear what he had to say to her.